Lines For Albo (71)

Is the Prime Minister knighting anyone on the Queen’s Birthday? Who does have in mind?

Quiz Time (69)

What was Mussolini’s funniest one-liner?

How To Solve Everything

Halve all rents, and put up the GST by 2 percent.

And leave all the Labor programs as they are.

And be back in surplus in 2017.

Hockey’s Complaint

It was good to watch Hockey ego-tripping last night, in the withering rattlesnake gaze of Andrew Neill, who had not come down in the last shower and knew Thatcher personally, and was well aware of what her kind of sado-monetarism – and sado-narcissism – leads to.

It’s evident that Joe, an unacclimatised Palestinian, doesn’t know what country he’s in. He thinks there are massed demonstrations, crying ‘What do we want? A Budget surplus! When do we want it? Now!’ But he’s wrong about this. There will be cries on the May Day march not for a surplus but a fair go. A fair go is when you pay all your working life the taxes that come back to you as an old age pension, and you get that pension on the day it was promised you would. A fair go is when you’re disabled and can live, for the first time, as other people do, and you don’t have this taken away from you by Hockey after you’ve been redefined by Abetz. A fair go is when twenty million want to keep the ABC the way it is, and if you’ve said you’ll keep it the way it is, you do so.

Like many migrants Joe assumes that many Australians, like him, don’t have many relatives in this country. He doesn’t understand that all of us, all of us, have a disabled relative, all of us have a mentally challenged one, all of us have a gay relative, all of us have a jobless, devastated one, and we think about our relatives when we vote. He doesn’t understand that even mentioning a reduction, or delay, in old age pensions has lost his party a million votes, and they will be on 40 percent by June.

The difficulty is that Joe is in a bubble of sycophantic approval in his big office with a smiling staff. And he doesn’t understand that he isn’t very bright, and that Turnbull, say, would never do what he is doing. It may be the anaesthetic that accompanied his stomach-strapping eroded some of his brain, as happens quite often, my three doctor in-laws tell me. It may be he was just born dim and resentful, and being fat has made him more resentful.

It is certain he will be out of office by Anzac Day 2015, and very, very likely out of politics altogether.

Stupid is as stupid does.

And not adding or multiplying or joining the dots is very, very stupid when you’re Treasurer.

Discuss.

Anzac Day: An Exchange

Nanalevu April 22, 2014 at 7:50 am

Thanks Bob. This is exactly how I feel about ANZAC Day. I am here in Turkey again. Was here last year but stayed away from Galipolli on 25 April. Visited it instead on 19 May, a Turkish national day when Turks flood in to Canakkale to commemorate their fallen. If our diggers back then had the opportunity to travel all through this peninsular and seen this rich and varied land they would have known it would not be given up easily.

And it is good to read you write of how Paul Keating said Australia already had nothing to prove, no need for this ‘great game of drongos’.

Helvi April 22, 2014 at 8:33 am

I’m have not recovered from watching young long-haired, bare-footed men dragging crosses on my TV screen, and now the old men bent down with medals go o’marching…

Give me a real Carnival like they do in Rio.

chris hunter at 8:38 am

Well I for one will be giving a talk to sixty young men and twenty adults at a bush camp at Cape Elizabeth (near where I live) on this coming ANZAC eve. The theme being ANZAC and the recipients of this discourse young Mormons.

I will be reading some of my anti-war poems and generally railing against The Great Stupidity. I am of course not a religious person in the normal sense so it should be interesting.

There is real doubt about Bert Facey’s personal account of the first wave of the ANZAC landing. Records show Facey was not in the first wave, I realised that when I read his book – his account of relentless machine gun fire did not ring true – just a few errant shots greeted the first to land. In fact a Maori section reached the top of the peninsular on the first day, had lunch, then wandered back down the hill again to the Cove..

They never regained that position again. Churchill’s gambit in tatters. A monumental fuck up – like South Vietnam.

Doug Quixote at 1:08 pm

The argument is that we need some day to commemorate. This day was always a strange choice, and we now seem to be stuck with it, by historical accident and sheer inertia.

I agree with you and with Keating on Kokoda being a far better choice for a commemoration; is there a suggestion as to which date might be suitable?

Perhaps 28 September when the Japanese started to withdraw, after almost getting in sight of Moresby. This was the first time the Japanese advance had been reversed anywhere (28/09/1942)

Or the recapture of Kokoda on the 2 November, though that is probably a date too close to Armistice Day.

chris hunter at 1:35 pm

Whilst ANZAC day certainly celebrates a military defeat it has of course altered a bit in meaning since inception.

As a former RSL president I made sure the town Fire Brigade, Boy Scouts, Cubs, Ambos etc were invited to march along too – in reality ANZAC day has slowly evolved into an annual day of march, commemorating all past wars and battles (sacrifices).

After WW1 the bereavement was so great, the wound so raw, that something had to be done. In England they began the memorial project, one in each town, as a way of directing the grief. That practice spread to the outer reaches of the Empire. As we see today.

Prior to this the wives and mothers (and families) actually searched through the grizzly French battlefields for their loved ones, picking through the sun dried grinning corpses. On some occasions with success.

This is a different age, they did, in their ancient madness, the best they could. ANZAC will stay.

Doug Quixote at 4:37 pm

I daresay. The forces of history, inertia and a general conservatism in the community will ensure that.

But after 100 years or so it will outlive its use; Waterloo Day was a big thing once, but how many even notice 18 June these days?

But as the prophet says, we shall see what we shall see.

Chris O’Neill at 4:28 pm

This holocaust of blood where more men died than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together

Of course, the apologists for the Japanese killing machine would have us believe that soldiers’ lives are worthless.

Glow Worm at 12:32 am

Chris O’Neill – if I can venture a small observation from my recent travels in Malaysia.

There is a museum in KL that portrays the history of the peninsula from earliest days (Bronze Age) to today. Detailed vignettes. Copious notes. Photographic treasures. Relics, mementos. Historic documents. All fascinating.

There is one obscure, dusty glass box containing a Samurai sword, a few buttons and a uniform, a proclamation, and a bare, sketchy narrative on the Japanese occupation. I thought it decidedly odd, and BB at once detected a conspiracy – placating Japanese tourists and ensuring continued investment.

We mentioned this lack of “detail” on the Japanese occupation of 1941-45 to our taxi driver – an Indian – who responded emotionally that the bastards had murdered his Grandfather: by public beheading. Even in the humidity and heat, it caused a chill through my heart.

He agreed with BB – the 100,000 (civilian) dead as a result of the Japanese killing machine has been whitewashed in recent history – a ‘real-politik’ of a curious kind.

I must re-visit the war memorial in Canberra soon …
I think perhaps it’s too late to change April 25th, but it should be, perhaps, more of a memorial day: Kokoda, Villers-Brettoneux, Long Tan …

Jenny April 23, 2014 at 10:37 am

Ah yes agreed re spin, but then if not ANZAC day, then how do we honour the poor bastards who have been killed and maimed and brutalised in all these damn wars…? Lest we forget. You can’t possibly expect that Joe Bloggs the average Australian punter would actually bother to find out what really happened in all those heinous battles in all those heinous wars do you? No Gallipoli is a symbol, one easily digestible massacre in a dim and distant war full of many many massacres. Gallipoli kinda neatly sums it up, a nice simple mythologised battle to give the ‘dimwits’ some heroes to hold on to, in a world so bereft of heroes give the punters their Gallipoli – Surely its better than nothing?

allthumbs April 23, at 12:02 pm

I dislike seeing no movement on this blog for such a long time, it is not a good look and therefore I offer at random a page from the Melbourne Argus, page 7 in fact from April 25th 1930 in regards to the media attention given to ANZAC day back then compared to now.

