Monthly Archives: April 2015

In Twenty-Five Words

At no point did Abbott and Bishop offer to send back twenty people smugglers in return for Chan and Sukumaran.

That’s how much they cared.

Last Notes On A Judicial Killing

2.43 am

The nine executions by firing squad, the ABC subtitle says, will occur ‘after 3 am’.

What else might Abbott have done to save them? He signed some letters, made some phone calls Widodo refused to take. What else could he have done?

Let me count the ways.

He might have realised, before this, it is in part, it is in large part about money, and Widodo by these executions will save two or three million dollars he might else have spent on the care and upkeep of Chan and Sukumara for fifty or sixty years. If he had been offered, say, six million dollars for their accommodation and food for fifteen years after which they would be let go in, say, 2030, he might have considered it. He might have considered it.

If he had been offered twenty million for letting them come home now, and serve five more years in an Australian prison, and then be let go, he might have given it some thought.

If he had been offered fifty million ‘ransom’, along with similar sums from other countries with nationals on his Death Row, it would perhaps have persuaded him. Or not.

If Abbott had offered to take in five thousand boat people plus all the Bali Nine, he would have said yes. He will have spent, in the next ten years, a billion dollars on those detainees, and he would have liked, really liked, I think, to have saved it.

Abbott could have threatened, plausibly, to ban all Australians from going to Bali for five years. Eighty Australians were killed there, in the Sari Club, he could have argued, and this will be two more.

So much of this is about money, and Abbott, a fool, hasn’t noticed this.

If Abbott had offered, as Howard eventually did in the case of David Hicks, to let them see out their term, of another ten years, in an Australian prison, he might have had second thoughts.

3.37 am

Eight executions have taken place. The Filipino woman, Mary jane Beloso, has been, for the moment, reprieved.

And I continue, with a sigh, my now redundant hypotheticals. What might have been.

A threat to end all aid to Indonesia for five years might have wedged Widodo; or not. If that threat had been echoed by other countries with prisoners on his Death Row it might have convinced him. It might.

Abbott, moreover, should have done weeks ago what Cowell, Brown, Rush, Pearce and Mailman beseeched him to do last night, turn up in Jakarta and ask at the airport for a meeting. If he was refused the meeting he could have recalled our ambassador, discontinued our aid money, asked other countries to do likewise, and flown home.

He was unwise to say, on Saturday, of our Anzacs, they did their duty, it’s time we did ours; or words to that effect. His duty was to front up, however hopelessly, and face to face and man to man ask Joko to show mercy, quoting Shakespeare’s Portia if need be, and see how he went.

Did he do enough? Of course he didn’t. The man who didn’t take the phone calls of the Lindt Cafe hostages (‘The Prime Minister is too busy at this time’), the man who when cancelling his own wedding had his mother make the dread phone call to his weeping, pregnant bride, is not in the end all that brave an Aussie bloke, when it comes down to it, not all that courageous and valiant an Anzac. He is what some Australians call ‘piss weak’.

And that should be, in due course, a big part of his epitaph.

4.55 am

A further thought.

This may be a big hinge moment in our politics, in our self-image. We have heard a call for mercy, mercy please, by a government that locks up children for ninety years on Nauru, and fails to investigate a clubbing to death on Manus of an Iranian architect who did nobody harm, and lets a young man starve himself to death, another young man burn himself to death, for want of a visa, a passport, a certificate of permission to work in this country. Mercy please for two drug dealers but not these people; they do not deserve our mercy, any of them.

Is this hypocrisy, this cruelty, this brazen breach of the Christian ethic, and the Anzac spirit, an acceptable way of doing things any more?

I doubt it, I doubt it.

And we will see what we shall see.

Morrison’s New Nannies

It’s worth noting who will not get nannies under Morrison’s new arrangements.

Will male homosexual unmarried fathers working shifts tending bar or cooking in a restaurant get a nanny? Of course not.

Will unmarried Aboriginal mothers on shift work with children by different fathers and a drink-driving conviction get a nanny? Of course not.

Will unmarried atheist heterosexual shiftworkers, running a restaurant or a late-night coffee shop,and living together as lovers, get a nanny? Of course not.

Will Aboriginal footballers get a nanny on the nights when their wives are working in supermarkets and a female relative or friend now baby-sits for them for free? No way.

There will, though, be a curiously large number of Hillsong ministers and their wives who get a nanny on those nights when they are conducting religious services out of town.

No-one unemployed, and working as a volunteer social worker or school band conductor at night, will get a nanny. Of course he won’t. He should be in a paying job.

Will any ‘granny nanny’ be paid? Of course she won’t. She’s fool enough to work already for free.

Will any ‘boat-person’ woman currently on a TPV be allowed to work as a nanny in Sydney or Melbourne and so clothe and feed her own children? You must be joking.

Will women on Nauru be allowed to come to the mainland and work as nannies in country towns? Talk about laugh.

And how much will they be paid? Guess.

This is as idiotic a policy as the GP co-payment, and it will ruin Morrison, as Abbott intends it to.


Andrew Lesnie

Andrew Lesnie shot my first feature film Unfinished Business. It was, I think, the first ‘big’ work he did after Film School. I can’t believe he’s dead.

More to come.

The Eighteen Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (244)

Abbott gave five million dollars, enough to buy Malcolm Turnbull’s back yard, to the earthquake-shattered country of Nepal, and a hundred million dollars to a new museum acclaiming dead Australians in France. ‘Though that sum would have saved a thousand Nepalese lives, ‘ he said, gamely, ‘it were better it go to our glorious dead, who do not complain in letters to the editor or tweets or insolent videos that it wasn’t enough, and they wanted more.’ Asked if the money would have been better spent on disabled children, or child care, or old people in nursing homes with special needs, or dogs for those old people, or a cure for diabetes or Alzheimer’s, he said, ‘Are you kidding? Did they die for their country at eighteen in a war nobody could make any sense of? Get your priorities right, son, or you’ll never get an Australia Day knighthood from me.’ A recipient of one such knighthood, ‘Sir’ Peter Cosgrove, wondered if he should sack him now, or after the Budget, which was already zilching.

Joe Hockey said the Budget was nothing to worry about. ‘Though it will lose us our triple-A rating, it will bring us into surplus, I assure you, or the neighbourhood of surplus, by 2050,’ he said, ‘when I will still be Treasurer, and aged eighty-five, and Wyatt Roy Prime Minister aged fifty. Sixty, sorry, I always have trouble with my figures.’

Bryan Brown, Geoffrey Rush, Brendan Cowell, Deborah Mailman, Guy Pearce and some other eminent actors urged Abbott in a video to fly to Indonesia, face down Widodo and ‘bring our boys home’. Abbott said this would be ‘counterproductive’ as he might be successful, but he would come home with thirty thousand boat people also; that, or Widodo, in a warlike fury, would deliver that number of boat people to Broome or Darwin by battleship, guns blazing, and leave us in a ‘bureaucratic and diplomatic difficulty’.

‘Better our boys face execution by firing squad,’ he added, ‘with no religious person present, as my close friend Joko has wisely decreed. Neither after all is Catholic, and both will go to Hell, and it would be pointless to give them any hope before that moment of sudden posthumous discovery.’ The contemptuous movie stars said Abbott lacked ‘ticker’ and unlike two hundred Australian DAISH recruits, was a ‘yellow belly’ or a ‘banana-spined dingo’ or an ‘arse-creeping Jesuit weak tosser’, since he would not like a true Anzac go overseas and fight for what he believed in; not even a consummate, uncontracepted wedding night for Andrew Chan.

Julie Bishop defended him, saying, ‘Look, it was for his Chicken Little qualities that we elected him leader. His purpose, as we saw it back then, was to create fear and international panic in the coming years unremittingly, to the point where I or Scott Morrison manfully step in, denounce him as a “jellyback” and in a bloodless coup replace him.’ Asked if that dread day had now arrived, she said, ‘Call me Tuesday.’

‘Two hundred and fifty million dollars,’ Morrison said, ‘that is, five dollars per taxpayer per year, will be spent hiring after-hours nannies for ten thousand white Christian shiftworkers, white Hillsong shiftworkers preferably, and on no black, Muslim, hippy, atheist, unmarried or homosexual parents whatever.’ He wiped a small patch of white foam from the corner of his mouth. ‘Those that already have grandmothers doing the work will get no money at all. And those heathen mothers on TPVs, of course, will not only get nothing at all, they will be forbidden to work as nannies in Australia to provide their own children with food and shelter, as God intends for those lesser breeds without the law who will be, if I have anything to do with it, the white man’s burden no longer.’

He was hailed by David Speers as ‘a Solomon! A Solomon come to judgment!’; and then, wiping his mouth once more, he added, ‘Of course, this is only for eighteen months; until the next election; after which the present system of free-market soiled-nappy-changing female enslavement will happily return. There are those who think women at present unemployed and weeping in post-abortion bereavement on Nauru should be let into Australia and become cheap nannies in that large, needy country, but this of course is laughable, and you have another think coming, sunshine, if you are one of them. They will never live in Australia. THEY WILL NEVER LIVE IN AUSTRALIA, OR WORK HERE!’ He began then to speak in tongues, and was assisted from the room, and, as the saying is, ‘settled down’.

Alan Jones, a Liberal voter, urged that Lawrence Springborg, a Liberal voter, be arrested as a common criminal and cast out of Queensland parliament for having released, today, illegally, details of Billy Gordon’s private life and having recommended his vote be disregarded and his electors thus disfranchised. ‘This loathesome crony of Big Mining should himself have resigned his parliamentary seat by close of business this afternoon,’ Jones said with feline asperity. And Murdoch, his employer, let him say it.

And so it went.

Gallipoli: An Exchange

My friend Rob McLachlan, with whom I wrote the Chifley play a Local Man, is a Canadian-born Bathurst resident and local historian and a fierce fan of a local boy, Charles Bean, the war historian, and I emailed him, saying:

From Bob Ellis

I’ve now seen Deadline Gallipoli twice. What did you think of it?

And Rob replied, saying:

Hello Bob,

I don’t have cable vision (or anything but “free to air”) television, so I can’t comment. Sorry. I live in a different world. However, I did see at the National Film and Sound Archives a most interesting documentary that you should try to see - if at all possible.

It’s the Imperial War Museum’s construction of the 1945 documentary on the liberation of concentration camps, focussing mainly on Belsen.

The film was made by army film crews but was never completed, but the films, script, sound, etc. were all preserved - and from this the film was “reconstructed”. It has just been released - but it will never appear on television or in a cinema. Just too stark, too confronting, but fascinating for what it is.

As for Gallipoli and the centenary, I have largely avoided and evaded much of the circus of TV programmes and government spectacles. I just can’t buy into the myths. If you want a WWI event that is truly Australia’s “baptism” as a nation, then look not at your blind following of the British into an imperial misadventure, but look at how twice you debated and then voted democratically on the issue of conscription and - against the wishes of Empire and Government - voted against conscription and this vote was accepted, if reluctantly so, by your government.

That’s the birth of a democratic nation; that’s the test that war set you. And, your new nation came up trumps! Not the day you invaded - successfully - the shores of another country, with whom you had no quarrel, on the instructions and under the direction of your imperial masters.

And, to top it off, the next generation did exactly much the same thing of following blindly your imperial masters, having failed to learn the lesson of your first test as a
nation. The watchword for Anzac centenary ought to “We shall remember them - and never again.”

Gotta go. “Fortitude” is coming on shortly. Not quite the Canadian arctic, but it’ll do.


Certain Housekeeping Matters (167)

I’ve completed my review of Deadline Gallipoli, and will put up any other assessment of it respondents want to send in.

I will also put up any responses on Gallipoli, a big subject, that seem to me worthwhile.

The first is from Rob MacLachlan, with whom I wrote the Chifley play A Local Man, above.

The Twenty Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (243)

Abbott went to Gallipoli and in a fine speech praised the Turks for ‘stopping the boats’ at the Dardanelles and urged the EU to do likewise in the Mediterranean. ‘Those ingrates fleeing DAISH-style mass murderers in Africa,’ he said, licking his lips, ‘should be sent back there, to take their medicine; in Libya, Somalia, and Eritrea.’ Julie Bishop, in Paris, called these comments ‘moronic’ and promised ‘better speeches under my administration.’ Adoring survivors of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter hailed her as the ‘chained duck’ of South Pacific policy and looked frankly down her dress.

Abbott went on to praise the boat people, or ANZACs as he called them, for ‘proving themselves’ and ‘showing fine character qualities’ in the minutes before their several massacres in the worst-planned military campaign since that of Richard the Lion Heart versus Saladin, the Attaturk of his day. ‘Though they died in vain,’ he said, ‘and set in train the deaths in subsequent battles, flu epidemics, air raids and gas chambers of two hundred million more, they showed fine character qualities they did not, alas, bring home with them, owing to their frequent slaughter in ill-judged battles we are here to celebrate as triumphs of the human spirit. Let’s hear it for the boat people of April 1915!’

Prince Charles in a beautiful voice resembling that of Jeremy Irons then read a letter suggesting the whole thing might have been a ‘military error’ and Abbott looked at him astonished. ‘If you think you’ll get a knighthood after that, son,’ he whispered, ‘you’re mistaken.’

Nepal fell in; and then, in aftershocks, fell in again. Everest avalanches buried, or may have buried, some Australians on the lower slopes. Abbott, jet-lagged, rapidly thought he might send in an army to undermine that iconic mountain, find corpses and ‘bring them home’ and give them all state funerals at a cost of billions then call a snap election before the Budget failed in mid-May but was rapidly dissuaded by Credlin, who brewed his special tea and spoke to him sternly but kindly. Millions, he was told, not billions. He sent in five million, enough to buy Turnbull’s back yard, and fell into a swither of jet lag and road rage and number counting on the way home.

He was having a hard weekend. It worsened when he heard that two Australians would be shot on Tuesday and Widido was adamant about this and still not accepting his calls and Bishop and Turnbull were plotting against him and Hockey, a closet Armenian, proposing to bag the Turks for exterminating his ancestors the day before Gallipoli after he, Abbott, had lavishly praised them for murdering Australians when they landed, heroically, on the wrong beach and failed to pull out immediately though Winston Churchill begged them to, and so died in their thousands needlessly. He told Joe ‘Don’t mention Armenia’, and Joe cancelled his address, aggrieving his relatives, and began to plot against him also.

