Random perspectives


There’s been a bunch of things happen in the last ten days which have exercised my mind but which I haven’t commented on. More often than not I’ll never comment because I won’t get around to it, but today I reckon I’ll set my thoughts down to the lot of them and be done with it.

One of the big issues last week was the Mark Knight cartoon referencing the Serena Williams eruption at the US Open. As soon as I saw it I thought, uh oh. Very clearly it features a racist caricature of Williams, and anyone who doesn’t recognise it is either terribly ignorant or deeply racist. I can’t see any ambiguity in it, though Knight himself reckons it was drawn without racist intent.

There’s a couple of problems with that. To start with, Knight has history. Not long ago he depicted black gang members in very broad and offensive terms also. On that occasion, he drew the figures in scurrilous detail, while perpetuating a false stereotype of black youth gangs over-running Melbourne – which, as anyone sensible living here will tell you, is utter nonsense. He has drawn similar cartoons in the past, and though cartoonists are permitted some artistic licence – much of what they do, after all, is exaggerated and made a caricature – there must be sensitive to culture and history, which is where the second problem emerges.

I remember about ten years ago there was a huge outcry when a local TV program had a talent show in which some contestants got up in blackface. It took me a long time to get my head around that. Unlike North America, blackface has not the same resonant and racist overtones, and the contestants themselves likely did it as a bit of fun, rather than looking to perpetuate a stereotype. That was my view then, but it has evolved since as I, and we, have become better informed. It’s safe to say we’re much better educated on these matters now, which is why I knew it was racist the moment I saw the cartoon. Knight pleads innocence in this matter (and has since doubled down), but that no longer washes in this day and age, though I believe there are still many uneducated who are effectively ignorantly racist.

It wasn’t a particularly clever cartoon in any case. He’s a fine draughtsman, but he has none of the wit or insight of a Rowe or Pope or even a Wilcox.

There was a great outcry also over Steve Bannon being interviewed for 4 Corners. 4 Corners is a venerable ABC program. I’ll watch it most weeks, and it’s record of breaking news and catalysing change is unequalled in Australian television.

On this occasion, it was the left that felt by giving a voice to Bannon the ABC was condoning his views.

My instinct on this is almost the opposite. I recognise there are limits, people unworthy of airtime, or who are so dreadful that any exposure is poisonous. We don’t need to see them on TV. But otherwise, in the spirit of free speech and equal opportunity, as well as in the hope of being educated, my strong belief is that we shouldn’t be shutting down the voices we don’t agree with. That amounts to censorship.

I’m of the left myself, though I’d call myself a moderate liberal. I don’t believe in the extremes on either side, where it tends to get rabid, and I’m a great advocate for the democratic principles our society is founded on. That means allowing for a broad range of voices to be heard. Speaking for myself, I like to understand. I’ll often read opinions I disagree with or find offensive, but it’s useful for me to understand what their arguments are and how they think.

In the case of Bannon, I think that applies very neatly. He was the guiding philosophy behind the current American president, and his broad manifesto has many advocates around the world, including in Australia. I think that makes him a relevant opinion, even if toxic. So, on the one hand, I believe he was a worthy subject for the program, but unfortunately, that required a more rigorous interview than what occurred. Bannon, a savvy player, manipulated the interview to his advantage. I’m a great admirer of Sarah Ferguson, but in this instance, she didn’t hold Bannon to account.

The ABC, being the national broadcaster, has a responsibility to present a range of views and opinions. They get unfairly criticised by the right for being partisan to the left. Here they present a right-wing view and get pilloried by the left. Somewhere in this democratic principles are lost, which is one of my great fears these days.

As I’ve noted before, we live in a binary age when everything is either black or white, right or wrong, left or right. Our public discourse has become unsophisticated and hostile. There’s little nuance and often no acceptance of contrary views. This is true of both sides. It’s dispiriting observing the battles between the rival views, and though I’m inclined to a left perspective I find myself dismayed still reading intractable and inflammatory views in support of that.

