It’s time


Today is Election Day in Australia. A lot of us have been waiting for this day for a long time – three years to be precise, after the great disappointment of last time. I feel sure the result will be different this time, and finally, we’ll be rid of the worst, most corrupt government in our history. It’s a moment to savour – though I shouldn’t get ahead of the result.

With the Election Day finally, there’s no more campaigning, no more political advertising, rabid journalism, no more sham, pretence and dishonesty. Not for a little while, anyway. Truly, election campaigns are a thing from hell, dispiriting and overwhelming. I’m a political animal, but I switch channels when a political ad shows on TV or political news comes on. I can’t stomach the inanity and shallow, often biased commentary. Now we’re free of it.

Much in that nature, Scott Morrison was heard to say early in the campaign that Australia was the greatest country in the world. Lest he is exposed as a turncoat in tabloid headlines across the nation, the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, was heard to pronounce the same soon after.

These are motherhood statements. By ritual, I reckon most leaders and would-be leaders say much the same thing in countless countries across the world. It’s meaningless drivel, of course, but I guess it’s intended to confirm their bona fides as a leader and affirm their commitment.

Not every country can be the greatest. I don’t even know what the criteria for the ‘greatest’ is. It’s an empty sentiment made up of bluster and insincerity. I don’t even know if it matters much, but, in any case, surely what defines the best and greatest is a matter of subjectivity?

It’s my subjective analysis that Australia is not the greatest country in the world. It pains my partisan heart to admit that, though it’s pretty clear that any claims to such a position have gone downhill in the last 10 years.

There was a time when I might have proudly believed there was no better place on earth than the lucky country. Even now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems fair to claim that Australia of the late eighties and early nineties was not only a great place to be but a genuinely decent, egalitarian, progressive nation on top of it.

All that changed when Howard came into power in 1996. He was a small man in mind and body who seemed to resent the years his ambition had been thwarted. I don’t doubt that he was always innately conservative, but the years watching shinier, more articulate candidates get ahead of him had formed a view of the world that was crimped and narrow, and brewed a suspicion of anything original or daring or interesting. He set us back decades by discouraging progressive opinion and encouraging a bigoted, paternalistic perspective. He started the rot that has led us to the obnoxious, corrupt politics of the current government. It’s no wonder I hate John Howard, though I despise Morrison also and think him clearly the worst prime minister we’ve ever had.

Now that we’re on the cusp of electing a new government, there’s hope that everything will be different. Indeed, in key aspects, there’s strong evidence that long-overdue action will be taken concerning climate change, integrity, aged care, and so on. We await with bated breath.

I want to return to the concept of the ‘greatest’ nation for a moment. I know it’s a bit silly and spurious, but I also believe that, as a nation, as well as individuals, we should always strive to be better. A little ambition is no bad thing, and it’s been too long since we had some authentic national aspirations. The thing is, it doesn’t happen by accident. High minded speeches won’t do it. It takes action. And it takes belief – the belief that we can all share in and shoulder our portion of the quest.

That’s the challenge now. I hope we have that ambition as a government. We know what not to do – anything the government of the last ten years has done, which has made us petty and small-minded and reduced the stature of our nation in the global community. So, that’s the easy part, and there are obvious pathways towards becoming a healthier nation.

Despite all the positive policies and progressive initiatives, it seems to me we can never be anything like great until we mend our society. There are too many rifts and divisions, many of them actively fostered by a government that has favoured political advantage over the greater good.

We treat our poor, disadvantaged and elderly with disrespect and disgrace. Add to that the treatment of refugees and our first nations people. In many instances, they have been used as political pawns. I’m sad to say, it’s an attitude that has permeated sections of society.

We’re to blame for that. It takes authentic leadership to light the flame and show the true way forward. We haven’t had that for many years. It’s true in much of the world. The disenfranchised have been neglected and left to brood and rebel, exiled from the benefits of society.

It explains Trump, the rise of the extreme right and white supremacy, and it explains the anti-vaxxers.

In Victoria, in the last couple of years, we saw the value of a community that pulled together in service of the common good. We made hard sacrifices knowing what we did was for something bigger than our individual selves. In many ways, it was inspiring.

That’s what we can be. What it takes is a narrative we can all believe in and share, knowing that we are part of it. There are many policy levers that must be pulled if Albanese becomes PM later tonight, but over and around, that is healing the wounds of our community, tending to our national weal.

