Big Sunday

Can Turnbull survive the Hanson-Young challenge if Andrews, Foley and Baird join it? Can he send back little children to their persecutors for ninety years on Nauru when his electorate, specifically, believes he is a different sort of man?

We’ll see how it plays out. One would have thought the amiable, quirky, comforting presence on Q&A was not the man to do this sort of thing.

He has to keep the Abetz-Abbott-Morrison-Dutton mob sweet. But does he?

This is the difficulty with Turnbull. We know who he is, or we think we do, but he’s a man, an attitude, a stance, without a party.

Is there anyone like him in the party? Frydenberg? Sinodinos?

We will see what we shall see.

A Note From Bob Ellis

I am ill again and in Mona Vale hospital. I expect to be back writing the blog by about Tuesday.

Turnbull Joins The Dark Side

The women voters who do not much like Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘robust response’ of sending children born here into ninety years of exile on Naru will be lost to him now. The male voters angered by Morrison’s wild-eyed fudged figures will be lesser in number also.

What is Turnbull doing? His twinkling, kindly personality had conquered the middle ground, but lunatics seem to have taken over his mind.

He needs a Treasurer with gravitas but he has a yapping fool. Morrison cannot say anything that is not a wrangling, hectic contradiction of what he said before. Will GST go up? I said that? Only the Labor Party says that. Costello had a calm manner and an appearance of consistency. Fridenberg would have been fine, Sinodinos better.

Yet Turnbull is stuck with the least convincing numbers man in twenty years.

He is also stuck with an Immigration Minister who likes sending newborn children into Hell for ninety years and is proud of his track record. Better lifelong exile on Nauru than drown at sea.

This has put Turnbull on the Dark Side, in most views. How can a twinkling, humorous, kindly man do this to children?

It is hard to think of a Turnbull policy that is a good one. Gonsky zilched. The ABC decimated. The best agricultural land gouged for minerals by the Chinese. The CSIRO abandoning climate change.

He seems entrapped in ancient Old Testament thinking and pretending to be a modern, moderate man.

When his deeds are added up, who will forgive him? Who would he defeat in any contest with Xenophon?

Turnbull no longer has a government. He has a shambles.


The Nauru Judgment Aftermath

Dutton’s keenness to send raped children back to Nauru where no-one can visit or photograph them is a Turnbull policy now. He is calling for a ‘robust reponse’ to this breaching of our borders by babies born here while accepting 12,000 Syrians fleeing here.

Has there been a bigger hypocrite in our history? Though children in his care can be raped he is not seeking the arrest of the rapist but making it easier for the rapist to do it again. Is this the happy, twinkling Turnbull women prefer to the stop-the-boats, repel-the-Arabs Abbott?

He’s less keen on overthrowing the Monarchy, letting gays marry, or reproving Abbott for denouncing gay marriage. He doesn’t mind throttling Gonski in its birthpangs. He is employing a moron at Treasury and looking forward to no Surplus in a decade. He is refusing to save sacred Anzac trees in his own electorate.

It’s hard to know what he’s doing really, except smirking at Abbott’s plans, which he doesn’t support, but goes along with.

What a coward. What a smooth-talking wuss.

Iowa Autopsy

It’s not how right I was, it’s how wrong Murdoch was.

I said Rubio would get 22 or 23 percent, Trump 24 or 25. Murdoch said Trump would get 32 percent, Rubio 19.

Murdoch got the score for Trump wrong by 7 percent, the Rubin score wrong by 4 percent. He did another poll that week in
Australia. If it’s equally wrong, Labor is on 54 percent, and will regain every seat it lost to Abbott in 2103.

Why is Newspoll published at all? Its methodology (landlines, octogenarians, bizarre local seat prediction) is
laughable, yet it comes out like a Papal Bull.

How did I know Trump had, at long last, stuffed up and lost everything in a single chess-move?

It was the arrogant-city-slicker-patronising-a-small-community I think. He was okay when slagging corporate money,Obamacare, incompetent army generals,the open gates to Mexican rapists. His grin was cheeky, his voice was level, his tone reasonable, his utterance brief, he didn’t back down.

But when he went after human opponents — attacking Pimona’s face, Kurz’s birthplace, Obama’s nationality, and didn’t say sorry to them, then he was in some trouble, or soon after. He made light of what he said. He was running for the highest office in the land, and joking about his opponents. And he never said sorry.

And when, really late in the day, he refused to turn up and face down a female moderator he’d insulted before, implying she wasn’t worth talking to, was’t worth being in the room with. He has demanded nonetheless his followers, male and female, at much more inconvenience turn up on a cold night to vote for him, in a cold farmhouse in the snow. It was a city-slicker-insult-to-a- provincial audience too many, and the provincial audience took note of this

Or that’s what I think.

And Rubio will win the nomination now, and maybe even the Predidency.

How did I know this? Well, I usually do.

Recommended Reading

Amanda Vanstone, smh, p16.

Today’s Newspoll

Murdoch’s Newspoll shows 1.8 million people who don’t want a GST rise voting for Turnbull, who will give them one.

It seems unlikely that this many people would vote against their wishes, and their needs, but Murdoch has his ways, his little ways, of getting these results.

He rings only landlines, and redistributes independent preferences as they were in 2013, when it was thought Abbott would not harm the ABC or cancel Gonski. This means the 47 he gives Labor is actually 49 or 50. He is giving Turnbull 20 percent of the Green vote. It is likely Turnbull might get 8 percent.

He makes no specific mention of the Xenophon vote, as much as 23 percent in South Australia. He makes no mention of the female vote, wbich must be 50 or 51 percent for Labor, or why it came down for the Coalition.. He makes no mention of how Turnbull may have lost it — his stance on gay marriage, his abandonment of the Republic, his abolition of the schoolkids’ money.

Murdoch’s poll on Iowa will be shown to be 5 percent wrong tomorrow. His poll on Turnbull will be much the same.

And yet he is given credibility by the pundits every time.

And so it goes.

Lines For Malcolm Turnbull (7)

Under a broad church, a former Prime Minister can say the friends of the present Prime Minister — artistic and judicial — will burn in Hell. I stand by his preselection. He is a great Australian.

The Morrison/Turnbull Parallel Fuckup

The trouble brewing round General Morrison, the Australian of the Year, parallels the trouble brewing round Turnbull.

Both have moved beyond their normal remit — looking after veterans, balancing the Budget, killing the terrorists — and taken up themes more suited to the Greens and Left Labor — advancing cross-dressers, speeding the Republic — and both have dismayed their natural constituency. Are these things their normal business? Don’t think so.

Many thousands of his constituents want Morrison to resign as Australian of the Year. This is a bit like resigning as Poet Laureate or Archbishop of Canterbury and hard to do. Historians will find MacGregor’s influence on him a crucial factor in our history. MacGregor has been influential before, and changed history before. He persuaded the Liberals to return John Howard to the leadership. He helped persuade General Morrison to go after the sexual bullying, and sexual betrayal, of female recruits. He/she now condemns Morrison as a coward.

Turnbull’s ‘hand-me-downs’ (those he dare not sack) have been bad for him so far. Dutton seems complicit in child abuse and piracy, and harrying the saintly Triggs, a Turnbull friend. Brandis encouraged Monis (or his office did) to contact and join DAESH. Scott Morrison cannot add. Brough and Roy seem guilty of framing the second highest official in the land with sexual harassment. Rudd, a detested man, is now on his short lost as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Julie Bishop continues her insane vendetta to gaol Putin, the world’s most powerful man, for shooting down airline passengers, while assisting him and Assad in killing Kurds.

Has Turnbull any power over events? He seems unable to save sacred Anzac trees in his own electorate. He cannot bring on a conscience vote on gay marriage, though two thirds of his electorate, and the Australian people, want him to. He cannot increase an emissions target, one he lost his job once for, but wallows in shallows and miseries round twenty-five percent.

What is the good of Turnbull? It does seem, face on, he is more popular than Shorten. But a close reading of the polls shows him losing the women, the votes that most matter, every day.

He has a boyish act — trust me, I’m joking — that worked for a while. But it seems, now, lately, that he can’t be trusted. Everything he wants (and he does sincerely want some things) he is willing to put on hold, until his gay constituents die waiting and we can ‘afford’ the Gonski reforms O’Farrell and Napthine yearned for and applauded two years ago. And accepted when Shorten offered them.

He believes neither in ‘the debt and deficit disaster’ nor in Australia undergoing its most ‘exciting, creative time’. He has no one clear story to tell. He has, no more, alas, a narrative.

The truth of it is he is losing it, and his electorate for mild, modest change and sexual gallantry is being captured by Di Natale and Xenophon, and going in preferences back to Shorten.

And we will see what we shall see.

Turnbull Sunset

Murdoch’s polling in Iowa will be wrong, but his polling in Australia will continue.

This will show the Coalition on 53, Labor on 47, the Coalition inevitably way ahead though Turnbull is isolated from his party’s grandees and its primal policies. He now says the Republic is not right, not yet, gay marriage can wait, and he will not apologise to those of his constituents whose lawful weddings Abbott cancelled in 2013 in Canberra. Nor will he save the Anzac trees in his own electorate, Wentworth.

He agrees with the reselection of Abbott who thinks most gays (including Turnbull’s artistic and judicial friends, and Abbott’s own sister) will burn in hell.

Turnbull is man without influence in his own party, it seems, whose beliefs are not constant, whose beliefs are not secure, not any longer secure, who asks us nonetheless to trust him, whatever he decides, and his ability to get it through a party that opposes it.

We are told this by Murdoch, whose polling says everybody trusts Turnbull, and doesn’t trust Shorten. They agree with all Shorten’s policies thus far — on Gonski, on taxing super, on the GST, on gay marriage — but they don’t trust him. He hasn’t changed his policies, like Turnbull has, but they don’t trust him. It’s in the Murdoch polls, it must be right.

I move there be a Senate Inquiry in Murdoch polling after Wednesday, when it is sbown he got Iowa wrong, dead wrong, and he has been for years getting polls wrong, all over America and Australia.

And we will see what we shall see.

Rubio Sunrise

Anyone who saw the Debate last night will have thought all the candidates were very good: Christie, Bush, Cruz, Kasich, Carson,Rand), that Trump’s absence ‘normalised’ the exchange (this Presidency is not a joke), and the candidate who is likely to be President in November is Rubio.