Let me make this clear. I’m not going to tell anyone how they should lead their life. As a general rule, I’m not going to abuse someone who disagrees with me, exceptions possibly being rabid bigots and fascists. If possible I’ll sit and listen and then unpick contrary arguments – I’d rather debate than pronounce. I believe in individuality and fear that if we get our way we might end up with a society of drones. I believe in difference, which is where creativity springs from. And, regardless of my personal ideology, I’ll attempt to approach every issue with a rational mindset. Finally, I don’t believe anything is one thing or another – we live in a world of degrees, imperfect and flawed but amazingly diverse. Any other notion is nonsense.

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This week’s outrage


The big sporting news over the weekend was Serena William’s blow-up in the final of the US Open. As so often these days it has taken on a much greater and political significance than it merits.

The bare facts are these. Having lost the first set it is early in the second set when the chair umpire penalises Williams’ for ‘coaching’ – her coach had been spotted in the stands giving hand signals to her, which is disallowed. She protests vociferously but the penalty stands. She loses that game on serve and violently smashes her racquet and is penalised another point, as the rules dictate. It’s at this point she goes ballistic.

Williams starts to abuse the chair umpire, upset that she has essentially been branded a cheat, and invoking her colour and gender. She calls the chair umpire a cheat. It continues in ugly fashion and finally the umpire penalises her for abuse by calling the game on her. Williams’ calls in the referees, but to no avail.

The match goes on in front of a restive New York crowd who hoot and catcall and boo and in the end Williams loses to Naomi Osaka. The circus continues, robbing Osaka of what should have been a great moment in her life.

Afterwards Williams’ continues her spray in the press conference, once more suggesting that the actions by the chair umpire were both racist and sexist in nature. This theme is taken up by many thousands across the world outraged by what they believe to be the victimisation of Williams’. Social media is bitter with competing perspectives on the events. It’s all very 2018.

I had an immediate reaction to the news when I heard it, before it became political. I’m one of those people who dislike Serena Williams, and have done for a long time. I think she’s a graceless and insincere person who’s all smiles when things are going her way, but who turns into a hostile and aggressive person when it doesn’t. She may claim persecution but the fact is she has form. In past finals she has turned on umpires and linespeople when the game has gone against her, spouting vitriolic bile – and these have been female officials. My general feel is that her actions are those of a person of entitlement who becomes petulant when the game doesn’t go her way, and when her exalted status counts for nothing. Let’s not forget she is the most successful tennis player of all time, and has the riches to go with it, and playing a young, humble Japanese in her first final. She’s not the David here, she’s the Goliath, and her behaviour is a form of bullying.

Those are my observations, but let’s set them aside for the facts in this case.

Firstly, there’s no doubt coaching occurred – her coach admitted it. Whether Williams’ saw or acted on the coaching is irrelevant, as are her claims of lilywhite behaviour. Her coach is not going to wait until the final to begin coaching, so there’s little doubt that Williams’ has been a recipient of it in the past, contrary to her claims. So, there’s that, but should she have been penalised?

The letter of the law says that the penalty was justified. The issue with that is that coaching is commonplace and rarely called. The chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, is known to be one of the best umpires, as you would expect for a final, as well as being a stickler. I don’t think he can be blamed for what he did, but a warning might have been appropriate in the circumstances.

In regards to the broken racquet then that’s a clear code violation and penalty.

The remaining question is how he should have responded to Williams ranting and abuse. Personally I’m all for umpires taking a hard line. Like many people I’m sick and tired of the petulant antics of these professional sportspeople. By all means crack down on them.

That may be so, but was this fair? That’s where a great deal of the contention comes from, with many suggesting that men are allowed to get away with much more.

I’m thinking hard on this and its difficult because there are degrees of abuse. I can recall McEnroe being penalised repeatedly, and even having a match forfeited at one stage. Most of the leading men these days are very well behaved. The outliers perhaps are players like Kyrgios, who has been penalised occasionally, and who’s rants more generally tend to be against the world. I think Williams’ was unnecessarily personal in her abuse, but in any case I would totally support anyone – male or female – being penalised as she was when justified.

