SAME AS…SAME AS!

June 19th, 2016

I have not blogged for a time however with the Federal Election now reaching the pointy end, it is now incumbent of me to put Pen to Paper.

Shutting down the Australian Parliament on the spurious excuse of needing to ‘go to the Electorate’ sooner than later insults the intelligence of the Australian voter who (a) does not want to vote in an environment that is truly a ‘Winter of Discontent’ (b) does not want the inconvenience of having to vote during school holidays and (c) is of the opinion that ALL governments should serve the FULL term as set out  in their Commissions.

With prodding and poking from influential members of The Fourth Estate – and perhaps the realisation that the Turnbull Government could not survive many more months of public scrutiny with the Federal Government continuing to sit in Canberra – an Election was called with a Campaign which could be better called ‘The Never-Ending Story’. Even I, a political junkie, have turned off to the plethora of promises funded by vast amounts of money seemingly plucked from the skies by all sides of the political prism.

If anything, this marathon of Campaigns has turned me into an avowed ‘First Past the Post’ believer; the duopoly of Liberals/ Nationals and Labor (with the Greens nipping at their heels) in their desire to make Australia’s political landscape their own, have  made a mockery of Australia’s democratic traditions and perpetrated the greatest disservice to a Fabric of Democracy that is the envy of many other countries.

It is as if I have been transported back to the England of King Charles I and the House of Stuart’s indecent  belief in The Divine Right of Kings. For our major political parties have fallen into the trap of taking taxpayer-funded Largesse for granted…generous salaries and allowances, jobs post retirement with a Gravy Train which never seems to stop! Parliament is now reduced to a cosy club for a few privileged Elites and said Elites will fight strenuously to repel what are seen as usurpers…the free-thinkers and – shock horror – Independents.

Independents and micro parties sitting in the Australian Senate – the States’ House – is the one potential saving Grace at this time of political rancour (with a Capital R); ironic, given the way in which the Turnbull Government and connivance of the Greens sought to rid itself of their meddling and Senate Committees.

And lest you think that I am a card-carrying member of the Labor Party, and singing from the same song sheet…here is a similar band of men and women in suits, petrified of the growing influence of the Greens to a point where you hear the desperation in their collective voices.

Obliged in the election of members of the House of Representatives to number each box, that same demand will not be made of me with regard to Senate voting. When voting below the Line, I have a choice and I will use it wisely.

POLITICAL WILDFIRES APLENTY

February 26th, 2016

For a political ‘junkie’ like me, it doesn’t get any better. Federal politicians falling like skittles at a bowling alley, often as a consequence of their own making and other politicians who know full well that there is but one occupation of which they have any knowledge…and so warm a seat in the Parliament that could – and should – be the preserve of a person who could actually make a difference.

The likes of Robert Menzies and Ben Chifley must be rolling in their graves at this unseemly cavalcade of Prime Ministerial aspirants with names like Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now, the greatest of disappointments, Malcolm Turnbull. Each has a simple and shallow raison d’etre when it comes to making a pitch of the top job – POWER. It is always about Power…Power over Policy when these Prime Ministers, (with their eye firmly fixed on how History will record their incumbency in the top job), place their ambition over the needs of a Nation!

Never has this been more apparent at present with the discussion in respect of Negative Gearing and raising the GST. PM Turnbull, anxious to avoid being the 6th. PM in as many years, wants the Electorate to hasten slowly; not doubt to enable him and his hapless Treasurer Morrison to collect their thoughts in preparation for the next Presser. Give me a break. Show some Leadership.

Meanwhile the alternate Government, ‘led’ by Mr. Shorten has read ‘How to be a small Target 101’ written by Tony Abbott (and well played by said Mr. Abbott) such that  – for a short time, thankfully – he became Prime Minister of Australia. If Labor make a lot of noise, the Electorate might forget for a nano second  that when this Party adorned the Treasury Benches there was more blood-letting and vituperation than is to be found in any number of Hallowean-type horror movies.

And so, what are the choices open to an Electorate wearied by all manner of things that diminish a contribution to the betterment of this Nation? A pox on both Parties. Neither deserve the privilege of Government. 