Americans may be different. They may regard jokesters and tricksters and boastful rich fools like Trump more highly than we do. But I don’t think so. They voted for Obama, precisely because we would, he was a great orator, wanted free health care and the closing of Guantanamo.They voted for Clinton not Perot, Gore not Bush. They are therefore more likely to to vote for a Spanish-speaking half-Cuban young good-looker than a snickering abolisher, outright, of immigrant Mexicans and Muslims who sneers at women’s menstrual cycles.

It’s my view Trump will get 24 or 25 percent, Rubio 22, Cruz 21 or 19.

And Rubio may be President by November.

How Murdoch Cheats

Murdoch will try to cheat the Iowa count but it will not work for him.

He has Trump on about 32 and Rubio on 18 but it will be more like Trump 24 and Rubio 21 and Rubio will be the nominee.

Murdoch has been similarly polling in Australia. He showed Marshall winning in South Australia, Campbell Newman in Queensland, Wayne Swan, Tony Burke, Jason Clare losing their seats. He lately sbows Labor way behind, though all the people love Labor’s policies and the Abbott Wing of the Liberals, keen to regain influence, are trying to seize the party from the ‘moderates,’, the ‘small-l Liberals’.

None of this worries Murdoch. He makes it up as he goes along. Whatever figure he wants, he gets. He had Romney winning on election night.

Watch Iowa on Monday, and see.

All Over So Soon

Interesting how quickly the Turnbull Adventure has fallen apart.

Does he believe in anything? Not in gay marriage, this year. Not in the Republic, in the next thirty years. Not in abortion rights. Not in the Gonski education plans for the Disabled. Not in balancing the Budget.

Not in a ‘small-l’ Liberal Party, whilever Abbott is keen to work out, and Abetz to work out, like the DLP, a semifascist alternative.

He seems not to have a party at all. He seems obliged to defend ‘the 73 Club’ — Bishop, Heffernan, Ruddock — into their eightieth year. He seems obliged to destroy the provincial ABC, whatever the Nationals want.

If you vote for Turnbull, who do you get?

Not his party. He doesn’t have a party.

He doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

He has no beliefs. And he asks us to trust him.

Iowa Prognosis

Donald Trump will not now be the Republican candidate.

He will get 22 or 24 percent in Iowa, Rubio about 19 percent, Cruz about 18 percent.

Thjs is because Trump has shown scorn for Iowa, and his supporters, many of them blow-ins, won’t turn up in the cold farmhouses in the night.

This wi!l lpen the door for Rubio, who will then become the candidate.

A Masterpiece Revisited: Mantel’s and Vaughan’s and Kosminsky’s Wolf Hall

It’s probably superfluous to say now, but Wolf Hall is the best drama ever written, and an actor in it, Damian Lewis, also stars in the second best drama ever written, Homeland. Peter Vaughan wrote this one, whoever he is, and Peter Kosminsky directed it (whoever he is), the BBC made it in various hoary, rundown castles round England (cinematographer Gavin Finney), and the world’s best actor, Mark Rylance, first artistic director of the new Globe Theatre, played the principal role, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s advisor in the Boleyn- and post-Boleyn years.

A lot has been said about this series. That we know what is going to happen to them, but they do not. That the central character, who plays his cards close to his chest, and does not raise his voice, is unknowable yet perfectly, somehow, understandable in his watchful, logical anguished responsibility. That we would do what he did if so placed. That he tried hard to save More, Boleyn, Wolsey, and was unable to.

Damian Lewis’s Henry is so good it is surprising this take on his character has not been tried before. Tall, lanky, sinewy, bleary-yed, bewildered, russet, freckled, he has for twenty years been engendering dead bastard sons in Katharine (the product of syphilis, unknown to him) and wondering why. He comes to the view that he incestuously tupped his dead brother’s wife soon after his death and is being punished by God for this. He is a good man.

It is not principally lust for Anne that moves him. It is need for a lawful issue, an heir. He wants to keep his friends, Wolsey and More, but God requires this lawful heir. What can he do but bid them go along with him, annul the marriage, applaud Anne’s new seed, or sack Wolsey, his most trusted crony, and kill More, his Chief Minister? What choice does he have? He is a good man. Not that intelligent, mind, but a good man, rightly beloved by Wolsey, a man of truehearted implacable righteousness correctly feared by Cromwell, who knows his measure. More to come.

Game Changer

Trump just pulled out of the Republican Thursday debate. The woman running it, Megan Kelly, displeases him, and he won’t be there.

This means, I believe, he will not be Republican candidate. If he’s scared of Megan Kelly, his rivals reckon, how scared will he be of Hillary Clinton, or Angela. Merkel? Or his Vice President, Sarah Palin?

He doesn’t understand how impatient his people are, how firm tbey need to be their candidate is not a fool, or a wuss, or a no-show. People nearly left him before, over similar misbehaviour, before this. It’s to late for him to back down on this one, and he’s lost them.

He’s opened the door, I think, to Marco Rubio, or (just possibly) Jeb Bush. It is because both speak Spanish, have Cuban relatives, and may be able to reclaim the Latino vote tbat Hillary might otherwise take from the Rogue Trump Republicans.

It’s crazy Trump has been so arrogant, loud and up himself. He just had to turn up and do his thing. He could have insulted Kelly, again. He could have talked about her menstruation, or anything. But to not turn up because she’s there, it’s crazy. It’s claiming to be royalty, and he’s not.

And he’s blown it, I think. Big time.

This Week’s Morgan

Morgan, usually right, nas been behaving oddly.

It now suggests the Coalition is about 55-45 two party preferred, though Xenophon is on 22.5 in South Australia.

Fascinatingly, the gender vote has altered. The female vote is now 50-50, the male vote 59.5 the Coalition’s way. The female gender vote is down by 3:5 percent.

This argues the gay-marriage vote, the Republic vote, the pro-abortion, pro-ABC and pro-SBS vote, usually relaiably Turnbull’s, has been peeling away from Turnbull, their champion, among his loyalists, the women, as Abbott and the Nationals make their difference to his Coalition’s vote.

And we will see what we shall see.

Lois Ramsey (1922-2016)

(From Stephen Ramsey)

Lois passed away on Thursday January 21. She was a comedian and actor for most of her working life, and a mentor and entertainer to many actors in the business. She was a much loved character in several early TV soaps like The Box and Prisoner but it was comedy where she really made her mark, whether it was playing ‘bowling ladies’ in films like Crackerjack (the custodian of the bowling club’s ‘swear jar’) or amusing eccentrics in classics like The Country Wife for the Sydney Theatre Company and Patrick White’s Cheery Soul for the Belvoir Theatre.

Older women were her speciality, like Babe in Michael Gow’s On Top Of The World, a performance that subsequently went to London, where Lois was seen and praised by cinema greats Lindsay Anderson and Gordon Jackson. Over the years, in four major productions of Summer of The Seventeenth Doll she was cast as Emma, the cynical, irritable but wise mother of one of the two women friends at the centre of the play.

In the words of her friend, Jacki Weaver:

‘Lois Ramsey is a living legend, universally loved. She’s been performing since she was three years old, when her grandpa remarked ‘she could be a politician, but she won’t be – she’s an actress’. Lois has thrilled audiences, graced our theatre stages, our television and cinema screens for a lifetime. She’s made us laugh she’s made us cry. We’ve been bowled over by her thousands of performances. Who can forget her brilliance in Simon Phillips’ production of Hannie Rayson’s Inheritance at the Sydney Opera House.’

But Lois didn’t act for a living till her early forties. She was born in 1922, the daughter of Bill Dickson, an Adelaide café owner and Maud, an elocution teacher.

She idolized her tall, glamorous older sister Betty. It was Betty Dickson who would break out of their tiny lower middle class suburb and become a radio star in Sydney in 1941, gaining instant popularity as a pinup girl for Australian troops in the Middle East and the Pacific. After a fling with fellow radio star Peter Finch, Betty fell in love with (and eventually married) broadcaster Wilfrid Thomas, and left with him for London in 1949 where she produced his popular radio show for another 30 years. Lois’ much loved brother Wylton, a talented copywriter, joined Betty in London, where he established an advertising business promoting Australian wine, and launching round the world car rallies to promote clients like Singapore Airlines.

Lois was content to bask in their reflected glory, especially after meeting and marrying Cuth Ramsey, and bearing him two children in quick succession.

And she was content to perform in Adelaide amateur theatre, until her late thirties, when in 1960, along with three other creative people, she set up the Flinders St Revue Company, whose satirical revues became a fixture of the Adelaide Festival Fringe. Their success allowed them to write and produce a musical, The Cousin From Fiji, based on the satirical novel by Norman Lindsay, which made fun of wowserism in Victorian Australia. Lois wrote the show and played the part of an eccentric grandmother who protested against unwanted visitors by locking herself in the lavatory, or turning the hose on them. This mirrored the character of Lois’ own grandmother, who had done exactly the same things when Lois grew up in Goodwood in The City Of Churches.

Her cockney grandmother had arrived in Adelaide in 1877 at the age of 17 with no family, no education, but a fierce determination. Her advice to Lois was: Don’t let anybody sit on you! And this became Lois’ mantra as well. Like her gran, Lois hated all forms of pretention, piety, hypocrisy, and grandeur, and could spot them a mile off, and channeled this perceptiveness into her characters. This no nonsense humour captivated her friends and work mates, delivering her ‘outrageousness’ in a hallmark bass baritone voice.

The Flinders St Revue company was very much a family affair, managed by husband Cuth, and also employing teenage daughter Penny as a comedian, and son Stephen as a scriptwriter. (Penny, who would later marry actor Rod Mullinar, and produce Lois’ first grandchildren, Millie and Tom, retired from theatre to become a town planner and local politician. Penny’s death from lung cancer in 2009 was a terrible blow from which many say Lois never recovered.)

In the sixties it was Lois’ uncanny mimicry and wicked send-ups that attracted the attention of the producers of The Mavis Brampston show, a risky and riske Channel Seven program that mocked suburban Australia. She started as a guest and became a staple member of the cast when Mavis Brampston returned in the early seventies. This is where she was spotted by Crawfords, the Melbourne producers of a new soapie. The Box was set in a fictitious TV station, in which Lois’ character ‘Mrs H’ was the station’s tea lady. The success of this made her one of the most well known faces in Australia. Her status as a ‘professional’ was now established. She played two separate characters in the cult soapie ‘Prisoner’, and graduated to serious theatre work as well as many TV shows and films.

