Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Send More Women!"

Captain Arthur Phillip Writes Home From Sydney Cove And Contemplates Playing Matchmaker To The New Colony

An interesting extract and some notes below from a letter by Captain Arthur Phillip about the problems facing the newly arrived convict hordes at Sydney Cove, Australia's first non-indigenous settlement.

In short, "Send More Women!"

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

Captain Phillip shows his softer side, expressing concern for the wellbeing of "some of the greatest villains that ever existed". He writes that currants, barley sugar, rice and spices are inadequate as medical supplies. Despite the stock of "wine for the use of the sick", the convicts strangely continue to fall ill in large numbers.

Captain Phillip appears hugely concerned about the shortage of women for the new colony, and fancies himself a matchmaker. He suggests an increase in the number of "frail fair ones" on the First Fleet to lift the ratio of one woman to five or six men.

"Without women, no colony can thrive - and a deficient number will certainly occasion … at length bloodshed, not to mention more odious consequences," he writes.

"There can be no objection (except the expense of their transportation) to supplying the colonists with plenty of mates - each convict, if encouraged, might easily find himself a companion …

"The method used by the Regent of France, when he colonised New Orleans, might be adopted …

"The men were forced to draw lots and were married to the women, pointed out by correspondent marks, before they were permitted to have any liberty on shore. Their eagerness for a commerce from which they had long been restrained made them take their destined spouse with readiness, and we do not find that these predetermined weddings turned out worse than the run of marriages commonly do."

Captain Phillip's insightful theory that a lack of women in the new colony would bring "bloodshed" amongst the men is a scene that still plays out in Sydney nightclubs today, when the booze flows and the men outnumber the women.

Captain Phillip's concerns about what the men might do to each other if the shortage of womenfolk continued - "...more odious consequences..." probably speaks for itself, though
Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore, which brilliantly catalogued the despair and desires of the new colony, makes a number of references to gay convict love affairs. Punishable by severe floggings, for some.
Australian Vietnam Vet Accused Of Plotting To Assassinate Solomon Islands Prime Minister For $50,000 Bounty

By Darryl Mason

The relationship between Australia and the Solomon Islands has been deteriorating for more than two years, and news breaking this morning about an alleged assassination plot on the prime minister of the Solomon Islands by an Australian Vietnam veteran will only add to the rot.

61 year old veteran, William Johnson, has been charged over the alleged assassination conspiracy against Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare. Four other men, all Solomon Islands nationals, are alleged to have been involved, but they have not yet been named.

When Johnson appeared yesterday in the Honiara Magistrates Court, it was revealed an unnamed Australian "sponsor" may have also been involved in the conspiracy, offering a $50,000 bounty for the proposed killing.

Johnson has been living in the Solomon Islands for more than 15 years and is married to a local woman. He was referred to in some media reports as "a happy drunk" who frequented expat bars in Honiara.

'The Australian' newspaper is reporting that "prosecutors will allege that Mr Johnson initially approached an inspector in the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for assistance in executing the plot to kill Mr Sogavare....
Mr Johnson allegedly thought the senior officer was an opponent of Mr Sogavare and would be able to ensure armed killers could pass through the checkpoints set up around the parliament and offices of the Prime Minister.

The plotters are alleged to have planned their conspiracy in the mountains of Malaita, a hotbed of past ethnic violence. The police inspector is understood to have informed Mr Sogavare's office and an investigation launched."

Prime minister Sogavare's Australian lawyers released information last night that detailed the charges against William Johnson :
"The man is alleged to have made statements to police that he, in company with other people not named in court, had made plans to assassinate the Prime Minister between the 18th and 23rd of this month..."
The magistrate refused Johnson's bail request, believing the chargers were serious enough that Johnson might try to leave the Solomon Islands to avoid prosecution.

William Johnson was discovered living in a discount motel in Honiara, where he was arrested by police.

The lawyer representing Johnson told Radio National that his client was denying the charges laid against him. He described the alleged assassination conspiracy plot as "crazy".

Johnson's lawyer said the prosecution had nothing more as evidence against Mr Johnson than "drunken conversations".

The assassination of Prime Minister Sogavare was allegedly planned to take place eight to twelve days ago, around the same time that Sogavare made it known to Australian government officials that he was going to deny their advice and re-arm local police who, he said, will form his personal security detail.

Prime Minister Sogavare described his soon-to-be-armed security force as a "close personal protection unit". Sogavare dismissed a personal guard comprising a number of Australian Federal Police in December last year, infuriating the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer.

According to the Solomon Star, the Australian Federal Police contingent have now withdrawn communications equipment and vehicles from use by the prime minister.

The Sogavare government has brought new vehicles for local police in recent days, along with walkie-talkies for communication purposes, although such communication devices provide next to no privacy and can be easily scanned.

The removal of the Australian police contingent, vehicles and equipment is believed to have come as a direct result of Sogavare's announcement that he will re-arm police. The objections from the Australian government were loud, constant and, according to Sogavare, "bullying tactics".

Sogavare hand-picked the dozen police officers for his personal security force. All twelve are now believed to be taking part in a specialised training program in Taiwan.

This action was described in Solomon Islands media as having "added fuel to the simmering stand-off between Honiara and Canberra."

Once training in Taiwan is complete, the twelve officers are expected to form a unit devoted to the prime minister's personal protection, as well as providing security for visiting VIPs and dignitaries.

Canberra argues that as many ex-militants, believed to have been involved in numerous outbreaks of civil disorder in the past seven years, are currently being released out of police custody, it is the wrong time to re-arm local police.

The Australian government fears the weapons will get into the hands of criminals and militants via the notorious Solomon Islands black market.

From the Solomons Star :

Locally, the move to rearm police has angered community leaders and community groups including the National Council of Women.

They have urged Prime Minister Sogavare to reconsider his decision for fear the guns could end up in the wrong hands.

Mr. Sogavare said the decision to rearm police was taken after he had consulted “a number of senior citizens” who he said had wholeheartedly supported the move.

However, many in the community fear that while rearming police was easy, disarming members of the public in the event the arms ended up in their hands, would be difficult, if not impossible.

In general, the government has dismissed these fears, claiming rearming the police is to protect Solomon Islands’ sovereignty.

An Australian led intervention force entered the Solomon Islands in 2003 and disarmed the police, some of whom were believed to have been involved in violence and corruption, and the smuggling of weapons to local militants.

The dramatic intervention was an attempt by the Australian government to restore peace and order to the islands, which had been wracked by ethnic-related violence for years.

In April 2006, fierce rioting led to violent looting of the Chinatown district of Honiara and the torching of dozens of buildings after locals were outraged by election results.

More than 110 Australian soldiers and 70 Federal Police officers were deployed to the Solomons Islands in a security operation that was then tipped to cost more than $1 billion over the next four years.

Following the riots, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, said : "We do not want failed states on our doorstep. Failed states create vacuums. Vacuums attract people with bad thoughts and not good intentions."

Such talk from Mr Howard has incensed prime minister Sogavare, who has regularly accussed the Australian government of inteferring in local Solomon Islands politics and "throwing his weight around."

The Australian government is currently attempting to enforce a rule that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid to local island nations, like Fiji, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, demands the involvement of Australian officials in their local governments and the training of police and military, along with a series of security-related benchmarks that must be met, in order for aid to continue to flow.

The impression amongst many islanders is that Australia is acting as 'colonialists', using promises of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid and development funds, to control the political destiny of their island nations.