I would also commend a read of the adjacent column concerning a petrol enquiry and the role of Victorian Attorney General, to show how little ground we have made during the intervening years.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/521659?zoomLevel=6

Doug Quixote at 12:45 pm

While you are at it, look at the adjoining articles, including one on Menzies’ connection to Shell Petroleum.

It is a 1933 newspaper, BTW.

chris hunter at 3:16 pm

The Libs invented petrol sniffing.

Zathras April 24 at 12:24 am

I’ve always considered it a day of shame for those politicians who sacrificed so many on the altar of greed and self-interest. It fills me more with anger than with any sense of pride.

It’s a day when some people should be cowering under their beds instead of using it as recruitment propaganda for the next generation of innocent victims.

Smedley Butler’s admission that “War is A Racket” should be taught in schools.

Wood + Stone April 24 at 6:12 am

Churchill’s imaginative plan for the Dardenelles was an attempt to bypass the wall of blood red mountains that stretched from Nieuwpoort to Mulhausen.

I don’t think anyone could seriously argue that the idea itself was without merit.

Rollcall: Owen, Rosenberg, Sorely, West, McCrae, Thomas, Apollinaire, Marc, Macke, Boccioni, Abbey, Dichamp-Villon, Schiele.

Bob Ellis at 7:19 am

It was a good idea, and they landed on the wrong beach, and failed to link up with the British, as arranged. Churchill tried to call it off, but the boy in the telegraph office didn’t understand the message.

Had it been done properly the First War would have been over by Christmas, 1915.

And there would have been no Second War.

Discuss.

Quiz Time (68)

The answers to Quiz Time (66).

Geoff Gallop — John Garfield. Jim Cairns — Alan Ladd. Gough Whitlam — Stephen Fry. Paul Keating — Ray Danton. Bob Hawke — Bob Crane. John Howard — Ronnie Corbett. Kim Beazley — Ronnie Barker. Peter Garrett — Woody Harrelson (in Game Change). Bob Carr — Viggo Mortensson (in Good). Peter Debnam — Kevin Bacon. Steve Bracks — Edmund Purdom.

Lines For Bibi (1)

Unless you’re at war with Gaza, you’re not at peace with us.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

The Joint Strike Fighter, That Is The Question

Is anybody wondering what the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is to protect us from? And who? What invader, precisely, will in great bomber squadrons fly south to Darwin, Cairns, Longreach, bombing civilian targets in daylight, avoiding storms, which the F-35 can’t fly in? What armadas of dogface Mongolians or camouflaged Acehans will follow in troopships, in their tens of millions, coming ashore at Broome or Rockhampton, machine-gunning Anzacs and marching south?

What nonsense is this? What are we talking about?

These are the same experts, or similar ones, to those who believed Saddam Hussein would be rocket-launching nuclear bombs at US bases and European cities, when what happened was roadside IEDs blowing up trucks and suicide bombers ploughing lethal jeeps into police academies and pilgrim congregations and marketplaces. What killed the greatest number of people in a fortnight in our time was not a nuclear strike but machetes, in Ruanda, taking out eight hundred thousand civilians, one by one, and no fighter-bombers anywhere.

How, in 2040, when the principal weapon will be small drones sent out at night to assassinate cabinet ministers, will the F-35 Strike Fighter be of use? Can it shoot down a drone that’s five feet wide as it ascends out of a stealthy upthrusting submarine near Manly and whirrs off through the night towards Kirribilli? In what way will the F-35 be useful then? Tell, tell.

Drones don’t cost very much, four or five thousand, mostly, and F-35s cost eighty million each. Why are we not buying, or building, drones? If ever there was an example of the madness of the Military-Industrial Complex — Buck Turgidson spoiling for trouble, banging his fist, planning world war and chewing gum — it is this. A plane that still gets cracks in it we are paying twenty billion for and using in 2050 to do…what?

Sir Peter Cosgrove, our Commander-in-Chief, should put a stop to this. There are better things in a time of austerity to be doing with our money. And he, an experienced general, knows this.

He should countermand this costly mistake, and sack the Minister responsible. Which he has the power to do.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Alas, He’s Mad

Evidence is growing that Abbott has lost his mind. To spend two billion a year on a plane that can’t, yet, fly very well or shoot down the planes and drones the Chinese and Russians are currently building, while cutting money to dead soldiers’ children, doctors, nurses, teachers, the disabled and their carers and war-maddened veterans and making bricklayers work till they are seventy, is politically foolish, in my estimation, and way, way, way ‘off message’.

Two billion dollars could have kept Holden going for ten years and saved, as a knock-on consequence, two hundred and fifty thousand jobs and half a million livelihoods. Two  more billion, next year, would have paid all university fees. Two billion more, in 2016, would have funded twenty feature films as impressive as Lord Of The Rings. Two billion more, in 2017, would have bought small farms for ten thousand Hazaras. Two billion more, in 2018, would build in two country cities two teaching hospitals as impressive as Prince Henry.

And he is doing this after cutting the CSIRO by a third, thus driving our next three Nobel winners overseas, and proposing to abolish ABC drama, as his hero Howard did, in this, its golden age. And, oh yes, abolishing local round-the-clock Medicare centres in ‘selected suburbs’.

This is more than the ‘Abbott innumeracy’ Costello warned of. It is actual insanity. He is even saying he will not break any of his promises; just redefining ‘promise’, that’s all.

He has become what we used to call ‘a suitable case for treatment’ and should be hauled, in a straitjacket, out of the Kirribilli mansion, and, at Royal North Shore, investigated.

The Story So Far: Yesterday’s Morgan Poll

(First published by Independent Australia)

Morgan shows Abbott has lost some things that, even in the week of the visit of a future king to his beach, and a game-changing deal with Japan, can’t any more be got back. The 55 percent of women that now vote Labor, or prefer it. The 51.5 percent of West Australians, the 53 percent of South Australians, the 53 percent of Queenslanders, the 55.5 percent of Victorians that now vote Labor, or prefer it.

This means, must mean, that the Kevin ‘07 votes are back, and the relaxed and comfortable Howardist vote has been smashed, once again, by… what?

It’s the ‘non-core promise’ factor, probably. Gonski, NDIS, Medicare, the ABC and the Old Age Pension they swore would be protected, are being trashed. The anxiety of the carers of the disabled, and everyone has a disabled relative, though gone for a while, is now sadistically restored. And the mistrust women, especially, feel for Abbott (he abandoned his pregnant bride-to-be and made her give up her newborn baby) will not now, ever, be allayed.

But there’s also, I think, a ‘cock-up’ factor in play as well. Murder has occurred on Manus, and two killers are still on Morrison’s paid staff. A sea-search for a crashed plane for six weeks has turned up nothing, not even a floating passport. Money that has been spent on this search could have saved Holden, and a quarter of a million livelihoods. Amid calls for ‘shared sacrifice’ we learn Sinodinos got a quarter of a million dollars for fifty hours work, and was promised twenty million more. Amid boasts that ‘the adults are now in charge’ and ‘leadership stability’ was now the go, the Liberals changed Premiers in Victoria, New South Wales and Northern Territory and sacked the Treasurer, a former leader, in Western Australia. Brandis has come out for bigotry (88 percent of Australians think this is crazy) and called climate science ‘medieval’. Bernardi has compared gay men with ‘beasts’ and Pyne wants to write colonial brutality out of our history.

