Monthly Archives: September 2012

Assange in the Cross-Hairs, Breathing Calmly

The news that Assange is a person of interest and he could be eligible for the death penalty if the US get their mitts on him also means he can be assassinated in any jurisdiction, taken out by drone or sniper or mortar fire in a speech on the embassy balcony, or wherever.

This is because assassination is now official American foreign policy. In imitation of Mossad, the Taliban, the Spanish Inquisition and al-Qaeda it has a licence to kill.

This follows the Bush Doctrine of ‘pre-emptive strike’, an imitation of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, hit them before they hit you. It is the definition of a tyranny, execution without trial, what the Mafia does, what the Crusades and the Third Reich did to Jews.

So America is a terrorist nation now, it trades in fear, and unjust punishment, like Richard III, and it wonders why it has no true friends in the world any more. It has become what it fears, what it most fears, a bogeyman.

Not that it matters. But Assange is right to fear for his life. And William Hague is right to want to ‘diplomatically’ save him if he can, by moving him to the Ecuadorian embassy in Stockholm, where he will be shown to be innocent of everything, and safe still, if he stays there, from extradition.

But the question will then arise of his coming home. Will he be safe from extradition if he comes here to see his mum? Or be interviewed by Phillip Adams? Or appear at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival? Or receive the Sydney Peace Prize? Of course he won’t. He’ll be arrested for touching up Bronwyn Bishop and held until the Americans after the mid-term elections in 2014 ask Prime Minister Abbott or Shorten or Joyce or Newman to send him handcuffed to Guantanamo.

It is wrong of us, very wrong, as Lindsay Tanner said on Wednesday, to defend America’s hurt pride so expensively, with Australian lives piled up in sacrifice without point or purpose or end.

Julian Assange should not be one of them. Not now. Not ever.

Our Great Lost Leader, Lindsay

Listening to Lindsay Tanner last night and thinking back to the day Rudd fell and how I hoped he, Lindsay, would come through the middle and be Prime Minister at the end of it, until that same afternoon when he said he was leaving politics and then went AWOL from his duties for two months, ensuring Bandt’s election and a hung parliament, I note once more his and Gillard’s transmillennial enmity (he beat her for a preselection once, and described her then as a ‘conscienceless chameleon’) and his respect for Rudd, who had every right, he said, to go off his tree now and then in the bad days of the global meltdown. But I think he has forgiven the haughty little greaser for too many sins and covered up the real reason why he was felled.

This was that he was told the roof-batts were unsafe and might kill people, and he carelessly, impatiently chose to go on with them. Garrett warned him, in writing — or so I hear — and he ignored the warning, and some young men died, and this was noted, and Labor’s lead evaporated; and, when he thereafter, soon after, went back on ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’ in a tired, ill-worded doorstop, went down the toilet.

It was not just that his leadership style annoyed and irritated and exhausted people, including himself, and seemed to some involved like a mixture of jet-lag and unsoothed groin rash, it was that it caused people to die — or so I here conjecture, I might be wrong, I might be wrong — and so ended Labor’s long calm rule in the big states, Victoria in particular, and put the whole movement at risk with his preppish tempestuousness and prissy unwilingness to admit he was wrong.

The roof-batts are his primal sin (if they weren’t, he would have sacked Garrett and blamed him for them), and the movement won’t forgive him for it or have him back.

This is not to say he would not have won, with Tanner and Faulkner staying on, and Debus, perhaps, and Kerr (perhaps) persuaded to recontest their seats thus thwarting Bandt and Wilkie and Louise Markus the Liberal member for Macquarie. But it is to say why he was loathed, and unforgiven, and will never, never, never, soil the party from a great height again.

How Labor Can Win

It is not too hard now. Abbott has been reduced to a hysterical, flailing wreck by

(a) Carr’s magisterial calm in foreign affairs;

(b) the failure of the Carbon Tax to end the world;

(c) the interesting fact that Nauru has increased, not ended, boat arrivals, and

(d) the ice is melting in the Arctic and, by 2020, will be gone; and

(e) Newman has begun sacking nurses.

These things have brought the Labor vote up to 48 or 49 and saved the Independents, and Bandt. It is clear that Labor would be 52 under any other leader (Carr, Shorten, Plibersek) and it is probable Gillard, for reasons that include gallantry, will stay on. It is desirable therefore that Labor do the following.

(1) Announce a pull-out from Afghanistan by March 2013.

(2) Put a one percent levy on all goods sold, including food, houses and things bought online, for eighteen months.

(3) Reduce the wages of all public servants earning more than 120 thousand a year by eight percent.

(4) Impose a one-off tax of twenty percent on the income in 2012-13 of Gina, Clive and Twiggy. (This will bring in two billion dollars.)

(5) Offer to pay the wages of the nurses and the firefighters Newman has just sacked, if he gives them their jobs back.

(6) Offer to buy the Sydney Monorail, and keep it running.

(7) When O’Farrell says no to this, film the wrecking of the Monorail and in commercials say, ‘This is what O’Farrell’s fellow North Shore Catholic Liberal Abbott plans to do to the Australian economy.’

This will assure even Gillard 52 percent and Labor of a gain of four to twelve seats, five in Queensland. The Afghanistan decision alone would put us over the line, and tempt rogue Liberals to vote with us. The Rinehart-Clive-Twiggy tax would be applauded by 98 percent. After the victory, we might consider buying a controlling share of Qantas, Fairfax and the Commonwealth Bank.


John Cantwell: The Guilt of the Survivor

We might call it The Gallipoli Syndrome. It is the belief, or the half-belief, that a massive defeat is a victory. 9/11 is like this; the killing of Martin Luther King; the killing of John F Kennedy; the executions that followed the Easter Rising; the First Battle of the Somme.

