Reflections post-election, starting with Scomo’s tears

And I must start by thanking whatever gods that be for the FACT Australia has been witnessing a swift, smooth and PEACEFUL transfer of power. Not even the USA can boast that! Especially the USA since the Orange Sickness struck it!

I thank also our predecessors who have made for us from British roots and our own tradition an electoral system that deserves to be the envy of the world for its integrity and practicability.

I am going to do a different take on this.

I have annoyed some by not in the past going out of my way to demonise ScoMo. For example I have never spelled that with a U. Nor have I got overexcited about his religion.

Now it so happens that I have been in this church in Sutherland, or rather in the Assemblies of God church that preceded it. Ir was not called Horizon then and was much smaller and poorer, but the idea was the same. It was 1964 or 1965 I think, and I was still an Elder at Sutherland Presbyterian Church. Yes, another life. Fellow Elder and friend Robert Kennelly had been invited to preach there. He was aiming to become a Presbyterian minister, which eventually he did — but in the Presbyterian Reformed Church — which began in Sutherland just as I left the church.

From our point of view at the time the Pentecostals were more than a bit weird and theologically suss. But Bob accepted and I went along as moral support and to give him feedback on his sermon. Bob remains in my memory, along with Gwenda his wife, an esteeemed friend, as do Greg and Helen Fox who became key members of the PRC. Helen in fact later taught Latin at Sydney Girls High where I renewed acquaintance in the late 90s and early 2000s. A lovely and funny lady.

I was amused to discover where ScoMo’s church is. And it isn’t Hillsong by the way, though ScoMo’s connection with the Houstons was unwise.

Looking back at what I saw in the 60s and what I see in this story one thing does strike me. This church may be many things, some not so good, some no doubt fulfilling to its community. But I would call this a painfully naive kind of Christianity, and I suspect that is an issue with ScoMo. I also suspect, though he may not even be aware of it or would deny it vehemently, that aside from a certain emotional piety there is no great connection between the way he has acted as salesman and politician and anything profound in the religion. Heretical of me, but let me refer to another notably religious Prime Minister — Kevin Rudd. Again flawed (aren’t we all?) but his religion is far more sophisticated and intellectually and philosophically deeper than ScoMo’s.

OK, but to this story. Morrison’s behaviour here is well within what is normal in such a church as this, his emotions genuine — it must have been traumatic to come unstuck as much as he has in the 24 hours before this talk — and so I am not going to judge or criticise him. But it is also naive, Plucking Bible texts completely out of context because the wording seems to suit is common practice in many low church circles, not just in Pentecostalism. In my opinion it is a most undesirable way to use the Bible. As Cam Williamson, a wise Presbyterian minister at Sutherland in the 50s and early 60s used to say, a text without a context is a pretext.

But the truth is he looks and sounds like a broken man here. I am sure he will recover very quickly though.

And while ScoMo is many things, one rarely noted — and of course I may be completely wrong — is that he is, for 2022, incredibly naive and out of touch! Take his master work in his advertising days. Crass as!

Not that he was necessarily directly involved — though I suspect he would at least have approved them– the childish run of attack ads that characterised the Liberal Party campaign will go down in history as among the worst ever.

Amazingly irritating!

Idiotic and offensive

After the event the ABC’s great show Media Watch analysed the campaign’s media performances. The last minute or two introduce two of the most painfully idiotic takes you will ever see from — of course — the sheltered workshop called Sky After Dark.

Those final thoughts are the subject of some excellent analysis in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald.

The narrative according to a chorus of hardline Coalition MPs and columnists goes like this: the Morrison government positioned itself as “Labor-lite” – experimenting “with the poison of leftism”, according to South Australian Liberal Alex Antic – because it caved in on net-zero emissions, racked up budget deficits, abandoned “freedom” during the pandemic and shirked on fighting culture wars.

This shameless Marxist posture, say the critics, not only failed to placate voters in the Liberals’ traditional seats, those folks having long metamorphosed into Maoists and not for the turning, but alienated the party from “the Quiet Australians” and blue-collar battlers the party ought to regard as its real base.