The 24 HOUR NEWS CYCLE DOESN’T STOP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

January 8th, 2016

It’s the early part of January 2016, a time when – traditionally – everyone repairs to the beach or mountains in search of quality time with Family and Friends.

That might once have been true however circumstances at year’s end dictated otherwise and yet where were the ‘Big Names’ to digest and analyse a cascading series of gaffes? They seemingly were ‘on hols’…Q & A, Lateline, The Drum, Insiders and those luminaries who contribute to these programmes…writers like Lenore Nicklin, Laura Tingle etc.

Pardon me if I sound somewhat cynical but perhaps the stories concerning Messrs. Briggs, Dutton and Brough were saved up and set aside – along with other contentious utterings – to be announced when the Electorate was distracted with wrapping Christmas presents, making mince pies and generally preparing for the Festive Season and in the full knowledge that said luminaries were missing from Canberra’s corridors of power. Thankfully, the Twitterati recognised these appaling actions by two Ministers of the Turnbull Government and tweeted their indignation with a vengeance. Both these men should retreat to a dark place and consider the consequences of their actions; to say nothing of the suitability of them remaining as members of Parliament.

As I suggested in a recent article in Independent Australia, notwithstanding  the electoral hurdles that have to be jumped, it is critical that Malcolm Turnbull goes to a Double Dissolution. NOW! The ‘larger than Life’ risk is that the number of Senate cross benchers may increase as a consequence. That said, Malcolm Turnbull needs clear air and he will be denied that if there are recalcitrant politicians ‘warming seats’ like Bronwyn Bishop and Messrs. Abbott, Abetz and Andrews (to which Messrs. Briggs and Dutton must now be added to the mix).

Moreover The Fourth Estate needs to recognise (and embrace) the reality that a 24 hour news cycle is in play in Australia; 365 days of the year. I don’t begrudge you a holiday; it is just that you need to take into account the changed ways in which the news is reported and opinions expressed.

2016 – MORE OF THE SAME SADLY

December 26th, 2015

It is that time of the year when People, having survived the past year one way or the other, look forward to a new year 2016. Resolutions are made – and mostly broken before the end of the first week. I will lose weight! I will respect with whom I work! I will keep my bedroom tidy and so the options, like confetti at a wedding, cascade….and cascade…and cascade ad nauseam.

Professional politicians of all persuasions – the Liberals, Labor , Nationals, Greens and those who, ‘hand on heart’, vow that THEY will never become one of the aforementioned – promise to end the deficit, to be more accountable, to be kinder to their respective Oppositions…and then do precisely nothing; save that proscribed by their collective party machines. No better, those paid to report on these political shenanigans will persist with their own agendas…the Opinion writers and Political Galleries…favouring those who drop them a nod (or wink), are prepared to share a publicly-subsidised ale or those who delight in Gossip.

Meanwhile in the real world, there is a major displacement of men and women and children throughout the World, caused (for the most part) by self-serving politicians; deficits continue to spiral out of control and all tenets of Society are at the mercy of vast upheaval where new occupations are being created at the expense of those that have served the old World well. 

…and there is a flippant disregard amongst many for their fellow Man, Woman, Child and Environment and, especially here in Australia, people of a certain generation have made it their raison d’etre and raised it to an Art Form. For example, a senior bureaucrat looses a job with , it would appear, nary a thought for the feelings of those working at the Institution. It is not about you; it is about your Staff!

On Christmas Day 2015, an out-of-control bush fire cames perilously close to the Victorian seaside resort of Lorne. In its unrelenting march towards this town, many homes were lost and Lives thrown upside-down at a time when, given  the Seasonal nature of the time of the year, will never be forgotten AND YET strident questions as to whether an annual Music Festival nearby will be affected almost drowned out the pain and genuine  plight within the Community. 

SERPENTS IN PARADISE

December 4th, 2015

Many will be familiar with the trio of islands in the middle of the South Pacific called Norfolk, Nepean and Phillip. Bird life has taken up residence on Nepean and Phillip Islands and a unique Community of individuals – descendants of the mutineers from HMAV Bounty – reside on the third, Norfolk; having arrived from Pitcairn Island in the mid 19th century.