And it’s hard to overturn that perception, of a sackful of struggling cats in a swift-flowing river. Bronwyn Bishop is already the most lunatic Speaker in our history. Julie Bishop, after Carr’s book, seems a cross-eyed, angry amateur. Hockey’s quest for a surplus seems more and more a tilt at windmills, or the unleashing of a loaded dog.

And so on. It’s not, though, easy to know what to do with all this politically. Manus is tricky. The surplus has eluded better Treasurers. The ‘direct action’ absurdity has been gazumped by Palmer…

What could be done is a ‘save ABC drama’ campaign, in a year when, though at its best, and selling as never before overseas, it is marked, nonetheless, for Hockey destruction. Roxburgh and Blanchett could address mass meetings, Micallef, Biggins, Amanda Bishop do a sketch on Youtube. A ‘save Medicare’ campaign, too, would have no enemies. Bill Hayden, Bob Hawke, even Gough could be part of it. On Anzac Day it should be noted that dead soldiers’ children are being dudded of their money, and traumatised veterans thieved of their disability pensions, probably, if Eric Abetz, the chittering droid, has his way.

There are things to do before the Budget sinks Hockey’s credibility and Abbott’s honesty, once and for all. Not least of these is to assert that Labor continues to be ahead in all the polls, unchangingly, and the Rudd numbers have come storming back.

And the Coalition is in ‘leadership turmoil’ and fighting, as always, like cats in a sack.

Quiz Time (67)

What is the connection between Melvin Douglas, who in the Gore Vidal drama The Best Man played a presidential candidate, and Richard Nixon?

So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done

It is likely O’Farrell was brought down by a plot, and the letter forged. Chikarovski said as much on Q&A last night: he would not have handwritten such a letter and then forgotten it, she said, nor forcefully sworn that he had not received, nor drunk, the wine.

Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, Watson, must be the truth. O’Farrell repeatedly offended Hockey and Abbott (over Gonski, NDIS, gay marriage and selling state assets) and so was brought down; discuss.

What happened, probably, was something like this. O’Farrell made a routine call thanking Di Girolamo, his fundraiser, three days after the election win. Di Girolamo, meanwhile, that morning had sent off the wine. It was received, by persons unknown, at the wrong address, or at the right address and mislaid, by arrangement or by accident.

Three years later, cause had grown in the minds of some Rightist Liberals to remove O’Farrell and put in someone more compliant. The wine sent, and not received, was or was not an honest mistake, and it came up before ICAC, damagingly. And it seemed on Wednesday O’Farrell was likely to survive it. So on the Wednesday night the letter was forged, and, on Friday, by the harried, embittered and fearful Di Girolamo delivered.

The clue lies in the underlining of the word ‘all’. No sitting Premier would thus hint at wrongdoing on a government letterhead. ‘All your help’, with the ‘all’ underline is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink, unmistakeable in its implication, of wrongdoing co-conspired and covered up. It resembles closely, in the sum of its parts, the forged Kennett letter that in 1996 cost Keating six or seven seats and Beazley, thereafter and therefore, government in 1998. No Premier would suggest a lie in writing, he just wouldn’t, then or now.

And a further clue lies in the timing of the party meeting, due at that point to occur today. If it had occurred today, the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, after photo-ops with the the Royals on Manly Beach and appreciative obituaries by family and friends in the Sunday papers, would have been asked by some of his Ministers (Smith, Souros, Page) to stay on, and would have done so, after polls that showed the public wanted him to. And so the meeting was brought forward, and O’Farrell’s frantic tactic — resign now, and be applauded back into office on Tuesday morning — stymied. Instead, they acclaimed him as an honest man, and threw him out with the garbage.

It may have been, it well may have been, that O’Farrell planned, in the five days he had before he was obliged to resign officially, to suss out this probable forgery, and threaten Abbott with it, and with Abbott’s known record for this sort of thing, and survive that way. But once the early meeting was called, there was no time, and he was knackered eftsoons, within thirty hours of the letter appearing.

And now a lot of ‘unsuitable’ Ministers — Smith, Souros, O’Farrell — are to be sacked, and an Abbottite sell-off-the-farm gang installed by this ‘bloodless’ coup in their stead by a no-abortion, no-gay marriage, ex-trainee-priest like Abbott. What a coincidence.

I ask ICAC to get an expert to look at the handwriting and see if it is, indeed, O’Farrell’s.

And we will see what we shall see.

Classic Ellis: Anzac Day, 2010

It was lost on the night of bombardment before the first landing, lost in the first hour on the beach, lost on each of the two hundred and forty-five days that followed, lost in the planning at Whitehall, lost in the choice of the deranged Ian Hamilton, lost in the luck of getting the genius Ataturk as our principal foe.

It was the largest amphibious operation in world history then and we lost it early and often and five thousand of us were killed there and ten thousand crippled and twenty thousand sent half-mad with what they saw and survived. Dick Casey, Bert Facey, Clem Attlee, Compton McKenzie, Leon Gellert came home from it and God knows how many young men of equal worth like Rupert Brooke stayed on to moulder in shallow graves and be eaten by dogs and fill the dreams of the girlfriends and sisters and mothers they never came home to, sneaking out in the boats at night in gently falling snow with their mates on Christmas Eve.

It was a bloody debacle and a murderous waste and its failure meant the First World War killed twenty million more young men to no good end and World War 2 came then as a consequence. And I and my father and thirty million subsequent Australians were told it was a kind of triumph.

In a spin exercise as enormous as the one that followed the Crucifixion we were told it was Australia’s ‘coming of age’, the ‘finest sons’ of a ‘new young nation’ proving what we could do – die pointlessly in Churchill’s incompetent conception of a knock-out blow, a back door to victory.

And many of us believed it, the audacious, denialist spin that a battle ill lost from which no good came was worth being in because it ‘tested our mettle’ and ‘showed what game young men can do’.

Paul Keating, launching Graham Freudenberg’s Churchill and Australia said Australia didn’t have to prove anything. It already had the highest standard of living in the world, along with female suffrage, pensions, exemplary health care, a literate working class, good writers, athletes, musicians, painters, cartoonists. What was there to prove? That we could perish bravely in war, that great game of drongos?

‘I have never gone to Gallipoli,’ Keating said, ‘and I never will. Kokoda is more my speed. There we fought, and won, a long battle that made a difference to our nation’s future. That saved us from something, as Gallipoli never did.’

I have often thought since then that Australia’s Picasso, Gershwin, Hemingway, Eliot, Frank Lloyd Wright, Jack Dempsey, Nye Bevan, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Charles Chaplin, died on Gallipoli probably, or came home too limbless and smashed of soul to attempt the careers they might have had. Twenty or thirty thousand of their sons and daughters were never born. Two or three thousand of the girls that waited for them only to read their names on a post office wall, never themselves had children, or grandchildren, a hundred thousand of whom might be retiring now after useful, talented, civic lives.