It’s a tall order, but I think it’s mighty helpful that we appear on the verge of electing a genuinely decent human being to the top job to replace a man who is nothing more than a contemptible turd. Example counts for much. Time will tell. It’s time.

The peril of mass man


I was reading some Jung over the weekend, specifically The Undiscovered Self, when I came across a passage that resonated strongly with me. It put me in mind of the anti-vaxxers out there who continue to protest, ever more pathetically, and threatening more violent action to get their message across. But then, I think it also applies to the tribes on social media, so adamant about their views and closed off to any variation to it.

This is the passage…

All mass movements, as one might expect, slip with the greatest ease down an inclined plane represented by large numbers. Where the many are, there is security; what the many believe must of course be true; what the many want must be worth striving for, and necessary, and therefore good. In the clamor of the many there lies the power to snatch wish- fulfillments by force; sweetest of all, however, is that gentle and painless slipping back into the kingdom of childhood, into the paradise of parental care, into happy-go-luckiness and irresponsibility. All the thinking and looking after are done from the top; to all questions there is an answer; and for all needs the necessary provision is made. The infantile dream state of the mass man is so unrealistic that he never thinks to ask who is paying for this paradise. The balancing of accounts is left to a higher political or social authority, which welcomes the task, for its power is thereby increased; and the more power it has, the weaker and more helpless the individual becomes.
Wherever social conditions of this type develop on a large scale the road to tyranny lies open and the freedom of the individual turns into spiritual and physical slavery. Since every tyranny is ipso facto immoral and ruthless, it has much more freedom in the choice of its methods than an institution which still takes account of the individual. Should such an institution come into conflict with the organized State, it is soon made aware of the very real disadvantage of its morality and therefore feels compelled to avail itself of the same methods as its opponent. In this way the evil spreads almost of necessity, even when direct infection might be avoided. The danger of infection is greater where decisive importance is attached to large numbers and statistical values, as is every- where the case in our Western world. The suffocating power of the masses is paraded before our eyes in one form or another every day in the newspapers, and the insignificance of the individual is rubbed into him so thoroughly that he loses all hope of making himself heard. The outworn ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité help him not at all, as he can direct this appeal only to his executioners, the spokesmen of the masses.

But then, rereading it, I’m sure that many anti-vaxxers would claim it’s just this that they’re protesting against in their misguided way. I think Jung captures very well why people flock to such beliefs in the first paragraph. But it’s true in general of human nature, I think.

It’s understandable, and if we’re aware of it, then the danger of it, the ‘evil’ as Jung calls it, is somewhat mitigated. We rarely have such awareness, however. It’s a condition of this delusion that we become blind to all else.

Jung goes on:

Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.

He goes on to say how unlikely and difficult that is, and gives some convincing reasons why. I accept that man is an imperfect being. We’re torn in different directions and have forces, both internal and external, constantly at play upon us. The fact that we need the comfort of the mass is one explanation of that.

In my view, we need only ask questions and maintain an open mind. Easy peasy! What is an open mind? Who’s to judge an independent faculty? Even critical though – much out of fashion these days – is subject to hidden bias, I would think.

As said, we’re imperfect. We have flaws. All I can suggest is that we attempt to rise above mass thought and reaction. And maybe read the book. Knowledge is a good thing, and the more we understand ourselves the healthier our society will be.

Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid – The Atlantic


It’s not just a phase.
— Read on www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/05/social-media-democracy-trust-babel/629369/

Fascinating article, but sure to be controversial. Ironically perhaps, it, and the author, are now likely to be subject to the sort of rabid censure he describes. I find little in this to disagree with.

I had an old friend visit yesterday from interstate. We spent about three hours discussing politics and ethical dilemmas and the state of society. This has been typical of our discourse always, and it was nice to sit with someone I could have these discussions with.

A lot of what we spoke about alluded to behaviours and modes of thought that are discussed in this article, sometimes explicitly. He has a brother – a pleasant, intelligent man in my experience – who has become a fanatical anti-vaxxer who spouts ludicrous conspiracy theories and appears to have gone down too many rabbit holes. How did this happen?

Whatever the reason for it, he’s drunk the cool-aid propounded by that fringe group of ratbags. Even the most preposterous can seem reasonable when you believe enough. The thing is, as I told my mate, the cool-aid comes in different flavours.

