Indonesia bullies and Australia genuflects

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D uring the 1960s and 1970s Aussies developed a rite of passage. It was a sort of walk-about, a Pied Piper compulsion to explore the world. The curious were beckoned to new horizons beyond the isolated realm of the antipodes that still suffered the stigma of exclusion from the cultures—the affectation of European superiority.

Aussie pilgrims trekking the northern hemisphere soon learned that the word “Australia” invoked admiration and respect in general. “Very brave, very good soldiers,” was the usual epithet respectfully fielded by those nations we went to visit, to observe and to further understand our heritage and that of others.

Travelling Australians were welcomed and respected by the people of other nations. They liked out friendliness, our laid-back attitude, our sense of fun and most of all, our matter of fact straightforwardness.

However, toadyism from our succession of spineless politicians soon destroyed Australia’s international reputation and taught the lesser nations that all they had to do to get their way was yell and scream. We apologise for everything, we write a few cheques, promise more and accept a steady course of abuse into the bargain.

Indonesia has not forgotten Australia’s successful military action in East Timor and many Australians have not forgotten the murdering of five Aussie journalists by Indonesian soldiers and the denials and cover-ups by both governments, disgusting as it was. Australia’s lack of support for its own sent the signal that we were weak.

Handle-with-careIndonesia has treated Australia with contempt ever since. And Australia responds by truckling.

And, the latest “let’s rub Australia’s nose in the mud” is the illegal boat people standoff. The Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the one with the smarmy grin, and the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto—the senior official responsible for top-level coordination are humiliating Australia to suit their own political images for the upcoming elections.

It is common knowledge that Indonesian politics and the authoritative arms are rife with corruption. Indonesia does not want boat people returned because they have spent their money with Indonesian smugglers and various officials that milked the lot.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison says there was no standoff. Of course there was. Indonesia began accepting “turn-backs” but switched when Fairfax announced Australia was spying them. Even though the whistle blower Snowden’s claims have not been tested. Nevertheless, it was a good excuse for Fairfax to smear the Abbott government and for Indonesia to weasel out of a diplomatic agreement.

To whoop up public hatred toward Australia, good little servants of the regime like Hikmahanto Juwana at the University of Indonesia (UI) said Australia’s decision to end the standoff was a welcome one. “It is very positive for Indonesia. It shows that our stern stance worked and that Indonesia will not bow to Australia’s policy as such,” he said. He was quick to inform that Indonesia was not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, whereas Australia was. Anything to support his narrow argument has currency.

Not added to Indonesia’s hypocritical mix are other matters that most Australians have not forgotten. Conveniently forgotten is the Australian people digging deep into their pockets to help victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that left about 100,000 Indonesians dead in the Aceh province alone.

Then Prime Minister John Howard said to President Yudhoyono. “We see Indonesia’s need, we respond to that need, but we respond in a way that respects the sovereignty of Indonesia,” he said handing over $1 billion that was in addition to established aid making the total $1.8 billion.

President Yudhoyono was overwhelmed by Australia’s generosity. “(He said) he would never forget it,” Mr Howard said. Australia donated more than the 50 plus donor countries. This is now forgotten.

Perhaps not known, rather than forgotten, is Indonesia’s ability to find money, lots of it, for its military build up. From Germany our “northern mates” recently bought 104 leopard 2 tanks and 50 armoured personnel carriers. Also, part of their $15 billion upgrade is the purchase of 16 more Russian Sukhoi fighter jets, 17 patrol vessels, three light frigates and more tanks and missiles. Also, the upgrading of their squadron of F-16s will be in the billions.

So, Australia’s generosity of several Hercules transporters, patrol boats and $650 million annually in aid wins us the diplomatic finger—the bird! And still we waffle about our valuable neighbours to the north.
That Indonesia claims its people are angry at Australia for returning boat people to the shores whence they embarked and lived while waiting, I doubt. As I also doubt their concern about spying. They have much more to worry about, like surviving.

The Asian psyche does not accept weakness and Indonesian leaders have for a long time taken Australia’s caring attitude as a weakness unworthy of respect. Perhaps the revoking of aid would get their attention as would spending our tourist dollars elsewhere. Maybe we can’t demand respect but we can display national pride—that would be a start!

As for the importance of trade with Indonesia the facts from DFAT (using the latest data from the ABS, the IMF and various international sources) are well worth noting and remembering.

Indonesia’s principal export destinations: 2012.
1 Japan 15.9%
2 China 11.4%
3 Singapore 9.0%
10 Australia 2.6%

Indonesia’s principal import sources: 2012.
1 China 15.3%
2 Singapore 13.6%
3 Japan 11.9%
8 Australia 2.8%
Compiled by the Trade Advocacy and Statistics Section, DFAT. 

Crocker’s outback

Lorne P

Chilling out in the Australian outback is a getaway from the banality of political machinations. In the world of IT, “chilling out” is akin to deleting the mind’s hard-drive—purging the  brain of superfluous spam, returning speed and clarity of function—I think!