And yet we are asked to celebrate this now, to ‘honour’ a ‘sacrifice’ that ‘had to be made’. It was a battle that should never have been planned and should never have been fought. It gave Turkey a nation-founding hero and us a century of bloodstained hypocrisy, ending hopefully soon.

Death should never be celebrated. It is too big a defeat. It is celebrated by men like Howard and Rudd and Bush and Blair and Bin Laden who do not believe in death and think it only a moment before the story continues, among angel choirs on green meadows with lions and lambs at play together. It is celebrated by pious dimwits, not men and women of intellect; not any more.

Some realism, to be sure, now attends Anzac Day as it didn’t when I was young. It is more a song of mourning now than a hymn of praise. But we would do as well to celebrate with marches and brass bands and bugles and flags the Myall Creek Massacre or the Granville Train Disaster or the Newcastle Earthquake or the Port Arthur Slaughter (on Anzac Day), or Black Saturday, or Ash Wednesday, as we do this holocaust of blood where more men died than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together, on both sides, in their youth, in the first of their strength, forever. And are not looking down on us now.

Spin has come a long way since then. We believe almost anything now. That Afghans will want to go back to the valleys where their brothers and fathers were killed, now the ‘situation has improved’. That Sri Lankans yearn to be home among ethnic cleansing. That men and women as brave as boat people are will not be good citizens and should be sent home, like my friends the Bakhtiyaris, to die at the hands of their enemies or join their cause as suicide bombers.

That it’s worth bombing a village to save its women from cruel marriages. That the drug-running Karzai brothers are worth dying for. That it’s worth immolating a country for any cause. That sending young men to gaol is a useful thing to do. That the Catholic Church’s good points outweigh its pederasty. That Christ rose from the dead and hears our every whispered prayer and is interceding for us, every one of us, in a heavenly court right now. That chasing stolen cars does more good than harm. That Sol Trujillo was worth the money we paid him.

Spin lives, and it continues. In our Anzac Day Last Post it lives and marches on.

And gathers more and more good people into its great implacable cause, pointless death and needless suffering.

Discuss.

Classic Ellis: Neville Wran, 1984

(From Goodbye Jerusalem, 1997)

…..Nifty I had known in a different way. When Rosemary Foot had asked in the Legislative Assembly was it true that Neville Wran’s close friend Bob Ellis had got a ten-screenplay contract, the first ever, with the New South Wales Film Corporation, Nifty rose and said, ‘It is true I have met Bob Ellis from time to time. For anyone resident in Sydney this experience is almost unavoidable. But I would not rank him as one of my close friends; and he, I think, with equal pride, would not rank me as one of his.’ Nevertheless we connected, and, drinking late, were often the last to leave State functions. I remember once grabbing him by the back of the neck, and grabbing Bob Caswell, the writer of Scales of Justice, about State government corruption, also by the back of the neck, and bidding them now talk, you bastards. You can’t do that sort of thing in guided democracies, I expect; I’m a little surprised I did it here.

Nifty saved my bacon once when John Howard as Treasurer changed the rules of film investment and all the money we had for Goodbye Paradise evaporated. I sent him a telegram and it was witty enough, calling on our legendary old friendship, and he walked down Macquarie Street and wrote a cheque, and so the film was made.

And so it was that Paul Riomfalvy of the NSWFC called me, as was his custom, for whiskies at 7 a.m. and over his large panatella proposed in his mild Hungarian shriek that I and Jill Wran and Graeme Murphy of the Sydney Dance Company plan an evening at the Wharf in celebration of Nifty’s ten years in power.

We did this and it was a good night of some vulgarity. Drew Forsythe sang The State is in the very best of hands with new words by me. A swag of young ministers, Brereton, Debus, Cavalier, Walker and Sheahan, did a song number and Bob Carr, famously, failed to tap-dance adequately for his leader. The final item (Riomfalvy’s idea) was a speech by me from the forestage and it went down well. And I stayed long after.

‘There are two kinds of people in the world,’ Nifty said in his speech in reply, ‘those that were born in Balmain, and those that wish they had been,’ and his fear of what Australia was soon to become, a Jaruzelski Lilliput with a bug in every phone and a walloper on every doorstep saying maybe we can come to some arrangement and Rodney Cavalier’s lovingly fondled quotes from P. G. Wodehouse, and Neville Cardus, and Nifty kissing me and saying he owed me, and so on. The champagne flowed and the talk abounded, there were lights on the dark water and the ships passed and it all felt like some Scott Fitzgerald occasion in a far-off bright and darkening time of hope. It seems a long time ago.

_________________

Speaking at Lionel (Murphy)’s funeral, Nifty said the word ‘mate’ had lately come to have sinister connotations. ‘But Lionel Murphy was my mate, and I’m proud to say that I was his.’ It was remarked at the time how differently he would have dealt with Mick and the spy story, or Mick and the Paddington Bear. ‘Are you joking?’ he would have said. ‘Fuck off. Write anything incriminating about Mick on this matter and you’ll never cross this fucking threshold again.’

He had his hates of course and one of them was my boyhood friend Chris Masters who in The Big League asserted Nifty was corrupt, as a result of which Nifty had to invent the concept (he was very good at this) of ‘standing aside’ from the Premiership while he was on trial. He told the ABC to fuck off for years after that, and was very snakey too about Mike Carlton who did husky gang sterish imitations of him, accompanied by the sound of a getaway car arriving, and departing. David Hill deter¬mined to reconcile them and brought Mike round and they drank together for a while and made it up.

The best night I had with Nifty I think was in a peculiar small cane-covered private room in a Canberra restaurant during the Labor Conference of 1984 (an event made colourful by tattooed and feathered and painted hippies up and down the stairways of the Lakeside Hotel) with Jill and Freudy and John and Jan Brown and Ramsey, my collaborator. Freudy was mountainously pissed (as I remember) and told an anecdote that at full stretch might take forty-eight seconds or so in a total of thirty-two and a half minutes and Nifty, who loved him, heard him out.

Then Nifty began to reminisce—about Balmain and his working-class brothers who still lived there and hated Balmain trendies and of his wild youth.

‘I used to be an actor, you know,’ he said. ‘I left Law School and became a professional actor. I starred in a radio soap called The Martins of Markham Street or some bloody thing and I did very well, made a bit of money.

‘And one night I turned up at Her Majesty’s Theatre, opening night, tuxedo on, sumptuous blonde on me arm, furs all over her, cleavage down to here, and the doorman grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me round, and it was me father.

‘ “Listen,” he said, “get back to Law School.” ‘

‘I did too. Silliest thing I’ve done in me life.’

His ambition, he said, was to open a restaurant with a harbour view and neon sign saying Nifty’s, with a piano bar and good food, and he’d be there every night, like Bogart in Casablanca, and pursue the art of conversation.

And he talked of better things. And then suddenly he said, ‘When I think back on my life, and what I’ve become, and I wonder what I might’ve been, I think what I might’ve better have been is a more radical version of what I am. But in the end, in the end, in the end,’ he said very rapidly, ‘there’s only the Labor Party, isn’t there?’

The Film That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I chanced upon a fine Australian film last night. It was the best film about cricket since the Rattigan-Asquith fifties classic (co-starring Miller, Lindwall, Hutton, Compton, Robert Morley, Jack Warner), The Final Test, and the best film about cricket, maybe, ever.