April 2006 : Violence And Rioting Explodes In Solomon Islands After Shock Election Results, Chinatown District Torched
John Howard And The Union Jack Burn In Aboriginal Boxer's Video

Internationally acclaimed Aboriginal boxer Anthony Mundine has torched a portrait of prime minister John Howard and set fire to Union Jack flag in a controversial video for his first outing as a rapper.

The politically-charged song is called Platinum Ryder, and Mundine filmed the video in the Aboriginal area of Redfern, in inner Sydney, known as The Block.

Other indigenous locals are also seen shredding a photo of Howard in the clip.

From the Daily Telegraph :
The burning takes place against the background of Mundine's rags-to-riches rap lyrics: "I am just one man, it ain't the whole of the nation, politicians won't say sorry for the stolen generation.''

The former WBA world champion and rugby league star said yesterday the act symbolised justice. "This ain't being racist ... it's the politicians that are keeping us oppressed, not the public,'' he said.

"It signifies politicians and the Government and its foundations. What they have done to my people in the past and what they are still doing today.

' The Union Jack, that's the Government, that's what it was built on and it's a symbol of oppression. It's a fight for justice, we have to stand up and be counted.''

Mundine, 31, said he felt Mr Howard was "a puppet to the bigger brothers, who are England and America'' and that Australia should have a new flag. "
Big Dick Down Under

US Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Australia from February 22 to 27.

Officially he's here to thank Australia, and Australian soldiers, for support in the Iraq War, and to talk up the benefits of a continued close alliance between Australia and the United States.

Unofficially, depending on who is doing the speculating, Cheney will be meeting the prime minister, John Howard, to tell him he can bring Australia troops home from Iraq before the November elections.

Or to gauge Howard's support for Australian troops becoming more involved along Iraq's border with Iran when/if the US begins air strikes on Iran's nuclear energy facilities.

Or to get in John Howard's face and demand he commit more Australian troops to the fight in Iraq, after turning down two or more near begging requests from former defence secretary (and Cheney's best mate) Donald Rumsfeld in the last quarter of 2006.

For whatever other reasons VP Cheney has decided to grace the nation with his presence, his will not be a popular visit with the public at large. The general reaction to the news of his visit could well be described as largely hostile.

Cheney Down Under is expected to provide a pivotal focus point for anti-war protesters, who have had few international targets to rally against in Australia since the Howard government first sent troops to Iraq, starting in late 2002.

Prime Minister Howard said that because "we do not live in a very certain world," it would be seen as to "rat on your ally" to disappoint the Bush administration when it comes to the Iraq War, and, more generally, the 'War on Terror'.

"I think this would be a very bad time, difficult though it is, a very bad time to be seen to be letting the Americans down," Mr Howard said.

You can see what some of the locals think of Cheney's visit (in comments) here, and here.

Cheney Visit To Grow Debate Over The Value And Future Of The Australian-American Alliance.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

News Round Up

A 10 year old boy led police on a 75km long car chase along West Australian roads. He hit top speeds of 170kmh, and only stopped when the car he'd stolen ran out of petrol. His passengers included two boys aged eight and nine years old.

Only two decades ago, Australian kids went to school with pencils and rulers in their bags and not much else. Now they're packing laptops and iPods into their back packs. The cost of putting a child through school in Australia has skyrocketed. A private school education, up to Year 12, can cost $350,000 on average. And they could still turn out to hate your guts.

Rapid climate change is expected to render the Great Barrier Reef "functionally extinct" within decades. Other key tourist attractions, like the glorious Kakadu National Park are also under threat, as are some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast.

The damage to some of Australia's most famous tourist attractions from climate change is expected to cost many billions of dollars and the loss of tens of thousands of tourism jobs.

An audience at a Sydney conference yesterday heard calls for the creation of global Islamic state.

The NSW premier, Morris Iemma, has freaked out and claims the conference's chief speaker had declared "war" on Australians and Australian values (still undefined, officially). He has demanded the group that held the conference, Hizb ut-Tahrir, be banned, or proscribed as terrorist supporters.

But Prime Minister John Howard, and the Attorney General, say that no laws have been broken.

Bizarrely, the Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock has sided with Muslim groups in rejecting calls for the group to be banned or proscribed as supporting terrorism and political violence.

He has told the NSW police chief and premier Iemma to "put up or shut up" on the issue of banning Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Interestingly, the man who made the vehement calls for Australian Muslims to help fight for the global Islamic state was invited to speak at a conference in Canberra in 2004, attended by the current foreign minister Alexander Downer. In fact, Downer gave the opening speech.

A 59 year old man has been jailed for 16 months after he was convicted of inflicting "unbelievably cruel" revenge on a small puppy as a way of getting back at his girlfriend.

The sick bastard smashed the puppy repeatedly with a crowbar, breaking bones and shattering its skull. The RSPCA NSW's Chief Inspector called the torture of the puppy "disturbing beyond belief".

Australia's media has been consumed in the past few days by the issue of recycling sewerage, or effluent, for drinking water. Queensland wants to do it, New South Wales refuses to do it (at least until after the coming election), West Australia says they don't need it, and Victoria has no plans to introduce it in the next decade.

The majority of Australians don't have a problem with drinking recycled sewerage (except when it's got chunks), realising that water shortages are not going to end any time soon.

The revolutionary plan by Queensland's premier Peter Beattie to turn body waste into drinkable water is making international headlines.

An Australian doctor flew to Zurich so he could have a quiet, quick and dignified death, before he was claimed by cancer. This remarkable feature tells his story.

The Australian Greens are getting ready to introduce a bill to back euthanasia inside Australia, so those wishing to end their life can do so legally, without having to leave their homeland.

Tourists visiting Sydney might want to check out this list of the city's most secluded and secret beaches. Well, they're secret only in that they aren't as crowded as Manly or Bondi Beach, and some are damn hard to get to.

On Australia Day, a massive brawl involving more than 150 drunken youths destroyed a public celebration of the national holiday in Adelaide.

Eyewitnesses claim the brawling began after a number of youths draped in the flag had it torn off them, ripped to pieces and spat on. Police are more inclined to point out the brawling had more to do with youths and alcohol than it did 'flag-related violence'.

A Bondi woman has been arrested for interfering with the council clean up of her home and yard, after a clean up crew tried to remove tons of rubbish from her yard.

The Bondi home has been tagged 'The House Of Horrors', because the yard was filled with more than 30 tons of kitchen rubbish, old computers, foam boxes, clothes, broken furniture...basically any old crap the woman found on local streets and dragged home.

She's quite industrious in her obsessive hoarding. This is the 13th time in 15 years the local council has had to empty her yard of muck and filth. She was still 'sorting' through the crap as a small bulldozer moved in and police arrested her.

A Sydney pub has opened a child care facility on its premises so that parents can eat and drink and socialise in peace. Not everyone thinks that's such a great idea.

The Daily Telegraph calls its discovery of the creche in one of Sydney's most popular pubs an "outcry", but there hasn't been any "outcry", and certainly not from the families who make use of the facilities.

In other booze news, Australian parents are giving kids as young as 12 years old alcohol, on what appears to be a fairly regular basis..

A survey reveals "the vast majority" of 14 year olds were already drinking, and ten percent of 12 year olds said they had had an alcoholic drink in the previous week.

37 percent of the kids surveyed said their most recent alcoholic drink had been served up by their parents.

Monday, January 29, 2007

US & Australian Troops To Open Up New 'War On Terror' Front In The Philippines

Australian troops will soon join the fight against Islamist militants in the Philippines. Exercises are planned in a region dubbed a "heartland" of Al Qaeda-linked fighters.

