First — regarding the Albury Hotel
28 Oct 2001
… Last night I called into the Albury Hotel for the very last time; it was the last day the grand/jaded/notorious old watering hole to the gay community was open to the public. There is a private farewell party today, but 1) I am not sure I was invited and 2) I am all farewelled out. So I am giving it a miss. There was quite a good crowd there last night including a few faces I have not seen for a while.
Sirdan, Malcolm, the Empress (who was not there, but see below for what he was doing) and I will probably pass our time in future at another venue where cider is served, along with various Irish ales.
I may call in later to St Vincents Hospital to see how my friend Father John is getting on. He had his operation on Friday. John is an interesting character, a man of 70 whose life has been in the service of the Anglican Church, much of it in Islamic countries as chaplain to British Embassies. His insight into the Islamic world is deep and charitable; in fact when asked at the hospital what his religion is, he said “monotheist”. When they said, “The computer does not have that; do you mean Methodist?” he replied “Definitely not: you can put ‘Islam’ if you like.”
Speaking of hospitals, the Empress had a very interesting courier job last night, taking a sample of a certain exotic but well-publicised disease* to the lab for analysis. The person involved had been on holiday in the USA recently.
28 Oct 2001
I went and saw Father John in hospital and he has come through well; indeed he expects to go home tomorrow.
After that I decided to drop in on the Albury’s final party. There was an invitation list; I was never sure I was on it, as I am in some ways a rather anonymous person there. It turned out someone of my first name was on the list, albeit apparently associated with the Bayswater Fitness Centre. Despite my denying any association with fitness centres, they let me in anyway; not sure what happens if the other N. turns up!
Sirdan, the Empress and Malcolm were there, with many a person I didn’t know and some I did. “Hugh La Rue” whose caberet act I have described in an earlier entry was there, but not performing, and recognised me. It was nice to see him again. I didn’t stay all that long–the free punch was dangerous I suspect. I saw a fair bit of the final “Pollie’s Follies” drag show and some of the acts were very good; one even actually sang. Miss Lucy was the first number after Pollie and did “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music, with some quite remarkable leaps (in high heels) for such a large person.
A. was there. Not quite at war yet, but hoping; very much at home at a drag show.
So, there goes an association (with The Albury) going back about thirteen years–longer with a few visits when I was still living in Chippendale, so it must be sixteen years since I first went to the long-defunct piano bar.
The crowd today was still not as big as when the pub was at its height, but big enough. The Empress, of course, was at The Albury’s opening night as a gay bar–I am not sure how many centuries that is–and was determined to see through the last night. When I saw him last someone had given him a schooner of punch. I do hope we see him again…
Was that the beginning of the decline of Oxford Street?
Here is a retrospect from 2019 looking back twenty years — and more!
Second — regarding the 2001 election October-November 2001
November 5: Priorities…getting them right.
With carpet bombing starting in Afghanistan, and an upcoming election here (both pretty depressing), I thought I should mention that Mitchell’s famous Melbourne Cup Tips are now up. You only have a few hours to make use of them!
5 November 2001
It’s that time of the year again! Well, the election also… but, more importantly, the Melbourne Cup. My tips for this year:
1. Curata Storm
3. Hill of Grace
Mitchie told you so.
Very busy but satisfying day at the University of Technology Sydney, as a result of which I am quite excited about possibilities for the ESL research project Phase 2 next year.
November 7: Australian elections on 10th… and I am praying for a change of government
I have had the vote now for 37 years.
For the first half (approximately) of that time, being of mainly Scots/Ulster Protestant background, I voted Liberal, as did my parents and grandparents before me. For most of the second half I have voted Labor, except in the Senate where I have favoured one or other of the minor parties. For the first time ever I will not be voting for either major party in either House.
As Ian McPhee rightly observed today, there are no Liberals left in the Liberal Party. What we have are conservatives (like Costello) and reactionaries (like the Prime Minister). Of course there are precious few Labor politicians in the Labor Party either, and the crunch issue separating me from them, and the government, has been the obscene asylum-seekers “crisis”. I have canvassed that issue before on this diary, so do not propose to do so again tonight.