I certainly don’t believe it was either sexist or racist and the suggestion is offensive in general and, more particularly, to the chair umpire, who has no opportunity to defend himself. He is being effectively bullied by a powerful sportsperson and her legion of fans. It’s very unseemly.

To summarise, the chair umpire ruled to the letter of the law and shouldn’t be criticised for that. What makes it controversial (putting aside the political spin) is the inconsistent application of these laws.
This is not a view that will be popular with many. I don’t care, but I think any possible ambiguity can be removed going forward if the rules of the game are applied consistently and evenly.

  • Crack down on coaching. Penalise any who transgress.
  • There’s already a rule in place about racquet abuse. Stick to it.
  • And when it comes to abuse of any umpire go hard. It’s not to be tolerated. It might make a difference to the sport, and it sends a wider message to the community.

This is what the tennis authorities should do now. Come out in support of Ramos, and make it clear in future that no infraction of the rules will be tolerated.

It’s not about me


Last night about 10,000 people gathered in a silent vigil at Princes Park. They were there because last week Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered there in the small hours of the night. Last week hers was a name few knew; today hers is a name renowned across the country, with vigils in Sydney and Canberra simultaneously.

The death of Eurydice has outraged and caught the imagination as sometimes shocking events like this do. She was a young comedian walking home after a gig. By all accounts she was a lovely, quirky individual. She was set upon in the dark in the middle of a vacant oval where she was raped, no doubt crying out for help and mercy, unheard, and died there, alone, the victim of a male persecutor.

It’s a terrible story and no wonder it has resonated, but it has echoed much louder than that because what happened to her happens to other women too with a terrible regularity, here, across the country and throughout the world, and for as long as anyone can remember. The vigil last night was for Eurydice, and it was also for every one of those victims. Enough is enough.

It has sparked much comment and commentary, with good reason. Much of it addresses the reality that the perpetrators of these acts are always men. For all it’s controversial. For women they’re sick of walking the streets feeling threatened and unsafe. For many men they refuse to be lumped in with the evil predators guilty of these heinous acts, or be associated with the toxic masculinity that so often leads to it. And for some of us we must sorrowfully accept that even if we might not be guilty ourselves we are a part of a male culture that makes it possible.

Little of this is terribly new, what’s new perhaps is the defiant rejection that this can be allowed to go on. This is why people gather, to show solidarity and to demand action.

Once upon a time I think I was probably one of those men who would refuse to be tarred with the same brush. I would never do that, could never do it, why should I then be reviled as someone who might? I’m still someone incapable of such things, but I understand how little that means to a woman who has endured sexism and harassment daily, who lives with the threat of even worse. They don’t know me; I am one of the group that oppress and threaten them. Like racism, like so many isms, this can only ever be truly judged from the perspective of the oppressed and disadvantaged.

It’s a very sad state of affairs but, as I said, not terribly new. I recalled the other day a time about 25 years ago when I would often walk the streets long after dark. I had a lot going on inside and to simply walk in the dark by myself was a way to get my thoughts in order and soothe my busy mind. Occasionally I would come across someone else on the streets, and sometimes they were women.

I had an instinctive understanding of the situation – late at night, no-one else about, and a big, brooding bloke stalking the streets. For a woman it was potentially a dangerous combination, and though I didn’t like it I would cross the road or go another way to avoid her and ease her mind. I felt shabby doing it, and almost angry. It was like an admission of guilt I didn’t deserve – yet I did it anyway, knowing it was the right thing to do.

This is where we are today. I tweeted a reply to something the other day and it has been shared and commented on since. I wrote as a male, admitting that as such I represented a potential threat. I’m not that man I said, but – and this is the critical aspect many men overlook – it isn’t about me. Or any individual man. It’s about what we have come to represent as a collective and, more particularly, it’s about the fear that we have come to engender in so many women.

It seems petty to get my knickers in a twist about what some are saying about men. Some of it is pretty general, even offensive, but I get the gist of it. For too long we have got away with it and been allowed to get away with it. The perpetrators might get locked up, but the conditions that allow for such perpetrators to emerge go unchecked, and so it goes on. It is a cultural issue that all of us must take responsibility for, but particularly men. As long as we continue to deny and defend, as long as we condone by our silence and inaction, the responsibility for those very few who commit these crimes will be borne by all of us.