It was called, unfortunately, Save Your Legs!, and my hands are covering my face as I reveal this. The title achieved the unlikelihood of putting me and perhaps two million Australians off it, and this is a pity. It might not have mattered in India, where it is mostly set, but it mattered here. Why not Padding Up? Why not Teddy’s Eleven? Why not Beating Bollywood? Why did not the scenarist, Brendan Cowell, an actor and writer of massive gifts and an erstwhile friend of mine, not call me? Why not Bombay Blues?

It’s a gang show like Don’s Party, Sunday Too Far Away, Stir, The Club, The Odd Angry Shot, The Oyster Farmer, The Sapphires and The Moodys and it celebrates, like most of them, the Australian tendency to miserable failure, hangover, chundering on one’s in-laws, self-loathing, denial, and not growing up till one’s mid-forties, if then. But it does it better than most of them. It is a perfect film. Let me explain.

Never before have we seen on film the sense of how, in montage, a game is going, so swiftly, brutally, balletically edited. Never before have we got so clearly the…triumphant desolation of a team of the second rank, back in training. These are guys who have given up, thus far, 650 Saturdays to a gallant pursuit which has not, thus far, rewarded them in a way that in boyhood they dreamed it would. We see the cheery, thumbs-up, group-hug enthusiasm, hear the war-cries, but observe the eyes going dead behind the goofy smiles.

When is the time to let go, and grow up, that is the question. A fine film, Lifeguard (called Time and Tide in Australia) asked this question, equally well, thirty years ago, and a great play, Henry IV, Part 2, four hundred years ago. It obsessed in his plays my friend Alex Buzo, a Sunday cricketer, also. I played in his team alongside Mel Gibson, Ron Haddrick, Barry Oakley, Stewart Granger, Roger Milliss, David Hill, but I would not, would not, would not, go to Tuesday training. I lacked his religious fervour, which kept him cursing his underlings on Tuesdays till he was fifty-five.

Derived from what is now called ‘true events’ (the director, Boyd Hicklin, made both doco and movie), the tour of the Abbotsford Anglers in 2001), it draws on the fish-out-of-water genre that from Dad And Dave Come To Town to Wake In Fright to Bazza to Crocodile Dundee has served Australia well, and with much ribald foolishness pits against the lads a leering, priapic Bollywood idol Darshan Jarivala (Sanjeet Thambuswarry) who lusts, too, after Anjali, their Indian-Australian sponsor’s Rai’s daughter (Pallavi Shardi), wellbeloved but untouched by the meek, shamed and sorrowing Teddy Brown (Stephen Curry) who has not, though sobbing with rage, prevented the lads from whoring, shopping, taking drugs and immolating their innards in livid, rebarbative curries, and, worse, MISSING TRAINING.

He is in grief too because Rick, his boundary-smashing, tearaway all-rounder (reminiscent of Keith Miller, played with sarcastic verve by Brendan Cowell, the auteur) is proposing to quit and ‘grow up’, and his brilliant opener Stavros (Damon Gameau) is moving with his pregnant wife to the Caribbean, and, worse, evicting Teddy from his garage. Teddy is 35 and and wants to validate his life. He has stolen Tendulkar’s genital-shielding ‘box’ and keeps it as a talisman until, in a weeping rage, he throws it into the Ganges and, in jealous fury, makes a younger batsman, who could have saved the crucial game, come in at number eleven. And so on. Curry’s performance, tender and pained, is as good as Blundell or Kennedy or Keaton might have made it, and world class.

The editing is majestically good, the camerawork, the costume design. Called Padding Up, or Batting On, or Bollocking Bombay, it would have made (in India, the UK, the Caribbean) fifty million dollars. But no, no, no, it premiered at the (gulp) Melbourne Film Festival, the snootiest such foregathering on the planet, when it should, like Red Dog and The Dish, have opened in a country town and stayed there exclusively for a fortnight, and played one session a week, in Sydney and Melbourne, till it picked up speed. Or opened in Mumbai, packed them out for a year there, then came here.

It was nearly a great lost Oz classic, like Wake In Fright was for a while, and Bazza Pulls It Off, or The Sentimental Bloke, but here it is, on Foxtel, to be savoured.

I urge the producers to re-release it, under a new name, in Broken Hill or Mount Isa, then play it once a week in the Randwick Ritz and the Parramatta Riverside, until it finds, at last, its legs.

Then count their money.

Useful New Words (3)

Robotization.

It means giving the jobs young people used to do to machines, and multiplying thereby the unearned millions of ‘shareholders’. The Harbour Bridge tolls machines collect now. The parking station fees. The parts of cars machines build now. The ATMs that each do the work that once kept fifteen breadwinners employed for a lifetime.

The purpose of capitalism is the restoration of slavery and robotization is the first stage. The second is the export of all jobs to the Third World. The third is the transformation of all Australians to waiters, paid only by tips, half of which go to the owner.

Discuss.

Useful New Words (2)

Sado-narcissist.

Self-explanatory. Think Pyne, Costello, Palin, Putin, Rudd, Van Onselen, Blair.

Useful New Words (1)

Sado-Thatcherist.

Self-explanatory. Think Abetz, Corman, Campbell Newman, Bronwyn Bishop, Jeff Kennett.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (99)

There will be a few more film and theatre reviews, and a Classic Ellis or so, before Ellis Gold kicks in — on May Day, I am informed by my sons — and those who wish to imbibe and savour these lavish offerings — long essays on Shakespeare, Australian theatre, Russian cinema, Churchill, the Kennedys, Disney, Bergman, Luhrmann, Polanski, Woody, The Simpsons, old age, death, the age of the Pill, the decline of the swallowed blow-job after 1962, the monthly Primates poem, the occasional work of long fiction or personal verse — must pay a dollar a week, or fifty dollars a year, or half that if they are pensioners, to enjoy, disdain or respond to them.

The up-to-the-minute political stuff can still be experienced free, of course, and the occasional articles by contributors (allthumbs, Quixote, Canguro, Dali, Hugh Weiss, Laurel McGowan, Helvi, Drew Forsythe come to mind), but the initial honeymoon era is over, alas, and the passionate fan base, if one exists, must now gird its loins (alas) and pay up big at least for a while — if a dollar a week is paying up big — for essays, reviews, remembrance, obituary remorse, and verse of quality.

Quiz Time (66)

What male film star most resembled, physically, Geoff Gallop? Jim Cairns? Gough Whitlam? Bob Hawke? Paul Keating? John Howard? Kim Beazley? Peter Garrett? Campbell Newman? Bob Carr? Peter Debnam? Steve Bracks?

In Twenty-Three Words

Abbott has met me twelve times and dined with me thrice but he has never met Nick Di Girolamo, his principal fundraiser. Discuss.

Quiz Time (65)

Which film do the experts acknowledge ‘kick-started’ the revived Australian film industry twenty years after Menzies effectively abolished it, in the early 50s? Which two great iconic male film stars were in it, one old, one young, at, respectively, the end of, and the beginning of, their film careers?

After O’Farrell (3): Even Worse News

It’s possible the Liberals don’t know yet what damage they’re in, but I suspect they do.

Consider the figures, or the figures we thus far know about.

In an age of tightening of belts, Campbell Newman charges Di Girolamo five thousand dollars for a mere conversation, and Sinodinos charges him, and the taxpayer, twenty MILLION dollars for…let’s see…persuading O’Farrell to sign a deal, which involves the portage of sewage, and half a BILLION dollars gratefully received.