Enjoyment is assumed, sans permission, and like a welcomed holiday, enjoyment comes easy and right is at one. Remarkably, from the murk of urban profanity perception is aroused, simply by sitting long enough, and patient enough to observe simplicity itself. Thus interspersed with unfettered imagination and a liberal dollop of fantasy, the whole experience tastes like cold, thick, cream drizzled upon fresh strawberries that bleed their sweetness to a swirling pink that eludes the finest hue on the artist’s palette. All of it far more palatable and easier to comprehend than any polly-babble from an elected one’s muzzle.

Escaping to the “outback” for some is met within a hundred kilometres of major hubs—or less. Where coin-operated BBQs caked with cremated guck in suburban parks are remote enough—close to toilets and pizza shop. Others, I suppose the dullards of modern youth, seek the outback for hunting—to experience the difference between a manicured T-bone from the supermarket and biting on a bullet in the stringy leg of a murdered roo. These high-powered warriors from moving vehicles kill mail boxes and road signs, and too often a grazier’s livestock that meander too close to roadside boundaries.

It’s a primal gene from the neanderthal hunter-gatherer that commands and it’s also a one-off exercise where gutting rarely occurs and little if any is eaten—too yucky for an interloper to outback ways.

Nature’s reign in the wild is omnipotent and attends to its own dreck—efficiently at that. Roadkill and the likes are nourishment to many creatures that lick the plate clean. But not so the empty grog cartons littering the roadside table drains, nor the plastic shopping bags hiding mankind’s messy flotsam of loaded diapers and other unmentionables that no animal will consider. It says much about these macho ill-bred pests and their assault upon rural order.

But these mobile neanderthals are marksmen of note, the Robin Hoods of a Sherwood Fair when the bowman’s shafts were split at 50 yards—a double bullseye. Progress, however, examples that by close-range shotgun blasts to a 10-square-meter road sign—just nicking it with a one-metre spray at point-blank range. Bravo lads! God speed the fleeing emu and have mercy upon the disoriented rabbit. Do they know, or care that about 98 percent of Australians are fed by the remaining two percent—the farmers whose domain they plunder and sully?

“It’s a sign of the times” lament older locals that remain in decaying country towns around Australia. The vibrancy of the “sheep’s back” is now obscure and the salad days have wilted. Those communities once enriched by farming families from generations before are mere skeletons of a social tapestry from a bygone era.

Most Station Homesteads in this land had, and many still do, a tennis court—symbols of rural lairdship. That once venue for social intercourse, like so many remote communities, has atrophied as Mother Nature reclaims the burnished clay courts of yore and tumbleweed inhabits. All that remains in most cases are memories of crisp, tennis whites, cool lemonade between sets, hearty steaks that fortified the body and news of others that nourished the mind. The steely resolve necessary for prosperity and survival in our sunburned country survives but in a very different way.

Modernity, with its many trappings good and bad is testing a new era for our rural providers. Conglomerate ventures, foreign ownership, a changing climate and world production are contentious matters. The crystal-ball guessing of when and what to plant for local and world markets spell success or failure in a “Cockies” life—not to mention the unpredictability of government regulation.

Perhaps Banjo Paterson’s poem, Clancy of the Overflow resounds more fortuitous than ever imagined when he compared city life to country living:

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

But my world is but a distant reverie from the times of Banjo’s romanticism, and indeed the reign of the Australian Cocky; and their once privileged children at upscale boarding schools.

My sojourn has delivered me to Lorne Caravan Park near Lightning Ridge. The original Lorne Station was a 10,500 acre purchased by the Waterford family in 1947. Five-Star it ain’t—rusticity it oozes. Action it has not—peace, tranquility and the outback it has tonnes. And, clean toilets and ample hot showers are as essential as quaffing a frosty beer on 40 a degree day—nothing to do with being a sissy, is it?

Geoff Crocker.

Study rorts and Simon’s revenge

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There is much ado about perk-rorting politicos lately. People must have terrible memories because parliamentary “study trip” rip-offs seem more important to lazy and boring media hacks. We all know politicians from every camp are creative accountants. But study trip costs barely ripple the seismograph on megabucks scale.

Last year, about 21 Labor ministers were asked by the SMH if they had travel plans for Christmas and the summer break. More than half said they would just hang about home and baste on an Aussie beach. Patriotism with taxpayers’ dough in mind—of course?

But that inalienable rort was recently closed in lieu of a grander paycheque, even for the rank incompetent, that made up for any loss, and then some. That administrative charade was total bull designed to fool the gullible—it worked with Fairfax.

Study trips are tradition. Take good-old Craig Thomson, remember him? The Labor protector of AWU workers’ union dues now facing 174 charges before the court? He got nailed for his study trip to America and Europe, about $24,000 for two weeks—$1,700 a day. To justify such trips there is a requirement, and this is what it says, in part:


Polliesperks

This benefit is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal in Clause 9 of Determination 2006/18. A parliamentarian becomes eligible when they have completed three years service in parliament. The benefit is limited to one overseas study trip per parliament for the parliamentarian and their spouse and is ‘for travel outside the Commonwealth of Australia for the purpose of undertaking studies and investigations of matters related to their duties and responsibilities as a Member of Parliament’. Spouses can now ‘join’ or ‘accompany’ parliamentarians travelling overseas for study. Expenditure is capped at the equivalent cost of one first-class around-the-world airfare for a parliamentarian and spouse in the life of each Parliament. The benefit also allows reimbursement of accommodation and subsistence living costs actually incurred. Certain other costs are reimbursed, including departure tax, health and baggage insurance and passport fees. A report on the overseas study trip shall be lodged with the Special Minister of State within 30 days of return.

