Does this cap fit ScoMo?

It occurs to me that much coming from Scott Morrison and minions since the passing of the “medivac” reforms last week has more than strayed into demagoguery. In passing, enjoy this quote:


Back to Australia. I am impressed with this commentary in Eureka Street.

Having failed in Parliament to prevent tinkering to the border protection regime, the Morrison government returned to the well Australian politicians have drawn upon when faced with electoral crisis: demonise humanitarian approaches to refugees and asylum seekers arriving by boat, and accuse opponents of going wobbly. ‘Australia cannot trust Bill Shorten’, huffed Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ‘to make Australia stronger.’ All boat arrivals forthwith would be ‘on Bill Shorten’s head’.

That looks very much like demagoguery to me!  I am afraid that it seems to be working — which Scott Morrison would probably have anticipated from his promotional experiences in his former career.

It is worth revisiting Thus Spake Mungo: ScoMo – the authentic demagogue. Well spotted, Mungo MacCallum!

Which leads to the conclusion that what Morrison really means by authenticity is a cynical dumbing down of complex issues in the hope that the public will not analyse them too closely. And obviously climate change is the prime example. Morrison says he accepts that it is real – up to a point. But the point is a firm full stop when it comes to doing anything about it….

…Marketing is the art of convincing people that what they really need is whatever you are providing.

Which is how Morrison is dealing with the children on Nauru issue. He has let is be known that he is, bit by bit, getting most of them to the mainland, which is receiving wary applause; but he won’t say what happens next – are they to have a swift medical check and be sent back? If not, what happens to their parents? What, if any, are their rights?

And given that Peter Dutton is utterly intransigent about conceding them anything, what, if any, is the long-term solution?

A leader who was truly reliable, trustworthy and entitled to acceptance and belief would at least attempt to answer those questions. Morrison’s response is along the lines of ‘don’t you worry about that,’ echoing another shonky leader who liked to think that he was authentic.

And just for the exercise let’s go back to 2004 during the Howard years. I will let you do your own compare and contrast with where we have come to, with Labor and Coalition really on the same page still, despite all the blow-harding coming from the government about the recent tweak on medical evacuations. Courtesy, remember, of Kevin Rudd and the 2013 election we now just accept the orthodoxy that “they” will never ever for any reason be allowed to settle in Australia — as Scott Morrison’s hoped-to-be viral video so strongly asserts. But back in Howard’s day I posted:

In July 2004 I wrote:

Sometimes one can only welcome policy backflips, especially when the policy concerned has been as draconian, as heartless, as unnecessary, as dishonest, and as big a waste of tax-payers’ dollars as the immigration and refugee policy has been since Tampa sailed over our horizon. Well, partly of course because “the temporary protection issue has become a sticky one for the Government in marginal electorates in Victoria, where the Coalition is polling poorly,” but also because there actually are people even in the Liberal Party who like to think of themselves as compassionate, given half a chance, ” the Government will announce as early as today that most of the 9000 temporary protection visa holders, many of whom have been living in the community for more than three years, will be able to apply for permanent residency.” The temporary protection visa was a disgrace anyway, a kind of limbo.

The decision follows a number of other immigration policy backflips by the Government, including its release of all but one child of boat people from mainland detention centres, and permitting 146 Afghans who have been held on Nauru for more than two years to come to Australia, as it winds back the “Pacific Solution”.

Government MPs say there are indications that the Prime Minister, John Howard, has softened his line on the issue of asylum seekers since he won the 2001 election on the back of his tough border protection policies.

I suspect Rural Australians for Refugees especially should take a bow- ordinary decent Australians with a better idea of what that means than Mister Ruddock apparently had. Well done.

The cost and the idiocy of it all may be summed up in the story of Aladdin Sisalem and his cat: “Mr Sisalem fled Kuwait in 2000, eventually arriving at an island in Torres Strait by boat from Papua New Guinea 18 months ago. He immediately sought asylum, saying he would face persecution if sent back to Kuwait. He was sent to Manus Island, where for the past 10 months he was the sole occupant, apart from a small staff of guards and cleaners hired to look after him at a cost to the Australian Government of $250,000 a month.”


Do read Karen Middleton in The Saturday Paper.

Morrison is understood to be the architect of his own political strategy. His friend, former Howard adviser turned lobbyist David Gazard, confirmed the prime minister is choosing to see the medivac legislation as a gift.

