The Essendon saga: too many unanswered questions

The findings of theAFL anti-doping tribunal that the Essendon players are not guilty of using banned substances has been greeted joyously by the Essendon club and supporters.

The mantra from now on will be “It’s time to move on” and certainly the Essendon football club and the players will be glad to put this whole sad, sorry and rather sordid situation behind them.

But questions remain. And will continue to remain because no one is going to clear them up.

Why was that 34 grown men were having substances injected into them by Stephen Dank and not one of them saw fit to ask him: “What’s in the syringe?”

 Essendon's players: no one thought to ask

Essendon’s players: no one thought to ask

Are they all that trusting, gullible, stupid or unconcerned? It’s very hard to believe.

But the matter that is the most concerning is that the whole case rested on the fact that there were no records available to the tribunal of the injection regime.

We are led to believe that there were no records kept.

This is obviously nonsense.

Stephen Dank must have kept records.

Surely he wasn’t injecting the players without recording their names or without recording what he had given them. Stephen Dank almost certainly has extensive and comprehensive records. The problem is that the anti-doping tribunal could not compel him to release them. And he certainly wasn’t going to volunteer them.

 Stephen Dank's role in the Essendon doping scandal wiil probably never been made public

Stephen Dank’s role in the Essendon doping scandal wiil probably never been made public

Nonetheless, having these records available for public scrutiny would not prove that the players had known what though being injected with.

Clearly the AFL needs to make sure that its doping rules place the onus on the players to know what supplements they are taking and on the clubs to make sure that the players are informed.

And it is clear that the AFL will now need to have a much greater degree of surveillance to ensure there are no more shadowy figures like Stephen Dank running clandestine doping programmes on young, gullible footballers.

AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan

AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan

AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan has a lot of work to do to restore the AFL’s tattered reputation on illegal substance abuse and doping.

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Edward Hopper’s search for ideal forms

One of the remarkable things about the work of Edward Hopper is that his style makes his paintings so immediately recognisable. In developing this characteristic style, Hopper is exploring Plato’s ideal form through a series of recurrent images. In many cases, he does this through the structuring of the paintings but in some other paintings, he does this through the relationship between the people in his paintings and the flow of time and events around them.

His paintings of the yachts off the coast of Massachusetts all have a similar prospective. The painter stands back and sees the yacht located in the broad seascape which is layered into the coastline and the skyline in the background.


Groundswell is an interesting combination of classic Hopper seascape structure with strong horizontal lines but it also combines a theme from many other paintings where a group of people gazing at something that the viewer cannot see.


Lee Shore is also an interesting combination of ideas with the stylised yacht sailing past an equally stylised house of the type that Hopper so frequently painted.  It is also an exploration of the point between the landscape and the seascape with the yacht in the house occupying immediately adjacent spaces.


Mary McKeen


The Long Leg  is structurally very similar to Mary McKeen. The yacht is located on the water in the foreground, there is a strip of land in the mid-ground and sky in the background.

In many of Hopper’s urban and rural landscapes, elements of his thematic and stylistic unity is clearly visible. In the following examples, it is the structural stratification of the painting that is so noticeable.  There is a group of landscapes that are recognisable within Hopper’s thematic and structural approaches.

In East River (New York City) and Railroad Sunset, an urban landscape highlighted against a luminescent sunset while Approaching the City is scene just before something happens, namely the arrival in the city.

east_river_edward_hopper East River (New York City)

hoppersunwebbg  Railroad Sunset

041.tif Approaching the City

Approaching the City  Is also typified by a space in the centre of the picture that is a variation on a theme of the  “sunlight on the side of a house”.

Hills South Truro

Hills South Truro

In Hills South Truro,  the hills in the middle ground loom over the small house and appear like large waves rolling towards the shore. A similar portrayal of a landscape that looks like a seascape is seen in Lighthouse Hill 1927.

 Lighthouse Hill 1927

Lighthouse Hill 1927

It’s an interesting reversal of the imagery. The landscape, the contours of the hills, become the waves moving towards a lighthouse and the small cottage. Here, Hopper appears to be experimenting with the form of the landscape and exploring the similarities between the contours the landscape and the shape of waves crushing onto the shore. searching perhaps for the ideal form.

These two paintings may provide a useful insight into one of Hopper’s preoccupations when seen in relation to one another political Hopper painting.

In Excursion into philosophy,  Hopper paints a man looking at a patch of sunlight falling on the carpet in his room.


Jo [Hopper’s wife] recorded cryptically, “The open book is Plato, re-read too late,”.

There is a hint that the man in the painting is contemplating Plato’s idea of ideal forms which are distinct from the world of the senses and constitute the highest form of reality. In the painting, the man turns his back on the world of the senses, shown in the naked body of his lover, in favour of the contemplation of higher and ideal forms which are represented in a patch of sunlight.

It is possible to see the characteristic style so evident in Hopper’s paintings as a search for the ideal form or for a visual archetype co-responding to an ideal form. The yachts in his seascapes are pared back and elemental yachts: small gaff rigged yawls.

