A Grain Of Salt 2019

CoolA Grain of Salt. LATE JUNE. 2019

When we are gifted with a beautiful sunny June day here on the Mornington Peninsula, 18 degrees, no wind, 4 lazy hours, one can almost forget the presence of our Prime Minister. Not the honourable Peter Dutton sadly, but as I live by Little fish are sweet we count our blessings, and as always, the more you get the more you want, meaning we dream of a 2019 Collingwood premiership as a blanket, covering our political pain. Alternatively we watch Killing Eve on our underfunded ABC for masochism, or play the movie Get Shorty with John Travolta for escapism.


Three years is not a lifetime, unless of course you cark it. If you break it down to months it's a mere 36. Already one month has slipped on by. It's going to be interesting. I've been on Shorten's side the past 6 years, despite his benevolence in promises during the lead-up to the  election. Now we have Anthony Albanese, clearly not my first choice. Indeed, not second or third. The best I can muster is he's marginally better than Morrison. Two of my billy lids went to a Greek Island for a spell. Good thinking if time and money don't intrude, leaving moire to face another Winter (and the evil Liberal party) all alone. Yes, I have the time, but not for some 22 hours in (and on) an aeroplane. And the loss of soaking up a Collingwood victory, or two. Presently, Australia is a haunted house, clearly, specifically, designed to intimidate, and the name of the ghost is Security! To say we need a Bill of Rights is the understatement of the past 6 years. Well, since John Howard's Tampa in fact. Theoretically a chance for our Prime Minister to go down in history. Terrorists behind every corner, albeit we have more murders in a month in Melbourne, more than terrorist activities the past 5 years in the whole country? Intended to scare whistleblowers and obviously to keep the work of the AFP and other security agencies secret, including where any referrals come from; unless it's the coalition government? Power exploited, plain and simple. And worse, the changes to the criminal code, cleared by Labor for fear of political implications/backlashes, (cast as opposition to national security?) biting all of us on the bum. Politicians are whistleblowers, but in their cases it's termed leaks? Why do I bother? I don't really, not for self. At 83 it's too late for me to worry. I'm more into hallucinations than reality; friends long gone. Writing fills in the time. I suppose I could exercise, as advised by my doctor. Alas I hear the words of G.K.Chesterton "The trouble about always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind". 


The bigger picture? Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a former whistleblower, urged the Coalition to “back off” and let the press do its job, calling for a full investigation into the police raids on the ABC and News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst as well as a warning to 2GB radio host Ben Fordham, also criticising Labor for agreeing to laws that silence the media.  [NOTE: Martin Niemoller’s observation about trying to live in 1930s Germany: ‘‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. ‘‘Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. ‘‘Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. ‘‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”] 


Courtesy of edited copies from The Saturday Paper June 15-21, 2019. SECURITY 1: Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo “It would be mortally dangerous to our system of government for the public service to come to possess an aggrandised conception of its role in the proper processes of government – as the ultimate guardian of ‘the public interest’, located outside of the political process. There is no legitimate basis for contending that unelected officials have any purportedly ‘supranational’ responsibility as custodians of the ‘public interest’, somehow separately identified from the domain that is termed too often to be that of ‘politics’.” A public servant, in response “All things being equal, he’s right. Public servants shouldn’t think that they’re players. We shouldn’t be crusading. That’s really fundamental stuff. We’re not elected. Public servants aren’t elected. We can’t be agitating in the public service as some kind of shadow opposition if we don’t like the government. “But all things aren’t equal. The government leaks when it suits them. It distorts intelligence briefings when it suits them, knowing it’s unlikely the [intelligence] community will publicly correct them. Department advice is weaker and weaker in terms of frank and fearless advice. The whole work of departments can be distorted by political schemes, rather than problem-solving. So, I agree that public servants shouldn’t be above the social contract. We’re servants, and maybe a part of that is putting up with the bullshit of our political masters. If you can’t hack it, leave. Fair enough. But don’t give me this high-minded bullshit when we know the score.” Andrew Wilke, independent member for Clark “Our whistleblower laws are not sufficient. The centrepiece is the Public Interest Disclosure Act, and while it was good that we finally got that legislation, what we did get was quite deficient. The obvious gap in it is that it simply doesn’t apply to security officials [it does, but minimally]. There’s no whistleblower protection for intelligence insiders. As far as I understand it, it wouldn’t apply to Defence personnel. Interestingly, it doesn’t apply to members of parliament’s staff. Now, when this gets to parliament, the opposition wave it through. If it’s the Coalition, well, they’re hawkish on security reforms, while Labor are scared stiff of being seen to be weak on national security. So, it sails through parliament, barely contested. In December last year, when the federal parliament passed controversial encryption laws that require tech companies to grant intelligence agencies and law enforcement access to encrypted communications, Labor was publicly critical of the bill and drafted amendments that the party said would improve it. But on the year’s last parliamentary sitting day, then opposition leader Bill Shorten surprised some in his own party by dropping the amendments. The law passed, unchanged and lightly examined."


