Archives: August 2004

31 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

Oh. My. God.

Author: Helen

This speech was given by Victorian crime writer (and outspoken public education activist) Shane Maloney to an assembly of boys at Scotch College. He had been invited to conduct some workshops on writing (which he did) and then to speak to the larger gathering (he was given no guidance on what to speak on). Needless to say his speech caused quite a stir, with some of the teachers and boys being very indignant.

What an oration. The words “ball tearer” and “rip snorter” come to mind. As well as “paradigm shifter” for the assembled kids.

Read Shane’s speech to the Scotch College assembly

Update – I neglected to point out that the speech took place in August 2001. Alan Ramsey picks up on it today in the SMH (maybe he got the same email I did), and explains why he’s commenting on it now – the issue was buried by the Tampa back then. Let’s hope it isn’t tampa’d in 2004.

30 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

What I’m reading

Author: Helen

Warning: this goes back a while. If you demand up to dateness of your bloggers, you’ll be sadly disappointed here. It’s quality, quality I tell you (unless the so-bad-it’s-good element gets a look in}.

One of the high points of my blog reading in the last few months has been the return of Don Arthur. He has made his new blogger site look absolutely tasteful, something I never achieved. At the moment he’s gazumphed me by blogging a topic I was going to write about, damn him, which I still will do in my tardy and blogsluttish fashion, but I might cut a few corners by linking to his piece. He even uses the reference (to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickeled and Dimed) which I was going to use. So did Terry Lane last sunday. There has to be a plot here somewhere.

Barista has come up with perhaps my Best Quote on the Internet for 2004 (2003 was Nick Possum), with this:

Confrontational journalism on teev often looks like an over-excited chook trying to argue with a lawnmower. There’s a lot of pecking but the machine just trundles back and forth, back and forth.

Or, at our place, an over-excited kelpie cross trying to argue with a lawnmower… Yes it’s the time of year where we get out in the garden, Irritate the Dog and Neglect Our Blog.

There’s no shortage of great quotes at Fafblog. Here is their attempt to answer the question: who has more rights, an “enemy combatant” in Guantanamo bay, or a Pepsi machine?

An enemy combatant in Guantanamo Bay is confined to a 2.4 by 1.8 meter wire mesh cell.
* A Pepsi machine is immobile.
* Advantage: Arab!
* An enemy combatant has the right to file a habeas corpus petition but no access to legal counsel to prepare those petitions.
* A Pepsi machine might have the legal right to file a habeas corpus petition if it were ever in some situation that yknow, required a Pepsi machine to file a habeas corpus petition. But it lacks the cognitive functions necessary to decide to file that petition.
* Advantage: Kind of a wash!

If you’re also a fan of Fafnir, the Medium Lobster, and Giblets, I suggest you read this post by Brad DeLong.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the Governor-General has been frightening the kiddies, causing cows to give sour milk and hens to stop laying all over the colony with pictures like this. “There should be a warning on the masthead” (prolific commenter Glenn Condell).

Although interrupted by the pressure of work, such as a visit by the PM to announce an October 9 election, the G-G has also helped another blogger out with a bit of a plagiarism problem. (Girl fight! Girl fight!) I’m not above a bit of schadenfreude myself, and while I prefer the niceness of lefty bloggers, it’s satisfying when someone who badly needs it gets their arse thoroughly kicked. Only in a cyber-sense, of course.

Gianna has been on a roll, e.g. this corker of a post about the Tradesmen problem. You just can’t get good help these days. A question: if the roles had been reversed, would he have come out of it with a reputation as the pool guy – or the town bike? ah, the good ol’ double standard.

And… corblimey, Nick Possum’s employing a human.

And that’s not including a lot of other fine blogs I read. And that is why, despite the dog’s heroic efforts to save us from the lawnmower, the garden is generally in a shocking state.

29 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

A small porky

Author: Helen

I know other Aussie bloggers (just a small selection) have been all over the Howard porkypies issue. I’ve just got a little one to add which I haven’t noticed elsewhere.

On Monday 9 August, on PM, Catherine McGrath was interviewing JH on “…the claim by 43 retired Defence chiefs, diplomats and former senior bureaucrats that the Australian people were deceived over Iraq and that Australia has not become a safer place.” She played the following from JH in parliament:

CATHERINE MCGRATH: And John Howard said that even General Peter Gration, back in 2002, had written that he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
JOHN HOWARD: I don’t criticise…
SPEAKER: Member for Blair.
JOHN HOWARD: …General Gration, for those remarks Mr Speaker. I merely point out that in November of last, of 2002…
SPEAKER: Member for Wills. Standing order of 55 applies equally to answers as to questions.
JOHN HOWARD: …General Gration himself said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction Mr Speaker and I think it’s instructive that a few months earlier, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs had said that it was an empirical fact, and you don’t get any tougher than that Mr Speaker.