He was having a hard weekend. Some regulars on Insiders praised Shorten for announcing, prematurely, good, costed policies and bagged Joe for asserting that negative gearing was ‘keeping house prices down’, though they went up by a record amount on Anzac Day, and the day after. ‘Bad policies lose votes,’ Cassidy said grimly and the nation believed him. ‘And this fool government has no other kind.’

An Adelaide doctor proved to have flown to Syria to tend the sick and the wounded of ISIS undetected by our new friends the Iranian spies a mere month ago and Abbott asked Angus if we should shoot him or not. ‘Shooting an Australian doctor while pleading Australian drug dealers not be shot?’ Angus pondered. ‘Not your best idea thus far, Prime Minister.’

It was announced the two drug dealers would be shot on Wednesday morning; and then that two judges, ten years ago, had asked for a million rupiah to commute this to twenty years. Since no-one had been executed on Bali thus far (though a million Chinese had been massacred there in the 1960s), the lawyer thought they were ‘kidding’. This left Abbott, whose calls Widodo still wasn’t taking, with the option of banning all Australians from going to Bali after Wednesday, and thus perhaps pressuring Joko to charge the judges and release the prisoners.

He thought of this, but was then told Joko would release not only the prisoners but all the boat people he was detaining into Abbott’s care; about thirty thousand of them; in gunships that would speed forthwith to Darwin, guns blazing,

He called for another cup of ‘special tea’.

He was having a hard weekend.

And so it went.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (166)

I erred; and I apologise.

Deadline Gallipoli is not on tonight on the History Channel at 7.30. A documentary about it is.

It’s on, though, at 8.30 on Showcase.

And it should be seen.

Dutton’s Foundlings

(First published by Independent Australia)

There are some questions we might ask of Dutton regarding the asylum seekers sent back to Vietnam.

How many were children? How many were pregnant women? How many were girls below the age of consent? Where will these new babies and young people be educated? What jobs may they look forward to when they are grown? What income levels?

Will their parents be arrested? Will they be ‘temporarily detained’? What does this mean?

Is it a crime to leave Vietnam in a boat? What is the punishment of that crime?

Were any of these questions asked when these immigrants were ‘assessed’ at sea by Australian authorities? Did these authorities speak Vietnamese? How did they get on board the boat? Or did they merely phone their questions in? Or telex their questions which then were asked in English of desperate, scared people without a lawyer present or a trustworthy translator?

Piracy, kidnap, wrongful detention occurred here, and what is usually called ‘interference in the course of justice’.

A female relative of some of the kidnapped — a mother? an aunt? a sister? — is detained in Australia, and not allowed to see them, or plead for them. A country without democratic process, a police state we once went to war with because of what it stood for, is now therefore able to do what it wants with ‘deserters’ whom we have given back to it, at gunpoint.

How much worse can this government get? Just asking.

It is likely as well that the raped little girl whom Dutton is sending this weekend back to Nauru, where she was raped, will be raped again, and eventually suicide though she may not suicide for years. It is certain her assailant, or assailants, will not be punished, ever.

It is certain she will spend the rest of her life on Nauru, a place with no career prospects and no chance of a university education, however talented she is, for a period — if she lives — of ninety or a hundred years, a sentence longer than any mass murderer gets in a hundred and sixty countries.

It is likely she will never marry or have children. It is probable she will be, for some years, a prostitute. It is possible she will be killed while in that profession. It is probable she will become diseased.

All this is because she accompanied her parents, when she was little, on a legal journey to an attractive country, famed for its vibrant multiculture, and its welcoming attitude to visitors, as it showed at the 2000 Olympics, but chose, alas, the wrong month of 2013 to make that journey.

Dutton will not have thought of any of these things. He doesn’t want to know. He is not intelligent enough to know, or think in any depth of such things. His hands are over his eyes, and he is a fool.

How much worse can this government get?

Just asking.

A Gallipoli Footnote

There’s been no ‘death cult’ like this Anzac nonsense in our national history.

We are told our young men ‘came of age’ on that fatal shore (no; they died; they died; they simply died); we are told they ‘made a sacrifice’ (no; Hamilton sacrificed them, as Abraham nearly did Isaac, to salve his crazed, embittered pride); we are told they ‘did not die in vain’ (they did; they did; no good came of it, no good at all).

It’s worse than that, though. Winston’s ‘thought bubble’ was a sound one; and had the attack been more sudden, and better timed and organised, and not foreboded by days of bombardment, it would have shortened the war by three years, prevented Soviet Communism, Hitler, Stalin, Franco, World War Two, the Cold War and the Arms Race, and saved, and enlarged, and enriched, a hundred million lives.

And we’re supposed to celebrate this debacle, this holocaust of good young men. Because our efforts, and the genius of Monash, drove the cousin of King George V, a grandson of Queen Victoria, out of France and Belgium? Really?

Germany had a social system better than England’s, and would have been worth trying on. And twenty million died to save us from it. And this was a good thing, we are told.

No, it wasn’t.

The war also interrupted the Australian Experiment, which had led the world for ten years, and it never recovered its momentum, its first, fine careless rapture. Scandinavia then led the world, and we didn’t. We got some of that rapture back under Whitlam, but Fraser, Kerr, world Thatcherism, and then world Reaganism, egged on by Murdoch, and then by Hawke, Dawkins, Button, Keating, Costello, Howard, Hockey and Abbott, resurrected capitalist cruelty; and here we are.

And it’s a pity.

The Anzac Death Cult has been exposed, this year, by many books and essays and documentaries and the fine miniseries Deadline Gallipoli, on again tonight on the History Channel, for what it is, a kind of disease of the brain.

And we should be done with it, now and forever.


Our Men At The Front: Beattie, Grant, Perske, Shortland And Rymer’s Deadline Gallipoli

Whatever its ratings, Deadline Gallipoli surpassed all rival Great War dramatisations — apart from Beneath Hill 60 — and prevailed, on screen, as retrieved history like no other.

It recounts how the correspondents Charles Bean, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, Phillip Schuler and Keith Murdoch experienced that campaign, and how army censorship, and the demented commanding general, Sir Ian Hamilton, stopped them reporting how it was; and how, in their various ways, they got around this, and saved a lot of lives, after watching tens of thousands die in vain.

The opening sequence, with Bean (Joel Jackson) splashing ashore and trudging knock-kneed up the beach and men falling brainsplattered around him, is as good as the first minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Other battle sequences rival those in Lincoln and The Water Diviner, and contrasts abound. We see the luxurious on-board quarters of Hamilton  (Charles Dance); an embassy ball in Cairo, a croquet lawn in the Home Counties, the conference room in Whitehall of Kitchener (John Bell), and various London gatherings where a gently-spoken Winston Churchill (Simon Maiden) is present, and Jack his brother, a serving officer (Charles Mayer), and Jack’s wife whom Ashmead-Bartlett is shamelessly tupping. Most telling in its way is the tent in Lemnos in which the correspondents, rowed back daily from the front, drink toasts in champagne and lie about women, as correspondents do, while Bean sits apart, appalled at how things are going, and scribbling shorthand notes he will save till after, if he lives.

Sam Worthington is very, very good as Schuler, a guilt-struck war photographer who fakes many photos and eventually joins up, in self-disgust, as an ambulance driver in France; and woos and beds a nurse he knows he soon must leave among the mounting and screaming carnage, doing her job; Bryan Brown very fine as Bill Bridges, an Australian general dying of gangrene and yearning to see Paris just once and asking Schuler what it is like. Joel Jackson has a wonderful lanky awkward aspergers-syndrome knowing innocence as the silent, ever-simmering Bean, a bit like Henry Fonda’s young Abe Lincoln. John Bell is superb as Kitchener, his face a reddening mask of authoritarian rage, like the poster, ‘England Needs You’, his moustache forever, by the look of it, quivering. Ten other actors, four of them female, whose names I cannot easily uncover, do excellent work of similar stirring quality.

Best, though, is Charles Dance, probably, who gives us both Hamilton’s madness and his gentleness, his good manners and his tenderness and his red-rimmed, nightmare-swollen eyes. Though the cause of tens of thousands of needless deaths, we feel for the agony he is in. Promoted above his abilities, he cannot admit a mistake. He must push on, push on to the end. The aren’t enough bullets? There isn’t enough water? Don’t trouble me with details, man, push on. He lived, thus haunted, and thus derided and shunned, until he was ninety-four.

Ewen Leslie gives us a Keith Murdoch as he must have been: opportunistic, headline-hungry, determined to use his mere forty-eight hours in the beach to change the course of the war, and history. Like his son Rupert he is an envelope-pusher; he risks being shot for treason and gets, willy-nilly, after hairsbreadth escapes, the information out, and wears with a smooth reactive sneer the defamation ‘colonial’, untroubled by it: he is proud to be one, and a shaper of our national future, Down Under.

Hugh Dancy as Ashmead-Bartlett gives us an intricate, wily, brandy-toping rogue and ‘cad’, as they used to be called; like Waugh’s Basil Seal with a whiff of Errol Flynn and Flashman. He lies about what he has witnessed, romanticising the filth and waste and carnage as required by the army censor; he pilfer’s Bean’s notes and, for a time, Jack Churchill’s wife while helping ruin Winston; he thieves drink and money and he saves, yes, many lives. He ends up, as many heroes do, unemployable and shambolic, improvising a patched and ragged life post-war on the lecture circuit, drinking heavily, as always, and always insecure. Many another champagne-quaffing Australian adventurer has been like him, and ended as badly. George Johnston was one; John Meillon; Ron Saw.

The script, by Stuart Beattie, Shaun Grant, Jacqueline Perske and Cate Shortland, is witty, brisk, informative and, from where I sit, as a rival screenwriter, unimprovable. The direction by Michael Rymer as good as Joe Wright’s in Atonement. The art direction, by Kate Rawlins, Joey Charlton and Kane McKay, is perfection; and the transformation, in part by the lighting cameraman xxx, of various beaches, hills and houses of South Australia into London, Lemnos and the snow-swirling Dardanelles, is everywhere breathtaking. A couple of coastal sunsets with grey clouds and human silhouettes will imprint themselves, in time, on our race memory.

And the story makes nonsense, of course, of everything Abbott said yesterday, on the spot. Our troops did not show their best qualities in those trenches and on those boats and cliffs at all. Their ongoing craven compliance with Hamilton’s blithering incompetence (there were no greatcoats when the snows came, and hundreds froze to death; there was insufficient clean water to drink, there weren’t enough bullets, for fuck’s sake) looks in retrospect like a Nuremberg war crime. They should have shot him, and his timid, fawning staff officers, and taken over his boat and sailed south, and wrenched Australia out of the British Empire, as we nearly did after the Bodyline tests, after only a couple of months of the initial blood-stained putrid farce. They should have done their duty to their country, not Sir Ian Hamilton.

We lost our Better Australia on that beach, and we never got it back. We lost to grief, madness, berevement, mutilation, lonely suicide, flu and muddy death half a million promising young lives and there will never be adequate an Apology, recompense or atonement for that.

It is a wonderful, wonderful miniseries I have seen twice now, and I urge it on you.

The Nineteen Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (242)

PVO, a Liberal voter, said Wayne Swan, 60, should leave politics as he was ‘of no further use’. He did not say this of Bill Heffernan, 72, Bronwyn Bishop, 73, or Phillip Ruddock, 75, before the last election; nor did he say it in 2007 of John Howard, then 68, when everybody including all the Liberals wanted him to fuck off, or, alternatively, go bag his head. The Choirboy feared that Swan, whose achievement when Treasurer was unmatched and praised around the world, might add some sage advice to Labor policy in the coming decades and ensure they stay in office for another thirty years.

The Choirboy agreed with Labor’s new tax on those earning more in interest on their super than seventy-five thousand a year. He disagreed with those earning more than two hundred and fifty thousand in interest on super a year being taxed even more. Such people, he was aware, would someday include himself, and such good, fine people should be ‘encouraged’, he said, in their swollen greed for lifelong luxury and should not, as the lower orders were, be bullied into contributing, through tax, to the good of society. ‘What do I care for society?’ he said. ‘I’ve got me.’

Chris Jordan, head of the ATO, said Google, Apple, Microsoft, Rio Tinto and BHO Billiton had lied to the Senate and their CEOs should probably go to gaol. He was reminded they were all Liberal voters, and he rapidly changed his mind.

Abbott said European governments should with gunship flotillas turn back in their tens of thousands frantic swimming refugees and their squealing wives and children and thereby ensure they died instead under torture or by firing squad or ritual beheading in Libya, Somalia, Eritrea or Yemen and thus teach these noisy heathens a lesson, the ‘sovereign borders’ lesson he, Abbott, and his fellow seadogs Scott and Angus were famous for.

His Deputy Julie Bishop disagreed. ‘Individual governments,’ she said, ‘should individually decide what their individual attitude is to unwelcome visitors and how, according to their differing cultural traditions, they should be put to death. Some would prefer they be left to drown. Some would like them to be locked up, as we do, for a hundred years on, say, St Helena or Tierra Del Fuego, and buried in unmarked graves.’

It was none of our business, she said, what happened in these faraway Mediterranean and Middle Eastern satrapies, and what methods their tyrannies used to kill people, and how many. ‘Why, zen, wair you in ze Dardanelles?’ she was asked by an uppity smooth Frenchman. She gave her inquisitor a death-stare and said, ‘Go fuck yourself.’

Dutton upped his offer to four comfort women, and two sets of steak knives, in the hope that somebody, anybody, would go to Cambodia. ‘Villainous propagandists,’ he said, ‘have put about the lie that Cambodia was a place with Killing Fields, and genocide, and poverty, and child prostitution, and no social services, and no job opportunities for Iranian speaking university graduates in call centres, where the average immigrant would starve to death in a year.

‘This is totally untrue. Our experts have put that figure at two years. These recalcitrant heathens may rest assured they will never live in Australia. Better they sell drugs and their bodies in Pnom Penh, and die of AIDS in their twenties, than spend seventy or ninety years among birdshit unemployed and playing chess and humming old songs on Nauru. This is our policy, and we will not flinch from it.’

Joe Hockey swore negative gearing, which made home ownership in the inner suburbs of the capital cities hereinafter impossible, would continue until a bedsit cost at least three million dollars in Paramatta. Labor wanting to end it, he fumed, and let this generation buy houses and flats as their forefathers did, was ‘policy on the run. When China is Australia’s landlord,’ he added, ‘of every house, every farm, every town hall, every seven-eleven, they will see that I am right.’

