Tasmanian Times

Editor's Choice - Row 2

Tasmanian History Up for Sale

Treasury basement prisoner cell

The courthouse ceiling

The journalists’ bench from the public seating area

Journalist Bench near the Judge’s Bench

Journalist Bench from further away

Journalists bench further away. Sharland graffiti

The Journalists Bench at the end of the public seats has no graffiti

Treasury basement wallpaper

Treasury basement wallpaper

The Liberal Party following the neoliberal cant, or ideology, or what you will is trying to remove from public ownership the Treasury buildings. Despite this approach being disproven time and again, it seems they have no concept of heritage or culture but see public assets as a money pot for short term gain over long term continuation of Tasmanian heritage.

It makes one wonder, if the building is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ as they claim why can’t it be repurposed for further community use? There was once a public library there. There are many uses that it could be put to if one is creative, another quality the Liberals lack.

The buildings contain the former Supreme Court, which was first built on this site in 1824 and is one of the oldest courthouses in Australia. What could this space be put to use for with a new private owner? In Brisbane the former Treasury Building was sold off and turned into a high end casino. Is that the fate of these buildings?

What would become of the Supreme Court room, it would make a good table game room, craps, roulette, fan-tan. Or a nightclub dance room.

What will happen to the fittings that have seen so many trials and famous and infamous people pass through? In particular there is a rich social history carved, literally, into the journalist’s bench. The journalists sat here with the bench running from the witness box up to the public gallery seating.

Curiously, most of the graffiti carved into the wood is thickest at the end nearest the Judges bench and the witness box and peters out and disappears entirely near the public seating. I can only imagine that near the public, the journalists would have wished to appear more professional. As well, in the public gallery would be seated the partners, relatives of victims and person on trial, so it would have been seen as deeply disrespectful to them if the journalist was seen idly scratching their name into the bench top. You can see this in the series of photographs that run from the end under the eye of the Judges to the end were the public could see.

This is not the original top as it must have been replaced in the early 20th century, as the earliest I could find were from the 1920s, or perhaps earlier journalists were more decorous. The names a history of who sat there and where they came from. Michael Sharland, who also wrote a very popular bird and nature page in the Mercury as ‘Peregrine’, puts his name up there large and proud, you can read more about him at the Australian Dictionary of Biography –  Sharland, Michael Stanley Reid (1899–1987)

There’s a ‘C. Phillips’ from the ABC in 1954, Johnny Hayes from the Examiner in 1964, a G. Stannard ‘The Hat Bag’ from 1924, and an M. W. Jennings, who appears to have been a stringer as he was filing for the Truth, The Sun, and The Mirror in Melbourne as well as the Mercury in Hobart. There are dozens more, Patty Williams, Hilda Hay, several from the ABC, more from the Mercury, as well as numerous other papers.

What will happen to this lived history that is in its place? Will it be ripped up and put into storage at TMAG? Will it be sold off to a collector? Dumped in the tip? This humble bench is part of Tasmanian history, still in its place but of no value to those who seek to profit from it, although Governments have been notorious in undervaluing State properties as unique as the Treasury Buildings, there is also a sense of sell it off cheap to help ‘industry, entrepreneurs, business’, get established. What price is the Liberal Government putting on the people’s history, a place that is the centre of legal history in Tasmania? We do not know, but it will be cheap considering what these buildings represent.

What will happen to the cells in the basement? The walls there have wallpaper layered over the years, the patterns date back to the 1840s, when the Public Offices were built. Will they be simply scraped off into a skip and head off to McRobies?

The time is now to stop this because once an asset, a history, a cultural story of Tasmania disappears it is gone for good. The barbarians are at the gate.

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  1. John Hawkins

    July 31, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    I have heard on good authority that The Liberals in this State intend to sting every non-domiciled owner of Tasmanian Property a one and a half percent annual land tax.

    They killed off the property market in NSW, Victoria and Queensland for foreign investment with a land tax and a stamp duty surcharge for non-doms.

    Currently exempt from these daft prohibitions, it is a good selling point for investment in Tasmania as distinct from the mainland states.

    We have reduced the size of our State parliament to keep the Greens out.

    Now we are governed by a cabal of 12 individuals, the majority of whom would be unable to run a chook raffle.

    What about a renegotiated contract with the Federal Group to recharge the coffers? Or are our pollies bought and paid for by Big Business?

    Braindead springs to mind.

  2. Philip Lowe

    March 17, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    MJF … I have often thought this about Cathedrals in the UK, and how many of the homeless could be housed in them. After all, Cromwell did stable his horses in some of them.

    You can still purchase similar wall paper here in the UK. It’s about £140 a roll.

  3. MJF

    March 15, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    UTAS student accommodation or backpackers. How many bunks could an astute operator poke in here ? Just add a few smoke detectors.

  4. Philip Lowe

    March 10, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    Has anybody seen the wonderful convict graffiti on the seating around the gallery in the Methodist Church opposite the Tech school buildings? (Space bar Pressed). Super Tasmanian heritage.

  5. Philip Lowe

    March 9, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Places like this in the UK have been purchased by the chain called “Weatherspoons”.They have brilliantly and sympathetically restored them as pubs and restaurants,including the best and cleanest toilets I have ever seen in such establishments.One such example is the old police station and court house in Keswick in Cumbria.Have a look for yourself and try to imagine what could be done with the old Treasury buildings.One thing you will NEVER get in Tassie is the incredibly cheap beer prices and everlasting coffee at $1.50 a cup.Tassie has become well rip off.


    Philip, directly after a full stop comes a press of the Space bar.

    — Moderator

  6. John Biggs

    March 9, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Right on John. Just think what would happen if a Fragrance or suchlike got control of the buildings. Just so Gutwein can give the impression he can balance the books.

  7. Dr Peter Lozo (Adelaide)

    March 8, 2019 at 9:42 am

    “Only Brain dead..”?

    Someone mentioned your name to me so I thought to check about your writing style. This is the very first comment of yours I read. Your first sentence is sufficient for me.

  8. John Hawkins

    March 7, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Only brain dead Liberal pollies would sell these superb iconic sandstone public buildings in the centre of our capital city.

    These buildings are the property of the people of Tasmania and we have not given them the authority to do this.

    Which one of the maaaaates will receive a free kick when gifted the people’s property for less than market value ?

    Only in your corrupt Tasmania!


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