It’s easy to mock and dismiss the absurd, but not all of it plays as extreme. And, as I reminded him, sometimes we can be prey to it ourselves.

It’s why you hear me repeat the notion: be yourself. As this article outlines, much of society and discourse has been utterly warped by the power and misuse of social media. My conjecture is that social media has taken people away from their true selves in the search for approval, the fear of rejection and, often-times, the desire to belong.

I’m careful that I’m not easily labelled. I’m not much concerned with what people think of me, approval, rejection or belonging. I’m always urging that every issue should be considered on its individual merits, and not checked against the prevailing orthodoxy. What do you think? Forget about the mob.

That’s rare these days. Social media is blamed here, with good reason, but I think our education system has contributed to this, as has much of our media, which is neither as independent as it once proudly proclaimed, nor nearly as capable and critical, as it should be.

We’re left with the individual. To rise above this and think independently requires an open mind and a critical faculty. Question, examine, compare.

Celebrity slapping celebrity


A couple of hours ago Will Smith walked up on stage at the Oscars and slapped the host, Chris Rock, because of jokes Rock had made about Will Smith’s wife, Jada. In the scheme of things, not a momentous event, but as you can imagine, it’s set off a sea of commentary and bad takes. Very 2022.

I must confess, my first reaction on seeing it was respect for Will Smith for putting himself out there for his wife. It was not so much the action, which was crazy and impulsive, but the unashamed, unfiltered reaction of a man clearly deeply hurt and much in love. It was in no way measured, and it certainly paid no heed to public opinion. It was raw and natural.

I wouldn’t have done it. I might have thought about waiting until the afterparty, but the more sensible part of myself would expect that by then I’d have calmed down and taken a more reasonable approach – basically, collaring Chris Rock and telling him it’s not on.

Most of the reaction has been negative towards Smith, and I understand that. It’s not a good look slapping someone on live TV and certainly isn’t to be encouraged – though it’s very entertaining.

It seems to me though that much of the commentary is seen through a lens. As a civilised society, we filter out perspective through a common understanding, but what is lost in that is nuance and the raw visceral sense. I don’t condone Smith for what he did, but I understand it. It was primitive but, for me, in a world where everything is processed, emotion included, it was refreshing.

I’ll probably cop shit for this, but that’s okay. I don’t need you to agree with me.

Everyone has a take these days, and everyone shares it thanks to the ubiquity of social media – look, I’m doing it too! They’re packaged reactions, with outrage being a fave. It’s the nature of this discourse that it gravitate’s to the extremes. I hope I’m more reasoned.

I read one person state that they’d never felt entitled to strike another person, despite the many times it might have been justified. I found the term ‘entitled’ interesting. What does it mean? Entitled in what sense? As a responsible citizen, or as an individual? As a cypher, or a person? At what point would they feel entitled? Never?

I disagree. Ultimately, we should aspire to be ourselves truly, without the cultural jargon or baggage. There’s an individual in each of us. If we feel it honestly, and without bias, then we’re entitled.

I think there are occasions when a smack on the nose is probably quite a reasonable response. I like to think I’m cultured and civilised, but I’m no pacifist. Sometimes it’s necessary. What Will Smith did was way over the top and doesn’t meet the criteria of being reasonable. But then, it’s not my place to judge what he should feel in that moment. I can regret his action, but I won’t condemn the man. Nor will I join the pile-on.

I suspect Chris Rock takes a similar view.

2022 AFL season preview


The men’s AFL footy season starts tomorrow night, and I’ve been looking forward to it. So are others, and I’ve been reminded I’ve yet to post my annual pre-season preview. So, here goes.

Firstly, here’s my predicted ladder as at the end of the home and away season:

Melbourne
Brisbane Lions
Port Adelaide
Richmond
Western Bulldogs
Geelong
Essendon
Carlton

Swans
GWS
Fremantle
St Kilda
Collingwood
GCS
WCE
Adelaide
North Melbourne
Hawthorn

It can change an awful lot as the finals start and teams hit form and injuries cut. I will say that the Demons remain my favourite to go back-to-back premiership winners, as they must be.

I’m not going to say much about Melbourne otherwise. They hit a rich vein of form last year and I think the victory will galvanise them to a more consistent performance. They have a good list and confidence counts for a lot.