The United States already has forces deployed in the Philippines, reportedly hunting down militants liked to the Bali bomings and Jamaah Islamiah "kingpins"

From (excerpts) :

Australia will send troops to strife-torn central Mindanao in the southern Philippines under a landmark defence agreement designed to upgrade Canberra's role in the regional fight against Islamist terrorism.

As US-backed Philippines forces close in on Bali bombers and Jemaah Islamiah kingpins Dulmatin and Omar Patek, on southern Jolo island, Australian defence forces are planning military exercises with their Philippines counterparts in the Mindanao heartland of local and foreign al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front separatist group has led an insurgency in the region for more than three decades but is now involved in official peace talks.

Already Australia has promised 30 river boats to aid local forces in their search for armed rebel groups linked to JI and the allied local kidnap-for-ransom group, Abu Sayyaf.

A local mayor in Mindanao doesn't like the idea of the Australian military deploying to the region.

He believes "foreign terrorists" will pour in to fight the Australian mlitary presence :

"The Australians should send more economic assistance, not military presence," Cotabato City's Mayor, Muslimin Sema, said. "That will just create problems. Al-Qaeda could come here and create violence as a reaction.

Monster Floods Bring Smiles To Drought-Devastated Country Towns

Priorities Sorted - "We Won't Run Out Of Beer"

Australian farmers and the residents of dozens of outback towns across three states, have been praying for some decent rain for years. The drought has been the worst in recorded history.

In some towns, those prayers for rain have gone unanswered for five long years.

But in the last week, dozens of outback towns had their dreams come true.

They got their rains. But they got a few years worth in only a couple of days.

That's when the floods begin...

From :

While most of the country is in drought, floodwaters now cover large parts of northern and central Australia after heavy rainfall in the past week.

It is expected the floodwaters will reach Lake Eyre for the first time in years.

The rains have brought relief to struggling cattle stations and outback communities, though they now face weeks of isolation.

Bedourie, in south-west Queensland, promotes itself as a gateway to the Simpson Desert but it is difficult to spot the sand hills for the water at the moment.

It started with a downpour last weekend and since then, 250 millimetres of rain has fallen.

The downpour has broken all records and left part of the town flooded.

But no-one is complaining. Residents, like former station hand Jodie Girdler, are rejoicing in the boost the flood will give to the region's cattle.

"Cruise around town - you look at all the water around and you think, 'They're going to be putting out some good cattle soon and bringing some good money into the country,'" she said.

To the south, Birdsville has also been left isolated, as the Diamantina River spreads its banks across the Queensland-South Australian border.

Birdsville Hotel publican Kim Fort says his famous pub has seldom been quieter but he is taking no chances.

"We've got enough supplies at the moment and if it's here for four weeks, we'll boat some across," he said.

"We won't run out of beer."

As Birdsville is reconnected to the world, waterholes are expected to be topped up all the way to Lake Eyre, brimming with native fish and attracting huge flocks of birds.

The cities may be running out of water, but for now, a string of outback towns that were as dry as the desert sand have their water supplies taken care of.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What It Meant To Be An Australian In 1914

"They Clung To The Principle Of Standing By The Weaker Brother"

C.E.W. Bean's essential history of Australians at war during World War 1, Anzac To Amiens, includes some invaluable insights into Australian society, in the cities and in the bush, in the year before the war broke out.

In amongst all the talk today of what it means to be an Australian, it was with great interest that I found within Bean's book an encapsulating description of Australians and Australian society in the years just before the "War To End All Wars" broke out.

In only a few pages of his book, Bean manages to nail down an Australian identity rarely discussed today, or even widely recognised as an identity Australians once had and happily shared.

In many ways, the Australian society he describes in the first chapter of Anzac To Amiens - as he sets the scene for the inspiring and shocking story that follows - was never to be the same again.

The war, its crippling financial costs and its monumental casualty take shattered the width and breadth of the Australian society, from sparsely populated country villages to the tram-noisy chaos of Sydney, as it tore away (in Bean's words) "husband from wife, son from mother, (and) savings from those who had spent a lifetime in patient thrift."

How near to the optimistic heights dreamed of by those Australians, then only 14 years after Federation, have we soared in the 94 years since?

How close to their utterly essential "basic creed" and ideal of what defined an Australian do we now stand today?

Here are some excerpts from the first chapter :

In 1914, Australians were only 126 years from their first settlement in this continent...we were only 101 years from the first crossing of the Blue Mountains, only 63 (years) from the first gold rush, 58 (years) from the first establishment here of democratic self-government. Some Australian who went to the war had ancestors still alive who could remember some of the first generation of countrymen; many had grandparents or great grandparents who could tell them of the gold rush, the bushrangers, the later explorers and the imported convicts.

Yet, though many of the older men and women had actually lived in them, the colonial days were, by 1914, almost as extinct of those of William the Conqueror.

The people of the six colonies, which had federated only fourteen years before, regarded themselves as being in the forefront of human progress, and indeed, in some not unimportant respects they had reason to do so.

When emigrating from Britain most of their ancestors had half-consciously tried to cast off what they vaguely felt to be elements of inequality and injustice in the inherited social systems of Europe.

They were disrespectful of old methods, eager to try out new ones. They had of late deliberately changed the whole basis of their wage system, in an effort to adjust it to the public conscience in place of the uncontrolled results of supply and demand.

They had made many mistakes, due to vague thinking and inadequate study, but they had achieved something.

They had established at least one very great and successful industry - that of wool production - and had managed to so spread its profits that real wages were then possibly higher in Australia than anywhere else in the world; at all events the life of the ordinary man, woman and child contain probably more healthy recreation than anywhere else.

Public education then compared favourably with that of any people except perhaps those of Scandinavia; in the enjoyment of such modern material benefits as telephones and electric light Australians were ahead of the British though behind the Americans.

Probably nowhere were the less wealthy folk more truly free, or on such terms of genuine social equality with the rich, in dress, habits and intercourse....

It is true that in one respect living conditions in Australia - as in most newly-settled lands, even the United States - differed widely from those in older countries; a vast gap existed between the conditions in country and city. In the cities life was not markedly different from that of any great European or American town; but country life was in many parts still set in almost pioneering environment.

Yet the outback homesteads often contain surprising evidence of culture. It was much more than a superficial sign that the women who drove in to meet the mail train at a distant siding often dressed in the fashion of Paris, London, or New York.

And if in the bars and hostels even of the big cities at racetimes and on holidays there was sometimes evidence of the Wild West, there was little inferiority complex about the people of this particularly free country.

Its universities were in many ways progressive; its governments were launching into social experiments. Its business and political leaders thoroughly believed in its future and, with only 4 1/2 million white people (and perhaps 100,000 Australian blacks) in the continent, they borrowed freely from overseas to launch into industrial and social enterprises.

Many young Australians tended to condemn the English immigrant for his comparative slowness and lack of confidence in dealing with the unknown men and conditions, and were irritated by his certitude as to the superiority of the methods of the "old country".

The Australian ballad writers, Gordon, Lawson, Paterson, Ogilivie and others, were constantly read and quoted. The people were not formally religious, but there was a marked comradeliness in their outlook, and no degree of economic pressure could induce them to abandon it.

The people, newly federated, were at this stage very consciously intent upon building themselves into a great nation.

Without giving the matter much thought, most Australians assumed that the development of their country would be similar to that of the United States.

...with easy optimism, Australian anticipated that within a century or so her 5 million people would be increased to 60 if not 100 million.