However, our famous boulevardier snagged himself with this part in the rulebook, A report on the overseas study trip shall be lodged with… when he simply cut and pasted a report belonging to someone else—plagiarism, cried the headmaster. Nevertheless, most of us would not be too interested in what Thomson went around the world to study anyway—on the other hand?

I look at the study trip rort like this: it’s better to have most of our anointed ones globetrotting at our expense, as the bill is sort of limited. That means they are not here pretending to do good by squandering million or even billions of our dollars. In fact, had we booked all the last government pollies into the most expensive hotel in say, Paris, for the rest of their lives, Australia would be richer by billions—fair dinkum!

They say it’s only a rort if you’re not in it. Seniority in either party, I suppose, affords one a certain pecking order and Simon Crean jumped on that tradition. Splurging our money in exotic destinations is often joked about while breasting the parliamentary bar, rather than listening to a boring waffler in the chamber trying to pass a law about stopping geriatric Greenies wearing floppy leather sandals in public.
Simon-the-elder is one of Labor’s wily old foxes but showed poor judgment when he backed the wrong horse—Rudd, against Gillard. I felt sorry for the poor bugger. He looked like the lone ANZAC swimming across the Dardanelle’s to battle the Turks, armed with, well, armed with nothing. His troops went missing.

That move of love toward the old party warrior no doubt had something to do with Simon’s need for a study trip. Yes, Simon was in need of study, instruction, a higher learning, perhaps. He could go to Somalia and learn how to deal with lifelong mates that turned backstabbing rats. How to fix them with poisoned coffee—or worse. Naah! That’s not Simon.

Rome, Milan, Geneva, the high life among gentlemen and people of note. The opulence of European hotels and the finest homard avec foi gras washed down with silver goblets brimming with nuit St Georges, nectar of the Gods. That’s what Simon chose—very wisely so.

To put egg on everyone’s face, so as to speak, Simon and the missus would take cooking lessons while in Italy and learn how to make what is a gastronomic event for the Italians—a pizza—with bloody pineapple?

Simon’s 23-year political career is punctuated by dedication and decency; he did things well. And, so to was his dip in the cornucopia of plenty, as his study trip would never be used for public benefit. Simon Crean would never again sit in parliament before his announced retirement.

Perhaps Simon will payback society by getting about with a pizza oven on bicycle making free pizzas for the hungry homeless? Sweet revenge would be a slice each for Shorten, Albo, Rudd and many more. A trendy pizza with European flavour, merda di cane. Gotcha’s!

David Suzuki and Q&A—who conned who?

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For a long time Q&A with Tony Jones has been seen as just another ABC production of farce at the majority of taxpayers’ expense. And no finer example was the recent waste of one hour in a person’s life was the occasion of Canada’s global warming guru Dr David Suzuki.

Skating skilfully in and out of the ABC’s editorial policy, Q&A claim to have a balanced audience in equal concoctions of Greens, Labor, and Liberals. Even a lobotomised monkey could fool the selection process about their political bent as they do resulting in a predictable majority of salivating hyenas programmed to dine on conservatives before they utter a word.

Not present that night was the customary “ABC balance” of five from the left versus two from the right as the panel was of Jones and Suzuki alone. Bill Gates was the only other guest to enjoy that importance. The subject was Suzuki’s pet income generator, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the mob that assures us that the planet is stuffed and every bastard on it will be broiled alive or drowned in rising seas.

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Suzuki, an expert on fruit flies, gave wonderful television entertainment back in the 1960s, but his performance on Q&A was akin to a muddled old moose rutting on the Arctic Tundra. Sadly, his ignorance of the subject was astounding.

Suzuki did peddle the current IPCC mantra that 97% of scientists agree that we are the cause of our impending doom. The IPCC’s new/old/rehashed report claims that 97% of scientists say things are much worse than first thought—the lie is perpetuated.

However, questions will arise for IPCC. According to Christopher Monckton, their data files as of May, list 11,944 reports. Of 4,014 summary reports only 64 of those forecast doom and almost half of those express doubts. We can expect a lot more about this as those who seek scientific truth examine the new 5th Assessment. The IPCC should explain exactly how they arrived at their 97% consensus.

Meanwhile, Q&A’s propping up David Suzuki might have been done without instruction of Suzuki’s past about which many observers question his right to self-acclaimed climate authority and benevolence. Dedicating ones life to saving the planet for fellow man is noble—Suzuki tells us that. But his free reign to spout babble virtually unchallenged on Australia’s taxpayer funded airwaves is wrong and just another reason to question the objectivity and viability of the ABC and or its management.

A few years ago Suzuki insinuated that scientists who did not support his theories were mostly promoting large corporations. When asked the basis of his funding, he complained bitterly that “corporations have not been interested in funding us.” That surprised many as the climate scare doctrine was then in its infancy, and uncheckable data was easily swallowed.