It is a foolish delusion of course, connected sometimes to the pride of nations. It was what called the Surge and the subsequent pull-out a victory, of sorts, in Iraq. It is what now, in the scramble to avoid further Green On Blue ‘incidents’ (midnight murders, parade ground mutinies, uniformed suicide bombings) in Afghanistan, is called ‘sticking to our mission’ or ‘leaving the Afghan Government with a good chance of achieving its goals’.

We are told Afghanistan is worth it. That our ‘mission’ there, to kill as many Taliban as we can before we ask them into a coalition and leave, is a good mission, and it somehow improves the lives of the children it does not kill; or cause, in a few years, the killing of, and their mothers, and fathers, and uncles, and the blowing up of their villages by a new wave of history.

But it is a logical absurdity, and of it John Cantwell, a traumatised major-general, his face a map of pain, spoke well on Lateline last night with Emma Alberici.

Alberici: Major John Cantwell, on Afghanistan you write of being haunted by the lives lost there. The Government for its part says though there’ve been many achievements in Afghanistan - life expectancy up by five years to forty-eight, many more children in schools, the people generally enjoying greater freedoms than they did in 2001 — but, in your view, have those gains at all been worth the painful losses for Australia?

Cantwell: Well, I don’t think so, Emma, to be absolutely honest. I acknowledge all of those things and it’s absolutely true that the extraordinary efforts and courage and endurance of our servicemen and women have produced some very good improvements - from a very low base. Sure, the Afghan life expectancy might have improved; it’s still amongst the worst in the world. Sure, the education’s better; it’s still amongst the worst in the world. Women and girls are still deeply disadvantaged, health is appalling, governance is broken. Let’s not delude ourselves we’ve created a Garden of Eden in Afghanistan. It’s never going to happen. But what I would contend is while acknowledging all of those advances that we’ve made, and they have been made at terrible cost, I would just put the view that for someone like me, who isn’t a politician, who isn’t required to strut the world stage, but was indeed required to look in the eye soldiers who were out on patrol, who were doing the job that they’d been sent to do despite its dangers every day, willingly, bravely, remarkably well, look them in the eye and then perhaps see them, as I did, unfortunately, on a slab in a morgue. And that’s when I asked myself, “Is that life worth it?” And I am of the view that the life of every one of those soldiers and the ten in particular that I was responsible for is so valuable, you can’t just say, “Oh, and by the way we’ve improved schooling in Uruzgan.” I don’t buy that. The lives are worth more than that. And despite our best efforts, I don’t think it’s justified.

Alberici: One of the most troubling recollections in your book was when you talk about the first of the ten soldiers you lost in 2010, the first two when you asked the doctor in the morgue not to zip the bag because you wanted to have a last goodbye. Was that part of your healing process, that ritual that you then continued?

Cantwell: I don’t think it was part of a healing process and I didn’t think about it that way. Perhaps it was indeed an addition to the sadness that I felt. But I did feel compelled to say goodbye. I felt responsible. I felt accountable. And that is a notion which is a bit slippery in our current society: the notion that it’s someone’s fault. Eventually someone has to be accounted. And I felt that I was the one who had to be called to account and I felt at the very least that I could say goodbye personally, make sure that those fallen soldiers were treated with deep dignity and respect and say goodbye. And that was something that I wanted to do, I felt strongly about and a number of the families who I’ve kept in touch with have thanked me for that because in some cases, because of the nature of the wounds, they couldn’t say goodbye themselves. And at least someone said goodbye to their loved one. And I feel that that was a positive in a very bad situation.

… Anyone who sees this utterance and this good man’s face will be moved by it. For it speaks not just of a syndrome — Survivor’s Guilt – - common in any war, or earthquake, or road accident, or nuclear meltdown, or tsunami. It speaks of being in the wrong war, in unwinnable terrain, against a host of differing tribes with different priorities and different moral emphases we cannot hope to ‘re-educate’ in the two years we have left. It cannot be done, any more.

We should get out soon.

We will feel so much better when we do.

And whatever major political party suggests it will win in a walk.

Classic Ellis: 9/11 Ten Years After

America’s long habit of self-celebration – on Oscar Night, on Independence Day, at Thanksgiving and in the various lists of the Ten Best Films Ever Made – is at its most pretentious at Ground Zero on 9/11. We are there to celebrate the killing of 1,892 Americans, for some reason, and some foreigners in a cunning act of war and behave as though that act of war was in some way special, or unprecedented, or horrific, or obscene.

But a hundred thousand civilians died in a night when US bombers napalmed Tokyo, a timber-and-paper city, killing forty thousand children. A hundred and fifty thousand civilians died when Hamburg, in successive raids, was immolated in February 1945, among them fifty thousand children. A hundred and sixty thousand civilians, including seventy thousand children, died in three days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killed by Americans, and three million Vietnamese, including seven hundred thousand children, over ten years, killed by American fire-power.

More resonantly, perhaps, forty thousand Japanese died in earthquake, fire, tsunami and radioactive exposure in and around Fukushima, in this, the year it all fell down, and the living and the dying behaved with rather less self-pity and self-dramatising ego and breast-beating than Americans, who lost only 1,892 office workers and airline passengers, pilots, hostesses, police and firemen on 9/11, and no children, do every year.

It is as if they have won some special Lifetime Oscar For Unique American Suffering and no human has died in a plane crash, a car crash, a fire or an act of war in any era before them. It is as if the Holocaust, the Armenian Massacre, the Potato Famine, the Black Plague and the killing of one hundred and fifty million Native Americans during the White Invasion and Conquest had never occurred. It is a kind of elective Masada, or self-professed and self-acclaimed and self-enacted Crucifixion that is, well, as we say in Australia, a bit much.

Abbott’s 9/11

(First published by Independent Australia)

For about eight days now Tony Abbott has been in worsening trouble, and he has no hope any more of being Prime Minister. Not all of it is his fault, some of it was coincidence, but the overall effect has been a perfect storm whose hail and lightning is beating him senseless and consuming him.

