Half 2015 has gone!

Good heavens! First, here is slightly wintry West Wollongong yesterday around 3.30 pm.



Second, a note on #QandA, Zaky Mallah, and the recent attacks on the ABC. See just how feral the Murdoch tabloids and the Australian have been by looking at the excellent summary of all the week’s hysterics in MediaWatch. On #QandA last night it was rather a treat to see a particularly portentous Paul Kelly – the journalist, not the singer – trying to wriggle out of the fact that his newspaper gave glowing praise to Zaky Mallah in a 2012 feature: “Counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly, also a panellist, said it appeared Mr Mallah was ‘good enough for your paper, but he’s not good enough for Q&A’.” Anne Aly was especially sane last night. See her Brothers, believers and brave mujahideen: how to counter the lure of Islamic State propaganda. I hope our government is taking notice.

I am also chuffed that as an outsider (and something of a genius) Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist & Cosmologist, thought exactly as I did: that Mr Ciobo’s answer to Zaky Mallah’s question last week had been downright silly. That, in my opinion, is where that now famous #QandA went off the rails.

Postscript: See Chris Graham, What Have We Learned From Zaky Mallah? That News Corp Is Hypocritical And Q&A Thinks We’re All Stupid and its comment thread.

As of midnight last night, there had been 473 print or online stories, comments and letters published on Zaky Mallah since 2005, when he first came to public prominence after being falsely accused of planning a terrorist act.

Of those stories, 339 were written in the past week, after his appearance on Q&A. That still leaves 134 stories written before he became ‘media persona non grata’. Clearly, news organisations have found something quite compelling about Mallah for some time. A decade, in fact.

Would anyone like to guess which major media organisation published the least stories on Mallah before his Q&A appearance? The ABC, with 12 stories.

Fairfax came in next, with 24, followed closely by AAP, with 30.

I think you can see where this is heading… the news outlet that gave the most prominence to the views of Zaky Mallah prior to his appearance on Q&A was none other than News Corporation, with a total of 40 stories.

Indeed, during one period – May 2011 to January 2013 – a total of 12 news stories were published on Mallah, and every single one of them was by a News Corporation outlet.

And can you guess which News Corp masthead published the most stories about Mallah?

The Australian, with 17 – almost half the News Corp total.

This blog: June 2015

Time for stats.

June seems set to be similar to April, except that the number of visitors is down. On the other hand, the page reads are up.

Most read in June 2015:

  1. Home page / Archives 669 views 1-30 June 2015
  2. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 31
  3. All my posts 21
  4. Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong 19
  5. Anzac Girls last night on ABC 18
  6. The Secret River revisited 18
Top Posts for 180 days ending 2015-06-30 – seeing the year is now halfway through.
  1. Home page / Archives 4,688
  2. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 263
  3. Anzac Girls last night on ABC 181
  4. All my posts 80
  5. About 67
  6. Tom Thumb Lagoon 64
  7. Australia Day 2015 – and Tony Abbott’s serious mental problem 59
  8. Neil’s personal decades: 11 – 1875 – to Araluen and Braidwood 59
  9. Family history–some news on the Whitfield front 57
  10. Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong 52
  11. Daily Telegraph in 2015 just keeps on cashing in on fear 45
  12. Some reflections on the late teen suicide bomber 43
  13. Friday Australian poem #NS1— John Le Gay Brereton (1871 – 1933) 42
  14. The silence of the trams 41
  15. Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames” 40

Paul Sheehan on ABC bias

Not everything Paul Sheehan says today is unreasonable; for example:

The whole set-up and premise was absurd. But I can’t see any problem with Mallah being a member of the audience, or asking a question. Nor do I buy the hysteria that he was a security threat, or that the ABC needs a new layer of bureaucracy to screen guests. I also felt the heavy-handedness of the Prime Minister’s exasperation has enabled the ABC to divert attention from the real issue.

But his thesis of course is:

The ABC’s internal investigation will be a whitewash. It will be carefully confined to a forensic examination of the narrowest possible issue – the selection of Zaky Mallah for a question on national TV. A few reprimands will be issued and the ABC will congratulate itself about its rigour.