The historian, who tries to to discover what motive most powerfully moved the Australian people at that interesting stage, will probably come to the conclusion that tradition - such as is consciously or unconsciously handed down in almost every word or action by parents and teachers to children, by priests and pastors, professional trades and business men to their successors, by witters to readers, even by older children to younger - was immensely strong and enduring.

The tradition was largely British...But with the British standards were mingled those of the pioneers - the backwoodsmen, and the men of the great ruins and the mining fields.

It was to these last that Australians owed their resourcefulness and readiness to grapple with their objectives even against authority, and also their basic creed, in industry as in war, that a man must at all costs stand by his mate.

...they clung to the principle of standing by the weaker brother.

* * * * * * * * *

Almost one in every twelve Australians alive then served in some capacity during World War 1; in Europe, the Middle East or at home.

A force of 417,000 was raised from a total population of just under 5 million people.

Some 331,000 "took the field" during the four years of WWI1.

59,342 were killed or died as a result of wounds suffered during fighting.

Another 152,000 Australians were wounded.

Of all who "took the field" during the war, 64.8% were killed or wounded.

By the start of World War 2, in 1939, more than 2000 men remained hospitalised for physical and mental injuries resulting from the war twenty years previous.

In 1939, some 50,000 veterans of the first world war visited hospitals or AIF-related medical facilities for ongoing treatment and rehabilitation.

* * * * * * * *

C.E.W Bean devoted decades of his life to writing the full story of the Australian Anzacs, and his vast official history, encompassing twelve volumes and millions of words, has proved invaluable to every modern chronicler of the war that consumed many of the very best of two generations of Australians, and left it deeply in debt to Britain and the United States.

Bean was no public servant, back in Australia combing official reports and daily casualty lists to compile an official history that met with official approval. Bean was there, he wandered many battlefields and had the life-shredded experiences of Australians at war during WW1 carved into his soul.

Remarkably, his own photos of the battle at Lone Pine detail the early edition I'm now reading.

Unfortunately, Anzacs To Amiens doesn't appear to be for sale online.

Penguin Australia last reprinted the book in 1993. Though many libraries still hold copies, you would be lucky to dig up a copy in second-hand stores. It is the kind of book that once brought becomes hard to part with.

Surely it is time for another reprinting of Anzacs To Amiens?

There's more to be discussed from this fascinating book on another day.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Australia Day

"When Did You Come To Australia?"

Our increasingly gaffe-prone prime minister still hasn't completely grasped the concept that people who look Chinese or Middle Eastern or Japanse or African could have actually been born and raised in Australia.

And, therefore, are just as Australian as he is.

He seems to think if someone isn't white, or at least mostly white, then they must have immigrated here sometime after they were born.

Witness this exchange yesterday at, fittingly enough, the 'Australian Of The Year' ceremony :

At one stage, Mr Howard was heard asking one candidate, mathematician Terence Tao, "When did you come to Australia?"

"I was born in Adelaide," replied Professor Tao, who last year won the Fields Medal, the highest scientific award for mathematicians.

Professor Tao is an international celebrity (as celebrity-famous as a mathematician can get) and was prominently featured across the spectrum of Australian media, for days, when he won the spectacularly prestigious award.

But can he hit a ball with a cricket bat into the stands? That's the most important question.

It's not the first time Howard has had this kind of senility (or ingrained xenophobia) burst through his buffed to a high sheen public persona.

Meeting students a while back, Howard asked a teenage Muslim girl pretty much the same question.

She scoffed at him and said, "I was born here," in an Aussie accent broader than Howard's own.

Her classmates looked on in stunned disbelief, some shook their heads sadly at the prime minister.

"Oh," Howard replied and shrugged, then fear-grinned, and quickly exited the classroom.

You would think that any one of his 50-plus advisors, PR wizards and media specialists could help him come up with a better chit-chat question than "When Did You Come To Australia?"

Welcome to Australia, you Australians!

Prime Minister Announces Eco Warrior-In-Chief Is 'Australian Of The Year'

Howard The Global Warming Denier Becomes A "Climate Change Realist"

By Darryl Mason

Tim Flannery, best selling author and Australia's lead campaigner for conservation, river protection and the fight against global warming has been named Australian Of The Year.

At a ceremony late yesterday, he was named AOTY by prime minister, John Howard, who's plastered cringe-grin shattered when Flannery gave his acceptance speech and made sure the public remembered that Howard had only recently become a convert to the threat of global warming.

Howard's grin was lost in a comical open-mouth-drop of horror when Flannery said :
"Prime Minister, I need to add I will be passionately critical of delays or policies by anyone that I think is wrong-headed..."

'The Australian' described Professor Flannery as :

(a) long recognised...provocative - but highly successful - alarmist on climate change.

Professor Flannery, a critic of the Government's refusal to sign to the Kyoto Protocol, said he was "humbled" by his award...

Professor Flannery said receiving the award from Mr Howard was one of the "ironies of life".

Howard refused to acknowledge for a solid decade the rising of evidence, indeed the rising tide itself, on climate change and global warming. But now he defines himself as a "climate change realist".

has, for more than ten years, sounded the warning bells on our increasingly chaotic weather systems, droughts, disappearing rivers and fragile environment.

Therefore, he's a climate change alarmist.

The Australian newspaper recently underwent its own transformation into the chief mocker of anything to do with warnings on climate change and global warming, sometimes devoting five or six opinion columns and the lead editorial to near hysterical bludgeoning of what were, mostly, reasonable arguments from some of the most respected scientists that time was running out if we wanted to protect and preserve the planet for future generations.

Once The Australian's owner, Rupert Murdoch, spoke out on how governments must do more to stop global warming, suddenly the newspaper, which boasts that it keeps Australia "informed", suddenly decide to inform Australia that global warming and climate change were actually realities. And time was running.

So how does the Australian Of The Year define what is at the core of being an Australian? It's not the old cliche of football, meat pies and Holden cars :
....the true underpinnings, the one thing that we all share as Australians, is this land.

It's what gives us our water and our food and our shelter and defines us as a nation.

Why isn't that the basis of our common sentiment about what it means to be an Australian?

The rest of it seems to me to be sort of randomly chosen bits of icons that we just happen to like.

...this sense of being part of an ecosystem that supports you and nurtures you and takes you into its bosom when you die and recycles you is very, very important to me and this country in a sense is very important to me for that reason.

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

Prof Flannery was presented with his award at an Australia Day-eve ceremony and concert on the lawns of Canberra's Parliament House.

"I do feel that the honour comes with a deep obligation, for it speaks eloquently of the desire of Australians to address climate change," he told the audience of flag-waving concert-goers.

"We are, on a per capita basis, the worst greenhouse polluters in the world and I don't think any of us want our children asking in future why we didn't give our utmost when it was still possible to influence the course of events.

"The best thing I can do for my country in this role, I think, is to continue to challenge and to work with all Australians and particularly our governments to stabilise our climate.

John Howard's Inner Green Embracement

The Australian prime minister has undergone one of the most dramatic transformations of all the world's key global warming deniers.

Naturally, he first had to be guided into finding, or creating, and then embracing his inner greenie by the Business Council of Australia, who directed him to do more to fight global warming once the nations' largest corporations realised how dramatically sudden climate change would affect their profit margins.

And no doubt, 18 months worth of polls that revealed Australians regard global warming and climate change as a greater threat to their lives, and livelihoods, than terrorism could have only helped the prime minister to realise climate change would be a key federal election issue in 2007.

On his side was the fact that Australians, like most people, really do have short memories.

Australians will always wonder just how different things might have been had Howard acted earlier.