Further, while not excusing those responsible for the attacks of September 11, I find myself increasingly appalled by the crudeness of the response by the United States and by our government’s alacrity (supported by Labor) to leap into the action. (Of course I also wish our ADF members well.) Our “non-evil” weapons, to paraphrase George Bush, are likely directly and indirectly to exact a human cost far in excess of the 6000 in the twin towers. I just hope the causes of terrorism are addressed by the world community more effectively at some time in the future. I fear the present course will in sum probably increase the appeal of terrorism in those parts of the world that currently feel, for whatever reasons, obliged to take that path.
I hope that liberal and secularist religionists of all faiths will become stronger in their opposition to fundamentalism and fanaticism.
Back home again, I am impressed with much of the argument in Quarterly Essay 3:2001: “The Opportunist: John Howard and the Triumph of Reaction” by Guy Rundle. If you want an image of the kind of prat the Liberal Party throws up (and in this case out, after he fell on his face) look no further than Jonathan Shier. He embodied the mindset beautifully. He was just too nakedly prattish to succeed, but he was their man, very much their man.
You are free to disagree with any of the above.
I do lean more towards the Labor Party in certain policy areas, especially social welfare, health and education. I feel they could form quite a respectable government, if not an adventurous one. I also feel they will be quite conservative in terms of economic management this time around; their options are limited there anyway.
M, who experiences nausea everytime he sees John Howard, asks: “Why does Australia want tough leaders? What Australia needs is wise leaders, compassionate leaders.” Amen to that–but I can’t recall many: John Curtin maybe? Gough Whitlam? Not wise. Paul Keating? Flashes of wisdom but too much folly. Malcolm Fraser? Only since he retired. Who? Menzies? No, too deep a concept to sum him up, but he was much more of a Liberal than the current crop. Bob Hawke? Plenty of compassion, less wisdom. It’s a lot to ask, M. Depressing isn’t it?
If you want some idea of what wisdom looks like, revisit the International Declaration on Human Rights.
November 8: Responding to P P McGuiness
According to P P McGuiness, those eminent Australians (“elites”) who have expressed disagreement with the majority view (“out-of-touch”) on Australia’s current migration and refugee policies are, at heart, worshippers of Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao “and assorted other mass murderers”.
It is always a bit rich when McGuiness attacks the “self-described intellectuals” and the “chattering classes”, as the Chairman of Free Balmain is all of the above himself. He was also in his youth strangely attracted to “assorted other mass murderers”, but in seeing the light he has adopted another -ism, populism and a species of ultra-libertarianism (pace Bernard Crick) that borders, in my view, on irresponsible government and social anarchy.
I am not looking for a man with a white horse, nor do I seriously see myself as an intellectual. As an ESL teacher who lives with a Chinese who would, had the populace been asked back in 1990, probably not now be an Australian citizen, I may be biassed.
Populism sounds like democracy, but is in fact as old as the hills and refers either to demagoguery or, more honourably, to the utopian concept of “direct democracy”. “Direct democracy” is another of those shattered myths of the hippy era, along with worship of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh. When we elect a government we choose a set of elites (elected and non-elected) who we hope will serve the long-term interests of the nation. I see nothing wrong with that.
If elites and intellectuals are a critical presence, a conscience, in an otherwise ill-informed populace, they are merely fulfilling their proper function. It is because writers and such are articulate that we value them, though we all need to take what they say critically. If judges from time to time act on principle rather than political expediency, then cheer them on! Many of those who have spoken out on the boat people/asylum seekers are those who really are in a position to know what they are talking about–people with experience of the highest levels of diplomacy, the military and government. They are not mere journalists–or even ESL teachers.
In such ways we progress; but then progress is something else McGuinness would not believe in. Disillusion as an ideal is very romantic, but where does it leave us?
McGuinness actually writes well. Sometimes he writes good things well. Too often he writes seductive nonsense well. The latter is, in my view, what he has done today.
November 9: ..the case of David Flint
Professor David Flint has an opinion piece in The Australian today. It is worth a read; Flint gets a guernsey from his old school mate P P McGuinness in the Sydney High Old Boys’ Bulletin for October, incidentally.
Now I actually know Professor Flint. I have wined and dined with him and been a passenger in his car. He is a charming fellow. I really mean that. There is much else one could say about him, but one won’t. I even agree with some of what he says, but it is interesting how his hobby-horse infects all he says; he is a classic instance of the old school where the Church of England (especially the High Church variety) has been described as “the Tory Party at prayer”. He is almost a Dickensian character sprung to life, and in his own way another anti-elite elite, for he is elite (and dare I say a crashing snob to boot) as any elite could be! Perhaps we all become caricatures of ourselves in time.
