Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 25 April 2015


Dad in New Guinea (Front row - second from left).

On the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, everyone is making declarations about their understanding of the meaning of ANZAC.

So who am I to presume to be different?

Frankly, my association with and view of ANZAC Day has changed substantially through the years.

When I was a kid, it meant joining my mates in marching a short distance to a ceremony in front of memorials in bush townships. My dad would also march wearing his medals.

When I was that age (primary school) dad was working his way up the seniority ladder as principal of a number of small bush schools.

Dad was a returned airman (RAAF - New Guinea) and an RSL member, and as the local schoolie he was always involved in the organisation of the day. I don't recall him holding any great enthusiasm for the commemoration, but he was always there - almost with a sense of resignation.

He never went drinking after the ceremony as I recall. Many of his contemporaries did, and I remember as a kid, feeling indignant about this. To me it seemed disrespectful.

Perhaps it was this that caused me to lose interest and become hostile to the concept, as for a time, in teenage and my twenties I did just that.

When I was called up, I hadn't been to an ANZAC Day commemoration for years, and this didn't change after Vietnam. If anything, my experience as a conscript reinforced my rejection of the myth.

I also sensed the hostility at the time to Vietnam veterans who were vilified by both the Left and Right of politics - the Left for fighting - the Right for "losing". I remember wondering why Gallipoli (a defeat and withdrawal) was glorious, and Vietnam shameful. Those in the community less politically aware compromised by indifference.   

I had also become intensely aware of the credibility gap between the myth and the reality.

In 1985, I was the Principal of Petrie Special School (a school that no longer exists). The local RSL presented a cheque to the school, and I was asked to accept it at a ceremony on ANZAC Day.

The local secretary discovered I was Vietnam veteran and asked me why I wasn't marching. I didn't really have an answer, and it would have looked churlish not to, so for the first time in years, I participated.

The Welcome Home march happened a few years later, and the attitude to Vietnam veterans changed from disregard and hostility to grudging respect.

 Since then, I have always marched. It means more to me if I can join the men from my section and platoon, and that's not possible at home, so I sometimes travel to Brisbane, and on one occasion drove to Sydney.

It is to me, and to these men, an important day. Yet we are acutely conscious of the fickle nature of community support for veterans.

Last night I watched a documentary about the Australian Light Horse in World War one. There was a great deal of grief and bitterness expressed by members of this renowned unit when their strong and loyal horses were put down prior to returning home.

The cost of returning the horses could not, apparently, be justified. Of the 39000 who served with the AIF, only one Waler is known to have been returned to Australia; "Sandy", the mount of Major-General W T Bridges, an officer who was killed at Gallipoli in May 1915.

A member of the Light Horse was quoted as saying that there was no consideration of cost in the decision to send the horses to Egypt in the first place, so why was it an issue after they had done their duty?

I recalled having to pay my air fare from Sydney to Brisbane on my return to Australia in 1970, whereas the army was quite content to fly me and my compatriots to Singleton on callup.

Not much, it seems, has changed - whether it's soldiers or horses. Both remain collateral.

So on ANZAC Day, let's continue to honour the dead. But let's also continue to fight like hell for the living. Based on the history, we can't assume community or government will do that.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Terrorism in Toowoomba

Pic courtesy Toowoomba Chronicle

It's refreshing (and unexpected) to find the local paper calling this for what it is - Terrorism.

It's less unexpected to see it reported as arson in the News Corp media.

Obviously, as far as the MSM is concerned, only Muslims are capable of terrorism.

From the article -

I would like to be wrong - but I suggest to you, dear reader, that if the attack had been made on a different building on Friday morning, and if the perpetrator had a Muslim background - the headline would have read something like, "Terror reaches Toowoomba."
When somebody who is not of Islamic faith conducts an attack on a community or a building of significance, it is described as an "isolated incident of arson" - but when somebody of Islamic faith commits a similar crime it is described as "terror".