The whitewash will be in what is studiously ignored. ABC management will not ask the big question: why did this happen? It seems to fit a pattern of ideological bias, as was evident just a week earlier, when Q&A broadcast a debate about same-sex marriage and the only opponent of same-sex marriage was Fred Nile. The other five panellists were all gay rights activists. In fact, Nile was the only heterosexual guest on the panel.

This was a parody of balance, a mockery. That’s two out of two in two weeks, but the ABC will studiously avoid any ethical audit which looks at the wider context, and thus which examines the sheer weight and tone of coverage of the favoured obsessions of Q&A, which finally stepped on one of its own landmines.

This is the real issue. This is the real source of any consternation with some areas of the ABC, which, as I have written numerous times, is not a monolith.

A similar point was made a week or so back by Miranda Devine.

Dare I point out that there was no Q&A specifically about same sex marriage? There was a special following the excellent documentary Between a Frock and a Hard Place.

This is the story behind one of the world’s most loved films; about three unlikely hero-(ine)s from a backwater at the arse-end of the world daring to step up from the shadows in their shimmering sequined glory and be counted. It’s the story of how a low-budget Australian film about three cocks-in-frocks changed the course of history and loudly and proudly brought a celebration of gay culture to the world that continues to resonate twenty years on.


Narrated by Terence Stamp, this was a delightful and informative look back at the making of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, one of Australia’s most popular and enduring films. It looked at the context in which the film was conceived and made, and at the now 21 years since. A friend of M and I, William Yang, featured quite a lot.

The special #Q&A program was a forum on issues raised in the documentary. Equal (or “gay”) marriage was but one of many issues canvassed. The older members of the panel, including Fred Nile, could fairly be said to represent many decades of change in relation to the way diversity in sexuality has been received in Australian society. Fred is no shrinking violet and defended his position with considerable tenacity. He also occasionally surprised, though I do remember Ian Smith, now deceased, a 78-er or participant in the first Sydney Mardi Gras, telling me he actually had some respect for Fred, disagree with him as he did.

TOM BALLARD: Okay. Okay. Well, I’d ask you Fred Nile, have you seen any positive changes over that time, that have come to mind in your career in politics, for the queer community?
FRED NILE: Well, I think the most positive one and I was involved in it, were the provocation laws. We had a law in New South Wales where someone could say, “I was provoked when I found that this man was a homosexual so I bashed him. I may even severely injured him,” and that would mean he wouldn’t be charged with a serious offence because he was provoked and I was very pleased the inquiry I conducted into that provocation law repealed that whole section so no one can use the gay defence, if you like, in New South Wales now. It doesn’t exist.

But my he can be annoying, mainly because, as Denis Altman said:

DENNIS ALTMAN: You know, my problem with the question is a bit like my problem with Fred’s direct line to God. When you say it’s not ordered, ordered by whom and how do we know? I mean, this reading in to human behaviour and human feelings, some divine providence that some of us apparently know and the rest of us are ignorant of seems to me a very unhealthy way of approaching the subject. I think that – I don’t think that the trans people are where gay people were. I think there are significant differences but I think you’re absolutely right in saying there are huge changes going on and I honestly don’t claim to understand them all.
JULIA DOULMAN: I’m just talking in terms of acceptance in society.
DENNIS ALTMAN: Yeah, I think that’s true but I do want to make the point as one gets older you either can say, look, things are changing and, let’s be humble, I don’t get it all. I don’t necessarily understand your experience but I value your testimony of your experience and this is where I think I am different from the people like Fred who seem to know how I should feel because someone up there has apparently told him. Now, unfortunately I don’t have that line.

