Monthly Archives: March 2014

Certain Housekeeping Matters (95)

All those I banned for disliking Crowe I now pardon.

I urge them to see Noah.

Alas, He’s Mad

I could be wrong, but it’s pretty plain to me that my old friend Anthony Abbott is having what we used to call a ‘nervous breakdown’. He’s haggard, yellow, grinning falsely and visibly beset on every side.

The piled-up multiple reasons for this condition would be plain to Sigmund Freud. His father-figure Howard has scorned the glittering bauble he offered him, a knighthood. The mother of his non-child Kathy Donnelly has died and the non-son scarpered in shame to America. His father-confessor Cardinal Pell, cursed for causing suicides, is fleeing under a cloud to Italy. His brother-in-arms George Brandis has come out for bigotry and schoolyard bullying, an early Abbott pastime. His soul-brother Morrison is covering up a murder. His counting-house partner Joe Hockey is proposing to starve soldiers’ orphans. His sister Christine is bound for hell for sodomy. He is not sleeping, is haggard, thin and yellow, his face has been scraped off its bones by an idiot plastic surgeon, he looks like a frantic eel, and is behaving very oddly.

Not telling Truss or Bishop he was restoring kingly gongs is the act of a furtive teenager. Hiding the numbers from Western Australia is the the act of a shyster.

And…spending scores of millions on a sea-search for scrap metal, millions that might have saved Holden, or five thousand jobs at Qantas, is very strange indeed. He sees it as a kind of 9/11, but he’s wrong. It’s a quest as difficult as seeking a needle in Texas, and he’s looking in the wrong place.  The plane, as everybody sensible now knows, is on the ground, crashed or not, somewhere in Asia. And he’s delving the Antarctic end of the Indian Ocean for it, and paying Angus Houston buckets of money to ‘co-ordinate’ it, whatever that means. This is his quest, he’ll follow his star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far…

It’s very like his twenty-year quest for his missing son, the one that was fathered by another. It’s very like his five-year quest for righteousness, as a ‘non-celibate’ Roman Catholic trainee priest in Emu Plains. It’s very like his five-year quest, in memory of his lost bride and child, for sixty-five thousand dollars for millionaires’ pregnant trophy wives. It’s very like the fugitive murderer Hamlet, fleeing justice on a pirate ship, yielding up to the gallows in England his college buddies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and coming home to cradle the corpse of his pregnant love Ophelia, and saying to the audience:

‘Woul’t weep? Woul’t fight? Woul’t fast? Woul’t tear thyself? Wou’lt drink up eisel? Eat a crocodile? I’ll do’t. Dost thou come here to whine? To outface me by leaping in her grave? Be buried quick with her, and so will I: and, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw millions of acred on us, till our ground, singeing his pate against the burning zone, make Ossa like a wart! I’ll rant as well as thou.’

Freud would make much of this: the pregnant girl deserted and now dead; the skull of Reva Barati upheld and bewept in his hand; the Quixote-like dream of a chivalrous past resurrected; the desire to sneak up on his kneeling father Howard and smite him deathward with a gong, the search through endless seas for a black box that tells all. He may be shackled soon, and led away to torture by the amused Fortinbras Turnbull, and rant inconsolate in a foul cell for twenty years.

And…we will see what we shall see.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (94)

Under Houston We Have A Problem is a response by Don who has the best theory yet of what happened to MH 370 and where it headed and where it crashed.

I will put it up tomorrow when my wife, who does these things, will be home to do it for me, but it’s well worth reading, and responding to, in the meantime.

Quiz Time (56)

Why did Bill Hunter take up acting? What was his first job in movies? Why does it now seem unlikely?

Newspoll’s Biggest Lies Thus Far, Shock Horror

You can usually tell when Newspoll’s being frantically rewritten at the last minute, and Rupert Murdoch shouting down the phone.

There are obvious mistakes. On page 2 of The Australian we see ‘Question: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Julia Gillard is doing her job as Prime Minister?’; and also ‘Question: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Tony Abbott/Bill Shorten is doing his job as Leader of the Opposition?’

The latter is really hard to fathom. So is the headline, which says ‘Liberals rebound in the West’ over numbers showing them down, from 51.2 to 46 in WA and 53.5 to 48 in mainland Australia. In raw figures Labor is up, not down — though only 0.2 percent — in WA, but the Greens, up from 8.7 to 12 percent, will surely drop-kick another 2.5 percent their way and give them one more seat than in September.

These figures aren’t last week’s, though, but those of ‘Jan-March’, meaning half were taken when anyone under sixty was out of the house and the Menzies generation answering the phone.

And Rupert still can’t make Abbott win. Overall, in Australia, Labor is on 52 and winning on these numbers and Shorten, yes, trailing Abbott by 5 percent, but with 25 percent ‘uncommitted’. And this, with a 2.5 percent margin of error, implies even-steven, pretty much; or, if somebody rings a mobile — ever — Shorten by now some 2 percent ahead. As preferred Prime Minister. Six months into the Prime Ministership of another.

The column ‘Abbott/Shorten’s Performance’ makes no sense. The 562 sample in WA is too small. Shorten by 42 to 36 is the Prime Minister preferred by Victorians and by 37 to 38 just misses in South Australia where the car job cuts hurt most. There’s a 4.2 margin of error in WA meaning Labor will pick up its second seat probably, and maybe, just maybe, after rancorous recounts, a third.

But…’Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Julia Gillard is doing her job as Prime Minister?’ And ‘Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Tony Abbott/Bill Shorten is doing his job as Leader of the Opposition?’ Really? Really? How can we take this poll seriously?

Maybe that last sentence is a cry for help from poor, drunk O’Shannessy: please get me out of here, I’ll do anything to get out of here. Another Guinness, for God’s sake, no, no, a barrel of Guinness, and a straw.

Let’s see what Morgan says today, if anything.

Morgan is the accurate one.

Some Connections

Abbott will spend on his sea-search for scrap metal more than it would have cost to save five thousand Qantas jobs or keep Holden in Australia.

Brandis green-lighted school bullying when he affirmed, last week, our right to be bigots.

Abbott with his knighthoods made second class citizens of every Australian of the Year.

Brandis made Adam Goodes a second class citizen by licensing the bigotry he hates and fights and suffered in childhood, saying his bullies had a right to bully him. Adam Goodes is Australian of the Year.

Howard rejecting his knighthood means no others can be offered, by Abbott, to anyone.

If Anwar Ibrahim jumped bail and came here in a boat, he’d be locked up in Manus for the rest of his life, and so affirm Abbott’s contempt for gay marriage,

If Ugandan homosexuals fleeing lifelong imprisonment came here in boats, they would be settled at best, and so would Anwar, in PNG where homosexuals are gaoled also.

Abbott thought he’d make friends by announcing two knighthoods, but he repelled five hundred party donors who now for sure won’t get one.

Hockey thought it smart to say ‘The age of entitlement is over’ just as the age of titles returned. He thought it was smart also to promise a million new jobs while cutting tens of billions in government money from programs that created new jobs or maintained old ones.

Scott Morrison has three murderers still on his payroll and is unfazed by this, thus proving he is insane. Covering up a murder, as he apparently wants to do, is a crime.

Quiz Time (54)

What connection did Elizabeth Taylor have with Montgomery Clift, his subsequent disfiguring and eventual suicidal madness?

Quiz Time (54)

What do Shirley Temple, Happy Rockefeller, Kylie Minogue and Tennessee Williams have in common?

Certain Housekeeping Matters (93)

My essay on ‘partial assassination’ is finished now, and worth reading.

Quiz Time (53)

What did Roger Ailes, now head of Fox News, most famously say to George HW Bush when he was running for President in 1988?

Quiz Time (52)

On what occasion and in what setting did Orson Welles accuse John Houseman of having, lately, assassinated him?

Houston, We Have A Problem

‘Houston, we have a problem’ is an easy joke. But it’s likely Angus won’t be laughing loudly in four weeks’ time, or laughing at all. This is when it will be known, and known world-wide, and famously known to world history, that MH 370 did not go down in the sea but stood in an aircraft hangar while one by one the hostages were shot or strangled or tortured and the Malaysian PM refused all bargains to save their lives.

It will be thought then we wasted a lot of money prodding seaweed, and Abbott was an idiot to spend it.

The Malaysians are hiding, the way they do, the most crucial information. This is whether or not the plane was intelligently manned, or on an auto-pilot, in its last four hours in the air. If a human intelligence steered it, there’s no way it headed further and further out to sea. Why would it?

If he wanted to kill everybody, the pilot would have called up The New York Times or al-Jazeera and said why. He would have publicised his Cause, and, like Noah, preached his gospel. If he was hoping to trade his hostages for some noble cause, the release of Anwar, or whatever, he would not be going south-south-west into deeper and further seas. He’d be near an airfield he could come down in.

Motive, you see, is lacking in these present scenarios, Houston. The alleged route, south-south-west towards Antarctica, lacks motive. We shouldn’t be looking there. We should be looking north-north-west, in Asia

And lately we learn the Malays haven’t ‘given up hope’ there’ll be survivors.

Intense negotiations are happening, probably, now.

If only Assange were available to bug and publish them.

And so it goes.

Quiz Time (51)

Why was Russell Crowe asked to open the ‘Mapping Our World’ exhibition at the National Library of Australia?

Classic Ellis: Nathan Rees, 2009

(From One Hundred Days Of Summer)

21st December, 2009

10.40 p.m.
Drinks and a meal with Nathan Rees and a taperecorder in a Lebanese Restaurant called The Prophet. He is focused, unrepentant and articulate as Paul Keating in a three-hour dialogue, much of it unrecorded, that I score as high as any I’ve had with Keating, Noel Pearson, Don Dunstan and John Ralston Saul.

Of his attempted (and initially triumphant) coup at the Conference, he said:

‘There was never any question in my mind from day one that I needed to stamp my authority on the machine, as well as the parliamentary party. I wanted to make it very clear that I moved the government, full stop. I’d told my closest advisers many months before the Conference that I wanted to do this. That I intended it to be big enough to be a circuit-breaker, and that I thought it had to happen for the party.

