Leo Schofield

I’ll tell you why. It’s because of the uber-bogan who brings ridicule to the office of Premier of Tasmania, who attracts nothing but scorn and disdain from thinking members of our population. His extravagant support of populist pursuits and Askin-like attachment to the turf would seem less crass if occasionally he saw some value in fostering Tasmania’s cultural life, but he seems to think anyone who admires a tree or produces a work of art or who feels the occasional sense of romance or who is moved by poetry and beauty is a dickhead or worse. This state has a glorious future but Paul Lennon is no more the man to lead us to it than Ehud Olmert or George Bush, two other leaders with whom he shares the dubious distinction of having voter approval ratings so low they would shame any less crass politician into resignation. However, until that happy day when he can string a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner across the Tamar and retire to his cosy fastness in Broadmarsh, leaving the rest of us to endure the consequences of his pulp mill folly, we must tolerate his philistinism.


LAST week I had the honour of serving on the jury of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects’ Tasmanian Chapter to help decide which projects were worthy of a gong in their annual awards.

I found myself in the company of four Tasmanians whom I had never met before, three architects and a cameraman whose mission it was to film the nominated buildings, and a fourth architect, a lady from Melbourne who proved a superb chairwoman during our deliberations.

Now had I been thrown, as I often have, into the company of a gaggle of complete strangers all as opinionated as I am, I would probably have turned surly, especially as we were together 12 hours a day for three days. But I must report the experience, the exchange of ideas, the chance to discuss past architectural disasters and future possibilities for this little, often-overlooked or unjustly scorned state, was nothing short of sensational.

I suppose, since I am passionate about Tasmania’s historical buildings, that I was invited in order to balance the passion for modernism shared by my fellow jurors but, enthusiasm being the most communicable of human characteristics, their passion transmitted easily to me and mine to them so we were all in blissful unanimity when it came to decide who got what.

More important, I was able to see work by Tasmanian architects that was the equal of or superior to that of many a high-flying mainland practitioner.

Sardined into a wagon, we headed north up the Midland Highway. One of our number was able to point to the odd cairn marking the location of a colonial coaching inn and provide a lively commentary on such uniquely Tasmanian landmarks as Marjorie Bligh’s Art Deco cottage at Campbell Town, the front fence decorated with cut-out crochets and quavers comprising the opening bars of Home Sweet Home, while I rattled on about the assorted houses I’d visited and the ones I’d never managed to squeak into for a quick shoofty.

Of a field of 25 entries (we covered a lot of ground in three days), there were at least five marvellous buildings supporting the notion that, per capita, Tasmania produces more important art than any other state in the nation. So why are we so often dismissed?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because of the uber-bogan who brings ridicule to the office of Premier of Tasmania, who attracts nothing but scorn and disdain from thinking members of our population.

His extravagant support of populist pursuits and Askin-like attachment to the turf would seem less crass if occasionally he saw some value in fostering Tasmania’s cultural life, but he seems to think anyone who admires a tree or produces a work of art or who feels the occasional sense of romance or who is moved by poetry and beauty is a dickhead or worse.

This state has a glorious future but Paul Lennon is no more the man to lead us to it than Ehud Olmert or George Bush, two other leaders with whom he shares the dubious distinction of having voter approval ratings so low they would shame any less crass politician into resignation. However, until that happy day when he can string a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner across the Tamar and retire to his cosy fastness in Broadmarsh, leaving the rest of us to endure the consequences of his pulp mill folly, we must tolerate his philistinism.

WHILE on the theme of architecture and philistinism, it is my melancholy duty to report that during the week thieves broke into Lauderdale in New Town and nicked all the original cedar fireplaces.

This should come as no surprise as the developer who bought the place has apparently done nothing with it while the Heritage Council stands by, passing the buck to Hobart City Council.

Lauderdale is — one is tempted to write “was” — the last of the New Town villas that had survived intact with most of its original furniture and fittings untouched. It is a scandal that it was not acquired by the State Government, which could have had it for a fraction of what has been blown on Tattersall Park, but the pollies stood by while it passed into the hands of a developer.

And may we ask what Tasmania’s finest are doing about this? Break-ins at Lauderdale have been pretty much routine and the boys in blue must have some clue as to who is behind them.

First published in Mercury, SAT 21 APR 2007.