I should disclose I had a friend on the panel whom I respect enormously:

FRED NILE: And one was a major in the army and was sacked as a major in the army because of a homosexual persecuting him, Mr Gary Burns, yeah.
TOM BALLARD: Julie McCrossin, are you worried about marriage equality impacting on freedom of religion?
JULIE MCCROSSIN: Look, we actually have an established tradition – people will have mixed views on it – of exemptions under anti-discrimination legislation for religious-based organisations and I think all the people talking about reform, it’s about civil marriage. I think, in other words, it’s not a religious ceremony that I had in New York. It was a civil ceremony. Having said that, when I came back to my South Sydney Uniting church in Redfern Waterloo, we had a blessing ceremony, my partner Melissa Gibson and I, at the church. It was standing room only and a whole swathe of people took communion for the first time in 20 years because they were so amazed at the warmth with which we were accepted in that place. Now, it will, of course, not be – there will be some Christian churches, I believe, who will fight within their faith groups to allow religious marriage and some people won’t like me saying that because people want to keep it nice and simple that we’re only going for civil marriage but you know what? I’m not only going for civil marriage. I actually want full equality. I don’t feel sick and different. I am an ordinary, loving, taxpaying, moral person and I want the lot.
PAUL CAPSIS: And you should have it.

I rated this particular #Q&A among the best ever – civilised, informative, thought-provoking. ABC, you served us well that night.

Do look at A Comment on Paul Sheehan and Irish Referendum Turnout by Antony Green, and the ensuing comment thread, such as:

I’ve noticed a few comments that by using the semantics Sheehan used, an even smaller number of people explicitly voted “no” in the referendum (about 1/6 of the voting population if I’m not wrong. IMO Sheehan is making a silly argument that people who chose not to vote are implied to disagree with the entire legislation rather than just being indifferent.

Footnote: dark green = equal marriage achieved; light green = some progress in civil union rights.


My blog archives 5 — Ninglun’s Second Decade

Or Final Decade, as I renamed it. This was the blog immediately before the current one. It has 1,576 posts and 7 pages. There have been 172,189 views to the present. Neil’s final decade ran from December 2009 to 3 February 2013.

The most viewed posts have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 56,904 views since December 2009
  2. A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family 3,598
  3. Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes 3,477
  4. Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 3,249
  5. The Rainbow Warrior 2,356
  6. Jack Vidgen–Australia’s Got Talent last night 2,235
  7. This may well be the best Australian history book I have EVER read! 2,013
  8. Sniffing out the swamp then looking up…. 1,944
  9. Wollongong local history 1,889
  10. All my posts 1,874
  11. Thanks, Tilly and Kate! 1,851
  12. Australia’s Got Talent 2011 Grand Final 1,794
  13. About 1,605
  14. Being Australian 11: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 4 1,246
  15. Has school bullying increased? 1,160
  16. Goodbye Cracker Night! 1,047
  17. Niggling example of political short-sightedness: Maldon-Dombarton rail link 965
  18. Sport and multicultural Australia 963
  19. Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection 924
  20. Being Australian 20: poem and song, images, dreams, nostalgia, England 910

Oldest house in Wollongong?

Posted on January 6, 2013 by Neil

There is a story in Saturday’s Illawarra Mercury about a house I can clearly see from my window when I look towards Mount Kembla. For example:


Once upon a time it looked like this:


Wollongong Public School principal Harold Cosier and partner Jenny Dixon plan to spend the next five years on what many would see as a daunting project.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle getting finance because banks don’t seem to like old buildings, but now we’re to this point it’s all very exciting,” Mr Cosier said yesterday.

The once-grand Georgian house in Bukari Street, West Wollongong, was built in 1843 for Judge Roger Therry, a barrister from County Cork who was attorney-general, sitting in the NSW Legislative Council from 1841 to 1843.

President of the Illawarra Historical Society, Carol Herben, said the sale was a victory for the city.

“It’s a landmark building with huge significance and it’s been very sad to see it deteriorate over the years,” Mrs Herben said.

National Trust Illawarra-Shoalhaven branch chair Meredith Hutton was overjoyed.

“Properties of this age and style are disappearing through neglect so we welcome restoration plans.”…

The house was originally on 143.7 hectares of land.

It had French doors leading on to an upper verandah which wrapped around three sides of the house, which have been lost over time.

Mr Cosier said the restoration would be based on plans supplied by both heritage authorities and Wollongong City Council.