In this construction, the battlers are less concerned about climate change than they are focused on cost-of-living pressures and whether their kids are being indoctrinated into radical doctrines at school. They seem curiously unconcerned about a minimum wage rise, however.

What really happened has been captured in some great cartoons, not least Cathy Wilcox:


Who are these young people, eh? Who do they think they are?

As was sung long ago by a contemporary of mine… And now being ripped off by some bloody youngsters… Well, I guess they might have talent…

I am referring to this young feller in particular though, whose existence had completely escaped me — until a few days ago. Mind you, he isn’t even 15 yet, and in this shot he is maybe 13… And already at it. This is taken from New Zealand News!

Back even 50 years ago I was one of many English teachers who — in my case while still sharing Shakespeare, Keats or Dickens with my students, and the wonders of the language in grammar, syntax, usage and etymology — hated splitting sentences with long participial phrases like that last one! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. ….incorporated media study as part of the core of English studies, an extension of the concept of literacy, along with critical literacy, essential in any education today.

Some may recall a certain Barry Dwyer in that regard.

It was common practice in my English classes from the 1970s on, refined of course over time, to examine the various genres of media and where possible to practise them. We wrote radio, TV and film scripts, having looked at real examples. We wrote real estate copy, tourist brochures, sports reports. We produced newspapers. One class wrote a soap opera! We did content analysis of newspapers, of TV news. We looked at how advertising worked. We considered such things as layout, use of colour. We sussed out target audiences by examining the content of newspapers, magazines and TV current affairs. We considered media ownership. In one class we had the boss of the local TV station come and talk to us…

And we read “Macbeth” and Chaucer even…

We learned to ask of anything we saw or read: WHO is saying WHAT, to WHOM, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW?

If any of you were in any of my classes you will remember some of that….

And here comes this 13-14 year old doing it better… As I noted on Facebook:

This amazing kid! 13 when this was made. I am in awe. The tips he gives on media literacy are absolutely spot on!

If he were in my Year 8 or 9 class and I was still teaching, I think I would just retire to the back row and hand him the chalk! A bit like I sometimes did when I had Dr Dave (David Smith) when he was in Year 10 in my English class!

Except this kid may be even more remarkable!

Not everyone cheers though… As he says in that video. Just lately on Twitter — LANGUAGE ALERT!!!!

Being much more internet savvy than I am he of course also uses Nitter, whose existence also escaped me until just before writing this post!

You never know what these youngsters are up to on their phones, tablets or laptops, eh! And the fact check side of 6 News fascinates me. Here is a brilliant example:


On the 6 News web site you will find many more fact checks.

So who is he? What is 6 News? Who works with him? See Teen reporters Leonardo Puglisi and Roman Mackinnon interview Prime Minister Scott Morrison for 6 News for an account of the interview that brought him to my attention in the last few days.

6 News is an online news outlet created by Leonardo three years ago when he was still in primary school.

“I’ve been presenting every single Sunday for over three years,” Leonardo said.

“I loved editing videos for school projects, and I loved public speaking – so what better place to do all that than in journalism.”

But his passion for presenting the news started at an even earlier age, while watching Ian Henderson on ABC News.

“There’s home video of me watching the ABC in a highchair, and I still remember watching his final bulletin a few years ago,” he said.

The initial audience of 6 News were the team’s grandparents and schoolmates, but over time it grew.

“The amount of people who really want to see independent and unbiased journalism from some people in high school and university astounds me,” he said.

“I’m proud to say we never resorted to clickbait or blatant lies, and we never will.”

Here he is on ABC’s The Drum:

And on Today:

On Facebook I said of the ScoMo interview:

Adult journos could learn from these teens! Being polite and not jumping in, while also being very persistent, can lead to the interviewee revealing perhaps more about himself than he realises!

I do note that the elementary point about Hillsong is correctly made here.

And Leo writes on Crikey this weekend:

Regardless of what he said, the fact that the leader of the country spent 20 minutes speaking to journalists aged 13 (Roman) and 14 (me) is, for me at least, extraordinary. I honestly feared it wouldn’t happen at first, after we were told the PM had to push back the interview by about 30 minutes. I had even taken the day off from school, so the interview not happening would have been devastating. Of course, it did. And the rest, as they say, is history.