‘Now there’s never any shortage of people who want to claim credit for these things. There’s never any shortage of people who want to say it was their idea. There’s never any shortage of people who are masters of the architecture. The fact of the matter is no-one else’s arse is on the line except mine. I’m sick to death of people who’ve been saying for the last couple of years that Rees is a captive of the factions, or his chief of staff. At the end of the day one person makes the call, and one person is hoist by that result, and that’s me. The notion that you just wander around blindly accepting the advice that comes to you from everyone who wants to live vicariously through your actions drives me nuts.’


‘To have any chance of winning the election, I had to do it. And if people doubt that, then they’re living in a parallel universe. Now what I said to my closest advisers was that there are three danger points for us here. The first danger point was Conference itself. The press go to the Conference on Saturday and they may well come at us on that weekend; the rules of the party say that the Premier can be disendorsed by the Conference.’


‘And the next danger point is before the end of the parliamentary session. And if we got through that, they’d come at us again in February or March. Even if we’d got through the parliamentary session, they’d keep coming at us. They won’t stop; they won’t stop.

‘Now ultimately I rolled the dice, delivered the speech on the day. And they were martialling forces that day. Now, yes, the technicalities matter, but what you must have in your own outfit is the moral authority. Once that has gone, you’re duty bound to put your hand up and say I’m out of here. Any sort of motion against me in that last week of the parliament, any indication of dissent with Rees’s leadership, even if we’d been able to forestall it, would have only put it off over Christmas. And you go through in your mind the things you could have done better – or differently –’


‘Possibly that’s one of the things I should have done. Got out there and prosecuted it day in and day out, in radio, in print, on the television, to crystalise the issues. But, you know, you have to be prepared to walk away from these jobs in order to be effective at them. If you are living scared, then you’re not going to do the right thing because everything is going to scare you. You cannot live like that. And…I don’t regret any of those decisions. I have a letter of commission when I became Premier, and I also have a copy of my last day’s diary, printed out by the staff. The time, the function, in brackets the staff member who was coming with me: Final day. Twelve noon. Meeting with Governor.’

‘How did she respond?’

He looked at me scornfully.’I’m not going to go into that. You weren’t there on the night it all happened. You went to your boyfriend Abbott’s whatever-it-was. But it was…Surreal’s not the right word. It was just… anticlimactic, in a sense. You’ve got Matt Brown and Tony Stewart moving and seconding motions against you, and you’re just thinking oh, for Christ’s sake, come on. An extraordinarily decent and loyal deputy gave a terrific and impassioned defence of me, and I was rolled. I offered Kristina my full support. Knowing full well how damaging and destructive negative comment in front of the caucus would be from me, I told her she’d have my full support, and this is the only time I’ve spoken on tape to anyone about it.’

A fire engine went by, very loud and very fast. ‘I went downstairs to the office,’ he continued, ‘had a few quiet moments with Stacey, then I went into the conference room and apologised to the team.’

‘What…level of mania moved them so? It seems so self-destructive for them to have taken you on so soon after that acclamation. Why do it? Having been so acclaimed by Conference. Why do it?’

‘Because if you ignore the last two or three years, it has been largely a very successful political machine. Their first rule, and the most important, is one of discipline. If the historic way of doing things is that you stand in line - understand this isn’t a meritocracy, you do the right thing and you will be promoted by your faction – and it delivers discipline, and over time, it has worked for you, then you don’t want to change it.

‘Now what I did was turn it on its head by giving the leader of the day the power to pick their own cabinet, on merit, with lesser regard for the views of the factions. Rudd did it successfully on the back of an election win. I did it from a point of weakness, and I got rolled for it. You have to understand what’s at stake, and this is the wielding of power in our oldest parliament and the biggest state in Australia, and no-one, no-one is interested in giving that up lightly.’

‘There must have been some point when the Right was so tainted as to be irretrievable in the public esteem. Was there a point?’

‘For me our Chapter Thirteen, Things Get Grim, was the absolute bullshit reporting, so-called reporting and so-called journalism, that our team was somehow implicated in the murder of McGurk. And it was utter, utter bullshit. Utter bullshit. And that’s so-called journalism these days. There’s no accountability there. And they wonder why their readership’s dropped.’

I asked the unavoidable question. ‘Why were you given the gig by the warlords at the time?’

‘There’s any number of answers to that, Bob, because there was no one view.’

‘Did they feel that you would inevitably lose and they would not be blamed for it? Let the Left wear the odium?’

‘No, I don’t believe that’s the case, otherwise they would have kept me there. I certainly believed we could win. It was always going to be a tough ask. I still believe we can win. But it was obvious then that we needed, in inverted commas, “a break from the past”. You talk about Frank Sartor being a gifted individual. But politics is about bringing people with you. It’s not about always being right. People talk about Kennett being a terrific leader. Well, Kennett pissed up the wall a four-term majority in two. That’s not leadership, that’s stupidity.’

‘But he lost the leadership twice. And won it back twice.’

‘The media talks about what constitutes leadership, and everyone wants someone gung-ho. Everyone’s been brought up on too many John Wayne movies and Dirty Harry films. They went with me because I was considered a break from the past, that I was a blank slate, not many people knew me, and they could paint a new picture, the picture that they wanted. The difficulty was that I wasn’t interested in the ephemeral. I believed politics should be about discussion and about real issues, and I think that’s probably naive in our day and age.’

‘The discussion of real issues as opposed to the spinning of…’

‘It’s nonsense. Christ, you know what the big issue was? It was whether the NRL Grand Final was going to go north of the border. Is that a big issue if you’re waiting in a hospital queue? Yes, you want it here, but is it going to change people’s lives if it’s not? Probably not. And you spend a day being bashed up on that sort of nonsense. It diminishes us all. It diminishes the quality of the debate. It diminishes the respect people have for journalists. It diminishes the respect people have for politicians. Are we interested in photo opportunities? Well, yeah, because you’re not going to get the opportunity for proper policy debate otherwise.’

‘Were you ill-suited therefore for the twenty-four hour news cycle? Is anybody? Or is that a silly question?’

‘No, it’s not, but you’ve got to control it rather than let it control you.’

‘As Nifty did.’

‘A very different era, I would argue. And I guess every politician thinks that the media is tougher on them than it was for the generation before that. But I think any objective look at it now, with Twitter and email and the internet, this stuff gets turned around hour by hour. My strongest medium was radio.’

‘As it is everybody’s.’

‘No, I don’t think it’s everybody’s. It is if you can string a sentence together.’

‘You have length of time…’

‘You have time to explain things. You have time to contemplate different views and perspectives and walk people through why what appears to be an obvious solution to something that isn’t so obvious or won’t work or whatever the reason might be. You know, like everyone should have a water tank. Well, if you want to drink possum shit, yes, you can all have a water tank, but you know what? When your child dies, you’re going to blame me. So you’re not having water tanks that you can drink from…I mean, I just use that as a simplistic example. But there are good reasons why you don’t do simplistic solutions. For every complex problem there’s a simplistic solution and it’s generally wrong.’

I play back the tape, and begin to type it up, absorbed. Then I play back some more. A remarkable, exacting, conscienceful man, ill-lost.

24th December

5.25 p.m.
Waiting for the children to turn up for our Christmas. I play back more of the talk with Nathan:

‘Speak a little of Wedderburn.’

‘Most admired man in the world, in your own words.’

‘He came like a bolt of lightning into your life. How was that?’

‘The best political staffer in Australia. Someone who had the respect of the most senior cabinet ministers historically, and I say that deliberately. A powerful intellect and an insomniac, so you got two of him for the price of one.’

‘And a copious diarist.’

‘I have extraordinary regard for Graeme. Unless you work in these environments, as Graeme and I have done for a decade each, you cannot describe the intensity to people. To the good people in these jobs like Graeme, it’s not a job, it’s a cause that you fiercely believe in. And you drive yourself and your colleagues and your families beyond a point of being reasonable.’

‘Describe if you can the quality of being in such an office as a staffer yourself - in good days and bad days. It’s half monkish and half..buccaneering, isn’t it? An interesting mixture.’

‘Yeah, it is. I’ll have a Cascade Light,’ he said to the passing barman. ‘Good people are drawn into it for the right reasons. They believe in the party, they believe in us being a party of reform and going out and doing things for our people, things so that their kids can read and write and get brought up in a warm, safe house and if they break a leg they can get it fixed. In situation normal, you’ve got really good people attracted to the job, and if the recruitment process is right they’re clever too.

‘And the friendships that I’ve formed in politics, working in politics as a staffer, which was your specific question, will be there for the rest of my life. Because you’ve work the hundred-hour weeks together, you’ve been under the pressure, you’ve stepped in for each other, you’ve backed each other in. You’ve all made stuff-ups together and recovered from them. And you’ve backed each other in.

‘The intensity’s only there if you care about what you’re doing. Otherwise it’s just a deadline: if you miss it, you miss it, so what. You might end up in another job. But it’s intense because you care. You never ever want to send a minister into Question Time unprepared. You never ever want a front page you didn’t know was coming. The only other market I can think of where the intensity is matched is banking, because they care about the dollar. And for most people that’s a more powerful motivating force than their politics.’

‘Yeah, it’s not exactly idealism and it’s not exactly romanticism, it’s not exactly fury of heart, but it’s somewhere in there. It is a sacrifice, isn’t it. It’s a big thing to be in it. It’s an unselfish thing to do.’

‘I think it is, but I’m exposed to a charge of bias because I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in my political career.’

‘Up to a point, Lord Copper.’

‘No, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate. For a politician with half a brain in Australia, there’s a conundrum that you wrestle with every single day. This is the second oldest democracy on the planet.’

‘It is.’

‘We don’t share borders, we haven’t had a civil war, and we’ve largely transplanted from the western world two hundred years ago the best institutions. We don’t have that history of politicisation in establishing those institutions. So people just see politicians. They don’t see us as the interchangeable players in a democracy, because we’ve always had one. What else would you have if you didn’t have a democracy? Of course you have one. If you stopped using the word politicians and used the term community representatives or whatever, and if we all vowed to do that for the next ten years, you’d probably change the view.

‘”Politician” is such a loaded term. People hate it. But I think, without being precious about it, it’s all intense. By the time an issue gets into your office as Premier, you’ve already had some big brains trying to sort it out, and every half-hour of your waking day - and it’s eighteen hours a day every day – you’re scheduled, and you have to concentrate on the matter in hand. You’ve got to be across the detail, form a view and then, okay, now we’ve got to announce this. I reckon I’m fitter that ninety-nine percent of blokes my age at least, and I’ve found it physically arduous.’

