Letter to my grandson (vi)

Last weekend, we had a family celebration for Nana Di’s birthday. You excelled yourself, particularly in the birthday cake department and have grown increasingly adept at being the centre of attention.

I was telling your Auntie Susie that much of what I’ve written  on my blog (as distinct from my letters to you) particularly the political material, would probably not be of much interest to you.

10454317_10152769705170684_6296065938842218190_n Aunty Susie with her mum, Pat

Her response was interesting because she is reading the newspaper cuttings that her journalist grandfather, an international correspondent, had written some 50 years ago.  Its part of her family history.

It made me reflect on the writing that I’m doing for you which, I must add, has turned out to be a far more complex process than I had imagined.

The first complexity is that I don’t know who I am writing for, I know who I’m writing about, but that is quite different a different matter.   It may be that you will be reading this when you are quite young but then again, you could be reading it when you are my age and have your own grandchildren.

So in part, I am guided by the principle that I’m going to write what I now would’ve liked  written for me.

When I was doing my Masters degree in English at Auckland University, I was writing an essay on  the social conditions when Shakespeare was writing particularly in relation to the Puritans’ attitude toward the theatres.


Auckland University

What struck me was that history is ultimately made up of the records that individuals leave behind, letters, shopping lists, instructions to servants, entries in the parish register and diaries, particularly diaries. It is the minutiae of life that we so often overlook that becomes part of our personal and cultural history.

You are now nearly 20 months old and not yet at a point where you will remember your life up till now, not consciously anyway, so I am hoping to give you a sense of what you were like.

Here are two photographs of me from a time before when I could remember anything at the first house we lived in. The first is with my grandmother, your great, great grandmother Edith and the second is with my mum, your great-grandmother Kay.

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These photos were taken at the back of 57 Waipara Rd, Hataitai, in Wellington.   This is me and mum outside when I was 10 months old. I tried to find the house on Google maps but it appears to have been rebuilt.

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You can tell from this photo what the house next door looked like.

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And I think this is what it looks like today. Number 57 is on the left.


Here is another house in the street to give you a sense of what it was/is like.

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I’m not certain how long we lived here but it was probably about a year. Unfortunately, all the people who could tell me about it are now gone. So small chapter of family history has  closed forever, only the photographs remain.

So here’s my favourite photograph of you when you were about that age. I love this one because it looks as if you are laughing at one of my jokes.

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This is a shot of the Old Barbershop in Church St. where the photo was taken.

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When we lived at 164 Highett Street, we would meet you and your mum for coffee on most days. We would often sit at the table that is pictured on the right where Nana Di and I would take turns giving you cuddles. Often, when it was fine we would sit outside. The photograph of me holding is taken when I was sitting about with the man in the white shirt is sitting.

Your dad was born in Armidale in New South Wales,  Where we lived for two years while I studied for a Masters degree in Educational Administration at the University of New England. This is the house where we lived in Lawrence Avenue for our first year.   The car that is parked outside is the 1967 Ford Falcon sedan, our first car in Australia.

Armidale house

This is a photograph of your dad when we were living there.

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Later we moved to a house at The Armidale School  where I was a housemaster and taught for the second year of our stay in Armidale.

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This is a photograph of your dad playing outside in the front yard

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It wasn’t much of a house to live in.  On the day we were preparing to move in, we visited the house and was alive with fleas. The headmaster only begrudgingly agreed to have the place fumigated.

The only heating was a small stove in the living room so the room that your dad slept in came close to freezing over every night. We had to wrap him in multiple layers of pyjamas and sleeping bags to keep him from freezing to death.

Still, it was only for year and at the beginning of 1975, we moved to Frankston in Victoria.

A land of contrasts

Last night, we were treated to a tennis match between two of the great gentleman of international sport: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.   This picture of Djokovic says it all. Here is One of the world’s greatest tennis players getting a bit of help from the bellboy. Look at the expression on the kid’s face.  He will remember that night for the rest of this life.


A ball boy helps Novak Djokovic of Serbia stretch during his quarterfinal match against Kei Nishikori.