I have Brisbane coming second because I think they were stiff last year and they have a decent home ground advantage.

Port Adelaide are flat-track bullies. Unless they can overcome their yips, this is as good as it gets. Another strong home advantage and clean, front running form should see them high on the ladder. But I think they need another decent tall forward and to overcome their baggage if they want to go further.

It’s with some trepidation have Richmond coming fourth. They missed out altogether last year, but won the three premierships before that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them miss again but, though theyreaging, they still have the cattle.

I’ve got last year’s runners-up coming next. Despite finishing second, I never really rated Footscray that highly. They got on a streak in the finals, aided by a bit of luck, but had been a good ordinary side to that point. Great midfield, but too weak at either end otherwise I think.

Geelong. Another team I could see falling out of the eight. Very professional, but very old, too. Nup.

I’ve got my team next. They surprised last year and have some great young talent and a deep midfield. They could miss the eight also, but I also think they’re capable of topping the ladder. They’re an exciting, mercurial team on the cusp. Hard to eat come 2024.

Carlton. What can I say, except I despise them? Okay, other than that, they’ve got the talent, but they’ve underperformed for years. It gets in your DNA. I’ve got them in the right, but if they fail again no-one will be surprised.

Last year the Swans played finals, to the surprise of most. They’re a good young team with a stellar coach. They’ll go close again this year, but reckon they just miss out. This will be a consolidation year for them. They’ll be up next year (not dissimilar toEssendon).

I’ve got GWS missing out because they have the cutting-edge, though they did well last year. Freo are developing, have recruited well, and have a fine coach, but are not there yet.

St Kilda are one of those frustrating teams who show a bit, then fall in a hole. Haven’t the depth or class. Speaking of holes, Collingwood fell into a deep one last year and lost their long-term coach in the process. I think they’ll have their moments this year, but will be inconsistent. They’ve lost good players in trading fiasco, but have picked upon of the best recruits in the draft last year.

The Gold Coast Suns have the talent, it’s the belief they’ve lacked. I think they’ll have some exciting wins, but still some way off it. The Eagles are almost the opposite of the GCS in mentality, being regular finalists. Not this year. They’ve had a miserable off-season and are crippled by injury, and are getting old. They might get a few wins at home, but that’ll be it.

I like Adelaide. They’ve got good young players and play a good style. And I think Nicks is a good coach for them. Too young still though, too inconsistent, but can see them riding up the ladder next year perhaps.

Second last I have North Melbourne, last year’s wooden spooners. I think they’re promising but undeveloped yet. They’ve recruited we’ll, including potentially the best player in last year’s draft, and are coached we’ll in all the important fundamentals. Might cause a few upsets.

Then there’s Hawthorn, who I’ve marked down to win this year’s wooden spoon. One may accuse me of bias as I dislike Hawthorn also, and this is a big comedown for the team that dominated through the middle of the last decade.

The big story for them is that they won’t be coached by the man rated as the best coach of the modern era: Alastair Clarkson. They lose about 3-4 goals a game just with him departing. Even in their decline they regularly over-performed because of Clarkson. Not this time.

In his place the Hawthorn have appointed club champion Sam Mitchell. He’s touted as having one of the best footy rains going around, but he’s also an out and out cunt. I don’t care how smart he is, the modern football player doesn’t respond to cold, sociopathic personalities like him. I think he’ll be a dud.

The turmoil at the end of last year won’t have helped either, and an aging list.

That’s my say. Let’s see how much I get right.

Battles then and now


I don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine. Like most people, I’ve been immensely inspired by their spirit and resistance to the Russian invaders. I think it’s pretty clear it’s not gone as Putin expected. Coupled with the scale of sanctions arraigned against Russia, Putin finds himself in a big hole.

It’s hard to predict the actions of an autocrat like Putin. This whole venture has a whiff of irrationality about it, but perhaps it just seems that way because Ukraine has been a lot harder to conquer than expected. A quick victory and he would have been making demands of the world. Instead, he’s mired in a war going nowhere while his reputation and the Russian economy tanks.

Given the desperate situation he finds himself in, how will he respond – and where will this end? He’s already mentioned nuclear weapons. He’s now bombing maternity hospitals. Are biological weapons a possibility? No matter how inspiring the Ukrainian resistance has been, it’s very likely to get a whole lot uglier.