Her last professional engagement, with director George Miller, was working with the late Robyn Williams on an ad promoting the film Happy Feet Two. Last year she was interviewed and honoured by fellow comedian Judith Lucy on the last episode of Lucy’s ABC series ‘I Am Woman’. Lois had found in Judith a great kindred spirit when they worked together on the set of the comedy hit Crackerjack.

Her last years were spent living in Marrickville in Sydney with her filmmaker son Stephen Ramsey her filmmaker daughter in law Jane Ramsey, their daughters Tessa and Juliet (and her husband Stevie James), and Lois’ two very young great granddaughters Ramona and Jeannie.

Iowa Countdown

12.20 pm

Something is wrong here.

Trump said yesterday he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. He’s applauded, now, whatever he does. He says.

But who applauds him? People who like him and on a cold night in a farmer’s living room wait up and vote for him? Or people who don’t turn up for that bleak, inconvenient, frigid gathering?

It may be that Murdoch’s way of counting votes, or predicting them, is wrong. He had Romney ahead on election night, 2012. He had Marshall win ing in South Australia, Palaszczuk losing big in Queensland. Murdoch always cheats, and enjoys cheating. He enjoyed cheating W into the White House.

2.56 pm

Bernie Sanders was superb.

A Brooklyn/Polish/dirt-poor/Jewish New York Democrat (Socialist? So? What does this mean?) he rails against poverty (America is unfair) in a dark baritone one might have heard in All My Sons and reaped votes among the wispy-bearded eighteen-year-olds that in another age would have voted for FDR. he’s much more like a European politician, a bit like…Jeremy Corbyn?

He raises questions. Can a man (at least) as impressive as Combet or Faulkner be US President? Or must he be more charismatic? What does that ‘charisma’ mean? Such a man can be Mayor of Baltimore. He can be nead of CNN. Is there a no-no-must-be-a-better-salesman gland in the American voter, or do they just vote anyway? They voted for Schwarzenegger. Would they vote for Sylvester Stallone?

They might. They might.

5.10 pm

Hillary was very good. Able to run America easy. Her voice, her scornful cackle, her easy, lofty smile, her every whoop and hoot, like the early Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Mollie Brown, was too rehearsed, too practised, too able perhaps. Her grasp of foreign policy was the best, and most impactful, of any candidate since Kissinger.

She would win any face-to-face with Trump, and the election by five to seven percent on the Latino and female vote. Will she be allowed the nomination? Probably.


O’Malley was very, very fine, as impressive in his stillness and clarity as the young John F.Kennedy. One of the many, many Democrat children, I guess, of Jed Bartlet, he has (or not) a future.

Coming On Ellis Gold

I’m putting up my beginning of The Nostradamus Kid, the novel (interrupted by the fire) on Ellis Gold.

I may, if I have time, finish it. I may do likewise to Goodbye Paradise, the screenplay.

It’s a bit hard knowing how much time I’ve got.

I might also attempt to publish my thirty-eight unmade screenplays — the Bea Miles, the Fred Hollows, the Beaconsfield, the Spycatcher trials (Turnbull versus Thatcher), the bombing of Darwin, The Girl From Kiev, the Lord Florey, the Early Murdoch, Shakespeare In Italy, Grafton Everest, Honeymoon Girl, and so on.

Does anyone know who might take this on, or some of it, as a task?

Abbott: Fundamentalist Preacher

Can a former Prime Minister preach against abortion, and gay weddings, in the twenty-first century?

He can if he comes from Uganda.

Abbott is espousing ideals that might get Trump banned in England. Trump may be the next US President.

Where does Turnbull stand in all this? He says he’s head of ‘a broad church’. To a passing observer, it’s more like a nut religion. His likely Coalition deputy wants to kill a pop star’s dogs. His own deputy wants to search the seven seas for a crashed airplane with no survivors, spending half a billion dollars. She wants Putin, the world’s most powerful man, to order his own arrest, his trial for shooting down a passenger plane, deliberately and maliciously.

How mad these people are. Yet they are Turnbull’s ‘broad church’. They include Morrison, a pirate, a kidnapper, a people smuggler who speaks in tongues and evidently can’t add. They include Dutton, who wants Triggs gone because she let Save the Children tell the truth about them, the childen, being raped, ‘encouraging them to make trouble’.

How crazy these people are. One of them, Hockey, abolished the car industry, thinking there was some good in this. When told it would cost two hundred thousand jobs he said he hoped it was ‘creating jobs’. He was mad as that. Is as mad as that. He’s our ambassador now.

Turnbull has inherited these people. He used to eat with the Whitlams, the Wrans. He buys Henson prints. He carouses with Michael Kirby.

What does he have to do with these people?

Yet one of them, this week, ‘a great Australian,’ he calls him, is telling America the gay-marrying constituents of Turnbull will burn in Hell. Can he offer this man a Cabinet post? Can he refuse him one?

Turnbull is,and it’s often been said, a man without a party.

And his lack of a party is engulfing him.

The Abbott Continuance: What Happens Now

Will Abbott staying on harm Turnbull? It’s bound to.

What Labor has to do is print, or fabricate, a poll showing the party to be competitive. It’s almost certain on 49 or 51 now, and the Bronwyn-Smith imbrogoli, the Heffernan survival, the Ruddock continuance, the Ferovante-Wells war, doing Turnbull a good bit of damage. Polls indicating, as they will, that Labor is winning with the GST, and hurting with the Save the Children court case, and the Brough cout case, and the $inodino$ upshot, won’t hurt in the meantime.

False or true, they must be published soon. Turnbull’s position is uncertain, and should be made more uncertain.

Turnbull has a lot of dreadful things coming up, and he has no easy way out of many, many situations. Truss will go soon, and Barnaby, a dog-killing idiot, replace him, and Tony Windsor, a shoo-in, overthrow him in his provincial seat. Xenophon is still likely to win a seat or two in South Australia. There is doubt the Liberals can win any seat in Tasmania.

Turnbull is in further trouble in Tasmania because Bob Brown, a hero, is under arrest there. This does not retain, for him, the ‘doctors’ wives’, votes that favour Brown, and used to favour Turnbull against Abbott. Turnbull has to take Abbott into Cabinet Abbott may put his hand up for Minister For Defense. — as, say, Health Minister, or Industrial Relations (he served long and disastrously in both capacities), or, perhaps, he may not. Abbott may put his hand up for Minister for Defense. What will Turnbull do then?

Turnbull continues to claim his party is a ‘broad church’. What he is ruling,currently, in a Coalition that is in uproar, in civil war. Barnaby Joyce ( of all people) is likely soon to be leader of the mutinous half of it, and Tony Windsor (of all people) to displace him In his seat by November. Who then will be Deputy Prime Minister? Who then will speak for the National Party? Its beliefs on local radio? On coal seam gas? On protecting our agriculture!

Turnbull will either approve of Lynton Crosby’s knighthood or he will not. He will supporr Lynton’s keep-out-the-Syrians logic or he will not. He will agree to Trump being heard in England — a d Pa!in — or he will not.

It’s very hard to see Turnbull retaining the Women’s vote, the Obamaist vote he had when Abbott was the ‘conservative’. It’s the only vote he’s currently got that Abbott, the Trumpist, didn’t have before him.

And we will see what we shall see.

Coogan’s Truth

Steve Coogan has been one of my favourite people for a long time now, and his autobiography Easily Distracted helps me know why. It’s a diary piece about the making of Philomena and Alpha Papa and the Trip films, with flashbacks to visiting the Pope, growing up in Middleton, Manchester, wetting the bed for seven years and so on, reminders he is a Dawkins atheist, a cradle Catholic Yorkshire former choirboy who holidayed each year with relatives in Ireland and understands Philomena perfectly, and her guilt and self-blame. He understannds as well his own passing affection for Alan Partridge (his Portrait of the Artist, really), and his glum promiscuous history of bird-pulling tours, commmon to most stand-ups at Edinburgh, a lifestyle he’s only half ashamed of, at this disance, though he insists he’s somehwere underneath all this a good family man, his public ‘celebrity’ wars with Murdoch, the Sun, the News of the World, and so on.

It’s interesting that the Trip projects, both the inventions of their collaborator Michael Winterbottom, bear little resemblance to the facts. Coogan has no son. He has/had no American girlfriend. He never appeared in a dull old ‘psycho’ series. The nice old couple playing his parents were not his parents. Brydon was not poetry-literate, or Byron-sophisticated, or Shelley-knowledgeable, or on with his female assistant. They were not necessarily as scornful of each other as their improvisations suggest. Brydon is, as Coogan admits, a much better actor than his friend.

If the book has a flaw it is the emphasis on his childhood, his dad, and his primary and high school years. Years that Fry, say, spends on Cambridge Coogan spends on high school, his mates, his various teacher-celibates, his quarels over pop music with his dad, his spiritual doubts. I suppose most stand-up comedians are like this. Coogan is, in a way, like the American kind of stand-up-as-auteur, Larry David, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, or like the English sort — Norman Wisdom, Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Cleese, Fry, Gervaise — who takes himself too seriously.

Or not seriously enough.

A wonderful book.

Well worth reading.

Stalking the Master (As If It Matters): Ackroyd’s Hitchcock

Peter Ackroyd’s Foundation, Tudors and Stewarts are my favourite histories, his More, Shakespeare, Dickens and Chatterton my favourite biographies, English Music one of my favourite novels, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde my favourite pastiche, and I note he has written a Chaplin and a Hitchcock in his merciless brief style, additions to his compendium of Cockneys, which in no way lessens his towering standard as a man of English letters.

His Hitchcock, like the others, is a quiet revelation. He achieved but one act of completed sex (and a daughter) in his life, and may have groped Tippi Hedren, flirted with Ingrid Bergman, amused Grace Kelly, contemplated an affair with Vera Miles who, alas, got pregnant to someone else, and so constantly redefined himself he can hardly be thought, as Truffaut though him, an auteur at all.

Rear Window is one thing (it is more like Streetcar Named Desire), North by North-west (it is more like James Bond) another. It was hoped the first James Bond would be made by Hitchcock and star Cary Grant, but money quarrels prevented this. Shadow of a Doubt (a work, correctly, by Thornton Wilder), Strangers on a Train (the original Highsmith thriller) utterly different, though both set in small towns. So each ‘Hitchcock’ classic is in fact the work of a passing playwright whose wit and mood gives the masterwork its aura. Does Vertigo resemble Stage Fright? Of course not. Is The Trouble With Harry like Sabotage? Of course not. Did Hitch acknowledge his collaborators? Of course not.