Why, as a woman, would you think any different? We must be respectful of the legitimate fear held by women. Those who gathered overnight are right: enough is enough, we must do something. As a man I think the best I can do is accept and admit to this, to call out those who transgress, and be a role model for all.

In the absence of strategy


In the news the last few days has been reports about how China wants to build a base in Vanuatu. It’s caused consternation and controversy and the Australian government has spoken out about it for the obvious reason that a base so close to our mainland – and so far from China – poses a potential threat. And it won’t be an isolated incident.

I rolled my eyes when I read the news. I was totally unsurprised, but experienced a sinking feeling. For me it’s another example of the Australian government’s short-sighted incompetence. This situation could never have developed had we not dropped the ball so badly.

Foreign aid and foreign assistance has been steadily dropping for a few years now, particularly to the Pacific islands. This follows on from the decision a few years back to stop radio and television broadcasts into the region and through Asia. Many a time on my travels I’d flick the dial and come across a familiar accent broadcasting familiar news and views. No longer. This was very popular, not just with expats, but with locals too. All this has been ditched, along with the cuts in aid, for economic reasons.

What price a few million dollars of extra expenditure? Well, now we know. Into that vacuum the Chinese with their expansionary policies have rushed. Once upon a time we exported culture and influence, which was the intangible benefit of our investment. Once we stop making that investment our influence has retracted, and the previous beneficiaries now look elsewhere. Enter the Chinese.

It would be nice to say that none of this could be foreseen, but you have to presume there are some very highly paid people in government departments who would have warned about this. God knows there were voices in the media who did that. Unfortunately the government – and I’ll point the finger at Morrison (and Abbott to a large extent) – chose to ignore those warnings.

Now there is a mad scramble to undo the damage but seriously, I don’t know how that can be achieved.

This is what infuriates me so much, the blind short-termism and the total lack of an actual strategy.

Had there been a proper strategy appropriately championed by the minister, and with a PM a bit brighter than Abbott, then Australia would be continuing to influence and embrace the region – China could never have got a foothold.

Unfortunately this sort of thinking – or unthinking – is not uncommon. The government is rife with it, with energy policy being another prime example. It also happens in the corporate world. I fight an uphill battle every day trying to suggest that the initiatives we take on should be a part of a broader strategy. There is a bigger picture we should be adding to.

In my experience in my present job is that it’s all pretty random. To a large degree that’s structural, with no capacity for a guiding principle. It’s also people, a form of ignorance combined with opportunism leading to misdirected effort. The result is that a bit happens here, a bit there, nothing in concert, with wasted and unnecessarily duplicated efforts, and occasionally contradictory elements.

If it’s a bigger picture then some are working on a landscape, others a portrait, and some an abstract. There is no coherence, sense or overarching purpose. That sums up our government pretty well, too.

The fallout


Harrowing scenes the other day when the disgraced Australian cricketers returned home. All three of them took it hard, with Steve Smith breaking down in his press conference. It was hard to watch, and impossible not to be sympathetic.

In the wake of that the attitude to him, and to a lesser degree the others, has softened, to the point that some now claim that the whole thing has been blown up out of all proportion and the penalties are much too harsh.

The penalties – basically 12 months for Smith and Warner, 9 months for Bancroft – are pretty much in line with my expectations. They’re banned from all cricket outside of grade cricket in that period, while I might have allowed them to play Sheffield Shield. The penalties aren’t as harsh as they seem simply because the international cricket season pretty well ends today for the Australians. Effectively they miss a short tour playing Pakistan, and next summer against India.

I was just as affected as most people by the remorse shown, but it doesn’t soften my attitude or change the basic facts. As much as anything a harsh penalty is needed to demonstrate the seriousness of the offence, and as a circuit breaker from which a change in culture and behaviour may now flow. This is a fork in the road.