It was revealed that it was Abbott and Credlin, not Pyne, who had shovelled money in millions towards the madman Lomborg, whom the Danish government had lately told to bugger off out of Europe, crazy person, and don’t you ever come back. The timing was unfortunate, some commentators reckoned, since the great storms on the east coast that proved him a blithering idiot were fulminating and raging still. ‘They are a once-in-a decade event,’ Abbott mumbled, feebly, in Ankara, glad he was nowhere near the damage lest storm-smashed families spit at his feet. They were a once in ten thousand years event, many experts, differing, said; millennia before the pyramids the weather had been ‘nearly as bad’. Pyne, who had been asked to resign over it, suggested the Horsewoman of the Apocalypse, Credlin, resign her position by sunset, as it was all her fault. She went to her room, and planned his political execution.

And so it went.

The Twenty-Nine Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (241)

Abbott’s ongoing policy of ‘billions for the dead, cold mutton for the living’ came under ‘friendly fire’ (as one wit called it) when the RSL and a hundred thousand adjacent ex-servicemen griped, like Oliver Twist, ‘Please, sir, I want more.’ His recent pay cut for those mutilated, crippled, made mad and bereaved of a brother for their country was, they said, ‘unfair’, and ‘exactly what one might expect from a whingeing ten-pound Pom who has never been under bombardment nor seen a mate beheaded by a Jap nor blown into flying chunks of meat by the Taliban.’

Abbott responding cursed with asperity those ‘uppity Anzacs’ who should, he said, ‘get in the queue’ and watch the ‘much more deserving Australian hero, Gina Rinehart, earn sixty thousand dollars a minute around the clock and sue her children for even more. ‘This is an adult administration,’ he added, clearing his throat, ‘and we know what true mateship means. It means buckets of money to Gina and Twiggy, and millions in kickbacks to the Liberal Party. And we need no further advice from these Birthday Ballot-subsidised ingrates with mutant Agent Orange children on how best to disperse those billions we borrow from the Chinese. Corporate polluters are the top of our list, and these beer-bellied rancorous losers were better advised to go out and busk with a mouth organ, those that still have one arm, and sleep on Ettalong beach till the economy improves in, Joe says, 2050, by which time it will be under water.’

He then flew off to Gallipoli to acclaim the ‘glorious dead’ who had lost, he said, ‘a far, far bigger battle than Long Tan’ and deserved, he said, ‘posthumous billions for this historic engagement, which by its famous bungling caused Soviet Communism and World War Two.’

Storms lashed New South Wales in greater ferocity than any in ten thousand years and Bjorn Lomborg, a Liberal voter, said, ‘This proves climate change is not a science but a laughable myth. The droughts Tim Flannery predicted are nowhere to be seen, and floods, gales and lightning strikes are occurring, instead, all over the Commonwealth.’ Told by Alan Jones the droughts continued west of the Divide where dustblown farms were ‘on their last legs’, he said, ‘Oops. I meant droughts in wet, coastal areas. And oceans.’ Pyne announced that he, Bjorn, would get millions more for his ‘fearless accuracy’ and his ‘unflinching support for the truth of Christ’s gospel, and his imminent Second Coming, after which the long prophesied Global Warming will have to be seen to be believed.’

Sussan Ley said there will be no co-payment but doctors would have to fight like beavers for every penny she henceforth sent them. ‘Treatments for what are obvious fatal conditions, like pneumonia, we regard as a waste of money,’ she said, ‘and it is better for the economy that such hopeless cases be evicted from hospital beds and allowed to die homeless, with dignity, under blankets on the flooded streets.’

Chris Bowen said Labor tax those earning seventy-five thousand a year from the interest on their super fifteen percent a year. Joe Hockey, a Liberal voter, said this was no way to solve anything, and kept sweatily yelling ‘Australia is open for business!’ at a room full of usurers and stockbrokers and gougers of Aboriginal sacred ground.

John Key, a Liberal voter, kept pulling the ponytail of a waitress till she said she would slug him if he didn’t stop. David Cameron, a Liberal voter, fell further behind Ed Milliband, the Labour leader, in the election campaign in Great Britain.

In Australia, Labor’s policy enraged seventy-five thousand people and gratified twenty-three million. The 1.4 billion a year it would earn could help fund NDIS, or Gonski, or save straitened, plaintive Western Australia from years of shame and beggary. David Speers, a Liberal voter, interviewed Bowen, and, looking flummoxed, couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The Liberal Party teetered, once more, on the brink of extinction.

Joe said the Budget would be in surplus ‘as soon as possible’, but would not specify a decade, or a century. Paying a billion a month in interest on our debt was, in his words, ‘all right with me. I expect to be Treasurer for a hundred years, and we have all the time in the world.’

Miranda Devine, a Liberal voter, cursed Joe roundly and bade him fucking go overseas and fucking stay there, and let the ‘adults’ devise the Budget in his absence, naming Frydenberg and Cormann. Asked if the ‘adults’ included Abbott, she said, ‘No fucking way’.

She agreed with PVO that Labor’s new super tax was a good idea but it shouldn’t be implemented because it smelt, in the present context, like ‘class warfare’, and class warfare was wrong. It was wrong to envy, say, Gina Rinehart for getting a million dollars every half hour, the lower orders should just get used to it, and wrong to advantage 99.4643 percent of the population while annoying as many, shock horror, as 0.5357 percent, far too large a figure to be tolerated on Skynews. How dare Shorten, they chorused, ‘come up with a good policy just because we asked him to? Who does he think he is? The alternative Prime Minister?’

Peter Dutton, in what some called, with irony, a ‘fireside chat’, said those who did not go in the first group to Cambodia would not get ‘ten thousand dollars, three comfort women for a fortnight, and a free set of steak knives’ that he had promised; and they would spend, instead, ninety years on Nauru, an island thronged with unpunished child rapists and corrupt police, with fewer career prospects than even Pnomh Penh, which would vanish under the rising seas as the earth warmed, moreover, in forty years.

He was amazed this generosity was derided. Ian Rintoul said, ‘They do not speak the language, they would not get a job, and they would die coughing blood in the gutter of AIDS in five years.’ Dutton said this was ‘a very pessimistic view. Many, many immigrants did well in Cambodia; in one pleasing single instance, the eminent Parisian, Pol Pot.’ Told that many others ended up, when Pol Pot ruled, in the Killing Fields, he said, ‘Well, it’s a far, far better outcome than drowning at sea.’

And so concluded another day of the worst free-elected government in human history, since democracy in its present form was invented in Iceland in AD 934.

A Reminder

I urge you to watch David Bradbury’s masterpiece, The Crater, on Thursday at 9.30 pm on ABC.

The Big Lies

The number and size of the lies of the Abbott government is remarkable.

We are told they have stopped the boats. But one was taken back to Vietnam only last week. How many were taken back to Sri Lanka, or Somalia, or Fiji, we may never know.

We are told that, in the nick of time, we were saved from ‘young terrorists’ blowing up Anzac Day in Melbourne. And then we are told that Anzac Day will be ‘perfectly safe’ and we should turn up in our hundreds of thousands, our millions, to watch, on the main streets of our towns, the hundredth exultant celebration of this national holy day.

We are told that eight thousand Australians will be safe on Gallipoli, though DAISH is just down the road, and a couple of their drones could kill five hundred of us, in that crowd, at dawn, on Friday.

We are told that domestic violence is a ‘high priority’, though money that might have saved Luke Batty was cut in the months before his death at his crazed father’s hands in the months before it happened.

We are told we are in constant mortal danger of terrorist attack, on whose prevention we are spending billions, though only one person, Tory Johnson, has died on our soil in a hundred years at the hands of a ‘terrorist’, and two a week die from domestic violence, and three hundred a day from smoking. Red-back spiders have killed three hundred times as many Australians in this last century as terrorists, sharks a hundred times as many, backyard pool drownings ninety times as many.

Some deaths, it seems, are more serious than others. Though a boy like Luke who was beaten to death by his father is just as dead as a journalist beheaded by DAISH, we should think only of the latter, and invade, once more, Mesopotamia in response to it.

Abbott’s avid embracement of what might be called the post 9/11 ‘death cult’, the reverencing and sacredisation and canonisiation of those killed in certain international incidents, is one of the principal tricks of his administration.

When a plane is shot down — by, it seems, Ukrainians, not Russians — he proposed to ‘shirtfront’ Putin if he did not call off a war while some of our soldiers scavenged for the corpses of our glorious dead in a field of sunflowers. And he made a day of national grief, in, of course, a Catholic cathedral, though none of the dead were Catholics, rather than asking why the fuck that plane was over a war zone in the first place, and proposing to gaol the EU bureaucrat that put it up there, in harm’s way.

Death has been good to Abbott; and he made sure, by refusing the hostages’ phone call, there would be more dead on his watch, in the Lindt Cafe, that he could grieve over also. If Australians die on Gallipoli on Friday it will be, if he survives, a bonanza he can call an election on. It has always been his plan. An Anzac force under fire in Iraq on the hundredth anniversary. And then, with luck, on Gallipoli itself, a tribal conflagration.

The other big lies include a ‘debt and deficit disaster’ though there was no recession, and our figures after the GFC were the third best in the world. This was followed by a promise to have us back in surplus by 2017, a date that has been put back by fifty years.

Another one was that David Hicks, though cleared by the US Supreme Court of all wrongdoing, and found by them to be wrongly tortured, and isolated, and made mad for five years, was ‘up to no good’ and undeserving of any compensation, or any income from his autobiography.

The lies are too numerous to list, and number ten or more every day in these columns. They are Guinness Book Of Records lies, and they keep coming and coming.

And so it goes.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (165)

On Ellis Gold is a good deal of the early chapters of Goodbye Babylon, about the attack on the Twin Towers, the Hobart Labor Party Conference, the Constitutional Convention, the start of the Afghanistan war and a launch, by Gough Whitlam, of a book by Mungo MacCallum.

I will put up big sections of my several books in the next few weeks.

A dollar a week. Fifty dollars a year.

A Prediction

Deadline Gallipoli seems thus far a masterpiece.

I will review it on Tuesday or Wednesday.

There Is Music When You Speak: Ellis’s, Connelly’s, Charlton’s, Reimer’s, Sharp’s And Murphy’s Orators

(From Doug Quixote)

The glories of the spoken word may be delivered by fictional characters and they may be delivered by historical figures. The speeches may themselves be equally fictional in content; a speech delivered by a historical figure may even be more fictional, designed to encourage those who are disheartened.

Perhaps such were Roosevelt’s speech “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” or Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches”. FDR faced an economic and social calamity on a huge scale; Winston’s Britain faced an existential challenge from the greatest army the world had then seen. Neither knew how their crisis might end.

Tonight at Gleebooks an appreciative audience of around seventy witnessed a fine performance of great speeches delivered by several fine actors: Bob Ellis, the editor and director of the event, starring as Churchill, WB Yeats and a recurring narrator; Bill Charlton, starring as FDR, Oscar Wilde and Paul Keating; Andrew Sharp as Disraeli, John Adams, King George VI and Hitler(!); Monroe Reimers as Napoleon, Chief Seattle, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama and Noel Pearson; and Mark Connelly as Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Scott Fitzgerald and, in a remarkable triptych, Jack, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy, and, of course, signing off, Jed Bartlet.

Charlton, Sharp and Connelly shared Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his second inauguration speech, whilst some fine singing of appropriate songs to a guitar accompaniment provided some leavening to the feast. Andrew Sharp’s rendition of Hitler (always a dicey business) and then “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” was a highlight. Considering that the very nature of the shows – mostly one-offs or occasional repeats at lengthy intervals – makes polished performance impracticable, the show was excellently done and well received.

Bob Ellis has been experimenting with these formatted oratorio-like performances for a few years now, and it is clear that he is mastering the art of connecting what might otherwise be disjointed snatches of prose and integrating them into a cohesive whole. The editing process must have been difficult, and the list of those works that missed the cut and the various reasons for selection or non-selection would be interesting in itself.

We might pause to reflect upon the obvious fact that such speeches are delivered in time of crisis. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. And reflect also that the best of them are slightly polished. What I mean by that is that the too-polished speech rings false to our ears, that a speech written by committee and over several days does not make the grade. The best of them are written in a day or two and delivered straight away.

Well done Bob for bringing these great works to the forefront of our attention once more.

The Forty Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (240)

‘It serves them right,’ said Julie Bishop of six hundred refugees who drowned off Libya last night. ‘They should have stayed at home, and died in massacres there, and enjoyed therefore, maybe, an extra year of life.’

She was ‘elated’, she then said, ‘to have achieved the help of Iran’s spy agency’ — which had killed, in the past, ‘many, many supporters of Salman Rushdie, and pursued for decades a fatwa on the Evil One himself who alas evaded assassination — in ferretting out Australians who were fighting on the wrong side, and Ă lso on the right side, in Syria. ‘Had we signed this deal a month ago,’ she said, ‘the contemptible Kurd-loving Darwin unionist Matt Gardiner would have been hunted down and killed by our new friends, the mullahs, peace be unto them. As it is, we will have to pay for twenty-five years of his encarceration in Berrima prison, a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money.’

Barnett revealed he had bullied a spare six hundred million out of Abbott and he wasn’t ‘angry’, in fact, at all. He had, moreover, refused to privatise the electricity because, as he said, ‘I didn’t come down in the last shower’, and it was Abbott’s turn to be, ho ho, angry.

Melbourne coppers injured some children while arresting a teenager for the heinous crime of attending Numan Haider’s funeral. Numan had been killed by two other coppers in a carpark for, as they said, ‘frowning at us for no good reason’, and they gave assurances that by beating up children they ‘had done no wrong’ and an eight-month in-house investigation would establish this at enormous public expense.

Dutton failed to persuade any Iranians or Somalians or Sri Lankans to go to Cambodia and settle there in new ramshackle suburbs built on Pol Pot’s Killing Fields even though he had promised them ten thousand dollars each if they would please, please go away, and Cambodia’s rulers twenty million dollars, enough to buy two of Malcolm Turnbull’s houses, for ‘treating these heathen filth gently.’

The plane they were to go there on was cancelled, and he told Alison Carabine that ‘all rumours that I am flummoxed are greatly exaggerated. We will get at least one fool foreigner to Cambodia by 2020, even if we have to provide, at additional cost, three Comfort Women to go with him, and twenty years’ supply of viagra, and a free set of steak knives.

Dutton was further distracted by Marles persistently asking him why, without finding out what they were fleeing from, he had at gunpoint sent fifty Vietnamese refugees back into ‘Communist tyranny, and possible execution’. He had forgotten, he admitted, that the South Australian Governor Hieu Van Le had fled in a boat from similar tyranny and might now, having cursed him thoroughly, take his State out of the Federation.