‘Morally arduous or physically arduous or both?’

‘Not so much morally. I always use the person in the street test. Whatever decision gets made, you have to be able to explain it to the person in the street. You have to be able to say: this was the set of circumstances, and this was the issue facing us and this is the decision we made, and here’s why we made it. If that’s your test, then that’s not a bad one.’

‘How do you manage the gear-changes between this half hour and that? How do you get through that thirty seconds or two minutes?’

‘You don’t give yourself the choice not to.’

‘I think your combination of lucidity, aggression and argumentative logic was remarkable…’

‘See, from day one though, Bob, I had characters like Della Bosca running around telling people I was a bomb waiting to go off. This sort of nonsense. “He’s Latham with freckles.”‘

‘He actually said that, did he?’

‘He said that. And people were always looking at me to go nuts. And this was never going to happen; never, ever, going to happen. Any stridency, people said ah well, there’s Rees going off.’

‘They have planted into their brain the phrase left-wing firebrand, you know? It’s how they are trained to react to your background.’

‘Who’s they?’

‘Oh, the press.’

‘Yeah. Yeah. It’s a pretty standard tool.’

‘But it’s a Fox News technique and it works.’

‘Yeah, well, I’m not going to dispute that. It may have worked. It is right? No, I don’t think it is. I could offer a comment about every journalist as well. I don’t because it’s not worth the effort…’

19th February, 7.25 a.m.

I wake at precisely three a.m., as always, make tea and transcribe the rest of my recorded talk with Nathan Rees. It’s all extremely good, and I should put it on a website somewhere. The best was towards the end, when I asked him, carefully:

‘Do you feel you are an old-fashioned man or not?’


‘Tell me about that.’

‘Why don’t you get another beer and I’ll think about it. Because it’s a good question and an important one.’

I did this and I came back and he said, ‘If you go out in the street here and give people a question to answer that has a moral or an ethical dimension, if you say, is this the right thing to do?, or, is that the right thing to do?, nine out of ten people will come down on what you and I in the normal course of events would consider is the right thing to do.

‘How do they arrive at that? What goes on in their mind? Well, that’s your upbringing. Most people get their ethical compass or framework from religion, their moral compass. Others draw their views of rights and wrongs from people they’ve known and circumstances they encompass.

‘Even before I left school I spent time with people, mostly blokes, who were older than me. I left school, did an apprenticeship with lots of older blokes. And it’s an age-old saying: don’t learn from your own mistakes, learn from the mistakes of others. So I’m always drawn to learn the lessons that other blokes have learnt before me.

‘In different jobs I’ve worked with blokes who’ve done time for murder, I’ve worked with blokes who were lawyers who are now bankrupt, with people who couldn’t read and write and add up but have reared five kids to perfection. And so I always went out of my way to get the advice of those who were older and wiser than me. If I’ve grown a bit old-school, I guess I am.’

‘In a few sentences, what are the bottom lines?’

‘For who?’

‘For you.’

‘As a politician?’

‘As a man, as a being of our time. What are your bottom lines?’

‘You’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to make an effort to understand issues of your time. That’s the first one. Secondly, you’ve got to have courage. And thirdly, you’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself. Do I have the courage to do something about it? Well, I do have the courage to do something about it. And recognise that those things change over time. So they’re the three. And fourth – now you’ve got me going – if you step into the space, avoid vacillation. If there’s a blue to be had, go to the death.’

‘There was a … bead curtain you went through to the new reality of leadership. How startling was that, and how scary?’

‘I refused to let it be scary. It was certainly stark, and it certainly required energy.’

‘And was there time for that energy? Was there sleep, and so on? Was there trouble in conserving energy?’

‘No, at the end of the day you were responsible for the apportioning of your energy. But if you ask a hundred people in the street what their biggest fear is, eighty-five percent of them will say it’s public speaking. And that’s what your overpaid. bludging politicians do all day every day. Someone has to do the public speaking.’

‘And someone has to do the funerals.’

‘Yeah. And for the set-piece speeches where you can have five minutes in a car to settle yourself on the way there. And the big ones at night where yo have a shave and put a fresh shirt on. I relished it; these are rare opportunities. A colleague said to me that another colleague had complained to him: Rees always looks like he’s under siege. And this colleague said: well, that’s because he is.’

‘There must be many people who’d shake your hand with hunger in their eyes, and that must be dispiriting.’

‘There’s a different frame of reference for what constitutes friendships in parliaments. My closest mates have been mates ever since I was ten years old, so that’s thirty-two years now, and it’s not one or two. From the age of ten through to eighteen I had six, seven, eight mates who’ve been mates that long. And each of you backed each other up in particular dramas, whether they thought you were at fault or not. And the notion that you can condense that sort of experience into a one-year package and be thick as thieves for me doesn’t work. It works for lots of others in politics, it doesn’t work for me. I have friendships that have been forged in the last six months of the political furnace that I’m very gratified I have, and people have gone out of their way to back me. And I have my mates. And they’ve got me for life. I still have a very clear idea of who was in the trench with me.’

‘Did you kick too many out of the trench?’

‘That’s part of the mythology and the bullshit,’ he said with asperity. ‘You run around saying person X has pissed off so many people. Oh, have they? Okay. They’ve sacked so many people. Oh, okay, have they? Well, good. Mate, Obama comes in and there’s three thousand people gone from day one.’

After a pause, I asked, ‘What do you do now?’

‘I look after the people of Toongabbie in the first instance, and try to win the election. If we do win the election, then I’m going to put my hand up to be a minister. If we don’t win the election, then we’re going to have to go through a period of rebuild, and I want to be part of that rebuild. I owe it to the party. Our party’s been very good to me, and I have a responsibility to it.’

I looked at his clear, hard Anzac face and thought: This is a man with a future, with a second act and a third, like Curtin or Chifley or Menzies or Mitterrand. I wish, I hope to live to see what he might do.

The Hundred Days Of S&M

We are told no boats have got here in a hundred days. But 7.30 showed one that made it to Melville Island eighty-eight or ninety days ago, by an ‘unusual route’ which others may have used. And the long search for MH 370 shows how little on water is detected, ever.

It’s much more likely that boats are getting through. Or that refugees disgorged in West Irian come by ferry or pleasure craft via Thursday Island bearing false passports. Or by submarine up the Diamantina and then by bus or truck or campervan to the Gold Coast.

It’s likely that the smugglers have found other routes and vessels. A fishing trawler off Broome. A series of light planes into Arnhem Land. When ‘regulation’ occurs you get around it with another method or weapon in the usual, capitalist way.

And inasmuch as Abbott, Morrison and O’Neill are hiding what happened on Manus (where three murderers, probably, and twenty violent clubbing and slashing thugs are still on the payroll, menacing witnesses), it’s likely too, or it’s possible, that they’re hiding or ignoring a lot of boats that got through.

That’s if they know how many did. It’s not as if the Indonesians would be helping them to find out. They don’t want ‘these people’ back. They don’t want more mouths to feed, more children growing up to join al-Islamiah. They’d rather, probably, supply a submarine; or a dirigible; and dump the problem, night after night, on us.
MH 370 is showing how unreliable our knowledge of ‘on-water matters’ is, and how much money (scores of millions, is it?) this bunch will spend on a fruitless sea-search for scrap metal and an enigmatic, soon-silent black box, and how little on saving human lives.

It’s a measure of Morrison’s now fathomless stupidity that he uses the cry ‘fuck Australia!’ from one turned-back refugee as evidence that ‘these people’ don’t deserve to come here. It’s like saying ‘Ned Kelly proves we should let no Irish in’, or ‘one criminal Tamil Tiger proves we must send Kamahl back to execution in Sri Lanka’. In thus saying ‘these people deserve no day in court, and their helpless children no mercy’, we are lining up with Smith and Vervoerd and the justice system that locked up Nelson Mandela for half a lifetime and wouldn’t let him go to his son’s funeral.

We are the bad guys now. Discuss.

Morgan shows 57 percent of women voting Labor, and this number will increàse as day by day we torture children and cover up drowning and murder. More and more the Rudd/Burke Solution, which would have expended billions, probably, on satellite towns of refugees in PNG, will seem the wise way round it. More and more Clive Palmer will seem a Solomon come to judgment with his ‘fly in, fly out’ policy, in which nobody drowns and everybody gets their day in court, immediately.

Why would the young man mourning his drowned brother be lying? Morrison suggests he never had a brother, and he’s just…made him up, to aggravate us. Why would he do that?

Morrison is as deranged as that. Any psychiatric test would show him demented, and speaking in tongues, and losing his hair, in a not unconnected way.

Slowly…the noose tightens. Slowly the systematic abuse of encarcerated children in the government institutions of the past will be seen to be like the encarcerated children of Christmas Island, Manus and Nauru today. Slowly we will come to see ourselves, as others do, as monsters, Pell in denial of heinous wrong, Nixon calling ‘law and order’ a system of racial persecution.

It is wrong to torment children. It is wrong to maim and kill young innocent men. It is wrong to burn boats and dump impoverished people on unwelcoming beaches. It is wrong, and visibly wrong.

And the world now knows it.

Knows it of us.


The Ellis Theory Of Partial Assassination

My friend Nathan Rees resigned yesterday. I had thought him a future Prime Minister and, in a book I wrote after his cutting down by Obeid’s allies, interviewed him searchingly. This chapter, and this assessment, will be in these columns tomorrow.

He is the sixth gifted politician brought down by ‘sexual scandal’ in the past five years. They were John Della Bosca, Mike Rann, David Campbell, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, and, up to a point, Julia Gillard (thuggish one-eyed former lover, dull-witted present one). Kevin Rudd survived a story involving him and a pole-dancer; several have been tried out on Bill Shorten. Rob Oakeshott’s marriage to an indigenous woman injured his voter base, and sped, perhaps, his decision to not stand again.