Some of it, unexpectedly, is the issue of gay marriage and the momentum it has gained across the world. Some of it is things happening in America.

A week ago, it was revealed Mitt Romney said he disdained that 47 percent of Americans who did not pay income tax. These apparently included war veterans, the old, the disabled and single supporting mothers. Most may not have paid income tax, but paid, each week, various forms of salary tax, and, in some states, taxes like the GST. The secret video of this utterance not only ended Romney for good, it smashed the Tea Party, who will not now retain enough seats to hold up Obama’s financial reforms, including more taxes on the rich.

When Wayne Swan attacked the Tea Party as economic vandals, it would have been wise for Abbott’s Liberals to stay silent. But they did not, execrating Swanny for commenting on a foreign election and not concentrating on his own patch, and on the economy here.

This aligned them with the Tea Party Republicans, an already discredited bunch of loons and cranks and bigots, and with Romney, a loser, and, by any measure, a stupid man. Abbott should have repudiated his ’47 percent’ nonsense, but he did not.

And, when Cory Bernardi, fumbling, seemed to compare gay marriage with wedlock of humans and farmyard animals, he should not have merely sacked him, he should have allowed the Liberals a conscience vote on one or other (he need only have picked one) of the gay marriage bills coming up in parliament last week.

None would have passed, but he would have shown himself to be a reasonable man to have allowed a conscience vote, in the wake of Bernardi’s idiocy. His own sister after all was lesbian, and bound for a billion years of hellfire if she does not repent, and his best friend Christopher Pearson was for many years promiscuous and gay before he became celibate and Catholic, and in that wholesome condition helped Abbott write Battlelines, his memoir-manifesto.

Though a reasonable person could sort out these contradictions in his moral and sexual history, an ordinary voter will see them as the qualities of an angry, flummoxed buffoon. My sister is going to hell, and no vote I have control of will hallow her perversions and save her from her sulphurous, burning fate, I have decided, you wait and see.

On top of this came Newman’s decisions to sack bushfire fighters and nurses, and O’Farrell’s decision to sack TAFE teachers. Abbott had to promise to find money when he becomes Prime Minister in a year or so to restore and salvage and salve these good people, and he did not. He didn’t have to criticise his state colleagues, he could have blamed Gillard for the economic desperation they are in, but he had to intervene. And he did not.

And having not done that, he proposed to find swags of money for the families of the victims of the Bali Bombing, to mark the tenth anniversary. And this, perhaps, was his most idiotic thought-bubble in years.

Money for the families of the dead in Bali, and those who were injured and survived, in 2002, he now proposed. Although for five years after the bombing, when he was in cabinet, he did not think of it, and argue it then and help enact it.

Even if he got to it later (which he did), it raised the question of why we should foot the bill and not, say, the Indonesian government or Jemiah Islamia. And, if the Bali Bombing victims deserve this much, how about the parents of children forcibly adopted? How about the children themselves? How, indeed, about the Stolen Children? How about the families bereaved by the Granville train wreck? How about the children born mutant because of Agent Orange and a war we had no right to be in?

It showed in him a distance from logical connection that was actually frightening, and bespoke, perhaps, brain damage from his years as an amateur boxer. He seemed like a babbling, opportunistic fool.

…And all this on top of David Marr’s ‘revelation’ that he had as a student once bashed a wall (as telling as my confession, which I here submit, that I smashed a cup in 1966 while arguing with my wife and am therefore unfit for elective office now and hereinafter), and the upsurge of boat arrivals after the announcement of Nauru which Abbott claimed would end them, and Joe Hockey’s many, grinning, head-shaking attempts to cut eighty billion from government extravagance without sacking anybody, put him deeper in trouble than any Australian leader since Peacock proved to have got his health figures wrong and called a press conference to say so, two weeks before an election. And then came the poll figures, and the Arctic melting, which showed him hastening the world’s end with ignorant policies as well.

I know Abbott, and for time I liked him, and I urged him to get some sleep, and get his bones fixed by a chiropractor. But he would not.

And this shambles of a leader is the result. And this, plus a good deal of bad luck last week, will bring him down.

And make Turnbull, perhaps, Prime Minister.

Classic Ellis: Beazley for GG, 2008

Sunday, 20th January, 10.20 a.m.

Beazley may be the Governor-General this year if he wants to be, the last before the Republic. Faulkner and Swan recommend it, Gillard, ever Kim’s waspish foe (she organised the numbers against him for Crean then Latham then Rudd) says she would ‘prefer a woman’ and an ‘unnamed insider’ reckons Beazley ‘may not want it’.

He’d be ideal, of course, as an overweight, happy role model for adolescents and migrants uncertain of everything. A polio survivor who became a football star. An eager driver of tanks and battleships and fighter-bombers who nonetheless derided the Iraq War from the start. A voracious reader of history, a Civil War buff and Tim Tam addict who kicked obesity by power-walking. A man, most of all, who could speak off the cuff with fervour and humour, better than any Australian but Noel Pearson. Those millions of people who thought his best speeches were his concessions of defeat had never heard any other speech he had given, had heard only sound grabs of some of the middle clauses of some of his rigorously structured and finely reasoned pensées, diversions and admonitions. I remember in particular myself the first spontaneous paragraph of his launch in March 2000 in an Adelaide college of Trevor Wilson’s book on the First World War:

‘Y’know, this has been the worst of centuries; yet it started out pretty well. Think of what we were attempting then. Think of what we had in prospect. Universal suffrage. Universal secular education. Old age pensions. Widows’ pensions. A minimum wage. And then came this War, and after it a dance of death between two ugly ideologies that’s only lately ended, and we’re not even back where we started. It’s 1892, I’d put it, and we have to start all over again.’

