Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 30 August 2015


Pic courtesy brisbanetimes.com.au
There's something about this decision that smells strongly of spite.

This young woman is married, and was in community detention in Brisbane. Her application for asylum had been rejected, and in August she was moved from Brisbane to a Detention Centre in Darwin.

She had escaped Iran to avoid a forced marriage (to a 60 year old) .

She had fled Iran with her brother in 2012 on a boat from Indonesia.

She was studying for her Year 12 certificate at Yeronga State High School.

Here are a few questions for the Minister, Peter Dutton -

1. Why was her application for asylum rejected?
2. Why was she moved to Darwin?
3.Was she considered a security risk?
4. Is it assumed she married to gain an Australian visa?
5. Were these decisions made out of spite, or de d├ęcourager les autres?

So far, there has been a deafening silence from the Minister's office.

Sometimes I think we are governed by pure malice.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Seen It Before

Pic courtesy Betoota Advocate

Yesterday's little frolic in Melbourne's CBD is a symptom of malaise in government.

The regional commander of the newly minted Border Force announced that they were going to be conducting some kind of sweep in the city designed to round up a range of miscreants.

"ABF officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with", said he, ending a sentence with a preposition.

They were going to do this in conjunction with Victoria Police, and the activity was to be called Operation Fortitude.

The targets of the operation were not specifically defined, but the press release made reference to "crime and visa fraud".

The first thing that strikes me as beyond bizarre, is why you would publicise an activity like this in advance, if you were really out to round up miscreants. Surely it must have occurred to the area commander that the targets of the roundup might make themselves absent at the time of the sweep.

It reminds me very much of a phenomenon I personally observed in downtown Saigon last time I was there. At around 9pm one evening I was wandering around the tourist area. As if on some kind of signal, all the illegal street vendors packed up their very portable gear and disappeared. In the next few minutes, a GAZ jeep trundled down the street with two cops, both toting AK47s, aboard.

Five minutes later, the vendors were all back on the street. Obviously, substantial amounts of Vietnamese Dong had changed hands, the vendors had been tipped off, and the accustomed interruption to their illegal activity was observed - a very Vietnamese win-win situation.

A local told me that this was a daily occurrence. "It's all for show", he said.

I reckon Operation Fortitude, as first conceived (probably in Coalition central casting in the depths of the PM's office) was also "All for show".

But I digress.

Even so, my Saigon experience is relevant in that it reminds me that what happens on the surface can be revealing.

On the surface, it is all about the "keeping us safe" narrative, which is, at the moment, averaging about two press conferences per week, and which is inserted into every ministerial doorstop, at least twice (always twice if it's a Tony Abbott doorstop, as he says everything twice).

This divide and rule disease has been a hallmark of Conservative political activity since the days of Bob Menzies. The fear-de- jour is now Islamic terrorism, which has morphed from fear of Communism in the sixties and seventies. Back then, for some of us, at age nineteen, that political activity had pretty disruptive consequences.

Being long in the tooth has its advantages - I've seen it all before.

The technique is elegant in its simplicity. First you find something or someone frightening (in this case Islamic terrorism). Then you hammer home the message that it means we'll all be murdered in our beds unless something is done; a message designed to terrify.

Remember Tampa and the demonising of boat people? That worked a treat.

Next you create some kind of force or entity (in the case the Australian Border Force) and you make sure they have something to do. Superheroes would do, but they're thin on the ground.

In the case of boat people, you also make sure that these activities are clouded in secrecy.

At least the Border Force aren't conscripts.

You kit these people up in sexy dark blue uniforms, and give them lots of media exposure. Make sure they're photographed with cute sniffer dogs - that always goes down a treat. In case some people don't quite get the message, you also increase the number of flags around the PM's podium.

Running an exercise in inner urban Melbourne was all part of the narrative, but it kind of went off the rails a bit because the local commander was obviously not the sharpest tool in the box. He did, after all, end a sentence with a preposition.

But it did give us a peek into the mind of the current PM (or those pulling his strings).

As a footnote, Operation Fortitude was the code name given to a series of deceptions employed by the Allies during the build-up to the 1944 Normandy landings.

Somehow, it is a good fit for the Melbourne exercise - both were deceptions.

The malaise? It's called political paranoia.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Power of Humour

The power of humour is neglected when it comes to this issue.

Note that I didn't use the word "debate".

There can only be a debate when the facts are contestable. When it comes to AGW, they're not.

That doesn't stop those with vested interest in the status quo muddying the waters.

(Language warning).

Saturday, 22 August 2015


For all you petrol heads out there, it's time for another road test.

The vehicle is an Hyundai ("an" necessary because of the aspirant "h") ix35, which has just been superseded by the weirdly named Tucson.

She That Must Be Obeyed (the fleet manager) had originally allocated me a Focus, but its transmission started hiccuping, so the ix35 was hurriedly substituted. This one was bright red, and was the two-wheel drive 2000cc version. They come in 4WD with a 2.4 litre motor as well, but this one pulled well and overtaking was a breeze. It averaged (according to the digital readout) 7.6lit/100km mostly cruising at 100kph on the flat.

I've driven plenty of Hyundais, from the Santa Fe diesel to the i30 and the i45 but this was the first time I've been on board the small SUV. It was, as befits a fleet car, the poverty pack version, called "Active". It had cloth upholstery, steel wheels, and no reversing camera or GPS.

