Saturday, November 26, 2022

Weeding out the diesel

Just been reading Don Watson's Watsonia*, a collection of his essays and articles over a lifetime. Watson wrote, among other things, speeches for the former Prime Minister and Hawke-era treasurer Paul Keating. Not sure, you can fact check me on this, but I reckon he wrote the Redfern Speech, nearly approaching its 30th anniversary and a pivotal moment in our nation's history. Below is a shortened version.

Watson has an interesting take on writing political speeches, saying that his words belonged to the politician who spoke them, not to those who wrote them. I understand this sentiment as - speech writers are given talking points and then work those points into something beautiful and stirring. Those words no longer belong to the writer. It all sounds a bit meta but ask any writer if their words belong to them once their books go out into the world.

Anyway, folded into his book on topics so varied as the impotent decency of John Hewson, Australia's problematic relationship with Indonesia re East Timor, cricket and the politics of class envy, was a chapter on marijuana. So bear with me now as I head from international politics, the floating of the oz dollar and pathos of child jockeys, to the most illustrious vocation of growing weed.

'Seasonally Adjusted' begins with "So it is autumn. To put us beyond the claws (clause?) of winter, we should be storing up and making mulch." Yes, he's talking harvest time. "Turn the apples into cider. Stew those stone fruits." This story is a hymn to the gardener. "Gardening increases the level of personal debt,' he writes. "If you have a garden, you do not need any other worries.'

One may garden in Australia to their heart's content, he continues. We may grow wolfhounds or fairies. We may grow bank robbers or aphids or even the ladybirds to feast upon them. We may grow colonisation, 'We may throw clods, spit upon and barbecue animals. There is nothing to stop us indulging in idolatry ... we may sunbake, smoke and use a chainsaw.'

'No one will dob you in for dreaming here, but if you grow marijuana, they will.'

If you grow weed in your backyard, you'll get dobbed in, writes Watson. Coppers will leap over your camellias to get to the weed after the neighbour has done an 'Alert but not Alarmed' call. It's like the worst crime possible. Then the police will uproot all the offending plants and take them away in evidence bags to burn on a bonfire of righteousness ... 'well most of it anyway,' Watson writes, in a tongue in cheek reference to police unofficially taxing the revenue.

This "most of it anyway" reminded me of an incident in our great south coast about thirty years ago. After the raid of a massive bush crop, the local police took the plants to the local tip, poured diesel over it, lit a match and left. It didn't burn.

Word went out that there was heaps of dope at the rubbish dump. In those days, the dumps were not continually monitored by people so it was free weed for all. To this day there are stubby holders commemorating the event. All I can remember was the amount of hash I smoked during that time. It always smelled vaguely of diesel.

At around the same time, the Prime Minister was giving his Redfern speech. I dunno how this all connects up. It probably doesn't, except for Don Watson. Please forgive me for attaching the greatest speech in post colonial history to that time when weed was free thanks to the WA Police.

* love this re context. Watsonia is the worst weed ever!



  1. Somewhere there is a hilarious video of a reporter covering the police destruction of about five tons of weed at a remote and open location in the country. He begins his report as the police set fire to the huge pile and he makes the mistake (?) of standing down-wind from it. Within a few seconds he can hardly speak for laughing.

  2. Your weed story, "free for all" is the best I've heard. In my small rural Massachusetts town, the police were called to investigate a large potted plant sitting in the street. Police came. Photoed the plant. Published the photo in the local newspaper, with a caption: "Please claim your plant." Weed is now legal in Massachusetts, back then it was not legal. Currently, officials are fighting to keep property owners from growing weed in their yard. It is a losing battle.