And they will wonder this plenty in years to come if climate change, supposedly the result of global warming, grows more and more severe and smashes the country and hammers the economy, with superstorms, waterless towns, more and more acute drought and crumbling coastlines.

And Flannery, no doubt, will be there to remind them just how late the Howard government was in coming to the 'Climate Change Realism' table and beginning the transformation of Australian industry, water, rivers, forest management and pollution control.

Howard now denies his years of denial.

He was only being cautious, he claimed a few days ago :

I think we've been more measured than others. I don't think we've been indifferent or neglectful. I do think you have to look at the two things of climate change and water scarcity together.

So now Howard's a Climate Chang Realist, how exactly does he define climate change realism?

By defining it as real? Not quite :

(Climate change realism) means looking at the evidence as it emerges and responding with policies that preserve Australia's competitiveness and play to our strengths.

"There does appear to have been a contraction to the south in the weather systems which traditionally brought southern Australia its winter and spring rains.

"Our rainfall has always been highly variable. The deviation around average rainfall is enormous. And it seems to be getting bigger."

Howard hasn't really embraced his inner greenie, it wasn't there to begin with.

He doesn't really believe in climate change or global warming, but believes he has to be seen to be, at the very least, semi-believing, because 70% or so of Australians already believe, and they will be voting this year based on their beliefs.

Now he's hedging his bets, after finally stepping up to the table, but the losers will be the youngest generation today if he doesn't come up with a handful of aces.

John Howard : "...The Accumulated Evidence Is Undeniable, There Is Global Warming Occurring... Climate Change Is Occurring..."

Young Australian Of The Year Wants To Bring Back A Fair Go For Indigineous People

Government Claims Its $10 Billion Water Plan Will Be World Leader

Australian Of The Year Tim Flannery On What It Means To Be An Australian, Our Nuclear Future And The Federal Government's Awakening To The Realities Of Climate Change

Full List Of 2007 Australia Day Honours

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

'Head In Shark' Diver's Story Worth A Million? Or More?

"I Could Feel The Teeth Crunching Up And Down"

UPDATE : Eric Nerhus, the abalone diver who was almost bitten in half by a great white shark off the coast of New South Wales, has given his first interview to Channel Nine's A Current Affair, from his hospital bed :

"I'm just an ordinary working man, a family man, who just wanted to survive very, very badly, at all costs...

"I went straight into its mouth, front onwards, and my shoulders, my head and one arm went straight down into its throat and I could feel the teeth crunching up and down on my weight vest...

"It knocked the [air] regulator out of my mouth so I didn't have any oxygen, and then it started to shake me and I thought 'Oh no, I know what happens when they shake you. That's when they cut off the biggest piece of meat they can get'.

"I put my left hand down the side of its face because my head, shoulders and right arm were right down in its throat … half my body was in its mouth.

"I felt down to the eye socket, and with my stiff fingers I poked my fingers into the eye socket, which the shark reacted to in a way that [it] opened its mouth a bit and I tried to wriggle out."

Eric should be out of hospital by the weekend.

Yesterday's story : 41 year old abalone diver, Eric Nerhus, survived an incredible encounter with a three metre long Great White shark. It tried to bite off his head and swallow him whole. He poked it in the eye and escaped.

Now he has to survive the media feeding frenzy.

Nerhus has picked up instant-celebrity deal broker, Harry M. Miller, and one of the biggest selling tabloid magazines and a key television network have already secured exclusive rights to
his story.

Eric was attacked by the shark less than 48 hours ago.

And those deals, easily worth six figures, are just for Australia.

Agent Harry M. Miller has an interesting stable of 'stars', including Lindy "A dingo's got my baby!" Chamberlain, a former prime minister, a man who survived days buried under the ruins of a ski lodge alongside his dead wife, and a fleet of former Big Brother contestants.

Mr Miller's website has a page on 'crisis management', which translates to 'We will help you cash in on your success, or unfortunate circumstance'.

Or as Miller puts it :

"Sometimes people find themselves in a period of crisis, be it due to a personal event, a natural disaster or another unavoidable situation. Often, in what can be a time of emotional vulnerability, they find themselves the focus of media attention and, understandably, do not feel equipped to deal with it."

American television and cable networks have been on the phone to Miller trying to cut their own deals. But Miller is believed to be holding out for the Dame Of Pain, Oprah Winfrey, before he signs away US rights to Eric's story.

The international bidding rights war is now officially on.

Considering the circulation of the tabloid magazine and the potential audience in Australia for a one hour television special where Eric would tell his tale, along with the mandatory book deal, and perhaps a few advertising gigs (selling tuna?) he's going to be a millionaire.

Miller's usual strategy is to score a big fee locally, in Australia, and then pick up five figure, and the occasional six figure deal, wherever he can find them in the rest of the world. It all adds up.

Hopefully, when the doco about Eric is made, there will lots of information and history about the freelance abalone diving industry in Australia.

These divers live hard, dangerous lives, for minor riches that are something close to a lottery, and few Australians are even aware that people do this for a living.So what's it like to be an Australian abalone diver?

Imagine working in an office block where two ever-hungry tigers patrol the corridors and ride the elevators from floor to floor.

That's the above water corporate equivalent of being an abalone diver.Let's hope Eric survives his encounters with the media circus, and doesn't have to poke anyone in the eye to escape, again.

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

Abalone divers are today heading back into southern NSW waters where the shark attacked Mr Nerhus, saying the incident would not stop them from working.

John Smythe, an abalone fisherman from the tight-knit Eden diving community, said divers would be taking extra precautions but the attack would not stop them from diving today.

"I think it [the shark attack] will make people think, but I don't think it will make people suddenly walk off the job," Mr Smythe told ABC Radio.

"We're in their [the sharks'] domain and you have to respect that. We do take precautions. If you are diving in spots like Cape Howe ... your boat will be sitting directly above you and when you do your ascents and descends you'd be looking.

"So to put it in perspective, you can make your diving a lot safer but nevertheless you are in their [the sharks'] domain."

Mr Smythe, who was on a recreational dive north of Eden at the time of yesterday's attack, says seal colonies in the area often attract white pointer sharks.

"In 32 years of diving I've seen two big whites just cruising in the distance ... I have seen a big shark at this time of year and one in the middle of winter," he said.

"Cape Howe is one of those particularly sharky spots, there's a lot of currents going on along there, it's basically the start of the Bass Strait and there are seal colonies.

"It's common to see seals with their heads bitten off, white pointers just come in for a bit of a taste."

Mr Smythe said the abalone diving community agreed with shark specialists that the shark probably mistook Mr Nerhus for a seal.

"When I found out that he was diving on the bottom on the rocks, where it's a very weedy habitat, and mentioned that to other divers, the comment straight away was that he was mistaken for a seal," Mr Smythe said.

"No doubt the shark sensed movement in the reed and went in to discover that this guy would put up a fight, not like your ordinary seal."

Marine experts unanimously agree that the shark, once it got taste of Eric, would have tried to spit him back out again. And the poke in the eye, and the smack across the gills with an abalone pick, would have only encouraged the white pointer to let him go.

Previously : 'Head In Shark' Abalone Diver's Miraculous Survival Story, 30 Feet Below
Head In Shark

"Poke The Bastard In The Eye"

"The Shark Swallowed His Whole Head"

By Darryl Mason

The three metre long white pointer had slammed its jaws shut on his head. It was dark in there. But he knew how to make the shark let go. He hit the shark with his abalone hammer, and poked it in the eye....

