Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Media Manipulation 101

We hear a great deal, gentle reader, about "fake news". A textbook example of this popped up yesterday on my Facebook feed.

As a Vietnam veteran I subscribe to a number of ex-service networks. On one of them, a report from the UK's Daily Telegraph, was posted claiming that students at Cambridge university in the UK had dishonoured veterans by voting against a student council motion that they should promote commemorations on the upcoming Remembrance day.

This report, predictably, generated howls of outrage from the veterans' community, and plenty were posted on the feed.

When I read it, it struck me that there was something a bit fishy about the story. I went on line to the local paper (Cambridge News) in an attempt to check it out.
What was reported there, was interesting, although you have to read way past the headline to get the full story.

The actual sequence of events was this -

1. The Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) put a motion to the students' union council (CUSU) which read – “The council should encourage the commemoration of British war veterans on Remembrance Day across the University of Cambridge.

2. The Cambridge Defend Education group proposed an amended motion which read – “The council should encourage the commemoration of those whose lives have been affected by war across the University of Cambridge”.

3. There was a vote on both motions, and both were defeated.

4. CUCA responded on their Facebook page, writing: “CUSU Council shockingly voted against the motion that they should promote commemorations this Remembrance Day and encourage students to support the Poppy Appeal.”

5. The Daily Telegraph got hold of the story from the CUCA Facebook page and wrote their report, neglecting to mention that two motions were put up and both voted down.

What really happened was the Daily Telegraph created outrage for clickbait.

You can’t read the story until you subscribe to the paper’s website.

Try it

Donald Trump would probably describe the Tele's report as “Fake News”.

The whole thing was a stunt generated by the Cambridge University's Conservative Association.

I'd be very surprised if the bulk of Cambridge students had strong feelings one way or another about Remembrance Day.

Monday, 1 October 2018

A Blow-In

For years I've been intrigued by the various iterations of the Mazda MX5. Owning a couple of them has not resolved this fascination. 

Back in the early part of this century, two turbocharged versions of the NB were produced. 

The first (called SP) was a Mazda Australia project carried out under the supervision of Allan Horsley, but it was built by Prodrive in Melbourne, the company that builds FPV performance Fords in partnership with Ford.

The second (called SE) was an official Mazda factory version, called Mazdaspeed Miata in the US, and Roadster in Japan and other markets.

Both were relatively mild with low boost turbos, but the SP was a little more potent.

SP has decal
They were actually quite different cars. The SP is raw and comparatively rare, only 100 being produced. The SE is more thoroughly and conservatively engineered, but has up rated steering and suspension, which makes it a bit harsh around town, but a treat on the open road.
SE has badge

A couple of weeks ago I came across a 2004 SE advertised in Newcastle. Coincidentally, I was planning a visit to an old army mate in Newcastle, so combined that with an inspection of the SE.

The car was good, sporting a unique interior fitout. It pretty much sold itself.

Jasper Conran Interior

I flew to Newcastle from Brisbane, and was met at the airport by the obliging owner. Incidentally, the last time I flew Brisbane-Newcastle was on my way to Nasho at Singleton in January 1969.

This trip had a much more enjoyable outcome.

I drove the SE to Tamworth the same day, and drove Tamworth-Toowoomba the day after.

Whilst the boost is mild, it comes into its own overtaking on two lane roads. The Tamworth-Toowoomba stretch has plenty of stretches of great give and take roads.

Can't drive them both at once.

So now I have two MX5s. Given that I haven’t mastered the art of driving them both at once, the original is on the market.

Update - Original (left) is sold. It took a whole week!

Monday, 17 September 2018

Ground Hog Day?

Pic courtesy Fraser Coast Chronicle

I’ve blogged before about history rhyming, rather than repeating itself.

Having said that, for those of us more senior than most, the current divisions within the Liberal Party look to me like something we’ve seen before.

That something was the Labor split of 1955. I remember listening to my father discussing the issue with an old mate of his in preparation for the ANZAC Day dawn service in Koumala, so it must have come to a head in April, but can’t be sure of the year.

 Dad was pretty worked up – that I remember vividly.

 Perhaps it was around the time of Vince Gair’s expulsion, as I was 10 years old, and had some idea of what was going on. In 1955 at age 8, I don’t think I would have had much of a clue. He was kicked out of the party on ANZAC eve 1957, so that’s probably what I remember.

To be honest, I’m not sure whether the situation referred to the Victorian or Queensland split.

Back then, there was a militant anti-communist faction operating predominantly in the party’s Victorian branch.

These people had a very clear idea of what they were against. They were also heavily influenced by B A Santamaria. By the time the split had worked its destructive course through the various state branches of the party, and led to the creation of the DLP, so much damage had been done to the Labor movement that it took until 1972 for it to recover.