How good was that, I thought; and what better Ocker Pontiff could we have? Barry Jones perhaps. Mick Dodson. Geraldine Doogue. Judy Davis. Pray God he finds in his heart sufficient forgiveness for the dwarves who brought him down (I always see him as Aslan slain, and Gillard as the White Witch of Narnia holding high the bloody dagger and laughing) to say yes to the summons of history.

4.20 p.m.

Rudd now says ‘no serving or former politician’ will be made GG and it would be good to have a woman for the first time in that job if one can be found. My heart sinks and my mood goes south and I wonder if we erred, we gravely erred in choosing and upraising and canonising this cool, smooth-talking ingrate.

It’s possible Kim said no I guess and the new rule was invented retrospectively. It’s also possible Gillard who, it is said, chews ground glass and shits test-tubes wants Joan Kirner in the job. But it’s much more likely, I ween, I melancholically ween, that Rudd could not abide a greater orator outshining him on Anzac Days and Australia Days and days of welcome to President Obama and Queen Camilla, and making better speeches to shuffling schoolkids on our country’s good and history’s meaning and what the planet requires in the coming years. Much more likely, I ween, I splenetically ween …

The Vote That Dare Not Speak Its Name

There’s a reason why the gay marriage question is going bad for the Liberals, and it’s mathematical.

Because we all have a sister (Abbott) or a son (Robbo) or a cousin (me) or a schoolmate (everyone) that we are fond of and don’t want to see suffer any more than they did as a child or a young adult, coming out, or shamed and hiding something, a condition, a tendency, they didn’t choose. We are all in the mix of sympathy now. And we all are soon moved by the need for acceptance, for affirmation, for illumination, for hallowing in such good people, people we too long thought promiscuous, impetuous and shallow.

Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen and Ellen de Generis and Alec Guinness and Alan Bennett have helped, probably; and so have Don Dunstan and Fiona Shaw and Gerry Connolly. And the Liberals voting on Abbott’s orders against this decent, ordinary aspiration, a public promise of love, don’t like it very much any more, and they never did.  They know in life so many of these people, and they like them.

And the strain is beginning to show.

And they’re losing tens of thousands of votes over it.


In Thirty-Four Words

Why should Gina Rinehart be rewarded? Why should she be rewarded with two million dollars an hour? Why should half that sum not be taken from her, and used to do good things?

Classic Ellis: A Word From The Bard To Cory Bernardi

(From Shakespeare In Italy)

Philip: I had some of your pages copied before they went to Peretti — I am so sorry, I meant His Holiness.

Shakespeare: (stiffening in hope) How many? How many pages?

Philip: Fifteen.

(He finds them and hands the over. Shakespeare riffles through them.)

Shakespeare: This much, at any rate. I thank you.

Philip: I may take it out of your hide.

Shakespeare: (knowing this was coming) That would be no .. great cost.

Philip: I may keep you to that. Some night.

Shakespeare: Indeed …

Philip: (backing off) I jest, it is but a jest.

Shakespeare: Except in Warwickshire.

Philip: Where swiving with sheep, I hear, is a common pastime.

Shakespeare: It is a stage we go through.

The Moment The Liberals Lost It, Forever

Not that it matters. But it seems to me that the Right lost most of its skin, and much of its credibility too across the world in the last fortnight and may never, hereafter, get it back.

In America, the ’47 percent’ thought-bubble of Mitt Romney assured electoral calamity for the Tea Party Republicans and Barack Obama of enough House and Senate seats to bring in a public health scheme if he wants one. In Australia, Campbell Newman, Barry O’Farrell, Ted Baillieu and Isobel Redmond showed how keen the Right are to sack people, rather than keep them in work with a tax or two on inordinate wealth like Gina Rinehart’s.

Cory Bernardi, moreover, yesterday showed how mad they are or can be and Tony Abbott, who believes his lesbian sister will fry in Hell, how glitched and fixed they are, or can be, in the anti-sodomist crusade that has gone hand-in-glove these five hundred years with Catholic priestly pederasty.

The Right has been slimed, in short, in the way that Assange, Strauss-Kahn and Bill Clinton were slimed, and there may not be water enough in the rough rude seas to wash them clean again.

The sliming was not a sexual one, particularly. It was to do with tyrannous unfairness. It was to do with saying some people don’t matter; or, rather, that lots and lots of people don’t matter — drug addicts, urban ‘elitists’, the Stolen Generation, ABC ‘lefties’, state school students, sacked factory workers, Qantas luggage handlers, Muslims, latte drinkers, Cheryl Kernot, Phillip Adams, Noam Chomsky, Cate Blanchett, homosexual parents, asbestos-poisoned litigants, writers of prize-worthy novels, David Hicks, Bob Brown, Bob Katter, milk farmers who suicide in Queensland, black teenagers who suicide in gaol, or are beaten to death in gaol, fishermen who want to make a living, teachers who want to keep their job, nurses being sacked who have done nothing wrong, children being burned to death by phosphorous who have done nothing wrong, Fairfax journalists, musicians, wind farmers; about 47 percent of the human race, in short, that the Abbott Liberals don’t want on Earth either, and would rather see expunged.

In the past two weeks we have seen this cruel harsh wish exposed in the Right, a wish pretty similar to a tendency of mind that in my generation we used to call Fascism. It is a way of thinking that has come out from under the koala mask of the Liberals, the cane toad face beneath the koala mask, in this momentous September, memorably, that can never be hidden again.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Lines For Albo (22)

‘We have seen, at last, in Campbell Newman, the  cane toad face behind the koala mask that is the Liberal Party.’

Two Party Preferred

Not that it matters, but ‘two party preferred’ makes no sense at all. There are eleven parties represented in federal parliament: Labor, Liberal, National, Green, DLP, NLP, Katter Party, Independent National (Tony Crook), Windsor Independent, Wilkie Independent and Oakeshott Independent, and a more correct prediction would ‘five party preferred’: Labor 41, Liberal 31, National-NLP-CLP-Crook 8, Greens 11, Katter 5, Others 5. This would give an accurate indication of how many of the different parties or persuasions would end up in the Senate and the House.