It did, however, have a reasonable sound system together with reliable Bluetooth. Having said that the connection was reliable, I still have no idea how to set it up. I got it working, but have no idea what I did to make it talk to my phone. I never read the manuals - they just confuse me.

Apparently local Hyundais have a locally inspired suspension tuning. It certainly handled sweetly, but I found the ride a bit jittery. This seems to be an Hyundai characteristic, as it reminded me of the i45, which exhibited the same issues.

There was plenty of room, and the driving position was about right for me. The seats weren't wonderful (a bit hard), but I experienced no aches and pains after a couple of three hour stints. I do take a break every one and a half hours, however.

These things are well screwed together, but they smell like nothing I've ever encountered before. This particular example had less than 5000kms on the clock, so still smelt new, but it was not an agreeable pong. I think it was the glue used in interior trim.

If I owned one, I'd be putting a couple of saucers of kitty litter on the floor, and parking it in the sun for a while. This usually removes objectionable pongs.

So apart from the smell, it was an entirely pleasant machine. Hyundais are always good value for money, and there are some great runout deals around on this superseded model. If you're in the market for a handy and easy to drive SUV, check it out.

Monday, 17 August 2015

We Should Have Listened to Artie

Ruined bridge on the Song Rai - March 1970

Tuesday 18th is Vietnam Veterans' Day.

I'll be working west at that time, so will post this reflection on the Long Tan anniversary early.

I came across an article on Vietnam  by Hugh White the other day, which is well worth a read. In it, he refers to a speech Arthur Calwell, the then leader of the opposition, made to the House of Representatives on May 4, 1965. Calwell was responding to Menzies' announcement of the commitment of the 1st Battalion RAR to active service in Vietnam.

Reading Calwell's speech now, with the benefit of history, is absolutely astonishing. Perhaps old Arty had a crystal ball.

Some extracts -

Our present course is playing right into China’s hands, and our present policy will, if not changed, surely and inexorably lead to American humiliation in Asia.

It looks as if he got the bit about American humiliation right.

If the idea of military containment is unsuccessful, as I believe it will surely prove in the long term, as it has already in the short term, it will contribute to that spirit of defeatism and impotence in the face of Communism.

He was right about the unsuccessful end result, but probably would not have foreseen the divisions the commitment caused in both the USA and locally, and which still linger, so many years after what the Vietnamese call the "American" war.

He well understood the moral corruption that was conscription, and was prescient in warning that the involvement of conscripts would soon be involved.

How long will it be before we are drawing upon our conscript youth to service these growing and endless requirements? Does the Government now say that conscripts will not be sent? If so, has it completely forgotten what it said about conscription last year? The basis of that decision was that the new conscripts would be completely integrated in the Regular Army. The voluntary system was brought abruptly to an end.

He was not to know that conscription in peacetime issue that would divide Australians in a manner unseen since the first World War.

Towards the end of  his speech, Calwell says -

But I also offer you the sure and certain knowledge that we will be vindicated; that generations to come will record with gratitude that when a reckless Government wilfully endangered the security of this nation, the voice of the Australian Labour Party was heard, strong and clear, on the side of sanity and in the cause of humanity, and in the interests of Australia’s security.

He was indeed vindicated, although did not live to see it, (Calwell died in 1973, two years before the fall of Saigon) and as a great Australian, would not have rejoiced. The vindication came about with the withdrawal of Australian troops in 1972. but by that time, irrevocable damage had been done.

I, for one, am grateful to Calwell, even if I don't thank those who refused to listen to him, and by their support of the Coalition in a series of elections, sent a random selection of conscripts off to fight in an undeclared war which became, slowly but surely, a debacle.

These decisions were responsible for the deaths of about 500 young Australians, and the wounding and shattering of the lives of thousands more, many of whom continue to pay the price.

It's a great shame the majority of Australians fell for the "Reds under the bed" narrative instead of listening to him.

Fear usually trumps reason, and It's happening all over again.

This time the fear exploited is Islamic terrorism. Again, there is no existential threat. At least fifty years after this speech was made,  nineteen year old men aren't being conscripted as political collateral.

Perhaps Vietnam has taught us something.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Locusts - Update

Pics courtesy Weekend Australian

Regular readers will recall this post on 27th June.

The Weekend Australian cottoned on to the same issue I posted about back then, and did a feature story yesterday. It's tucked behind Rupert's firewall, but if you click on the link above, you can read the text.

They obviously spoke to the same people I did.

It's good to know they look to this humble blog for story tips.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Leyburn Sprints

The start line. There is no separation between spectators and vehicles in the marshalling areas.

It's the third weekend in August - Leyburn Sprints time.

I spent an hour or two there today, and as on previous visits, was amazed at the quality and variety of the cars competing and on display.

Leyburn has a great bush atmosphere, and when the weather's good - as it was today - is a lot of fun.

I'll post a few of the most unusual machines I came across.

From the sublime -
1963 Watson replica Indy roadster -  4 bolt 302 Chev small block Crower crank Dart alloy heads Schaffer aluminium flywheel 51/2" triple plate clutch 3 speed Chev gearbox

To the ridiculous -

1969 Fiat 500

And a blast from the past - (I used to watch this thing go around at Lakeside about fifty years ago).

1962 Centaur Waggott GT - powered by Holden grey motor with dual cam conversion.

There were also some rare and beautiful classics -

1954 Bristol 405

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