My ears kind of pricked up at that, because I definitely thought I remembered that both Gen. Gration and Brigadier Adrian D’Hage unambiguously opposed the war in 2002-2003 and I had the definite impression that General Gration had never stated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Why did I remember? Well, I was so pleased at the time that many senior military blokes, that is, people who could never be accused of being the “usual suspects” (you know, us basket-weaving, latte-sipping lefties and literary wankers), had come out against the war, I put a mental placeholder on the fact to use in future barbeque battles with my brother in law.

Furious googling has uncovered interviews and statements from General Gration like this, this and this but has failed to find any statement by him that Iraq posessed WMDs. Here’s what Gration thought of going to war before the WMD inspectors had completed their task, and without UN backing:

TONY JONES: Let’s go back to first principles then, if we can.
Under what circumstances do you think it would be OK to take military action of any kind to disarm Iraq?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Well, I think first of all, we have got to let the present action run its course.
The inspectors have to go in.
We have got to see how Saddam reacts to them.
We have got to see how the US reacts to that, how the United Kingdom reacts to that.
And then depending on how that develops, Australia must then look to our own interests, not to the American interests, to our interests, to decide whether we would take part in any military action.
TONY JONES: Would you agree that Iraq is already in breach of a number of UN security resolutions?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Yes, there’s no question it is.
But it’s not the only country in the world and I don’t think that in itself is grounds for going to war.
TONY JONES: The question is, though – could a case conceivably be made that if the UN doesn’t give a strong new resolution backing military power that the resolutions Iraq is already in breach of constitute enough of a reason to go to war to disarm Iraq at the very least?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Well, not in my view, Tony, I don’t think it does.
TONY JONES: Let us look at this, if we can, from the American point of view.
Doesn’t it make sense to remove Saddam Hussein now while you have got the backing of the American people for military action against him before he gets his hands on a nuclear weapon?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Tony, going back to what I said a few moments ago, that’s a pre-emptive action.
And I believe it is a very dangerous course indeed.
And if the world’s only military superpower sets the pattern that it’s OK in the global arena to undertake pre-emptive action, I think that’s a very retrograde and destabilising step.
What we are saying is that there’s no overt action against us, there’s no imminent threat, but we think one may develop and therefore let’s move now.
Now, that’s a very destabilising doctrine and I wouldn’t go along with it.
TONY JONES: So there is no way that you can construe the UN charter with its provisions for self-defence to say we’re going to stop this man getting a nuclear weapon before he uses it against us?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: No, I think that’s drawing a very long bow, and a dangerous one too.
TONY JONES: But you can see what’s happening here, can’t you?
President Bush now has domestic support for a war.
If he waits, that support will evaporate.
And it seems to be there is a momentum moving in that direction.
GENERAL PETER GRATION: I’m aware that that’s what is happening.
That’s one of the reasons I signed the letter.
I just think there is quite insufficient provocation at present to start a war which may involve tens of thousands of people being killed, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people being killed.
There just isn’t sufficient provocation.
And if you look at the objectives of the war, I don’t think they stand up.

I don’t think there’s any ambiguity here. If any rightwing blogger can find a statement by General Gration that he believed Irag posessed WMDs in 2002-2003, and that Australia joining the invasion was justified thereby, please send it on.

(Note on links):

26 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

Good on yer Mum

Author: Helen

Letter to the AGE, “…And another thing”, the short letters section, 24th August:

I am 83 years old and would dearly love to have a 40 percent reduction on the cost of my private health insurance, but I find John Howard’s blatant offer to buy my vote disgusting and irresponsible.

That’s telling ’em, Mum.

26 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

The Abyss

Author: Helen

The little boy runs, leaping, hopping, testing his brandnew limbs. He’s fearless because the ground has always been solid under his feet.


Mum and Dad have had some strange arguments lately. Mum cries all the time. But then, she’s always been a bit of a drama queen. Soon everyone will cheer up and things will be the same as before.

Dad will always be there in the morning when he wakes. He runs on, not even thinking of the word trust, as he’s never known a world without it.

Image courtesy of the labyrinthine, endlessly absorbing Oyonale (Gilles Tran) , The book of beginnings.

12 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

What was that about values, again

Author: Helen

I’m not spooked by the latest attempts by the AGE to make me fear public education. I could bring up snarky examples of private school “values” again, or I could point out that the AGE is becoming quite attached to the acres of advertorials that the private schools buy in their education section (bias? Never!). But what the hell. I don’t need to. I’m proud, happy, and just a bit teary.