‘Two party preferred’ also suggests the Libs, Nats and LNP are all one party and they aren’t.


The Honest Newspoll Deconstructed

5.05 am

Hard to see the Abbott Coalition winning now. The 50-50 Newspoll — actually, with Katter’s preferences, 52-48 Labor’s way — shows what I said on the night when I and I alone predicted Bracks would be Premier soon with Independent help in 1999, ‘Bad policies lose votes’. Newman’s sacking of bush fire fighters, O’Farrell’s sacking of TAFE teachers, Redmond’s mooted sacking of 34,000 public servants, Abbott’s proposed mass killing of desperate, fugitive Sri Lankans, Nauru’s failure to deter anyone, and, lately, amazingly, the Coalition’s championing of the giant fish-gulping Dutch trawler’s untrammelled right to invade and pillage our seas and bankrupt our fishmongers whittled Abbott’s vote and squeezed his leadership much more than any report that he punched a wall once or bared his arse as a student or left a pregnant girl at the altar.

Bad policies lose votes. And it was always going to be so. And all the misery Labor backroomers were in, saving the furniture, replenishing the party in opposition, twenty years of opposition, were tears wasted, and groans untimely wrenched from their troubled young nicotine-sullied gullets. Those policies cannot be all retracted, and Newman, O’Farrell, Baillieu and Redmond have shown the cane toad face behind the koala mask that is the Liberal Party.

Abbott has no future now, and four parliamentary weeks before Turnbull, on the last Thursday, or Morrison, or Bishop, or Hockey, or Pyne replaces him.

It was always going to be so. All Liberal leaders who lose a federal election don’t contest another one. Tories hate losers. And that is that.

And the journos whose deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic wet dreams have shaped their prose these fourteen months will have to find a new scenario, a new Big Lie to earn their inordinate wage. What a pitiful bunch they are. Rudd was invincible, they said; Hockey the coming man; Beazley losing his brain; Bush the new Winston Churchill; the WMD a war-worthy certainty. Always wrong when it counted. And I, when it counted, mostly right.



I wrote the above before going down the road to Wayne’s and seeing Nielsen’s 53-47 in the smh and the pleading headline ‘Abbott versus Rudd’; not ‘Abbott versus Carr’, or Shorten, or Combet, or Clare, or Plibersek, or Roxon. Both polls keep calling the Katter Party ‘other’ and listing the Liberals, the Nationals, the NLP, the CLP, and the Independent Nationals as one party; and so the cheating goes on. The Liberals in an honest listing would get 32 percent, Labor 36, Nationals 3, LNP 4, CLP 0.5, Greens 11, Independents 3.5, and so on; but this has been the practice for decades now. They cheat. They cheat when they can.

The Murdoch papers think these new figures hurt Rudd’s comeback chances, the Fairfax papers that it helps them. Neither seems to understand that Labor PMs never come back. Not Watson. Not Fisher. Not Hughes. Not Scullin. Not Curtin. Not Forde. Not Chifley. Not Whitlam. Not Hawke. Not Keating. And only one Liberal, Menzies, has come back though he won his first election as the leader of one party, the UAP, and his second as the leader of another, the Liberals. It is not the federal way.

PMs coming back is not the federal way. It is the state way, as Lang, Cain, Dunstan, Wran (after ‘standing aside’), and, lately, Barnett showed, and the many times Kennett and Brumby were shafted as leader and then reinstated.

The caravan moves on. It is not expected that Hawke will make a comeback now, though he would be an excellent PM. The usual path is from Cabinet Minister to Prime Minister, Opposition Leader to Prime Minister, Premier to Prime Minister, making Shorten, Carr, Clare, Crean, Combet or Plibersek the likely heir if Gillard is tapped on the shoulder or falls ill or goes bananas in the next nine months. Any of them would win 55 percent and obliterate the Liberal Party, forever perhaps.

And we should think on these things.

Beheading Those Who Insult Mohammed, The Miniseries

When I was a little Seventh Day Adventist I asked a parson how he could forbid us to see Hollywood movies when he himself hadn’t seen any. ‘I don’t have to eat garbage to know it’s garbage,’ he said. ‘The smell of it alone convinces me.’

Millions of Muslims feel the same about the offending trailer Innocence Of Muslims which they also haven’t seen yet are killing, burning and smirching what American symbols they can find because of it. They did not so respond to Life Of Brian, a piss-take of one of their saints, or Holy Moses, but there you go. If you imagine Italians killing the English Ambassador after the Venice premiere of Life Of Brian and burning down his palace you have a fair comparison, and a fair measure of how stern and strict and crazy Islam — sorry, sorry, some sects of Islam — is, or are.

It is a Christian commonplace that Joseph was a cuckold, Abraham a bigamist and David a murderous adulterer, but no-one is, or was ever, burned at the stake in recent times for saying so. It is a Jewish commonplace that most Jews (like Tevye) find God irascible, furious, jealous and unfair, but none is arraigned and electrocuted for saying — or singing — this in Fiddler On The Roof or Portnoy’s Complaint or God Knows …

But … I do not even dare go on with this thought. We know Mohammed could not read, and had a six-year-old wife he deflowered at nine, but beyond this we cannot go with safety any more. George Bernard Shaw proposed a play on Mohammed but was warned, in 1908, that he would be assassinated if he wrote one. And this is good advice, even now, alas, even now.

It shows I guess the diplomatic folly of twenty-eight Christian nations invading Iraq to take out a Muslim leader and his Christian deputy. Arabs remember these things (particularly the Christian deputy, the mild-mannered, Agatha Christie-fancying Tariq Aziz, still awaiting execution), sometimes for a thousand years. We exhausted our credit in that invasion, and they don’t like us any more.