I would like to see peace talks brokered by the UN, just to prove they’re good for something. A man like Putin has to be given a way out of the mess he’s in. Men like him rely on their reputation; ‘face’ is important to them, both personally and politically. I would like to see him destroyed, but more realistically, a way out needs to be negotiated in which some pride is retained.

Longer-term, I suspect Putin will become more vulnerable domestically, particularly as the sanctions bite the people, and the oligarchs. He’s been shown as fallible.

I’ve been watching it unfold very keenly. As a student of WW2, I’ve found it fascinating as the conflict ranges across great battlefields of the last world war. Kharkov, as it was called in the history books I read (as opposed to the Ukrainian Kharkiv), was the site of huge encounters between German and Russian troops – as the Germans advanced (and won big), and as they retreated (fighting a handy rearguard action).

Just over the Russian border is Belgorod. Nearby is Kursk. Together they were the site of the greatest tank battle in history.

What may be significant is that once the Germans occupied Ukraine an effective resistance went underground, tying up German forces and inflicting damage. The partisans were fierce and brave back then – I would expect nothing different now if it comes to that.

Papa the paradox


It’s a pretty dull life I have at the moment. The only time I’ve ventured out the front door since leaving the hospital is to return to it. I don’t have the energy to do anything more than the basics, so what I’m left with is a routine of reading and watching TV, listening to music or audiobooks, browsing the net, or writing here. There’s sleep, of course, and I look forward to the odd soak in a hot bath to bring solace to an aching body (I’d love a massage).

I’m very careful to manage my day, not doing too much of any one of those activities, lest I spoil it. I retain the ethic drummed into me when I was a kid by my parents about watching TV during the day – don’t, otherwise you’re a slob – but needs must in the circumstances.

When I returned home from the hospital, one of the things I did was to sit myself on the couch and watch a documentary series on Hemingway I’d recorded while I was gone.

I’m one of many millions who was inspired and influenced by Hemingway since I first picked up one of his books as a teenager. I was transfixed by the sharp, direct prose, which yet felt poetic. The stories – which I was drawn to first – also spoke to me in a way I understood inside, within my self, in a way I couldn’t explain to anyone else. They felt true.

I read his novels, more than once mainly, and some biographies of him, and he’s remained a strong influencer, though it’s a long time since I decided that I didn’t like the man.

After watching the documentary on him, it’s hard to reconcile the paradox of the man. By many accounts, he was a boorish, bullying, blowhard capable of cruelty and indifference. Yet, he could be great company also and, when engaged, a man capable of generosity and kindness.

If I had a time machine, I’d love to go back and meet him, but I don’t think I’d want to spend much time in his company. He’s just the sort of man I like least.

But then there’s his writing. Everything missing in his human persona is there in his writing. You wonder how a man so caught up in his own myth could then write so truly and with such insight about the human condition? In his writing, there is so often the wisdom that comes from a deep knowledge of how people act and react, their flaws and strengths, their fears and desires. There’s a stark simplicity in his writing that yet reveals so much. Particularly early, there’s a great sensitivity.

That’s the Hemingway I’d love to know.

So, how do you reconcile this? Was it that he was only capable of this sensitivity when he wrote – that it was somehow an unconscious talent the act of writing revealed? Or was it that he only showed himself in his writing?

Hemingway was clearly a very complex individual, and there seems little doubt that he was beset by mental health issues from a relatively early age. They worsened over time, were indulged and pampered, and exaggerated further by his heavy drinking. In the end, he was almost a caricature.

He was haunted by his father’s death and came to hate his mother. I feel sure that he was terrified of following in his father’s footsteps with deteriorating mental health and suicide. I suspect he tried to overcome those fears with the boasting and tall stories he told of himself in later years as if to distance himself from any of that. I’m certain it also fuelled his creative self and his writing.

I’m no psychologist, but it appears that Hemingway was deeply insecure at heart and reacted to (rejected) that with his overtly masculine behaviour. Whether he ever admitted it to himself, the truth was different, and I suspect he sensed it. That’s where his writing came in. His writing was a way to tap into that sensitive inside and express it. It was something he needed to do.

Because he himself felt so much, he understood much. Most of this was rejected in his public life, though he was said to be a good father. But it was fertile ground for his story-telling. This is where his insight came from – a keen observation of the world and people around him, filtered through this deep and painful knowledge.