S&M said people whose religion forbade vaccination would not get any money any more from him for anything. ‘I will extend that prohibition,’ he said, grimly, ‘to those who do not speak in tongues; and soon to others who do not believe that Mary, mother of Christ, and several other children, died a virgin. It is important people believe what I believe, and I will come down like a ton of bricks on those who do not.’ Asked if this included the Prime Minister, he said, ‘I do not comment on on-holy-water matters. I refer such details to my cross-eyed batman Angus. Let me read that again.’

It was revealed that forty-six asylum seekers were off-loaded in Vietnam after having been ‘processed’, with no access to a lawyer, at sea in record time. It was thought they would be added to the two hundred political prisoners in that country, evil scum who tried to practise their own religion, or defend their family land against resumption by the State, or blog, which is illegal in that much-policed and censored system. This meant Dutton was collaborating with a tyranny, and guilty therefore of a crime against humanity, and most likely bound for gaol, after four years’ trial and sentencing, in The Hague. And sensational, damning evidence by Hieu Van Le.

It also meant that neither he nor Morrison had ‘stopped the boats’. They were coming and coming and coming and being, like this one, secretly, piratically, turned around.

And so it went.

How To Cure The Common Cold

My wife deserves the Nobel Prize for this. Thirty years ago, she worked out how to do it.

You point a hair-dryer at your throat, and blow hot air at it, your larynx, your tonsils, for four minutes. Hold it close, so the heat in play is on the borderline of pain.

This fries all the cold germs. They rage, curse, they struggle, and then they die.

You do this again four hours later, and four hours after that, and four hours after that.

Supplement, if you are inclined to, with ecchinacea, which helps.

By the following morning, the cold will be gone.

Orators Tomorrow - Be there or be square


The Thirty-Two Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (239)

Barnett after COAG said he was ‘angry’ and hinted again that Western Australia might leave the Federation. Abbott hinted he might show mercy, and fine his old friend only half his income, not two thirds. Barnett quietly threatened to murder him.

It was revealed that boat people fleeing Communist oppression had been boarded and kidnapped and, at gunpoint, scores of sorrowing women and children taken back to certain persecution and probable torture in North Vietnam, a tyranny many Australians died fighting in our third last lost war. The Governor of South Australia Hieu Van Le, a boat person, feared he too might be sent back soon, and made rapid preparations to remove his State, as was his right, from the Federation.

It was noted that this on-water atrocity occurred while Malcolm Fraser was still alive, and it was concealed from him lest he further upbraid the Abbottites for thus befouling his greatest achievement in foreign policy, letting the boat-arriving Vietnamese in. Dutton said he did not comment on ‘on-water matters’; if MH 370 were found, he would conceal it; if a tsunami threatened Manus, he would keep it dark.

Baird said he might leave the Federation soon too over the sum, eighty billion, which Abbott was thieving from health and education. Abbott invited him to a ‘retreat’, where a new persuasive method, waterboarding, might change his mind. Abbott, a Catholic, knew Baird, a Protestant, would burn in Hell and thought he should be given a foretaste of his eternal punishment if he did not convert to the One True Faith and its ancient persistent creed, seven acres and a mule. Known from his earliest youth as ‘the Mad Monk’, he was flexing his punitive powers in the few weeks that remained before his likely arrest for concealing priestly abuse as outlined on page 68 of his official biography, and defending Nestor the pederast and getting him out of gaol.

The Catholic practice of buggering orphans and driving them to suicide was proving, to his amazement, unpopular.

Pyne paid four million dollars, it was revealed, into a climate change denier’s department while his government thieved hundreds of millions from the CSIRO. The crazy Danish denialist, Bjorn Lomborg, would advise Abbott also, the smh revealed, on the South Pacific, averting his protruding wall eyes from places like Tonga which climate change would cause to disappear. ‘He is well worth the money,’ Pyne chirped, ‘which we will have no trouble gouging from other parts of the Education budget, like special schools for the disabled.’ There were calls for his resignation, which he chuckled at disarmingly. ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet,’ he beamed, and batted his eyelids, the way he does.

Julie Bishop startled a clutch of powerful mullahs by proposing they spend a billion dollars on two hundred traitors she would, if they agreed, send back in manacles to Iran. ‘If you give us TWO billion dollars,’ the holy men replied with chortling affability, looking frankly down the shameless hussy’s dress, ‘of course we will. And we will provide,’ they added, with amusement, ‘the instruments of torture free of charge, and invite you and your former lovers Dutton and Morrison to the public hangings, which, if effected soon enough, will save us lots of money.’ Julie blushed, feeling, beneath their frank assessing prurient gaze, a little out of her depth. ‘A billion and a half,’ she bargained. ‘Please go away,’ they replied and spat at her feet, ‘or we will have you stripped and beaten in the public square.’ One of them spat again, for good measure. She became nervous and punched up Homeland on Google to see what she should do next. Wear Muslim garb, that’s it.

She edgily then called a press conference and so costumed said proudly, ‘The Holy Caliphate of Iran, which kidnapped the entire American Embassy and held them to ransom in 1978, stands loyally shoulder to shoulder with us in the war on terrorism, a method it now disapproves. Been there, done that, His Holiness loftily swears, and I believe him. Let Shi-ites, oops, I mean, Sunnis beware!’ The world press rocked with laughter, and wiped their eyes. ‘Watch this one,’ Jon Stewart told his successor. ‘She’s irreplaceable.’

‘Eight thousand Australians will be at Gallipoli on April 25,’ the Turkish Ambassador Reha Keskintepe said, ‘exactly the same number as we killed, alas, in 1915. Part of the larger force that killed, in turn, eighty thousand of our grandfathers and their unmarried younger brothers, the flower of a generation, whom we swore we would bloodily avenge.

‘These Australians will be perfectly safe,’ he added, grimly, ‘though ISIS is not too far down the road and keen, after the Silly Sunburned Satan Abbott sent, this week, even more Australians to speed even more of our blessed Muslim brothers into holy martyrdom, to rain down Hell ony any Australian their drones can find on that crowded peninsula. Perfectly safe. You have my word.’

‘Sir’ Peter Cosgrove, who had as a soldier risked his life in a mortal fight with Communist tyranny, considered sacking Abbott for sending back into that Hell, without finding out what their story was, and what danger they were fleeing, people escaping that tyranny, and doing so at gunpoint, summarily. It made a mockery of all he, Cosgrove, had stood for and fought for, and Abbott, a miserable smirking panicking worm, he decided, would have to explain, pretty soon, why he should not be dismissed.

Hearing of this, and turning white, Abbott drummed up a diversion. There was to have been a ‘terrorist attack’, he said, on certain policemen on Anzac Day in Melbourne, by ‘agents of the death-cult DAISH.’ It was one of two thousand marches vulnerable on that day, he said, ‘vulnerable but, owing to my incompetence, unpoliced…which will now…er…have to be cancelled.’ Credlin kicked him in the ankle, and he said, rallying and blinking, ‘Ignore what I just said. Turn up in your millions at your various marches. Put yourselves in the firing line, which is what DAISH wants, a choice of target on our most sacred day, ever. That target might be you, and DAISH are excellent shots, and their roadside bombs — Ow! Ignore what I just said.’

Cosgrove, hearing of this, moved forward the day of his sacking.

And so it went.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (164)

I beseech all respondents to put double spaces between their paragraphs, as I tire of correcting them.

They are much more readable, and more authoritative.

I am putting up more and more on Ellis Gold, and will inaugurate on it soon a couple of competitions, with prizes.

Pray subscribe if you will.

The Twenty-Nine Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (238)

Julie Bishop did not condemn Saudi Arabia for beheading a girl who had killed her sexually aggressive employer. ‘Saudi Arabia is our ally,’ she said, ‘and beheading women is in their culture, which it would be wrong of us to interfere with. We did not criticise them when eighteen of them took out the Twin Towers, killing several Australians, and we are not about to start now.’

Kevin Andrews said our ‘traditional beheaders’ the Japanese could build our submarines for a third less than we could, and it was ‘appropriate that three generations of trained Australian engineers be ruined, and their families disadvantaged, and the Australian taxpayer give thirty-five billion to the descendants of Changi guards and Burma Railway torturers, and that amount of money go overseas forever. It stands to reason,’ he added, and sweat formed on his long, clownish upper lip, ‘as the figures give me no other choice.’ Asked who the Prime Minister of Japan was he said, ‘That information is classified; and, if I knew it, I would not reveal it. What do you take me for? A security risk? There are known unknowns, and this is one of them.’

Dutton denied that thirty-one people attempting suicide, or ‘self-harm’, as he calls it, in Wickham Point detention centre, some of them children, was a ‘serious matter’. It was ‘a minor incident, now sorted,’ he said. They had tried to kill themselves rather than face seventy to ninety years on Nauru, where child rapists lurked unpunished and there were no career prospects, but they would be ‘counselled’ and ‘settled down’, by men with big sticks, ‘in the manner which my predecessor, S&M, has made the customary practice.’ No reporters would be let near the scene of this ‘minor incident’, he said, ‘especially Peter Greste, who is likely to write about it honestly.’

Figures came out showing thirty-seven thousand more jobs had been created last month, thus proving the ‘debt and deficit disaster’ and the Senate’s repeated, recalcitant thwarting of Joe’s Budget were not doing any harm at all. Abbott said there would be ‘cuts, cuts, and more cuts’ to pay for any money that went to any needy people whatsoever, and many, many sackings consequent on those cuts, since ‘the last thing I need is falling unemployment, and resultant funds to build our submarines here, which I have promised my friend Mr Abe we would never do.’

Hundreds of millions of dollars would be spent looking for MH370 in the wrong three oceans for another year, the relevant Minister, Warren Truss, gingerly announced. ‘We are aware it was shot down by the Americans near Diego Garcia,’ he is said to have said, ‘and it is important we keep up the pretence that it is on the ocean bottom three thousand miles from there. It is also important Australia pay for the search, with a billion or so spent on the dead that might have been spent on the living, money borrowed from the Chinese, and thereby show what idiots we are; what the Americans like to call “useful idiots”. It is a designation I wear with pride.’

Five pregnant women climbed on the roof at Wickham Point to protest their proposed imprisonment for seventy or eighty years on Nauru, a dangerous place for children, they complained, where murderers and rapists roamed free at night in a country the size of Marrickville and the police were evidently corrupt. A new law proposed by Dutton, and currently before the Senate, would prevent these blackguards from being prosecuted, including the twelve murderers of Reza Barati. Testifying before a Senate committee, a former Supreme Court judge, Stephen Charles, amazed George Brandis by saying that beating people to death should be a punishable offence, and this new law if enacted would set hot-tempered murderers free, and would tempt them, or might tempt them, moreover, to murder again.

‘How can this be a problem?’ Brandis expostulated, pouring a scotch. ‘Without this law, no-one but lily-livered wimps will want to go to Nauru. It is important that big, tough-minded men keep these urchins under control, and cowering under the lash, and pleading for mercy, for the period of their sentence, ninety or a hundred years; and their children and grandchildren also.’

Colin Barnett, a Liberal voter, threatened not to give bushfire victims in other states any help in future; ‘You can burn to death, you whingeing ingrates, for all I care,’ he is said to have said, intemperately. Daniel Andrews and Jay Weatherill, Labor voters, subtly threatened to leave the Federation if submarines were not built henceforth in Australia, and the scores of billions of dollars spent on them remain in the country. Kevin Andrews was amazed by this, expostulating, ‘Australians want the cheapest submarine possible, even one that does not float.’

Barnett had threatened to leave the Federation the day before, and it was doubtful there would be one by the hundredth Anzac Day and Abbott, leaving Gallipoli, might need a visitor’s visa to return here.

And thus concluded another day of the worst free elected government in human history since democracy was invented, in its present form, in AD 934, in Iceland.

A Suggestion

It would be a good idea if ten percent of the two million Gina Rinehart ‘earns’ every hour go to Aborigines whose land she is gouging and Noel Pearson and some other black leaders distribute it in proportions they think fit among Australia’s first peoples.

It could go, first, to those remote communities Barnett is proposing to ethnically cleanse from Western Australia.

Or else Abbott, perhaps, the relevant Minister, could explain why she is more deserving than they, and why she has more rights than they to dig up and carry off their sacred ground.

And why her ‘lifestyle choices’ should take precedence over theirs.

The Twenty-Seven Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (238)

Morrison said that Christian Scientists could kill their children, for all he cared, by refusing them vaccination. Hockey cursed Costello for calling him ‘innumerate, and incompetent’. ‘If I had the money he had in 2007, and gave away,’ he grumbled, ‘we wouldn’t be in deficit at all.’

Baird said coal seam gas projects would continue, though the Australian Energy Market Operation said they didn’t have to; we had enough gas already. ‘Better we poison all Australia’s ground water,’ Baird is said to have said, ‘than a single capitalist lose money.’

Barnett said he might secede from Australia. Weatherill proposed to restore state taxes the GST had replaced. Hockey said Western Australians would get only thirty million of each hundred million they paid in GST. He also claimed abolishing negative gearing, which was putting house prices up by ten thousand dollars a month, was ‘not a good idea’. Better the Chinese buy Australia, he said, and rent it back to us.

Gina Rinehart’s children said she had defrauded them of billions. Her earnings, two million dollars a hour around the clock, they thought ‘excessive’. She wouldn’t let them look at some documents that proved this, and wrote a thousand-line poem denouncing them as ‘ingrates’ and ‘serpents in my vast bosom, nibbling away’.

Lying, Newspoll said Labor was on 51, and Abbott ‘gaining’ on Shorten as preferred Prime Minister, and ‘on the way back’. Accurately, Ipsos had them on 54, and Shorten leading Abbott by 46 to 38. It seemed unlikely anybody except Fran Kelly would believe Newspoll again. Paul Bongiorno mocked her jovially for doing so.

Abbott sent more soldiers to Iraq, and thus ensured more terrorists would blow up things here, vengefully. ‘This is necessary,’ he said, ‘if we are to get the number of deaths by terrorism on our soil up from where it is now, at a mere one in a hundred years. Deaths by domestic violence, alas, are rapidly outstripping this figure, and currently running at two a week; and, since we are spending almost no money preventing this, and tens of millions a day on preventing terrorism needlessly, we are beginning to look like idiots. If we are not to be seen to be wasting buckets of money we have to get those numbers up.’ Asked what side we were fighting for in Syria he said, ‘I don’t have that information.’