However, the David Suzuki Foundation 2006 annual report listed more than 50 corporate donors that read like the “A” list to Bill Clinton’s black-tie dinner. Microsoft, Toyota, IBM, Bell Canada, Warner Brothers, Canon and the Bank of Montreal are just a few that must have slipped the doctor’s mind.

But, in stark contrast to this Gaia embracing rescuer of all mankind was Suzuki’s acceptance of the donor EnCana Corporation, a big player in oil sand development and natural gas bores. ATCO, the largest gas distributor in Alberta donated, as did the Ontario Power Corporation running several coal-burning generator stations and at least three nuclear installations—Suzuki’s avowed planet-wreckers.

In October 2012 Suzuki told students at the John Abbott College in Quebec that society suffers from an unsustainable fixation with money. “Money isn’t what matters,” he trumpeted to spellbound students. Many would wonder at his fee for $30,000 that was paid prior to engagement—saving the world is expensive.

During global warming apex, Suzuki aimed his campaign at children. “Climate change has forced Santa to pack up his sleigh and find a new home,” he told shocked and distraught children on frequent television plugs claiming to be reporting live from the North Pole, “where Santa will live?” Donations for “Santa” were directed to the David Suzuki Foundation where lots of books could be purchased. In fact, the foundation offers eight innovative ways in which donors can provide—via your will is one of them.

Canadian Alex G. Tsakumis wrote, “…It’s the kind of pathetic rubbish that could only come from David Suzuki, a fruit fly biologist by trade, and the reigning doctor of hypocrisy. Like Gore, he has turned the study of climate into a political tool to enrich himself and his foundation. Even his CBC shows, The Nature of Things, were often full of erroneous information.”

Anyway, brace yourselves for yet another round of climate terrorism and skepticism as two mortal enemies do battle. One for control and spending money, the other for truth and saving money.

Abbott’s new broom is a wire brush

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In August last year I attended a talk by Tony Abbott in Sydney. Aside from the snappy sound bite for the evening news, Abbott settles from an evasive and indecisive stutterer to a rather smooth orator certainly on top of his game. That surprised me and prompted the column: Abbott—more than a 10-second news clip.

Abbott’s deliberation was a likely safeguard to avoid the relentless and spiteful attacks upon his character in parliament by an orchestrated chorus of shrill fishwives and other rusted-on Laborites. Even the Coalition’s resounding victory has done nothing to stop the new opposition’s dog-tired assault upon the man who caused them to haemorrhage so profusely at the polling booth.

Just a day or two after the election, Labor resumed blame upon Abbott for more illegal boat arrivals and has continued to do so confirming an inability to recognise the failed tactic that damaged them so badly. The matter that those boats were already en route during Rudd’s reign exemplifies Labor’s disconnect from reality.

Handbag-hitsquadHowever, Abbott’s announcement revealing few women in his government caused predictable hysterics among the Opposition’s inquisitors of misogyny who scattered like headless chooks crying foul. The new Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is one of six women in the 42-strong ministry but the only woman in Cabinet.

Unexpected by many has been copycat bleating from some on the government team. “I think it’s shocking and I think it’s embarrassing, and it’s not just embarrassing nationally but I think it’s embarrassing internationally,” said Senator Sue Boyce. The Senator was a fool to play the “embarrassing internationally” card because nobody in other countries of any consequence could give a damn how many women our parliament has, they have enough problems of their own to worry about. Besides, too many confuse Australia with Austria.

Furthermore, the Coalition will remember Boyce’s defiance of policy when she sided with the Greens, crossed the floor, and voted for their gay marriage bill. Labor Senator Penny Wong says Tony Abbott’s new frontbench sends the message that female Coalition MPs are inferior to their male colleagues. But the fearless Amanda Vanstone, an ex minister of the Howard era, says more women on the frontbench does not equal a good government. Look no further than Labor’s former selection of frontbencher females for that.

Has Tony Abbott been underestimated?

A vignette of Abbott’s past contains clues that form the building blocks of his character. They are there for those who want to look.

Abbott adheres to habit. Fit, he is and seriously competitive. That he is now prime minister will inject confidence into an already ambitious man. He is surrounded with experienced ministers and has already moved to address a number of election promises. Dumping Tim Flannery, Labor’s climate change guru was a good move.

Just hours after his swearing in as PM, sackings of Labor’s padded appointees began and you can bet it is just the beginning of what will become a vendetta against his political enemies.

For a person abused throughout every parliamentary sitting by the gaggle of Labor shrews spitting venom across the despatch-box, Abbott always remained calm, perhaps plotting an electoral judgement-day. That dream has come and now it’s payback time.

For those who can remember, the once seminary aspirant, Rhodes Scholar, and decorous family man showed ambitious capabilities through his role in the damaging of One Nation that ultimately saw the imprisonment of Pauline Hansen and David Ettridge. He wanted to please his boss, a court was told—proof that politics supersedes piousness in his good book.

With unprecedented national debt to be repaid and interest accruing at $24,600 each minute in every day, the government will have to make many unpopular choices. And, the loudest objectors will be from the arsonists whose accountability was ignored for six expensive years.