People have said the PM “bullied” me. People accused him of mocking me, and even drinking alcohol during the interview (it was water). I don’t believe he bullied or patronised me. He and his team treated us with respect, were polite, and did not make us out to be “silly kid journalists”. So on that point, credit where credit’s due.

Now, let’s see if the opposition leader will give us a go.

Over to you, Albo! Be in it!

And here is one of the really early ones: 17 January 2020. He would have been 12!

Then let’s have a poem, a song… To counteract the dark places ScoMo is now taking us.

The sad figure that is our Prime Minister, trapped in the real or confected image he has hitched his star to, the “ordinary bloke”, is facing defeat and knows it. An embarrassing outing on 60 Minutes last Sunday — rightly most of us preferred to watch Vera on ABC — was an attempt at cashing in on the wife factor to recuperate his image after a number of disasters in the previous week or so. After all the approach worked for some before:

ScoMo’s colleagues know he and they are facing defeat, and at least one shiny pate is probably salivating because his time may be coming at last, able to play hard man to the hilt, having a Reds Under The Beds and Yellow Peril set of moth-eaten memes to reinvigorate — they still go down a treat with some of the punters. The only catch for Baldpate, fondly known as Mr Potato Head, is that he is in danger of losing his own seat come the election.

So the government mob are all getting stuck into flight from reason just as hard and fast as they can, aided and abetted by the Trumpish claque on Sky in the Dark. The result is depressing hogwash like the following on Sky yesterday.

Expect this crude propaganda to ramp up with explicit and/or tacit support from the Morrison/Dutton election bandwagon. This is the view on the Sky page 16 February 2022.

And here (thanks to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd) is how the Murdoch Echo Chambers are spreading the latest in paranoia and xenophobia:

What their screaming headlines don’t say is that China’s Global Times has only reproduced an article by some half-crazed Australian diplomatic has-been. What Murdoch/Morrison want to deflect from is their treachery in selling the Port of Darwin to Beijing. — K Rudd

After drafting the previous paras I see the Sydney Morning Herald’s Tony Wright showing how Morrison, for whom any respect I may have ever had has now evaporated, is in his sheer desperation for relevance going above and beyond in his hysterics, smears and McCarthyism.

Not since Robert Menzies used his “reds under the bed” anti-communist campaign in the 1950s has an Australian Prime Minister been so determined to paint an Opposition Leader as a quisling for a perceived enemy.

It is now clear that is precisely what Scott Morrison and his colleagues, floundering in the polls, are up to as the federal election draws near.

Time and again during question time on Wednesday, Morrison and his senior ministers sought to portray Labor Leader Anthony Albanese and his fellow Labor MPs as not just soft on China, but as something approaching collaborators.

From the very start, Morrison turned a question from his side – about how his government was standing up to countries involved in bullying and coercion – into just such an attack.

A pox on you for doing this, Morrison — dragging us back down paths that can lead to very nasty outcomes. Enjoy your inner Fascist while you can. It is shameful. It is vile. It is above all pathetic. Perhaps worst: it strikes me as tactically confected “patriotism” — fake, fake, fake…. Calculated to trigger mindless responses by the unthinking and xenophobic among us. Crude propaganda indeed. Two minute hates. A degeneration in an already degenerate level of discourse.

So let’s have some music and poetry to cleanse our minds and hearts…

One blog I follow is that of an American poet. I like his work, and was chuffed to see that he has liked my previous post here. I speak of Robert Okaji. Here is a sample of his work.

Apricot House (after Wang Wei)

Posted on 

Apricot House (after Wang Wei)

We cut the finest apricot for roof beams
and braided fragrant grasses over them.

I wonder if clouds might form there
and rain upon this world?

The transliteration on reads:

Fine apricot cut for roofbeam
Fragrant cogongrass tie for eaves
Not know ridgepole in cloud
Go make people among rain

Each adaptation poses its challenges, and this one was certainly no exception.

First I identified key words and determined how or whether to use them.

Apricot, roofbeam, cogongrass, eaves, ridgepole, cloud, people, rain.