No such scandal attended the broken marriages of Greiner, Collins, Kennett, Olsen, Kerin, but they were Liberals and so, of course, above scrutiny. Troy Buswell was thrice forgiven and kiboshed eventually by drunkenness, a car crash and a mental breakdown

It is a Murdoch tactic, and it usually works. It ruined me as a politician in 1999. It has not been applied to Murdoch’s three marriage breakdowns and his cuckolding by, apparently, Tony Blair. It is a good trick, called ‘partial assassination’, and it brought down Teddy Kennedy, Gary Hart, John Edwards, and, for a time, Bill Clinton and his wife, and thus by transmitted odour his successor Al Gore. It did not afflict John McCain, who treated his first wife abominably and married his second for her money, nor Ronald Reagan, whose adulterous courtship of Nancy was a kind of rape, nor George HW Bush who flaunted his mistress when he was US Ambassador to China where she blatantly co-hosted his banquets. It did not trouble Eisenhower, whose wartime driver, played by Deborah Kerr in the movie, was his English mistress for two years before Roosevelt told him to stop it.

No, it is those on the Left who are ‘partially assassinated’, Hollande, Prescott, Robin Cook, Neville Wran, Paul Keating who was supposed to be gay, Cheryl Kernot and Gareth Evans who were sprung in an affair, Greg Combet who feared he would be, Paul Howes who was denied preselection in part, I hear, because of one. This is a lot of talent we are losing, and losing every year, to this righteous confected wowserism, these shock-horror headlines over private behaviour that since Caesar’s time (‘a husband to every wife, a wife to every husband’) has been a political commonplace.

And not just sex has been in the mix since Murdoch and Ailes and Brooks discovered almost anything would do. Belinda Neal was ruined for speaking sharply to a Liberal-affiliated Woy Woy waiter. Kevin Rudd was destroyed, probably, for NOT speaking to a makeup girl. Glen Campbell for being seen, once or twice, in a room with Brian Burke. Kelvin Thompson for writing a pro-forma reference for a man who, years later, turned out to be a gangster. Peter Debnam for appearing in a too-brief bathing suit. Kim Beazley for saying ‘Karl Rove’ instead of ‘Rove MacManus’, a shocking thing to do.

Most unforgiveably, Gordon Brown lost his Prime Ministership by describing, correctly, a bigoted woman as a ‘bigoted woman’ in a private conversation in a car that was bugged. Bigotgate! howled the Murdoch press for six of the eight days that led up to an election, an election in which Brown won three seats too few to form a stable coalition with the Lib-Dems and so let David Cameron in. Brandis would not, then, have defended his right to say ‘bigoted’. But he would now.

Partial assassination is what modern politics is all about. Bronwyn Bishop now disfranchises members for laughing. Christopher Pyne tells Shorten to ‘rise above his background as a unionist’, though John Curtin, Ben Chifley and Bob Hawke did not, and were acclaimed for not having done so. If you say something confidently, as Pyne always does, it becomes a piercing truth. Gillard was accused of breaking a promise when she negotiated a deal with Independents who demanded that broken promise. What was she supposed to do? Yield up her job to Aboott? Really? Christopher thought so, and said so often and piercingly; and, as it proved, effectively, destructively, as an assassin should.

Partial assassination depends, a good deal, on migrant voters unsure of their English hearing confident English-speakers calling this or that a bad thing, a shocking thing, an unforgiveable thing. Didn’t speak to a makeup girl? Throw him out of office.

The Prime Minister ‘melting down’ when he merely said ‘mate’ a bit severely, as if no Prime Minister had ever shown anger before; Howard did it all the time. Rudd saying ‘ratfuck’ in private when David Marr, alas, was listening. Gough Whitlam saying ‘maintain your rage and enthusiasm until election day’ and being imperfectly quoted, and out of context, as having said only ‘Maintain your rage’, which ended his career as well.

These are all examples of it, and it’s really unfair, and it’s ended a lot of fine careers.

It’s called ‘partial assassination’, and it should be noted.

And, by exposure, if possible, ended.

Or perhaps you disagree.

So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done: Moses’, Handel’s, Aronofky’s and Crowe’s Noah

I imagine you won’t agree with all of this sentence but Russell Crowe, the best actor in English-language cinema since the invention of sound, is compellingly good playing Noah as a genocidal cult-leader serving a hard God in the best Old Testament film yet made.

Some of you will disagree with this, I guess; I guess. But it’s a superbly worked-out and reimagined film that will equally appeal to the Taliban, the Mormons, the Southern Baptists, any surviving Unitarian, Orthodox Jews and those atheists who grew up like me in a fundamentalist religion and look back on it now anthropologically.

For this is pretty much the way it was in the desert four thousand years ago, trying to work out what Old Thunderer was trying to signal in confusing dreams. He is a God that is unheard, but present in all things, and threatening, and petulant, and murderous — like, say, Rupert Murdoch. You’d better learn to decipher his code then obey Him. Or He’ll come after you.

As his messenger and master-carpenter Rusty converts you to a Cause like al-Qaeda’s, which requires the slaughter of unrepenting infidel humankind and a rebuilding post-deluvium of a Caliphate of the Just. And then he converts you again, after taking thought, to a second version of that Cause, which requires the extinction of all humankind, including himself and his imminent grandchildren, and the salvation of only the animals. In the pursuit of this heretical Bob Brownish mission he is truly terrifying. Mountaintops throng with wailing mothers and children who beseech a passage on his vessel in vain as the rain pelts down and the lightning shimmers in Bosch compositions and the earth quakes. He is unmoved; and he awaits the moment, like the Masada Jews, when he will extinguish his posterity. We hate him for this, but like his women, we obey him.

Why do the animals not eat each other? Well, he has a number of useful berries which, burnt, produce a kind of laughing gas that forces them into slumber, into hibernation. Who helps him build the Ark? Fallen angels, no less, lately dipped in lava and stumbling about like ill-wrought puppets of stone, bewailing their awesome fate but obeying, like Noah, the Deity’s new order.

It is very, very hard to convey what this film is like. It is not in 3D. There is no gorgeous jewelled costuming, mere dowdy Amish dungarees. The miracles, like the sudden upthrusting of an entire forest from a single seed, are more David Attenborough than Zack Snyder. The Ark is more an accumulation of logs, mud and reeds than a magnificently architectured proto-Titanic. It all feels very real. Osama, had he lived, would have loved it, identifying with its hero. And so would Ariel Sharon.

As always, Rusty does no tricks. His accent is pretty much Australian, his beard untinted, his pate unwigged. His voice is quiet. His authority comes from within. That we still like him after what he does to his women, which is Hitleric in its messianic fury, is a measure of his acting genius. No-one else, not even Depardieu, would dare attempt the enormity of this gig, let alone pull it off. He takes us into a former world convincingly. The cities are wicked, but here, in the wilderness, is righteousness and a cleansing, masochistic purity; and the necessary murders God has privileged us, his Chosen, to enact.

There a few caveats about the narrative, but solving them would have hurt its primal force, so they’re better left unrejiggered. Methusaleh (Anthony Hopkins), a nine-hundred-and-sixty-eight-year-old cave-dwelling grump, is not, though he is Noah’s grandfather, and a beneficent magician (he refertilises a barren virgin, the way you do), invited for some reason on the voyage. Tubal Cain (Ray Winstone), a villain of the order of Genghis Khan, stows away. Ham (Logan Lerman), unthinkably, ponders mutiny and father-murder after Noah left behind his beloved new girlfriend howling in a bear-trap whilst multitudes thundered over her, and he nearly carries it out. Ila (Emma Watson), Seth’s wife, submits herself to a terrible martyrdom. But women did, in those days; and, in Utah and Afghanistan, still do.

Though it murders a hundred million people, the whole then population of Earth, the film is very pro-life. I will leave you to discover how this is so when you see it. Darren Aronofsky, the director, and his co-writer Ari Handel, attain a form of dialogue (succinct, throwaway, Delphic) that is neither biblical rant nor jadedly ‘modern’ and prods us along though a story worthy of Aeschylus, Marlowe or Cormac McCarthy. Many of the credits suggest the participation, and fervour, of Israeli money. Jennifer Connelly, who stole Crowe’s Oscar in A Beautiful Mind, seems to have been forgiven and here plays his wife with poignant angry loyalty.

I am aware that none of the above is very convincing. But take my word for it, and see it. It’s very, very good.

Quiz Time (50)

How many nights of sex with Marilyn Monroe does John F. Kennedy’s appointments book and geographical location confirm? How many nights with Bobby Kennedy? Where was Bobby on the night of her death?

Quiz Time (49)

What do Pier Angeli, George Sanders, Gig Young, Tony Hancock, Judy Garland and Romy Schneider have in common?

How To Fix Everything In One Hundred And Twenty-Five Words

Put the GST up to twelve percent.

Bring rents down by a third, and, in 2020, by half.

Offer Holden 150 million a year, that is, three cappuccinos per taxpayer per year, if they stay on till 2025.

Tax the Catholic Church and the Salvation Army at a rate of ten percent for the last five years and spend the money on victims of abuse, the disabled and the intellectually challenged.

Buy twenty percent of Qantas, sack Joyce and restore ten thousand Australian jobs.

Outlaw all flood, bushfire and storm insurance. Pay as needed for damage done by these things with money from a special one percent or two percent levy on all incomes over two hundred thousand dollars. Let local councils assess the damage.

The Fate Of MH 370 (2)

It didn’t go down there, we’re now told, but a thousand miles north-east of where we were looking. And the three hundred objects we were confidently calling plane wreckage may be something else.

More and more it’s clear to me the Malaysians are playing funny buggers and the passengers are all alive, or they died after pilot and Prime Minister had failed to agree on a plan for Anwar’s release and his return as Deputy Prime Minister by the time the petrol ran out. The last thing he wants us to know is where the plane is. If it’s parked in a hangar in Uzbekistan, or if it’s on the sea’s bottom and the black box still able to tell us things, it’ll be bad for him politically. Better we don’t find that black box in its lifetime. Better we don’t put any passengers on Lateline. Better for him. Him. Him.

And Abbott is spending HOW much a day on this quest for meaningless random wreckage, but not on helping the disabled, the soldiers’ kids, or those who want a fairer minimum wage? Tens of millions, is it? Scores of millions? How much?

What a stark manifest inability to join the dots this presenile slugger is showing in these last months of his borderline sanity before the dark comes down in his brain like a Kansas tornado. He makes Adam Goodes Australian of the Year and then in a swift new moronic law says he shouldn’t mind too much if he’s called a ‘big ape’ by a bigot in a place of public debate, like, say, a football stadium. He says the ‘age of entitlement is over’, then gives two filthy rich people knighthoods and retirement pensions of half a million a year. He says Craig Thomson deserves five years in gaol for spending four point five thousand dollars on firewood and calls Arthur Sinodinos a great Australian for conspiring to make twenty million dollars out of money we, the people, were supposed to pay shysters for conveying sewage to new suburbs. Twenty million dollars. He calls Bronwyn Bishop ‘fair and balanced’ after she turfs out ninety-nine Labor members and no Liberals whatever.