In the weeks leading to the Coalition victory, Fairfax media seemed resigned to a change of government with a few conciliatory bouquets toward the Coalition. That brief offering now seems an aberration as the left media has mounted renewed attack of blaming Abbott for further boat arrivals never mentioning that those boats set sail during Rudd’s watch.  Watch Fairfax shares further drop as readers tire of the same old.

Nevertheless, the Abbott haters can squawk all they want because the majority of Australians view him as the doctor who knows best how to cure “profligacy” the eternal Labor disease.

Abbott has three years in which to pull that rabbit from the hat. He can and will ignore his raucous detractors before campaigning on what may well be his record of success that wins a second term. If that happens, it would be goodbye Labor for a very long time, I should think as the door will be ajar for a third party to gain a foothold.

Abbott’s new broom is indeed a rough wire brush that easily dislodges rusted-on ideology.

 

Living high on the hog

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Sometimes we need a respite from the madness of political confusion. Food soothes the soul and makes everything right with the world. It's good to dream. 

An often-asked question! How does one live like a king on the money of others? Become a food writer and restaurant critic, that’s how.

This is a delicious story about the famous Beaver Club in Montreal. The club is located in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel with its members flung the world over. They answer the call to hedonism each year in an evening of tradition and gastronomic excess. Perhaps not quite to the same excesses of its founding members.

James McGill, Thomas Frobisher and Charles Chaboillez were among those founding members of the Beaver Club in 1785. It began with 19 men of exceptional fortitude. Prerequisite was that each man had wintered in the treacherous Canadian North West and must be capable of enduring social events of bacchanalian measure.

Restaurant-criticMost of those men were trappers, explorers and fur traders who staged their dinner meetings in Montreal during the winter months. 

From a diary of the time: 

“December 24, 1808. Dinner:  there were 35 diners, of whom 16 were members and 19 guests. They drank 40 bottles of madeira, 12 of port, 14 of porter, eight quarts of beer, six of cider and four other bottles of various wines.”

Although food was not mentioned in that account, their willingness to imbibe was matched by pantagruelian assaults upon tables groaning beneath salvers of venison, pemmican, bear meat and beaver.

To the disappointment of its devotees, the club died in 1817 and more or less remained so for 142 years.

In 1959 The Queen Elizabeth Hotel reactivated the Beaver Club and thus resurrected past glories. Although the restaurant of the same name is open to the public, the club has a membership of some 900 in more than 40 countries.

Lunch at the Beaver Club is a religion to many corporate heads. Several of the restaurant’s 80 tables are termed “corporate tables.” It is a meeting place for mercantile moguls, financial giants and corporate hopefuls who lounge back in comfortable chairs discussing the world-at-large.

The doors open at noon and reservations are de rigueur. Fittingly, the decor is old-boy’s club, ornate, dark oak panelling. Mounted trophies of bison heads, and complete beavers from lofty corners peer down like hungry critters upon tables swathed in pale yellow cover, set with embossed copper plates and sparkling silverware.  Memorabilia of the “coureurs des bois” (fur trappers) conjures visions of a wild and an adventurous past. It is a room that transports the mind while freezing a chapter in the passage of Canadian history.

As to be expected in a temple of gastronomy the attention to service is exemplary.

At seating the diner is presented with a bowl of crudités. Set amongst a medley of bright vegetables are pretty quail eggs and toasted triangles of various breads, all baked in-house.

As a party of five, viewing and tasting a diversity of dishes, some from the table d’hôte and others from the regular menu we were advantaged. It matters not which dish is sampled as the overall quality of food served is superb and to criticise is to walk softly. Described here are a few dishes sampled.

For the entree, a fine white china platter contrasted the bright green of large asparagus spears set in trident form by a clear, Sherried aspic. Another from the regular menu, “arpege de legumes a la mousseline de doré et aux rouelle de homard,” (vegetables, fish and lobster) a work of art with flavour as long as its name. Their beef consommé is traditional French; a rich, transparent amber, presented in a delicate cup was memorable. The intensity only a dozen hours of reduction can achieve.

The lunch table d’hôte listed three soups, two or three entrees, and four main courses.  As a main I chose the roast prime rib of beef au jus. This is a Beaver Club mainstay, a tradition for which the establishment is known, revered, and remembered—a benchmark for beef eaters. A large, magnificent cut of meat cooked to order arrived with tiny boiled potatoes, parslied carrots, broccoli flowerets and sautéed petits navets.

From the main menu came cassoulet de St-Jacques a la creme de persil. Executive chef Edward Merard’s assembly of this platter is a visual work of art. A round cassoulet of tomato fondue supported a perfect stack of white sea scallops topped with browned crumbs and garlic-chives and set upon a bright, green velouté of parsley which my confrere ate without offer to share. 

As you might expect, the wine list is extensive and expensive. We enjoyed a sensational Hospices de Beaune 1981 Meursault.  The cheese and pastry cart is arrayed in a deliberate attempt to dissolve the strongest will. A variety of coffees, tisanes, digestives, chocolate truffles and cigars were served with usual pomp.

And, the bill? To the PR department it goes, thank you very much!

Burp!

Politicians and fishermen—their similarity

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The most tedious election in history is over—an anti-climax for most and a reprieve from politics is sought by many. The following may resonate with some readers.