 And here are two of the great rivals of modern tennis, Federer and Nadal.


These three guys have written the textbook on how international sporting stars should conduct themselves with on the court and off.

On the home front, we were greeted by the news that one of Australia’s best-known rugby league players, Roosters captain Mitchell Pearce had been caught on video trying to have sex with the dog. The video is now humiliatingly and forever available on social media. In one drunken moment, Mitchell Pearce has managed to obliterated all the fans’ memories of his on-field greatness.  At best, he will be remembered as a dog lover.

Australian NRL players have form in a wide range of off-field misdemeanours.

 The recent list is pretty long

Cronulla Sharks sex scandal

Canterbury Bulldogs sexual assault scandal

Russell Packer’s assault conviction

Blake Fergusson sexual assault conviction

Joel Monaghan’s lewd act  (apparently also involved a dog)

Todd Carney’s ‘Bubbler’ photo

Julian O’Neill’s ‘poo in the shoe’

Gold Coast Titans drugs scandal

Konrad Hurrell’s Snapchat video

Where do you start trying to clean up the NRL?

Hercules 5th labour was cleaning out the Augean stables.

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Someone is going to need to get rid of a lot of shit

Out of step, out of touch, should be out of parliament.

Since his ignominious demise as Prime minister, Tony Abbott has been showing his true political colours, particularly in relation to gay marriage. Remember all the talk about a referendum when he was Prime Minister? It would never have happened and if it did, and the result was favourable, the obdurate right of the Parliamentary Liberal party would have found some way of torpedoing the vote.


 Eric Abetz  will vote against gay marriage even if the referendum supports it

In a statement of typically overwhelming hypocrisy Abbott said: “we need less ideology and more common sense” but reaffirmed his strong opposition to same sex marriage.”


There is apparently no truth in the rumour that Tony Abbott will increase the American Association of Onion Growers advocating eating raw onions as a cure for homosexuality.

It’s unbelievable that a man whose every action is driven by deep-seated right wing ideology should now start appealing to common sense to support his beliefs.  It’s been said that patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel, perhaps that should be appeals to common sense.

 Surely, common sense would dictate that the wishes of the majority of Australian electorate (as demonstrated in numerous polls) would be respected and gay marriage legalised. But that’s not Tony Abbott’s definition of common sense. Common sense is agreeing with Tony.

He continued by saying  “”Policymakers shouldn’t be judgmental about people’s personal choices but we can’t be indifferent to the erosion of family given its consequences for the wider community.”
Legalising gay marriage will not lead to any of social change in Australia. Most of the people who will be affected by the legislation are already living in same-sex marriages. The legislation would simply give the same legal rights to these people as are enjoyed by the rest of the population. The only consequence of this will be greater equality and equity within the Australian community and for people such as Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster.

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In the light of Abbott’s addressed to the lunatic right in America, it’s somewhat ironic to note that The Age reports that “Same sex marriage has been legal in the US since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June last year, but remains outlawed in Australia.”

Dropped the kids off at Nana’s and bought an $8 bottle of wine

I’m watching the tennis and there is an ad where a woman says “I’ve just dropped the kids off at Nana’s and bought an $8 bottle of wine.”

I want to make it quite clear to my children and their spouses that if they drop the kids off at Nana’s and  buy an $8 bottle of wine, we will find you at your $55 a night motel and dropped the kid/s off to spend the night with you.

We will then go home and drink Hill of Grace.


An Australia Day irony: (ii)

The predictable calls for a renewal of the Republican debate on Australia Day notably from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Australian of the Year, ex-army chief, David Morrison who said  “I will lend my voice to the republican movement in this country. It is time I think to at least revisit the question.”


Two leaders, two different approaches to a fight

But there was a marked contrast between these two and the Prime Minister where the Artful Dodger was at his very best.

But Malcolm Turnbull said it was his personal view that the best time to renew the campaign would be after the Queen’s reign. He said he did not want to repeat the failed 1999 referendum campaign that he spearheaded. “If you don’t want to have another heroic defeat, and you want it to be carried, the best time to do that will be after the end of the Queen’s reign,” he said.