Gazard told Sky News this week: “I reckon it’s ‘make my day’ [for] Scott Morrison.”

Labor is acutely aware that it bungled refugee policy when previously in office, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers heading for Australia by boat, including those still languishing on Manus and Nauru. Its leaders in both the right and left factions are determined not to repeat that. At the same time, its core constituents are demanding a much greater emphasis on compassion.


Ever want to bang your head against a wall?

Listening to the roaring hysteria coming not only from the likes of Paul Murray but, worse, from the Prime Minister and most of his minions — the Speaker being an honourable role model for sanity — has rather made the nearest wall strangely attractive. No, I am not having a Donald Trump moment…

See cooler heads like Rodney Tiffen, definitely not being partisan:

… the government’s scare campaign over the medical evacuation legislation is out of all proportion to what was proposed in the opposition amendment. The idea that it will encourage boat arrivals is undercut by the fact that it relates only to those already in detention. The Liberals will nevertheless feel that the shift in attention from the banking royal commission, for instance, to asylum seekers represents a victory. But it is far from clear that it can sustain the issue’s prominence over the next three months….

And do read this dispassionate analysis:

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have now passed amendments to the Migration Act 1958 that allow for the medical evacuation of asylum-seekers from Manus Island and Nauru. These amendments are also known as the medevac bill.

So, how will the situation for asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru change with the provisions in place?

Finally, Kerry Murphy in Eureka Street:

So in the end, the Minister can still prevent a transfer because of an ASIO assessment, or substantial criminal record. It is not clear what medical treatment such a person would receive, and whether they might be sent to Taiwan if the treatment were otherwise not available. The government states this will reopen the boats coming to Australia, despite the need for a person to be extremely unwell and in need of specialist medical care. This is despite the fact that once here, they cannot apply for any visa (including a bridging visa) without the express permission of the Minister. Arrangements to transfer around 1000 people to the US did not start the boats, however the offer of 150 people resettled a year in New Zealand will start the boats.

So the unnecessary legislation was made necessary because of the government’s determination to maximise the punishment for coming by boat and establish cruel deterrents to prevent people coming to Australia and seeking asylum. The final version of the bill is complex, and not ideal in a human rights context. However it is better than what we have now. It was achieved by discussions and compromise between the opposition, minor parties and independents because the government refused to move from its hard-line position. Hopefully people in need of urgent medical care will not have to go to court again in order to get the medical treatment and care they require.

Going back on my blog ten years I find myself depressed about so much that has happened in this space in that time: On Ashmore Reef asylum seekers – hold your horses!

Talking about 1979 — 2

I see I posted extensively on my 1979 back in October 2012, the trigger being a sad event. See mais où sont les neiges d’antan?, some of which I now repost:

[repost] My time at Wollongong High teaching English, History and, would you believe, Photography was in two segments: 1975 to 1976 and 1979 to 1980. 1977 and 1978 I was working in Dip Ed at Sydney University.

But today I want to focus on 1979.

1979: Annus Mirabilis Horribilisque

There’s something about me and 9 years. 1989 was another case in point, 1959 was my last year of school, and 1969 my last year as a teacher at Cronulla High School. In 1979 I returned to Wollongong High after my Sydney secondment and the year was in fact pretty good in most ways. I had a very memorable Year 12 Class in 1979.

[There were rumours last year that Mr Smith was having it off with a Year 12 girl.]

– Would you like some coffee?

[There were rumours last year that Mr Smith was having it off with that spunky librarian.]

– Thanks, J.

[There were rumours last year that Mr Smith was having it off with the milkman. “Had your cream this morning?” the class wit, Carcase, used to ask him.]

That fictional version is true to the extent that there were such rumours which in fact were about me. None of the rumours was actually true, however, though I was in the company of the Librarian – a 20-something – and her friends more than once. And there was a boy nicknamed “Carcase”, though I fancy he spelled it “Carcass”…. And he was one of the more memorable people I ever taught.

Physically he was a stereotyped blond surfie, of South African background (or was it Dutch?), and a person with a long record of run-ins with authority. I had taught him before I went to Sydney, and in fact he was in a class I was inspected on for my dreaded “List 2” promotion in 1976. “That boy doesn’t like authority,” the inspector, Tom Dobinson, said afterwards – but congratulated me for the way I had handled him. And strangely enough when I found myself with a senior class of not the keenest students Wollongong High could offer, Carcase was in it. He had been skating on thin ice for some time, apparently, and there were rumours he had spent at least part of Year 10 working for Wollongong Council as a labourer while still at school. I won’t swear to the truth of that, but I can well imagine it.