It’s not necessarily the end of it – appeals and further hearings are possible – but now is the time for us to get around these individuals. They have transgressed, but they have also recognised their wrongdoing and shown remorse. Sport is all about second chances.

Of the three the most I’m most concerned about is David Warner. He appears to be the architect of the crime and has borne the brunt of the recrimination. He’s not well loved around the world because of some of his antics, many of which I’ve found hard to stomach also. He assumed role, misguided as it was, for the team, to be the attack dog, and bear the brunt of the conflict that arose from it.

That backfired to some extent in this tour of South Africa when it became personal off the field. I still scratch my head that Warner was the more heavily penalised in the confrontation with de Kock. In my eyes, as it is with everyone I’ve spoken to, de Kock’s comments and behaviour was reprehensible. The offence was doubled down when in the next test match half the South Africa crowd turned up in Sonny Bill Williams masks, up to and including South African cricket officials. That was an utter disgrace and insult not just to Warner, but more particularly his wife. That too was pretty much swept under the carpet, but it’s no surprise that Warner came into the third test seething with anger.

The whole situation was further compounded when Rabada, banned for two matches for repeat offences, had his suspension overturned on appeal. At the very least Smith was incensed by this, and I presume most of the team was. It was a poor call by the ICC, further proving how inept they are, and effectively undermining their own process. I suspect it added to a siege mentality among the Australians – aggrieved, besieged by the crowd, let down by due process, promoting an us against them mentality and an environment in which extreme choices might seem reasonable. The rest is history.

The ICC, as always, have a lot to answer for, but so too does Cricket Australia. They allowed for this situation to degenerate over a long period. Occasionally they would mutter something censorious, but did little about it. Part of the problem was the wrong people in the wrong jobs. By all accounts Lehmann is a ripper bloke, but I’ve heard stories that prove he was the wrong person to be national coach. He has since resigned. On top of that Steve Smith should not have been made captain. This offence proves that he had neither the strength or authority to prevent wrong being done, but the problem started at his appointment. He’s a great batsman and probably a nice guy, but that doesn’t make for a leader. CA has to clean up the method by which they select leaders. A Border, a Taylor, a Waugh or a Ponting would never have allowed for this to happen.

For now we have a re-configured Australian team, a new captain, and soon to have a new coach. All power to them.

Day of shame


I’m one of those people who whenever there is political turmoil am glued to the TV seeking developments and listening with rapt interest to the commentary and analysis. Yesterday was one of those days, though it was not political turmoil that transfixed me, but sporting – which is the next biggest thing in Australia, after all.

It was a normal Sunday morning. I woke, made coffee, then settled back in bed to catch up with the online news. I’d woken in between news bulletins so I received my initial news through a combination of Facebook updates and the Age online. What I found there shocked me to the core – as it has millions of other Australians.

The third test from Cape Town has been in progress and Australia trailing. These are hotly contested matches against an opponent we dislike. The cricket has been compelling, but everything else from this series has been pretty ugly – and it got worse.

It’s hard to understand how it came to this, but in the lunch-break on the third day and with Australia behind the eight ball Steve Smith and his so-called leadership group hatched a plan to cheat. The most junior member of the team, Cameron Bancroft, was enlisted to do the dirty work – that is, to scuff up the ball with a piece of abrasive tape to help promote some reverse swing.

Not only was this immoral, it was also profoundly stupid. It’s hard to get away with anything these days, but especially so in this series when so much has been going on that every moment is heavily scrutinised. Unsurprisingly when Bancroft attempted to tamper with the ball he was spotted. The umpires became involved, then Steve Smith, who at first denied anything untoward. It was only after play that Smith along with Bancroft admitted to the ploy. Both men were remorseful but Smith, totally out of touch with the gravity of the situation, believed he could continue on as captain.

The news broke like a tidal wave in Australia. Around the world much of the foreign fans either condemned Australia, or rejoiced in our disgrace. My feelings I think mirrored those of most Australian supporters – disbelief, disgust and shame.