 Malcolm is waiting for Madge to drop off the perch

His response, couched in nearly 3 minutes in his normal mellifluous verbosity boils down to this: “There are more important things to do and I’m not going to take the lead in something that might not be successful.”

Come on, Malcolm.

You’re the Prime Minister. You nearly made it last time when you weren’t Prime Minister and John Howard stitched up the referendum question.

Your support and influence will almost certainly carry the day. You are immensely popular and this is an immensely popular issue. Like gay marriage, like constitutional recognition of the first Australians, like an equitable tax system, like action on climate change.

Choose an issue, any issue, but choose something.

See also: Malcolm Turnbull’s moderate vision begins to fray


An Australia Day irony (i)

Another Australia Day has come and gone amid the normal fanfare of “Isn’t it great to be an Aussie” and celebration of all things Australian.




 Flag-waving crowds


 Patriotic barbecues

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 and a Citizenship Ceremony attended by Govenor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove

Yet it is this last picture that should give us all a course reflection. Many of us, me included, have made a choice to live in Australia for one very good reason: it’s a wonderful place to live and the smiles of the faces of the people in the Citizenship Ceremony photo are testimony to this.

 Yet there is a small but significant number of people (around 30,000) who wish to live in Australia but are being denied the right to refugee status in an unnecessarily cruel and repressive fashion.


The only crime that these people have committed is choosing the wrong way of coming to Australia.

Yet on the day when we celebrate the enormous benefits of being Australian, we appear to have lost sight of the plight of these people.

Our Asylum Seeker policy was designed to protect Australia from the flood of refugees that politicians feared would come from Indonesia. This policy came in two parts: stopping the boats and punishing the people who came on them. This second  policy element was designed as a deterrent to future refugees.

The “Stop the Boats” policy appears to have been extremely successful, in and of itself, and with the money and energy that Australia devotes to border security, it would appear that it will continue to be successful.

So why not abandon the second part of the policy and grant the 30,000 people who are languishing in conditions that are an international disgrace, refugee status in Australia?

And what better time for our mellifluous Prime Minister to announce such a move than Australia Day?

Yet, while we all celebrate the joys of being Australian, we continue to deny that privilege to people who so desperately want it.

Referendums – the rules according to Eric Abetz

Now who said this?I would need to determine whether [the plebiscite] really is an accurate reflection [of the national view], whether it is all above board or whether the question is stacked, whether all sides received public funding,” he told the Guardian Australia.” (My emphasis)

Before you answer, let me recall that the last referendum (on the republic) was whether Australians wanted a head of state elected by the parliament.

The weasel-wording of the question was the work of John Howard, well-known for his opposition to the republic.


 John Howard and the Republican referendum: we were lucky to get a vote at all

The measure was voted down, not because people didn’t want a republic, but because they didn’t want the politicians electing head of state. This was at a time when the Australian people trusted the Wiggles more than they trusted politicians.

The referendum had two questions rolled into one whereas, it should have been two  separate questions.

(1) Do you want Australia to become a republic?

(a)  Yes

(b) No

(2) Who do you want the Head of state elected by?

(a)  the Parliament

(b) the Australian people

To summarise: The Australian people were dudded.

But to come back to my original question, this is a quote from Senator Abetz on the question of gay marriage. The senator will not be bound by the results of the plebiscite to be held after the next election.

He went on to say “It would be up to each member to decide whether the plebiscite accurately reflects the views of the Australian people, whether it reflects the views of their electorates and whether it is good or bad public policy in their view”


Eric Abetz: “Referendum? I don’t give a stuff about the referendum.”

This is a staggering piece of hypocrisy from a man who was only prepared to listen to the will of the people when it suits him.

When asked whether he would bind his MPs to vote ‘yes’ if that is the plebiscite result, Mr Turnbull told Parliament last year that “the consequence of a ‘yes’ vote in the plebiscite will be that same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia”.