Brandis refused to arrest Matt Gardiner, who had been fighting in Syria on the right side, that of the Kurds, and should be doing twenty-five years. This neglect encouraged many teenagers so inclined to go and fight for ISIS and blow up Australians whom Abbott today was sending there. ‘If I arrested Gardiner, a white Christian Anglo-Saxon Labor leader and prominent unionist,’ Brandis explained, after pouring a scotch, ‘it might thereby send the signal that our soldiers were in the wrong war also, and on the wrong side; and, when we lost it, which we will, as we lost a similar engagement down the road in Gallipoli, I will seem in history’s eyes a blithering idiot.’ Asked what right war was, and the right side, he said, ‘I do not have that information.’

It was revealed that Dutton had for five months concealed a report showing billions of dollars were being annually wasted on the wrong sort of treatment for mental illness. Distressed mad people were suiciding after being thrown out of hospitals prematurely, it was shown by a document which Dutton and Ley were avidly suppressing, and this was annoying their bereaved relatives. Dutton, whom the AMA had rated ‘the worst Health Minister in world history, worse even than Tony Abbott’, protested it was no longer his concern, he was now in another ministry, encouraging raped children to try suicide, ‘in the noble tradition of my predecessor, S&M’.

No arrests of the child rapists of Nauru took place for another day, though it was well known who they were. It was hoped that Abbott’s wars on Ice and ISIS had diverted attention from this monstrous manifest preventable evil, which he hoped would go away.

The Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, could not remember the name of the head of ISIS, whom his country was at war with. It was like the former UK Defence Minister, Winston Churchill, forgetting the name of Hitler.

And so concluded another day of the worst free elected government in world history, since the invention of democracy in Iceland in AD 934.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (163)

I am putting up a good deal of classic Ellis writing on Ellis Gold, much of it from And So It Went and my imminent small book A Short History Of Spin, plus an unfinished novel and some essays and speeches from the 1990s. I will add to this in the next few months a couple of screenplays and a book of poems, The Leak-Ellis Almanac, first broadcast on the ABC.

I urge all who have not done so to subscribe. The amount required is a dollar a week, or fifty dollars a year.

England Expects

It is fairly certain Ed Miliband will head the next government in the UK. He will win about 283 seats, and the Scottish Nationals about 49, Plaid Cymru 1 and the Greens 2. This will give him 332 or 336 votes, more than the 325 he needs to survive a vote of No Confidence on the floor of the House.

He may rule alone, or seek a coalition with the Scots or the Liberal Democrats, who will win about 22 seats. He will be the first Jewish Prime Minister of Britain since Disraeli.

It is likely David Cameron will leave the House and go upstairs to the Lords, and the wellbeloved chubby London clown Boris Johnson replace him as leader.

If this result occurs it will be in no small part because of the Leaders Debate ten days ago on BBC. Seven impressive candidates, all potential Prime Ministers, all brandishing great articulate fearlessness, argued the issues for two hours, taking questions from the female host and the audience, answering one another and making one-minute opening and closing statements. Each was as good as Tanya Plibersek, and the three women Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru, Nicola Sturgeon for the Scottish Nationals and Natalie Bennett (an Australian who sounded exactly like Verity Firth) for the Greens were very fine, and the odd-looking and odd-sounding Miliband had a ferocious sincerity that was persuasive and also appealing. Nigel Farage, the UKIP immoderate, was very persuasive also, and more than half-convincing when he said that ‘foreigners’ from the EU were bringing in AIDS and getting twenty thousand pounds’ worth of free treatment for it from ‘our’ National Health.

Cameron insisted on this format, fearing a head-to-head, and it was his biggest mistake. In a one-to-one with Miliband he might well have prevailed. But here in a turkey-shoot among six others with the toffiest manner and the thinnest voice, he was easily crowded out and shouted down and even his coalition partner Clegg spoke scornfully to him and with his spirited hectorings diminished and shrank him further.

The Debate was the best of its kind I have seen, I recorded it, watched it, and it somehow erased itself, and I am still mourning its loss.

It is worthwhile noting why Miliband is doing so well. It is because he unlike his brother David stands for Old Labour, not Blair’s sleek venemous New Labour, now seen as a piss-weak surrender to the Thatcherist Tendency, especially after the war in Iraq, which Blair could have stopped but chose instead to go along with, supporting the foul-hearted mad dog Bush and his WMD fantasy and kill or injure or exile six million people and cause the demolition of pre-Biblical antiquities in Baghdad and, lately, Nimrud. David, as Foreign Minister, was identified with all that. Ed is not.

It will be noted by historians how near run a thing 2010 was. It might be noted also how Skynews sabotaged the second debate of Cameron, Clegg and Brown, cutting away from Brown when he was performing well and showing instead a tedious wide shot of gum-chewing sluggards in the ‘specially selected’, allegedly undecided audience. Fox News sabotaged Obama’s Inaugural speech in exactly the same way, with wide, wide cutaways of a faceless massed throng when a close-up, or medium close-up, of the speaker was called for.

No such interference damaged this seven-way Debate, which was a new high in Westminster democracy.

If Ed prevails it will be the end not just of Cameron but Clegg, a traitor to his social democrat party membership if not his class. I amusingly said that he had in the first Debate in 2010, which he was said to have won, ‘unleashed his inner bus conductor’; but he has been proved since then a shallow craven fraud who has reduced to a rump the once worthy partnership of Roy Jenkins and David Steele, good men who deserved a better aftermath.

It is likely too that after this the Tories will not hold power again. Miliband will agree, I imagine, to preferential voting in return for the Lib Dems’ support. And UKIP, already on 18 percent, will increase in its attractiveness to those dim sluggard southern Poms who now resent cheap Polish workers, and will soon resent cheap Turkish workers, taking away their jobs.

And so it goes.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (162)

I apologise to my too long neglected subscribers to Ellis Gold.

I am making amends.

My wife has just put up an unfinished text, The Age of Spin, abandoned when Don Watson’s rival work emerged and gazumped it, and not read before by anyone but the sorrowing head of Penguin; and soon, when the technology is sorted, she will add to this great wadges of And So It Went, which concern the sixteen months leading up to Howard’s immolation and the General Financial Crisis and Obama’s election, an exhilarating read at this distance in time.

I will also put up an unfinished novel, The Viagra, Red Wine And Dark Chocolate Diet, and some classic speeches given by myself and some eminent politicians, and a chapter or two of The Year It All Fell Down.

Also going up now is my piece, published last week, on Les Murray in The Saturday Paper.

I crave your forgiveness, and poignantly hope that those loyal friends who have unflinchingly subscribed for this last year continue sending me money.

Rape In The South Pacific

It is fascinating how little rape means when it happens to a non-Anglo Saxon female. The girl Roman Polanski seduced, and anally penetrated, has absorbed the West, and most of its media, for thirty-nine years now. Little girls to whom this happened on Nauru last month are already forgotten, unnamed, unmourned, unavenged.

Racism of this kind continues in the Liberal cabinet. They regard the buggering of children as an administrative malfunction, not a crime. No rapist on their watch, no child abuser, no trader in blow-jobs, no threatener of witnesses, on Manus or Nauru will go to gaol, will ever go to gaol. Not on their watch; never. Nor will the twelve murderers of Reza Barati. These are black people, or dusky heathens, and they do not deserve the caress of justice, nor even, like the raped women in Redfern Now, the hope of it.

They boast of the children being ‘no longer in detention’. And they are no longer in detention. Hundreds of them are no longer in detention. But where are they? On Nauru, an island the size of Marrickville, in easy reach of their abusers, who will kill them if they complain of further assaults to the listless, corrupt constabulary, and assault them unpunished again.

And they will be there for ninety years. They will not be allowed to go offshore to a university, or marry, offshore, a man of their own faith and live with him. They have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tormented, raped, corrupted, deprived of an education and most human opportunity, and this is called being ‘put at liberty’, or ‘released from detention’ by these coarse dim tyrants in the Abbott government. To whom rape is a mere administrative detail, to be sorted out by new arrangements.

It is likely though not certain that Morrison will be charged with child abuse after Queensland, Victoria, the ACT and South Australia in a joint Royal Commission find he failed to report major crimes to the authorities for a year or more after he heard of them; and Dutton too if he does not speak up soon. But till then the racism continues, and the Great Forgetting, and the obscene neglect of injured children, and the disregard of heinous crime which has become the hallmark of this government — who, like Pinochet, would prefer those crime victims ‘disappear’.

And then make sure they do.

The Twenty-Five Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (237)

Julie Bishop asked if Iran would take back seven thousand asylum seekers and, at a cost of two hundred million a year, feed and house them, after western sanctions had sent that country lately broke. She was amazed when her opposite number, Javak Zarif, asked her for a billion dollars advance for the first five years. DAISH entered Damascus and, though we were at war with them, she refused as well to rescue Christians in their path and bring them to Australia. They were, she said ‘unsuitable immigrants.’

Finding that no-one cared about terrorism any more — since one sleepy woman at the wheel had killed more Australians in an hour in a lake than terrorists on our soil in a hundred years — Abbott declared war on a new enemy, Ice. He did this a year after he had withdrawn all money for drug treatment, thus ensuring dozens died from the lack of it. He thought nobody would notice. And he put the money back again. He also turned parliament into a prison, though no terrorist had ever attacked it or any Australian parliament or town hall in two centuries, and no town hall was defended by even one policeman, and he appointed a special photographer for himself, as South American dictators were in old times wont to do, lest the next goanna-like lip-lick or greasy daft smile further dismay the nation.

For the thirty-sixth day Widodo refused to take Abbott’s call. He was considering, it was said, not only shooting two Australians but sending ten thousand of his more expensive resident refugees in gunships to the environs of Darwin and bidding them swim ashore. More and more S&M’s fool cry, ‘I stopped the boats!’ rang hollow, because he knew more boats were coming, and the next flotilla could not be towed back to Indonesia, or anywhere. Dutton preferred, it was said, to let a lot of them secretly arrive in submarines up the Diamantina and look the other way.

Hockey continued to refuse to say which corporations were dodging taxes and whether the money thus lost was in the vicinity of sixty billion a year which, if paid, would put us into a Costello-size surplus overnight. ‘I don’t want to know,’ he is said to have said. ‘My wife Melissa might be on the board of one of them, and I depend on her income for my daily supply of Cuban cigars.’

He urged Barnett, who was ropeable about his declining share of the GST — 30 percent now, down from 37 — to privatise the electricity. ‘It lost us government in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, and seventeen seats in New South Wales,’ he explained, ‘and it is important we show we mean business, and lose government over it also in the west. Then the people will know we stand up for what we believe.’

After bringing down what most historians judged to be ‘the most unpopular Budget since Magna Carta’, Joe was beginning to be thought by some backroomers including Credlin, Textor and Loughnane, to be an ‘obese and fatuous Labor mole and saboteur’ who was up to no fucking good and ought, they said, ‘to be taken out the back and spoken to severely’; that, or else he had been so brain-damaged during his ill-judged stomach-stapling ‘by a Labor-voting anaesthetist’ that he could no longer add or think or speak coherently and should, with regret, be ‘held down and with a pillow mercifully euthanased’.

Barnett considered secession, which Western Australia had voted for in 1926, or a land war with the Commonwealth, or, though he hated the thought, seizing the wealth of his friend Gina Rinehart. Or selling the top half of the state to China.

Gerard Henderson thought it was wrong that Sam Dastayari should complain about eighty billion dollars pilfered from the Australian people each year, repeatedly. Sam after all came from Young Labor, the old Papist fool blithered, and was ‘only a junior Senator’, and was ‘using show business techniques’ to emphasise this world-stifling evil and should not be listened to therefore on any subject whatsoever. He then called on all big companies to take out advertisements urging old age pensions be cut to the bone, and was taken away by Cassidy’s goons and held down and sedated.

Morrison, speaking in tongues, said he would cut all money to people whose religious beliefs he did not agree with, or did not agree with in the matter of blood transfusions in particular, though AIDS had been transmitted in recent years in precisely this way, alas, by blood transfusions, which some people therefore stupidly judged to be dangerous. He said a dissident Christian religion was no argument for disobeying his firm and righteous directive, to lie down and cop the needle, motherfucker. That religion had to change. It was the wrong religion, he said. ‘There is an excellent precedent for this,’ S&M added, ‘in the Spanish Inquisition.’

And so it went.

The Dark Side: Perkins’ and McGregor’s Redfern Now, The Telemovie

Redfern Now was a series of immense importance with dull episodes and great episodes and an ongoing troupe of first-rate actors we might not else have become acquainted with. Many are in the telemovie and just as good in it. But this long-form episode, this mini-feature, is…a success in one way, and a failure — I think — and a serious one, in another.

Let me tread carefully here. It concerns the rape of two women on consecutive nights by a white, middle-class accountant with a wife and three children. The younger woman, Robyn, conceals the incident, washing her body and burning her clothes, and gets her father, Aaron, the cop, to collude in her secrecy. She does not want to become known as a slut. The older woman, Lorraine, her ‘auntie’, a family friend, hides nothing, and makes the complaint. The DNA identifies the assailant. 

But her track record — she is a welfare cheat, with a cash-in-hand job as a late-night cleaner, and thus doubly a liar, and clearly so much in need of money she might whore herself — is used against her in court, and the culprit may get off since she is a proven liar. He would not, we realise, and are repeatedly told, if Robyn had made her complaint, and identified him also. Father and daughter are guilty about it, we are told, repeatedly. Apologies are not enough.

This is a perfectly good plotline. But the director, Rachel Perkins, and the writer, Steven McGregor, are not in my view up to it. In dialogue as terse as Noel Coward’s, though more drably and portentously delivered (‘You okay?’ ‘Yes, I’m okay.’ ‘That’s okay then.’), everyone evades discussion of everything, like Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter. Does this happen? Among Aborigines? Maybe it does.

But it’s presented in what I think is an unbelievable way. All the men are tepid wimps, all the women strong and righteous and patient. Every utterance is, as it were, haloed. The story is presented as if it were a series of stained-glass windows of saints queuing up for execution, by lions in the Colleseum.

I do not belittle what it is about. But it resembles a Women’s Weekly story of 1952 with airbrushed, virtuous women and their airbrushed, virtuous husbands fighting for justice in a troubling world. It is more like propaganda than life.