This leaves us with less and less esteem for The Master as time goes on. The two great works he coveted, Titanic and Kafka’s The Trial, he should have made. The Trial, he said, should have been ‘a dreary ordinariness, unlike Welles’s’, and North by North-west, his perfect work, a kind of ‘expanding, pointless bagatelle’. Every film attempts real drama, then slinks back into comedy. Everything has brilliant sequences, like a ghost train ride you talk about afterwards, but it never quite hangs together.

Little in Hitch’s life is too interesting. Over-congratulated at the start, blest with an ideal cutter/script editor/office manager/dinner hostess Alma (four feet ten, repelled by sex and intensely loyal), he was able to have one of the ‘English/Californian’ lives that overjoyed C. Aubrey Smith, drink a lot, watch cricket, harass beautiful women, indulge his lesser ideas, eat well. Had he maintained a partnership with Lehmann or Chandler or Wilder or Highsmith e would have found a different career. But he managed dribs and drabs, many brilliant drabs, of other, better creators’ careers.

Had he, of course, managed a sexual relationship, the way, say, David Lean and Kay Walsh did (or Ken Branagh and Emma Thompson) it would have been different. It is interesting what a director who doesn’t do his own writing ends up with. A sort of bluster, I think.

And so it goes.

An Iowan Prediction

Watching the polls that precede the voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, I find intriguing that no actual votes are being quoted. We’re told that Trump is ahead, and Sanders is ahead, but not how they’d do against each other, in New Hampshire, or anywhere.

We are merely told that Trump is streets ahead of his Republican competition, and Sanders ‘somewhat’ ahead of Hillary.

What is reasonably obvious to a discerning visitor, though, is that many, many people are not going to vote for Trump at all.

Latinos will not. Muslims will not. Atheists will not. ‘Feminist’ voters resentful of what he says about some women candidates will not. Those who disagree with Trump, in the past, giving money to the Clintons will not. Trump has insulted so many of the Republican ‘base’, it may not be the Republicans who are turning up in New Hampshire to vote for him.

How many votes is he getting? We are not told.

He has lately, also, insulted many of his Republican rivals. ‘I can do this on my own,’ he says, proudly. Those who like this sort of thing may vote for him, but they might not include any of the traditional Republicans who vote, and get out the vote, on the day.

I am going to put a possibility. It is one which none of the pollsters has thus far explored.

This is that, of a total of fifty thousand votes, Sanders and Clinton will get thirty-five thousand between them. The result will be duplicated in November, and the anti-Trump, anti-Cruz, anti-Bush, anti-Kasich, anti-Rubio and anti-feminist vote will go nowhere near Trump, or Palin, or the Republicans, and we see a Democrat wipeout.

For the obvious reasons. You cannot repulse the majority of the vote without losing the election. And Trump has been repulsing the majority of the vote since June.

This will be shown on Tuesday week.

You wait and see.

The Turnbull Switcheroo

Baird and Turnbull’s policies are similar. They seem to be wooing the ‘moderate, rational middle’, while chasing down the ‘hip-pocket nerve’ that was John Howard’# well-beloved way of wooing. This means loads of real-estate profits were dangled by Turnbull in front of women and women (and family trustees) still keen to be ‘one of us’, the equivalent of ‘doctors wives’. More to come.

Now The Bad News

Malcolm’s fabled bad luck continues. A Minister he didn’t want in the first place, Jaime Briggs, was forced to resign after admitting to having groped in ‘a crowded bar in Hong Kong’ an attractive female staffer. A second Minister, Mal Brough, whom Malcolm had resolutely defended for years of his having been charged with the sexual harassment of a male staffer, James Ashby, resigned, or ‘stood aside’ also.

This follows days of ‘only the good news’ reports of bushfires and floods and an ‘exciting time to be Australian’ by a blithe and beaming Prime Minister; and calls for Tony Abbott to return to his Ministry, or Barnaby Joyce to replace Mal Brough and then, as Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss.

One shouln’t get too over-excited by this. A Minister groping a female staffer is as old, as news, as John Gorton and Ainslie Gotto. A Minister covering this up as old as Ben Chifley and Phyllis Donnelly. A Minister loyal to his friend, or staffer, as old as Petrov, or Fergin O’Sullivan. All that is different this time is how quickly it has all occurred.

What can the ‘virtuous’ Turnbull do about it? Can he let Abbott back in the tent? Unlikely. Can he praise Dyson Heydon for his righteous exposure of thye union rorter Shorten? It’s doubtful. He can be loyal, as Abbott was with Credlin and Loughnane. He can stick to the plan, altogether, and look a fucking fool. Can he demand that Shorten resign his position, as he did, once, of Rudd and Swan over UteGate? Unwise. He may be in big trouble, altogether, now as he was then.

This is a government of criminal tendency, and it will soon be known to be like that, and on its way down, with Turnbull, his chute in flames, plunging after it.

Today’s Newspoll

Labor has plunged from 34.8 percent to 33 percent in Victoria in 100 days, Newspoll informs us. From 35.00 in New South Wales to 34 percent. From 35 percent in South Australlia to, gadzooks 36 percent.

This argues that Shorten is doomed, and should be replaced. Turnbull is head of him as Preferred Prime Minister, 60-17 in NSW, 63-16 In Victoria, 60-16 in Quensland.

4.5 million people who don’t want Shorten as Prime Minister, in short, are voting for him. This is patently nonsense, and a measure of how strange in his mind Rupert Murdoch, who runs Newspoll, is getting. If Shorten were doing so badly, so too would the Labor Party.

But we are told that Turnbull is doing mightily, and Labor, to save itself, must get rid of Shorten, and an early ppll be called.

You can usually tell when these things are afoot, these fraudulences. Though Labor is on 48, two party preferred, in Victoria, this is catastrophic, and bodes its end. This even though a single of margin of error would put Làbor on 51. Or, with a sampling error, 53.

Shorten is wining, probably, of late. And Turnbull’s losing mightily. And the Shorten ‘numbers’ are all that goes againat him. And Newspoll will keep him going, until those numbers are believed.

And so it goes.

Forty Years On

Strange to have witnessed, up close, the Whitlam sacking and to be reading, now, lies about it from the loathesome Troy Bramston, told on the orders of Rupert Murdoch who helped engineer it.

The CIA, Troy says, had nothing to with it. Bjelke-Petersen replaced the dead Labor Senator Bert Milliner with a live Labor traitor Albert Field because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Kerr sacked Whitlam because he did not have the numbers, though he won them in a Double Dissolution in the Senate. He did this because he felt like it. Nobody else was implicated. The CIA? Certainly not.

Bramston tries to argue that Kerr ‘tried to keep the Palace out of it’, as if that mattered. The question is why Kerr did it.

Why should he do it? Why did he? To stop Whitlam sacking him? Why would Whitlam want to sack him? What did he suspect him of?

I was there, in the Non Members’ Bar, in the House, on the steps as the twilight came down. And Bramston was not yet born.

It is important this piece of filth be exposed for the Labor traitor he is.

And bundled out of our history.

It’s time.

Lowndes, Suffragette

(From Ginny Lowndes)

‘Women have become so powerful that our independence has been lost in our own homes and is now being trampled and stamped underfoot in public.’ So Cato wailed in 195 BC, after a few Roman women sought to repeal a law that forbade their sex to ride in chariots or to wear multicoloured dresses.

In the sixteenth century, just the possibility that two royal women might occupy thrones in Europe at the same time provoked John Knox to issue his famous diatribe, ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’.

By the nineteenth century the spokesmen of male fears had mostly learned to hide their anxiety over female independence behind masks of paternalism and pity. As Edward Bok, the legendary Victorian editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal and guardian of women’s morals, explained to his many female readers, the weaker sex must not venture beyond the family sphere because their ‘rebellious nerves instantly and rightly cry out, “Thus far shalt thou go, but no farther”.’ But it wasn’t female nerves that were rebelling against feminist efforts, not then and not now.

A ‘crisis of masculinity’ has erupted in every period of backlash in the last century, a faithful quiet companion to the loudly voiced call for a ‘return to femininity’.

In the late 1800s a blizzard of literature decrying the ‘soft male’ rolled off the presses.
‘The whole generation is womanized,’ Henry James’s protagonist Basil Ransom lamented in The Bostonians. ‘The masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a feminine, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age . . . The masculine character . . . that is what I want to preserve, or rather, as I may say, to recover; and I must tell you that I don’t in the least care what becomes of you ladies while I make the attempt!’

Child-rearing manuals urged parents to toughen up their sons with hard mattresses and vigorous athletic regimens.

Billy Sunday led the clerical attack on ‘feminized’ religion, promoting a ‘muscular Christianity’ and a Jesus who was ‘no dough-faced, lickspittle-proposition’ but ‘the greatest scrapper that ever lived’.
Faludi, Susan (2010-05-29). Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women (Kindle Locations 1510-1519). Random House. Kindle Edition.
Billy Sunday (Tony Abbott?)

Remembering John

(From Mike Rann)

The news of John Bannon’s death was what his friends had feared for so long yet was somehow still a shock. In the days following many images of John keep recurring in my memory: a grim faced young Premier standing amidst the devastation of Ash Wednesday, very much in charge of relief and recovery efforts; being lowered on a line from a Navy helicopter on to the deck of a surfacing submarine off the NSW coast and then launching SA’s audacious bid to build the Collins Class subs 500 feet under the sea; running the London Marathon in less than three hours the day after getting off the plane; addressing Frankfurt bankers in fluent German and then joining his staff and a couple of journos in an end of trip drinking session in a beer cellar doing brilliant Churchill and Hitler impressions!

John Bannon could have excelled in any profession. He could have become a barrister then Supreme Court Judge; a professor then Vice Chancellor, or stayed within the public service to become its head. He could have entered Federal politics and ended up anywhere he wanted to go. But John Bannon was always destined to be Premier of South Australia. In 1978 all of us on Dunstan’s staff expected Don to continue and win the next election due in late 1980, and perhaps one more, and then hand over to John Bannon seasoned by a few more years as a Cabinet Minister. It wasn’t to be. Don became very ill, stood down in February 1979 and a few months later Des Corcoran called a snap election and lost to the Liberals’ David Tonkin, another good and decent man.