In an age of universal sacrifice, hardworking bricklayers and male nurses and coal miners lose a hundred thousand dollars off their pension, and millionaires’ wives get sixty thousand dollars for having a baby.

Craig Thomson goes to gaol for misspending twenty-five thousand in seven years — on firewood, mostly, and cigarettes — and Sinodinos gets, and will not give back, a quarter of a million — of taxpayers’ money — for three days’ work, from Nick Di Girolamo, a probable crook; and ICAC, a-tremble, swears he’s ‘done nothing wrong’. Of course hasn’t. Of course he hasn’t.

These are sums no unionist EVER thieved, from anyone, ever, thus far, in all human history; yet unionists are being pilloried and smirched and harried at a cost of a hundred million dollars in the least needed Royal Commission since Pleistocene times, and the Liberal Party, by contrast, is not. Abbott, head of the Liberals, claims he’s never met their principal fundraiser, and neither has Hockey, his local member. This is perjury, probably, and you go to gaol for perjury.

The upshot, old friend, the clear and fecund, high-spurting upshot, is that their principal argument, we are the good guys, we end the rorts, we balance the books, we make sure nobody cheats, is in tatters. And anybody seen drinking coffee, Grange or even beer with Nick Di Girolamo, now, or then, or hereinafter, will be accurst. And these will include, for sure, I would guess, three Premiers, a Prime Minister and a Treasurer.

Will they expel NDG from the Liberal Party? Of course not. Will he grass on them anyway? He already has.

I see the downfall of their house.

For it took only one filmed grope (by a man named, happily, Bartlett) to end the Australian Democrats, remove them from history for good and all. In these revelations, these vintages, these promised millions, this purchased access to mayors and premiers, is enough to put fifteen Liberal ministers, state and federal, in the jug for eight years each, minimum parole time three years.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Quiz Time (64)

What Australian Prime Ministers have played themselves in feature films — as opposed to appearing in newsreels, like Chifley in Newsfront, pasted into surrounding dramas?

What three actors have played Ben Chifley? What three actors John Curtin? What Welsh, Australian, Irish and Canadian actors played Winston Churchill?

Waterholdingsgate, The Miniseries (1): The First Prediction

It is very, very probable Abbott has met Di Girolamo more than once. He is a major Liberal donor and money-raiser. And to say he never met him, though he met me a dozen times, and dined with me thrice, goes against all common sense.

And it is moreover certain, quite certain in my view, that Nick Di Girolamo will become, henceforth, the Brian Burke of the Liberal Party.

Anyone seen eating with him in the past five years, or standing on a wharf with him, or on a boat deck with him, or accepting, as Campbell Newman did, money from him, money in thousands from him, or, like Sinodinos, millions from him, will be toast.

Or am I wrong?

Conspiracy Theory (2)

I suspect the underlining of the word ‘all’ in O’Farrell’s letter to Di Girolamo, a self-incrimination that no sensible politician would contemplate, is in different ink to the handwriting.

I ask a forensic expert to look into this.

Quiz Time (63)

In what film did Bob Ellis and Les Murray appear as incompetent criminals? Who directed it?

Michael Boddy (2)

(From Drew Forsythe)

Michael Boddy taught history of theatre to us acting students at NIDA in 1969. Taught, no, regaled us with jokes and fantastic stories, real and made up, of productions and people who may or may not have inhabited the world of theatre. He invited Ian Channell, the University of NSW Wizard (who had allowed his driving licence, social security ID, passport and other important documents to lapse so that he could become a fictional character) to create a happening with us. He brought Alby Thoms, the experimental filmmaker who started Ubu Films, to come and talk with us and show us his films. He told stories of how he had lived rough under the Harbour Bridge with derros (as they were happily known then) and of when he was a medical student in England dealing with homeless patients.

We laughed along with him, for he nearly always had a chuckle in his voice, we were saddened by some of his stories but enlightened by all of them. I remember him telling us that when playing a character try having a tune in your head to walk to. He made impenetrable Greek theatre fun. He brought a sense of vaudeville and the absurd to most things and in doing so made our hitherto dull lessons happy and holy events.

I worked with Michael in the opening production of ‘Biggles’ which he wrote with Marcus Cooney and Ron Blair (with a hymn to masturbation contributed by Bob Ellis.) Michael played the cad of the remove and Janet Dawson, his wife, created a poster for it. He would take us off to the Tai Ping for huge dinners and jovial conversations. His play ‘The Legend of King O’Malley’, written with Bob Ellis, was an inspiration to our generation of actors.

He had a great appetite for life, Michael, and though I never saw him again after the mid-seventies I have never stopped quoting him and sharing his stories with others.

He will live on.

The Banality Of Genius: Fiennes’s, Morgan’s, Tomalin’s, Ternan’s and Dickens’s The Invisible Woman

Ralph Fiennes’s film about Dickens’ affair with the actress Ellen Ternan (involving, as the Claire Tomalin book revealed, a public separation from the wife who bore him ten children; a denial in The Times that sex was involved; a born-dead bastard child, quickly buried and covered up; periods of depressive madness, his and hers; a knighthood foregone; chill glances over cigars at the Club) can be compared, as the work of an actor-director, with Citizen Kane.

In each, a search after a great man’s death, for the keystone of his life. In each, a wanton sacrifice of reputation for the obsessive love of an unremarkable young woman whom, Pygmalion-like, he tries to transform into a star. In both, her testament, after he is gone, to his inexplicable, wayward, moody kindness and shrunken glory.

Their directing styles could not be more different, but each is a revolution in cinema. We have never been more ‘inside’ the gilded cage of Victorian hypocrisy, nor yet, to our surprise, more sympathetic with it. We know, at last, what it’s like to have been there. An obese wife, glimpsed naked, speaks glum volumes. A town hall speech, with grimy nocturnal slumside cutaways, on the needless infant deaths of the London poor, is a whole Hogarth exhibition of capitalist injustice. The nervous jollity of a family of actresses, reluctantly acceding to, then recommending, the whoredom of their untalented sister who now, like Nell Gwynne, is blest, if that is the word we want, with the lust of a titan but unsure of how she feels about him, is as eloquent as two series each of Desperate Romantics and The Paradise.

What Fiennes has done is to creep in slowly, as Griffiths did, from long-held wide shots to long shots to medium shots to, after an hour, an extreme close-up, thus easing us incrementally and softly into a world that is not ours, through its furnishings, dress codes and body language, till we are, as it were, ‘embedded’ in its peculiarities: the parson as bedside analyst, the school play as personal catharsis, the loveless marriage papered over  as a nobly defended citadel. Often only a single word, and an agonised pause, gets us there, to the understanding of the inner mystery of things, in a time when the British upper lip was at its stiffest; and another, more southward organ also.

Abi Morgan’s script is better even than her series The Hour, a fervid feminist work as persuasive as Polanski’s Tess or Loach’s Ladybird, Ladybird — and, simultaneously a hymn of admiration to the the lofty, exploitative, tenderly adulterous, unknowable Cockney oppressor Dickens, for whom we might, after this, coin the phrase, ‘the banality of genius’.

For this too is the Dickens we rightly admire, the social thinker who like Orwell saw evil and tried to name it, saw injustice and tried to mitigate it, saw humanity in all its veneral warts, including his own, and its unintended hilarity, and tried as best he could to sort it, and ease its passage into the oblivion that awaits us all, and save a few souls on the way.