These days, there’s a faction within the Liberal Party which is noteworthy for what its members oppose. They were identified starkly by their holdout in the same sex marriage debate. Prominent amongst this group is an ex-prime minister who was heavily influenced by B A Santamaria.

They are notable for their apparent incapacity to negotiate or compromise.

 The depth of loathing that the protagonists within the Liberal party are showing right now, is eerily reminiscent of the Labor split. There doesn’t seem to be any room for negotiation or compromise.

 I reckon there’s a pretty good chance of a split. Watch this space….

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Corruption Rewound

Pic courtesy News.com
A very long time ago, when I was a young teacher working with students with intellectual impairments, I came across a situation which, to put it mildly, made my blood boil.

There was a corner shop not to far from the school in which I worked, which had the habit of failing to give these kids change, when they bought low value items with large denomination notes.

It happened too often to be accidental, and after a number of complaints from parents, I took it on myself to have a chat with the shopkeeper. Initially, he denied ripping off these students, but when I recounted a couple of complaints, he became angry, called me a "bleeding heart", and threatened physical violence.

The message went out (discretely) and none of the students from the school darkened his door again.

That was back in the early eighties.

At the banking royal commission today, the father of a lad with Down Syndrome revealed how his son had been ripped off by a bank selling life insurance.

Vulnerable people are still being exploited in 2018.

Only these days, it not a spiv who runs a corner store in the frame, but a previously respected institution.

I don't believe things have improved much in the intervening thirty years.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Leyburn 2018

I may eventually blog on the debacle that is Oz politics at the moment, but in the meantime, let's visit a more reasonable and rational topic.

Regular readers will remember previous posts on this subject.

Leyburn Sprints have to be one of the most engaging motor themed events in the country. I've been to many, and the Bay to Birdwood in South Australia is probably the best, but Leyburn is up there with the David Hack meet, another local spectacle.

Toowoomba is well located if you're into veteran and vintage motoring.

What makes Leyburn interesting, apart from its history, is the variety and scope of the competing vehicles. The ability of spectators to mingle with the competitors and get up close to their cars is also unusual.

Because of the laid-back nature of the event, this intimacy is possible because neither competitors or spectators take themselves too seriously.

"Silver Fox" - 1936 Chev Maple Leaf 

 Some of the vehicles on display were unique. Above is an example. In my opinion, a strange idea beautifully executed. It certainly attracted attention.

MX5s were in the action. This NA competed as did a silver NB.

The MX5 is well suited to the sprint layout. There's always a few entered.

Vanguard ute.
My dad owned a Vanguard Spacemaster for a few years. It was built like a brick dunny, but needed lots of maintainance, which was a problem as we lived a long way from the dealer.

This Swallow was beautifully restored.

The Swallow above is the only one in the country. Swallow went on to build Jaguars and the rest is history.

Tidy little MGF.

There were two MGfs shown. This one was automatic.

Pony car.
Many mustangs were displayed. This was probably the most original.

Volvo C70 AWD
The C70 is extermely rare in Oz.

There's always P76s.
This Leyland P76 went round. It was noisy and spectacular, but probably too big.

Wolsley Special
Another unique machine with an interesting history.

I displayed the MX5.
The day was spoiled somewhat by the lazy* westerlies, but it was enjoyable.

*Too lazy to blow around you - they blow straight through.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Strange Bedfellows

No doubt, gentle reader, you’re acquainted with both the media pile-on directed towards Ben Roberts-Smith, and the consequential outrage.

 Taken in isolation, this situation is patently ridiculous, and it is unfair, given that the material that is the subject of the pile-on is subject to a confidential ADF inquiry.

The pile-on is of course, unreasonable and unfair to Roberts-Smith, but it is hardly a new phenomenon.

Consider the cases of Emma Husar, and the character assasination following accusations of bullying and misuse of staff, and Yassmin Abdel Magied being abused to the point of being forced to leave the country after her Ill-considered remarks about ANZAC Day.

There is a striking similarity between these three situations, and some clear differences.

 The similarities include the publishing of a whole range of allegations that grow one upon the other, are amplified and value-added in social media, and are scurrilous in the extreme.

 There are, however, some differences, and they’re related to gender.

In the case of Husar and YAM, there is a characteristic of the pile-on that is salacious, and almost pornographic.

 In the case of Roberts-Smith, the pornography is violence.

 What this reveals is the mindset of those to whom this material appeals, and the level of gutter journalism in which many of our tabloids and shock jocks are prepared to operate.

 Sad and shameful......

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Setting the Record Straight

Embarking - Feb 1970

Regular readers will perhaps remember this post about the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee website.

You'll recall that I took exception to the statement that "every National Serviceman who served in Vietnam was effectively a volunteer".

This did not accord with my memory, and the "every" reference was frankly bullshit.