And it’s too late to say we must tread carefully henceforth. To hell with ‘henceforth’, we’ve lost. It’s over. We’ve lost the war, we’ve lost to the Ayatollahs, the Taliban, the mullahs, the suicide bombers. We’ve blown it.

And we should tiptoe, swiftly, away.

Assange And The Dead US Ambassador

What is happening to US embassies and their staff now in what might be called the Arab Long Hot Summer is what is supposed to have happened when Wikileaks published things about the Americans that, Hannity and Palin and Lieberman and Limbaugh and Hillary Clinton claimed, ‘endangered lives’, and justified the capture, detention and lifelong torment of Julian Assange, if not, as Limbaugh wanted, his illegal killing.

No such riot, arson and killing as a result of Assange took place, though. Funny that. Though it did last week, because of a film about Mohammed, whose effect was like what happened after The Satanic Verses, by Rushdie.

Are the Americans going to arrest this Jewish-American filmmaker, or not?

He has done a lot of harm.

If not, they should state plainly they will not seek to extradite, arraign, interrogate, and imprison Assange.


In Thirty-Four Words

Hey, we don’t take economic migrants, we take genuine refugees. That’s why we take a hundred and fifty thousand economic migrants a year, and only fifteen thousand refugees.

Of course we do. It’s only logical.

The Economic Consequences Of David Marr

It can be argued that when David Marr swore Kevin Rudd once said ‘ratfuck’ he brought him down. It will soon be argued that when he revealed Tony Abbott once hit not a woman but a wall he brought him down too.

The Quarterly piece is very fine, and a vivid portrait of a confused and mentally violent young man on the make, by a master of lively informative prose who is thus far our best biographer. But the effect of what might be called its ‘money shot’ is a sapping, or a sundering, if not a suicide-bombing, of our fair-go democracy and he should not have written it.

Whitlam threw a glass of water at Hasluck once on the floor of the House and kept his leadership, and Hasluck when GG swore him in as PM, unfussed. Hawke was ‘a mean drunk’ and a ‘rat with women’, his wife in her bio of him said, yet gained the Lodge after she wrote this. Greiner and Kennett left their wives after loud arguments and went back to them and were not ruled out of public life, nor John Prescott after he punched an interjector at a meeting when Deputy Prime Minister.

Yet lately things have changed. DSK is not now President of France because it was wrongly said he came twice in the mouth of a helpless giantess in seven minutes. John Edwards is going to gaol because a girlfriend had a baby he said was not his. John Brogden tried suicide after a drunken bottom-pat and a lewd one-liner in a private conversation lost him the leadership. Troy Buswell lost his leadership for sniffing a chair. And Tony Abbott, well …

I too want Tony Abbott gone, but this is ridiculous. If he were brought down for stirring the current shitstorm in which hundreds have drowned, and thousands of children are to be ill-schooled and shamed and tempted by suicide on Nauru, fine. If he were brought down for defending a Dutch trawler’s right to loot our sea of its fish, fine. But for attacking a wall in 1978 and speaking harshly to a female rival minutes after his defeat … really?

He did not hurt anyone. He did not defame anyone. He did not rape anyone. He did not threaten anyone with death. And he should lose his leadership thirty-five years later for … what?

If it were such a bad thing Turnbull would have raised it when Abbott challenged his leadership. And he did not. If it were such a bad thing Gillard would have used it in the election. And she did not. It cannot be argued it was not known. Of course it was known. I knew about it fifteen years ago when Abbott was suing me and did not use it.

So what is going on here? An argument with one’s wife in which a cup was smashed forty years ago can get one sacked now, is that it? Is that how things are now?

However it is, it isn’t fair. And David Marr, fine writer and imminent old age pensioner, should be a little less joyful I ween in his flushed and lurid pursuit of catty headlines in these, his twilight years. His knee to Rudd’s groin caused Gillard’s dim ramshackle rule, and Labor’s mauling nationwide by voters thereafter unpleased by women rulers. His pussy-whipping of Abbott will in turn I fear elect Scott Morrison Prime Minister and he should have thought before he so waspishly scratched and bitched and prissily pounced.

And it’s a pity.

There will be a book eventually written called The Economic Consequences Of David Marr. A hung parliament, a needless panicky surplus, a hydrophobic Campbell Newman trashing our social democracy all derive from David’s ‘rat-fuck’ tut-tut.  And the Labor Party’s extinction may derive from this ‘wall-fist’ tut-tut, over a bashed wall and some up-close home truths said to a tough little woman long, long ago.

It’s all of a piece, though, really, with the Thomson and Slipper ‘parliamentary poison’ beat-ups, the ‘government in chaos’ beat-ups, the ‘school hall debacle’ beat-ups, the ‘parliament unworkable’ beat-up, the ‘Gillard leadership toxic’ beat-up, all of Abbott’s making, and some say he deserves it.

But I do not. This fair-go country is, or used to be, better than that. And we, or some of us, should be ashamed.

Prove that I lie.

In Twenty-Five Words

Hey, let’s stay with these nuns, a mountain crossing could be dangerous. Maybe the Nazis won’t find us. Maybe they’ll be nice to us.

In Twenty-Three Words

Hey, let’s not flee to Egypt, conditions might be harsh there. Let’s go back, and hope Herod doesn’t massacre our Innocent young Jesus.

In Eighteen Words

Hey, let’s not cross the Red Sea, we might drown. Let’s go back and beseech the Pharoah’s mercy.

In Twenty-Six Words

Hey, let’s not leave Dunkirk in that leaky boat, we could drown in the English Channel, let’s stay behind and seek work in the Third Reich.

In Twenty-Eight Words

Fleeing decapitation is wrong if you displace in the queue an incompetent Chinese waitress joining her rich restaurateur uncle in Sydney. She must always take precedence over you.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (8): A Final Warning

I drove home from Adelaide and found my nest fouled by banned respondents and, exhausted, thought I would give up the blog altogether. I considered this for five days.

A solution then occurred to me, and it is this.