Apricot was a given. It offered specificity, and feels lovely in the mouth. Roof beams, as well. Cogongrass didn’t make the cut. It is indeed used for thatched roofs in southeast Asia, but it felt clumsy; in this case, the specificity it lent detracted from my reading. And rather than use “thatched” I chose “braided” to imply the layered effect of thatching, and to imply movement, to mesh with and support the idea of clouds forming and drifting under the roof. “Not know” posed a question: did it mean ignorance or simply being unaware, or perhaps a state of wonderment? I first employed “unaware” but thought it took the poem in a different direction than Wang Wei intended (but who knows?). “Ridgepole” seemed unnecessary. So I chose to let the reader follow the unsaid – using “form there” to reinforce the impression already shaped by the roof beams and the grasses “over them.” I admit to some trepidation over the second couplet. It may still need work.

Do visit his blog.

And speaking of China and music…

But perhaps you will relate more easily to this one…

Careful…. Perhaps I am trying to influence you…. And the bastards are trying to soft-soap us by singing our songs at us! I call that brain-washing! Must warn Dutton!

And as for this little minx! And she’s an Aussie! And she is beautiful. And authentic. And funny! And intelligent! And speaks fluent Mandarin! What a weapon in those evil Commie hands eh!

You may care to read Any hope of an Australia-China reset in the new Tiger Year?

I doubt anything remotely like trust can be re-established under Morrison. There is more hope under Albanese. He’s not especially far-sighted on China and seems to me lacking in charisma. But at least he would be new and might be able to create a better atmosphere in Australia’s relations with China.

It can be argued that Australia and China are both getting used to being estranged from one another and trade is doing quite well. Does the relationship matter anyway? I think it certainly does. Whether we like it or not, China is getting more powerful and richer. It is possible India will overtake it in terms of population, but China will very likely soon be the world’s largest economy. It is all very well for Dutton to sneer at China, but there is a chance he won’t be defence minister for much longer. Good relations with China remain as important as ever. Australia’s turning away from China is as dangerous and short-sighted as it has always been!

COLIN MACKERRAS, AO, FAHA is Professor Emeritus at Griffith University, Queensland. He has visited and worked in China many times, during the first working as a teacher of English from 1964 to 1966 at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. He is a specialist on Chinese history, theatre, minority nationalities, Western images of China and Australia-China relations and has written widely on all topics. His many books include Western Perspectives on the People’s Republic of China, Politics, Economy and Society, World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, 2015.

And then came last night’s 7.30 on ABC!

It’s a rare thing for the boss of ASIO to publicly push back at the government’s political line of attack. It’s rarer still for the spy chief to intervene twice in the space of 48 hours. Yet this is where we’ve arrived, leaving the Prime Minister’s “reds under the beds” scare campaign against his opponent look, well, desperate. 

At the end of last week’s internal shambles over religious discrimination, Peter Dutton flicked the switch to what he clearly believed to be more comfortable ground: national security. The Chinese Communist Party, he warned parliament, had “made a decision about who they’re going to back in the next federal election. That’s open. That is obvious. And they have picked this bloke, the Leader of the Opposition, as their candidate.”

The newish Speaker of the House, the LNP’s Andrew Wallace (who’s still finding his feet), let it go at the time but after further consideration, returned to the chair on Monday to declare Dutton’s remarks were “not in order” and should not be repeated.

The more serious rebuke came from the Director-General of ASIO, Mike Burgess. He had inadvertently triggered the latest reds under the beds scare when he delivered his annual “threat assessment” last week…

Opting for blunt force Morrison ploughing on yesterday, pointing across the chamber in Question Time to declare the Chinese Government has “picked their horse and he’s sitting right there”. He called the Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles a “Manchurian Candidate”, which the Speaker made him withdraw.

Last night, Mike Burgess took the unusual step of appearing on the ABC’s 7:30 program, to repeat his point about foreign interference not just targeting the Labor Party. It’s “equal opportunity in that regards”, he told Leigh Sales. Burgess went on to describe the politicking around his speech as “not helpful for us”. 

Let that sink in. The head of Australia’s domestic spy agency says ASIO’s work in safeguarding national security is not being helped by the political games currently being played….