So 36 year old Bannon became Labor leader. Very few thought he had much of a chance to quickly return Labor to power. John didn’t waste time. His winning mantra was simple: first the party, then the Parliament and then the people. The first part proved the hardest with one group in the party working hard to undermine and defeat him at party conferences. They did not want him to win. But he did, and in one term Labor was back.

In government John didn’t want South Australia to slip into the lazy psychology of defeat that believed we could never prevail against the bigger states. That’s why securing the submarine project was so important. Sure, it was about building a new high tech industry but it was also important for South Australia’s morale and self-belief. Winning the submarines gave us the skills base to win the Air Warfare Destroyers, build Techport and hopefully secure even bigger projects in the decades ahead. The same was true with the Grand Prix. Winning and running an international event like Formula One gave us the confidence to successfully stage other world class events, from WOMAD and Clipsal to the Tour Down Under and a Mad March of arts festivals every year.

It wasn’t just about projects. There was Bannon’s major drive to build affordable housing through the Housing Trust; the building of Golden Grove; the expansion of tourism infrastructure with the Convention Centre and Casino, a big increase in the retention rate in our schools, important law reforms, ground breaking native vegetation protections, Aboriginal land rights at Maralinga, the appointment of Roma Mitchell as Governor and sister-state agreements with Shandong and Campania.

Dr John Bannon was probably the most intellectual of SA’s 45 premiers. Many leaders are smart, clever or wily but John had that rarer commodity, wisdom. He applied reason to tackle problems and meet challenges and in so doing took the long view in decision-making. Thirty years ago, in giving my Maiden Speech, I said John Bannon was rare in having the “courage to be cautious”. By that I meant he didn’t govern day to day, act on impulse or lightly react to pressure from media, interest groups or opponents. In making decisions he wanted to do the right thing by our state for the long haul not just for the next election, let alone the next opinion poll or editorial. In looking forward John, probably more than any other Premier, had the deepest understanding of our history and its currents, and why and how we had got to where we are. And in making decisions I never saw him lose his temper, act unfairly or with prejudice or malice towards others. Today’s political toxicity was alien to John Bannon’s nature. He was loyal to his predecessors, his successors, his colleagues and his friends. It would never have occurred to him to gain personal advantage by leaking, undermining or backstabbing. His calm decency was not a pose. It was real.

John wasn’t just principled, he was also courageous. I saw that when he faced down an angry mob at the National ALP Conference to push through policy changes to enable Olympic Dam to go ahead. He showed courage again in his handling of the State Bank crisis. He wasn’t to blame but took responsibility. Instead of heeding calls to immediately resign he kept working tirelessly to confront the problems and challenges facing his government and community as well as front the inquiries and Royal Commission. It was not in his character to cut and run despite the tidal wave of abuse he copped for years through the media, at events and even in the street. He didn’t bend or break but the viciousness hurt him deeply even though he wore his scars silently and with great dignity. That courage was never more evident than in his eight year battle against cancer. He wanted not just to stay alive but to keep on contributing right to the very end. And he did, briefing Malcolm Turnbull on ideas to reform Federal-State relations and giving a brilliant speech at an auction and exhibition of his father’s art in the days immediately before he died.

And through good times and bad times the wonderful Angela was always there for him. A strong, independent woman with an artistic career, she stood by John through the living hell of the Bank and his gruelling battle against cancer. His final marathon. She was a superb First Lady. Sasha and I were so privileged that John and Angela came to see us in London and Rome. Together John and I had led the Labor Party in SA for 30 years, including almost 20 years in the Premier’s chair. We both also shared memories of the miserable, daily grind of being Opposition leader, and the hard yards of having to fight our way back into government. There were many stories to tell and John was the best story teller, with dry wit and brilliant mimicry. We would all end up convulsed in tears of laughter.

After the funeral and official wake today his old staff will reunite to honour his memory with, I hope, irreverent stories about John. He would like that!

When they die the lives of most leaders are defined by their careers, their titles, their honours, the statistics of their time in office. Many politicians have the word “honourable” affixed to their name in perpetuity. John Bannon earned that description not by length of time served or positions held but by his character, his conduct, his innate decency, his grace under extraordinary pressure and self-effacing sense of duty. His was a life much richer than politics. He had a diverse hinterland that included being a loving father, planting thousands of trees in the Adelaide Hills, mentoring students at St Marks, chairing the National Archives, his commitment to public broadcasting, beekeeping, theatre and music, writing history, encouraging indigenous opportunity, running marathons and his beloved cricket.

For John Bannon it is stumps, but “not out”. His great legacy of service, his inspiration and his loyal friendship will live on forever in the memories of those of us who loved him.

It’s Time, Girl, It’s Time: Morgan’s and Gavron’s Suffragette

Suffragette is very fine; and it raises the question of why the subject has not been directly treated by Hollywood before, as Prohibition was in the 1930s and IRA ‘terrorism’ in the 1990s. Can it be that its inherent, underlying subject matter — workplace sexual harrassment of twelve-year-olds, the impoverishment of the female dwellers of Dickensian London slums — has been territory inconvenient to modern feminism, being, as it is, too close to old-fashioned Marxism?

This is a very fine film, similar in mood and hue to Michael Collins, brown and yellow and blue and lamplit, conspiratorial, secretive, whispering, imbued with tragic hopelessness (this is not a battle we can win in the first generation, embrace the struggle, girl, embrace the struggle), but about the eternal war that many societies are still in, of subjected women against their nervously subjecting men (Ben Whishaw very good in this latter role) which invades the guilt of all the men in the audience.

Carey Mulligan as the twenty-four-year-old Maud Watts loses her job, her marriage, her little son George to the Struggle for women’s rights in 1911 and 1912. She is not a fanatic; not even, strictly, a ‘feminist’. She is drawn by events, and a couple of demonstrations, a House of Commons hearing, a distant glimpse of Emmaline Pankhurst (Streep, of course) in a high window, being locked out of her slum home by her fraught husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) who gives up their child, George, for adoption, a history of being groped, in her teens, by her employer, and so on.

We learn of the medical hardship working women endured in those decades. Edith Ellyn, a good middle-class footsoldier (Helena Bonham-Carter) nearly dies of her ideological determination. We learn, to our surprise, that a married woman had no rights, of care or visitation, to her child when divorcing until 1925. Adam Michael Dodd is particularly good as the divided little boy, being told by his mother, ‘My name is Maud Watts: when you are grown, come find me,’ and we wonder if he did. We become aware that Sonny, Maud’s husband, must have known of his wife’s harrassment in her teens on the same shop floor he worked on and could do nothing about it, then, or after.

All the casting is very fine, Adam Schiller, notably, as Lloyd George, not yet women’s saviour and bound by committee numbers to do nothing, yet, to help them.

The best intervention it makes into history, though, is Brendan Gleeson as Inspector Arthur Steed. No other actor has better conveyed virtue, however misguided (consider Calvary), since Spencer Tracy. He is wise, virtuous, brave and wrong. He means well, and becomes Maud’s Mephistopheles, or tries to, and we esteem him, and half-applaud him, knowing he is wrong. Look after yourself, girl. Let me tell you how.

Abi Morgan, who wrote The Hour, contrived the script out of several biographies. Sarah Gavron directs, in an able, brownlit, BBC First manner. Alexandre Desplat’s music is, as always, excellent. Guilt spreads outward, and engulfs the audience. Romola Garai, star of The Hour, gets a telling look-in as a significant, beautiful, minor character.

A wonderful film. And it should be seen.

The Green Factor

Essential this week has the Coalition on 52, Labor on 48 percent, two party preferred. The Liberals are on 52, Nations on 3, Greens on 10, PUP on 1, Other/Independents on 9 percebt.

The Greens, on 11, are up from 8.6 percent in 2013, the Other/Independents on 9 percenf, up from 6.9 percent in 2013. PUP, on 1, down from 5.5.

Now pay attention. The Liberals got 18 percent of the Green vote, as preferences, in 2013. They will get only 8 percent this year. This means Labor gets 35 percent, plus 9.2 percent, that is, 44.2 percent.

It is likely as well that the Other/Independents (the Windsor Independents, the DLP) will lean more to Labor this year too. If, say, they get 5.2 percent of the 9 percent, that puts Labor on 49.4. If they get, as well, 0.6 perent of PUP, they will be 50-50.

Now…Turnbull said this week the Japanese could kill as many whales as they liked. It is probable he lost a few more Green votes, 0.3, say, by saying this, and put Labor in a winning position, at 50.3.

This is if the landlines Essential rang had any validity — at Christmas, in summer heat, when many were out shopping or partying. It is likely another 0.4 percent could be accounted for in this way. Labor is now on 50.7, and winning handily.

Essential, moreover, rates ‘the Australian economy’ at 23 percent ‘good’ 28 percent ‘poor’. It rates ‘small business’ at 21 percent ‘good’ and 26 percent ‘poor’. It rates ‘your personal financial situation’ at 24 percent ‘good’ and 42 percent ‘neither good nor poor’.

These figures argue a score more like 50-50 than 52-48.

It is difficult to imagine when Essential might be prevailed upon to print the actual truth.

It is time Labor did some polling of their own.

Or am I wrong?

Recommended Reading

Peter Bradshaw on Star Wars: The Force Awakens in The Guardian.

John McDonald in the afr on the same film.

Star Wars, Again

J.J. Abrams’ rendition of George Lucas’s Star Wars is closer to the original comic-strip heroic-vaudeville adventure than Lucas’s own technology-glutted later chapters — dark, interior, claustrophobic, the crablike white advancing expendable soldiery, the wooshing lightsabres, a Guinness-like Max Von Sydow, a Darth Vader-like deep-throated Adam Driver, a grizzled, sardonic Han Solo greeting after many a long summer Princess Leia, his old fond fighting love, and mother (yes) of his prodigal son — it has much of the primal, Biblical flavour of the first one, Oedipal anguish, Spitfire swoops and all, and the last image, of the still-living Skywalker, instantly recogniseable, at a cliff’s edge pondering a misted future, is truly moving.

