If politics were played like rugby (ii): Malcolm Turnbull and the very cross bench

One of the great innovations in rugby has been the use of the bench where 8 player can be held in reserve for some time in the match  to meet the changing needs of the game.

The reserves bench. All Blacks v Ireland. Iveco International Rugby test. Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand. Saturday 7 June 2008. Photo: Marc Weakley/PHOTOSPORT

Often the strength of your bench would the decisive factor in with you one or lost.

When Malcolm Turnbull became captain-player-coach of the Australian Wallaby Parliamentary team, he decided to change the rules about the bench. He didn’t give it enough thought and what he ended up with was cross bench, in fact a very cross bench.

A cross bench is a group of players who are on the bench and who are very very cross about almost everything.  And almost to a man and woman they are cross with the  government for some reason.

The general rule is that the coach can bring players off the bench to replace players who may be injured or tired but also not playing well.  It is a one-on/one-off system.

But the cross bench doesn’t work to these rules.

They don’t belong to either side so they can simply run on the field whenever they feel like it.

They can play for whichever side they like and even change sides while on the field.

They don’t even have to play rugby.  One Nation now has enough senators to challenge Team Xenophon to a game of quoits.

It can make life terribly confusing for the two sides who are actually trying to play rugby: all these odds and sods was running round, getting in the way and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they came on and played for the same side but they don’t.

Members of the old Palmer United Party gave up on trying to have a coordinated approach and supporting one side or the other. It was surprising because one of them was the Brick with Ears who actually knew how a bench should work and also how to run in the same direction consistently.


 The Brick with Ears when he understood how a bench worked


The Brick with Ears with the cross bench when the sense of direction seem to have departed

 A major problem for Malcolm is that most the new cross bench aren’t really interested in playing rugby at all when they are on the field.  There are just interested in attracting attention to themselves.

One Nation Senator 72 Malcolm Roberts regularly runs on the field dressed as a clown.

Nick Xenophon regularly turns up dressed as a scuba diver.4004be6d62f11aa6eb3201ea16adf2cd

Liberal democrats David Leyonhjelm often runs on carrying an imitation rifle and handing out free cigarettes to the players.

Pauline Hanson started turning up in her ballroom dress trying to reprise her Dancing with the Stars days.  She got tired of the large sweaty front row forwards asking her for a quick knees up.


So she changed tactics to demanding “please explain” every time the referee blows his whistle.

Many referees try to explain, but have as much success as anyone else explaining something to Pauline Hanson.

 As a result, slanging matches develop between the referee, the cross bench and the players on both sides, much to the displeasure of the paying public who turned up to see a rugby match.

 Most people blame Malcolm.


 So do I.

Letter to my grandson (xxiv)

A couple of weeks ago, it was decided for various grown-ups reasons, that your mum would pick you up from daycare. Your Nana and I normally pick you up around 4 o’clock in the afternoon but your mum is working and picks you up about an hour and half later. Apparently, you were in tears when she arrived.

I’m not certain why you were crying, but I felt terrible. I thought that you must’ve felt abandoned by your Nana and Papa and it must’ve been terrible being one of the last children to be picked up and that you must been so lonely.

I remember when this happened to me when I was small. The first time must have been when I was three or four years old and we were visiting a farm somewhere. I went into town with the relative (let’s call him Jim) in what was a pretty old truck even in those days.  I remember that it looked something like this


When we got into town, Jim left me in the truck with the engine running. I remember him explaining to me that it was quite safe and that it was because the truck was very hard to start. But most importantly I was to sit still and stay where I was.

It was a pretty scary experience because I didn’t really know that the truck wasn’t going to drive off with me in it and it was shaking and rattling quite a bit.  Not at all like Papa Paynes beautiful Chrysler Saratoga which was the only other car I ever rode in.


I did whether Jim was reliable or not and I didn’t really like being alone in the truck.

So I set off to look for Jim. Naturally enough, I couldn’t find him and got lost in a strange town. I don’t remember exactly how everything ended but someone must’ve seen a small tearful child standing in the shop and come to my rescue. Jim was duly found. I don’t remember what happened after that. I suspect that Jim got into more trouble than I did, if he actually told my mother and grandmother what had happened. But it was my first experience of being alone, completely lost and not knowing what to do.

The other experience was my first night at Scots College in Wellington as a boarder. The family had moved to Auckland and it was decided I should finish the last term of the year as a boarder.  I think it was also part of the general plan to “straighten me out”, “teach me a thing or two” or some other misguided idea about what an eight-year-old needs.

I remember the first night  sitting on my bed alone in the dormitory just after my parents had dropped me off.  I had nothing except my school uniform and my pyjamas. I left my friends and my extensive toy collection at home in Ngaio and the family would soon be moving everything to Auckland.

I don’t remember being frightened but I do remember thinking that the world had changed and that it was going be pretty lonely from now on.  I also remember not being particularly daunted by this. It was only for a term and I’d be off to Auckland.  I didn’t recognise it at the time, but it was the first time that I realised that often you can find yourself on your own but you can also look after yourself if you can be brave.

I’m just sorry that you may have been asked to learn that lesson at daycare.

So I rang you the next week on Thursday night and got you on the phone and said,  “Would you like Nana and Papa  to pick you up from school tomorrow?”  You said, “Okay.” I have not heard you say that before and I thought we had a deal. Then I heard your mum say, “No, Winton, you’re not going to Nana and Papa’s place now. It’s tomorrow after school.” So much for my understanding of the situation.

We picked you up the next week at 4pm as usual. You were standing waiting with your coat  and backpack on and holding your dummy and your blanket. You leapt into your Nana’s arms.

See you next Friday 4pm sharp.

