One day while I was driving down the highway in the sun

I sat behind a milk truck just returning from his run.

His sign said “Licensed Vendor” and it made me feel secure

That only numbered milkmen could come knocking on my door.


Then I saw a licensed builder with his number on the door

And a plumber with a permit which was issued by the law.

Then a hawker and publican each with his licence plate

And a licensed money lender with his number on the gate.


I pulled into a café, which was licensed to sell beer

And struck up conversation with a licensed auctioneer.

He’d just been selling forfeit goods to pay the fines imposed

On a maverick hardware dealer whose late trading he’d exposed.


A warm glow spread inside me as I drank a licensed beer

And I pictured the inspectors who called in every year

To check upon the numbered men and safeguard fools like me

Who’d waste their money buying things from men who paid no fee.


I thought of all the union men whose cards protect their job

And dairy men whose quota scheme defends them from the mob.

The teachers who are registered, the chemists with their guilds

And lawyers with their closed cartel which keeps their coffers filled.


As I sat among the numbered men it suddenly occurred

That I was just a cleanskin in a tamed and numbered herd.

Somehow I’d missed the muster when the planner combed the land

And now I was a maverick, a man without a brand.


The numbered men live sheltered lives, their keeper is the State,

Their job depends less on their skills than on their licence plate.

Their future is determined and their charges are prescribed,

And the standards of their conduct are in rules and acts described.


But thank the Lord for mavericks, who don’t fit in the mould,

They help distract the licence-men from getting far too bold.

Without the help of mavericks, the planners would persist

Till we all need applications for a licence to exist.


(This poem was written by Viv Forbes about 50 years ago. It is more relevant

Viv and his wife Judy have been political observers, participators and
critics since the chaos of the Whitlam years.)

Viv Forbes is a geologist/pastoralist who has walked along or been flooded by many rivers of Qld and NT. He and his wife have fed starving stock in the droughts and carted water for them. They have built, deepened or repaired at least 23 farm and station dams and managed construction and operation of mine dams. When Viv was employed by the Queensland State Government as a field mapping geologist they inspected the Nathan Gorge Dam site in 1964, 60 years ago. This dam was first proposed in 1922. It is still undeveloped over 100 years later.