Australia's iconic 'Tree of Knowledge' poisoned

Australia’s heritage-listed “Tree of Knowledge”, a 200-year-old ghost gum known as the birthplace of the centre-left Labour Party, has died after being poisoned, a party official said on Tuesday.

The tree, which stands opposite a hotel in the centre of the small town of Barcaldine in the north-eastern state of Queensland, was the meeting place for sheep shearers during a landmark strike in 1891.

When the strike was crushed with the arrest and jailing of the ringleaders, unionists formed Labour Electoral Leagues, which later became the Labour Party.

The tree was included in the government’s National Heritage List in December 2005.

Local Labour Party branch president Pat Ogden said a tree doctor had now “signed the death certificate” for the tree after an unknown poisoner struck with a powerful herbicide.

“In April we noticed leaves falling off it. Now there’s no leaves on it and the limbs are up there in the air just like a ghost,” he said.

The ailing tree had attracted an influx of tourists who wanted to see the icon before it died, he said.

“It’s an icon of the town, it’s an icon of Australia, really, for the workers.”

Ogden said he hoped that instead of uprooting the tree the council would trim it back and create a permanent monument to the party.

Since its formation, the Labour Party has held power alternately with the conservative Liberal Party of current Prime Minister John Howard.

While Howard has been in power nationally for 10 years, Labour governments control all of the country’s six states.—AFP

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