Here is a place of immense beauty, powerful history, patriotism, allegiance to the Sovereign but as with all places that have earned the honorific ‘Paradise’, it is a place where serpents lurk…ready, willing and, with the connivance of the Australian Government, able to destroy this fragile environment with a series of legislative strokes. This is what is happening now and it is incumbent on all who value democratic ideals to fight this disenfranchisement of a Community with the same resolve that Fletcher Christian used to escape the excesses of the Royal Navy.

There is no point seeking the intervention of the mainstream professional politicians for whom Canberra is but a glorified Club, for both parties are complicit in supporting changes to the ways in which Norfolk Island should function in the long term and both parties, and their coterie of public servant advisers and sleeper cells on the Island itself, are hell bent in ensuring that they will get their way. Our concerns must be enunciated further afield. The world must learn of Norfolk Island’s plight and this appalling affront to basic Democratic Ideals.

Over many years, I have been a frequent visitor to this Community and have made many friendships that have stood the test of Time. This I have done as a private citizen and as an historian taking groups to sample, initially, its unique Colonial History with some of the finest examples of Georgian architecture seen outside of the United Kingdom. Over time, research has been undertaken which has re-visited  and re-vitalised the ‘accepted’ stories so that, in 2015, a modern and relevant Narrative beginning with the arrival of visiting Polynesian Communities through to a celebration of the artisanship of a Community born out of the descendants of the mutineers of HMAV Bounty is on show to experience, learn about and share with the wider world.

The opportunity to maintain this organic ‘History Lesson’ has never been more threatened as parties in far-flung Canberra seek to deny this unique, hard-working, God-fearing and intensely patriotic Community (where the singing of ‘God Save the Queen’ is de rigeur), basic democratic tenets such as their own Legislative Assembly, the right of referendums and, above all else, the fundamental right to live their lives as Norfolk Islanders; free of the vicissitudes that Canberra’s public servants seek to impose because it suits their public service model – which is at the expense of the best interests of the People of Norfolk Island.

Yes, there was a fiscal problem and yes, it required a long-term solution however this ‘stumble’ should not have been used as an excuse for a cabal of public servants – far removed from Norfolk Island – and with scant regard for, and understanding of, the needs of this proud race of Warriors to still the heart of many whom I regard as Friends.

Take from the book of Mahatma Gandhi. Practice respectful ”civil disobedience” and proudly fly the distinctive Norfolk Island Flag.  

YABBA DABBA DOO!

October 30th, 2015

It  is early Saturday morning here in Australia and by this time tomorrow, on the other side of the world and in another hemisphere, the winners of the Rugby World Cup will have been decided in a keen ‘take no prisoners’ contest between New Zealand’s ALL BLACKS and Australia’s WALLABIES.

Now I have been reliably informed by a Brother-in-Law who played at an A Grade level and a Nephew who is a gifted young referee that this Game – Rugby Union – is played  in Heaven! It is a sport that evokes great Passion, lifetime friendships and has that rare capacity to help shape the Individual who dares play it.

Without wishing to single out one player over others, I will be watching intently the performance of a young man – a gentleman who will play for AUSTRALIA, by way of Zimbabwe, and who goes under the nick-name ”BAM BAM”. The world knows him better as David Pocock and, in him and in that he does and says and believes in; here is my ‘CHARIOTS OF FIRE’ moment; a Crusader with a Conscience and, truly, a Man for all Seasons. In one word, he inspires!

There is that adage attributed to the Swiss Jesuit theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar which goes something like this…’God’s Gift to You is Life; what You do with your Life is your Gift to God’. For some who share this planet, an opportunity is presented. Some recognise this fact and others do not however it is the rarest of Individuals who sees, in that opportunity presented, an ability to make a difference by sharing the recognition which accompanies it. I am told that it is known in southern Africa as Ubuntu. David Pocock is one such Man.

Whatever the result tomorrow, it is important to revisit this observation made in Australian Men’s Health….’‘I think it’s crucial to have something outside of rugby. By nature, sportsmen can be pretty selfish. And to a large extent you have to be; you have to be focused on what you’re going to get results. But it gives you some perspective to have something that you’re passionate about outside sport’.

And just who said that? Why, David Pocock!  