I was younger and enthusiastic and determined to win this group over. In 1978 I had been in the Balmain Theatre Group, playing Clarrie, a Rugby League commentator, in Alex Buzo’s The Roy Murphy Show.


Good to see it getting a run more recently.

Back in Wollongong with that senior class, we had something very daring for the time on our text list: David Williamson’s The RemovalistsI thought it would play well with the group and it did, especially after a book-in-hand rehearsed class reading that almost went wrong but in fact went very right….

In the original Kenny is handcuffed to the door when  the corrupt cop knees him in the nuts, to which Kenny replies with the C-word. Naturally I had cast Carcase as Kenny and myself as the corrupt cop. We didn’t actually have handcuffs and I didn’t actually knee him in the nuts, but Carcase, who was a great actor, gave a very loud and convincing response.

I had forgotten I was next to the Social Science staff room. The Head of Department, father of another ex-student of mine who is currently a Fairfax journalist, came in with several colleagues to rescue me, Carcase’s line not having lacked in projection. I held the book up and pointed to the line, while the class rolled on the floor laughing – well almost! Subsequent discussion with staff  along the lines of “Jeez mate, that was a bit fucken rude! You’ve got to remember there’s women about…” was somewhat ironic really, a fact I shared with the class later on before setting them an essay on whether the text was suitable for school study.

Carcase’s essay was so good it was later published in the English Teachers Association Newsletter.

thumbnail_BPFile object

Meanwhile the Balmain Theatre Group was putting on another Buzo play, Coralie Lansdowne Says No. To extend my class’s understanding of theatre and their knowledge of Australian drama, I arranged with the director for the whole class to travel up to Sydney several times to follow the play from casting to first night.

On the casting night I was wandering about by myself on the stage feeling more than a bit nostalgic – as I would have been in the play myself had I stayed in Sydney. Carcase appeared and said something totally unexpected: “You belong here, don’t you…”

Later  after the first night performance the class and I attended some of the after party. Alex Buzo was there and I spotted him and Carcase having quite a conversation about the nature of dramatic language. “What a lovely boy,” Alex said. I assured him very many people at Wollongong High would be shocked to hear such a thing.

Then came the HSC and one of the worst events in my career, as the students found – as did I – in the exam room that even though the fact had been known and indeed publicised that we were doing Huckleberry Finn, there was no question about Huckleberry Finn on the paper. Our texts had been chosen from the previous year’s list – easy to do as they were not very well signposted in those days. It is an English teacher’s nightmare and I was upset more than you might imagine. I was of course investigated but the Head of English is the one who was really hauled over the coals. Not a good time.

In the midst of all this when I was alone back in Church Street North Wollongong and feeling very low, there was a knock on my door late one night. It was Carcase and his then girlfriend, who just happened to be the Regional Director of Education’s daughter. Carcase had come to tell me that no matter what some might be thinking, as far as he was concerned I had been a fantastic teacher and I shouldn’t worry.  Of course in the end the students were not disadvantaged as “misadventure” provisions evened out the marks.

That was the last I saw or heard of Carcase, and I have no idea what he went on to do, though I have heard some of it involved music and he ended up in Queensland.

Earlier this month Stewart Holt, another Wollongong High ex-student who, had he stayed on, would have been in the class photo above, told me he had heard Carcase had died.

Saturday’s Mercury confirms that Mark Bosman, aged 51, had indeed passed away and the funeral is next week.

Hence these stories. RIP.


Talking about 1979

That’s forty — FORTY — years ago! Can you believe it? Pink Floyd “The Wall”, USSR invading Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, the Shah flees Iran, a war between China and Vietnam…. See more.

Now I was living in Church Street, Wollongong — had been since late 1978, though resuming my job at Wollongong High in 1979 after a period of commuting between Wollongong and Sydney University. The unit block I lived in is still there — that door at the back downstairs was then — until the end of 1980 — my front door.

8 church street

Screenshot (221)

So I plan to share a few things about that year of 1979 — some good, some ugly. I have alluded to that time before: Leonie Kramer slept here at “The Bates Motel”. And Wollongong looked like this, on a good day: that’s North Beach, not far at all from my Church Street flat.