I will leave every respondent up for twenty-four hours, and then take the banned ones off. Those that continue to offend me I will begin to erase from the past pages of the blog, working backwards.

If this doesn’t work, and the madness keeps coming in, I will end the experiment.

There is only so much energy, and, at seventy, mine is being tested.

The Way We Are: Jonathan Biggins’ Australia Day

‘Williamson and water’ is what the shallower Sydney critics will say of Biggins’ Australia Day, a play about a committee, but it’s better than that; better that most similar Williamson, actually, even The Department, even The Club, in that it has a secure and stable moral compass, and it likes the characters the Lofty Master would frigidly disdain. Especially Wally, the white xenophobic provincial drunken resenter of Greens whose hidden depths emerge and, by play’s end, move us mightily. ‘To understand is to forgive’ is what Ben Chifley used to say of such contorted bombastic peasants (a recent equivalent is Bill Heffernan) and we come to see, in an offstage punchline, where things went wrong for Wally, and are moved to pity and terror, as my old schoolmate Aristotle requires.

It’s not like Williamson, really (there are, for instance, amazingly, no sexual manoeuvres on stage or off), more like John Doyle, or Geoffrey Atherden (two stars of Grass Roots are in it), or Bob Connolly, but even more, in fact, like George Bernard Shaw; in, say, 1899. As then the issues of the day are discussed –- what is there to celebrate on Australia Day; how do we acclaim the local community; how do we acknowledge, and praise, the Disabled; should we really do this; what do Greens know of life; what do we owe the Aborigines we have massacred and will not be on the dais with us, how do we celebrate their culture; what have we to do with Global Economics; what if John and Janette Howard, as rumoured, turn up — in a series of meetings in a schoolhouse whose teacher, Chester Lee (Kaeng Chan), an Australian-born Vietnamese, jostles Anglo-Celtic insecurities with his genial one-liners, and Brian, the mayor and Liberal preselection candidate (Geoff Morell), attempts to save his crumbling family hardware store from Bunnings with manoeuvres which, if discovered, could see him ruined by ICAC. Helen, the Green with the disabled son (Alison Whyte), has accidental recorded evidence, and uses it, coolly and ambitiously, to advance her cause and career, Brian’s mate and deputy Robert (David James) is pressured to act corruptly, Cheryl the soft old-fashioned CWA grandmother (Valerie Bader) is obliged to dress up as a numbat, and so it goes.

As in Rats in the Ranks these are people we somehow already know, but like some comparable acquaintances have surprises for us. We see in deep what Dog’s Head Bay would leave cardboard, in humanistic warmth what Kristin would sniff at.

And get wrong.

Richard Cottrell, a septuagenarian Englishman, directs with anthropological exactitude and imperial magnanimity an ensemble of performers as good as the colony affords (Peter Kowitz outstanding as Wally) in a work that will last five hundred years that hails and uplifts yet another notch our always-rising Renaissance man Biggins who, as lyrist, satirist, clown, choreographer, crooner, counter-tenor, diarist, mimic, interviewer of the mighty and gleeful poet of our sorrows, is now second only to Humphries, nudging the accolade ‘genius’ which only Humphries commands, and still ascending.

Let us now praise him, and have done.

It is good that he was born.

The Real Julia, Stripped Bare

Julia Gillard’s oft-boasted ‘steely resolve’ has been tested lately, and she has failed to show it every time.

She fled an important conference, and a meeting with Hillary Clinton, because three of her soldiers had died by gunfire in a war, and went not to the warfront but Canberra. She fled an important conference, and a meeting with Vladimir Putin, because her father had died at 83, and went home weeping to Adelaide.

Leaving a battlefield because of a dear one’s death is not what she lets our soldiers do. They must stay, and fight on till battle’s end.

Yet she thinks she is different somehow. She is allowed her tears and her time off, playing hookey from her national obligations, her duty.

The latest conference had a day to run. The funeral wouldn’t occur for about five days. There was time to get home and comfort her mum before then. Her sister was on hand, doing this already. Many Australians overseas when a parent dies don’t get to the funeral. That is the way things go sometimes.

But not for Gillard. She is what Schwarzenegger might call a ‘girly man’. She goes AWOL.

A contrast with Kim Beazley might be drawn. He heard his younger brother had died. Yet he went on in and faced the Caucus meeting in which he was rolled as Leader. And he gave the press conference, and took hard questions about the sum of his career, and his failure to be our greatest Prime Minister. And then he flew home. You do your duty first in this job, and then serve family matters, as he did, when there is time.

The doctrine of ‘Gillard Exceptionalism’ should now be abandoned. She should either do the job, or get out of it.

The War Of Jensen’s Arse

Not sure any test thus far taken shows gays die younger than smokers. Most gays I know are, or were, smokers; so how does that pan out? Mineral water drinkers too. We must take that into account.

Most ballet dancers live into their nineties. Quentin Crisp was still touring his one man show at 91. Somerset Maugham made 94.

The cheat in the assertion, and it is a cheat, comes from the ‘bump’ in the AIDS figures in the 80s and early 90s when HIV was a certain killer. It is not so now. It’s as big a cheat as saying, say, that fit and healthy teenage men were less likely, in the 1940s, to see 25 than sicklier ones. Of course they were. This was because they died in millions in the war. Obviously those who died in the brief plague of AIDS deaths had shorter lives than married monogamous heterosexuals. Of course they did. But so did soldiers on Gallipoli.

It’s like saying poor people had shorter lives in the 19th century than rich people. Of course they did. But it’s wrong to call poverty a ‘lifestyle choice’. Or Bird Flu. Or Bubonic Plague. Or early onset leukemia in childhood.

What Jensen and his halo-twirling dumb-bums should get into their ever thickening skulls is the God who made some people gay is disproportionate if he punishes them for it, with a billion years of hellfire, or whatever the current penalty is, and Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde and Michelangelo frying and screaming adjacently. And John Hargreaves. And Gerry Connolly.

