Time for the bitter old men to go

Kevin Rudd’s return to the labour leadership was an electoral disaster. Now Tony Abbott appears determined to emulate him.


Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz appear to have declared war on leadership of the Liberal government clearly in the hope that they can destabilise Malcolm Turnbull enough to reinstall Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.  Tony Abbott was an electoral disaster waiting to happen when he was deposed. What makes him or Abetz think that the Australian lecturer will feel any differently about Toxic Tony.

Jacqueline Maley writing in The Age “It’s on: Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott are having a Rudd-Gillard moment”

Plus reports that:”Tony Abbott ally Eric Abetz critical of Malcolm Turnbull over industrial relations”


Politicians have used by date. The pity is that some don’t realise when it’s come.

A good golden rule for deciding when this time has come is when you are doing more damage to your party than the opposition.

Tide turns against Abbott in guns for votes row

Tony Abbott appears to have misjudged and mishandled the issue of the ban on the Adler lever action shot gun.

Opinion and the facts are running against him, and rightly so. The case he has made is flimsy and will not stand much scrutiny.  At best, Abbott will be seen as not in control of his office while Prime Minister, at worst he will be seen as lying to the Australian people and to Parliament.

Laura Tingle in the Fin Review writes: Nothing is simple in politics anymore. Tony Abbott’s blatant attempts to exploit controversy over gun laws blew up on him in Parliament on Thursday.


Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers a personal explanation at the end of Question Time on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

But instead of it being a simple case of a troublemaker finally shooting himself in the foot, the concerns in the government are that it will only blow wide open the tensions between the current and former prime ministers after the two men effectively called each other liars in the Parliament.

SMH reports: Malcolm Turnbull has publicly contradicted his predecessor, Tony Abbott, suggesting the former prime minister lied by claiming his office was unaware of a 2015 deal to trade a Senate vote for a change in gun laws.

At the heart of the matter is whether a deal was done with Senator Leyonhjelm trading his vote for  migration legislation against the sunset clause on the Adler lever action shot gun.

Leyonhjelm claims that he was “dudded” on the deal but appears quite certain that there was a deal.


Abbott claims: “the Minister for Immigration [Peter Dutton] and the Minister for Justice [Michael Keenan] made a deal to trade guns for votes without the authority of the then prime minister”.

But Turnbull contradicts him “”I have made inquiries of my ministers and can say to the House as a result of those inquiries I’m satisfied that the Minister for Justice acted in the full knowledge of the Prime Minister’s Office at that time.”

Abbott will claim that Dutton and Keenan were acting unilaterally or that he was simply not informed about the arrangement with Leyonhjelm. This hand-passes the issue  to Peta Credlin who said on Sky said “there was absolutely no deal between Tony Abbott and David Leyonhjelm in order to bring in the Adler shotgun”  which may be true but doesn’t really address the issue of the sunset clause.

But the facts are that the sunset clause, which was presumably part of the deal, was inserted in the legislation.

For a man who was on the ABCs 7.30 claiming credit for being a member of the Howard government, which took a strong stance against firearms in Australia, to wash his hands of legislation that was passed while he was Prime Minister, is disingenuous.

U.S. President Harry S. Truman kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office  saying “the buck stops here.”


The only person who remained strangely silent on the issue is the good Senator who must be grinning like the Cheshire cat at the mischief he has caused.


My 1000th blog: a blog about blogs

This will be my 1000th blog since I started some two and a half years ago so I decided to publish a short summary of what has been most popular.

I write pretty much every day and a lot of what I write is on Australian politics. This tends to be highly topical and blogs do not have more than a couple of days currency. To the best of my knowledge there have been 26,982 hits on my Home page so someone is reading these posts.

Currently, two of my blogs appear on Google’s first page for Tony Abbott.  The only person who is more popular writing about Tony Abbott is Tony Abbott himself, but I’m not certain if this is a plus.