“The aim is to get it back to how it looked externally to when Judge Therry occupied it,” Mr Cosier said…

Sadly too the house was cement rendered in the 1930s. Originally it was sandstock brick.

But is it really Wollongong’s oldest house?  Local academic Michael Organ participated in an exchange on this last year.

2 November 2011 – Keera Vale

Protect oldest house – News that the oldest house in Wollongong is on the market – Keera Vale circa 1842 in Bukari St – provides Wollongong City Council with the opportunity to redeem its poor heritage credentials. Decades of over-zealous development by previous councils have resulted in the destruction of numerous 19th century buildings in the city. The survival of Keera Vale in West Wollongong for more than 150 years is therefore to be wondered at. It is perhaps now time that this rare and precious building comes into public ownership, to ensure its ongoing protection and preservation. Keera Vale could serve the community well as a museum, gallery or cultural heritage centre, and form an integral part of Wollongong’s heritage trail for residents and tourists alike. With the council looking to spend $14 million on cosmetic changes to Crown St Mall, surely it can find – with community support – less than a tenth of that amount to purchase and restore this grand old mansion. As the oldest house in town, it deserves nothing less. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

  • 8 November 2011 – Standing up for history – The story on Wollongong’s oldest house Keera Vale (1844) at Bukari St (Mercury, November 5) was informative, but worrisome. The comment by the real estate agent selling the property that “it has no heritage listing at all” flies in the face of work done by Wollongong City Council’s former heritage committee during the 1980s and 1990s when the house was allocated a “regional” significance rating. It was also on the list of heritage items submitted on May 12, 1999, for gazettal. Why has this listing disappeared? Heritage management by the council is a shambles and the new councillors need to address this black hole as a priority. The fact that the oldest and most historic house in the city is devoid of any heritage protection reveals just how little value the previous administrations gave to our local heritage. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

  • TherryResponse 14 November 2011 – Value our history – I am writing in support of Michael Organ’s letter (Mercury, November 8) regarding Wollongong’s oldest house – Keera Vale. I would like to thank Mr Organ for voicing his concerns and agree with his sentiments regarding the previous council’s heritage management and hope the newly elected councillors address this problem of the disregard for our local history. I have a personal interest in this property as the original owner, Sir Roger Therry [right], is a direct ancestor. He played a significant part in the history of New South Wales by his involvement in our judicial and political systems. An important trial he presided over was the Myall Creek Massacre that lead to the conviction of the men responsible. He also worked with Father John Therry and the Irish Catholic community in their struggle for justice and equity. Sir Roger Therry’s first house in Paddington was demolished to make way for the Royal Hospital for Women that was also demolished in turn. Apartments now occupy the site. Wollongong councillors have the opportunity to preserve a property that is a last link to a man who brought justice to the Illawarra and described the local area beautifully in his book Reminiscences of Thirty Years Residence in New South Wales and Victoria. It would be nice to have the means to secure the property myself and ensure its preservation but unfortunately I don’t. Linda Crawford, Corrimal.

  • Response 15 November 2011 – Keera Vale not oldest – In response to the article (Mercury, November 5), and the subsequent letter from Michael Organ (Mercury, November 8) in relation to Keera Vale, Bukari St, Wollongong, there are a number of factual errors that should be clarified. Firstly, Keera Vale is listed as a heritage item within the Wollongong Local Environmental Plan 2009 as the “Former Roger Therry Residence”, 30 Bukari St, Wollongong. Secondly, Keera Vale is not the city’s oldest house as claimed. It is believed to be pre-dated by a small number of remaining residential buildings including Marshall Mount Homestead (1838-1840), Horsley Homestead (1842), and the small Stockman’s Hut which is incorporated into Nudjia at Unanderra (1839-41). This correction is made to ensure historical accuracy and not to discount the high level of significance of Keera Vale, which forms a key element of our city’s heritage. In response to Mr Organ’s criticisms of council’s heritage management practices, on October 31 council considered two reports relating to heritage matters and resolved: 1. To reform the Wollongong Heritage Advisory Committee, under the guidance of Councillor John Dorahy (chairperson), and Cr Vicki Curran. 2. Adopt the Wollongong Heritage Strategy 2011-2014 and the Wollongong Heritage Action Plan 2011-2014. These policies were developed under the former Wollongong Heritage Advisory Committee membership, and outline council’s significant commitment to the protection of the city’s heritage. Community members interested in the city’s heritage are encouraged to have a look at these documents which can be accessed online, and the many positive things council is doing to protect the city’s heritage. Andrew Carfield, Director, Planning and Environment, Wollongong City Council.