And he spends all this money seeking flotsam. Why? He could have given the dead soldiers’ kids twenty years of the sum he just filched from them with the price of one day’s search for driftwood in what seems now to be the wrong latitude. He could have given Holden half what they wanted to stay here for ten years and saved fifty thousand jobs with the money he spent this week. And he’s not even looking for live people, he’s not even looking for dead people, he’s looking for bits of the wings of an aeroplane. Why? More to come.

Quiz Time (48)

What did John Gielgud, not yet knighted, say to Michael Redgrave, a famed practitioner of S&M,  when encountering him on the street on the morning of his knighting, in 1956?

Howard Versus Abbott: After The Restoration

So…a new Prime Minister offers a former Prime Minister, his mentor, friend and hero, a knighthood, a not unusual thing in politics. And his hero spurns it, a headline sensation.

But where is the headline? Nowhere in the smh. Nowhere in The Australian, where another act of intergenerational acclamation, of Lachlan by Rupert, swamps the front page. And it is only on the bottom right hand side of page 6 of the afr, under the tiny headline ‘PM defends move on dames, knights’, that we learn, if we care to, that Abbott was ‘unperturbed’ (really?) by his guru, a monarchist, dumping his fond pupil’s brown-nosed restoration of things past in the privy and pulling the chain. What might have been ‘Howard Tells Abbott: Stick It Up Your Rocinante’ is now, it seems, a non-event.

A less gagged and ankleshackled press would have made more of it, I ween, old friend. They would have asked Malcolm Fraser, Howard’s mentor and onetime role model, if he would have taken a knighthood. And Fraser would have said yes.  They would have asked Alan Jones to curse John Howard for letting down the team. And he might have. They would have asked what Warren Truss knew and when he knew it (er, nothing; heard it on the news) and how this breached the arrangements we are, as a people, governed by; and if indeed this brain-snap of a mentally faltering Prime Minister was more typical of his simmering dementia now than a year ago.

But no; the whole thing is a state secret again. And there’ll be no more knights and dames till a new GG or state governor looms above the yard-arm into public view and apprehension. And Bryce and Cosgrove will go together to Buckingham Palace and kneel and be shoulder-tapped in June. And the whole fool thing, like De Vere’s famed fart before his exile, will not be mentioned by Monarch or First Minister or editorialist or Tony Jones again.

And our press, it now seems, is as biased as Bronwyn Bishop.

And that is an awesome thing to say.

Quiz Time (47)

In what film did Art Garfunkel crack an egg over the arse of an actress who promptly attempted suicide? In what film did she then play Marilyn Monroe? What was her name? Who, at the time, was her bloke? What is his connection to Australia, and Mick Jagger, and Scotland Island, and James Fox’s sudden embrace of religion?

Quiz Time (46)

When Laurence Olivier first startled the world with his West Indian Othello, who played his Desdemona? What is she doing lately?

Quiz Time (45)

Who, in the sequel to The Gielgud Memorandum, has Bob Ellis cast in the role of Ralph Richardson?

The Fate Of MH 370

After having been the only commentator to have predicted, correctly, that Labor would hold on in South Australia, I now, with a bit less confidence, predict that the ocean flotsam south-west of Perth is not MH 370, and the missing plane is intact somewhere in Asia and its passengers, or most of its passengers, alive.

I say this for the following reasons.

1) Human intervention steered the plane through its radar-evasive altitudes for hours. It’s therefore likely no pilot-suicide plan was involved. The plane would have gone down sooner.

2) One of two routes the ‘pings’ suggested it was into several corrupt authoritarian Muslim countries to the north-north-west.

3) The Malaysian government had just imprisoned, again, a popular former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

4) The Malaysian Prime Minister, jumping the gun, declared that everybody was dead before any flotsam was looked at, and sent money to the relatives and looked very nervous. Keep in mind that he was/is a political rival of Amwar Ibrahim.

5) No-one has thus far explained how the south-south-west route could be part of any plausible plan, or caused by any plausible accident, and how it was that nobody sent a message of goodbye to a family member, while the plane flew on intact for seven hours.

Once you have eliminated the impossible, Watson, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. And the truth may well be that everyone is alive, and negotiations for Anwar’s return to politics are going slowly. The present Prime Minister, aware that he’s deceiving a lot of anguished relatives, has sent them some money, to show he’s a good chap, while refusing, thus far, to save the lives of the hostages.

To see how long these things can take we should go back to the US hostage crisis in Iran which took a year and brought down Jimmy Carter and elected Ronald Reagan. On the day of Ronnie’s inauguration, the hostages got out, and the Ayatollah Khoumeini’s people got a big swag of secret money from the former CIA director, George HW Bush.

This could be like that. Secrecy; delay; corruption; politics; money.

If there’s a better scenario, I want to hear it.


The Tipping Point

It was yesterday the penny dropped, I think. It was after Brandis blithered that Bolt had the right, the absolute right, to be nineteen times factually wrong in an opinion piece that sneered at persons of a colour he found suspicious, and Abbott vowed that four, but no more than four, persons a year could be made knights and dames by him, and only him. The penny dropped not just on this government’s mendacious cruelty — some of us didn’t mind that — but on its dottiness. They seemed for the first time, for sure, for certain sure, very, very silly people. And immigrant voters, especially, were amazed at their stupidity.

An immigrant person doesn’t know English well. And when a Minister says we have a right to be bigoted, and brings in a law to enshrine that right, it looks very much to an immigrant person like the laws that put ‘Juden’ on the doors of targeted people in Nazi Germany. It may be a wrong impression, but it looks like that.

And saying ‘intimidate’ doesn’t mean any more ‘emotionally affright’ but only ‘physically menace’ is a big mistake in a multiculture too. It licenses cyberbullying and jeering at girls in hijabs and painting ‘Islamist scum’ on mosques at midnight in Lakemba. It means, as Brandis admits, you can deny the Holocaust in a public debate and say, for instance, Reza Barati deserved to die for coming here when he should have known he wasn’t wanted. You can say these things in pictures, songs, text-messages and placards. This is fine with George — or Sir George as we must soon call him, I guess. Sir George would not be worried, or not worried much, by a billboard saying, wrongly, ‘Obama is an illegal Kenyan terrorist who deserves to die’. Immigrants may not like this but, well, gee, they’d better get used to it, used to our ‘robust democracy’, hadn’t they, or go elsewhere.

What Abbott did, though, is even crazier. He thinks giving, say, Quentin Bryce, Peter Cosgrove, Ita Buttrose and John Howard knighthoods and damehoods this calendar year but no-one else, and thus frustrating Malcolm Fraser, Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, John Singleton, Jeff Kennett, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Plugger, Macca, Richo, Kathy Freeman, Adam Goodes, Bronwyn Bishop, John Bell, Robyn Nevin, Clive Palmer and Richie Benaud is a good and useful idea. He imagines he will make friends this way. He imagines he will pick up votes this way. He will be seen to be even madder when it is known he consulted no-one about it, and forced it down Bryce’s throat in the last golden hours of her vice-regency. It will annoy every sibling or widow of every VC, living or dead, every paralympian, and every eminent Aboriginal like Noel Pearson, or Warren Mundine, or Wayne Blair or Lowitja O’Donoghue.

And it will convince the million who voted for Abbott while harbouring doubts about him that he is really, truly, nutty and undeserving of even the office of Deputy Mayor of Warialda.

It is, it really is, the tipping point, and for him, if not for, say, Turnbull, or Hockey, there is no way back.

Your Reason, Fair Knight, Your Reason

(First published by Independent Australia)

It may well be that no-one, not even Abbott, knew of the new knighthoods till 3.10 yesterday. Shocked by a Shorten motion on the money he was taking from the kids of dead soldiers, and wanting to avoid that headline, wanting also to punish and wrong-foot Shorten for so shaming him and shrinking him, he ennobled his mother-in-law.

A nice Jesuitical wriggle, he will have thought. But the results have been, already, calamitous.

For if Malcolm Fraser is not the next on the list, three million Liberals will be affronted. If Julie Gillard is not also, five million women will. If Hewson, Peacock, Kennett, Greiner get no gong, and Cathy Freeman, and Ricky Ponting, it will be noted.

It is reasonably clear Rupert Murdoch is on the list (the Queen, who hates him, has refused him two knighthoods thus far), and it is payment for past help. It is certain, as with Lloyd George, that some with billions will buy, with the odd stray million, knighthoods hereinafter.

It is certain Sir Alan Jones will be tapped on each shoulder with a boomerang, or whatever, by 2016. It is certain Sir Tom Uren will cast off his new ribbon with disgust.

We have seen these distractions before. Just as the Hobart Labor Conference unveiled its education policy, Howard said no lesbian could have children by IVF because it was better a child not be born than live without a father. Menzies, facing electoral slaughter, announced in parliament that Evatt’s secretary was a Russian spy. Abbott, facing electoral slaughter now in Western Australia, is pulling this headline rabbit out of his top hat, white tie and tails.

But what he doesn’t get, I think, is how much money this will cost him. Capitalists craving knighthoods will curse him for not ennobling them and minimise their donations. Singo, Hadley, Grattan, Clive James (dying, deserving, monarchist), John Bell, Ita Buttrose, Jamie Packer, Gina Rinehart, Jeannie Little, will be in a snit. Abbott’s confessor Pell will be enraged. Nick Greiner, twice accused of corruption, will see it as betrayal.

Friends of Victor Chang, Fred Hollows and Slim Dusty will demand it be posthumous. Friends of Cathy Freeman and Adam Goodes will want an Aboriginal quota. Janette Howard will be on the phone already. Philip Adams will be asking, on LNL, why Gough Whitlam, Noel Pearson, Germaine Greer weren’t made the offer. Les Murray, who launched Tony’s book on the monarchy, will be very puzzled.

All the Australian Nobel Prize winners will find it illogical they were not considered. All the VC winners. All successful paralympians. The four-a-year rule will seem more and more stupid.