When his writing failed him, he killed himself. I understand the impulse, though it was ugly how he left his wife to find him (he was far from thinking clearly). He was a gruff, oversized presence, and he could sustain that for as long as he could write. It was the one true thing for him. When that left him, there was nothing left for him. His meaning collapsed.

I’m no psychologist, and I’m probably way off, but that’s how I see it, from my observation of life and myself. It seems such a great pity that he could never integrate the writer in him with the man the world knew – though I’m sure, from the love he enjoyed, there were great periods when it shone through privately.

Bring them home


I’ve sat here for the last minutes wondering how to start this post. The dilemma, I felt, is that I didn’t want to bang the same drum as in numerous other posts in the past. Nor did I want to sound too harsh or critical. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy writing negative posts. The problem is, there’s a lot of negative stuff to write about – but it’s dispiriting to grizzle.

So what to do? I can only say it as it is – or how it seems to me, anyway. So let’s get the ranting part out of the way early. I’m about to criticise the government again. I can hardly describe how much I deplore them. So many of them terrible people, and I wonder why so many to the right of politics are so ugly – ugly, mean-spirited, narrow-minded and spiteful souls. Add to that racist, which isn’t news to anyone who pays any attention (the sad minority), but this time they’ve made it law.

Covid has been a controversial time, and that’s not really surprising. With so much happening so quickly and so much at stake, it’s terribly difficult and hard to act without making a mistake here or there and with any consensus. If you’re sensible, you accept that. The negativity pisses you off, but you roll with it; the stupid noise made by anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protestors you rationalise as a lunatic fringe; even the bungling of the vaccine roll-out is met more with a sigh than with anger.

What can’t be supported are the wilful decisions made for an obscure political cause and the decisions not made for the same reason.

Though the vaccine roll-out is a disaster here, we’re in a pretty healthy state in Australia relatively. We need to pick up our game or else get left behind, but our citizens – those resident at least – have good reason to feel pretty safe.

That’s not the case in many parts of the world, and in some parts, it has become catastrophic – Brazil being one, and India another.

The news services have been full of reports from India where hundreds of thousands are newly infected every day, where the sick spill onto the streets, where there’s a shortage of vaccines and oxygen, and, most horribly, the dead are burnt on makeshift biers in suburban streets. Someone I work with has come down with it, as has his whole family. These are terrible times.

In response, the Australian government announced a travel ban. No one can enter the country from India, not even our own citizens seeking to get home. They then doubled down by announcing that anyone caught flaunting the ban would be subject to huge fines and potential jail time. In effect, they’ve made it illegal for Australian citizens to return to their home country from India. So much for the rights of citizenship.

For me, the single greatest failure over the last year is the inability, and seeming unwillingness, of the Australian government to repatriate citizens to our home in a time of dire crisis.

I think, for the government, it’s another political hot potato that’s easier to deal with by doing nothing. Expat Australians are out of sight and out of mind, they figure, and their votes don’t amount to much anyway. Why exert yourself on their behalf when there’s the risk of Covid?

To be fair, it’s been a long time since an Australian government took responsibility for our citizens abroad. I always had the idealistic notion that as an Australian citizen, if ever I got in trouble overseas, the government would help. How wrong I was! Regardless of stripe, successive Australian governments have failed in this regard. Some of it is political – Julian Assange being an example of an individual whose rights as a citizen have been found wanting when weighed against political alliance (i.e. diplomatic toadyism). The rest is apathy.

I know there are Australians right now who agree with the government, certainly regarding the travel ban from India. They argue the risk of bringing in people from such a dangerous environment risks infecting the broader community at large. That’s a fair argument, but it highlights the abject failure of the government to act before now.

To start with, Australians wishing to come home should have been able to get in long before now. There shouldn’t be a queue, but the stories are rife of ex-pats unable to get flights back, lose bookings because of scarce seats, or be charged a fortune to get back. Remember, the government promised that the backlog would be cleared by last Christmas. Not even close.

Even so, and if we accept that virus of some type will remain in the community for years to come, then we should have made a start on the infrastructure to support that reality. Had we acted last year, we should have been in a position now to bring our people home.

The government did nothing and shows no sign of doing anything. Once more, it’s the state governments who take the lead. Both Queensland and Victoria have proposed purpose-built quarantine facilities in the country. There’s another facility in the NT standing empty. There’s even Christmas Island.