I note too that Therry was a “resident judge at Port Phillip”.


Outbuildings at Horsley, another candidate for oldest surviving buildings in Wollongong.

Image from Wollongong Library.

Mind you we did have much older in Surry Hills, also rather sadly neglected.


Thanks to Joe Davis for drawing attention to Pitfalls of rewriting history.

Random Friday memory 18 – Latin at Sydney 1960


Professor and Dean

ARTHUR JOHN DUNSTON, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A. (Reading). Appointed 1953.

Senior Lecturers

J. DUHIGG, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A.

J. J. NICHOLLS, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A.



H. D. JOCELYN, B.A. (Cambridge and Sydney).

I. M. LONIE, B.A. (Cambridge and New Zealand).

That’s from the Sydney University Calendar for 1960. I was 16 and enrolled in Arts 1: English, Ancient History, Psychology – and Latin. This is Professor Dunston:


He was there forever! We had him for Cicero, I think. Latin happened in this picturesque corner:


I had studied Latin at school, mainly under the legendary Edgar Bembrick – his last class in fact. He died in 1960. See also my post 1957 or MCMLVII. So Latin as my fourth subject, just for one year, looked an easy choice. Except it turned out there was so much of it! Not just Cicero, but Livy and Horace – the Epistles, with Mr Duhigg, whose Cambridge accent charmed me. His translations were so elegant, better probably than this one:

An invitation to dinner

If you can bear to recline at dinner on a couch

By Archias, and dine off a modest dish of greens,

Torquatus, I’ll expect to see you here at sunset.

You’ll drink wine bottled in Taurus’ second term,

Between marshy Minturnae, and Mount Petrinum

Near Sinuessa. If you’ve better, have it brought,

Or obey orders! The hearth’s bright, the furniture’s

Already been straightened. Forget airy hopes, the fight

For wealth, and Moschus’ case: tomorrow, Caesar’s birthday

Gives us a reason for sleeping late: we’re free to spend

A summer’s night in pleasant talk with impunity.

What’s the use of my fortune if I can’t enjoy it?

The man who scrimps and saves on behalf of his heirs,

Too much, is next to mad. I’ll start the drinking, scatter

Flowers, and even allow you to think me indiscreet.

What can’t drunkenness do? It unlocks secrets, and makes

Secure our hopes, urges the coward on to battle,

Lifts the weight from anxious hearts, teaches new skills.

Whom has the flowing wine-bowl not made eloquent?

Whom constrained by poverty has it not set free?

Here’s what, willing and able, I commit myself

To provide: no dirty seat-covers, no soiled napkins

To offend your nose, no plate or tankard where you can’t

See yourself, no one to carry abroad what’s spoken

Between good friends, so like may meet and be joined

To like. I’ll have Butra and Septicius for you,

And Sabinus unless he’s detained by a prior

Engagement, and a prettier girl. There’s room too

For your ‘shadows’: but goatish smells spoil overcrowded

Feasts. You reply with how many you want, then drop

Your affairs: out the back, evade the client in the hall! 


Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

I was working through Horace at about five lines an hour, I think, and consequently never did translate it all. Unfortunately the parts I hadn’t quite got to turned up in the exam, though I did pass. Mr Duhigg memorably told then 17-year-old me: “Mr Whitfield, if the rest of the paper had been the same standard as your Horace, you most certainly would not have passed.”

We struggled also through Bradley’s Arnold.


If I recall correctly the lovely Miss Begbie was our guide for that. Or was that Livy? Given this it seems likely.

  • Also in 1960, the infant Tony Abbott arrived in Australia. Oh dear!