SECURITY 2: 1980, High Court Justice Anthony Mason wrote: “It can scarcely be a relevant detriment to the government that publication of material concerning its actions will merely expose it to public discussion and criticism. It is unacceptable in our democratic society that there should be a restraint on the publication of information relating to government when the only vice of that information is that it enables the public to discuss, review and criticise government action.”


SECURITY 3: Maxine Beneba Clarke. The Saturday Paper’s poet laureate...


first, the Ministry of Truth doctored language


their words weaponry, loaded and aimed:


asylum seekers became illegals


they said detention centres, not jails 


then the Ministry of Peace


          tweaked the laws from the nuremberg trials:


said the free in free speech meant hate


they tabled fascist slogans in the parliament;


and burnt the universal declaration


it turned out their robust economy


was just smoke and mirrors for the election win:


that the Ministry of Plenty’d worked overtime


          to spin doubleplus fake-news


they brought in the Ministry of Home Affairs


(calling it border control laid their brute-force too bare)


          the people baulked,


but six months down the track


word-nationalism became normal


meanwhile, in perth,


          orwellian telescreens


scanned every passing face


and they said there’s nothing to fear


if you’ve nothing to hide


     (from the thought-crime database)


the people, terrified, whispered


it’s just like that book – like 1984


room 101 was guantánamo


and false weapons


                     caused decade-long wars


last, they sent men in dark tailored suits,


          with signed warrants,


to the homes of the tellers of truth:


day raids, brazen


          like we’d never seen


when the Ministry of Truth doctored language,


          in the year 2019.


One wonders as to the old football supporters refrain "Have a go ya mug" or plain simple mongrel!? Apparently some supporters, particularly the AFL and some umpires, may take offence; result, thrown out of the ground? I'm  advised, after checking with  senior members of the Cotton Wool Society something to the order of "Fair go umpire" passes muster, by a whisker. Hard to believe such nonsense exists. PC gone wild. 


Joke of the month, or the year? Morrison: "I expect the ABC board to do better, and if they don't, they can expect a bit more attention from me."...Fremantle/Port Adelaide free kicks 32/15. Strange, those two Perth clubs, complaining about the hard ground surface, never mention the free kicks?...Lifelong sports follower; cricket, football women's tennis, but never ever, basketball...John Setka, a hatchet job, no thanks to Albanese. Can we count on Albo for Julian Assange, Nauru/Manus prisoners, or simply a desire for admiration, attention, status, and hopefully fame?...The Bob Hawke memorial, Bob and his granddaughter 1989, the catastrophe of climate change...Peter Reith, Member of the Order of Australia. Queens birthday 2019?... A good double, Adam Goodes and Rosie Batty...The Age newspaper, Murdoch undercover?...Yesterday was nice, the good bits anyway, if you were lucky, but really, what really counts, no matter what happened yesterday, is today, and tomorrow..."A mountain range of rubbish, like an old volcano, and its geological foundation was dust. Coal dust, vegetable dust, bone dust, crockery dust, rough dust, and sifted dust - all manner of Dust in the accumulated Rubbish." [Dickens, Our Mutual Friend)...Hooroo...www.ello8.com



WildToday we mourn the passing of Common Sense, who will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair and maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His/her health began to deteriorate rapidly when overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his/her condition. Common Sense lost more ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement for damages. Common Sense was preceded in death, by his/her parents, Truth and Trust, by his/her wife/husband. Discretion, by his/her daughter, Responsibility, by his/her son, and Reason. He/she is survived by his/her 4 stepbrothers; namely I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame and I'm A Victim. 