Still, Tony got what he wanted: a headline that overwhelmed the news that he was thieving two hundred and fifty dollars a year from the kids of dead and mutilated soldiers. He managed that, at least. He seemed less like a persecutor of children.

And more like Don Quixote de la Mancha, the knight of the woeful countenance, off on a quest for past chivalry that never was.

And after this, the deluge.

The Short List

Sir Barnaby Joyce. Sir Christopher Pyne. Sir Alexander Downer III. Dame Bronwyn Bishop. Sir Nicholas Greiner. Sir Arthur Sinodinos. Sir Eric Abetz. Sir Alan Jones. Sir James Packer.
Dame Sophie Mirabella.

Oh boy..

A Prediction

The Liberals will lose two Senate seats in Western Australia, one to Labor and one to Palmer. The Greens’ Scott Ludlam will get his seat back, and the small eccentric parties dwindle.

A Question

How much money has Tony Abbott misspent and given back, when sprung, to the taxpayer?

If it is sixteen thousand dollars, should he get eight months? Why not?

My Son, My Son

Anyone who in the past has doubted China’s one-child policy will have seen the poor woman whose one son died with his wife and his only son on MH 370 a fortnight ago beweep her loss and rage at the time it took to hear the worst.

How much more will parents grieve and rage whose sons have been shot with a single bullet when made to pay the price of the bullet by the authorities? Their son, their only son?

Like most societies with capital punishment and enforced abortions it is a sometimes unpleasant one, and, however politely we deal with it and trade with it, we should remember how much we disagree with these things.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Morrison In The Dock

S&M is losing his hair; and will be bald, at this rate, by May Day. A sizeable tuft was lost this morning under the hammering Uhlmann gave him. This is what was said.

CHRIS UHLMANN: An investigation into Operation Sovereign Borders by the ABC’s 7.30 program renews questions about what happened on a boat turned back to Indonesia in January. In detailed interviews, new witnesses describe how protests broke out on board. They say asylum seekers attempted to sabotage the boat’s engine and they allege Australian personnel later purposely inflicted burns on the hands of three men as punishment for ignoring a ban on entering the engine room. The highly contentious claim has been strenuously denied by the Federal Government, and it has again stated that the claims are baseless. To discuss them I’m joined this morning by Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison. Welcome.

SCOTT MORRISON: Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Have you conducted any kind of investigation into this?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, as I said two months ago, what happened after these events is the Navy does their assessment of these events and the advice they provided to me was that these things were baseless - and all we saw last night was a repetition of baseless claims; nothing more than that. The Government stands by all its rejections of these insulting and offensive claims, and I think that’s where the matter rests.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Why can they be called ‘baseless’, ‘insulting’, ‘offensive’ when there are now four people who are making these claims - one person who claims to be a victim? Surely if a victim makes a claim for something like this, it’s worthy of investigation?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, no, I don’t think it’s for the Government to disprove the negative, Chris. It’s for those who have allegations to actually prove the positive, and there is no basis-

CHRIS UHLMANN: And have you spoken to them?

SCOTT MORRISON: There is no basis for this, and there is still no basis for this. If the ABC just wants to keep repeating and recycling these claims, well, they can, but the Government will continue to strenuously deny them, as the Customs and Border Protection Service did as recently as last Friday, and the Navy has done repeatedly. I mean, these men are well-trained- these men and women are well-trained. They operate in accordance with their guidelines, and there’s nothing based on the work that the Navy and Customs and Border Protection Services has done and assessed which would indicate they’ve done anything other than that.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But you would admit that other people who are well-trained and act in accordance to guidelines, who have guidelines, have breached guidelines in the past? Were the guidelines on the use of force reviewed in this instance?

SCOTT MORRISON: When the assessment was done after these events there was found to be no breach.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Can you tell us what the assessment was? What was the manner of the assessment?

SCOTT MORRISON: I just told you what the assessment was.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But were the people involved in this questioned about what went on onboard?


CHRIS UHLMANN: Were those claims tested against the allegations that were made by the witnesses?

SCOTT MORRISON: They were aware of those allegations.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But have you questioned the witnesses?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I’m the Minister, I don’t go around conducting any inquiries. The Navy…

CHRIS UHLMANN: When I say ‘you’, of course I’m speaking in the plural.

SCOTT MORRISON: …the Navy and the Customs and Border Protection Service, depending on who’s involved in any process, undertakes assessments about things such as this, and they’ve given me their assurance. I believe their assurance. I don’t believe what I saw last night; I simply don’t believe it. I choose to believe the assessment that has been given to me by the Navy; I know others are doubting those assessments, they are free to do that. It’s a free country, Chris. I believe the Navy.

CHRIS UHLMANN: It is a free country, and if people never broadcast claims about victims being abused by people in power, then very little would be done by the media.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, the criticism that was made of the ABC some months ago was not about broadcasting the claims, it was to give the suggestion that they were substantiated on the basis of a police inquiry, which was found not to be true. Now, when I get things wrong, Chris, I ‘fess up and I say I got them wrong. I’m still waiting for the ABC to ‘fess up on that point.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, I think the ABC now is trying to find more proof for the claims that it made, and there was an expression of regret a little earlier, but it would appear from these claims that more people have emerged that are corroborating this evidence. And this evidence has yet to be tested by the Australian Government.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well no, that’s not true, and I don’t find what was put forward last night any more credible…

CHRIS UHLMANN: You can’t test one side of the case.

SCOTT MORRISON: I don’t find what was said last night any more credible than what was said a month- two months ago, in fact, and nothing has moved on. I suggest that the ABC should.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Was pepper spray used in this instance, or capsicum spray, or any kind of spray? Can you tell us what went on on that boat?

SCOTT MORRISON: I can tell you that those sorts of things are available to officers to use in the appropriate circumstances.

CHRIS UHLMANN: What’s happening in this instance is that we are interrogating one side of the proposition; you are talking internally on the other. We have no clarity at all on what went on on that boat from your point of view - nothing.

SCOTT MORRISON: No, no… well, no, I don’t think that’s true at all, Chris. I think the Government has given a very clear denunciation of these claims, and anyone can rock up and make claims, but they have to be able to substantiate them before they are given the credibility of the sort of investigation that you’re suggesting. Now, that hurdle has not been cleared in these cases; simply repeating claims in order to justify earlier reports is a matter for the ABC. Those claims are rejected by the Navy, the Customs and Border Protection Service, the Government, myself as Minister - we don’t believe them; they’re not true from our perspective, and I believe they’re not borne out by the assessments we’ve undertaken.

CHRIS UHLMANN: One of the ways that we could test these claims is the video footage that your people would have taken onboard that boat. Will you release it?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, why are you… why do you have the view that there is such footage? When has the Government ever suggested there is any footage?

CHRIS UHLMANN: Because there is routinely footage taken, and we saw last night…

SCOTT MORRISON: There is footage taken…

CHRIS UHLMANN: …that there are cameras in people’s hands.

SCOTT MORRISON: That doesn’t mean that they were video cameras, Chris, and the procedure is to undertake video of search and rescue incidents, and this was not one of those.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Was there any video taken onboard?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I’m not going to confirm the specific instances when and where it’s not used…

CHRIS UHLMANN: So it might have been.

SCOTT MORRISON: What I’m saying, Chris, is you’re alleging that there is video footage and there is nothing to substantiate that at all.

CHRIS UHLMANN: I’m alleging because I’m working in the dark at the moment, Minister, because no information is being provided by the Australian Government…

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, no, that’s not true, Chris…

CHRIS UHLMANN: The only thing I’m trying to ascertain is: was there any video footage taken onboard this boat?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, Chris, if there were video footage it would have been reviewed as part of an exercise such as this. But while we’re getting into an individual operational matter, it’s difficult for me to go on that given the policy of the joint agency taskforce. But let me just say this: it is the policy to have video where there is a search and rescue operation. This was not a search and rescue operation, and the assumption that there is video footage of this, given the incident would have taken place over many, many days, video footage would have had to have been in every section of the vessel in order to take footage of all the events that may or may not have taken place - and to simply suggest that that all exists I think is fanciful.

CHRIS UHLMANN: I’m not suggesting it exists; all I’m trying to ascertain is: do any pictures or images exist…

SCOTT MORRISON: Well I’m suggesting that it’s fanciful.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do any pictures or images exist that might be useful in looking at this particular case?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, what I’m saying is the Navy have made it crystal clear to me, in their own assessment, that there is no base to these claims, and that’s where the matter rests as far as I’m concerned, Chris.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you appreciate that, as an outsider looking in on this particular case, that when the Government offers no information at all beyond saying that you’ve looked at it, it’s all fine as far as you’re concerned, that questions will continue to arise? It’s a reasonable thing.

SCOTT MORRISON: People can choose to believe the claims they saw on 7.30 last night from people who said they rushed officers, they sought to sabotage a vessel, that they sought to illegally enter Australia. Last week we heard the claims of people invoke 9/11 and swore at officers and threatened to kill them. Now, if people want to believe those stories they can. I don’t.

CHRIS UHLMANN: We’re seeing a royal commission at the moment into abuse in the Catholic Church - something that I’m quite familiar with, having been part of it for a very long time.
For a long time in the Catholic Church those in authority said that there was nothing that happened to these people, that they were making it up. If we had never broadcast those claims, then those people would never have been served by justice, would they? Is it not the role of the media to take these things on sometimes?

SCOTT MORRISON: I’m not questioning, Chris, the 7.30 report or any other broadcaster publicising what they deem to be claims. The only issue I’ve ever taken with the ABC over this is that they said, at the time, that they were substantiated by a police investigation in Indonesia, which was simply not true.
The ABC have never corrected that part of their report.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And this part of the report does now offer more evidence that those claims might be true.

SCOTT MORRISON: No, it just recycles old claims, Chris, that’s all it does. It just recycles old, unsubstantiated claims by witnesses that I don’t believe are credible.

CHRIS UHLMANN: All right, Minister, just finally on this: so it’s not now or is not going to be your intention that you will have a thorough investigation which includes questioning the people that are making these claims.

SCOTT MORRISON: No, this- this matter is closed.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, Scott Morrison, we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you.

SCOTT MORRISOn: Thanks a lot, Chris.

Uhlmann did well, but he missed, I think, the larger point, that the refugees got to Melville Island by an eccentric route that others might have used before them. This means Morrison lied when he said no boats had arrived in Australia and no drownings have occurred since he took office in September.