I sat on my couch watching one talking head after another being wheeled out for their opinion. Their complete condemnation of events was near universal. Though I knew it, I struggle to comprehend what had happened. It was so foreign to what I believe as an Australian that I couldn’t connect to it. At the same time I felt waves of emotion. I felt terribly betrayed. I felt as if everything I had been led to believe in had been exposed as a sham. The Australian way of sport, our distinct ethos, hard but fair, an ethos I had believed in, upheld, and defended, had been corrupted entirely by this madness that ran contrary to everything we had been brought up to believe.

This is why it is such a big thing: it has struck to the very soul of Australian sport. We’re no lily-whites, God knows that, but while we go hard on the field what was sacrosanct was the concept of fairness. There have been international cricket captains charged with ball tampering in the past. They’ve been condemned, penalised, but the sky didn’t fall in. The difference is that in Australia that sporting ethos is almost holy. It defines so much of us as a people. It’s a part of our identity, and so then to have exposed an act of such cynical disregard to both fairness and the rules is an existential blow. The shame is felt by all.

It was a given yesterday morning that Steve Smith would be sacked as captain. My own view was that should be the minimum. He may be the best batsman in the world, but if he never took the field again for Australia then I was cool with that. I’ve never been a fan of Smith the man, but his actions on the weekend were compounded by the fact that he got the most junior member of the team to execute them. That in itself beggars belief. It’s cowardly, and exploits the loyalty of a guy who wants only to play for Australia and is still trying to prove himself. Bancroft should have said no – he was clearly uncomfortable – but he should never have been put in such a position.

All of this was known when James Sutherland turned up for an impromptu news conference. He was obviously shocked and it showed in his demeanour. Others have commented that he seemed near to tears, and he said many of the things the rest of us were thinking – yet he stopped short of sacking Smith.

This was a terrible misreading of the mood and the situation. Had there been some doubt over the circumstances then an investigation first might have been appropriate. Smith had admitted guilt though, and from that moment could not continue as Australian cricket captain. They say that the position of Australian cricket captain is the highest office in the land – to allow an admitted cheat to go on in that role would be a betrayal of everything the office stood for. One ex-cricketer even suggested they should not be allowed to wear the baggy green cap. In the end both Smith and Warner either resigned or were stood down from their roles before play started.

Where to from here? Well, this is something we can never really live down. I can’t remember a more serious breach in my lifetime of watching Australian sport. There’s a long way back from here, but at least we can make a start on it now.

While this incident is a total shock, standards have been slipping for some time, and Cricket Australia must take some responsibility for that. I wrote a few weeks ago how I was finding it hard to stomach, and I’ve got an iron constitution. The Australian cricket team has been stinking it up for a few years now, and I hear stories all the time of women who used to take an interest in the game who have been turned off by the culture of the team. CA should have been more pro-active.

Obviously Smith is front and centre in much of that. I’ve never liked him. I’ve always thought him a bit odd, a tad socially dysfunctional, and I think that’s been evident on the field. As a leader he’s been poor – impulsive, reactionary, demonstrative, unsympathetic. Unparalleled as a batsman, he has still failed to lead by example. For what it’s worth I think he’s a poor captain also.

Lehmann is another problem. He was the right coach at the right time when he came in, but that time has long past. I have my doubts about his technical ability, but it’s his yobbo-ish tendencies that really turn me off. I think we have gone past that sort of character. From what I hear he plays favourites in the dressing room and can be a divisive figure. More to the point I think his blokish acceptance of borderline behaviour has allowed for standards to slip. Supposedly he was not involved in this decision – hard to believe – but in any case I can’t see him surviving this, nor should he.

If we are to redeem ourselves we must start with a clean slate. To begin with that means hefty penalties for those involved, including something like a 12 month ban for Smith. It means substantial re-education for those who remain, and in fact, throughout cricket teams across Australia. And it means new leadership.

I’m a big fan of Justin Langer, and know that had he been coach none of this would have been possible, let alone allowed. No-one is a tougher competitor than Langer, but no-one is truer to that particular ethos we all so believed in. You know he’ll be bleeding today, just like the rest of us. The bonus is that I think he’s a very good coach too. I think he must be installed pronto.