So many of the people in his paintings are poised between events, almost at a point where time has stopped and retirements come independent of the immediate and sensual world.

In endeavouring to document and explain Opera’s depiction of the ideal forms, one is constantly confronted with the difficulties that the critic and commentator must do this through language whereas Hopper chose to do it through imagery saying, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”

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Malcolm Fraser on Pauline Hanson

In a TV interview shortly before his death, Malcolm Fraser was asked about Pauline Hanson.

 Pauline Hanson

Pauline Hanson

His response ( apologies if I paraphrase slightly)

“Someone should have taken a baseball bat to that woman to ensure that she never came out of the burrow.”

Now he may have used the word “metaphorically” but I like to think he didn’t.

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Not supporting lifestyle choices with taxpayer funds

Tony Abbott’s been caught  with his snout in the travel expenses trough before. He’s managed to combine  “work commitments” with various triathlons and attendances at  mate’s weddings.  In fairness, he did refund the money. He knew was wrong. But he still doing it.

The Herald Sun has revealed Mr Abbott  jetted to Melbourne to attended a lavish birthday party for Paul Marks at the Huntingdale Golf Club.

Mr Marks is the executive chairman of Nimrod Resources. Between them and Rod and Max donated $750,000 to the Liberal party.

The VIP jet that Abbott is alleged to have used can cost about $4000 an hour to operate.

Clearly, Tony Abbott thinks it was one rule for everybody else and another for him and at the end of the age of entitlement certainly doesn’t include prime ministerial perks.

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A small but avoidable human tragedy

The suicide of  86-year-old Dorothy Hookey, suffering intolerable arthritic pain and also a  long-time member of pro-euthanasia group Exit International has attracted both media and, unfortunately, police attention.

Dorothy took all the precautions necessary not to involve her family, and in particular, her husband Graham, in her suicide. She died alone and without any of the family knowing the time she had chosen for her death.

Her husband discovered her sitting up in bed, and suspecting a heart attack, tried to revive her, without success.

When a suicide note was discovered the next day,  the police, in an act of the most unbelievable insensitivity, began searching the Hookey’s house.

And what were they looking for?

Evidence that he had assisted her. Of course he assisted her. That’s what people who are 85 years old and married to each other do. They assist each other. They make caps of tea  for each other. They pick up packages from the post office from each other. They key in URLs and make internet payments for each other if their partner’s arthritic fingers are incapable of working a keyboard.

The problem is that this is a crime.

Graham Hookey may face a prison term  for assisting his wife's suicide despite his wife's best efforts to avoid exactly that situation

Graham Hookey may face a prison term for assisting his wife’s suicide despite his wife’s best efforts to avoid exactly that situation

People like Dorothy Hookey do not reach a point where they are able to commit suicide without the assistance, help and emotional support of their partner.

It must be a painfully difficult experience for both of them. But they are both entitled to respect, privacy and dignity in this.

And yet at the end this incredibly strong woman chose to take her life without telling her partner, Graham. She knew that if he were present when she died he would risk going to prison. She may also have known that he would have insisted on being present.

Dorothy Hookey’s death was an unnecessarily lonely death and we can only imagine Graham Hookey’s grief.

Yet despite overwhelming public support for euthanasia, there are no politicians in Australia who have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say, “This must stop.”

RIP Dorothy Hookey

RIP Dorothy Hookey

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Kerry O’Brien: still sharp, still the best

When Kerry O’Brien wrapped up a recent ABC Four Corners program on the problems faced by Australia’s returned servicemen and their shameful treatment by the defence forces and the government, he said (and I probably paraphrase a little)


So here’s a question for those politicians who were so happy to share the limelight with these troops when they were on active service overseas: “What have you done for them since their return?”


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Malcolm Fraser, Gough Whitlam and immigration policy

Last night’s ABC program on Malcolm Fraser paid due homage to the dead. It emphasised Fraser’s role in combating apartheid in Africa and most particularly his stance on Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam war. These are undoubtedly achievements that place him well above the normal run of politicians.

The issue of the Vietnamese refugees is particularly relevant today.

Fraser argued that Australia had responsibility to the Vietnamese who fought alongside Australian troops against the Vietcong. His decision to allow large numbers of these refugees into Australia was not a popular one in the electorate or with the bureaucracy.

There was bi-partisan agreement between Whitlam and Fraser on the issue although Fraser implied in the interview that Whitlam only agreed because he (Fraser) wedged Whitlam into a position where he could not to oppose the government rather than Whitlam agreeing as a matter of principle (but more of that later).

 Whitlam and Fraser: their attitude towards Vietnamese refugees should be an example to contemporary politicians

Whitlam and Fraser: their attitude towards Vietnamese refugees should be an example to contemporary politicians

It is a commentary on the lack of moral and ethical fibre in the political leadership of both  of the current parliamentary parties that on the issue of refugees the only bi-partisan agreement that exists is to send them to Nauru or Manus Island.

Fraser rightly condemned both political parties on this issue. His view will be the one that history will justify.

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