He lied to the House most grievously, and should be expelled from it; or sacked by the outgoing Governor-General or the incoming Governor-General for his constitutional criminality.

Or perhaps you disagree.

In Twenty-Seven Words

If Craig Thomson gets a year for misspending twenty-five thousand dollars Arthur $inodino$ should get, logically, eight hundred years for seeking to spend, improperly, twenty million.

The Ellis Defence

I looked a good bit like John Ellis for a while, and it’s clear he’s a relative. Had I been raised a Catholic it is likely, though not certain, I would have had a similar ‘coming of age’. Some things should be said.

The Church believe that suicides howl irredeemably in Hell. By pushing with his sneering neglect some damaged kids to suicide, Pell himself risked hellfire. More to come.

After 7.30

7.30 showed last night that Morrison has lied to the House and he should be expelled from it.

He said no drownings have occurred on his watch and at least four have. He said no boats have reached Australia and at least one has. He said no mistreatment occurred, no burning of hands, and credible evidence exists that it did. He’s refused to let the men accused speak of it. He’s interviewed no boat people about it, and neither has any of his officials.

To lie thus to the House means he must leave his Ministry. The Senate should say this to the Prime Minister. He must at least stand him down, like Sinodinos, pending an inquiry.

These are the bare facts of it. It can go no other way.

The Big Lies Of Our Time

Some commentators in the habit of lying have convinced some newsreaders to pass on their untruths. In no particular order:

1) Twelve or thirteen percent of the workforce are unionists, and this is a tiny, paltry figure, which means they shouldn’t be listened to any more, or allowed to go into parliament.

No, it means thirty-nine or forty percent of Australians are union-affiliated, once you count in the wives, children and mothers-in-law. This is greater than the total number who vote Liberal, about thirty-four percent. By the same reasoning, the Liberals shouldn’t be listened to any more, or allowed to go into parliament.

2) Tony Windsor was so scared of his voters he left politics.

No, he used to get seventy-five percent of the vote, first party preferred, and was bound, all the local polling said, to beat even Barnaby Joyce by four to six percent. He left because he had a health scare, due to an interrupted flow of blood to the brain. Easily fixable by my chiropractor, whom I offered to take him to, he maintained his determined hypochondria and scuttled into retirement, encouraged by his wife.

3) Rob Oakeshott was so scared of his voters he left politics.

No, he had small children and many, many death threats against the children and he couldn’t hack it any more.

4) The Liberals got 53 percent in South Australia, two party preferred.

No, three parties, not two, were elected. One party, Labor, got forty-seven percent. One party, Liberal, got fifty percent. One party, or group, Independent, got three percent. All three groups were elected to parliament. Two of the groups got fifty percent, or a little more, between them, and formed a government, the way you do.

5) South Australia has a ‘gerrymander’.

No, the close seats are adjusted after each election to make them even closer. The safe seats therefore accumulate bigger and bigger margins, and in these the Liberal vote is here and there ‘locked up’ and the Labor does not campaign with vigour in them.

6) Sinodinos did no wrong, or at least nothing illegal.

Well…he was Treasurer then President of the NSW Liberal Party, and he accepted a job from Australian Water Holdings after they gave money to the Liberal Party and gave him two hundred thousand dollars for a hundred hours’ work in a job in which he was to ask a Liberal government for a lot of money of which he would get, maybe, twenty million dollars if they handed it over.

It fits at least one definition of corruption, being both seller and purchaser of a product for which he negotiated — with himself — the price.

7) The Catholic Church must ‘reach out’ to those it has raped and driven to suicide, or thinking of suicide, and ‘reconcile’ with parents thus lied to, bereaved and made mad with grief.

No, the Church and its priests, must go to gaol in great numbers and pay in millions each survivor for a stolen life, and for perjury on perjury before many courts and inquiries. It is a simple matter, really, of crime and punishment, crimes against children, by depraved men and women posing as agents of the Deity.

8) No boats have reached Australia for ninety-four days and no drownings occurred since the election on September 7.

No, one boat at least reached Melville Island, by an ‘unusual route’ other boats may have taken, delivering hundreds, maybe, safely to the mainland, 7.30 showed last night. Four people drowned on this voyage, witnesses said. Morrison lied to the House about this, and should be expelled from it.

In Eighteen Words

If the Liberals got fifty-three percent of the vote, what did Brock get? And what did Such get?

Quiz Time (44)

What was Ben Hur’s number on the slave galleon? You will remember Jack Hawkins’ tone when he addressed him. Who, uncredited, wrote this dialogue?

Quiz Time (43)

What kind of aeroplane did Laurence Olivier crash twice before he was begged to leave the RAF and direct, instead, as a war propaganda film, Henry V?

Quiz Time (42)

Orson Welles, who directed and starred in it, is wrongly credited with having written The Stranger, the first Cold War film noir.

Who actually wrote it?

Certain Housekeeping Matters (92)

An online magazine called The Theatre Review will begin to appear on Saturday, May 1. It will contain reviews of at least eight hundred words of plays in the Sydney-Wollongong-Katoomba-Gosford area. Certain well-known writers, some of them theatre practitioners, will contribute to it. It is hoped that in a few months they will be paid — two free tickets, a glass of red wine and twenty dollars per review, the latter sum rising as the magazine attracts, if it does, advertisements.

Within six months, it is hoped there will be a Newcastle, North Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Ballarat and Mildura version of it, independently available in those regions.

It will cost, from day one, each reader a dollar a week, four dollars a month, twelve dollars for three months, fifty dollars for a year.

Evan Williams, Julian Burnside, Richard Feidler, Noni Hazlehurst, Gerry Connolly, Tony Llewellyn Jones, Paul Cox, John Duigan, Bruce Beresford, David Marr, Drew Forsythe, Tim Ailwood, Laurel McGowan, Katherine Brisbane and so on will be approached. Anyone from this readership who wants to try out, and there are several talented regulars, should submit a sample review. It will not be too troubling if the same show gets more than one long dissenting essay. There will be a Letters Page as well for those enraged by what is said.

My co-editor will be Rowan McDonald, an actor-director-playwright currently performing Decadence by Berkoff in remote and coastal regions. In the initial package will be reviews by him and me that go back two years of past and present Sydney, or near-Sydney, productions.

I will let you know when the machinery is in place for subscriptions; on, or around, I suspect, Anzac Day.

After Brock, The Roadmap

(First published by Independent Australia)

It’s always different when it actually happens. After Brock’s decision, a narrow one, Weatherill will be Premier for six more years. Marshall will be overthrown next year. Labor will take Victoria in November; New South Wales in March; Queensland, probably, in April or May; and Abbott will be overthrown and replaced, by Hockey maybe, soon after our hundredth Anzac Day, and the Liberal Party disintegrate thereafter and the Katter-Palmer party replace it and the Joyce Nationals interbreed with it and become the second force.

Two hundred and sixty changed votes in Coulton might have prevented this, but there you go. The ‘Blue Continent’ scenario, so beloved of Kelly, Grattan, Uhlmann and two Joneses is now inoperative, defunct, redundant, and past caring; and our oldest, most resilient party is on the way back. It will be a red continent, probably, by 2017, with only a blue Tasmania.

This is because…well, it’s because the face of the Wolf has been shown protruding from the sheeps’ garb in every state; because Holden, Toyota, Qantas and Ardmona show they mean us ill; because Sinodinos shows how greedy they are; and Morrison how cruel. It is hard any more to find likeable, friendly qualities in them. They are the Looters Party, marauding like the SS through innocent suburbs, seeking whom they may devour. They do not care. They do not care. They want their pound of flesh. They do not care.

It is not the party any more of Hewson, Chaney, Peacock, Fraser, Collins, Hamer, Hasluck, Casey, Menzies, of Commonwealth Scholarships and a protected rural sector. It is not the party that, under Chipp, ceased censoring art films and under Holt enfranchised Aborigines and abolished White Australia; not the party that, under Fraser, protested an invasion by Soviet Russia of an adjacent country by seeking to boycott the Olympic Games, and welcomed boat-arriving refugees from a country we helped ravage in a losing war. It is a party more squalid, corrupt, small-minded and mingy than that. It is more like the party of Smith in Southern Rhodesia or Orval Faubus in Arkansas.

Yesterday Abbott applauded O’Neill for closing down an investigation into a murder, and the violent injury of sixty men by prison guards with clubs and knives. Yesterday Abbott spent another ten million looking for wreckage in an area of sea the size of Queensland, money that will now not be spent on the disabled, or dyslexic schoolchildren, or cancer research, or saving honourable industries. He will spend a hundred million, two hundred million, looking for bits of plane that could have been spent on flood relief, or a robotic cure for blindness, before someone tells him – Palmer, perhaps, Credlin, perhaps – that it is money wasted.

Figures like these, and figures like those attached to $inodino$, mean they have no credibility now, eight hundred million goes to Murdoch, but not one dollar to schoolkids buying text books. Billions in tax relief to Rinehart but not a dollar to Holden, or Toyota. Children’s lives are being smashed by the sacking of their father and their forced removal to a smaller dwelling in a distant town, away from their friends and their good school.

And the Wolves don’t care. These kids are fair game and fine feasting for some longtime party crony who puts another ten million in the bank and buys a chalet in Gstaadt. If ever there was a worship of the Golden Calf and a breaking of the Ten Commandments it is here, and now, by these awful, sabre-toothed people.

Killing. Stealing. Coveting. Dishonouring our parents’ generation. If it’s wrong, they’re up for it. If a dollar can be swindled out of the blameless and the needy, they will find a clause to extract it.

This is the worst bunch we have ever endured. They are worse than Askin. They are worse that Kennett. They are worse than Howard. They are what Shaw called, in words he gave his character Jesus of Nazareth, ‘the spirit of the wolf, striving to return’.

And it’s a pity.

And we will see what we shall see.

The Rising Cost Of MH 370

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on a sea-search for wreckage that will save no lives, money better spent on schoolkids’ shoes, or AIDS prevention, or building a solar car. As always, the Liberals care more for the dead than the living. They’d rather dredge up drowned corpses than cure kids of leukemia. They’d rather investigate roof-batt deaths than fund safe solar non-polluting energy and prolong the human race.