Fiennes gives us not just the luminous thinker but the banal erotic ferret in his clothes, a selfless performance that serves the film, not his ego. Felicity Jones as Ellen is both china doll and mutinous puppet, a Liza-Lolita-Jane Eyre with cold, undeluded eyes accepting social ruin without embracing it, knowing how little choice there is for a woman who is not an heiress nor a harlot, but…cossetted and petticoated and earringed harlotry, and natal risk; and, as the title asserts, invisibilty.

Kristin Scott Thomas, superb as her jaded mother, both a committed artist and a caring parent, serves the text, as always, unstoppably. Tom Hollander, as the louche bohemian living-in-sin Wilkie Collins, Dickens’ mischievous confederate, show himself, once again, as a portrayer of eccentrics (consider his Ruskin in Desperate Romantics, his stunned-mullet playwright in About Time, his fraught and stammering cabinet minister in In The Loop) unbettered in our time.

It is possible this film, which unveils too much perhaps of what we would rather not know, both of Dickens and ourselves, will not do well at the box-office, and I abjure you, nay, I beseech you, to see it instantly, on the big screen, telling all.

In Ten Words

Will Abbott now expel Di Girolamo from the Liberal Party?

Conspiracy Theory

It is possible what happened was this. O’Farrell signed on to Gonski, enraging Abbott, and signed on to NDIS, enraging Brandis, and refused as well to sell off state assets, enraging Hockey, and these three power-wielders intrigued against him. He favoured gay marriage also, and they wanted him gone. He was a crablouse in their pubic hair and they wanted him gone.

So when the ‘Grangegate’ matter erupted, and it seemed he might survive it, their smelly craven donor Di Gerolamo was urged to find — or forge — the letter, and underline the ‘all’, incriminating him further. Seeing it, O’Farrell realised there was only one way he could survive. This was to resign immediately, before Easter, welcome Prince William, share the Easter festivities with the future king, and be applauded back into office by an abashed and grateful caucus on Tuesday, after polling that showed the public forgave him, and wanted him back.

To thwart this, Abbott ordered an immediate party meeting on Thursday, before Easter, and the unanimous election of the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, committed Christian Baird (who trained once, like Abbott, for the priesthood), a man who would obediently sell off the State assets, all of them, and so soften the Hockey Budget bottom line. And so it came to pass.

No other accumulation of events explains Baird’s description of it all as ‘a tragedy’ and his refusal, thus far, to invite the fallen titan into Cabinet, as, say Treasurer, or Minister for Education.

It was a coup, with the swiftness of a coup, that had to be accomplished before the future king trod the sunny sands of Manly, Baird’s and Abbott’s patch, and they shook his royal hand.

The Easter Coup, it will be known as to historians. Discuss.

Quiz Time (62)

Whom did Bob Ellis, then on the board of the Adelaide Film Festival, suggest should turn one hundred, during a showing of her oeuvre, in the Barossa Valley?

What did Mike Rann say in response?

Quiz Time (61)

Who, among the following, did NOT play an Australian?

Paul Newman. Robert Mitchum. Peter Ustinov. Mick Jagger. Maureen O’Hara. Robert Downey, Jr. Benedict Cumberbatch. Christopher Plummer. Eric Idle. Billy Connolly. Warren Beatty. John Bell. Ernest Borgnine. Aldo Ray. Ingrid Bergman. Peter Lawford. Errol Flynn. Peter Finch. Donald Pleasance. Leo McKern. John Mills. Joan Plowright. Vanessa Redgrave. Coral Browne. Anthony LaPaglia. Greta Scacchi. Judy Davis. Cate Blanchett. Peter O’Toole.

There are only three.

Marquez

Would somebody who knows about him do a piece for this blog on Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

I will meantime review the Dickens/Ternan film, The Invisible Woman.

After O’Farrell (2): The Widening Ripples Of NDG

(First published by Independent Australia)

Eighteen months ago Pyne and Abbott ran out of the chamber to avoid the ‘toxic’ vote of a man who had spent six thousand dollars inappropriately. On Thursday O’Farrell vacated his position, the second most important in the land, because of three thousand dollars spent inappropriately on a bottle of wine. Four years ago, Belinda Neal lost her seat because she said ‘Do you know who I am?’ to a Woy Woy waiter inappropriately, amid headlines bellowing ‘Iguanagate!’ over what was no more, in the end, than a tone of voice.

These political events have a common cause, the Karl Rove/Roger Ailes Method of raising devils over small things, and the devils are now devouring the Liberal Party.

Mike Baird cannot now have long as leader after Sarah Ferguson asked him did Nick Di Girolamo give him campaign money, and get from him in return a job he couldn’t do very well, the same Nick Di Girolamo who spent buckets of money on lavish living, taxpapers’ money, that is. Arthur Sinodinos cannot now have long as a Senator after accepting from Nick Di Girolamo twenty million dollars if he ‘persuaded’ O’Farrell to give their sewage company a contract. Hockey and Abbott may not have long as MPs if, as is likely, Di Girolamo gave money to their campaigns, money stolen, that is, from the New South Wales taxpayer. The vultures are circling, the jackals detect the smell of blood on the wind, and the Liberal Party itself may not survive the year.

For the Liberal Party is the Lobbyists’ Party, it has no other moral purpose any more. It is there to give contracts to mates who build the airport, and the roads to and from it, and positions to crooks like Di Girolamo who kick back money to it. Nick Greiner, wonderfully, said on Thursday that ‘of course’ he would have accepted a three thousand dollar bottle of wine, it was how lobbying worked, by which he meant how bribery worked. He thus reminds us of the billions Howard tried to dropkick to Doug Moran, a donor, in varied fees for his old age homes, and the two hundred and ninety-eight million dollars Downer and Vaile gave to Saddam Hussein to ‘smooth the passage’ of Australian wheat to Ba’athist flour mills in Iraq. And, of course, the five thousand dollars you had to pay, once, to get through Mayor Campbell Newman’s door.

It’s what Abbott means by ‘open for business’. It’s in the Liberals’ DNA. They are the Lobbyists’ Party, the mates’ rates party, the kickback party. They have no other meaning. Privatisation is a kickback. A bottle of wine is a kickback. It’s what, as Greiner foolishly boasts, they do.

And it’s the party that’s now inviting us to ‘share the pain’; and sack, say, Sarah Ferguson to ‘balance the books’. It’s hard, after Grangegate, for Hockey to do this, or persuade Clive Palmer, a former donor, aggrieved now, to let the Budget through.

All self-righteousness has gone from the Liberals’ armoury now, and it was the biggest weapon they had. They now must explain why a search for MH370 was worth it, worth the money in hundreds of millions, and saving Holden wasn’t. Holden didn’t grease their palms enough, perhaps, with money donated to their campaign in, say, 2010.

And we will see what we shall see.

Two Questions

What was $inodino$ to be paid twenty million for, if not the bribing of O’Farrell?

How many years should he get for this?

Useful Headlines (1)

NSW Liberals In Chaos! Eight Leaders In Twenty-Two Years!

A Prediction

I suspect, but I am not certain, that Pru Goward will be Premier this afternoon.

Lines For Joe Hockey (11)

The age of entitlement is over. The corkage stops here.