A NEW AGE FOR LIBERALISM (AND ENLIGHTENMENT)?

September 16th, 2015

I have not blogged for what seems like ages for whilst there have been many topics to write about; events – both globally and within Australia – have been encircled by an almost impenetrable ‘force field’ of negativity. And then along came Malcolm Turnbull and something appeared to change!

Don’t get me wrong. Mr. Turnbull is another politician who will always – as all politicians are prone to do – see their Life through the privileged prism of political life, where every conceivable desire is accommodated. Politicians generally – and this is why the Electorate is so distrustful of their actions  –  see themselves as a special Class over and above those of us who are little more than the hoi polloi. Yet, for all his wealth and success as a businessman, Malcolm Turnbull appears to see the post of Prime Minister of Australia differently.

Like some Renaissance Prince (the de Medicis come to mind); jobs to earn money to pay the bills, and fees to send children to school, seem just memories for this man, His many successes prior to a formal assault on the political process have been well documented…and that may be enough – just enough – to persuade the Electorate that he comes from a different cut of cloth.

I, for one, am however wary given the ease with which he ‘caved in’ in to the treats of Australia’s very own class of agrarian socialists – the National Party with regard to the issue of water and the Murray-Darling River Systems. How I long for the day when this Rump no longer has the power to influence Policy.

Time will tell however, watching the unseemly pushing and shoving in respect of the impending Cabinet reshuffle by men and women who should know better, I suspect that a Turnbull Government will simply be ‘more of the same’ where Egos fed by Hubris reign supreme at the expense of the real hopes and aspirations of the Australian Electorate.

DELETE RUNNYMEDE & INSERT CANBERRA

June 11th, 2015

The year 2015 hosts a number of significant anniversaries and one of those concerns a water-meadow alongside the River Thames some 20 miles west of London in the county of Surrey – forever linked with the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago.

The very mention of the Magna Carta invokes a mystique and sense of wonderment for many who are of the belief that here is a document of individual rights and a check against power. Indeed I well remember queuing to view one of the 4 surviving copies on a visit to Salisbury Cathedral in the United Kingdom.

That this Moment in History might provide re-assurance to many has to be a good thing however ask yourself; was this the proverbial ‘line in the sand’ that many would have you believe? In reflecting on this matter at this particular time, one needs only to look around the world to see the various ways in which the rights of the individual are still trampled upon by Commerce and by Government who all too often are prepared for play the Security Card or Privacy Card to hide or justify their own Agendas or Inadequacies. 

Delete the destination Runnymede and replace it with Canberra and see what I mean.  Australia presently has a government in which a majority of the ruling class dare to call themselves Liberals which is to do a great disservice of the true tenets of Liberalism that flourished in earlier times and here one needs only to think of the proposed changes to Australian citizenship protocols and the constant berating of the Electorate by the Abbott Government for it is the Abbott Government – and the Abbott Government alone – who thinks it  knows what is best for we mere mortals !

In 2015, a true Liberal in Australia is an endangered species, doomed to wander alone in a world suspicious of free-thinkers whilst those who cherish their own opinion continue to seek out a landscape unencumbered by mindless rules and regulations.

And what of that other raison d’tre for the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215?. As a Plantagenet, it grieves me to say that King John was a affront to the institution of  Monarch whose excesses in pillaging the wealth of the kingdom make him one of the least-admired of English monarchs.

1215 Runnymede. 2015 Canberra, AUSTRALIA. Has anything changed?  

UNSPEAKABLE EVIL

April 28th, 2015

I have been watching from afar. Fearing the worst and becoming increasingly angered by the charade of the Indonesian Government paying, what we now know (and what we always knew) was little more than ”Lip Service” to the emotions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, their Families and Friends and of those who shared the same Fate. All this sadness against the din of disquiet founded on the perverse logic that, somehow, State-sanctioned Murder is more honourable than the base concept of one person arbitrarily taking the Life of another. Murder is Murder!

Using the vehicle of a corrupt and capricious ‘legal system’; a near neighbour – Indonesia – is dressed up as a Democracy when, in reality, it is little better than a rogue state who treats Lives; especially if they are Christian Lives, with scant regard.