Though it seems lost under its own armpit for a while, and working too hard perhaps to establish its new young couple, dirty ragamuffin white female ‘scavenger’, and black puzzled insurgent male innocent draft-dodger, learning on the job, it comes good, it plays, it marches, and it sings. Like the first one, it knows when to hold back, to work the characters and the back story, to philosophise a bit, to delay the cataclysmic lightsabre-swishing pugnacious climactic virility and Dambuster-style bombing-run music while Solo wonders whether it was worth it, nah, of course it was. It teaches us to wait. And even think a little.

Harrison Ford is dusty, rueful, ill-shaven and worldly-wise as Han Solo; a sort of myth already, he inhabits the space between sad angel and practical aeronaut as no-one else can, Sean Connery perhaps, Derpardieu perhaps. John Boyega as the black buoyant cuddly brave innocent child-soldier-grown-up Finn is excellent, and Daisy Ridley as the grimy scavenging pilgrim Bey has some of the qualities of Judy Davis in Winter Of Our Dreams. Everyone else is very fine; a great actor, Oscar Isaacs, notably (he was Euan Davis), and the delicately divided Lucifer/Satan Adam Driver, and the three or four thousand other credited contributors– animators, choreographers, stunt doubles, animal wranglers, landscape scouts (a desert, a forest, a remote muddy Celtic shoreline) — artists of clear genius.

The script, in part by Laurence Kasdan, who wrote the Indiana Jones films, cannot be faulted; jovial, apocalyptic, fun-filled, underscored with Bogart gloom and Rooney hope, cannot be faulted. And J.J. serves it well. Like Skyfall it’s better than we deserve; like Singin’ In The RaIn it delights and overwhelms when we least expect it.

And it should be seen, at least twice before New Year.

The Story So Far

Turnbull’s bad luck continues. A tornado in Sydney shows how insufficient his climate change targets (Abbott’s really) have been. America’s interest rates go up, and ours will too, merry Christmas, ho ho. The co-payment, which destroyed Joe Hockey, is back in the guise of an up-front five hundred dollar fee for cancer treatments. Some of his ethno-heathenist MPs went after Muslims, and he (it seems) asked the head of ASIO to warn them, and was sprung doing so. Morrison, the worst salesman for Treasury in world history, has vanished from the airwaves, and Ley has been poignantly touting his tyrannies, not very well.

And Turnbull has vanished also. It is clear a tax-dodger should be seen nowhere near tax rises, and this, at Christmas, is all he has to offer, ho ho ho.

It is not certain how long he can go before the present Coalition crises overwhelm him. Barnaby is very angry about MacFarlane, and he is the next Deputy Prime Minister. MacFarlane will sit with the Nationals, and vote with them, for the next eight months, whatever happens. Essential is hovering near 50-50 and may soon tumble over into a Labor majority.

The ‘poltical narrative’ is moving only one way. Turnbull is being whittled, and Shorten winning, bit by bit, the economic debate. Morrison is hopeless, and Bishop a joke, and Pyne, ‘the fixer’, a waste of breath , Brough huffing and puffing, and Turnbull…dwindling.

And so it goes.

The Morrison-Cormann Financial Statement

The co-payment seems to be back, and the hundred-thousand university degrees have never gone away. There’s no chance any more this Budget will get through the Senate, and we’re supposed to be back in Surplus in 2021. This is as far away as the end of World War 2 from its beginning.

And Morrison is selling it. Would you buy a used car from this man? Would you let him shine your shoes?

Turnbull is under the lino as usual, with his toes in his ears. It’s not really happening, trust me.

Somehow, lately, Turnbull lost it. It may have been MacFarlane, it may have been Brough, it may have been Paris, where his surrender to the Nats on climate change looked ludicrous. One way or another, he’s lost his advantage. It’s not good enough to be ‘Not Tony’ any more.

I will write more on this when I know more. I invite anybody with something to contribute to write in.

And we will see what we shall see.

The Lindt Cafe Anniversary

Mike Baird is a considerable fool and in any reasonable, well-ordered society he would be in gaol.

He refused to let any army snipers into Martin Place to take Man Monis out. He advised the Prime Minister not to talk to Monis, and so end the siege then and there. He didn’t let Monis’s friend Mamdouh Habib go into the cafe and talk him out. He let the police grow tired, so tired they shot Katrina Dawson after Monis died, shot her several times and killed her.

It’s probable he knew, and concealed, the dread fact that Monis was an ASIO agent gone rogue. It may be that he collaborated in Monis’s killing to save that agency from embarrassment. It is certain he exploited the Dawson family to make himself more glorious when he might have behaved more temperately and saved their mother’s life.

It is hard to think of anything he did right that day, and yet he glories in it still. Flowers bloom in acres wherever he walks.

He should be ashamed of himself.

Secretly, he probably is.

John Bannon

I asked my friend Wayne Anthoney to do an obit for his friend John Bannon. He said he could do no better than what Michael Jacobs had wrtten. He sent me the text, and (I think) Michael’s permission to print it. It appeared first in Indaily, an Adelaide online paper, on Monday, 14th December. This is what he said.

John Bannon is dead. What can you say?

You can say this:

This was a prince among men, a human being of barely imaginable grace, decency, moral courage and capacity for love.

You can say this:

His decency gave him a blind spot – a difficulty shared by the occasional person still in public life. Because of their decency and morality, such people sometimes don’t see what is coming; the values they have internalised make them vulnerable to being blind-sided by various expressions of venality, manipulation, incompetence, hubristic aggression and simple bastardry.

This happens not because they are stupid or weak, but because such things are not only outside their own range but beyond their imagination.

And if you don’t see this stuff coming, it will get you.

That happened with the State Bank disaster which has blighted his reputation – blighted it not least because of the long-running Royal Commission which he could not avoid setting up to examine the financial fiasco which had emerged after he had been an eminent and successful Premier for the greater part of a decade.

I believe I am obliged to record at this point, by way of declaration, that that Royal Commission was presided over for most of its existence by my father.

I also record, as a measure of John Bannon, that he did not allow this acutely difficult circumstance to damage a long-standing friendship, despite the temporary constraints on its expression.

The State Bank collapse which destroyed Bannon’s political career was indeed a dreadful affair, but in the end it was not even remotely as bad as the $3 billion headline, once the slow processes of prudent asset realisation had been done when the market was ready, once determined debt-recovery had clawed back what could be gathered in.

What was eternally dreadful about it was that not a single other person raised a hand to say ‘mea culpa’ – let alone ‘mea maxima culpa’ – over the shambles of the State Bank and its associated entities radically bungling the business of banking, to the unjust enrichment of many who were responsible and to the equally unjust impoverishment of the morale of the State.

Bannon absorbed all the blame, all the shame and humiliation, all the pain and anguish of this catastrophe which was the fault of others. He did not just absorb it. He drew it to himself. He copped the self-serving whining of weak-kneed people who asserted that he had been deaf to their timorously veiled warnings when their responsibility had been to shout those warnings loud and strong. He copped the lot, and he copped it sweet.

You can say this:

For his people, he bore it, and he made no public complaint about the manifest injustice of it all. If you wonder why anyone would do such a thing, you could do worse than take a careful look at the Christian tradition which was central to his life.

You can say this:

When you think about the role of the Christian tradition and belief in John Bannon’s life, don’t forget that the Christian story includes a spectacular episode of disruption of a tacky and rorted market being operated within the walls of the temple.

John Bannon was no milksop. He was not afraid of a stoush if it was forced on him, and he was not so dainty that he would not pull on a blue if he thought there was no other way. But there are two further things to say about that. First: in combat, all his punches landed above the belt, and he was not a kicker. Second: he could usually find another way.

You can say this:

He refused several overtures to accept a role of some undefined kind from the Labor governments which have held sway in South Australia since 2002 – a role, never precisely defined because of his responses, which would have given him an opportunity to be of some further direct service to the State.

In doing so, he did serve the State. He gently repelled these invitations because he thought the presence of Banquo’s ghost at the banquet would not, in the wider scheme of things, assist his party or the government – and, and because of the political inevitabilities, it would not advance the common weal.

And the common weal was what mattered. Bannon was above all a citizen, in all the richness of meaning that the various strands of our histories can bring to that word.

You can say this:

His moral courage and his resilience was so great that he bore all this, and then fashioned a new life of service and commitment: to history – including a fine biography of Sir John Downer – to scholarship, to service to the National Archives, to the processes of reform of our federal system, to cricket – in which his later-life administrative and human skills vastly exceeded the technical abilities he had commanded as an enthusiastic player. And he lived that life, notwithstanding the ravages of ineradicable cancer, with enthusiasm, joy, and all the vigour he could muster to within a day or two of the end of his life.

You can say this:

Above all, he was a good man. If you happen to encounter another such as him on your journey through life, count yourself lucky. People of the calibre and grace of John Charles Bannon don’t turn up all that often.

You can say this, and you should say it to Angela, who has lived with him, and borne all this with him, through the decades:

We agree. He was someone to love.

Kane, Again

I’ve seen Citizen Kane about twenty-three times, mostly to introduce young friends — and, for a while in my youth, new girlfriends — to the question of whether or not it’s ‘the best film ever made’. Margaret Pomeranz put it on at the Orpheum in her ‘Hollywood Season’ and I had some time before I went to my chiropractor across the street and saw it, perhaps for the last time on the big screen, again; and, for the first time, alone.

It certainly seems like the best film ever made for the first hour or so. The crowded in-depth composition (courtesy Gregg Toland, with whom Welles, astoundingly, consented regally to share the direction credit), the stirring rapidity of the narrative (courtesy Herman Mankiewicz, who wrote King Kong), the gusto of the acting, not !east of the 24-year-old Welles playing pell-mell and helter-skelter every age group from 20 to 80, cram the mind with impacted, stirring delight…

But…then the crucial plotline kicks in, that of Kane’s obsession with the ‘singer’ Susan Alexander, and his determination, at a cost of millions, to make her an opera star, and the screeching, dumb-blonde mediocrity of the girl’s personality and the tone-deaf shrillness of her voice (prefiguring similar screeching bimbos in The Best Years Of Our Lives and Singin’ In The Rain) makes him, Kane, seem like a bit of a dill. These things do happen (John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Jim Cairns, Lang Hancock come to mind), and many are the intricate delusions in relationships that are primarily, and frenetically, and unspeakably, sexual, but …

It’s like Hamlet being besotted by Audrey from As You Like It, and it doesn’t…ring true; not least because of the rumbling magnificence of Welles’s own operatic baritone, and the dimwitted, hectic whinge of Dorothy Comingore as Susan. Why don’t they have any children? Why does he become a sort of recluse, with her as his only companion, in a big house full of the world’s treasures? We are never told.