When I learned to dive in my early 20s, the men from the dive shop who taught me seemed like gods of the ocean. They'd travelled to dozens of countries to dive on reefs and wrecks. They'd had more adventures in five years than most people have in a lifetime.

They were full of stories about how they'd 'surfed' on the back of whales and wrestled seals and been carried along for miles holding onto the fins of dolphins.

But the best stories they had were about sharks.

White pointers in particular.

If you dive regularly off the East Coast of Australia, you're going to eventually see a shark swimming around down there in all that glorious glowing blue.

Most of the time, the sharks won't bother you. They might give you nudge, just to see if you are a seal, or something else worth taking a bite out of.

But the divers who instructed me recommended that if a shark ever came to close, or I was feeling nervous about its presence, all I had to do was give it a smack in the snout or simply drive a finger into its eye.

"You're shitting me," I said. But they weren't.

"Nuh. That's what you do, mate. Just poke the bastard in the eye. He'll bugger off quick smart."

Large sharks have next to no natural enemies in the oceans, except for man. They're not used to getting beat up, or having their eyes poked. It freaks them out, the divers insisted.

Never got the chance to see if they were telling the truth, or if it was yet another tale tall of the these instructors greatest diving days.

But abalone diver, Eric Nerhus got the chance yesterday to try the 'theory' out yesterday, near Eden.

And it worked.

This is definitely one of the best tales I've heard in months. If you were at the pub with this guy, having a few, swapping stories, you'd be thinking, 'no matter what I come up with, this bastard's got the story to beat them all'.

And he has. Oh, yeah, Erics' got the best story of them all :

The shark had Mr Nerhus's head in its jaws, but marine experts say it chewed him then spat him out when it realised he was not a seal.

Mr Nerhus, 41, a black belt in karate who has been diving professionally for five years, was scouring reefs at Cape Howe, near Eden, with his son, Mark, 16, when the shark pounced about 9.30am.

In an instant the shark snapped its jaw around Mr Nerhus's head with such force it crushed his face mask and broke his nose.

He fought to break free but Mr Nerhus's torso was then pulled into the shark's mouth and it bit into the diver's sides.

"He was actually bitten by the head down," said a friend and fellow diver, Dennis Luobikis. "The shark swallowed his head."

But the white pointer, probably weighing about 500 kilograms, would not have liked the taste...

"They go for rich, fatty meat, like seals, and with his black diving outfit moving around in the reef [Mr Nerhus] would have looked like a seal. Humans are not a part of their diet"

"When it bit into this scrawny human being it would probably have thought 'yuck' and let him go."

Mr Nerhus, who was recovering in Wollongong Hospital last night, told friends and rescuers he had used his abalone chisel to hit the shark about the head and poke its eye to escape...

"Everything went black," Eric told his rescuers, who hauled him out of the water and into a boat for the hour long trip back to shore.

Eric was diving in eight metres of water when the shark mistook him for a seal :

He escaped with deep puncture wounds to the chest and shoulder and a broken nose. His weight vest prevented more serious injuries.

"He came up to surface and was going 'oh help, help there's a shark, there's a shark'. I went over and there was a big pool of red blood and I pulled him out of the water," Mark said.

His son, Mark, was working on a boat nearby. Eric's main concern was that he had suffered horrific facial injuries from the attack. He thought if he was left disfigured, it would upset his son.

Another fisherman, Reece Warren, said: "He had bite marks all around his chest. He said 'the abalone are all right down there'."

Paramedics said they were amazed by the composure of Mr Nerhus, who declared "I'm all right" as he arrived at Wollongong Hospital.

Fellow diver Dennis Luobikis said it was a miracle his friend had lived.

"Eric is a tough boy, he's super fit," he said. "But I would say that would test anyone's resolve, being a fish lunch. He's up and about and he's sore and sorry."

There has been a rash of sightings of great whites – also known as white pointers – in recent weeks due to unusually cold waters off Eden...

Somebody needs to come up with a special plastic tool for divers and surfers they can slip into their wetsuits. The Shark Eye Gouger.

One of Eric's best mates said he was a "fearless warrior" and the shark wouldn't have known what hit him :

"He's a black belt in karate, which would give you a bit of discipline. If you panic you're in trouble.

"The eyes [of a shark] are a vulnerable spot. It would have been an instinctive reaction to find the eyes. This won't faze Eric. Now it will just give him the opportunity to get his shirt off and show his scars."

So now you know.

The next time a three metre long white pointer shark bites down on your head and tries to swallow you whole, go for the eyes.

It works.

The divers weren't telling me tall tales after all.

Fantastic stuff.

What a story.

Why Sharks Attack Humans - Particularly In Australia

Man Attacked By White Pointer Off Western Australia Vows To Keep Diving

Everything You Need To Know About The Great White Shark

A Short History Of Abalone Diving In Australia

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Australians Ready To Dump Howard From Office Over Iraq War

Shocking Poll Results Reveal The War Weary State Of The Nation

As you chew through the below stats from today's Newspoll on how Australians feel about the War In Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard in general and the PM's virtual non-efforts to ensure David Hicks faces what we know as true justice in a court of law, consider that 'The Australian' newspaper used the following headline to announce these absolutely breath-taking poll results :

Public Loses Heart For Howard's War

Now it's "Howard's War"?

Of course, the majority of Australians are now firmly opposed to it. So now it's time to change the editorial tone.

There was probably no greater champion of the 'War On Iraq' across the entire Australian media spectrum than 'The Australian' newspaper. They weren't calling it 'Howard's War' back when it looked like they were onto a winner.

Here's the poll results :

62% of Australians Oppose John Howard's "handling of the conflict".

Barely 1 in 10 Australians said they "strongly" supported Howard when it came to the Iraq War.

71% said the 'War On Iraq' will affect the way they vote.

56% don't like how their government has treated David Hicks, and less than 3 out of 10 Australians now support Howard on this issue.

Five years without a trial, held in an American torture hell, with no clear proof offered that he has committed any crime at all, eats away at peoples' faith and trust that their government is doing everything they can to ensure that he faces justice, and a fair trial.

47% of Australians said that what happens to David Hicks will affect the way they vote in the elections.

Someone in John Howard's office has seen those numbers last night, sucked in their breath and muttered, "Oh, fuck..."

Hear those bells bonging? They be the bells of doom. And they're sounding for John Howard.


Now to that extraordinary headline.

Public Loses Heart For Howard's War

Do ya think the 'The Australian' would be calling it "Howard's War" if it had turned out the way Howard, Bush and numerous columnists and headline and leader writers for 'The Australian' all chimed together that it would, back in the first two months of 2003?

You remember those bright and shining days, don't you?

That was the time when 10 million people around the world marched for diplomacy and against war as a method of regime change and were labelled as "demented" and "treacherous" and "supporters of Saddam" and accused of "giving aid and comfort to Saddam" all over the pages of 'The Australian', for weeks on end.

Almost a million Australians marched against the war. One million out of a total population of 20 million.

The marchers included veterans from World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, the Malaysian Emergency, Somalia, East Timor and the First Gulf War. Walking proudly alongside the thousands of veterans were tens of thousands of children, doctors, lawyers, schoolteachers, off duty cops and politicians, plumbers, shop assistants, CEOs, taxi drivers, nurses, paramedics and firemen.

The media droogs who railed viciously against those who wanted peace instead of corpse-choked war (a war that few respected military, intelligence and Middle East experts, historians and analysts ever believed was likely to produce anything but sectarian violence and a raging insurgency) dreamed of an Iraq so unlike Iraq today it might as well have been another country completely.