Tony Abbott is half right and completely wrong about Donald Trump

How Malcolm Turnbull got Tony Abbott all wrong.

But by far the most popular work that I have published is on the border-line softcore photographer David Hamilton.  More than half of the 157,000 hits on my website hits have been on Hamilton who did most of his best work some time ago in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hamilton’s forte was photographing exceptionally beautiful young woman in dreamy, etherial and erotically charged settings.


My fundamental thesis about Hamilton is that, while he was a talented photographer, his view of young women and the way he portrays them, crosses the boundary line into the realm of pornography  particularly in his photographs of very young children.

David Hamilton (Total hits 81,600)

David Hamilton and the sexuality of the nymphet (ii) 36,000

David Hamilton’s vision of young women 13,000

David Hamilton: The nymphets and the line between art and soft-core pornography 5500

David Hamilton: bringing a soft focus to soft-core porn 4000

David Hamilton and the sexuality of the nymphet (i) 4300

Can any of David Hamilton’s work be judged pornographic? 3400

 Edward Hopper

My second most popular blogs, apart from the topical commentary on Australian politics, is on American artist Edward Hopper. Hopper painted in the early part of the 20th century and is regarded as one of the iconic American painters. His most famous and best known work is Nighthawks.


My interest in Hopper dates back to August, 2007 when I was lucky enough to be in Boston when there was a major Hopper exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  What has fascinated me as I have explored Hopper’s work is the way that he uses line and space, particularly sun-lit space, in his work.  Two Hopper quotes provided an excellent starting point in understanding his work.

What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house. 


In Excursion in Philosophy and Summer in the City, Hopper uses two sun-lit spaces to set up the dynamic between two particular views of the world.  The idea of the sunlit space is one that recurs frequently in Hopper’s work.


In Woman in the Sun and Morning Sun, Hopper creates a contemplatorary space from which his subject looks out on the world.

The other illuminating quote was:

If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.

This led me to realise that Hopper uses images as a writer uses words: to create a narrative or to develop themes around particular images.

 Edward Hopper July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967 (Total hits 4000)


Sunlight and structure: Hopper’s Sun Watchers

Edward Hopper’s Travellers

Edward Hopper: Trains and boats and cars

Edward Hopper – “Lighthouse at Two Lights”

Edward Hopper: Urban Spaces, Interior Landscapes

Hopper’s Sunlight Paintings: Ideal Forms and Shadows

Edward Hopper: Shapes and Landscapes

Edward Hopper: the Sunlight pictures (i)

Edward Hopper’s search for ideal forms

Edward Hopper: travellers going nowhere

Hopper’s travellers (ii)

Susannah and the Elders,

Another idea that has fascinated me is the way in which women have been portrayed by artists through the ages. The biblical story of Susannah and the Elders, from the old Testament book of Daniel, provided excellent vehicle for examining this. As almost every Renaissance artist painted Susannah and many of the great modern artists did as well, this story provides an excellent way of seeing changing styles and views of women.

It is interesting that in the biblical story there are two moments of high drama. The first is when the elders accost the naked Susanna and the second is when Daniel traps the elders at the Susannah’s trial. To my knowledge there are no paintings of the second scene.

Tintoretto painted Susanna many times. In this version, she is unaware of the elders attention.

tintoretto 3.jpg

In Bellucci and Rubens, she is fending off the unwelcome attentions of the elders.



Perhaps the most confrontational and in many ways morally ambiguous painting of Susanna is by Alessandro Allori. The confrontational aspect is the Elders’ assault on Susanna which is portrayed in graphic and symbolic detail. The moral ambiguity comes in the great beauty of the painting itself. This Susanna is probably one of the most beautiful of all of the depictions and it sets up an immediate tension between what was being portrayed and our appreciation of the painting.


The modern view of Susannah is quite different from the more traditional one.  In the modern paintings, the view of Susannah is more morally ambiguous.  Here she appears as a young woman, fully dressed and not naked according to tradition, and apparently negotiating a deal with two fat businessmen.