These are working class people in a rough suburb. But Perkins presents them as if they were royalty; or, as she did in Radiance, opera stars. Am I overrating this? Maybe I am.

The story is just too…careful. None of the husbands or ex-husbands misbehave, or drink too much. Neither of the women has a current lover. The white assailant (well portrayed by Anthony Hayes) is not working class, or ethnic, or a local, but a middle-class Anglo Saxon accountant, commuting to the Dark Side from, presumably, the North Shore and a thus far untroubled marriage. He is utterly motiveless; we know nothing about him; he is a cunning, merciless, loathesome villain, and that’s it.

I am keen to know if the script was changed, ‘elevated’, as it were, on orders from the ABC administration, its Indigenous characters cleansed of any residual taint or iniquity — as a fond and mannerly farewell, perhaps, to a series that, after ructions and quarrels, was being discontinued.

There is more to this, I think, than is being told.

Wayne Blair as Aaron and Deborah Mailman as Lorraine are superb, Rarriwuy Hick as Robyn…pretty good, though her self-righteousness early on and her subsequent guilt and self-laceration are hard to see as the one character. The art direction, the lighting, editing, the actors portraying white cops, lawyers and health consultants (Genevieve Lemon in particular) excellent. All the black actors agonisingly, but plausibly, dignified. The rewritten script a disgrace, I think, or in my view it is, compared with, say, Hiding. The overall impression…a worthy success, and a credit to the team. And a fond farewell to a notable, game-changing series.

And a shameful failure as drama.

And so it goes.

As If You Didn’t Know

How obvious it all is.

If money spent here goes overseas, we do not see it again. If money spent here — on, say, an Australian-made Toyota, or a carton of Australian beer — goes to Australian workers, the money stays around. And it is spent by those workers on other things, and the GST from it goes into hospitals, schools, policemen, nurses, army personnel. If it goes overseas, to Google in Ireland, or whatever, we have fewer nurses, policemen, teachers in our civilisation.

When we had protected industries more money stayed here, and funded our civilisation. When no foreigner could buy our house, its price and its rent stayed low. When we had protected industries, we had more jobs. When we had more jobs we had less Ice, less drug-related suicide, less alcoholism, less AVOs, less wife-beating husbands like Rosie Batty’s.

But then some fool thought it was good we ‘globalise’. I think his name was Keating. He let in foreign banks, and foreign ‘investors’. He sold Qantas to them, and every ticket we bought on a Qantas flight to London sent money overseas. And we never saw it again.

What is the upshot of all this? Well, we get a wider choice of cheese. We can buy a really cheap T-shirt, and the migrant women who used to make clothes here don’t have work any more, though there are jobs for them, or some of them, in the legal brothels that service old, rich tourists flying in to gamble at the Crown Casino.

We are global now. And look at us.

It’s astonishing, really astonishing, or it seems to me astonishing, that we bought this villainous nonsense, this new imperial exploitation, this new imperial theft, this new piratical theft, of what we might else have had forever, a civilisation. There’s a mug born every minute, as I’m sure Keating said after making his first forty million.

Let me put this plainly. Foreign companies have been looting our irreplaceable wealth since Hawke and Keating raised the portcullis and let them in. They’ve been tiptoeing away with tens of billions a year since Howard let them buy houses here, and sell us things without paying the GST. With hundreds of billions since Hockey dared Holden to fuck off out of here then, go now, and the entire auto industry did, and price of imported, overseas-made cars came down. Money you might have spent on a Toyota that stayed here once now goes overseas forever, and you never see it again,

I thought all this was obvious, but apparently nobody else noticed.

As the weather gets worse, and fewer and fewer tourists fly through storms here, our economy will shrivel, and we will soon be, very soon, for want of protective tariffs and local industries and disposeable income after paying our mortgage, and secure jobs to pay our mortgage with, we will soon be, very soon, what Lee Kuan Yew warned long ago we could be, ‘the Mexico of Asia’.

And so it goes. And went.

Shame, Keating, shame.

As Good As It Gets: Willimon’s, Dobbs’s, Davies’, Wright’s and Spacey’s House Of Cards


There are more good episodes of House Of Cards than there are good plays of Shakespeare. There are more good scenes in House Of Cards than good scenes in Shakespeare. There are more good female characters. There are more jokes in the latter work that succeed. There are fewer embarrassing grotesques. Not even Prince Hal has a better ‘character arc’.

These are serious comparisons. House of Cards, admittedly, wasn’t written by one person. But nor was Henry VIII, Two Gentlemen Of Verona, Cymbeline, Pericles, Prince Of Tyre, The Winter’s Tale, Titus Andronicus or the first Henry VI, and North’s Plutarch must take the credit for at least half of Julius Caesar and Antony And Cleopatra. Willimon, the principal writer, stands on the shoulders, admittedly, of Dobbs and Davies, who wrote the English precursor, and Dobbs owes a fair bit to Olivier’s Crookback and his time with Margaret Thatcher. But we are in serious comparisons here.

It is, as it turns out, a work as large, and an experience as deep, as that which was undergone by Victorians reading Dickens aloud, or George Eliot, or Hardy to their family by the fireside. It may not be the best protracted television experience — Rome comes tomind, Parade’s End, Breaking Bad, Episodes, Veep, Sherlock, The Thick Of It, Brideshead, Rumpole, Rake, The Hour — but it is the league.

And we are now in series 3. Francis Underwood is President and his radiant cool wife Claire the Ambassador to the United Nations (has Julie Bishop modeled herself on her? I think so) and they are ennobled, a little, by the soul-crushing decisions they must make for their country and the planet. They are no longer the Macbeths. They resemble, pretty closely, the Bartlets, now; or, at worst, the Clintons.

Is this such a good idea? Well, it’s real. Most successful politicians are at least four people. LBJ, for instance, though he murdered John Kennedy, was a stupendously worthwhile uplifting ally and advocate of Black America and the urban poor. He made America a democracy, at last. He was also a crook whose Texas corruptions and his wife’s money made him millions. He cheated his election in 1948, when the dead rose to vote for him. And so on.

Frank Underwood is man of this breed. Southern, poor, rat cunning, relentless, adulterous, eloquent, uplifted by his wife. Able to see the big picture. An actual murderer — he pushes the girl under a train — on the way up, a wise ruler, pretty much, when he gets there.

He is faced with a world like the one we are in. A torn Middle East. A Putin-like Russian dictator, Petrov, past whom he trails the whiff of the perhaps available Claire, who flirts with him. A young gay American imprisoned by Petrov for demonstrating in support of gay rights in Moscow, who will not sign a simple mendacious statement, or read it aloud, and come out. A massive surge in unemployment which, Roosevelt-like, he meets with a plan, and money raided from FEMA, called America Works. A great storm approaching the east coast for which he must give back the FEMA money he has pilfered, already curing poverty across the nation, to save American lives.

It is hard not to like the incisive, brutal intelligence he exerts on his new, deep task of doing good, or sympathise when Claire turns away from him, and sleeps in another bed. Subsidiary characters — his grim, sardonic, stubbled, best-selling biographer Tom, his female running mate Jackie, a former soldier, his nomination opponent Heather Dunbar, a former Solicitor-General, his black Chief-of-Staff Remy, once his bodyguard and Jackie’s lover, Jimmy, the black man with the stirring Godlike voice he used to buy pork ribs from, the best pork ribs in Washington, now a White House groundsman and Frank’s intermittent father confessor- fill out an ever-expanding canvas of low cunning, high oratory, blackmail, betrayal, casual slaughters, guilt and shameful compromise.

I am only half way through the third series. But I am beginning to think that Spacey himself, like another actor, Ronald Reagan — and Clint Eastwood, and George Murphy, and Warren Beatty, and Paul Newman — should consider running for office.

He is one of the world’s great presences, and would win in a walk.


I have seen the rest of the series now and my admiration is undiminished. Lars Mikkelsen, as Petrov, gives one of the finest, most deep-etched, mysterious portrats of a quiet authoritarian fiend in any medium, and Michael Kelly, as the crippled alcoholic aide Doug Stamper, his ravaged face like a wood-carved medieval saint, pursues his once- beloved nemesis Rachel across America with murderous ardour that has a fundamentalist, almost Taliban aura to it.

The situation worsens between Claire and Francis, and Robin Wright adds layer upon layer of her luminous, dignified hurt to a character already unforgettable while herself directing two episodes in perfect style. The cliff-hanger ending is utterly unexpected and it well may be, as Spacey gamely predicts, there are seven series to come before he is able to run for President himself, unburdened at last of an immortal performance which has defined him as surely as Olivier’s Crookback and Richardson’s Urquart in the world’s memory.

The Twenty-Seven Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (236)

It was revealed that Morrison while official guardian of thousands of children covered up the abuse of some of them and thereby colluded in it. One child was abused for seven months after he heard about it. This made him, legally, a child abuser himself and bound for years in prison. This coincided with Laurie Oakes hailing him as the next Prime Minister.

Much of the abuse took place on Nauru, an area the size of Marrickville containing a mere ten thousand people, and it was noted by some observers that those children bound to stay there for the next ninety years were fairly likely to meet in that time their former abusers there and be in danger of being killed by them lest they testify against them in future inquiries. Dutton said all this was being sorted and Nauru would be ‘perfectly safe’ again. He did not mention any arrests, though criminals as bad as Polanski were clearly at large and up to no good there, just ‘improved processes’, that was what was needed, the young fool said.

Fran Kelly suggested that her good friends the government should consider, just consider, closing Nauru down. She amazingly did not think it worthwhile putting anyone in gaol, especially her handsome, tongue-speaking hero S&M. A remarkable mild-mannered public servant, Peter Young, on Lateline and AM said Nauru was ‘an institution, like the Catholic Church’, and like all institutions covered things up, and its remoteness allowed it to cover things up absolutely. He called for a Royal Commission, because only a Royal Commission could compel a Minister — like, say, S&M — to turn up, be grilled and confess the truth of his loathesome criminality.

Suicides in the Navy owing to a plague of Ice were revealed in Western Australia. This premature way of ‘dying for one’s country’ was upsetting for the corpses’ parents and criticised on AM. Abbott announced an inquiry into it but refused one into the repeated buggery of four-year-old child detainees in which Morrison, it seemed, had wickedly colluded. Morrison attacked businessmen, the first Liberal to have done so, to divert attention from his crimes and mortal sins as a pirate, kidnapper and avid collaborator in the sodomising of puzzled infants, some of whom reinacted it, at age five, for aghast investigators.

Hockey refused to say which big companies were evading sixty billion dollars each year in tax. This amount would have put us, in the last decade, into eighty billion dollars of surplus, enough to fund broadband, NDIS and Gonski and triple the funds that used to go, deservedly, to the CSIRO, Save The Children and the tsunami-devastated survivors of Aceh and Phuket. It was important these megacriminals not be named, he said, because they were friends of his. One year of these evaded obligations would have kept ten thousand small theatres going for a thousand years on the interest alone.

Morgan reported that the Coalition had gained, or regained, two hundred and sixty thousand voters in a fortnight, thus proving that ‘ditching all your policies is a good move if they were lousy policies.’ Abbott still wanted, however, to let our traditional beheaders, the Japanese, build our submarines far from our shores and spend forty billion of our dollars in a country other than our own, and Pyne still wanted to screw the next generation, or ‘pass on our debts to them’, by charging them a million times as much as he had paid for their degrees. Xenophon flagged a new party that would take his, Pyne’s, federal seat away from him if submarines weren’t built in South Australia. It was a party, he predicted, that might soon replace the Liberal Party nationally.

Antony Green said it was either likely or possible that the Animal Justice Party might get, with Green preferences, sufficient votes to take the most recent state election to court and throw it out and in a re-run deprive Baird of the Upper House numbers he sorely needs to sell the poles and wires. This would leave him with, in his own words, ‘no Plan B’ and no money to fund his idiot policies unless he took Joe’s offer of a bigger GST and the subsequent publc outrage that would sweep him, like O’Farrell, from power within a year. It was certain a new election, fought on privatisation would be massively lost by the Liberals as it was an issue that had brought down seven governments in the last twenty years: those of Keating, Kennett, Kerin, Keneally, Iemma, Bligh and Newman, and it seemed unlikely that Baird and Abbott would survive this general rule, nor soon, in the UK, the smooth fool David Cameron, who seemed likely to lose power to a coalition, or a deal, between Miliband Labour and the fervid uprisen Scots.

Abbott in a moment of fleeting lucidity thought it might be a good idea to eradicate the curse of Ice from human history but did not admit he had cut all money for our war on drugs a year ago. It was a mere 1.2 million dollars but well worth saving, he swore at the time, though it cost about forty young lives, a minor sacrifice. Ian MacFarlane, sounding like a blast furnace, proposed that coal seam gas be dug up everywhere in the land although it would ruin for certain the nation’s ground water and end all farming and our rural economy forever.

And thus concluded another day of the worst free-elected government in the planet’s history since the invention of democracy in its modern form in Iceland in 934 AD.

And so it went.

What Laffer Did Next

I was woken by Arthur Laffer lecturing the Sydney Institute in a smug, effusive, comical way on Radio National. He held, with his usual jolly logic, that if taxes go down, and interest rates go up, all will be well.

Being a moron, he does not understand that taxes and interest are pretty much the same thing, a loss of income to the individual. And that loss of income through interest paid on mortgages is really big now, because house prices are the highest they’ve been in world history. And disposable income is getting to be the lowest since the Depression.

And he wants interest rates to go up. He wants there to be even less disposable income. It’s as if he wanted taxes to go up. Arthur Laffer? Really? Perish the thought.

He says too, as usual, that if you bring down taxes, rich men will create more jobs. He really says that. And he may even believe it. But he speaks of a world that is gone.

He’s forgotten, by the look of it, or he never noticed, what the World Financial Crisis did, which was scare the bejesus out of investing busnessmen. After it, the very idea of creating jobs, of putting money money into mere humans, became very scary. Doing new things, building new things, making new things, is really, really scary now, in a way it hasn’t been since the Middle Ages.

What rich people do now is buy houses that are already built, and sell them two years later for twelve or twenty percent more than they paid for them. Or they put on The King And I, not a new musical, with the same cast as it had five years ago and the same director.

And what rich people do is buy the new slaves, machines, and set them to work doing what human slaves used to, harvesting crops and digging mines and paying them nothing for their work.

And he doesn’t understand either that those young people the machines have replaced start pushing drugs, and shooting their rival drug pushers, and causing social chaos in the inner cities. He doesn’t understand that every death caused in this way robs the society of a customer, who might otherwise have eaten things, and drunk things, and paid for shelter and soap and shoes and thus uplifted the overall activity of the economy, in that rising tide, as he likes to call it, that lifts all boats.