Monday, 20 April 2015

Suffer the Little Children

Pic courtesy Daily Life
There's been a great deal of media recently about the treatment of children in immigration detention centres.

Plenty of heat, and very little light has been generated, with opinion divided between those who believe that it's OK for kids to be banged up with their parents in these places for indeterminate periods of time, and those who believe that it's not.

The policy is bipartisan. There have been differences in its application in the sense that under Labor, there were many more kids in detention, whereas with the Coalition in power, there are far fewer, but they're in these gulags for much longer, and long enough to be severely traumatised.

It's rationalised justified as being cruel to be kind. Apparently almost anything can be justified in the name of border security.

Then there's a different issue - immigration as it applies to children with disabilities.

Another more insidious rationalisation is used in relation to immigration and kids with disabilities. The justification (although it's rarely aired) is that caring for them is too expensive. Basically on that basis they're simply not welcome in Australia.

This justification is rarely discussed in the public space by those in government. I'd venture to suggest this lack of publicity is quite deliberate. Most Australians, if you stopped them in the street and asked them for an opinion, would be dismayed - if not horrified - by the assumptions contained in that justification.

Apart from the fact that the policy devalues people with disabilities, it ignores the fact that it is completely out of step with pretty much all Australian public policy which bears on disability.

Put beside anti-discrimination legislation, which has been around since 1992 in this country, it appears bizarre. Kids with disabilities are included in regular schools, there is universal and basic consideration of disability access and there are a range of commissions and agencies who raison d'etre is to ensure fair and reasonable treatment of people with disabilities.

It does not add up. To quote this article in Daily Life -

If Vincent van Gogh, Ludwig van Beethoven, Helen Keller or Frida Kahlo were alive today and in a moment of wild-eyed madness decided to permanently migrate to Australia, would we accept them?
I suppose you could argue that they’re highly skilled and their social contributions are quite possibly monumental. But judging by the requirements of Australian migration law the odds are against them. Why? Because they all had disabilities: Van Gogh suffered depression, Beethoven was deaf, Keller was blind and Kahlo had polio.

The issue emerges frequently, and it must create enormous distress for those involved. Yet it's not the subject of serious debate in this country.

We continue to turn a blind eye to abject cruelty, operationalised in policies driven by the same evil set of values that led to the extermination of Gypsies, Jews and people who were called "unfit" in Hitler's Germany.

It's time to change it, and treat immigrant families with members with disabilities the same as everyone else.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Comedy Gold

Tricky! The halal certification is obviously in invisible ink.

Look closely at the pic.

Can you see a halal certification logo?

Nor can I, but then I'm aged and half blind. Younger members of my immediate family couldn't find one either, on either of the labels on this excellent bottle of Jacob's Creek Shiraz I enjoyed the other day.

Yet that paragon of truth and virtue, the Halal Choices Facebook page, was active not so long ago encouraging wine drinkers to boycott Jacob's Creek wines because someone, somewhere, alleged they were halal certified.

Now, given that devout Muslims don't drink alcohol, and that there is no logo apparent on the label, that allegation seems, to put it politely, bizarre.

That same Facebook page had, however a fair head of steam up with declarations, calumny and xenophobic rants continuing unabated.

Bottom line is, when bigotry, ignorance and hate are the driving forces, reality and common sense don't stand a chance.

It does, however, have a funny side.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Peak Stupid


On my recent overland trip to Adelaide (from Toowoomba) gentle reader, my dashcam picked up a sequence of total lunacy.

I wasn't sure what to do with it. Perhaps the responsible action would have been to email it to the SA police. But then, I doubt they would have followed up. Nobody was actually harmed as far as I can tell.

I'd prefer to put it out there (on this blog - and on You Tube), and see what happens.

After all, the cretins involved managed to get away with arrant stupidity on this occasion without actually killing anyone.