In another she is a transsexual, complete with handbag.

untitled 10.jpeg

Arthur Boyd’s version is rendered in his typical style


And Ben Morales Correa’s version is painted in graphic realist terms.

susana-and-the-elders ben Morales correa.jpg

Susannah: from biblical heroine to pop pornstar 2020

 The moral ambiguity of Alessandro Allori’s Susannah and the Elders 860

Sex and power: the sexual predator in art 810

The naked and the nude: Tintoretto’s Susannah And the Elders 58o

Total Susannah  3500

Other paintings

Genius and Ambition III: A Shortage of Victorian Soft Core 980

Lot and his daughters: Fire, brimstone, incest and Sodom 750

Two views of female sexuality: David Hamilton’s Nymphettes and Norman Lindsay’s Amazons 600

Films and Plays

Whenever I see a film or play that I have particularly enjoyed or perhaps not enjoyed, I find it useful to articulate what lies behind these responses.  Interestingly, the most popular of these has been my review of Leon the Professional starring Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and  featuring the debut of Natalie Portman. Luc Besson’s film was beautifully crafted and at the centre of it lies the morally ambiguous relationship between Mathilda and Leon.


Luc Besson, Leon the professional and moral ambiguity 7300

Film review: Gravity (or lack thereof) 1100

Hamlet’s problems 780

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Frames And Perspectives 630

Mystery Road – a great Australian film 530

The Book Thief: a modern fairytale for adults 530

La Femme Nikita and the Pygmalion myth 410

 Shakespeare in love – a minor masterpiece 360

 Turning books and films: the case of Great Expectations 240

Carol, Anna Karenina and smoking lesbians 190

Mr Turner, Timothy Spall and nuanced grunt 180

 The Dressmaker, black comedy, revenge play and a lot of fun 130

 Why we all love Notting Hill 130

 Bird man or Men in Underpants 110

Miscellaneous blogs

There have been a number of other blogs which have attracted attention for reasons which I am not particularly clear, although the interest in Lewis Carroll is unsurprising.

What has been surprising is the number of hits I have had for the blog on Glenn Lazarus the ex-Senator  from Queensland and rugby league’s famous “brick with eyes”.


Lazarus famously threatened to appear in a mankini which would not have been a pretty sight. The blog has attracted 4600 views, more than half the first preferences he received in 2016 election.

Some advice for Glenn Lazarus on the mankini 4600

Men and their muses (i): two ends of the spectrum 2700

Was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) a paedophile, a pornographer, or both ? 1573

Torture and buggery on the high seas 502

But the blogs given me the most pleasure in my twenty-eight Letters to my grandson  who was of course when seen through grandparent eyes, the most beautiful of children.  

The idea for these letters arose from my realisation that small children remember nothing of the first  years of their lives. So I decided to document the time that Di and I have with our grandson to leave him with a record. This idea has now morphed into the idea that these blogs can now incorporate a family history.

As I write about Winton, I include information and photos about his father, Simon, when he was Winton’s age. I also include photos of me and accounts of what I was doing in the 1940s in Wellington. As well as this I am able to include some information and photos of my mother, Winton’s great-grandmother and also of my grandmother, Winton’s great, great grandmother.  Doing this is made me realise how little of the family history has been recorded and how precious it can become..

The other interesting aspect of writing letters to Winton is that I’m not certain when, or even if, he will read them. My hope is that he will read them  when he is young and  perhaps return to them when he is a grandfather like me. I also hope that perhaps this is the beginning of a family tradition and that future generations will have a record of their ancestry.

Is Tony Abbott no more than dissembling hypocrite?

Just a couple of quotes to set this question in context.

The first is one he made to Tony Windsor about his desire to be Prime Minister:

”The only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse – but I’d have to give serious thought to it”.

The second is one he made to the press immediately after being deposed by Malcolm Turnbull:

“There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.”