He doesn’t understand, either, that taxes gave us Apollo 13, the BBC, Cate Blanchett, Baz Lurmann, the Opera House, the 2000 Olympics and all the tourists that come to see these things. He seems to think that people shooting up, and shooting each other, is preferable to tax-created jobs for the young, subsidised baby sitting like they have in France (where fewer people shoot each other than in the United States, where thirty thousand each year do) or subsidised triumphs like the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Bristol Young Vic, and the money their filmed plays makes overseas.

It was interesting that Laffer got his job with Reagan because Reagan was a good friend of his father, and he hired him out of a kind of genial, yawning, contented laziness he boasted of in his lecture.

And laziness, of course, is what they had in common.

And with Laffer’s host, of course, Gerard Henderson, who believes in a Catholic God that lifts all boats, and how one gains his approval by eating his son’s flesh and drinking his blood on Sundays.

Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it.

Like the Laffer Curve.

What a pair of kooks.


The April Primates Poem

Attend the tale of Gardiner, Matt,
Who went to Syria, where it was at,
To fight with Kurds against DAISH,
A death cult Allah dared unleash

To slaughter Shi-ites, Ba-hai, Druse
And anyone who looked like Jews,
To tear their temples down, and breed
On weeping girls their warrior seed,

Behead and bury infidels,
Consigning to their separate hells
All those who did not swift convert
And endure a weeping life of hurt.

This Gardiner, a fool, some say,
Packed up his gear and flew away
And in the Syrian holocaust
Did not once pause to count the cost,

But fought alongside valiant Kurds
A plague beyond the reach of words.
He did his bit, this Anzac new,
Did what good conscience bade him do,

Fought evil at the barricade,
Ne’er counting what price could be paid.

He then came back. Got off the plane,
A-swagger like the young John Wayne.
But…no side-drum beat, no bugle high
Acclaimed one so prepared to die.

No brass band marched him down the street.
No Governor-General came to greet
This Anzac back from Turkey’s hells,
Not far, in miles, from the Dardanelles.

‘Come this way, sir,’ the copper sneers.
‘You were not wise, it now appears,
To return alive from your grand Crusade,
Your debt to society unpaid.

‘George Brandis claims it’s twenty-five years
You’ll wear the prison grey, I hears,
For fighting for the good guys, yes,
But prematurely; I would guess

That George commutes to just fifteen
The years you spend unpraised, unseen,
For fighting on his watch for good,
A thing he’s never understood.’

O Primates! Let this lesson be
To you, and all who do not see
A good deed never went unpunished,
The maw of Moloch unreplenished.

Let’s raise a glass to poor, brave Matt,
Who thought he knew where good was at,
And shrivels now in Berrima gaol,
A good man Brandis branded. Beware. Wassail.

An Almost Rewarding Experience: Linklater’s Boyhood

(From Doug Quixote)

Boyhood was a struggle. A struggle for the boy becoming a man, and a struggle for the reviewer.

It really is a remarkable film, shot over 12 years. Yes that’s right, 12 years from 2002 until 2014. The actors didn’t need much makeup to age the decade they aged. A labour of love for Richard Linklater the director. In more ways than one, for his own daughter plays Mason’s sister.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) aged along his journey from 10 to 19 or thereabouts and of course the other actors fared no better!

Not a lot ever happens, no great events intervene, life goes on. And it is that with which I struggled. Rather like Jack Ellis’ book(The Best Feeling of All), which stars here in the blog’s margins, the film wanders along with not a great deal actually happening. You dear reader may think that a wonderful thing, and it is indeed what largely happens in most boyhoods – not a lot. Boy goes to high school, boy gets fill-time job, boy argues with sister, boy clashes with father and step father, boy meets girl, boy gets older, has fun, and does all the usual experiential stuff.

In a way this is like reality TV, sped up with edited highlights. All the ‘major’ events are there, with plenty of time dedicated to just living as well.

Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) is pretty much a paragon, supportive and caring, always there for him. But his father (Ethan Hawke) is out for a good time, not willing to shoulder responsibility and the family has split before the time of the film starts. The ‘new father’ is intelligent, clever and rigid. Too rigid and also too keen on the bottle…the family splits again. And the next and last step-father seems rather a nonentity. The boy’s father (Ethan Hawke) slips in and out of his life, always there when a good time is to be had. And so it goes.

But towards the end of the film it finally gets somewhere, as Mason finds his vocation, photography and actually proves quite good at it. After graduating high school he gets to go to college, and meets new friends. And a particular new female friend is very taken with Mason. But that’s where it ends, with the young adults making eyes at each other. It may be a fine film with good performances from the young actors, and even from the father who has finally matured at about forty years of age and become responsible. Patricia Arquette won Best Actress for her performance. Not having seen the competition I can’t say she did not deserve it, but I don’t think her performance was especially outstanding. But that’s a quibble.

The real issue was that it was a struggle from the beginning to about three quarters of the way through for your reviewer. And if I struggled, many others would have turned off by quarter time.

A struggle, but if you have a few hours to spare it may reward you. Each to his own.

The Twenty-Eight Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (235)

Brandis considered gaoling for twenty-five years Matthew Gardiner, a Labor voter, for fighting on the right side in Syria — twice as long, that is, as one gets for raping, torturing and killing a child — while simultaneously pleading that two drug dealers, Chan and Sukumaran, go free. In a similar moral confusion Dutton allowed Saeed Hassanloo, an Iranian refugee, to starve himself to death, for the heinous crime of wanting not to be persecuted in Teheran, and craving instead a good life in a free country, Australia. ‘He should have been dead two days ago,’ a doctor said. ‘The damage may be irreparable now.’

Newspoll showed Abbott as popular as leprosy in Western Australia, as AIDS in South Australia, and as ebola throughout the larger Commonwealth. In the wake of his party’s win in New South Wales it seemed he was looking at, probably, a loss of sixty seats if the 55 percent Newspoll gave Labor was adjusted upward to include mobile phone owners to 56.5. This would ensure the extinction of the Liberal Party within five years.

Rupert Murdoch, a Liberal voter, was shown to have stolen 2.25 billion from the Australian taxpayer in the past ten years. This would keep two hundred small theatre companies going for a thousand years on the interest alone.

The smh in its editorial cursed the Abbott government for refusing any money to the survivors of child abuse. This contrasted to the three billion given by Ireland, a smaller country, to its buggered choirboys and incestuously ravished farm girls. Calculated at the same rate, it was shown Abbott owed 4.3 billion he was not paying up, for fear perhaps he would be called as a witness of certain events on page 68 of his biography by Duffy.

The dying Hassanloo in grief took food and saved, for the moment, some last few meagre shreds of his one life on earth after Dutton cruelly moved his brother and carer two thousand miles from his death bed side. His advocates grudgingly noted he was now a Christian and a convert like the mad Scott Morrison to Hillsong, and he feared worse persecution for that in what Abbott once called ‘the Axis of Evil’ and had shown pretty clearly he would rather die than go there. Dutton told Fran Kelly, ‘We send back Christians to their deaths also now, in what you must agree is a fair-go, equitable, Aussie way. We are not prejudiced whom we kill after we decide who comes here, and the circumstsnces in which they come. And if they choose to kill themselves here, well, that’s their decision.’

He sent back sixty children to Nauru, a country the size of Glebe now known to be thronged with child rapists who had not been, thus far, arrested or questioned though it was well known who they were. He boasted that these lucky children would not be any more ‘imprisoned’ on Nauru, but ‘at liberty’ very soon in those few acres where the scum they had accused of assaulting them might lurk, and then come after them and kill them, and their mothers, raping them before they did so.

Fran asked him if he would send them back before the island was safe to be on, and he warmly, then sadly, then hysterically said he would, of course he would. He seemed for a moment in doubt but insisted, through tears, that by thus endangering blameless children he was assuring ‘the Australian way’. Shaking with mirth, James Carleton made him a cup of tea. Across the world Julie Bishop’s new application to be a member again of the Security Council was greeted with derisive laughter. ‘They are savages, these Australians,’ murmured Ban ki Moon, wiping his eyes, and falling into laughter again. ‘They have not even sacked from their employment the twelve men, some of them white Queenslanders, who murdered Reza Barati. Talk about laugh.’

George Williams, an expert on immigration law, told Alison Carabine a man who rescued his mother from an ISIS-held city in Iraq or Syria would be gaoled if he brought her here for twenty-five years and she would be ‘settled’ on Nauru until her death in forty years’ time and not be allowed to see her son, the hero, again. This, he also noted, was ‘the Australian way’.

Talk about laugh.

George Brandis said the matter of Matthew Gardiner was ‘in the hands of the Darwin police’ and he could not, would not, must not, dare not, could not possibly comment. He implied he might seek to commute his twenty-five year sentence for fighting on the same side as our Diggers against the ‘death cult’ DAISH, to, say, twenty-three years. Or even twenty-two.

And so it went.

The Putin Abyss: Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan

Leviathan is among the world’s great films and it is not easy to describe. Ostensibly about the efforts of Kolya, a dim, drunken, angry, violent yet well regarded mechanic, to save his family home from a drunken, crooked, murderous mayor, Vadim, who seeks to acquire it by the application of a dodgy municipal regulation, demolish it and build on the site a luxury tourist hotel and an Orthodox cathedral, and the efforts as well of Kolya’s old army friend Dimitri, now a lawyer, to win a court case or negotiate a better settlement, it is about many other things as well, not least the moral abyss of Putin’s Russia.

A lot of drinking takes place. Blackmail is attempted. Dimitri and Kolya’s second wife Lillia begin an affair. Roma, his son by his first wife, has become a delinquent, hanging round campfires at night with drug-pushing teenagers. Vadim’s goons kidnap Dimitri and threaten him with execution. Lillia disappears, and may have suicided. A local Orthodox priest, holy in his way, counsels Dimitri, a fat serpentine politician of a particular Russian sort, to pursue his big dream, go in harder. The new revived religion collaborates, as religion tends to, with the corrupt new Yeltsinite order of things. In a final sermon, Job is quoted. Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook?

None of this conveys the power of what happens, and the way the dark sharp gashed cold landscape hangs over things. We are in a Russia bereft of honour and comfort, soused on vodka and hating its life, under the heel of its accidental rulers, like Chicago in the 1920s. To the victors, the spoils. To the conquered, persecution, misery, guilt and moral desolation.

The director is Andrey Zvyagintsev, who co-wrote it with Oleg Negin, It stars Aleksei Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov and Roman Madyanov. The leviathan is literal, a great skeleton on harbour mud of what might be a plesiosaur, and we glimpse, or we think we do, a live one in a sea view momentarily. It symbolises, I guess, a long buried noble savagery.

The performances are astonishing. Roman Madyanov as Vadim, evil, obese, heavy drinking and self-disgusted, resembles Orson Welles in Touch of Evil. Elena Lyadiva as Lillia, has the womanly, beautiful, tragic force of Juliette Binoche.

It is hard to describe, and unmissable. See it if you can.

Once More, With Feeling: Assayas And Binoche’s Clouds of Sils Maria

(From Dali)

Writer-director Olivier Assayas and actress Juliette Binoche first worked together in the 1985 film “Rendez-vous”, which he co-wrote and which made her a star. Then in 2008, Binoche appeared in Assayas’ “Summer Hours”, after which she asked him to write something for her to star in. “Clouds of Sils Maria” is what he came up with, and it is intelligent and brilliant.

Binoche plays Maria Enders, a famous film and stage actress who is persuaded to appear in a revival of the stage play which made her a star many years earlier, when she was only eighteen. In the play she’d played the role of a ruthless young girl who seduces, then destroys, and finally drives to suicide, an older woman for whom she worked; but for the revival she is to take on the role of the older woman, while her former part as the sexually manipulative young ingénue will go to a tabloid-notorious brat- starlet .

This device brought to mind the real life events of Michael Caine, who appeared in the original two-hander “Sleuth” in 1972 opposite Laurence Olivier, and again in the 2007 remake with Jude Law, this time playing the role originally played by Olivier. Not such a great remake, but I digress.

In “Clouds”, Kristen Stewart plays the role of Enders’ young devoted assistant Valentine who accompanies her boss as she crosses the Alps on a train heading to Zurich where Enders is going to accept a prize on behalf of Wilhelm Melchior, who’d written and directed the play which had launched her career. While Stewart has made her name, and fortune, playing Bella Swan in the “Twilight” vampire saga, she has been a working actor since her early years, helped by her Australian script director mother, Jules Stewart, and she gives a flawless performance here alongside the magnificent Binoche.

The body of the film, which is divided into three sections, takes place in the section set at the home of the recently deceased Melchior, where Maria and Valentine begin to work on the script reading, with Valentine standing in for the character once played by Maria. The onion of the movie is slowly peeled here, and many issues are explored while we are continuously shuffled up and down the different layers of the portrayals. We are watching two real women, Binoche and Stewart who speak the lines Assayas has written, playing Maria and Val who speak Assayas’ lines, but also Melchior’s lines when Maria and Val are playing the characters in his play.

This graceful sleight of hand, like a directorial three-card trick, is at times charming, at others ominous, but always powerful and revealing. It confuses the six women in play, and so it confuses the viewer, but this complexity actually illuminates rather than dims the experience. Which woman, on which layer, is seducing the other, manipulating the other, being driven by the other? From beginning to end, there are insights, clues and revelations that slip and slide over each other as the themes are developed, rested and resumed. There is a perfectly logical though unpredictable resolution to the story which I hope you will discover for yourself.

As for the breathtaking cinematography, Melchior’s home is located in the majestic Engadin, the long deep valley in the Swiss Alps, and the site for the cloud phenomenon known as the “Maloja Snake”, which was the name Melchior gave to the play now being rehearsed for its reprise. This amazing phenomenon was first filmed in 1924, and Melchior often watched the film while he worked on his play.

You can see it here :

It is not without faults, but they are minor, and perhaps made more notable by the quality of the film as a whole. I note three.