A Grain of Salt. JUNE. 2019


I had every intention to set aside this writing caper, enforced after the long winded election lead-up and confirmed as we waved goodbye to a 'please everybody' Billy Shorten. [Poor Billy. Those 'please everybody' policy extras added on to appease some of his fellow opposition cabinet members, thus, he underlined his need for popularity ahead of direction, decisiveness, lack of leadership. A good man, but no leader. Will Anthony Albanese make a difference? If he doesn't the Labor party in muchos trouble. Bugger it. Up to a point most of them (in Canberra) featherbed their own nests, degrees of crookedness. Let it ride, no one is completely innocent, hope for the best, in the form of a leader with a vision, inspirational?] Alas. The cold mornings, awake at 6am, and staying in the cot, warm, engulfing, until 8am, sometimes 9am, trying to give myself a good reason to get out of bed to face the day. Politics was enjoying a quiet time, Morrison in the Solomon islands, a $250 million grant (ex the foreign aid budget) and onwards to Queen Elizabeth. For a month or so, June at least, smell the roses, the orchids. Keep warm. True, I expected fireworks, eventually, particularly from Home Affairs via minister Peter Dutton, but not so early! Silly me. Disinformation specialist Peter doesn't have any roses to smell. Hope, a necessity or an incurable disease?



"Alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security?" Australian Federal Police officers raided the home of a News Corp journalist, Annika Smethurst, (authority to access her home, computer and mobile phone) in what the media company has called a ‘‘dangerous act of intimidation’’ after she reported on a secret government proposal to give Australia’s cyber spies unprecedented powers. The actions are in connection to a story published in April last year revealing internal government discussions about introducing new powers for electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate. News Corp’s report included details from a secret internal document proposing new abilities to ‘‘proactively disrupt and covertly remove’’ onshore threats by ‘‘hacking into critical infrastructure’’. Undermining Australia’s national security? More accurately allowing the ASD to target Australians, as opposed to enemies on foreign soil. Under the banner of national security; in plain lingo, upping the fear game. Not enough? Add in the ABC and David McBride facing lengthy jail time for providing documents to the public broadcaster on the conduct of special forces in Afghanistan, which prompted the Wednesday (5th June) raids. Our PM (and Home Affairs minister) tell us they were unaware of the raids. Fair enough. Next question: What action are they going to take to ensure the Australian Signals Directorate are taken to task, and ensure no more repeats? Sorry. I was dreaming.



The documentary on Adam Goodes (The Final Quarter) highlights (again) the 13 year old Collingwood girl Goodes called out during a game and of course Eddie McGuire's Aussie crack (joke) gone wrong. Sam Newman at the time, on the now axed The Footy Show "They're booing you because you acted like a jerk. You take yourself too seriously." Fast forward to the documentary and they are all queueing up to praise Goodes and heap scorn on anyone who dares to disagree. Should we have a treaty? By all means. Now a suggested change in our national anthem. "For we are young and free" to "For we are strong and free"  No problem, just the one request. May all who sing this song pronounce 'advance' correctly?



Mark Twain, I think? "When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself." Ditto.



"Many a tear has to fall, but it's all, in the game." Politicians, elite thinkers? Possibly, but we can never tell, as both sides sprout their policies notwithstanding? Are they, as over 5750 informal Flinders voters inferred, "all crooks"? We are told of “elite” sportspeople. Yet sadly, in most cases this apparent eliteness does not necessarily marry up with an elite brain. The more money these elites attract the more we are drawn to their (less than) elite opinions. In the world of AFL football the (mostly) former elites, now known as commentators, sprouting fairness but fooling few (like politicians), more often disclose the area of the former elite brain has yet to show growth. Are Morrison and/or Albanese elite, or simply cunning? We live in hope. At this time in Australian politics anything serves as a relief, as in a Collingwood victory. "All in that wonderful game, that we know, so well...".



"Man was not born criminal but fell into error through unfortunate circumstances or the influence of negative elements. All crimes great and small could be traced to post capitalist avarice, egoism, sloth, parasitism, drunkenness, religious prejudices or inherited depravity." [Martin Cruz Smith; Gorky Park]