Tony Abbott: No sniping particularly not with (the issue of) a lever action shotgun

Tony Abbott grabbed the opportunity to appear on 7.30 and sought to make a clear distinction between him and Malcolm Turnbull on the issue of the banning of the Adler lever-action shot gun. Much of his defence was based on the fact that he was a minister in the Howard government which introduced strict gun controls.

He flatly denied that, unlike Turnbull, he had done a deal on the banning of the weapon, with  pro-gun Senator David Leyonhjelm to secure the support for unrelated government legislation.


But it appears that he had done exactly the same deal as he was accusing Turnbull of by effectively inserting a sunset clause into the Legislation banning rapid-fire guns in return for the Senator Leyonhjelm voting against a Labor amendment to migration legislation.

When Sales produced an email stating there was a deal between the government and Senator Leyonhjelm, Abbott just kept saying “Wrong, wrong wrong.”


Leigh Sales has raised quizzical to an art form

He continued talking over Sales repeating, “These guns were stopped. These guns were stopped because of the Abbott government.”

Yet the sunset clause was passed into legislation while he was Prime Minister and Leyonhjelm claims that sunset clause is why he supported the government.

The point according to Abbott was ” The guns were stopped because of the Abbott government.”  No mention of the fact that it was the Turnbull government that removed the sunset clause.

It’s a matter of who you believe, Abbott or Leyonhjelm. One of them  looks as if they are telling porkies.

Hortenso: Faith, as you say, there’s small choice in rotten apples (Taming of the Shrew) 

When asked three times “How tweeting disapproving commentary helps your own side?” Abbott simply talked over the Sales and refused to answer the question saying:

“But occasionally on important national and international issues, as former Prime Minister, I will have something to say.”

When asked why the Parliamentary Liberal party was opposed to euthanasia when 69% of the Liberal party voters supported it, Abbott obfusticated:

“And this is why it would be a good thing… I have my own views on that particular issue, and you won’t be surprised that they are fairly traditional and conservative views but as a general principle it is absolutely vital that we have a larger and more representative Liberal party in New South Wales, the biggest state Australia, the state where unfortunately the government all almost lost the election back in July so this is a very important part of maximising our chance of winning both the next state in the next federal election.”

All of this was in the context of reforms to the NSW Liberal party preselection processes, which after benefiting from them for 22 years as a member for Warringah, he wants changed.

When asked about the American presidential election and which candidate he preferred Abbott said;

“Well whoever wins, Australia will have to deal with them and you see obviously I’ve expressed some views about what different candidates have said I think as a general rule it is not a good look for Australian politicians, former Australian Prime Ministers to be buying into elections overseas.”


 Why is Tony Abbott being coy about his preferred presidential candidate?

This was clearly not important national or international issue (on which) Abbott will have something to say despite having stated earlier in the week that many of Trump’s policies were reasonable and despite John Howard having said “I tremble at the thought of Trump as president, there is an instability about him that bothers me.”

When asked about his interest in the next vacancy for the Federal Liberal leadership, Abbott fudged again.


 Tony Abbott flanked by his parliamentary supporters for his next leadership bid

“It’s not a question of what I might like, it’s a question of what the party room wants, the party room wants, the party room wants to end the revolving door prime ministership.”

What Abbott doesn’t understand about interviews is that if you don’t answer the question, the audience will make up their own mind about.

With this in mind, what can the cynical voter take away from the 7.30 interview?

  1. Abbott did a deal with Leyonhjelm over the Adler.
  2. Abbott will continue sniping at Turnbull when it suits him but not as a matter of principle.
  3. Abbott wants to reform pre-selection voting in the NSW Liberal party to undermine Malcolm Turnbull’s support.
  4. Abbott will continue to use the numbers in the Parliamentary Liberal party to thwart popular issues like euthanasia and same-sex marriage.
  5. Abbott supports Donald Trump in the presidential election.
  6.  Abbott still thinks he can be Prime Minister.

