During July-August, 2011, the Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne, hosted a visit to Australia by President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic.
President Klaus is one of very few national leaders with the intellectual command and public courage to have spoken openly in public regarding the dangers to civil liberty of evangelical environmentalism; for this he commands worldwide respect.
Ever since its creation in September 2008, Quadrant Online’s environmental section “Doomed Planet” has included in its masthead (above) a quotation from President Klaus’s widely read book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles. It is especially apt as what seemed then a debate about science has turned into an assault on our basic freedoms.
During his visit, President Klaus presented lectures on climate change and related matters in Perth, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, reaching a combined audience of more than 1300 persons. He also reached many thousands more Australians through the television broadcast of his address to the National Press Club in Canberra.
All who attended or have viewed these lectures, including particularly Senators and MPs, received an insightful and dispassionate briefing on the science, economics and politics of the currently “hot” global warming issue. The balanced (and historically wise) advice given by the President contrasts markedly with the alarmist hysteria that accompanies most press discussion of global warming and the government’s related plans to implement a penal carbon dioxide tax, in Australia.
Quadrant Online applauds the IPA for its initiative in hosting President Klaus’ lecture tour.
On behalf of all Australians, we thank the President for his generosity in visiting us and for his inspirational lectures. As a final token of appreciation, we reproduce Professor Bob Carter’s fitting thank you and tribute, which was delivered at President Klaus’ last (luncheon) function in Brisbane, on August 1.
Thank you, President Klaus
Speech in reply by Professor Bob Carter
Institute of Public Affairs luncheon, Brisbane Hilton, August 1, 2011
Thank you, Mr President, for sharing your wisdom with us in such a powerful and entertaining fashion.
Mr President, I think that it will be as much of a surprise to you as it is for the audience to learn that you and I share a tiny but highly significant part of modern Czech history.
The Czech people, of course, are renowned for the contributions they have made to the arts and crafts. Many of the persons in this room will have in their homes a piece of beautiful Czech crystal glassware, and nearly all will be familiar also with the names, and some of the works, of your great composers: Smetana, Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu. Indeed, this very week works by some of these composers are being performed in the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in my home city of Townsville.
Perhaps less well known amongst the general public are the contributions that have been made by Czech scientists, and in particular that of the French-born Joachim Barrande (1799-1893). As a young engineer, Barrande was tutor to the duc de Bordeaux, grandson of King Charles X of France. Abdicating the throne in 1830, King Charles and his family sought exile in England, Scotland and finally Prague, where Barrande settled too in 1832. Barrande’s research thereafter became the study of the magnificently fossiliferous early Palaeozoic limestones, sandstones and shales of Bohemia. A nineteenth-century colossus of that branch of geology named stratigraphy, Barrande’s life work comprised the cumulative description of more than 3,000 species of fossil graptolites, trilobites, brachiopods, molluscs and fish in 23 volumes of “Système silurien du centre de la Bohême” (1853-1894) – a basic reference text that is still in use by scholars the world over. Fittingly, the Prague suburb of Barrandov was named in his honor in 1928.
Over Christmas and New Year in 1966-67, a young graduate student from the United Kingdom had the privilege of visiting Prague’s beautiful Narodni Museum to restudy some of Barrande’s fossil collections. That student was me, and (remembering the time of year) it will not surprise you that I was invited by some Czech students that I met to participate in their New Year celebrations.
My initial memory of that New Year’s Eve is sharp. It comprised sitting on a brightly lit tram traversing the Moldava (Vltava) River towards a destination in the far, snow-blanketed suburbs. Hilarity reigned, for many were the vodka bottles hidden in discrete bags or under coats on that tram, and great was the shared fellowship – to the degree that the uniformed Conductor regularly traversed the aisle singing, and clipping the ties of those wearing them (sad to say, I discarded my clipped tie, which would now be a precious keepsake, many years ago). Arriving at our destination, a high-rise student residential building, the ferocious-looking matron at the door was mollified by the gift of yet another one of those bottles of vodka, and thus we progressed upstairs to join the boisterous crowd of young people who were seeing the New Year in.
It won’t surprise you that my later memories of the evening are less sharp, and it’s no good asking my wife to detail what happened because I had lost her somewhere along the way. Anyway, my last hazy memory is one of being shepherded into a cold shower, naked apart from my underpants, by a bevy of giggling Czech maidens – doubtless in an attempt to sober me up, or quieten me down, or both,
I would, of course, like to be able to add that I saw a tall, young, debonair Czech economist by the name of Klaus being ushered into an adjacent cubicle ….. but a quick check of the President’s biography has provided the not entirely convincing alibi that he was studying in the USA at the time. Case not proven, then, your Honor!
Now, Mr President, the focus of this short speech is of course supposed to be on the address that you have just delivered, and its message, rather than on self-indulgent personal memories. And so it shall now be.
The most outstanding characteristic that came across from the Czech people that I met in 1966-67 was their excitement, indeed joy, at the accomplishments of the young freedom-loving politician, Alexander Dubcek, who became the leader of what is now called the Prague Spring Movement. In those heady days it was seen as inevitable that a type of democracy would soon be launched in Czechoslovakia. Instead, on August 21st, 1968, 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks rolled into the Czech homeland to re-establish Soviet jackboot hegemony, thus brutally crushing the hopes and dreams of all Czech people.
Mr President, I referred earlier to our having shared a fragment of Czech history. What we share, then, is a personal understanding, based upon direct experience, of the tragedy that attends the loss of liberty, or impending liberty – as was exemplified by the Prague Spring Movement and the subsequent Soviet invasion of your country.
Meanwhile, and back in Australia, let me remind the audience that at the same time that these tumultuous events were happening in eastern Europe, Donald Horne had recently published (1964) his classic book about Australia, “The Lucky Country”. If that title encapsulated the view from within the country, imagine how Australia must have looked then to someone living under the Soviet heel in eastern Europe – “Australia: Heaven on Earth”, perhaps?
I ask those of you who may be doubtful that any present threat exists to Australian democracy to consider the following. First, that leading broadcasters Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones are both enmeshed in current court cases that aim to curtail their on-air and written opinions. And, second, that Green, Independent and Labor politicians are united in calling for an enquiry into the freedom of the press; an enquiry, moreover, that seems to have as its main intention the hobbling of the so-called Murdoch press.
Against this background, Mr President, your visit to our country, and the views that you have expressed, could not have been more timely. We thank you warmly for coming, and for sharing your wisdom with us today.
Given your background in computer modelling as a young professional economist, and your subsequent distinguished contribution to the emergence of the modern Czech Republic from its Communist shadows, it is clear that your views on the matter of the politics of climate change carry unimpeachable authority, and must be heeded.
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that everyone in this room take away, and act upon, the message that you have conveyed – which is that the current hysteria over global warming is not about climate at all, but rather about freedom. Fellow Australians, I am counting upon you to use the insights that you have gained from the President’s magnificent speech today to help retrieve our precious democracy from the parlous depth that it is currently swimming at.
Ladies and Gentleman, will you please join me in thanking Senator Ron Boswell for hosting this event, and in showing your appreciation for President Klaus’s address – with acclamation.