As for captain, Australia must move away from giving it to the best player in the team. Being a great batsman doesn’t necessarily make the best leader or captain, and Smith is the proof of that. Tim Paine has been named interim captain and I think he’s the perfect choice – level-headed, smart, a tough competitor who will battle it out. He’s an admirable character. Longer term they either need to bring someone from outside the squad in, or elevate Mitch Marsh or even Pat Cummins, though neither is ready for now I think.

We must use this to become the cricket team every Australian admires. There’s a stain that can’t be eradicated, but it can be overcome.

This is 24 hours later and I surprise myself at how measured I am. Yesterday I was devastated. I walked into work and it’s the discussion played out loud. I get a cup of tea and everyone shakes their head. I’m so sad at what Australia has become – politically as well as on the cricket field – but there’s no getting away from what has happened. Let this be a catalyst for change. Hopefully we can strive to be our best selves, hard still and relentless, but true and humble also. That’s what I want, and what the country needs.

A good day to be Australian


When I think about it, it’s been a crappy few years in Australia, and in fact for much of the world. There’s been little to celebrate, and much otherwise to fear, decry or sadden.

Yesterday was one of the better days in recent Australian history. Yesterday the heart soared, and it felt good to be an Aussie again.

There were two big moments yesterday, both of which might have soured, but this time came out just the right way.

Last night the Socceroos played Honduras in Sydney for the right to compete in the World Cup in Russia next year. It was a big event, a big crowd, and a lot riding on it.

Even before last night’s game the Socceroos had created history. No team had ever played so many matches to qualify for the World Cup. No team had ever travelled so far – the equivalent of six times around the world, they say. It had been long and arduous, and more recently, controversial and testy. Last night was it, one way or another.

Coming into the match playing on our home ground gave us the advantage, but at half-time the score was nil all and we were getting nervous. In the second half the game broke open, and Mile Jedinak, the skip, scored three times – twice from the penalty spot, and another from a deflected free kick.

That was it. There was a great outpouring of relief and happiness on the ground, in the stands, and in lounge rooms all over Australia. Sitting in my lounge room I exchanged SMS with friends who had been watching in their home, and engaged in social media. On Twitter I wrote I want to be Mile Jedinak when I grow up – such a great leader and commanding presence, we had lost our way without him, and came good with him back.

I feel sorry for the Hondurans. They fought passionately, but they were always a class below.

Earlier in the day something else had happened which should have a more enduring impact upon the nation.

The much criticised plebiscite on Same Sex Marriage turned out to be a resounding success, with more than 80% of Australians having their say. It was always thought that the Yes vote would win, but as always in moments like this, as indeed in World Cup qualifiers, you’re never sure of the result until the whistle blows. Yesterday the whistle blew on the plebiscite and the results announced: a little over 61% of Australians said “Yes’ to same sex marriage.

This was a great and emotional moment. At work a crowd had congregated in the staff dining area to watch the results announced on TV. I think every one of them hoped for the Yes result – I’ve yet to meet anyone who professes anything else. With it announced the news spread, there were high fives in the office and cheering. Around the country there were much greater celebrations.

This was a result I was very committed to, but it doesn’t affect me. For hundreds of thousands of other Australians the result of this plebiscite had a direct on their life and destiny. All going well this should pass into law sometime before Christmas, and those Australians can go off and married their loved one, just like the rest of us. It is a great moment of inclusiveness, and an acknowledgement that we are all equal, and with the rights now to enshrine it.

I felt so proud and happy. I believed that Australia would vote that way. It’s a victory for compassion, decency, and that great Australian dictum, a fair go for all. I am at times critical of our society, but I’ve always thought that Australians are natural democrats – it’s why we are renowned for being egalitarian. We’ll judge you on your merits, not on your title, wealth, or if you happen to be heterosexual or gay.

A final observation on this – anyone who witnessed Penny Wong break down at the announcement and wasn’t moved is a mug. She is a woman I admire greatly, very smart, a little fierce, a decent human being. She also happens to be gay. She rode this politically, but it was also very personal. Her tears gave expression to the relief and pure justice of this moment.