Deciphering O’Farrell

The critical part of the handwritten letter is ‘all your support’, and the underlining of ‘all’.

This can only mean ‘support beyond the call of duty’, whose other meaning is ‘corrupt’.

If there’s another interpretation of it, please let me know.

Quiz Time (60)

What four films, all set in Texas, could have been set in Australia, without a word of dialogue changed?

In Eight Words

How soon will he be Sir Barry O’Farrell?

The First Rule Of Propaganda

It’s a fairly obvious thing to say, but two things always work in politics. One is crime. The other is big scary numbers.

The Liberals gained office by accusing Thomson, Slipper, Obeid and Gillard of various crimes, and by waving big scary numbers — eighty billion deficit! six hundred billion debt! — at the affrighted, prurient, buffeted voters.

Labor will win anyway; but it can win I think with a vast majority by accusing Morrison of harbouring murderers, Brough and Pyne of framing Slipper, Sinodinos of seeking twenty million dollars by bribing, if he could, O’Farrell, Abbott of spending on illegal travel to the criminal Mirabella’s flamboyant wedding ten thousand dollars, and more money, in tens of millions, on seeking sea-wreckage than would have saved Holden and a quarter of a million jobs.

Crime, and big scary numbers. It works. It always works.

And we will see what we shall see.

After O’Farrell

And so things change. Sinodinos cannot any longer be a Senator, Carr may return as party leader, or Rees, and no Liberal can win in New South Wales, Victoria, or Queensland in the next year, and the map will be pretty red by the hundredth Anzac Day, Abbott no longer Prime Minister, Labor on 54 or 56 two party preferred, Morrison in gaol, and the Greens on 20 percent.

And all because of a good Grange, duly drunk with sausages and thanked for in writing. Never in the field of human wine-tasting has so little cost a Party so much, for so long.

And so things change.

In Twenty-Four Words

If, in World War 2, the US could build an airfield in two weeks, why is it now taking five hundred times as long?

In Eight Words

What is the upside of driving scientists overseas?

Gielgud: An Appreciation

(From Bob Carr)

A gallop through the plays and sonnets, shaped by a luminously intelligent appreciation of the works, and delightful accents as well. Made me want to see it again, to bully everyone else to see it, to buy the latest book on Gielgud. What a concept!

Michael Boddy

‘All of us will always owe him everything,’ Jean-Luc Godard said of Orson Welles, and another big, multi-talented man, Michael Boddy, was like that in many lives, mine especially. Without him there would have been no King O’Malley, and, it can be argued, no renaissance in the Australian theatre and its love-child, Australian cinema. Without him there would have been no Nimrod Theatre, no Nimrod Theatre Company, no Biggles, no Hamlet On Ice, and no (I guess) Bell Shakespeare Company

Six feet four and twenty-four stone, he cast a big shadow. Standing beside Jackie Weaver in You Never Can Tell (‘My name, sir, is BOON!’), vast, scarlet-bearded and bellowing lik Pavarotti, he seemed a Disney special effect or a lost twin, perhaps, of James Robertson Justice. His various past career paths (gaolbird, policeman, saxophonist, peasant farmer, busking tenor, fiance of Sylvia Plath, roommate of Peter O’Toole, pupil of E.M. Forster, cuckolder of Barry Humphries, co-star in Age Of Consent with the ever-naked teenage Helen Mirren, formidable director and explicator of Brecht, prizewinning chef and food writer, Tasmanian historian) made him, for a decade, a vivid metropolitan presence, and his populous, epic lunches at the Tai Ping unforgettable. Asked to write (with me) dialogue for Tony Hancock for ten pounds a script, he voluminously refused, and Tony immediately committed suicide. Asked to co-write and star in Biggles, the Nimrod company’s first professional production, he did so, risking infarct night after night in the hundred degree summer heat of December 1971 and under the low tin ceiling, lost half a stone a night. More to come.

Nielsen Shows Abbott Has No Way Back

The figures in the Nielsen Poll today suggest the Abbott government is in more trouble than it can get out of, like the Gillard government in its last five months.

Abbott is preferred as Prime Minister by 45 percent, Shorten by 44 percent, with 11 percent uncommitted. In Victoria Shorten leads Abbott by 49 to 41, in Queensland 43 to 41, and in SA/NT trails him by only 46 to 43.

44 percent of women want Shorten as PM, 41 want Abbott. 50 percent of 18-24 year olds want Shorten, 41 percent Abbott. 50 percent of 25-39 year olds want Shorten, 37 percent Abbott. 52 percent of all people are preferring Labor, 48 percent Coalition, a swing of 5.5 percent, the highest since 1975.

And this was in a week when all commentators were declaring the Labor Party in crisis, and Shorten in doubt, and brandishing a narrative in which Labor, smashed in WA, and approaching extinction, needed root-and-branch reform and another leader. These figures, which are detailed and plausible, show the ‘bigotry’ legislation rejected by 88 percent of Australians, and the ‘knighthood’ initiative by 67 percent.

And Joe’s fresh attack on the old, saying those who paid tax for forty years, expecting they’d get a pension when they were sixty-five, now won’t, has only begun to sink in. His mob will have lost 2 more percent by this time next week, and be unelectable thereafter, whatever they do.

Why is this the case? It is because their narrative is all over the place. Every Australian will have to ‘share the pain’, Joe says, except millionaires’ pregnant wives. We cannot afford to prop up Holden (and with it a quarter of a million jobs) bu we can afford an equal amount spent, if need be, on a search of the sea bottom for scrap metal and corpses. We can afford to pay Arthur Sinodinos 250,000 dollars for fifty hours’ work, but not give the kids of dead soldiers 12,000 a year to buy textbooks, shoes, tennis racquets and go on school outings.

They believe the taxpayers should give billions to prop up drought-parched Queensland farmers but not even twenty million to save canning factory workers and fruit-growers in the Goulburn Valley.

Their narrative is all over the place. Joe believes we should sell our best farms to a Chinese Communist government and Barnaby is horrified by this. And just when the ABC is making world-beating drama, Joe will take away the money for it, and close down country stations, which to most National voters are sacred sites.

And, as global warming becomes more and more real, and more and more urgent, Joe is cutting by a quarter the money to the CSIRO and driving climate scientists out of the country.

Hence the Nielsen figures, and the 10 percent byelection swing to Labor in the Northern Territory, the 18 percent byelection swing in Queensland, the 8 percent swing against the Coalitiin in the Senate in WA.

Soon there will be worse news. The country towns will be outraged by the Abbott ‘sellout’ to Japan, Korea and China, one that shuts down even more small businesses. And Morrison will be shown to harbouring two murderers and torturing children, which is illegal.

It will happen very quickly, as it did in Queensland, where Newman would now lose fifty seats, including his own.

And we will see what we shall see.

A Stratagem

A class action might be mounted by some paralympians asserting Tony Abbott promised no cuts to NDIS and breached that promise. A class action by some fifty-five-year-olds who for thirty-five years paid tax believing they would get a pension at sixty-five and now, under Abbott, won’t, could be mounted also. And one by the ABC which Abbott on election eve, seven months ago, swore blind he would not cut.

‘Breach of promise’ is a reality in law, and it involves a vow of advantage to a recipient which is broken. It has been a reality in law since the Magna Carta, eight hundred years ago.

This case, I think, should be tested. Even it is ultimately lost, it will embarrass Tony Abbott, an already proven liar.