At the RSL, a lady, jocular conversation, asking what I first looked at in a female. The inference, as I saw it, being men looked at the female body first and foremost; legs, bums and boobs sort of thing. 'The eyes' I responded, looking her straight between her eyes. I took the quick easy way out, all alone in the dedicated smoking area, knowing, while it's nice to be spoken too, equally nice to be pleasant in response, the reality at my age is invisibility. More likely the lady was between spins on her (poker) machine, having a quick cigarette game break as respite, maybe a memory hangover from her home life, maybe not. I don't deny it's a good question. Unusual of course, why me? Something to mull over after her evacuation, based on my thinking in years gone by. True, we all judge. Instinctively I always checked the eyes. A lot of truth there. Equally I ignored the tall traditionally attractive ladies. No point going where you don't belong, not being a footballer or famous in any way. I was never one for backsides, though I've known a few females who expressed an interest in this area with footballers. Never any interest in the size of boobs. Nowadays men (and particularly women) go to great lengths to make themselves (seemingly) more attractive; cosmetic surgery. Apart from spending to fix obvious faults one wonders why? Isn't it all about personality, a form of agreeable charm? Who's to know. Proust said you could seduce any woman if you were willing to sit and let her complain until 4 in the morning. I've never tried it, but then I've never been one to chase after a female. Still, in the interests of honesty I'll admit, the sighting of a stocking top, brown or black (not white) induced an unforced higher blood pressure, occasionally. 



ATO deputy commissioner Deborah Jenkins "The new hotline would roll out from July 1 and would let the public report any activity from businesses that could indicate they could be dodging their responsibilities – including offering discounts for cash. We want people to contact us and tell us about instances where people might not be doing the right thing,’’ Hypocrisy? Whistleblower Richard Boyle and look what is happening to him; the offer of a settlement refused. Why? He believed doing so would help afford him protection under Australia’s whistleblower regime. The ATO was up to these tactics 45 years ago when I worked in Bankruptcy. Low life tactics (garnishees), sometimes caught, but unstoppable.


Military lawyer David McBride "“I think it says everything about the problem today that if you describe my situation without saying my nationality, you would think we were talking about China or Russia,”...The Age editorial "There is no doubt the police do a sterling job in protecting the community". True enough, but the primary job is to protect the rich?.....Hooroo...www.ello8.com


Saturday June 1st.

I liken the election to the Corangamite result, where the Liberal Party showered it with goodies which failed to change the Labor result, more or less similar with a bonanza of Labor promises to no avail, albeit a narrow loss. Add in Shorten's lack of popularity. I see the need in any election is to win, thus honing in (opposing) the other Party's faults. Morrison did just that with Labor, settling on Shorten himself being the main fault, ramming it home day after day, admittedly assisted by the Murdoch machine and the lies being force fed to the clueless, and Shorten's lot adding in too many unnecessary goodies. Six years of the Liberals surely provided a number of targets to attack, assisted by a small number of changes. The be all has to focus on winning, the ideals coming, arguing for, later, in government?



CryingA Grain of Salt. The wash-up. Finale. May, 2019.

I'll fade into the distance, slowly, hopefully, retaining a thinking function and warding off the possibility of a rest home. Dying is no big deal but the brain and eyesight can be concerns. I began my nonsense (Salt) back in 2007. This is the finale. True, one needs to keep busy, but even at 83 one also needs change, of sorts. I've been into change for as long back as I can remember. Twenty years a public servant, a lifetime in itself. Keating was spot on, "The nutters are in charge" rusted on during the last few years of those twenty. Forty as an actor, 37 as a part time casual at racecourses and these final 12 years. During all those 67 years my mind has been constantly full of ideas, still is, almost all never acted upon. No big deal. A bit like when I went overseas with darling Mary, 1996 (first time, her 4th, as my offer of compliance?). Darling was off out daily, double decker buses et al while I settled for coffees, on footpaths, smelling the roses and more ideas, including counting the days to return home. Maybe podcasts is the new go? I don't watch television until 7pm and sit there for five hours (all recorded, to fast forward perceived rubbish) and often drift off during a show into yet another brilliant idea, drift back, rewind to where I lost the thread, etc. Maybe settle for the odd opinion on my Facebook page, read a good book, walk more. Or, as Maria Ressa (Rappler co-founder and the political situation in the Philippines ahead of the country’s May 13 midterm elections, the first test of Morrison lookalike Rodrigo Duterte’s continuing hold on popularity) says “There are four noble truths, and the first noble truth is that all life is suffering. And if you accept that all life is suffering, then everything is good. I am not kidding. It really works!” By and large everything has indeed been good for me, albeit almost always the early realisation of a show run by (and servicing, in the main) dickheads. Once realised, one steers a path to suit oneself. A strange world when you think about it. True, I've almost always done it Frank Sinatra's way, and made enemies, but in fact made many more friends, admittedly mostly dead. It's very possible to be nice (to waitresses) and still decide against the restaurant specials, and come out smiling. Particularly tricky as an actor to be sure, near impossible in the public service (building castles) but nevertheless achievable, as I see it, or saw it. I wrote this column in a local paper for 7 years, until a dickhead popped his head up requiring an exit.  The culture of our country is central to its heart and health. Without it we  risk a race of philistines, crude and aimless pleasure seekers. Can't recall who wrote this, but spot on. Cheers to all. It's been fun. 