Looking forward to that beautiful smile.

Red door edit

Another consequence of climate change: melting permafrost and the spread of disease

The Guardian reports that: Record-high temperatures melted Arctic permafrost and released deadly anthrax spores from a thawing carcass of a caribou that had been infected 75 years ago and had stayed frozen in limbo until now. This all suggests that it may not be easy to predict which populations will be most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.


This diagram is a vicious circle or positive feedback loop. These are  often characterised by exponential rates of change. This means that things speed up as time goes by and things get much worse much more quickly than people expect.

It is usually so cold in the tundra that the ground is perennially frozen in deep layers that can date back 3m years. But the usual circumstances no longer apply at the top of the world. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. In fact, the area of the anthrax outbreak was 18F (10C) hotter than average, with temperatures reaching 95F (35C). In addition to releasing ancient microbes, melting layers of permafrost also release methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, that in turn causes further warming.

See Permafrost In a Warming World

This simple diagram explains the process.


This diagram is a vicious circle or positive feedback loop. These are  often characterised by exponential rates of change. This means that things speed up as time goes by and things get much worse much more quickly than people expect.



Clinton must have sent more emails than a Nigerian Prince seeking your banking details.

A judge has ordered the US State Department to review for possible release 14,900 of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails, sent through a private email server she used while serving as secretary of state.

That brings  the total number of emails and texts she sent during the five year period as Secretary of State to just under 45,000. That’s 9000 year or 25 a day, roughly one per hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for five years.  Assuming she doesn’t sleep.


Her thumbs must’ve been exhausted.

If politics were played like rugby (i): Michaelia Cash drops the ball in the First Test

When Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as playing captain, a selector and coach of the Australian Wallaby Parliamentary rugby team, he made it quite clear that he had a plan. There would never be a better time, he told fans, to be a Wallaby supporter.Hopes were high, he had been a very successful player at club level and was particularly well known for his after match speeches. Some of the hard heads doubted whether he had the goods to play at the highest level.

He had an opportunity to rearrange the team for the upcoming  to buy England and the Four Nations competition. A number of the old team had either moved on to accept lucrative contracts to play overseas (Joe Hockey playing for the Washington Diplomats in the US), decided to play in the minor-league (Tony Abbott now playing for the Warringah Dolphins)  or simply couldn’t get a game with anybody any longer (Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz).

In a reshuffle of the team, Turnbull decided to play Michaelia Cash at the important position of inside centre/Minister for Employment.

It was a brave decision to a appoint the 52 kg Cash who has a dodgy hammy and a nasty nasal twang to a position where she will be consistently marking the likes of 105kg Julian Savea, affectionately known as “The Bus.”


She had her first run over the weekend in the disastrous test against the All Blacks and demonstrated she isn’t quite on the plan whatever the plan might be.

No one told Michaelia Cash that you don’t take the plan on the field with you, you are meant to get it right during practice. So when the pressure came on, Michaelia was busy trying to find a cross-reference or a highlighted section that told her what to do. By the time she found it, which wasn’t too often, it was too late. She had missed The Bus.

One of the problems for Cash, apart from the fact that she probably hadn’t read the plan before she ran on for a major test match, is that the plan probably isn’t a very good one. With losses now in the series against England and a fairly significant defeat in the first Bledisloe cup match, continuing with the current plan will probably be a mistake.   Term bull’s problem is that changing the plan may be a problem for a slow reader like Cash.

It was also quite clear on the day that her ball handling skills were not up to scratch particularly under the lofted punts that seem to come her way with increasingly frequently.


Michael Cash demonstrates her technique for handling the high ball.

 The problem for playing captain, a selector and coach Malcolm Turnbull is whether he can get someone with Cash’s ball handling skills, to start doing this.


 Is going to be a big ask and a very long Bledisloe Cup campaign

All Blacks turned the test match into a practice game

Last night, the All Blacks beat Australia by 42-8.  The All Blacks didn’t score as many points in the second half but that was scarcely because the Australians were playing any better.

It was because there was an interesting change of tactics on the All Blacks’ part in the second half. In the first half, the all Blacks  played to their strengths: maintain position, run the ball straight at the opposition in midfield and then move the ball wide to the big 90kg outside backs.

It’s effective, it’s brutal and is devastatingly effective particularly when it reaches the third and fourth phase and the defence is beginning to be badly stretched. And particularly when you can vary the play in midfield with a player like Beaudin Barrett, who looks to be every bit as good an attacking player as Dan Carter.376C3C4600000578-3750255-image-a-20_1471694117192

It’s even more difficult to counteract when there’s a player standing out in the centres like 105kg hooker Dane Coles who runs and handles like a back


So it would appear that at half time, the All Blacks brains trust decided that the game was pretty well sown up and they didn’t need another 30 points using the same tactics. So they decided to practice and polish the kicking game so instead of running the ball directly at the Australians, they began kicking it.

Late in the second half,  New Zealand was within 30m of the Australian goal-line and Aaron Cruden, the New Zealand five eight, had the ball with four men outside him and only two Australians in position to cover them. Conventional wisdom would have been to pass the ball. Given the all Blacks handling skills, a try would have been inevitable.

But he didn’t pass the ball. He kicked it.  High in the air from the far corner and full back Israel Dagg.


The kick was perfectly placed. Dagg took the ball at speed and dived over for one of those perfect tries in the corner,  airborne as he grounds the ball with millimetres to spare.

It was a virtuoso performance. And when you think about it, it was unbelievably arrogant.  It was as if Cruden was saying, “Look, I know we can score from here but watch this. This is the hard way of doing it.” Then he did, perfectly.

As I said, they turned it into a practice match.