Sir John Monash was a visionary engineer, military leader and much more, who succeeded in spite of the prejudices of the conservative Melbourne establishment (read: The Coalition right wing), to become, in Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s view, “the best general on the Western Front” in WW1. Monash was renowned for his vision and innovation. In 1920 he became Chair and General Manager of the newly-formed State Electricity Commission of Victoria, continuing for many years to oversee major power developments, particularly the opening up of the Latrobe Valley brown coal deposits.
But he would be turning in his grave if he knew that he was being hailed today as a blinkered defender of the coal industry by the luddites of the Coalition. He would have had the vision and intellect to adopt renewables, storage and all things low-carbon and sustainable decades ago. And above all to plan the transition, not just sit and let things fall apart as successive Australian governments have done for thirty years.
Unlike his former boss and nemesis Field Marshal Earl Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during WW1, who in 1925, a decade after numerous disastrous campaigns, still opined that: “Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men and the horse, and I feel sure that as time goes on you will find just as much use for the horse – the well-bred horse – as you ever have done in the past”.
Haig’s pigheaded arrogance and failure to imagine the consequences of his actions, contributed to the death or injury of hundreds of thousands of men in the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele, including many Australians.
Today history is repeating itself with the same pigheaded arrogance and failure of imagination, as the Monash Forum attempt to sweep the over-riding issue which must determine energy policy, namely human-induced climate change, under the carpet. If successful, they will condemn millions of Australians to a devastating future. Particularly those in rural areas and Northern Australia, who will be most adversely affected by continuing reliance and expansion of fossil-fuel use, which is the ultimate objective of Resource Minister Canavan and his ilk with projects like Adani, CSG, NT and WA shale gas development.
In so doing, they will be failing absolutely in their fiduciary responsibility to act in the public interest.
A disgraceful affront to Sir John Monash – rename them the Haig Forum and put them out to grass.
Ian Dunlop was formerly an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chair of the Australian Coal Association and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a Member of the Club of Rome.