It’s time for this dinosaur to leave our national parliament to make way for someone whose views are more in touch with ordinary Australians and who shows some respect for our democratic processes.


Go Tone, I knew you wouldn’t disappoint

The Age reports that:

Fresh from giving new hope to disaffected conservative Liberals by staying in federal politics, Tony Abbott will fly to the United States on Tuesday to gee-up one of the religious right’s most reactionary bodies, the Alliance Defending Freedom…. a pro-Christian, Republican-aligned lobby, which opposes abortion, wants to end gay marriage and is pushing to roll back some feminist advances.

Some right-wing MPs believe he can be restored to the top job, and that in the interim, he should be elevated to the cabinet

Apparently, Tony will be speaking on the importance of family and will be accompanied by his wife, Margy who was used to keeping a tight grip on him.



It is not certain yet whether he will be addressing the American Housewives Baking Association on the importance of apple pie.

Nor is it certain whether he will be addressing the American Nursing Mothers Association on the importance of motherhood.

Abbott doesn’t seem to realise that the more he associates with the radical right, particularly the loonies in America, the sharper the distinction between him and Malcolm Turnbull becomes. Nor does he seem to realise that it is exactly that distinction that led to his being deposed as Prime Minister and led to a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the Federal Liberal party.

Almost everything he does now reinforces the idea that he wasn’t a very good Prime Minister and that getting rid him was an extremely good idea.

An Australia day reflection

In a thoughtful piece entitled ” We all interpret the meanin of ‘Australian’’ — and ‘‘unAustralian’’ — through th prism of our own prejudices.”, social researcher and author Hugh Mackay writes

Moral blindness is, of course, a very contemporary problem as well. With the encouragement of leaders on both sides of politics, we risk becoming morally blind to our responsibilities towards those who have come here as refugees seeking asylum. We can tip-toe around this and speak of human rights abuses, or a failure to honour our international treaty obligations. But why mince words in the face of the intentional brutality – psychological and physical – being inflicted by Australia on asylum-seekers, including children, imprisoned in our offshore detention centres? Why not call our asylumseeker detention policy what it is: immoral.

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It’s immoral because it treats people who have committed no crime as if they were criminals. It’s immoral because it fails to honour a moral principle we would normally claim as one of Australia’s core values: fairness. It’s immoral because it fails the basic test of human decency: treating other people with dignity and respect. Would we really enshrine ‘‘the end justifies the means’’ as a principle to be celebrated on Australia Day?

He concludes by saying:

If Australia Day is for pondering Australian society – rather than simply rejoicing in the fact that we’re here, and it’s summer – perhaps we should stop asking ‘‘what is an Australian?’’ and focus on the kind of society we are creating.    There is much to be proud of, much to celebrate, much to look forward to.    But we should also acknowledge that all is not well. Millions of Australians, many of them young, suffer from depression or anxiety, domestic violence is rife, and there’s a tougher sense of mistrust and intolerance creeping into our culture. Stark and growing income inequality mocks our claim to be an egalitarian society. Social fragmentation and shrinking households increase the risk of loneliness.    On a day like this, we would do well to remember those trapped in the shadows of such trends. They, too, are Australians.

Hope is not lost

Cartoonists and bloggers can draw a deep sigh of relief:

A defiant Tony Abbott has resisted calls for him to quit politics and will recontest his seat of Warringah at the next federal election.

Naturally enough, this decision has been cloaked in commentary that he only wants to be a local MP and has no further designs on the Prime Ministership. But he’s a religious man and is also aware that Kevin Rudd came back from the dead.


George Cattermole (1800 – 1868) The Raising of Lazarus

However, James Massola writes in The Age The protests from Abbott’s supporters that he is no Kevin Rudd are, for the time being, only about half right. The proof will be in how Abbott conducts himself in the year ahead.

My advice to Tony Abbott if he is looking to make a political comeback that the higher levels is “Keep wearing silly hats, Tony, it gives you a political gravitas and relevance that you currently lack.”