Like their odious President Widodo, those Indonesians who continue to support Capital Punishment are no better than murdering social pariahs and I for one live for the day when I see their collective Evil tested in the dock of the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Much will be written about these wilful Executions – an Act of Unspeakable Evil. Here were young men who broke an Indonesia law. Foolish men and yet men, who during their incarceration, displayed a stoicism which showed a Courage and Dignity far in excess of their years. It must have been an easy option to sit in a dirty cell, in full knowledge of your Fate and yet these two men changed and we, as citizens of the World, were privileged to see that change.

In this country – Australia – those conservative  ‘rednecks’ who rush to applaud this State-sanctioned murder as right and proper are no better than those who pulled the trigger! For too long, Government and Business have jumped through as many hoops necessary to appease this Muslim nation, not matter the moral and political obstacles along the way! And in case you need reminding…obstacles like West Papua, Timor, the Balibo 5, the ‘Stopping the Boats’ platitudes etc.

Now is the time for Men and Women; who have a Conscience, can spell the words Forgiveness and Compassion and who feel the pain of Injustice, to be heard…turn your back on all people and things to so with Indonesia…holiday anywhere but Bali, fly with airlines that have no links to this failed state, check supermarket trollies for everything that says ‘Product of Indonesia’ then reject. If said nation’s economy goes into free fall, tell its citizens to blame their President and the Junta which surrounds and influences him.

One can but hope that the United Nations’ Security Council will censure the actions of this poor excuse for a state but I doubt it for, looking at its present composition, this supposed-august body will seek to appease Indonesia with the same alacrity that Europe sought to appease Adolph Hitler.

THE LESSON DEATH DELIVERS

March 21st, 2015

I have not blogged for some time – for which I apologise.  There seems to be so many issues demanding my interest, attention and comment. Can I do Justice to all that clamour?

Within the State of Queensland, a new Government has been elected much to the surprise of anyone who matters. Natural disasters have battered our coast-line. Politicians continue to play their childish games; here in Australia, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere and Humanity continues to fight battles where the only certainties are horrendous casualties, displacement of complete Communities and the agents of Evil at work on so many Fronts.

And all the time, you wake up each morning (something, in itself, worthy of Giving Thanks) and your first word uttered is FOCUS! I am an unabashed follower of that powerful belief which goes something like this…’God’s gift to You is Life; what You do with your Life is your Gift to God’. For an historian there is much to be done – much of it pro bono such is the nature of the Discipline of History…articles to write for the HISTORY QUEENSLAND magazine, Papers to present (the story of the Australian submarine AE2 and its gallant Commander Lt. Cdr. Stoker a particular favourite), to say nothing of keeping a proprietary eye on any number of special Heritage-orientated projects at various levels of development. 

Suddenly something occurs that pulls you up short…and in recent times, on two occasions. DEATH! One is expected, the other is not…one, a great worker in the most tangible of ways for Queensland’s historic landscape whom I regarded as a special Friend…the other, onetime Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who went to his Maker knowing that he died a true Liberal in the Menzies Tradition. Saddened and disillusioned by the crass political opportunism of Liberal Prime Ministers who followed him who kept (and keep) one eye firmly fixed on the electoral weather vane and confect their decisions accordingly; Malcolm Fraser stood – like a Rapa Nui moai – resolute…Principles intact to the end and an honourable man it was my privilege to meet on several occasions!

Martin Luther King Jnr. once observed that…”If a Man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to Live”. And so to last Friday, sitting in a Chapel filled to overflowing, a Congregation listening to the music of Mozart; the substance of my late Friend and the Regard in which he was held was reflected in those present…in close quarters to me alone; a former Queensland Cabinet Minister, a member of the Queensland Heritage Council and a former Federal Member of Parliament.

We were remembering a soldier, husband, a country boy who went a’droving and who was a great Friend to the Cause of Heritage in a State not readily identified with preserving the Past. VALE Aussie! 

Listening to, and reflecting on, a Eulogy received in respectful silence, there were knowing smiles and nodding heads followed by the soaring music of Samuel Barber to assist all present to distil a Life that was lived to the fullest and a Death which, whilst expected, was welcome!