Saturday salon 30/12

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.

2. Albo’s take on being un-Australian

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.

Also Joh:

    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…”

Quentin Dempster was moved to repeat on Facebook a piece he had published back in 2005, which he introduces with:

    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.

33 thoughts on “Saturday salon 30/12”

  1. Condolences to your family, Brian.

    * * * * *

    An extraordinary headline on The Guardian Australia website today:
    Nepal to ban blind and double leg amputees from climbing.


    Amazing to hear that the NYT says our own Dolly Downer gained valuable political information during a heavy drinking session.

    And there, some of us took him for a dill !!!


  2. Right at the moment, SBS-TV is rebroadcasting “Earth From Space”. So clear. So easy to understand. Brilliant. Let’s hope SBS puts it on again.

    Yemen. Sheer naked Saudi Arabian colonialist aggression. So what the hell is our wimpish, short-sighted government doing supporting this aggression? Do they imagine the Saudis will be grateful to us once Adan, al-Mukalla and al-Hudaydah are safely incorporated into their empire ? What about the choke point at the southern end of the Red Sea? And what about that long-neglected strategic jewel that is part of Yemeni territory, the island of Suqutra? If you want to trade with the E.U., get ready for expensive detours around South Africa or through the Panama Canal – at least until the Arctic Ocean is reliably open to shipping .

  3. Thanks all. From my nephew, my brother in law had reached the point where there was pain and little if any quality of life. He was a fighter, though, and not in his nature to give up.

    He was one of those people with a glint in his eye. Doctors would have looked forward to him coming into their surgery, as he would have brightened up their day.

    That was the case when we last saw him in Toowoomba Hospital about two months ago. Amazing to think he was still able to do the three hour drive from Dulacca at that stage.

  4. Fairfax online has a snippet where Kim Beazley opines on Kevin Rudd:

    Mr Beazley said Kevin Rudd’s government “atrophied” because he was obsessed with getting media coverage.

    Mr Beazley, who was his predecessor as federal Labor leader, accused Mr Rudd of an “inability to focus” on government.

    “Rudd was impossible,” Mr Beazley told a media conference held to launch the cabinet papers last month. “He was impossible again when he became prime minister, because of his inability to operate other than on the basis of one story a day.

    “He just couldn’t govern on that basis. His government atrophied. In no small measure it was the product of an inability to focus on getting things done instead of getting a story done.”

    “[All federal] governments since have been rather like that anyway.”

    Mr Beazley attributed Mr Rudd’s obsession with the media to his having served his apprenticeship working in Queensland for then state Labor premier Wayne Goss, where “they only think of the day’s news”.


    An interesting opinion; this adds to the anecdotes and critical judgements we (at long last) heard from former Rudd govt Ministers, when he was on the come-back trail and challenging PM Gillard.

  5. One could draw from that that * ALP MPs also knew of Rudds character but still made him Leader twice.

    Polls can do funny things to the power hungry.

  6. ( Oh, the ( * ) was to announce my uneasiness at useing the same word consecutively, like ” do do ” or ” had had “, just feels wrong. sorry )

  7. Thanks, folks. Funeral next Monday in Chinchilla, about three and a half hours west on here. Mark is actually coming up for it.

  8. Jumpy, Jill where Tom had “had” had “had had”. “Had had” had to be right because the teacher said so.

  9. “because the teacher said so”

    Do you see what Brian did there, Jumpy?

    argumentum ad verecundiam
    = appeal to authority.

    Ambio ergo sum

  10. Ah yes, authority.
    When I remember a time when the majority of Australian politicians thought either Rudd or Abbott should be our Prime Minister I wonder if the authority we gave them over us is wise.

    And now I see it’s CMFEU Puppet Peanuthead and Lord Waffleworth and I’m sure it’s not wise.

  11. Ambi, it was just a way of getting an extra ‘had’ in from the version I heard at school!

    But it reflects the situation that when you are at school it is the teacher who decides what is right.

    After that there is no ‘right’ as such, but editors decide what goes in their publication and lexicographers comment on what the norm is.

  12. Brian
    I know lots of Enricos up here but never met a Rico.

    There is a cycle I’ve heard of but I don’t know from whom,
    Hard times ( winter ) create hard men.
    Hard men ( spring ) create good times.
    Good times ( summer ) creates weak men.
    Weak men ( autumn) create hard times.

    I fear we’re in autumn now.

  13. But it reflects the situation that when you are at school it is the teacher who decides what is right.

    Bear in mind he has also clear obligations, as well as a set of responsibilities.

    Unfortunately that side of the account is often overlooked by libertarian ideologues who hang around US alt-right sites and quote poems as well as “Arsehats” as per your item 1 in your OP .

  14. A good parent would never say such things, only a parent that abrogates their natural responsibilities to the State ( ie- everyone else ) would even think of such a lazy approach.