Let us now turn to the rites of spring; that mysterious awakening of the soil when life explodes, fertility begs in warm, sunny days, extended evenings and freedom from heavy clothing.

I look to my camper and vow to use it more. Go to the Murrumbidgee and get serious about fishing perhaps? Ha! Even as a kid I couldn’t sit still long enough to attract a fish—there were more exciting things for a boy to do—like creating mayhem.

“It’s so relaxing,” they say about sitting in a boat or lazing idly upon a riverbank contemplating…contemplating what, I ask? The bloody mosquitoes sucking life through your little finger the only flesh you dare expose, on a day of 45-degrees? Or, sitting in a tinnie over the horizon being baked alive, trying to make out it’s all good fun and hoping you don’t drown under that rogue wave, every seventh is supposed to be a possible killer wave—rock fishermen learn that—many didn’t.

Image7Besides, I never enjoyed the post fishing camaraderie at the pub reliving insignificant events. Especially when grog swaps failure for victory as man tricks Neptune to provide a feast. Sun poisoning is a special delight.

Did you know that with every tackle-box purchased comes a licence to talk nonsense—or is that the exclusive domain of politicians?

I once tried fishing. That should be in the Guinness World Book of Records for dragging a line with fancy lures across the Atlantic Ocean twice, about 10,000 miles, and caught absolutely nothing. That must be a record! As Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I’m still learning.

Nearly every pub in Australian coastal towns has a “fisho’s club” corner. You’ve seen them; there’s a bloody great carcase of a shrivelled shark nailed to the wall, still coloured tobacco-tar-yellow from days of in-bar smoking—even the flies avoid it.

In those nooks is where fisherman spin more excuses than crooked politicians as to why fish won't bite on any given day. Some sound scientific, however, most stem from black magic, folklore and pure bollocks.

Every piece of gear a fisherman owns is “lucky?” But a cursory glance through a tackle-box reveals truth. They’d have us believe every rusted, salt encrusted piece of junk still tangled in balls of rotting line possesses mystical powers that induce fish to suicide; even the smelly old tattered hat is “lucky.” One bloke swears his luck comes from a dried-out chook’s head glued to his outboard motor. It’s got a cigarette in its beak! An offering to Doris, the Greek Goddess of ocean bounty, perhaps.

Several years ago I went fishing with my brother, the quintessential fisherman. At 4:30 one dark, wet and windy morning we set out to sea from Port Kembla in his small, four-metre tinnie.  His secret spot, guaranteed to teem with fish was about ten miles off. To the layman, means somewhere, disturbingly over the horizon.

Through powerful binoculars he used a hospital chimney and a mountain lookout to “pinpoint” our position.  With great concentration and four minor manoeuvres in the middle of nowhere. “This is it,” he said, “we’re right over the hole now. Quick! Get your line over the side before we drift too far.”

I asked how he could be so sure about this invisible “hole” full of fish.

“It's something you know, you just feel it, it comes with experience,” he mumbled. As ordered I flipped the lid off the bait tin and a revolting effluvium from his “secret” concoction made me gag. The three-metre swell chopped by the wind unsteadied my seat and while trying to skewer a blob of the evil bait I shoved the hook deep into my finger.

That was enough.  I was seasickness in an instant.

After an hour or so laying in the bottom of the boat, alternating between silent prayer and blasphemous rant I managed to form words to ask why he hadn't caught anything. “I don't think they're here today,” he whispered, as if not wanting the fish to hear.

“Why?” I croaked.

“Probably all that rain last week, it washes a lot of food into the ocean you know— they're probably not hungry anymore.”

Given that authority I wondered why we were out there, if the damned fish were satiated!

Who would have thought that cold-blooded fish living under water could be so affected by winds, air temperature, tide, moon, sun, rain, people, clouds, bait, boats, other fish, and probably the stock market?

From the distant shore a boat appeared. It was a rusted old barge that began to circling not far in front of us, dumping garbage from the steel mills into that “secret hole” of fickle fish as it went—pollution!

“So! That's why,” said the all-knowing pro, “this spot’s buggered now.”

Ever since, I buy fish at the market. It’s cheaper, a sure catch and I don’t beg death to end seasickness!

“Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learnt.” (Izaak Walton)

Political campaigns today and tomorrow

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Presumed to be of national importance to us by the ABC just days before polling was a cooking contest of sorts when Rudd and Abbott on different days cooked something in their kitchens while being surreptitiously grilled by Kitchen Cabinet host and Fairfax scribe Ms Crabb.

Slowly but surely Australian politics pursue the American presidential election style of leader adulation. The man is all—policies be damned.

The ABC cosy kitchen clutch paid for by you involved the families of our two major leaders. Why not, election 2013 has been an all-in-the-family affair?

This 2013 Rudd/Abbott election contest has travelled down that “presidential” road further than ever before by pushing their children into the glare and scrutiny of a predatory media. The effects of which may not be seen immediately but can and does have destructive outcomes if not a few nasty surprises for the parents.

Leadership aspirants parading their children as political props puts to practice the self confessed liar Graham Richardson’s infamous maxim, “what ever it takes.” Are we the voters so intellectually stunted to fall for the cloying annoyance of candidates kissing the heads of babies, patting dogs, and feigning concern before semi-conscious dementia patients in nursing homes?