It can hardly be disputed that we need these facilities. They have to be built. As we’ve learned to our cost, Hotels are not made to house sick and contagious people.

We should have these facilities now and, failing that, should be building them now. And a truly inclusive government would be seeking to bring its citizens home by any means – charter flights and the RAAF seem obvious options. No sign of that happening in the foreseeable future, when this is something that should have happened last year.

Now we have made it a crime to come home. Make no mistake, this is a racist act. Most of those affected by this ban are Indian-Australian – people with different skin colour to the Australian prime minister. Can you imagine the same ban being imposed on people from a western country? No. It’s a decision consistent with much in this government. We’ve had hundreds of thousands from western societies overstay tourist visas, while people who come in desperate straits on leaking boats are exiled for years on end to places like Manus Island. The difference? None of them is white.

The government doesn’t care. It’s political for them. It’s a sad thing to admit, but it’s a decision that plays well to their constituency – the casually racist, indifferent, uneducated rump who respond best to slogans and mindless claims of patriotism, which the government specialises in.

It’s shocking, but none of it surprises me anymore. It just makes me sad.

Shorten the ground


I’m about to say something that would get me into trouble if I shouted it too loud: I find AFLW disappointing.

AFLW is the women’s AFL league, which has been going for a few years now. I’m all for the concept of it. I love footy generally and fair enough that women have their own league. And, I quite enjoy a lot of women’s sport – cricket is top-notch, as is soccer, and women’s basketball has been great for years.

The caveat with all that is that there isn’t the ballistic, powerful element that can make it so electrifying in comparison to male sport. That’s why skills-based sports like soccer and cricket translate better than, say, footy. There are some mighty skilled exponents in women’s sport. Rarely is it as explosive as men’s sport.

AFL footy is a game of skill, but there’s also a great physical component to it. Relative to other players, that still plays a part in women’s footy, but it suffers compared to the male equivalent (with the possible exception of someone like Erin Phillips). The reality is that women aren’t as fast or as powerful as men are, and it makes for a different game.

The AFLW grand final was over the weekend, and I watched the last quarter of it. As with most times I’ve watched women’s footy, I thought the skills were pretty ordinary and a lot of decision-making poor. There are some great moments and feats of individual skill, but they’re rare. I get infuriated watching men’s footy, but it’s compounded when I watch AFLW. The standard has definitely improved since the league began, but I also think you can see better park footy.

I know that sounds harsh, but I think the women are disadvantaged by how the game is played. At best, the women playing are semi-professional, and they’re never going to reach the heights until it becomes a full-time, professional sport. Proper training, diet and nutrition, specialised coaching, and so on would make for a much greater spectacle – properly fit competitors with decent skills would make for a much more fluent and high-scoring game.

Scoring is one of the big issues with AFLW. The winning team Saturday scored 6 goals over the course of the game. That’s a decent quarter score for a men’s team, though there was also an 8 goal quarter over the weekend. Better skills and fitness would make some difference, but the rest of it is physical.

The reality is that because women aren’t as strong as men, they can’t kick the ball as far but are playing on the same sized grounds. End to end, it would probably take a male team 3.5 kicks to cover the distance. For women, I reckon it’s about double that. The average bloke can kick it 45-50 metres, and some can hoof it much further. For women, it’s probably 25-35 metres.

These are physical constraints that aren’t going to change. It seems obvious to me that women should play on fields a good 30-40 metres shorter than the men, which probably means you reduce the onfield team to 16, down from 18.

I reckon you’d see scoring improve by about 40% if you did that, which would make for a much better spectacle, and it makes sense.

Women’s footy will improve on its own as it matures more, but I think it can be helped out. I’ll be happy to watch then.

Incompetent and corrupt


When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, I never thought in my life would I witness a worse government or leader or the country. His government did a lot of damage to this country by unwinding reforms and cosying up to the mining and fossil fuels industry with the resultant legislation. Abbott was almost a complete fool, but if he had a virtue, it is that he was true to his convictions. Unfortunately, his convictions are almost entirely nonsense, but he was an authentic fool.

Here I am, just a few years later, revising my opinion. This is the worst government we’ve ever had, and Morrison our worst PM.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why the ALP doesn’t hammer the point again and again, in every interview and public appearance, in parliament and out of it, that this is the most corrupt and incompetent government in Australian history. It’s true.