Anyway, this piece of video was captured on the Princes Highway, on a wet and busy Easter Monday, on the last 5 kms of my nearly 2000 km journey.

The upside is that that this was the only ratbaggery witnessed on the whole journey. That's good.

By way of explanation ......the drivers of the small dark car and the light colored Toyota Camry were passing an object back and forward as they raced down the freeway at speeds of 100 km/hr plus.

The object was, I think, a dildo. The actual transfer occurs at about the 20sec point.

They may have been under the influence of some substance. Nobody in complete possession of their faculties would drive like this.  

Monday, 6 April 2015

Mission Accomplished

The boring car has been delivered to Adelaide.

Boring is good when you're travelling 1924 kilometres.

Boring is good when it's bucketing down with rain (as it was on the first and last days of the three day trip).

Boring is good when the roads are infested with bogans towing boats, browned off and cranky because they haven't been able to get them in the water because of the weather.

Toyota does indeed build boring cars, but reliability, comfort, and simplicity are boring, and that's OK. My $750 car didn't miss a beat. The hours put into it seem to have paid off.

And being the cantankerous old codger that I am, I derived a kind of savage satisfaction sharing the roads with cashed up bogans in their $50000 dollar SUVs towing all manner of expensive hardware. I was probably as comfortable as any of them, and 8lit/100km (which is what the boring car averaged) isn't half bad.

It actually seemed to run better the further it went. Cruising at 110km/hr was a doddle.

The audio was great. I got to listen to a lot of 70s music on cassette tapes that have been languishing in our attic because we didn't own anything that would play them. A 1996 Camry has an excellent tape player.

The HVAC system worked a treat, as did the wet weather gear (wipers etc), and now I know that there are no leaks.

The only downside was losing my banana. I had rationed myself one banana per day, but the last one was confiscated at the SA border by a fearsome woman in uniform who is a trifle lacking in interpersonal skills. The young policewoman who asked me to blow into the machine at Forbes on day two was much more courteous.

I should have eaten the damn thing in front of her. It was a very good banana.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

We Are All Boat People

Pic courtesy Catholic Leader

To celebrate St Patrick's Day the Tuesday before last, today's Catholic Leader ran a report which reminds us that many early Irish settlers were refugees, and boat people.

Like the people in the report, I have no problem identifying as a descendant of these boat people. My ancestors came out on the actual boat mentioned in the Leader. That  boat was the Erin-Go-Bragh.

Here is an extract from the story -

“It was a long journey, a six-month journey, the longest journey to Australia of any boat, with 54 deaths, one of the highest deaths of any boat,” Mr Nayler said. “The passengers nicknamed her the ‘Erin-go-Slow’.”

The Erin-go-Bragh has close ties with the Brisbane archdiocese, having been helped by the city’s first bishop.

“The incredible story of the Erin-go-Bragh was perhaps our archdiocese’s earliest efforts at supporting economic refugees and helped to develop our great state of Queensland,” Mr Nayler said.

In 1861, during a potato famine, Irish families in Country Offaly were forced to leave their land but, being poor, “begged” a local Catholic priest Fr Paddy Dunne to send them to Australia.

Fr Dunne contacted the Brisbane Bishop James Quinn and, with help from the Queensland Immigration Society, organised a passage from Ireland to Moreton Bay.

Erin-Go-Bragh. Artist Rodney Charman.

My ancestor on the Erin-Go-Bragh was my Great Great Grandmother. Here is the narrative as my dad wrote it after some research he did a few years before he died -

On the 1st August 1862, the sailing ship Erin-Go-Bragh anchored in Moreton Bay. She had previously been known as the Florida and was the first fully Irish immigrant ship to arrive in the Australian colonies. It was known popularly as the Erin go Slow because of the length of time the voyage from Cork (Queenstown) had taken. It had left Cork for Brisbane on the 7th February 1862. It was 1111 in tonnage, its length was 250 feet and it carried (officially) three hundred and eighty-seven passengers. I say officially, because from what I have read, it carried quite a few more unofficial passengers as well. Its master was George Borlase.