This is a Taliban-style God who should be criticised, I think, not thanked for his infinite mercy.

Or perhaps you disagree.

That Is The Question

What is wrong with the following sentence?

‘There is every reason to ask an Australian soldier to die, if need be, at 23 in Afghanistan for reasons he does not understand, and for his family to suffer his loss; but there is no reason, and there never could be any reason, to ask Gina Rinehart to reduce her earnings to twenty-four million dollars a day to fund with seventeen billion dollars a year the health, education and welfare of her fellow Australians.’

There is almost nothing wrong with that sentence. It is what a lot of people in the West believe: that aspirational capitalists who take risks in the marketplace should keep what they earn and never be asked to sacrifice even one billion out of thirty-four.

The only thing wrong with it, really, is that it is Labor Party policy.


Lines For Obama (1)

‘You are certainly not better off than you were four years ago. But are you better off than you were three years ago? And who was your President in those three years? And are you better off than you were two years ago? And who was your President in those two years?

‘Would you rather George Bush had stayed on as President? Would you rather his disciple Mitt Romney had served those years? For he was a candidate.

‘If not, why the next four years? Why?’

The September Primates Poem

O let there be no further green on blue.
I think this most desirable. Do you?
And let there no more be much green on green,
The worst news at the door young wives have seen.

And let us come home soon, dear God,
From paths no Diggers should have trod,
From slaughter this year, once again,
Of goats and poppy fields and men,

And wide-eyed children, wondering why
Their father so soon had to die.
His father too, for no known crime.
It’s how our Diggers pass the time

When they, long sleepless, dream of when
They’ll reach out for their wives again,
And half believe they’ll hold them soon,
If they get past the next full moon.

Afghanistan, unconquered yet,
Has messed up one more overlord, you bet,
And brought to weeping, with good cause,
Fools who still fight missionary wars

Like Bush and Blair and Howard, men
Whose like we will see, yes, again,
Whose God says go, go, go, ye shall not fail,
And then sucked in, sucked in, sucked in. Wassail.

Our Last Days In Afganistan (2): The Moment Of Truth, At Last, In Uruzguan

We should  be told why a father and son were killed on Sunday. What had they done?

Not much, it seems. Yet they received capital punishment for it. They have about fourteen male descendants and eighty male relatives and two hundred male mosque-going friends who will want to avenge them, yet we did the right thing when we killed them on Sunday, Smith says, and Mr Karzai must calm down, and not get his knickers in a twist about it.

I repeat, they did nothing wrong. And they were killed for it. And we must stay in the neighbourhood for eighteen months, no matter what reprisals come of it. This is the Prime Minister’s decision, and she is a fucking fool.

Let us put it this way. Let us imagine it is 1921 in County Kerry. An IRA man disguised as a policeman shoots three Black and Tans and runs away. The Black and Tans raid a village looking for the culprit. In the course of their midnight raid they kill a priest and a choirboy. When Eamonn De Valera protests, they say ‘it was done within the guidelines’ and no-one will be charged with anything.

This is the fix we are now in. Everyone detests us, five hundred young men will stalk us, twenty of us will be shot. And the disguised young ‘rogue recruit’ will get away.

Yet the Prime Minister is firm in her resolve we stay there. And if Karzai says we should leave she will defy him, and say ‘We have our mission’ like many a wounded missionary in other days. More and more votes will trickle away and she will stick to her, um, guns. What a fucking fool she is.

So desperate are we that we have invented another category, ‘insurgent’, to describe these latest innocent corpses. They are not Taliban. They are not Taliban supporters. They are not al-Qaeda. They are not ‘rogue Afghan soldiers’. They are ‘insurgents’, that is, people who don’t like being colonized. I’ll say they are. And so is ninety percent of the country.

So how do we treat ‘insurgency’? Why, we shoot it down. Shoot men with five sons and five brothers who will come for us. Shoot boys with fifty cousins who will come for us.

Any study of history shows how wrong this is. How for seven bundred years in Ireland it did not work, and bred martyrs, and sorrows, and suffering, and hatred of England. And het we are ‘firm in our resolve’ to keep on doing it.

What a fool the Prime Minister is.

What a fool.

Our Last Days In Afghanistan (1): Aussie War Crimes, The Morning After

How the words change when it is one of theirs. Two ‘insurgents’ were killed by some Australian soldiers ‘acting within the guidelines’, one seventy, one his son. We are not told what their names were, or if they had wives and children, or who will support their grieving families now. We are not told if they were bound, hooded, blindfolded, gagged before they were shot. Whether they were shot while kneeling, or as they emerged amazed from a bedroom door. Whether children, grandchildren screamed and wives pleaded while they were shot. We only know our three dead men were ‘heroes’, and these two dead men were ‘insurgents’, and as such unfit to live. Fit only to die in an armed burglary of private property in mistake for someone else.

What a debacle all this is. We will never find the young man who shot ‘our brave lads’ now. And we will be explaining soon to Karzai why our brave lads are not war criminals bound for The Hague.

Why kill anyone in a search for someone else? Why? Why shoot a seventy-year-old man? Why not grapple him to the ground? Was he armed? Was he armed? Give me a break.

What an idiot the Prime Minister is. Her affirm-loudly-and-run-for-cover instinct overwhelmed her once again. And instead of saying ‘I want to look into this, I want more information’, she said our resolve was undented and more diggers would die in this way at the hands of double agents, and lost twenty thousand votes. And she didn’t even stay to talk to Hillary who would have said, ‘Let’s jointly say we want more information, more information about these Afghan recruits before we let any more in’ and it would have been fine. She left to fly to Canberra, for some reason.

And yes, she affirmed, she affirmed our commitment, our undaunted commitment, to a war already lost, appalled twenty million Australians and believed she had comforted someone. Who, precisely, was that? Just asking.

More coming.