A country that is not one where 100 people die every day, on average, from acts of terrorism and where the streets of the capital city are not littered with the corpses of men, women and children who've been shot, bludgeoned, hung, burned, drilled and blown to shreds.

The Iraq War fantasists dreamed of a country where the streets would be paved with oil-gold and where an always crowded public park in the centre of Baghdad would be filled with laughter and song and praise for the Coalition of the Willing, and its leaders, and its soldiers.

Some of them actually believed that by now there would be a memorial to the Coalition of the Willing dead in that park, and a statue of President Bush, and perhaps even one of Donald Rumsfeld (who once grinned at the idea and shrugged, clearly delighted), and a big Wall Of Thanks to regime-overthrowers like John Howard.

Ex-administration officials have revealed that the inner White House actually had made vague plans before the war began for such a park. It was to be called 'Freedom Park', in 'Freedom Square' (where the felled statue of Saddam once stood).

'Freedom Park' in 'Freedom Square' was supposed to become a reality, not in a decade, or two, but by the end of 2003.

There were plenty in the Australian media who believed this nonsense as well. And many of them worked for 'The Australian'. Some still do.

And what do some of those same clowns now say about this war, now they are clearly terrified of being tarnished with the well-bloody brush of this horribly failed experiment that came to the people of Iraq on the tip of hundreds of missiles fired from our warships in the Gulf?

Hey, it's 'Howard's War'.

Now who's cutting and running?

Howard was called 'Coward' before the war,
and still is now, but at least he doesn't try and pretend the appalling fallout of the 'War On Iraq' belongs to someone else.

He's claimed the Iraq of today as something of his own making. He's not happy about it. Who would be?

Howard's not fond of admitting his errors (like his claim that the war would "probably" be over in a few months), but he refuses to back down from his mantras that Iraq will become a peaceful, free and democratic nation.



Unlike 'The Australian', who (sometimes gleefully) betrayed a million or more of their own patriots; the people who could see in early 2003 what 'War On Iraq' would actually mean for the Iraqis, and for the rest of the world; the same newspapers who happily ran the crazed fantasies of NeoCon "crazies" who had trouble getting their trash published in mainstream media just about anywhere else in the world, and the very same newspaper who made it their editorial chief mission to beat down, to subjugate, to slander, insult, degrade, trash, and sometimes destroy, any and all opponents of the 'War On Iraq'.

Even if those opponents included conflict-weary World War 2, Korea and Vietnam veterans, along with young children, schoolkids and thousands of Iraqi-Australians.

The 'War On Iraq' will probably cost Howard
the 2007 federal election now.

It's hard to imagine anything so astonishingly wonderful happening there in the next six to eight months that will change the mood of the Australian public.

Support for the war, and approval for Howard's involvement and handling of the war has been steadily falling for more than 18 months.

It will continue to fall.

'The Australian' newspaper isn't waiting. They're bailing out now.

"For the Iraq War? What do you mean? We were never for the Iraq War. We're a newspaper of repute. We never take sides. Our mission statement is 'To Keep The Nation Informed'."

How long before the lead editorial in that newspaper reads : 'It's Time, Mr Howard. It's Time To Bring The Troops Home'?

Two months? Twelve weeks?

You will see a variation on those words sometime before the federal election. And it's likely to be sooner rather than later.

One day, maybe five or ten years from now,
Howard will visit Iraq and will find a more peaceful and free nation than the killzone it is today.

Many Iraqis will be shell-shocked and grieving, emotionally shattered, but where there just may be something close to peace in their time, a new generation of Iraqis will grow up without the sounds of car bombs detonating across their cities.

Howard will go there and see the future of Iraq, and he will die knowing, that in the end, despite the slaughter, the deprivation and devastation, that maybe just maybe he did do the right thing for Iraq and its people, even if he never fully explored the other options that were available when he decided to tell the Australian Army to get ready for the invasion in mid-2002.

Did Howard do what he believed in his heart was the right thing? Or did he do what Bush told him was the right thing to do? What had to be done? What was going to be done, with or without Australia's help?

You can only take Howard's word for it, that he trusted his heart, and his head, and did what he believed was right.

Anyway, Howard will never appear on Denton to tell you any different.

When Howard visits Iraq, hopefully he won't allow a reporter or photographer from 'The Australian' to tag along on his (eventual) victory lap.

Hopefully he will tell them to fuck off, remembering that dismissive, crippling headline : 'Howard's War'.

And he should tell them to get lost, even if they do promise him a front page headline like this :

'Exclusive To The Australian : Iraq Is At Peace, And Howard Is Happy'

Howard's War, indeed.

And they wonder why Australians have lost respect for the mainstream media?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Australian Flag "Banned" As "Gang Colours"

Cancel The Big Day Out, Demands Prime Minister

The race riot at Cronulla Beach that gave birth to the whole flag "ban" controversy.

: It was the flag “ban” that actually wasn’t.

But it was.

Kind of.

If you tell someone "don't bring Australian flags to this music festival" or they will be confiscated, is that a ban, or a recommendation?

The promoter who decided it was too dangerous to allow Australian flags at his outdoor music festival, because he believed they had become akin to "gang colours", didn't use the word "ban", but the Prime Minister sure did.

So did every other political leader who get their face in front of a TV camera.

They couldn't help themselves.

The opportunity to shout "I love the Australian flag!" loud and proud was too irresistible.

So did the Australian tabloid media. They didn't bother with " " around the word 'banned'.

So were they then quoting their own interpretation of what the promoter actually said?

Ken West, the promoter of the Big Day Out music festival to be held tomorrow in Sydney, planned to stop people from bringing Australian flags into his day long gig.

He said he chose to do this because he was worried about the Australian flag being wielded by drunk Australians in a repeat of the Big Day Out in 2006, when a number of people with dark skin (Muslims in particular) were approached by drunk white Australians and told they had to "kiss" the flag and "pledge their allegiance".

Or they'd cop a smack in the mouth.

The nastiness in 2006 followed the Cronulla Riot a few weeks before (see below)

It didn't seem to matter to the thugs, of course, that they targeted fellow Australians, or (ridiculously) tourists.

It was ugly, and demented, and as unpatriotic as you can get.

Australia's the greatest multicultural nation on the planet and Big Day Out promoter Ken West felt he had a duty to the music fans who had paid over $130 for their tickets to not have to cop that kind of crap from racist little turds.

So he was planning to announce that he didn't want people to bring their Australian flags along to the gig.

But then a Sydney tabloid paper got hold of the story and went to town.

Cue, a day of patriotic near mass-hysteria.

Up until quite recently, the only time the Australian flag would come up in conversation in Australia was usually when a discussion began about why the British Union Jack should be removed, seeing as we're not supposed to be under the dominion of the British Empire anyway.

Now the Australian flag is a firecracker that can launch a nationwide debate that quickly reaches nearly hysterical limits.

The “ban” on the Australian flag at the Big Day Out has now been transformed into “a request” not to fly the nation’s flag at the festival.

Or was it always just a request?

Hey, why spoil an all-in media and public pile-on?Australian patriotism is becoming a bloodsport.

Perhaps the most unexpected result for Ken West of the Big Day Out was the massive display of national unity on the issue. There were barely a few dozen commenters across a ream of Australian online media who said the “ban” was a good idea or who felt it was necessary.

It was a great day to be an Australian. But it was hard to be too outraged. There was next to no-one calling for a ban on the flag. Virtually everyone was signing the same song of outraged defiance against...well, nobody really.

