Thursday 27th of February 2020

when the lapstone pub, blaxland, was the centre of the world...


When world politics seemed to be a bit cleaner — though quite robust and somewhat understated in the choice of location for discussion — you should have expected some “reality” hope for the future… A "pub” in the Blue Mountain was chosen as the space for the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) Conference, In December 1948. The Commonwealth Government spent eight-thousand-pounds ensuring that everything was perfect for this prestigious event.

For those who don’t know the Blue Mountains, it’s part of “greater Sydney”, though quite unique in its settlements and township. It is renowned for its clean air away from “the big smoke” (Sydney) and it hosts some famous natural landmarks and some remarkable human creations such as Medlow Bath, home of the Hydro Majestic Hotel and the famous Art Nouveau Carrington Hotel in Katoomba.

The 1813 crossing led by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth (see Wentworth electorate battle below) was the first successful expedition through the Blue Mountains by European settlers — hemmed in Sydney since 1788. The Aboriginal people of course had crossed the mountains for millennium and showed the "other" way, on the ridges. In the Blue Mountains, all the rivers terminate in mighty inaccessible steep slopes topped by huge 300 feet cliffs. No go.

But here we’re interested in the lower Blue Mountains, Blaxland, a town named after one of these explorers. 70 kilometres west of Sydney, at an altitude of 234 metres, it borders the townships/suburbs of Glenbrook, Mount Riverview and Warrimoo. 
During World War II, places like the Lapstone Hotel in Blaxland/Glenbrook, were appropriated for government use, but sometimes in 1945 the Lapstone had re-opened to the public.

The Lapstone Hotel hosted the Far Eastern Division of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) Conference in February 1945. Its purpose was to “attempt to bring adequate relief to the suffering of scores of millions of people” affected by war.

As mentioned, in December 1948 the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) Conference, was held there. The aim was to plan for “the reconstruction of Asia’s tattered economy.” The Netherlands-Delegation walked out disgustedly when the Indonesian Republic became an associate-member. We explained the whatever here:

Ironically, a conference about soap at the Lapstone Hotel in May 1949, was the “biggest in Australia’s business history” back then:  J Kitchen and Sons presented  improvements in washing powder, made possible by revolutionary research during the war — to 70 salesmen, managers and supervisors. 


Nowadays, international political (and business) conferences are held in more upmarket environments than local pubs — think Aspen or Davos...

In regard to Sydney, the International Convention Centre, Sydney (ICC Sydney) is an exhibition and convention centre which opened in December 2016. ICC Sydney is Australia's first and largest fully integrated convention, exhibition and entertainment centre. ICC Sydney has over 70 meeting rooms, three theatres, two formal ballrooms and can hold three separate, self-sufficient, concurrent events, for 2,500, 1,000 and 750 people. It also has the largest ballroom in Sydney, for 2,000 people. Blah blah blah... (see some of it — picture at top.)


Davos is more intimate, as long as you have cash and kudos. Poor people discussed, but excluded… The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is an annual meeting of global political and business ELITES.
Founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, a German-born business professor at the University of Geneva, the World Economic Forum in Davos attracted considerable attention in 2017 when for the first time, a head of state from the People's Republic of China was present. With the backdrop of Brexit, an incoming protectionist US administration and significant pressures on free trade zones and trade agreements, President Xi Jinping defended the global economic scheme, and portrayed China as a responsible nation and a leader for environmental causes. He sharply rebuked the current populist movements that would introduce tariffs and hinder global commerce, warning that such protectionism could foster isolation and reduced economic opportunity. 

In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was first head of state from India to deliver the inaugural keynote for the annual meet at Davos. Modi highlighted climate change, terrorism and protectionism as the three major global challenges, and expressed confidence that these issues can be tackled with collective effort.

Interesting. We were getting there, very slowly, but the Trump and Hillary bumfight made this harder. Either way nonetheless, we all were going to get screwed by the USA. 

Back in the 1970s, another Malcolm, Malcolm Fraser, became Prime Minister of Australia, and after having lost his trousers in Memphis — soon found out that “his” Liberal Party was actually a party of rat-bags racist sexist conservative maximus-upper class loonies, but “he” could not do much about it, except when booted out, he became a voice for fairness, environmental issues and Australian independence from the US loonies — either Democrats or Republicans. He resigned from his "Liberal" (CONservative) membership.

The Australian delegation to the Lapstone pub meeting of 1948 was led by H C Coombs, who was somewhat hated by the rabid-right for his social equality views, including for the original inhabitants of the continent. H C Coombs and his “secret” lover, Judith Wright, were fighting for the Aboriginal cause, including an official treaty. I never met H C Combes, but I followed his path especially during the Whitlam era, but I met Judith Wright quite a few times, at PEN meetings — as I was involved in “publishing". I also met Ruth Park at other times. I mention this latter one because her book “The Harp in the South” about the Irish struggle in Sydney (especially in the second part when politicians want to demolish the village of Surry Hills for high rise — which they have been successfull now in other Sydney villages, such as Burwood, Strathfield, Chatswood, Darlinghurst, etc, but not yet in S.H.) has received a brilliant theatrical adaptation by Kate Mulvany — a five and a half hour epic play over two nights.

Judith Wright wrote some simple poignant words:

The gum-tree stands by the spring.
I peeled its splitting bark

And found the written track

Of a life I could not read.

trails under bark

“The landscape I knew was full of a deep and urgent meaning...these hills and plains...these rivers and plants and animals were what I had to work with as a writer, and they themselves contained the hidden depths of a past beyond anything that cites and the British invasion had to offer.”

These word would make a rabid-rightwing Abbott shudder...
All this, through the long twisting narrow back streets of politics and human endeavour to say, should you live in the Wentworth electorate, at the by-election to replace departing Malcolm, vote for Kerryn Phelps, if you want a bit more social justice rather than more jobs for the coal-boys and the rabid-right. The Malcolm 2.0 replacement has to be defeated.
The task is huge as the electorate is loaded with loaded rich people — who don’t care about global warming nor the poverty of your refugees — and a powerful loaded Jewish community. Jewish people have long abandoned the kibbutzim — the collective (socialist) communities in Israel — in favour of making money again. But you might sway them towards a bit more humanity in their “chosen people” heart, as they should remember their own “refugee” status...

Gus Leonisky
Your local conference manager.

Picture at top: Gus Leonisky.

the fruit of the earth


I am the earth, I am the root

I am the stem that fed the fruit,

The link that joins you to the night. 


                                           Judith Wright


See also:


See also: