National Geographic : 1986 Jan
in here at about a thousand each month." * "More rights for Aboriginals? Well I think everybody, not everybody but many people in high places, have gone mad. I always maintain that if an Aboriginal came and held his bare toe up, they'd lick it. And you can write that if you like. The federal gov ernment gives them all this money. They won't work. They don't need to work. They get more money than they can spend. The Aboriginal people wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the United States of America, together with our people who fought the Coral Sea Battle." Our meeting was not to end without the premier's delivering himself of a final salvo: "People have got rocks in their heads." O, NO, QUEENSLAND is not afire with socialism. Enterprise is as free here as any place in the world, but when it threatens the environment, battle lines are drawn. It happened when de signs were being made on the vast mineral wealth in the ocean floor around the Great Barrier Reef. The winner was declared at 9:30 a.m. on Sun day, October 30, 1983, when an official of the federal government announced that as of that time nearly all of the Great Barrier Reef was within the bound aries of a national park covering almost 135,000 square miles. In all the oceans and all the seas there is nothing quite equal to the biological extravaganza of the 1,250 mile-long chain of reefs and coral islands off the east coast of Queensland. This living thing has continued to grow for thousands of years, and to see it, to touch it, to be in awe of its beauty and in fear of its perils is an uncommon experience. There are many jumping-off points for the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps the most popular among the more than 350,000 Queensland,BroadShoulder of Australia visitors each year being Queensland's third largest city, Townsville. It was there that I set out on a boat owned and skippered by an Italian immigrant who came to love the reef at an early age. "I came here in 1952, took one look under the water, and I've been here ever since," said Doug Tarca as he swung the new 72-foot catamaran away from the dock and pointed it toward our destination 38 miles out in the Coral Sea. "Even when I'm old, I'll just put a flipper on my walking stick and keep on diving here." Tarca is an entrepreneur, and the Great Barrier Reef is his main product. He now has plans to anchor a floating hotel in the lagoon of one of the 4,000 reefs in the chain -at a cost of 33 million Australian dollars (equivalent to $23 million in U. S. funds). To journey to the reef and not get wet not, at the least, to snorkel-is to be denied a sense of intimacy with a carnival of life. There are the angelfish, pucker-lipped and Step right up and take it on the chin. Locals who last three one-minute rounds with boxers like WarranDuffy from New Zealand (facingpage) are 20 dollars richer.Performing duringthe Birdsville races,Fred Brophy's is the last boxing troupe still touringthe outback. "Pretty Boy Floyd" (above, at right) takes on a volunteer in the ropeless ring; knockout victims land in the crowd.