1. Arsehat of the year
Crikey runs an Arsehat of the Year award. This year the nominees included:
- Barnarby Joyce, for humiliating the party he leads and hobbling his coalition partner with his shoddy paperwork, and then drearily whinging his way through the resultant byelection.
David Leyonhjelm for welcoming Milo Yiannopoulos into Parliament House.
Daniel Andrews for eroding civil liberties in Victoria.
2017 was a brilliant year for arsehattery. Worthy contenders who missed nomination included:
- George Christensen, David Feeney, Pauline Hanson, Sam Dastyari and Malcolm Roberts did some truly magnificent work in wounding our public discourse, eroding our institutions, humiliating themselves and their parties.
Peter Dutton, the winner from 2015 and 2016, could not get a look in. The clear winner by readers’ vote was the 91.8% of parliamentarians who support offshore detention.
Anthony Albanese in the spirit of the festive season, said it is every Australian’s duty to be there in camera shot at the beginning of the Boxing Day cricket test. He said it was not only permitted to have a beer before lunch it was un-Australian not to do so!
3. Speaking ill of the dead
As usual a galaxy of people in public life who in memory are mostly young and vibrant departed the scene. Here’s some of the remarkable Australians who died in 2017. Generally we speak well of them and gloss over their faults and foibles. Paul Syvret in the Courier Mail (I think he’s actually deputy editor there) said there are exceptions. In an opinion piece he said he would not much mourn the death of Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen. He said to do so would be to airbrush reality and in the process contribute to an effective rewriting of history.
While she had admirable personal qualities of charm, generosity and loyalty to family “she still represented half of a partnership that cast a dark shadow over Queensland for nearly 20 years.”
While Joh was premier, she ran the electorate and was an essential part of “one of the most corrupt and repressive governments Australia has ever seen.”
Put it down to naivety if you like, but she was there, front and centre, and later to become a National Party Senator who described the 1983 Sex Discrimination Act as “social engineering”, opposed equal opportunity measures as eroding “moral standards”, disliked feminists and even fronted a campaign event organised by the extremist League of Rights.
- refused AIDS tests for indigenous Australians in the early days of the epidemic because he believed it was “God’s punishment” and they should be left to die, while sending police to rip condom vending machines out of the University of Queensland refectory toilets.
Then Syvret really gets stuck in to “a government that was beholden to shysters, shonks and the white shoe brigade…”
- before history is completely re-written by our human capacity for sentimentality, it is also worth remembering what the Bjelke-Petersen era of Australian politics was really all about. It was vicious and unmerciful, a form of see-a-head-kick-it which drove many fine people out of Queensland, including the then Police Commissioner Ray Whitrod. So before we drown in reminiscences about Lady Flo and pumpkin scones, here’s a piece posted by ABC’s The Drum in 2005, immediately after the death of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Lady Flo will be mourned by family and friends, but as a public figure her passing is a time to reflect on what her public life meant to us all.
4. Trump is tops
Tom Switzer does an interesting World wrap for 2017 with Kim Beazley, Peter Hartcher of The Sydney Morning Herald and Mary Kissel from The Wall Street Journal.
Switzer reminds us that Trump currently has a higher approval rating than Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or indeed Malcolm Turnbull. The panel saw Turnbull in terms of a wasted opportunity, and having a better hand dealt to him, because, unlike the others, Australia has had no major economic or social trauma to deal with.
For 2018, Beazley sees Trump as the kind of character who in the schoolyard would periodically feel the need to punch someone in the face. So he worries about Trump starting a war with North Korea. Hartcher says, Nah, he’ll punch someone who can’t punch back.
In recent news, a defecting nuclear scientist killed himself to avoid being returned to the hermit kingdom, the Russians are said to have been supplying oil, giving a one-finger signal to Trump, and the South Koreans have apprehended a ship involved in oil transfer crewed by 23 Chinese and two Burmese.
Richard Butler reports on what leading conservative commentator George Will said about Trump in May:
On 3rd May, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Will in which he spoke about President Trump’s “dangerous disability” and called upon: “the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict”.
On 6 May Malcolm Turnbull said publicly in the presence of Trump that Australia would accompany the US in whatever war it chose to pursue.
There is a late breaking story about George Papadopoulos, London energy consultant and newly appointed Trump campaign foreign policy adviser telling Alexander Downer in May 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. More at the ABC.
5. Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis
We tend not to see past Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps Somalia, but Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN. That report talks of:
- eight million people on the brink of famine, a cholera epidemic that has infected one million people, and economic collapse in what was already one of the Arab world’s poorest countries.
This BBC report, which gives the background, talks of:
- “More than 20 million people, including over 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. At least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare and an outbreak of cholera has resulted in more than 900,000 suspected cases.
Saudi Arabia with eight Sunni allies have been pounding the place with air strikes and running a blockade on aid, only partially lifted.
The US, the UK and France are supporting the Saudis. US Defence Secretary James Mattis says Washington will do “anything we can” to limit civilian casualties.
The US is showing the Saudi-led coalition “how to use intelligence so that you very precisely try to miss killing civilians” while targeting Houthi forces, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.
Does anyone breathe easier as a result?
6. Women’s sport
On a brighter note, women’s sport perhaps came of age in Australia in 2017. There were stellar performances everywhere. For example Ash Barty improved her tennis rankings from 271 to 17th in the world. Sally Pearson, the 10 metres hurdles winner in the London Olympics, came back from a horrific broken wrist, achilles and hamstring injury to coach herself to a world title win.
Ellyse Perry took out the ICC Cricketer of the Year award after scoring 213 not out in a test match and taking three wickets in the same match.
her incredibly consistent run with the bat continued in the ODI arena with Perry accumulating 905 runs and taking 22 wickets in 19 matches across the voting period that included games played since September 21, 2016.
Perry, of course, was a former Matilda, the women’s soccer team, who took out the Tournament on Nations title, beating the number one ranked US at home, then the strong Japanese team, then pulverising Brazil 6-1 in the final. Here’s Sam Kerr who was unstoppable scoring a treble against Japan:
New team competitions were established in a number of sports. The Sunshine Coast Lightning won the Super Netball final to a packed audience in the Brisbane Convention Centre. Here is that monster Caitlin Bassett (6’5″ in the old money) at work:
I believe the Super Netball league is the second best paying in the world, with an average salary of $67,500.
The AFL came on board with a successful competition, and I understand the NRL will follow suit in 2018.
Of course, it will be a long time before the women are paid as much as the men, as they are in tennis, but 2017 will go down as a watershed year.
7. End of the road
Sadly, in the early hours of this morning, my younger sister’s husband died peacefully in his sleep, as far as we know. It was expected on a daily basis. He was diagnosed with cancer of the liver in 2013. When we went overseas in 2015 we expected to lose him then.
In all those years he approached what was before him without fear and in good cheer, although fading towards the end.
During the last couple of months he and my sister have been supported by their daughter, who was in transit from Perth to New Zealand. Their son was able to take some time off from his truck driving job, so the family had time together in the large chamferboard house in Dulacca that at one stage a few years ago after a storm had I think 21 buckets catching drips when it rained.
Probably early next week there will be a ceremony and a wake, where a lot of memories will be shared, stories told and some tears shed. He was one of those characters who leave a unique imprint. Our concern will be to support my sister, who has lost her partner of 52 years, and the children, who have been extraordinary.