In the same newspaper on Tuesday, there was an article on Ali Alsaai and his family, who, as refugees on the SIEV-4, were the subject of one of Howard’s greatest porkies – the Children Overboard story.

I’ll include the whole story below, but here’s the part about Alsaai’s daughter Hawraa, who goes to Footscray City College– my daughter’s school.

And it was during a year in detention at Maribrynong that Hawraa, now 16, and Banin, 8, began attending school at Footscray.

Peter Noss, then a year 8 co-ordinator at Footscray City College, was assigned the task of making Hawraa’s transition as smooth as possible. One of his first acts was to organise a “whip around” of the staff to help set the family up in their modest unit.

“I was struck immediately by how bright and intelligent she was,” Noss recalls. “I just felt so sorry for their predicament.

“I didn’t know anything about detention centres and I’d like to think I’d be the same with any kid who needed a bit of a bunk up.”

(Did I mention this is my daughter’s school?!)

Towards the end of that first year, Noss recalls waiting outside the school with Hawraa, who was to go to the Royal Children’s Hospital for a check-up. “We are waiting out for the car to pick her up and she says, ‘Here they come!’ It’s a van from the detention centre with a light on the top, blacked out windows, bars on the windows, and I thought, ‘What’s going on?’

“There were two people in the front of the van. One’s got out, undone the big padlock on the side of the door and slid the door back and here is the rest of the family, sitting inside this darkened van.

“We shake hands. ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ ‘See you soon.’ Hawraa gets in. ‘Bye.’ Close the door and a huge big padlock is put on the door. Well, that did it for me. I just broke up.”

The other episode that mystified Noss was when Hawraa came to school one day and explained that she was returning to PNG because, under the Pacific Solution, boat people seeking refugee status have to be processed offshore.

“So they’ve sent the family, a nurse, a guard and God knows what else, gone up there, stayed in a hotel, which was fantastic for the family, and the next day they’ve said: ‘We’ve granted you a temporary protection visa. You can go anywhere in Australia.’

“Hawraa said, ‘I want to go back to Footscray because my friends are at school there’. That’s why they’re back at Footscray.”

Now in year 10, Noss says Hawraa continues to excel at school and is more than capable of realising her ambition to become a doctor. Banin, called “Banana” by her classmates, wants to be a teacher.

Peter Noss, you are a legend. You bring a lump to my throat. (I think I might have mentioned this is my daughter’s government school?) I can’t think of anyone who would teach better “values” to my child.

I wonder what school Peter Reith went to?


9 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

Homemade fruitcakes

Author: Helen

International terrorists are so hot right now. Saturday before last (yeah, yeah, I know, always behind) I opened the AGE Saturday Review or Agenda or whatever it was called that particular week. Page 1 featured an ominously dark coloured graphic filling the best part of the page, depicting a horrified face on which appeared to be under attack from the Spiders from Mars. Looking closer, I saw it was a representation of extremely size-challenged terrorists climbing up the face with ropes – or perhaps it was the Special Operations group and the terrorists were already in his hair. The caption, in big bold letters, screamed:


(Here’s the text – but the headline and artwork has changed on the online version). Of course, with that graphic, you’ll be screaming, “Yes, yes!! I can feel them already. Aaaaagh, get them out of my hair!”

The week before, Background Briefing aired a program on US homegrown terrorists. Then there’s the Australian Jack Van Tongeren, purveyor of firebombs and death threats – admittedly not in the same league as William Krar, featured in the ABC program, who was caught with “…a weapons cache containing fully-automatic machine guns, remote controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs, and the chemical weapon for a cyanide bomb big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000 square foot building.”

Imagine the drama if someone of Middle Eastern background was found with that kind of stuff, but William Krar’s activities were barely reported. Reading the Australian or US Mainstream Press ™ these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that terrorism is only supposed to come from outside your national borders. According to the Background Briefing program, it would complicate the message too much to admit that homegrown nutters pose as much of a problem as international terrorism. Can you say Timothy McVeigh? Martin Bryant?

It’s disappointing the program didn’t interview Dave Neiwert; he’s been giving us buckets of information on the subjec for years, while most bloggers’ attention has understandably been directed outward. Kick and Scream has the goods on Van Tongeren and his unsavoury friends.

My take on it is that we are being told that outsiders are the danger to us because they hate our way of life ™. If we see or hear too much about US/Australian citizens like Krar, McVeigh and Van Tongeren, who seem to have enough hate to spare, it’s going to make that mantra sound a little hollow.