Nevertheless…it’s a great, foundering relic of a magnificent, Titanic-like shipwreck, and the all-too-early climax of a career that, but for Hearst, and Marion Davies, and Hedda Hopper, and the shark that ate his lead in South America, and the whisky, and the amphetamines, and the obesity and the hubris, might have rivalled Shakespeare’s. ‘Images of magnificence’, as his simulacrum Christian McKay in the wonderful fiction Me and Orson Welles puts it, litter every half-minute of it. And it’s a pity it didn’t turn out as it promised, and he fought and busted up with Houseman, and his patron Nelson Rockefeller resigned from RKO too early, and he grew fat and mad before he was forty…it’s, yes, a pity…

And so it goes.

We’ll Always Have Paris

Murdoch’s American channels are not reporting the Paris agreement on climate change. Murdoch’s view is it isn’t happening. What is happening is the St Bernardino massacre, ‘the most awful terrorist event since 9/11’, and that’s the only news that’s fit to print — apart from Donald Trump banning Muslims from America, a wise thing to do.

Murdoch’s reluctant ally Turnbull is in a bit of a fix. He either favours saving the planet or what he’s pledged to do, bring its temperature up by 3 percent and immolate it, as Tony Abbott recommends.

Labor would do well to emphasise his dilemma. He’s in favour of saving the world but he’s hog-tied by the Abbott conspiracy to end it. Vote Labor for 1.5 percent. Vote Turnbull for 3.

Turnbull’s fabled bad luck continues. His campaign manager Brough is under criminal investigation, his good friend MacFarlane has deserted his party, his Coalition pàrtners the Nationals don’t want a bar of his ‘Labor-lite’ policies, he’s lost the gay vote and looks like, if Essential is right, he’s barely even-steven in the country at large and incapable of balancing the Budget in the next twenty years.

Murdoch, for sure, pretends he’s running ahead of the game and a lot of timid pundits believe him, or say they do.

What will he say about Paris? There’s no response that can help him. It’s a pro-Shorten policy event. Shorten Gazumps Turnbull, end of headline. We’ll always have Paris. Can this be hidden? Can he schmooze it out of public attention?

I think not.

And we will see what we shall see.

American Black: Fargo, The Miniseries

(From Doug Quixote)

Many years ago there was a film, a good film, called Fargo. It was quirky, and had some elements of black humour, surreal at times. It was written not long after Twin Peaks, when Americans found that quirky black humour could be successful.

The Fargo of 2015 is a whole new thing. It is based in the world of Fargo – remote small town USA – but don’t hold that against it. It ranges far beyond its remit and the humour appears very black indeed. In large parts it is quite tragic, in the sense that apparently innocent upholders of the law can be and are slaughtered along with ordinary citizens and a number of gangsters, hoods and crims of major league, minor league and in between as well.

The story, so far as I can gather is based around the cop Solveson, a minor local lad who is in way over his depth investigating the crimes of some seriously evil criminals. American jurisdictions are rather peculiar and with County sheriffs, local police and State Troopers all wanting a piece of the action, our hero is outranked and marginalized.

That is, until one group of gangsters is told that their boss’s son is held a prisoner by another gang and they invade in force – mistakenly shooting up the cops who are waiting, all too relaxed, ’til morning and their stake out to arrest yet another gang; or maybe the first one.

OK, it’s complicated.

It is incidental humour along the way, the cardboard cut-out police captain who gets blasted, rising from his bed shouting “No” as if that might save him. It is the butcher turned blackmailer who sets up the mob, unintentionally, and who is strung up himself, but not for long enough as his girlfriend saves him from the mad bad crim, who is glad to see “The Indian”, a henchman, who has turned rogue and blows him away.

It doesn’t sound funny, rendered that way; but it is.

The critic ratings are off the scale: Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% “certified fresh” rating with an average rating of 9.1 out of 10 based on 58 reviews, with the site’s consensus, “Season two of Fargo retains all the elements that made the series an award-winning hit, successfully delivering another stellar saga powered by fascinating characters, cheeky cynicism, and just a touch of the absurd.”

More than a touch, I’d say.

Watch it if you can.

Turnbull, Dwindling (2)

(First published by Independent Australia)

I am convinced now that Shorten will win the next election.

Turnbull seems unable to project the ‘bigness’, the ‘stature’ of a statesman. He seems more like a wily, self- mocking alderman, or a guest disc jockey on Drive Time over Christmas on provincial radio.

When it comes to Climate Change, he is trapped by the Abbottite, minimalist stance of ‘as little as possible, as late as possible’. When it comes to tax reform, his slogan seems to be, like St Augustine’s, ‘Lord, make me righteous, but not yet.’

Essential has the Coalition on 51, Labor on 49. This involves preferences going the way they did in 2013, when Independent voters, and Green voters, thought Abbott was telling the truth, and there’d be no cuts to the ABC, SBS, NDIS, health, and Gonski. Decrypted, this means Labor is on at least
51.5 percent and winning handily. Whatever Shorten is scoring personally, his party is ahead.

Turnbull…is not doing very well. The whiff of Brough, engulfing Roy and Pyne, is criminalising Malcolm too. The whiff of his dodged taxes, in millions, in the Caymans, hovers over him always. The civil war with the Nationals, and his friend MacFarlane’s defiance of him, has endangered the Coalition like nothing since the McEwen-MacMahon skirmish of 1967-68. The ever-expanding deficit is incurable by anything but a bigger GST and a bigger GST is fatal to its inaugurator. His loss of the gay-marriage vote will decimate his numbers in Wentworth (‘Decimate’ means ‘reduce by a tenth’). He seems more and more a shallow, insouciant jocular rich fathead not wholly ‘serious’ in his thinking.

What he is doing seems less like ‘thinking’ than ‘manoeuvring’. So much of what he has done in the past six years has been so much like a poker game that he might have lost sight of his country’s good.

And once his numbers fall, they will stay fallen, as the returned Rudd’s did in 2013.

One thing Labor could do is threaten the electorate with Abbott returning.

If Turnbull wins with fewer seats, they could say it might tip the caucus figures Abbott’s way, and he’ll be back with all his manias and pieties foaming and shrieking and punching the air in six months. Vote Turnbull, get Abbott. Get Abbott back.

Turnbull’s in a good deal of difficulty. An election called in March before the Budget comes down might work, but it might seem desperate, a cheat, a twirl of the bullets in a game of Russian Roulette. A September election after a Budget that isn’ t working would be lethal. Morrison’s untamed lunacy would lose votes every dày of the campaign, as he has every day of the last two months.

Hard to see how he can win.

Especially since he’s losing already, according to Essential.

And we will see what we shall see.

Turnbull’s Way

A measure of the shallowness of Turnbull is the idea he came up with today.

He thought it might be nice if some fifteen-year-olds spent eighty years in gaol. This as a punishment for having unrepentant jihadist thoughts in their twenties. He also thought it might be nice if a man who beats his child with a cricket bat got some ‘counselling’.

Now…eighty years is five times what you get for raping and murdering a little girl. Eighty years for what Orwell called ‘thoughtcrime’ is a bit much, I would think.

No unrepentant IRA terrorist got that much. One of them, Martin McGuiness, is now in Cabinet, though he once blew up Lord Mountbatten, or helped plot that atrocity. The Jewish terrorist Menachem Begin blew up the King David Hotel, killing many British, and ended up as Prime Minister of Israel.

Yet Turnbull thinks eighty years an adequate sentence for a fifteen-year-old who never blew up anything, but — like Bart Simpson — thought about it a good deal.

Of course, he may not last eighty years. The confused, pimpled culprit may suicide before he has done sixty. He may suicide before he has done twenty. I would in his shoes. A week is a long time in prison. Eighty years is a lifetime.

Why is Turnbull doing this? To divert attention, obviously, from any headline about a GST. He proposes to overthrow Magna Carta, and eight hundred years of the practice of British justice, in order to rough up and torture random teenagers while letting their brutal fathers, like Luke Batty’s father, off with a warning, and some ‘counselling’.

A measure of the shallowness and carelessness of Turnbull.

And there will be more.

‘Mad Dog’ Morrison Up To No Good

Morrison continues to be the worst Treasurer in our history, with two of his opposite numbers recommending he resign his position even before speaking to him.

His weird idea that an Australian government should not spend money on Australians if they can help it, and someone else should, is the doctrine of the tongue-speaking sadomasochist Shirelive faith he believes in (God helps those who help themselves) but not of the post-Roosevelt civilized world.

Money for the disabled? For schoolchildren? For seventy-year-olds who don’t want to sell the family home? Forget it. God helps those who help themselves.

This rabid mongrel is worse than Hockey, and may have to be sacked by Christmas.


Through a Prism Darkly: Ridley, Hutton, Huffman and Martinez’s “American Crime”

(From Dali)

You may have first heard of John Ridley when he scored an Oscar last year with his screenplay for “12 Years a Slave”, but he has also written seven novels, including “Stray Dogs”, which was made into the rather disjointed film “U Turn” (1997) directed by Oliver Stone and starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, and Nick Nolte. Additionally, Ridley wrote the story for “The Three Kings” and “Jimi” the Hendrix bio-pic.

Ridley is now the creator of an anthology with the inexplicably bland title of “American Crime”, whose acclaimed first season has 11 powerful episodes (three of which he directed) built around a brutal home invasion which leaves an Iraq veteran dead, and his wife in a coma. The series is a careful dissection of the aftermath as experienced by the families of the vet, of the wife and of the suspects. This extended gaze through the prism of race religion and culture, family and faith, in today’s USA of Ferguson and of calls to register all Muslims, is provocative, challenging and risky. Ozzie and Harriet meet Jésus and Maria meet Syed and Tashfeen – except they’re not the cardboard cutout versions of apple-pie American, taco Mexicans or couscous Muslims as micro-waved by the usual lazy mainstream portrayals.

The crime victims are military veteran Matt Skokie (Grant Merritt), and his former beauty queen wife, Gwen (Kira Pozehl). But as the investigation proceeds each of these stereotypes is pulled inside out and their clean-cut image dissolves. Their respective parents are all gradually revealed as dysfunctional and bereft in one way or another. And the suspects arrested and charged with the crime (all minorities: an African-American meth addict, a heavily tattooed Mexican thug, and a naive Mexican-American teenage boy) are similarly all given nuanced and personal characters that blur preconceptions that inevitably surface under the pressure of unfolding revelations..

Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman play Russ Skokie and Barb Hanlon, the divorced parents of the murdered soldier. They cut off contact long ago, but grief puts Russ and Barb back in painful proximity. W. Earl Brown and Penelope Ann Miller play Tom and Eve Carlin, the pious and convention parents of the comatose soldier’s wife, who soon manifest their own flaws. And a Mexican American family gets drawn into the whirlpool of the tragedy and into the crossfire of prejudices that breaks out.

The only relationship that is developing instead of disintegrating is also the most fraught: Carter Nix (Elvis Nolasco) and his girlfriend, Aubry Taylor (Caitlin Gerard) are drug users who are as addicted to their romance as they are to their meth. And Carter is black, Aubry is white, and they see themselves as outlaw lovers, a Capulet and Montague of Modesto, as if the Shakespearean dimensions of interwoven tragedies is not stark enough already. Carter’s sister, Aliyah Shadeed (Regina King), is a passionate convert to Islam who wants to help her brother but has zero tolerance for his love life. Aubry also has disappointed relatives, and they are just as intent on detaching her from Carter, and returning her to the middle-class normality that she so desperately fled.

By relentlessly maintaining a tight focus on race and culture (in the direction and editing, not just the dialogue) “American Crime” presents the many faces of bigotry, the unreliability of stereotypes and the fallacy of racial and religious profiling within the framework of the sort of crime which probably occurs on a weekly basis in the USA. By refusing to offer convenient explanations or resolution, this first season ought to stimulate the sort of debate and introspection which might make it a less frequent tragedy in the lives of those who live and struggle there. It might also slow down the absorption of the rising tide of bigoted stereotyping of people who are Muslim, or refugees, or different in other ways.

Season two begins in January 2016. Ridley has re-hired some of the same actors, but this time the drama revolves around a high school boy who accuses several players on a championship basketball team at a private school of sexually assaulting him, taking pictures and posting them online. If Season one is any guide, that will be worthy of attention as well.

A Summation

The difficulty Turnbull is in is the perception that half the Coalition believes the nonsense Abbott is lately spouting, and that if they vote Liberal these rabid policies will be enacted, with a handcuffed Turnbull nodding and winking: relax, it’s not really happening, trust me.

It’s worth noting why Abbott was so hated. It was not his personality so much as his policies: the co-payment, the billionairesses’ baby bonus, the unaffordable university degrees, the end of the Schoolkids’ Money, the cuts to the ABC and SBS and the CSIRO and health and education. It was also to do with his hunger, his need, his passionate Crusader lust for war, endless war, in the Middle East, which about seventy percent of us actually, really, truly don’t want.

Turnbull has been shown to be so piss-weak when facing down the Abbott Insurgency that no-one much will vote for him — except, perhaps, in his own constituency — for fear the sleeping crocodile of Abbott Armageddonism and Abbotto-Trumpist Ethno-Heathenism will awake, and roar, and lick its lips, and after a Turnbull victory devour us all.


Seven Days

It will be noted by future historians that the Turnbull Adventure ended, or began to see its end, in the seven days from the 2nd to the 9th of December this year.

The 13 percent swing against the Liberals in North Sydney; the putting back on the table of the 15 percent GST by the yapping innumerate Morrison; the weird ‘rewarding losers’ announcement by Turnbull and Pyne of a way of making our businessmen more daring, after centuries of cowardice; the ‘yes/no’ answer by Brough to questions of his criminality; and, last night, the Paul Murray interview with the roused and charismatic Tony Abbott, who thinks a billion Muslims should try harder and a billion Catholics are doing fine: all these events put Malcolm in a hole it will be hard, or impossible, to wriggle out of.

Is he in charge, and if so, of what? He can neither sack Brough, nor keep him on. He cannot protect Roy or Pyne if the Slipper Finger points their way. He cannot, apparently, stop Morrison from saying the money we give to Australian mothers and children must be cut to the bone. And he cannot stop Abbott calling, like Trump, for the persecution of the Arabs, a Semitic people (they call this anti-Semitisnm), and stirring young Muslims into blowing us up on trains and stabbing us in bus shelters at midnight.

Abbott was very impressive in his interview, and showed the unrepentant, charismatic madness of a true demagogue. With the zealotry he showed as a trainee priest, he wants these heathens punished. They have not undergone the Enlightenment (neither, of course, has Abbott) and they must be dealt with severely. This utterance has enraged the Indonesians, and has endangered our civilisation.

And Turnbull, the ‘smooth-talking wuss’, has no way of dealing with him. He can’t deselect him, or invite him into his Cabinet, or admonish him for his mad opinions. He does not command the party he leads; forty or fifty percent of it applaud Abbott’s craziness,and there is no way of turning them round.

It’s interesting how Abbott’s life, when examined, falls into a pattern — of enthusiasm, disillusion, and denunciation. He decided to be a priest, then found the Church too left wing, and denounced it in The Bulletin. He decided he was a Liberal, and when he sought to ban the morning-after Pill, was nearly rolled from the Ministry, whom he violently denounced in private. He backed Turnbull as leader, then petulantly resigned from his team and replaced him as Leader. He backed Hockey and Brough and Bernardi, then had to let them go.

He is an enthused friend of Pell, and will soon denounce him also. He spoke up for Nestor, the pederast, and Hollingworth, the friend of pederasts, but will denounce them, regretfully, also soon.

All this informs the sort of rabble Turnbull is in charge of, and cannot control. He longingly dreams of a party like the Liberal Democrats in England, Clegg’s party, and this, the party of Abetz, Andrews, Bernardi, Murray and Bolt, is the hand he, alack, has been dealt.

He cannot believe his ill-fortune, and is drinking more, to judge by his red nose on Monday, than he used to.

Not only the honeymoon is over, but the adventure also.

And it’s all downhill from here.

Madder And Madder

Newspoll gets madder and madder.

We are told today that four million Australians who don’t want Shorten as Prime Minister are voting for him as Prime Minister and not Turnbull, whom they prefer. We are told that Turnbull’s ‘satisfied rating’ has plummeted by a million votes but the same number, eight million, will vote for him as did a fortnight ago. We are told that that enough people were at home and answering landlines on December 3, 4, 5 and 6 (and not out surfing, or late shopping) to get an accurate figure.

We are told as well they will vote as they did in 2013, 20 percent for instance of Greens preferring Liberals. We are told that on the weekend that saw a 13 percent swing against the Liberals in North Sydney, the Liberals’ vote nationwide was the same as it was in 2013.

Decrypting the figures I give Labor 51.5 percent, two party preferred. I do this by assuming the three million who do not have, or do not much use, landlines, perefer Labor by about 60 percent; that the Greens now prefer Labor by 93 percent not 80 percent as they did in 2013; that Turnbull’s 8 percent drop is calamitous; and the Shorten Preferred Prime Minister score — 14 percent to Turnbull’s 60 percent — is rubbish.

It means four million voting for him as Prime Minister do not want him as Prime Minister. Do you know ten of these people? Do you know one? Can you name him? Please write in, in your hundreds of thousands, naming names.

Turnbull is actually in big trouble. Ever since he turned up, jet-lagged and red-nosed, to announce his ‘backing losers’ policy (if you’re a businessman, and you flame out, don’t worry, we’ll pick you up, so you can flamr out again, that’s what taxpayers are for) and to claim that McFarlane will never, ever sit in Cabinet whilever Brough, the criminal, has a place there, he has begun to visibly shrivel. It’s clear to more and more people (a million more than last Newspoll) that he’s not so much hollow as shallow, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

And all is not well in the Coalition. Reith says MacFarlane would better lead the Nationals than Barnaby.

The rumblings begin.

And we will see what we shall see.

The Bush Rewrite: Vanderbilt’s Truth

It’s a commonplace now that the Florida recount was crooked, and the Supreme Court stopping of that recount hastened the end of the world; that President Gore would have ended global warming, not gone into Iraq, not gone into Afghanistan, and the rest of it. It’s less well known that a Sixty Minutes producer, Mary Mapes, had the goods on Bush five months before, but her mother died and she didn’t complete the story or air it — that he’d avoided Vietnam and, worse, gone AWOL from the Air Force for a year and should have been imprisoned.

In 2004, when Bush is already trailing against Kerry, Mapes revisits the story. The story is true. It goes to air, with documents, and journalistic legend Dan Rather (the first to report JFK’s motorcade shooting in Dallas) introduces it. The Bush backroom declare the documents are forgeries. This seems plausible: the crucial documents seem to have been typed on a modern computer, not an old electric typewriter. She proves they are not forgeries (and, in an impressive speech, shows how impossible it would have been to track down the relevant people and name them, let alone use their addresses and phraseology); Bush wins; and she and Rather, thanks to a deal CBS’s partner Viacom has corruply done with the Administration, are ruined anyway; fired and never heard of again.

It’s a good story, well written by James Vanderbilt, and funded perhaps by some family money. It is not as sleekly and momentously directed as All The President’s Men or The Newsroom, but it’s in the league. And…no-one is going to it, or, in North America, releasing it. Clearly the same Bush backroomers, now working for Jeb, have seen to this, afeared that Jeb, the fixer of the Florida recount, might suffer from its fresh revelations.

Needless to say, it should be seen. Cate Blanchett as Mapes (married, a mother, commuting to Texas) gives a big, brainy, full-hearted performance such as only Streep these days could equal. Robert Redford, his face riven by surgery, his eyes encased by a wasteland, gets nonetheless Rather’s decency, gravitas, and gritty nostalgia for the Murrow years when the going for honest jounos was good. A grab-bag of investigative reporters (Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss) are of West Wing standard, as is Bruce Greenwood, as the torn boss of CBS. Some Australians (Quast, Hazlehurst, Fitz-Gerald, Bakaitis) are very fine too, as vacillating witnesses and cruel interrogators, as is Stacy Keach as the ugly, growling equivalent of Deep Throat.

Under normal circumstances there would be Golden Globes and Oscar nominations, but this will not happen. Unless…it breaks out from under its confinement by popular demand, and the few theatres showing it fill up.

It’s on at the Cremorne Orpheum, in the smallest space, and few other places.

I beseech you to see it.