The least important is the music chosen to accompany the sight of the Maloja Snake we are never quite sure we are going to get to see. Perhaps it is a peculiarly Australian thing, but for many decades Pachelbel’s Canon has been to go-to wedding music resorted to by wide-eyed brides and lazy wedding planners. Its jaded familiarity jarred the way Kubrick’s use of the Blue Danube didn’t, because Stanley was highlighting the gulf between the old and he new. Pachelbel’s Canon is a fine piece of music, which I first heard on Karl Haas’s Adventures in Good Music programme, and which I enjoyed until the fifth wedding I heard it at. The same thing happened with Ravel’s Bolero. First heard as a boy, it conjured up fantastic visions of desert caravans in the Sahara, and later, after hearing it accompanying Albie Thoms’ continuous tracking shot of his 1967 “Bolero” for Ubu Films, ending with the crescendo of the close-up eye-blink, it inspired long hasheesh dreams of blissful eternities, until Blake Edwards crudely pimped it for his Bo Derek indulgence. But I digress.

More puzzling are two sequences which made me think the director and editor weren’t around that day. One sequence is stylistically foreign to all the rest, with superimposition of footage complete with loud dissonant music while Val is careening dangerously on the mountain roads in the rain as if on some acid trip; and a scene where Enders checks out some Youtube clips on her tablet which seem amateurishly fake in the way they are put to screen.

I enjoyed and was thrilled by every aspect of “Clouds of Sils Maria” as much, if not more, than “Birdman”, with which there are some distinct conceptual parallels. And my appreciation of Juliette Binoche continues to soar. I fantasise about sending her a script myself.

The Way We Were

The arguments over the economy tempt me to intervene. So much that is being proposed is dunderheaded, and I note, without surprise, the articulation of massive untruths.

One of these is that average Australians are more ‘prosperous’ than they were in, say, 1973.

In that year you could buy a Sydney house for sixty thousand dollars, a beach house in Ettalong for twenty thousand dollars, and, on an average wage of twelve thousand dollars, put your three children through university at a total cost of about six thousand dollars (books, bus fares, student union fees) without any need for your wife to work in any job. You could, if young, moreover, quit your job, travel overseas for a year, and, once back, be certain of getting another job in a couple of weeks.

Compare that with now. The same house costs a million dollars, two million after you have paid it off, the average wage is sixty two thousand dollars, your job is uncertain, and your children’s university courses, with interest, if Pyne gets his way, six hundred thousand dollars. And it is unlikely your children’s degrees will get them a job of any worth in even a call centre.

The cause of this is negative gearing, and the smashing of almost all of our manufacturing industries by Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Button, Wran, Kennett, Olsen, Howard, Costello, Hockey, Abbott and Robb, the progressive reduction of protective tariffs, the floating of the dollar, and the selling off of Qantas, Telecom, the Commonwealth bank, the airports, the lotteries and great wads of the electricity to people who took the money overseas, and did not put it back into our economy in the sorts of sums that powered and replenished our social democracy.

We are told that the ‘easing’ of tariffs has been good for us. It has been calamitous. We used to manufacture our own fridges, radios, televisions and automobiles. These provided jobs whose taxes funded, along with our lotteries, hospitals, schools, universities, Opera Houses, fire brigades, trains with dining cars and Qantas jumbo jets whose safety was the envy of the world.

We could, moreover, say what our dollar should be worth, in the way that China, triumphantly, does now, and in turbulent times thus protect our local industries in country towns. We kept our country towns going in this way.

Now, by stealth, we are trying to get our tariffs back. Overseas visitors are being charged an ‘arrival tax’ when they come here. Overseas companies will pay soon, we are told, the GST. Money put in banks will atrract a fee. Supermarkets will be taxed. The unemployed will not be paid the dole for six months, and after that will have to work for it. Pensions will go up, feebly, at the same rate as inflation, not the average wage.

And house prices, up by forty-five thousand since Christmas, will continue to strangle the whole economy, because ‘overseas investors’ will continue to be allowed to buy into the market.

What we have seen here, and it should be said, is the total calamitous failure of Button-Keatingism. We got a cheaper imported t-shirt, and our sons will never have a regular job, for any more than two years.

And we are ‘more prosperous than ever before’. It is a Big Lie that resembles the promise of heaven for those Jehovah’s Witnesses who die for want of a blood transfusion. It is a Big Lie as big as the one that says that a continent with fertile areas as vast as Europe has no room in it any more for any more immigrant people. It is a lie as big as the Pyne protestation that it was Labor, not he, that ‘betrayed Gonski’.

It is time we seized it by the ears and looked it full in the face.

Shame, Keating, shame.

How to fix things? A small, initial list.

A TAFE lottery. A Hospitals lottery. A Bushfire Relief Lottery. A Flood Relief Lottery. A fifteen percent GST on all share transactions. A dollar levy on all cinema tickets, and all theatre programmes, to help fund the arts. A price cap on all house prices, going down by ten percent every year for four years. A one-off reduction of all rents by thirty percent. A cancellation of the twenty five billion dollar fighter bomber which, thus far, can’t fly. An acceptance of the Swedish offer of twenty billion to build the submarines in South Australia. A loan from the China bank that revives the industries in country towns that the higher dollar killed.

A return to the tariffs of 1987. A confiscation of the earnings, every third half hour, of Gina Rinehart for the next five years. It is our dirt she is digging, and she deserves no credit for what is under it, and she is not a good enough person to pocket and squander two million dollars an hour. That money could go to, say, the Rosie Batty Foundation, and the Fred Hollows Foundation, and to Tim Costello’s various overseas charities, instead.

It is ridiculous these things have not been considered.

And will see what we shall see.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (164)

My computer is working again. It was only the charger, it seems, that was at fault.

I will do a review of the next season of House of Cards, and of the fine film Cyberbully, in the next twelve hours or so.

The Twenty-Eight Worst Things The Liberals Did Yesterday (234)

Abbott joined the China Bank too late to be of any influence on the way it was run. Hockey found Google paid only 295,000 in tax after getting 4.5 million from the Australian taxpayer ‘to get it through its teething difficulties’ and making round two billion in profits here. Andrew Leigh called Hockey ‘all mouth and no trousers’ on multinational tax, twenty billion of which was owed in any year and not paid.

Lying, Skynews claimed Palaszczuk was about to be overthrown although she retained forty-seven votes of confidence in a parliament of eighty-nine. Cheating, Abbott reactivated slavery, which he called ‘work for the dole’ for anybody jobless and under fifty who did not want work in legal whorehouses or faraway slaughterhouses. This included those assembly line workers lately sacked from the auto industry which Hockey had abolished, in a belligerent sentence, on the floor of parliament in 2013. Lying, Morrison called ‘fair’ his plan to make working class couples sell off their inner-city homes and move to Gunnedah if they wanted to get fifty dollars a week of the old age pension for which they had worked and paid taxes all their lives, in their eighties, nineties and noughties.

A ‘freed’ Iranian detainee with a probable job in Port Moresby was not allowed to go there for the interview nor get back the money he had spent, already, on the air fare. This Kafkaesque punchline had occurred, it was said, because ‘all the bureaucratic adjustments to his presence in Niugini have not been made yet’. The young man, his life plan now in ruins, complained to the ABC. ‘This is nothing to do with me’, the responsible dumb-ass gobsmacked minister, Dutton said. ‘It’s all the Niugini’s fault, which I, er, applaud them for.’

Another Iranian detainee willing, but not allowed, to go back to Iran, which he preferred — for some reason — to eighty years’ imprisonment on Manus, was now a day or two from death on a hunger strike. The responsible dumb-ass minister Dutton however would not force-feed him ‘because it is his democratic right,’ he fumblingly explained, ‘to die in this way’. The young man’s brother, and carer, was abruptly moved overnight from his death bed side to Manus and its ‘cone of silence’ lest he, too, inconveniently complain.

More to come.

Gordon’s Complaint

Those who care about such things might have lately come to the view that the concept of ‘redemption’ does not, any more, fit all — David Hicks, for instance, Peter Slipper, Craig Thomson, Lance Armstrong are held by many to be unforgiveable still — and, as George Orwell might have put it, ‘Some are more redeemed than others’.

Andrew Chan is thus ‘redeemed’ by his good works in the eyes of his nation. And Billy Gordon is not.

It is likely Billy Gordon has not beaten a wife, or beaten a partner, in decades. Nor has he re-offended as a petty thief. He was thought for a while to be, after years of imprisonment and later atonement (like Jean Valjean in Les Mis) a worthwhile citizen at last by friends and acquaintances impressed enough to uplift him, promote him, exhalt him, into Parliament.

And now it is thought by his nation he should be ruined, cast out, and everywhere despised and rejected, for offences committed long ago; offences he can no longer be charged with, so distant in time was their perpetration.

These offences do not include paedophilia, or murder, which a lifetime later you can be charged with. He did not assist the Third Reich in the mass extermination of an innocent minority. He did not, like some of our army members, shoot a child, and get counselling for it.

It was altogether less impressive than that. He was involved in a ‘domestic’, perhaps, which he denies, some decades ago. And he has been sacked from the Labor Party, and told by the LNP they would not accept his vote. His electors should be disfranchised, in Landbroek’s view, for having unknowingly elected a man who, years ago, may or may not have swung a fist at his wife.

It is not known why he did this, or in what context who swung first. It is enough, we are told, that he is alleged to have done it, in a tardy statement from a long-silent partner whom the LNP ‘encouraged’ to speak up; with money perhaps; perhaps not.

It is a tactic, of course, that is aimed, ofttimes, at eminent Aboriginal persons — in whose elderly culture dwells, and rankles, forty thousand years of wife-beating. They themselves may not do it any more. But, back when they were younger, and in that culture, they may have done it, once or twice, while drunk, which is in their culture too.

It is a rule of thumb that apparently does not apply to two Prime Ministers known to have been similarly guilty of bashing wives, or thought to have been. It does not apply to John Singleton, still a great moral force in the land. It does not apply, as yet, to many a football coach or famous athlete who has, years back, in another millennium, likewise breached or offended these new norms of our caring society.

But it applies to Billy; and, having undergone a sort of retrospective legislation — illegally imposed, improperly enacted — he must be ruined for it; put in the pillory for it, lifelong.

Magna Carta, for what that yellowing document is worth, guarantees that we can discharge a ‘debt to society’, a debt we have incurred through committing a crime, by undergoing imprisonment, remorse, repentance, and proffering retributive ‘good works’ to our village, our town, our tribe, our people. We can then expect to be forgiven, and resume in our old capacity the kind of work, and life, we have in elder times pursued, embraced, endured, enjoyed.

This is normally the case among white men. But among black men, oh no. Like OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, Ernie Dingo, their guilt is presumed, and the stain is forever.

And it’s a pity.



Certain Housekeeping Matters (163)

My computer is suddenly broken, and it’s of a type so rare and superseded I must wait a week for its replacement to fly in from overseas.

I may therefore write less in the next few days, in particular less of the ‘worst’ series — feeling, as I do, disoriented, insecure and a trifle apprehensive.

I am still here. But I won’t be able to read your responses for a few days.

Forgive me, and carry on, as I’m sure you will, commenting and arguing as before.

The Enemy Within: Gameau’s That Sugar Film

Not many films are life-changers. Babe comes to mind, Platoon, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Wall Street, The Insider, Thank You For Smoking, Downfall. To this unremarkable, extendable shortlist might be lately added, for obvious reasons, Supersize Me; and now, its much more brilliant successor, That Sugar Film.

Damon Gameau has contrived, with as many genial visual whizzbang tricks as Singin’ In The Rain or Helzapoppin, an act of medical propaganda that has no peer. We watch him go from a no-sugar diet — insisted on by his pregnant girlfriend — and above-average physical fitness to a diet, not of hamburgers and doughnuts and jam tarts and chocolate shakes, but of ‘normal’,’healthy’, supermarket packaged foods and bottled fruit juices and pasta sauces equivalent, as it turns out, to forty spoonfuls of sugar a day (five Pepsis will give you this) and the early stages of diabetes, cirrhosis and heart disease. In some sequences, he climbs into his own body, his munchkin self observing the cell damage from within. In others, Hugh Jackman does an impressive magic show and Stephen Fry enunciates a poignant children’s poem by way of emphasis.

Gameau visits America, where the sugar-culture now rules, big time, and joyously dominates every billboard and neon sign. He watches a young man with a mouthful of rotten teeth, so deeply infected that no anaesthetic works on them, begin amid howls for mercy to have them all out, whilst continuing none theless to drink, in gallons, the cause of them, Mountain Dew, twelve times a day. He upbraids the capitalist food corporations now at work, like the cigarette companies of the 50s and 60s, with brandished ‘medical experts’ swearing ‘all the evidence is not yet in’, and in this new century keeping the customers confused and the lethal produce tumbling off the supermarket shelves and lodging, and festering, in the nation’s liver.

As a diabetic, I wish it had been made sooner. His eventual recuperative diet, beginning with a breakfast of bacon and eggs and avocado, is not too hard to adjust to. I am on it, and losing weight already.

Gameau is…not exactly the young Orson Welles; but he is up there somewhere, in the league. He comes from a more Australian tradition, I think — The Chasers, Micallef, The Gillies Report, the Cane Toad films, Rubbery Figures — but the magnitude of his achievement is not in doubt and will score an Oscar nomination, I suspect, next year. If he looks to you familiar, he is one of the stars of The Moodys, and an actor of the first rank only incidentally.

He shows the a world of the capitalist West not only killing itself with sugar (it is immediately apparent why the Japanese, on sea weed and green tea, live longer) but rather more interestingly breeding, I think, with sugar-hits and mood-swings, more potential mass murderers every day. We see that the Columbine Massacre was a soft-drink-driven event, the air crash in the Alps, maybe, a caffe-latte-and-croissant consequence.

We are not ourselves any more. we are sugar-pummelled fits and starts. We are like Shakespeare’s Mercutio — out swaggering, trailing our coat, looking for trouble, keen to die in a swordfight, and topping up every hour with five more spoonfuls of sugar.

Gameau has made a fine film, but he should watch it. For even as Big Tobacco came after Russell Crowe, after his Oscar-nominated performance as the whistle-blower of Inside Story, and pursued him, and stalked him, and harried him, and fabricated sufficient scandals (look, look, he threw a phone at a wall!) as to buffet and pummel and shrink his reputation and darken his mood. This will happen to this hero too I am sure. Big Greed does not like to be interrupted, or questioned, or accused.

Gameau’s girlfriend, pregnant, increases in stomach-girth a little faster than he, and in their eventual baby girl, breast-fed and gorgeous, we note a pleasing climax to a pilgrimage, a Way of the Cross, a character arc which we who see it shall certainly remember.

As an act of propaganda this film is peerless; only The Triumph Of The Will comes near it. As a hellfire sermon to atheists it will surely change the world.