When was it decided that vacuous promises of the undeliverable from politicians would become believable when joined by their sons or daughters professing the decency of their father? And, with sexism from the fables it’s no accident that spin-doctors prefer girls to boys for best effect. No doubt influenced from their days in kindy; “Little boys are made from snips and snails and puppy dog tails and little girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice.” Stop right there!

Those who seek to run this nation should have the credentials and the confidence to woo their voters with hope inspiring “truths” for a better future. Traipsing around the hustings with spouse and children in tow is supposed to prove what? Nothing at all to do with running a country for my money. We are electing the person, not the entire family—I think!

Furthermore, children don’t always make their parents proud as poor Bob Hawke learned through his drug-addicted daughter. And the reverse when Bob unceremonious dumped his ever-faithful wife Hazel. But the old bodgie pulled a rabbit with his sobbing theatrics on national television presenting a new age “sensitive” bloke—it worked.

The children of famous and influential parents need to consider the possible effects that psychiatrists call collateral damage when the pressure of fame and media glitz goes wrong.

Michael Jackson, now there’s an example known to all on earth—what more can be said? And, the star of “Home Alone” Macaulay Culkin who disappointed his folks when he received three one-year suspended prison terms and forced enrolment into a probationary drug treatment program. He looked so perfectly innocent, didn’t he?

Drew Barrymore, the American actress film director, screenwriter, producer, and model. Drew was big worry for her parents when she began boozing at age eleven and smoking marijuana at 12. She was hooked on cocaine by her teens and attempted suicide at age 14. Too much pressure her parents thought.

Paris Hilton started her career as a model at 19. In 2010 she was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession in Las Vegas and copped a one-year probation and community service that I don’t think included her homemade sex video that went viral. What might her parents have thought?

Of course, politicians carting their kids around for subliminal advantage is not harmful in most cases. Such exposure often presents career opportunities unavailable to many, if not the taste for politics that becomes a family tradition—a tradition quite common in Australian politics.

However, as the multicultural state increases within our society I take a humorous peek to the future. If the family involvement stunt continues, campaign announcements promise to be rather animated affairs—especially so for a Moslem candidate.

“Ladies and gentlemen I bring you leader of the opposition Yousef Ali, the man who wants to be your prime minister. Also on stage are his four wives and just in front are their 32 sons and daughters who know their dad is wonderful, if not a very busy husband and father, and brother, and grandson, and nephew, and…gee whiz, there’s a lot of them here today.

“In the second, to fifth rows are their lovely children of which 143 are now in school. The girls are the ones covered in black. How about a big hand for this close family. And not to be forgotten in the five tour busses, the blue ones in the parking lot, are the family elders who will be serving traditional camel burgers and fried scorpions to anyone feeling hungry after Yousef presents his exciting vision for an “inclusive Australia.”

And don’t worry about making a mess today folks as Kevin and Tony’s families have been hired to clean up when you leave.”

Piddling into the wind


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Let’s buy all the boats in Indonesia

What a jolly good idea, they proudly thought. “Australian taxpayers would purchase leaking fishing boats from poor fishermen where intelligence identified they planned to sell them to people smugglers,” was announced with all the excitement of a first newborn.

Another stupid thought-bubble from Kevin Rudd, I thought with a smile. A final nail in the Labor coffin it would be. No, it was not Rudd’s gaff! This madness came from; Scott Morrison the Coalition’s Shadow Immigration Minister whom I thought had more sense. Where were you during John Howard’s gun buyback Scott?

This stratagem to buy old boats from Indonesian peasants will fail. In fact, it will be a political nightmare, as anyone who has been to Indonesia would know and two words cover it aptly—poverty and corruption. 

Jakarta is furious over Abbott’s buyback plan and has responded already with its customary, “get stuffed Australia” response. Mahfudz Siddiq, the head of Indonesia’s parliamentary commission for foreign affairs said, “The Coalition wants to make Indonesia look inferior because they just want to provide money and ask Indonesians to get the job done for the sake of their interests.”

Image18But Siddiq went further to press a strong diplomatic warning, “It’s an unfriendly idea coming from a candidate who wants to be Australian leader…This is really a crazy idea, unfriendly, derogatory and it shows lack of understanding in this matter.” Indonesia views us as jerks, with increasing good reason.

Poverty and corruption: Australia gives Indonesia aid, upwards of $2 billon with the many “add-ons.” Australia’s 12 largest bilateral aid recipients in Asia and the Pacific are: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh, East Timor, Pakistan, Cambodia, Burma and Vanuatu.

Ironically, all (in bold) but Bangladesh featured on Ranker.com. are within the top 85 of 180 “Most corrupt countries in the world.” That, of course, raises questions about how our tax money is being spent, rhetorical as that question may be. It's no accident that Bob Carr runs that department.

The Coalition pledged $420 million to stop people smuggling. That includes paying Indonesian villagers for information about smugglers and those who buy anything that might remain afloat for more than an hour at the dockside.  Ineptitude in this matter is astounding.