I wrote to the great Gough Whitlam in the 70‘s asking why he supported Indonesia's takeover of East Timor. Days later Gough telephoned, carefully explaining his reasoning. True. He caught me off guard, unprepared, my letter on file. Short term, and in that moment, I agreed to disagree, overcome (for once?) in Gough being on the other end of my telephone line. We who lived through those years were so very lucky. Gough stood head and shoulders (literally and spiritually) above everyone. He was our star, our inspiration, our hope, by a mile. “Optimism, enthusiasm and confidence against fear, prejudice and conformity”. At Gough’s memorial service Graham Freudenberg said “never more than now”. Eventually another arrived, in the form of Bob Hawke. 


Saturday 18th May, 2019. Election Day: Fortunately Collingwood defeated St Kilda during my "nap" time thus providing a back-up in the event of the previously unthinkable disaster, in plain language putting up with "the mouth" of Scotty Morrison for another three years. What can't be cured must be endured, or Labor's too much too soon? Coming to terms with the result, indicating thousands upon thousands of everyday Australians voted in favour of a man who has the interests of the rich becoming richer? Depressing, but sadly no surprise. Not that you would know it around 9pm. The warning signs, the heart pouring out the blood, a likely panic attack. A victory for Scott Morrison on a platform of doing bugger all (as in the rich getting richer) coupled with the weeks of personal attacks by Scotty (and the Murdoch press) on the so called evils of voting for Bill Shorten. Respect the wishes of the Australian voters? I think not. Sad for the way so many Australian voters are lead by the nose, indubitably. The passing of the great Bob Hawke only emphasised the difference rather than help Bill Shorten. Bob walked, talked, danced, pranced like a true blue Aussie. Not so Billy, try as he might, emphasised, again, by his prancing, dancing. Bowman Hall, Blacktown. Where 47 years ago, Gough Whitlam delivered his landmark “It’s Time” speech; Keating’s contribution. All seemingly well and good but on second thoughts, no offence to Billy, emphasising the difference. An old song in and out of my emotional mind - ”It’s not the same anymore, it’s not the same when (they) walked right out that door”. An urgent need for a valium, 2 ml only, to see out the next two hours. "Calm down" I tell myself. I survived Henry Bolte when he hung Ronald Ryan. Bastards. Selfish stupid bastards. Getting too old for these crooks. Switched to a replay of the football; didn't work. Watch it Sunday. Come 11pm the valium does the job. Shorten walks of course, as he had to. The scare campaign, One Nation, Palmer’s United Australia Party, Queensland dickheads, all contributed, but the bottom line was Shorten’s unpopularity. A mystery, albeit a fact. Way back, when Bill was elected leader, most of us thought it a gamble, his connection with the Rudd departure and later the Rudd return ex Gillard, added with his restricted ability to communicate. No blame on Bill, he worked hard at it, but it proved to be the wrong choice. Lacking in adrenaline, a necessary need to communicate, before a big audience. Personalities prevail. I have little (if any) time for Morrison, but in the two horse race against Billy, he won, notwithstanding Shorten’s great back-up team. I liked, believed in his policies, negative gearing, capital gains tax, weekend loadings, wage increases, health and climate change. Not so the additional “bits and pieces” - the electric cars, dividend imputations (justified, but too much too soon?) agreeing to the 5% home ownership deposit, the dental care, the roads in Victoria, too much to bite off, and nothing positive on Adani, despite his common sense - though vague - reply. We await the future (fate?) of "our" ABC, the refugees on Manus and Nauru, obviously climate change, and additional tax benefits to the big earners. It all added up to scaring the voters. It's like a game of table tennis, forget the point you just lost, focus on winning the next, albeit a 3 year wait. That's what I tell myself anyway, despite a lack of conviction. It could have been worse. Yeah? It could have been grand final night after another Collingwood defeat, by 5 points! Can I last another three years? God only knows, and I'm not so sure about him either. Breathe deeply, from the diaphragm.