Tree of Knowledge memorial opened
May 02, 2009
Article from: Australian Associated Press
IT'S an emblem of Australia's labour movement and a holy grail to the Labor Party.
It's also been poisoned and died.
A tree in outback Queensland, seen as the birthplace of workers' solidarity since striking shearers were said to have gathered there in 1891, has been given a new lease on life after it was poisoned three years ago.
The dead tree is part of a controversial $6 million memorial officially opened today in front of solemn dignitaries and hundreds of locals.
But the question on everyone's lips was, whodunnit?
The poisoning of the tree remains a mystery. No charges have been laid.
Popular suspects include disgruntled political opponents of the Labor Party, drunken pranksters or incompetent gardeners.
Whoever it was, there was every chance the culprit was blending in with the crowd at the opening gala.
Queensland Liberal National Party MP Vaughan Johnston, despite being a Labor opponent, attacked the anonymous poisoner when he took to the podium.
I hope you're proud of what you've done, because you haven't killed us off,'' an impassioned Mr Johnston said.
"You may have poisoned the Tree of Knowledge, you may have killed the Tree of Knowledge, but you didn't kill the spirit of western Queensland.''
Mr Johnston vehemently denied that any conservative political force could have been behind the tree's death.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was more restrained, saying the controversy added to the allure of the tree memorial.
"Like all legends, it has mystery attached to it. I don't know if we'll ever know who poisoned the tree,'' Ms Bligh said at the launch.
Elderly Barcaldine resident "Wacka'', who was observing the launch from outside the Railway Hotel, said local gossip had not solved the riddle.
"It's a mystery, they'll never find out who did it,'' he said.
It's not just the premature death of the tree that has locals talking - the new memorial has been criticised for being too large, too ugly and too expensive for the sleepy outback town.
The dead tree, chemically preserved, sits at the centre of a massive square frame.
Logs of wood dangle from the ceiling, creating the impression of walking underneath a live tree, according to the architects.
Liberal Senator Julian McGauran described the memorial as "ugly'', and said taxpayers' money should not have been wasted on a shrine to the Labor Party.
But federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said it was entirely appropriate to build a memorial at the birthplace of so many political traditions.
"Some people may not like it straight away, I invite them to come up and spend a bit of time here,'' he said after the launch.
The tree memorial has been listed on the national heritage register.
My Mum asked for photos of the new Tree of Knowledge Memorial in Barcaldine. So on our way to Longreach, we stopped and took a few snaps. Its quite a difficult thing to photograph. I thonk you really have to go and see it for yourself to get the full effect. (BArcaldine is about 106 k's outside of Longreach, so roughly 1100k's from Brisbane).