Attacks on the ABC and Four Corners begin their normal dismal pattern

Following the Four Corners program  on the plight of refugees on Nauru Island, the usual dismal chorus about ABC bias has begun again.


Ex-cabinet minister Eric Abetz, new Senator Jane Hume and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

  1. The Nauruan government has slammed the program as “an embarrassment to journalism” and Coalition senators accused the ABC of acting as a mouthpiece for activist organisations at heated Senate estimates hearings on Tuesday.
  2. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said reporters at the ABC and other outlets were “advocates dressed up as journalists” who were determined to undo the tough policies that had prevented hundreds of deaths at sea.
  3. At Senate estimates hearings on Tuesday, Liberal Senator Jane Hume called for ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie to launch an inquiry into the program. Senator Hume asked whether “all we heard on this program were the representatives of Save the Children and Amnesty (International) and the stories they wanted to tell, and selected stories from the young people on Nauru?”
  4. Former cabinet minister Eric Abetz said it appeared the ABC had participated in an “orchestrated” campaign by airing the program at the same time Amnesty released a major report on conditions on the island.

Sometimes media coverage needs to be partisan, particularly when one side of the argument is able to dominate the media and, in the case of the Nauruan and Australian governments, exercise undue influence over access to information.

And something that Peter Dutton, Jane Hume,  Eric Abetz and their fellow ABC-bashing fellow travellers need to realise is that just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are necessarily biased.

Turnbull fumbles gun control issue

The most worrying aspect of Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership is that the longer it goes on, the more we are left the impression that he is not very good at it.


He’s mishandled the issue of import of an extremely dangerous lever-action shot gun and handed the Labor Party two opportunities to beat him around the ears.

  1. He is soft on gun control.
  2.  He will do any kind of deal to get his  stalled legislation through the Senate.

And the has also given another free kick to Tony Abbott, who tweeted,

“Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws. ABCC should be supported on its merits.”


Tony Abbott trying not to smile at Malcolm Turnbull’s discomfiture

Asked if he would lift an import ban on a hyper-lethal Adler lever-action shotgun to win the Senate vote of the libertarian David Leyonhjelm for unrelated union-busting bills, the Prime Minister refused to definitively reject what, to most people, is an appalling suggestion.

Two government MPs, including the deputy speaker, have joined calls to allow the rapid-fire Adler shotgun to be imported into Australia, just hours after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared the ban was “set in stone.”… unless repealed.

Gun control is always going to be a highly emotive and divisive issue.  On one hand, you have the rural community and the recreational shooters who want more relaxed gun controls. And on the other, you have the urban communities who see the effects of unlicensed firearms being used with increasingly frequent in drive-by shootings and other crimes of violence.

The problem for Malcolm Turnbull is that he has a fair proportion of the constituency of the first first group hidden away inside the Coalition.

If he had been smart, he would have hit the suggestion of the relaxation of the ban on the head in Parliament. Leyonhjelm will probably support his legislation  on the ABCC without a  firearms deal.  He is certainly not going to vote with Labor on this issue.

And Malcolm Turnbull should know this.



Jobs for the otherwise unemployable?

At least four Liberal MPs thrown out by voters at the July federal election have picked up plum jobs as taxpayer-funded advisers to their former colleagues.

Tasmania ex-MP Eric Hutchinson could be paid up to $160,000 a year including superannuation,  for a newly-created role in the office of Senate President Stephen Parry.

Former Eden Monaro MP Peter Hendy was hired by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as his chief economist after losing the marginal seat.

Mr Williams, who held the seat of Hindmarsh, is working as a policy adviser to fellow South Australian Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education.

Ms  Karen McNamara, the former member for Dobell on the NSW Central Coast, is working as a part-time adviser to NSW senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific.


Karen McNamara was one of the faces designed to give the impression the Coalition was full of women.