    Ootz, your insinuations and smear wash off me like water off a duck.
    But please continue.

  15. On a side note, why did you refer to the teacher as ” he ” when the reality is the vast majority of teachers are she ?

  16. Jumpy where is/are your argument(s) leading, what is your point(s)?

    Or are you just on one of your Reds under the Beds razzia or Greenie Bashing pogrom?

  17. Brian,


    I was teasing Mr J by raising the red herring of “appeal to authority”, that well known phallusy.

    You know how he loves logic, and the thrill of exposing others’ phallusies, but never his own….

    New Year’s Resolution: no sidetracking purely for the purpose of teasing Jumpy, unless utterly necessary, and somewhat enjoyable.

    Brian, I thought your “had” concoction was about the best I’ve seen.

  18. Ah, there we go Ootz, that wasn’t too hard was it.

    I think there is a lot of truth to the cycle I posted ( origins unknown to me )
    It seems to match most groups of the past and Phoenix like rebirths.
    I’m an optimist.

    Do you have anything at all to add to the chat or is it all going to be insignificant jabs a me ?
    I think you’re very intelligent and love you to express it if you decide to, I’ll learn even if we disagree. You may too.

  19. Jumpy (3rd Jan. 1:52pm)

    Rico? Look again; bet there are a few named Frederico. 🙂


    Not surprised Rudd allowed himself to be trapped in the news cycle. If he didn’t say something outstanding each day, his enemies would. It would be a heroic statesman (woman or man) who had the guts to tell the news jibberers that there was “Nothing interesting to see or hear here today; please move along” and then weather the storm of abuse, misrepresentation and lawyer-crafted lies.

  20. Brian,

    I only just had an opportunity to read a copy of your post offline yesterday afternoon, and access online today to comment.

    I express my condolences to you and your family on the passing of your brother-in-law. The departed live on in our memories.

  21. Graham Bell (Re: DECEMBER 31, 2017 AT 9:58 PM):

    Right at the moment, SBS-TV is rebroadcasting “Earth From Space”. So clear. So easy to understand. Brilliant. Let’s hope SBS puts it on again.

    SBS-TV is broadcasting a series of shows this week on our planet Earth. It broadcasted Man Made Planet on Tuesday night, 2 Jan (NSW Central West), but I only saw the tail end. It was indeed an excellent show too, based on what little I saw.

    Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, with its receding snow cap and diminishing forests around it, as observed from above in space from the International Space Station (ISS) – simultaneously fascinating and sad/disturbing.

    Pivot irrigation in the deserts of Jordan (observed from the ISS), apparently using non-renewable artesian water (perhaps depleted within 40 years?), supplying one-fifth of Jordan’s food resources.

    The steady denuding of forests in Alberta, Canada, to mine dirty, low EROI tar sands, as seen from the ISS over time – a crying shame.

    The 3 units of concentrated solar thermal power towers and mirror (heliostat) fields in the deserts of Nevada (I think they are the units at Ivanpah?) observed from the ISS, providing electricity to the energy hungry Las Vegas – CST is 21st Century energy.

    And the land surface lit by billions of lights at night as the ISS passes over.

    It truly is the age of the Anthropocene.

  22. Good to see the energy/population debate bubbling along on the other thread.

    Anyone with a taste for black comedy can look at an extract from “Fire and Fury”, a new novel by an American called Mr Michael Wolff. An extract is available at
    New York magazine online.

    Advance copy.

  23. Look, I’ll have to be honest: I’m not sure if this is an example of “mindfulness” in action, but I think it’s extraordinarily inspiring, searingly honest, philosophical as only a newspaper paragraph can be, accountable and just so true…

    From The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

    ~ ~ ~
    GREENVILLE, NC—Noting that the celestial body’s return to this position in space demanded more personal accountability, sources confirmed Monday that the Earth’s successful completion of an orbit around the sun inspired local woman Vivian Turner to reflect on her eating habits. “Now that the planet I live on has traveled 584 million miles in an elliptical [path] around its star, I’ve decided I need to be healthier and eat less pasta,” said Turner, revealing that the angular momentum from the Earth’s formation pushing it through 365 full rotations on its axis had previously inspired her to save money by bringing lunch from home. “Knowing that we are once again 91,401,983 miles from the sun, I’m going to start making salads too. I also have to make sure I stop late-night snacking for the entire time the Sun’s gravity is holding us in orbit

    Vivian Turner, I salute you!

  24. Ambi that left me breathless. Does Vivian work for Trump? I’ve always liked preposterous ( Hitchhikers, Monty Python, Dr Who, Peter & Dudley) and Vivian comes close to that group.

  25. Hi Geoff

    Maybe she hopes to work for The Donald!!

    I share your enthusiasm for all those clever folk; some of the best comedy has a philosophical tinge. Though why anyone would go so far as to say human rxistence is “absurd” beats me.

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