But it was also a great day to be a politician, and they tried to ignore the fact there wasn't a chorus of calls for the flag to be banned.

The ‘Ban The Flag? You Bastards!’ story was exactly the kind of no-consequences issue that politicians love to get caught up in. They have wet dreams about days like this.

Thanking Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, Yoda and all the Hindu gods for such a wonderful welcome back from his extended holiday, John Howard said : “The proposition that the display of the Australian flag should ever be banned anywhere in Australia is offensive and it will be to millions of Australians.”

Which he followed with his acute observation that, “”flags don’t have legs and arms…” (ahh, yeah) in reference to his claim that the Australian flag was not the reason why the Cronulla Riot happened.

Continuing with the Quotes Of Outraged Outrage…

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said : “If they pulled this on Independence Day in the US, imagine what would happen. It’s just ridiculous.”

Ridiculous? Yes. But so is making comparisons to July 4, Independence Day. An overwhelmingly patriotic American celebratory institution for the founding of a Republic for which we have no comparable day or date.

We don't even have a Bill of Rights to call our own. Something American readers of this blog have reacted to with a stunned horror in the past.

The Big Day Out media release today read (in part) :

In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished inconsiderately and this has led to increased tension. Our only goal in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to or inconvenienced by this behaviour. We have no problem with people being patriotic, and we certainly do not have a problem with people wearing or displaying what they feel is important. Regardless of how it has been interpreted, this is about audience safety and enjoyment.

Amen to that.

It's remarkable how passionate and disgusted the Prime Minister can get about something so trivial as a sheet of cloth with more cloth sewn onto it.

But is he passionate and outraged about the Iraq War?

Eh. Kinda.

Education? Health care? Climate change?

Eh, eh, and eh.

Like I said, flag-related controversy is perfect for a politician. It is essentially meaningless and has no real political fallout, particularly when there is next to no-one to debate against, or be outraged by.

They basically went to war against...a misinterpretation.

John Howard is going to make the most of the controversy, however. He is giving a speech on Australia Day where it's rumoured he will demand that immigrants who become Australian citizens must adopt "Australian values". Whatever the fuck they are.


Australian Flag "Banned" For Association With Racism And Violence - A "Symbol Of Hate"

Australia In The Sights Of Hysterical, Hate-Filled Extremists - Michelle Malkin Fans The Flames


More Blogs By Darryl Mason

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Yesterday's story :

Australia's flag has become so connected with the vicious race riot that broke out on Cronulla Beach in December, 2005, that it has now been "banned" from the country's biggest music festival.

Any person carrying an Australian flag trying to enter the Big Day Out Festival next week in Sydney will have it confiscated as representing "gang colours".

The producer of the Big Day Out concert, featuring Australian and international rock, pop, dance and hip hop acts, said he decided to ban the flag because of its connection with violence and racism.

The prime minster, John Howard, has called the ban an insult to all Australians as well as an insult to "the freedom" that the flag is supposed to represent.

Howard wants the whole gig cancelled.

Now who's being hysterical?

How exactly does the Australian flag represent "freedom" for Australians?

The flag has got a filthy great British Union Jack occupying the top right hand corner. Every time we see it, it reminds us that we're not truly free. Not in the way Americans are.

We are not a Republic, nor do we have a Bill of Rights. Our head of state is still Queen Elizabeth II. And when anybody starts a campaign to make Australia into a Republic, and sever ties with the British, and the Royal Family, mysterious donors pour millions into fighting against Australia becoming a Republic.

So much for "the freedoms" the Australian flag is supposed to represent.

The producer of the Big Day Out, Ken West, decided to bring in the ban of the flag because he believes Sydney has become "a hot bed of racism" (according to the Daily Telegraph)

West claims that during last year's Big Day Out, only weeks after the Cronulla Riot, gangs roamed through the crowd with Australian flags and demanded people pledge their allegiance. He said people at the gig felt intimidated and harassed.

During the
Cronulla Riot, in December, 2005, hundreds of mostly white Australians brandishing flags and also wearing them as capes, chanting "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" savagely attacked any person they could find with brown skin, including young women and tourists from India and Pakistan.

Their fury was directed at Australian Muslims, and Lebanese people in particular, who they claimed had "occupied" Cronulla Beach and harassed "our women" for wearing bikinis. A lifeguard was beaten up by a couple of thugs in the weeks before the riot broke out.

It has a weird parallel to the current controversy, in that there were hordes of supposedly patriotic Australians shouting and singing their "love" for Australia, but there were few people who they could identify as "not being Australian." So they tried to lynch anybody they could find on the day who happened to have brown skin. Well, skin browner than theirs anyway.

More than 20 white males tried to kill a man sitting on a train at Cronulla station during the riot, and police and paramedics were punched, spat on, abused and pelted with beer bottles, bricks, fence palings and chunks of concrete as they tried to rescue those being attacked.

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26, a national holiday. January 26 is the date that Captain Philip reached Sydney Cove, in 1788, and founded the first English colony.

Many Aborigines, who have lived on the island for more than 60,000 years, don't recognise Australia Day. They hold ceremonies of mourning on January 26, the day they call 'Aboriginal Sovereignty Day, or 'Invasion Day'.

From the Daily Telegraph :

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday condemned the Big Day Out's decision to outlaw the Australian flag as an insult to the freedom it represents.

"The event organisers should not ram their peculiar political views down the throats of young Australians who are only interested in a good day out," an angry Mr Howard said yesterday.

The flag "ban" has provoked reactions of outrage and dismay across the vast spectrum of Australian communities, from the RSL to Islamic organisations :

Keysar Trad, a confidant of the Mufti Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly and head of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said banning the flag was a ludicrous idea.

Mr Trad said the flag was just as much a symbol for Muslim Australians as it was for any other citizen. "Personally, I would like to educate people that the flag belongs to us all," he said.

A number of media reports providing background to this story have claimed that the Australian flag was "chosen by the people" back in 1900.

This is not true.

A competition was run through a number of Australian magazines in 1899 and 1900 inviting readers to submit their ideas for an Australian flag design to commemorate the Federation of Australia in 1901.

But the design chosen was not put to an official public vote, nor was it debated in Parliament.

The flag design also had to be submitted for approval to the King of England, who then took more than a year to get back to the newly federated nation, anxious to fly its own flag for the first time.

The design of the Australian flag has changed in significant ways since 1901.

More on that from 'Your New Reality' :

This is how an Australian flag looked like in 1901, the year of Federation.

The first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, announced the above flag (with either red and blue backgrounds) was the winning design. There was plenty of controversy surrounding this decision, particularly because the people of this new Federation felt they had little say in how the final design was chosen.

Here's a magazine cover from the time announcing the winning design :

In 1953, after five decades of debate, a slightly altered version of the Australian flag was signed into law by the 1953 Flag Act. A seventh point was added to the main star, and the same blue hue as the British Union Jack flag (represented in the top right hand corner) became dominant.

A flag to represent Australian Aborigines was designed in 1971, and now flies alongside the 'Blue Ensign' flag (above) at a number of government offices and buildings.

"The black represents the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and their spiritual relationship to the land, and the yellow the sun, the giver of life." (link)

A people power push to change the 1953 version of the Australian flag to one that signifies reconciliation of England and European descendant-Australians with the Aborigines drifts in and out the public debate every few years.

This is one design for a new Australian flag that proved extremely popular.

History of Australia Day

Australian Father Gets Four Months In Jail For Burning The Australian Flag

Cronulla Riots - First Sentences Handed Down For Savage Attacks - One Month For Violent Bottle Assault, Four Months For Flag Burning