This is like a metaphor for the ALP. At midnight a few days ago Pat Ogden, publican of the Globe Hotel in Barcaldine for over 40 years, pulled his last beer.
Barcaldine is significant because it was a meeting place for striking shearers in the strikes of 1991.
From Claremont to Barcaldine, the shearers’ camps were full
Ten thousand blades were ready to strip the greasy wool
When through the west like thunder, rang out the Union’s call
“The sheds’ll be shore Union or they won’t be shorn at all”
Oh, Billy Lane was with them, his words were like a flame
The flag of blue above them, they spoke Eureka’s name
“Tomorrow,” said the squatters, “they’ll find it does not pay
We’re bringing up free labourers to get the clip away”
Until recently, historically-minded tourists used to come to Barcaldine to see the Tree of Knowledge. According to local history, or labor myth according to who you ask, the strikers would meet under this ghost gum and this was the birth of the ALP. The Globe hotel was their watering hole and another important meeting place and icon of Australian labour history.
In 2006, the year the then Senator Robert Ray made a speech asking “whether the Labor Party is dying and, if so, what is killing it”, some unknown person killed the Tree of Knowledge by pouring Roundup all around its roots. The tree was sent away, subjected to a kind of embalming process and returned to its former position as a memorial. While many people from the rank and file of the ALP have also expressed concern and many others have left, this poor pickled thing exists as a memorial for the workers of today – many of them non-unionised, on contract and to whom a strike is tantamount to rampant communism – to come and gawk at.
The Globe will become a heritage-listed tourist centre. I hope they preserve the bar itself inside the structure and that, if nothing else, a thirsty traveller can come and drink a beer there.