The issues of the Brisbane Courier of August 2nd and August 11th 1862 reports on its arrival and the voyage. It had left Queenstown with 431 migrants. On the fourth day after leaving, Typhoid fever and Scarlatina broke out on board. During the voyage, as a result, fifty-four deaths occurred, most of those dying being children. The winds were light and variable, and there were other mishaps besides the sickness.

At Liverpool, a religious bigot managed to get on board, with an augur, after lifting the copper lining in places, bored holes in the fervent hope that the ship would go down with its papist cargo. Legend has it (and it is true, according to Father T P Boland, a well qualified historian of the Catholic Church in Queensland), the man responsible was a Scot named Douglas. He himself later became a migrant to Queensland, and married here. The irony was that when he did “fall” for a girl, it was for an Irish Catholic. The children were reared as Catholics, and they and their descendants provided Catholic barristers, judges, doctors and priests who made great contributions to Queensland over the years. Pumps had to work continuously on the voyage. Off the Cape of Good Hope, fire broke out on board. As a result of this, the ship ran short of water and had to put in to Capetown to replenish its supply. This added a thousand kilometres to the voyage.

So long was the ship in arriving in Botany Bay, that the Archbishop of Brisbane, Bishop Quinn, wrote to Queensland’s Colonial Secretary, R. G. Herbert, stating his concern about its whereabouts.

When it did arrive, after almost two hundred days, it was held at anchorage (because of typhoid fever) near St Helena Island. After eleven days, the passengers were transshipped and landed near the present Customs House in Queen St.

The Erin-Go-Bragh did not make it back to Ireland. The last heard of the ship was that she was seen in Calcutta in October 1863.

One of the passengers on board the Erin-Go-Bragh was a nineteen year old orphan girl from Tullamore named Catherine Ryan. She became my Great Grandmother.

The Queensland Immigration Council was formed by Quinn, Queensland’s first bishop. He had arrived in Brisbane in May 1861, bringing five priests and six nuns with him.

At that time, there were thousands of people homeless near Tullamore. Many were, like Catherine Ryan, orphans. Orphans were common in Irish famine times and the great famines had occurred in the forties. Neighbours reared the orphans, because among the poor, there appeared more kindness than was apparent in industrial, political, or court circles of the time.

The reason for the number of homeless people near Tullamore was that Lord Digby, an absentee English landlord, wanted to rear sheep on his estate there. This meant that the tenants were expelled. These Irish tenants, unlike tenants in England, had no legal rights.

In Tullamore was a priest named Paddy Dunne. He had been in Ballarat in Victoria but returned to Ireland after a dispute with a bishop. It was he who suggested to James Quinn that these displaced people should go to Queensland.

There are a number of historical parallels between the boat people on the Erin-Go-Bragh and those who arrived in this country a few years ago, and are now banged up in detention centres.

They were, like the Irish, forced out of their native lands as a consequence of disaster. In the case of the Irish - a famine. In the case of the Vietnamese and people from the Middle East, war and persecution.

The British (who ran the colony at the time) had a moral responsibility for the parlous state of Ireland at the time. We (Australians) have responsibilities for the Vietnamese and refugees from the Middle East because of our military involvement. There is a very clear historical thread running through this issue.

The Irish were feared and hated, much in the same way that Middle-Eastern refugees (and to a lesser extent the Vietnamese) were feared and hated. The Irish were regarded as dirty, would out breed the British, and they were Catholic. The term in use was "dirty Tykes".

There was no organised political exploitation of the issue in 1862 and in the 1970/80s. It took Howard's grubby use of the Tampa incident and Labor's acquiescence to his shameful policies to destroy what was a proud and noble record.

It was probably just as well that my dad wasn't alive to see it. He would have been deeply ashamed.

We are all boat people.

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