It’s a government full of untalented hacks and opportunists. They haven’t an original idea between them and no rigour in anything they do. Essentially, I think it’s a lazy government full of dozy ministers who don’t have the energy, aptitude or desire to put in the hard yards. They govern by a narrow and discredited ideology, happy to spout outdated slogans and take the short way to any outcome.

Then there’s the corruption, which seems indisputable. They’re a venal lot. I don’t know of a single minister who puts the people’s interests ahead of his own. They’re happy to pocket the millions of dollars from interest groups to peddle their policies in parliament, to the country’s detriment (mining, fossil fuels, superannuation, etc.). They elevate tired old party hacks to positions of influence and power, to look after their own, and to perpetuate their power base.

Democracy is a grey area when it comes to the LNP. Since they’ve gained power, they’ve loosened the checks and balances that keep our society healthy and fair. They’ve acted unconscionably in lying or obfuscating about matters of public interest and altering the record to their advantage. Transparency is at an all-time low because it suits the government. Much of this is reflected in Australia’s fall down the rankings in the corruption index.

The very manner they conduct themselves has had a terrible effect on Australian society. There’s no accountability and no consequence for the litany of misdeeds and bad behaviour numerous ministers have been exposed. It undermines trust and respect, and it sets a terrible example to society as a whole. There was a time – believe it or not – that to be a minister in an Australian government was a position of merit, and they were paragons of behaviour. Fuck that, not any more.

This extends to their conduct in parliament, which is deplorable. The so-called leader of the land, Scott Morrison, will regularly turn his back on the opposition when they stand to speak. It’s the sort of disrespectful behaviour I would expect from a juvenile. More seriously, a government member will frequently call to the speaker that an opposition spokesman not be heard, thus quashing inconvenient dissent and killing the democratic principle, bit by bit.

I’ve never despised anyone as much as I despise Scott Morrison. He hasn’t even got the virtue of conviction. He’s a hollow, cunning character whose only interest is gaining and maintaining power. He’s a soulless, shallow being without conscience or integrity. I suspect, deep in his heart, that he knows that he’s a fraud – and because of that, he’s all talk and announcements and little consequential – or effective – action.

This is now being exposed to wider view. He got away with managing Covid and was even applauded by some sections of the media, when in fact, he did very little. He handed over the responsibility for managing the outbreak to the states, who ran with the ball. The other policies of note, such as jobkeeper, were pushed by the union movement principally and the states, to which the government grudgingly acquiesced.

Now, in light of the disastrous roll-out of the vaccine, the government is proving how incompetent they are.

We were promised 4 million vaccinations by the end of March – there were 700,000. It continues to crawl along with many essential workers and elderly still without vaccination, and winter on its way. Their latest prognostication is that all first-round vaccinations will be completed by October, but even that seems wildly optimistic.

Around the world, vaccinations are going gangbusters. We’re on the bottom of the table by a fair margin. We bought time by keeping infections to a minimum but have squandered it with our incompetence. For the life of me, I can’t understand how you can fuck it up so badly when you have so much time to prepare – and the experience of other nations to draw upon. The blueprint for this should have been drawn up months ago, and all the necessary pre-work checked off well in advance. And yet, here we are.

The problem is that the government views and responds to everything within a political context – how does this make us look, and how can we leverage this? They overlook the practicalities because that’s not their priority nor, apparently, their skillset.

We’ve seen this in their terribly botched, insensitive response to the accusations of misogyny and sexual harassment. It’s all about the appearance of things, unwilling at any point to accept responsibility or take action. It’s all talk and poorly done, at that.

They can’t get away with spin when it comes to vaccinations. It’s their responsibility, and though they’ve tried to blame the states, the states have bitten back. They just don’t have the competence or the structure* to deliver such an important piece of national health.

Bizarrely, the slow pace of vaccinations means that the opportunity to re-open borders is delayed because we won’t achieve any form of herd immunity until well after most countries.

I just hope the Australian people wake up to how terrible this government is. Slowly, I think they’re coming around – and even the media is beginning to stir. It’s up to Labor to do the rest.

*This is a discussion for another time, but I suspect that many of our problems are because the public service has been gutted (and politicised in part), and so much now been outsourced. Bad policy all around, but true to ideology. Schmucks.