It fits Arthur Scargill’s description of the English Tories, ‘jackals and hyenas’, the scavengers of corpses. It fits the money spent on the acclamation of dead ANZACs, the money skimped on war-traumatised living soldiers, suiciding each year for want of treatment and consolation. It fits the money they took for so long from the tobacco industry, the only business that calculatedly kills its customers, after thirty years of enjoying the product, and two years of coughing blood.

What awful people they are. And how clearly, each day, they show it.

Manus: An Exchange

Dali March 22

How mad is this getting??

Doesn’t matter how deep Australia’s (so called) economic crisis is, Abbott will spend as much of our money as he wants in order to fend off the invading hordes of queue jumping heathens coming to pollute our national bloodstock.

He brags of his ‘success’ in keeping the numbers down to almost zero, as if it was a triumph of humanity to bash the fingers of survivors trying to clamber aboard your cruise liner.

It is inconceivable to imagine half a million (500 thousand) asylum seekers reaching Australia in one year. That would be 20 people per 1000 inhabitants of a vast rich part of planet earth squatted on by a tiny population. Inconceivable – a disaster, a failure, a catastrophe.

Meanwhile, yesterday, on this tiny island, one of the world’s most densely populated nations:

Friday, March 21: Valletta: Some 90 African refugees have been rescued at sea off Malta by a Maltese armed forces patrol vessel, a government statement said.

The refugees, including five women, were transferred from their small boat to the patrol vessel at sea, 25 nautical miles off Malta in the western Mediterranean Sea near Italy. The refugees, mostly from Syria, Palestine and the Horn of Africa, were intending to travel to Malta and its neighbouring country of Italy via Libya.

Malta last year received, on average, the highest number of asylum-seekers compared to its national population, a report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) shows. Malta received 20.2 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants. Sweden ranked second (19.2 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants), followed by Liechtenstein (17.3 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants), Luxembourg (11.9 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants), and Switzerland (11.5 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants).


chris hunter

Exactly. It’s all a beat up originated by the repugnant Howard. Even at its height our refugee intake is just a drop in the ocean.


Is the national psyche SO drenched in insecurity??

Is Howard’s “we will decide….. etc” a defiant manifesto of a resolute people, or a timorous whimper of a frightened tribe shivering in the dark?

You need to change the hearts and minds of the people… i.e. most voters.

Now, how will this be done?

chris hunter

The great Aussie male could be a myth – a wimp? A stooge easily manipulated – like Lenny in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men?


Tell me about the rabbits, George.

Well, we let them in, they bred like, urm… , rabbits, and we can’t exterminate them.


Today,v I heard Steve Earl say “the wo rld’s great cities were all built by immigrants”

It had the ring of truth.


Why are we are where we are?? Simply…

Abbott promised to stop the boats – then people voted for Abbott. If the boats aren’t stopped, that would be seen as a broken promise.

You need to change the hearts and minds of the people… i.e. most voters.

Abbott spends mountains of money keeping a handful of brown people out, yet I don’t hear anyone complaining.

If we treated our dogs as badly as we treat them, the cops would we knocking on our doors….

No Country For Old Men: David Williamson’s Travelling North

In the initial production Frank Wilson played the lead role, Frank Brown, with aggro and bluster of the sort he had brilliantly used in his Falstaff and convinced me he was in an indifferent, slipshod play. Bryan Brown as Frank Brown convinced me it was a masterpiece. Watchful, stoic, hypochondriac, agnostic, bemused, very quiet, he made plausible this lifelong Communist, Whitlam-voting now after, I guess, the Prague Spring, who had been in two World Wars and hated his Liberal-voting son, had no money to speak of, and liked fishing and Russian classical music on ABC radio, and late-life fornication with one wellbeloved but not, or not yet, married.

This Brown had no bluster, copped sweet the quietus coming for him, scorned all funerary obsequies and loved and bullied his woman, in the now recogniseable ANZAC way. He would have been on the Western Front in 1917, and he kept all that in. Australian stoicism, it was called once, the source and cause of much male Aussie tyranny. It was real, and it’s gone now.

Complaint has been heard about the David Fleischer set, a sort of Greek amphitheatre of wooden surfaces, but not from me. No chairs, no campervan, no doctor’s consulting office, no barbecue; it unshackled the characters from earthly encumbrance, correctly, told us only of their inner life, their dreaming; and the struggle elsewhere, by others, for their souls.

Frances’s two daughters Helen and Sophie want more of their mum (as babysitter, as confidant, as ever-wakeful midnight comfort) than she gave them in childhood, flittering away on her ‘travels’ and farming one of them out to an uncle, and their primal resentment of this, her absence in the tropics on a mission of lust (at her age, and, worse, at his) turns them, as Frank unamusedly notes, into ‘Goneril and Regan’; Harriet Dyer, as Helen, being redder in tooth and claw and possessed, in this rendition, of a lacerous fury that forebodes Oscars down the track. In the first production these two seemed supernumerary dullards, mere ‘filler’ of a drama elsewhere enacted. In this they are the play’s hot core.

Andrew Tighe and Russell Kiefel are very good as Frances’s half-hearted suitors, Freddy and Leo (Frank’s doctor), decorously waiting out their old mate’s shrunken lifetime before they poach his beauteous widow; Emily Russell very good as Joan, Frank’s daughter; Sara West good too as the more cowardly sister Sophie. Alison Whyte, who stepped in late, is poised and calm and sexy and strong as Frances, much like, say, Liv Ullmann might have been if so placed and so conscripted. The magnetic force between her and Brown is palpable but, as suits the times, dignified, unassertive, understated, laconic, evasive, defensively witty; and when she, suddenly shouting, swears she is leaving him for good it comes as a shock.

Very few David Williamson plays end in a death, and it is notable how well this one is managed. In his reclining chair, his portable radio playing Khachaturian to his less deaf ear, he suddenly slumps, the radio hits the floor and that is that. His search for a meaning to his life (agnostic, war veteran, widower, diet freak, there should be none) has found no culmination. He has fished a bit, loved a good woman, cursed the next generation, and that is that.

Once again, I saw too late a fine production (Andrew Upton; seamless; brilliantly cast) I would have gone back to with family and friends. But there you go.

A good night of theatre, with a hint of Ayckborne, Chekhov and Shaw to it; three fine performances; an Aussie icon well displayed; and hereinafter much missed, I guess, in this medium. And so it goes.


O’Neill doesn’t want too many ‘genuine refugees ‘, especially Muslims, settling down in Niugini, we’re now told, and it’s worth wondering what the deal with Rudd was, however sketchy, last July, and what the figure on it was, and if Abbott has halved it since then; or worse.

It would have been something like a new suburb, designed and built by Niuginians, with a thousand houses, apartments and shops in it, and a playing field or two, and three or four years’ dole and child payments for the new arrivals. Abbott on Morrison’s advice will have cancelled most of this by now, needing the money for lifeboats, and accommodation of the thugs on Manus; and, as a result, we have instead a permanent Guantanamo now.

How bad can this lot get? Every day we glimpse new depths. A lifetime, now, of dreary torment for the friends of Reza Barati unless they choose a public hanging in Iran. What a great idea that is.

How dumb they are.

Abbott thinks not going to Manus himself and sending out planes to look for floating wreckage for, oh, ten weeks is a good way to allocate money, and look for evidence, as a national priority.

But he should have gone to Manus. A young architect was murdered there on his watch, by three or four bad people he’s still paying, and he should have looked into this breach of the UN rules on how you treat refugees.

It gets more and more like Catch-22. Only a crazy man would choose Niugini, and we lock him up in Niugini for the rest of his life. And if he chooses to go home, where he’ll be killed, why, we’ll pay his fare, and we’ll send our sympathy to his parents, the way we did to Barati’s, the way you do. So he has a reasonable choice, of being killed, or life imprisonment, although he has done no wrong.

How mad is this getting?

Just asking.

The Coming Battle Of The Fat Men

It’s hard for Hockey to do anything now.

He has to argue that though Sinodinos was worth twenty million dollars for a few days’ work no disabled person should get any new help for six years and no special needs kid should get a chance in life. He has to argue that though Photios was worth a million dollars for a few hours’ work a fifty-two year old Qantas engineer should be sacked soon, and retrain as a packer of shelves at Woolworths. He has to argue that though Thomson, for misspending twenty-five thousand dollars in seven years (that’s, wow, ten dollars a day), will rightly get a year in gaol, Sinodinos, for cosily — corruptly? — agreeing to fix things with a Liberal government and making nine thousand times that amount in a couple of weeks, should get no time at all.

Because, well, because ‘the age of entitlement’ has to mean something. It has to mean people making more money than Photios or Sinodinos, and there aren’t any.

In the end, these numbers count, and they matter; they really, truly matter. In the end, these numbers must be argued in a moral way. And Joe can’t do that any more. Because another fat man, Palmer, has some moral sense, and he’s got the numbers, or he will have soon, to make Joe do the right thing now and then — about the dead soldiers’ kids, and the Aboriginal scholarships, and the refugees O’Neill won’t take, and should be settled here. And the Qantas engineers, those sky-conquering heroes who deserve better.

And it’s going to be a big, ugly battle now, after Sinodinos, and we will see what we shall see.

The Poirot Factor

Humans love a mystery. Hamlet, Oedipus Rex and JFK in Dallas are whodunits; Holmes, Poirot, House of Cards, Downton Abbey hinge on unsolved murders. The search for Harold Holt and Noah’s Ark continue.

So what $inodino$ did, and Abbott knew, and Hockey received in secret cash, will absorb us for a while yet, and so will MH 370. Schapelle Corby is dissipating after ten or twelve years; what George Pell knew, and asked, and said, is beginning.

It is foolish of the Labor Party not to have known this basic human truth, and used it. A murder on Manus with Morrison squirming in the torchlight they have not pursued. The framing of Slipper, with Pyne and Brough denounced by a judge, they have not raised in the Senate.

Are they so unskilled in their craft? It seems so. Watergate brought down a President, and that was about some bugged conversations. Worse things are known of Abbott, Pyne, Howard, Reith, Downer, Vanstone and Ruddock. A forcibly aborted woman. An old man who burned himself to death in Parliament House. A hundred women and children who drowned while distraught sailors, it seems, did not intervene. Boy-rape witnessed, and covered up.

Why not pursue these mysteries? Why not delight the readers of the Sunday papers?

What is holding you up?

Just asking.