Few people I have met so thoroughly inhabit a fantasy world, I really must say. It is a charming and cosy world, but it does not really exist outside his somewhat rarefied circle. It did once, perhaps, in England many decades ago, but bears no relationship to the Australia most of us live in. And yet his constitutional arguments are worth more than a passing glance at times, as he is a learned man, simply one who has devoted his learning to shoring up the essentially aristocratic world he has fantasised himself into. Such is my impression having observed him on several occasions.
I have also taken the opportunity to correct a spelling mistake in yesterday’s, and to clarify the notion of populism.
November 10: Australia votes…and so does Ninglun
So, I have just recently done my democratic duty. Now we wait. I am not optimistic about the outcome, though I do hope we may achieve the minor change that a Labor victory would bring, including (among other things) a somewhat harder ride for the present government’s rich and powerful friends–though they will continue to do very well I am sure– and a more liberal (in the true sense) approach to issues of multiculturalism, national identity, indigenous issues and social issues generally. I’ll stop boring you now.
On the way back from the polling booth I saw the almost terminally cute recent vice-captain of our school setting off to make his first vote. I urged him to vote the right way, which he said of course he would do. We did not actually discuss what the right way might be. (I do hope he did not misinterpret my words.) Another new voter of my acquaintance is in another electorate, in fact the same electorate, curiously enough, in which I voted Liberal on a number of occasions. (Come to think of it, even before I had the vote I scrutineered for the bastards–sorry!–in a local election; it was interesting, but I am not sure if it was legal, but the candidate wanted bodies on the tally room floor.) He was a local developer–you know the scene–and my father was a real estate agent in Jannali.
Curiouser still is that my old Presbyterian Church is a polling booth in that electorate.
With respect to yesterday’s diary, which may have seemed uncharitable, I should point out that I actually quite like Prof. Flint as a conversation partner and fellow-guest at a dinner. Pompous, indeed, but not without humour. I even agree with him that the Westminster system of government is better than the American model. However, while he seemed yesterday to rejoice in the fact that the American system stymied “elites” (or “pointy-headed intellectuals”/”eggheads” and other delightful American expressions), I actually think that is one of the things wrong with it.
I also do not want Australia to have an elected president; in fact I don’t want Australia to have any kind of president with the powers of an American one. If we become a republic (and there are still good symbolic reasons for that, even practical ones further down the track) I hope it is a minimalist model that gets up. Prime Minister Costello would probably see us right on that one 😉
Imagine what I might have said about Prof. Flint if I didn’t like him!
Finally, I decided to cheer myself and others up by buying a car. It had to be within budget, and although I won’t be driving it myself (though I may be allowed to use it), it had to be something a bit classic, I felt, and expressive of machismo. I think I have succeeded, and got change out of a ten-note too!
It is beside me as I write 🙂
November 11: Howard wins…wish the Melbourne Cup tips had been as good! Oh yes: 1815 Hansard!
Well, you can look forward to me getting back to book reviews rather than political rants now.
It’s over, but life goes on. The Senate could prove interesting with an increased Green presence.
I saw on NineMSN that there was in the New York Times some fairly scandalous reporting of our virtual reassertion of a White Australia Policy; I have looked, but all I get is this. And it isn’t too shocking. I do think we are going to regret the smarty-pants “solution” to the asylum seekers situation. (NB change of terminology, Mitchell.) There is the cost, the fact that they will not be able to stay forever in Nauru etc. and will probably end up, many of them, back here, and the fact that we will run out of viable dumping grounds.
Pauline Hanson is down and out at least. Bliss, joy!
Still, a government that brought us some honour over East Timor is not all bad. Let’s hope they respond to some of the serious criticism, especially that from eminent community members of whom many have been members of or supporters of the governing party in the past.
Kim Beazely, the Labor leader, has just conceded and spoke very well.
The car* is a success I feel. Sirdan thought it looked nice. (See last entry.)
*2021 — I have no idea now what this was about!
All examinees–good luck over the next few weeks….
I left out the bit about the 1815 Hansard — it was a reference to a funny incident at the Green Park Hotel concerning myself, Sirdan, and another friend — a rather opinionated one at times — PK.