More fascinating was the reason for promoting this myth. My belief is that it is was a convenient rationalisation in an attempt to make our dodgy commitment in Vietnam somehow line up with the ANZAC myth.

Now I'm a pig-headed old curmudgeon, so I decided I'd have another go at asking the Committee to correct the record on the website. 

I emailed, as I had before, but this time followed the email up with a phone call.  I used this strategy  when I was a school principal dealing with bureaucracy. It almost always worked.

The person who answered the phone was, I think, a receptionist, but she obviously passed my concerns on to those in the committee who have the power to amend the website.

Yesterday, this email arrived -   

Dear Mr ******

Further to my correspondence of 26 July, I wish to advise that the statement on our website concerning the “generally voluntary” nature of the service by National Servicemen in Vietnam has been removed. After further consultation and research I concluded that the evidence presented by Mark Dapin in his book on Vietnam appears to be the most definitive presented on the subject and that the statements presented on our website appear to be erroneous – certainly in the experience of most Nashos.

Again, I apologise for any unintended offence or umbrage our website may have caused you or others. I appreciate you communicating your concern.


Colonel David Smith AM (Retd)
Hon President
ADCC (Qld)

This was gratifying. I'm glad that the primary website used by schools to develop teaching units about ANZAC Day is now promoting fact rather than myth.

The original email I sent reads thus -

Subject: Myths about Vietnam - please acknowledge

Dear Sir

I draw your attention to this statement on your website – https://anzacday.org.au/tackling-some-myths-and-misunderstandings-of-the-vietnam-war

After their initial training all recruits were allocated to a Corps (branch of the Army, eg Infantry, Artillery) for specialised training, and were then sent to particular units. If the unit was scheduled to be sent to Vietnam, the soldiers were generally given the chance to avoid transfer elsewhere. The Army's rationale was that in combat every man had to be able to rely totally on his mates, and any reluctant soldiers would endanger the whole group.

This statement is untrue, and should be removed from your website. I discovered it when, as a Vietnam Veteran, I was preparing an address to students at my old school, Downlands College (Toowoomba). My address was dedicated to Francis Topp, a friend I knew from my time at the school who was killed in the battle of Long Tan. I was seeking an accurate account of Australia’s history in Vietnam. 

I served as a conscript, in 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in its second tour of duty in South Vietnam in 1970.  I have no memory of being given a choice. There has been a myth circulated. It goes like this – prior to embarkation, a unit parade of National Servicemen would be called and those who did not want to serve in Vietnam would be asked to take one pace forward. If they did so, they would be marched out to join a unit not warned for Vietnam service.

The Nashos I served with, although they had heard this account, vowed that it had never happened to them. I have searched infantry battalion records held on-line at the AWM. Every parade, including those held prior to embarkation, was recorded for every infantry unit - https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG1029063/

Nowhere is there a record of such a parade. I gave up after looking through the parade records of four of the nine battalions in existence at the time. It was an entirely fruitless search.

This is hardly surprising. If these parades had been held, the Commanding Officer of the unit in question would have been in breach of the National Service Act - https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C1965A00052

Perhaps there were “unofficial” parades mounted by some units – but to say that the soldiers were “generally” given the chance to avoid service in Vietnam is at least misleading, and at most a lie.

“Generally” means “mostly”, or perhaps, “more often than not”, or perhaps that it was common practice. This contention is simply not supported by the available historical evidence. It certainly doesn’t sit with my experience, or that of the many Nashos I have discussed the issue with down through the years. It is also debunked in Mark Dapin’s Vietnam, The Nashos War – https://penguin.com.au/books/the-nashos-war-australias-national-servicemen-and-vietnam-97806700

It has no place on a website used by schools to educate young Australians about our proud military history. As a school principal for many years before retirement, I understand the difference between indoctrination and education.

The reason for this variation from the reality and the insertion of it in a resource intended for school use is, I believe, caught up in the Anzac myth. The notion of noble sacrifice doesn’t sit well with conscription, so conscripts become “volunteers”. It adds a layer of sweetening to help the harsh medicine go down.

Until we embrace the reality of our history, warts and all, our nation will not develop beyond its adolescence. That reality saw Australian conscripts killed in Vietnam. I saw a couple of them die.

To deny that truth dishonours those men. It assumes that there was a distinction in the field between Nashos and volunteers, and that the service of Nashos was somehow less honourable because they did not volunteer.

Why else would the myth seek to convert us to volunteers?

When it come to the Anzac myth, it’s time we grew up and confronted the reality of war in all its ugliness. Truth and remembrance go hand in hand.

I am therefore respectfully asking you to edit your website and amend it to reflect the facts of history. Simply remove that offending statement.

To do otherwise would be to disrespect my service, and those Nashos I served with. We were not volunteers, but we were good soldiers. We made the most of what life presented us, and did our duty.

Respect us with the facts.

Yours in remembrance.


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