Scott Morrison: “We want to have a program that reaches out up to 100 villages across Indonesia.” According to Australian Government AusAID more than 120 million Indonesians live on less than $2 per day. They are poorer than church mice, smarter and more desperate.

To poor Indonesians the smell of Australian government money will prove more alluring than the stench of a rotting pig is to a starving blowfly. Such a wild concept will also be a lottery for criminals that will surely out-fox our functionaries – as they always do. Having witnessed firsthand the gun buyback as officials handed out fantasy sums for rubbish without question, I can only imagine the same rules being applied to boats—in a foreign country.

Government buybacks of whatever do not achieve the noble goals promised by their inventors. The John Howard gun buyback, for example, did collect certain firearms from civilian hands but failed to lower private ownership numbers overall. Half a billion dollars were blown via outrageous prices for junk, much of which was well beyond use.

But, to bribe local peasants living on $2 per day with financial reward from a foreign country to rat on their fellow villagers will likely lead to the most violent of reprisals. Don’t forget the corrupt coppers’ grab. Jakarta will be right to view this plan as a very dangerous foreign intervention to their sovereignty—serious stuff.

The immediate and to the point backlash from Indonesia must have the Coalition calling halt to this idiotic notion. And, to its Coalition creator should go dismissal for announcing the madness within days of an important election when bad moves could have cause loss of faith.

Labor gave a figure of some 750,000 boats that would have to be bought. Given that boats for coastal Indonesians are more common the cars that number is a gross underestimate. Also underestimated is Indonesian peasant ingenuity in league with an accommodating Australian bureaucrat.

The promise of instant riches will see every piece of flotsam resembling a boat being paraded for cash. Hulks rotting in the sand and in the jungles will be dragged to the water’s edge regardless of holes and worms. Those that won’t float will be buoyed from beneath by airtight, 20 litre plastic drums to create freeboard.

Others that sunk decades ago will be beached high on the sand and sold there. No boat will be tested in any way, nor will any engine, not that any will work. The cries of a family business of 200 years ended by the sale of what looks like a piece of driftwood will assure top dollar—no argument.

If Australia truly wanted to get serious about securing its borders, and send a message to both smugglers and Indonesia, it needs to get tough which is its absolute right.

Withdraw from the UNHCR either temporarily or permanently.

Place a moratorium on unauthorised entries until the backlog is settled.

Deduct full costs of every boat person processed from our foreign aid to Indonesia.

It’s time to address Australia’s needs, not those who take us for a ride and abuse us in the process.

Agenda 31: First, castrate all the Conservatives

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Hatched in the social laboratories and classrooms of our tax-funded learning institutions comes the new Politically Correct, Agenda 31—the neutering of common sense.

The fungoid do-gooders have re-branded as Correctionalists and their mission is to neuter the minds of sane people—social conformity. Last week the Labor inspired Agenda 31 had its trial run.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott attributed the Coalition candidate Fiona Scott with “feistiness” and “sex appeal.” Although the nation is poised to decide what may be the most important federal election in a generation, the Correctioalist choristers crowed in high “C”, “Henny Penny the sky is falling.”

Leading that barnyard charge of cloned battery birds was a brain-dead editor at Fairfax who herded writers like Jonathan Swan and Judith Ireland like Christmas chooks to the chopping block. With fingers removed from their readership pulse it’s no wonder Fairfax newspapers are failing with corporate shares at a shameful 55 cents. People have wearied of uniform bias pushed by boring, socialist dunderheads.

Apart from dole bludgers, Centrelink fraudsters and other social dross who believe the taxpayer owes them a living, the halcyon days of correctionalists’ are numbered. With a change of government likely, perhaps we can dispose of the pests that lead us into this cul-de-sac of gormless souls where uniformity is rewarded and enterprise is sabotaged.

Abbott’s remark set a politically desperate prime minister to suggest court action. It was not the foul retort, “get f****d”. The Correctionalists chose to pervert the incident and batter the notion of natural logic from the brains of those who refuse to be controlled by leftist morons pushing long failed Marxist doctrine.

If “Sex appeal” were to become a social sin what do you suppose would happen? What would become of the kindly compliment, words of praise, and acknowledgement of the obvious? Is that what the correctionalists would outlaw?

Here lies another tenet of social control, further nonsense that seeks to ignore how the world functions. Expression, like love, and freedom to choose has always been the subject of personal approval, that’s what makes us different and interesting.

Fairfax Media may have taken a bit of flack from their advertisers who might view an attack upon Tony Abbott as bad for business in a climate of tough times. And why is that you might ask? Well, billions of dollars are spent every day in every country on earth for goods that ameliorate in one way or another that dreadful “sex appeal.”

High heel shoes, designed to make ladies lower legs look sexy. Jeans to show off a bare belly and curvy bottom. Gowns, blouses, and tight jackets accentuate a bust not to mention cleavage. Hairstyles, perfumes, makeup, soaps, and even fake suntans are used for sex appeal. And so it goes.

Then you have the merchants of quality wines, gourmet foods and fine dining, all of which are enjoyed in pursuit of sexually appealing moments—as a rule. The truth is, just about every person on earth appreciates being told they are attractive regardless of gender and sexual proclivity. 

So why would Fairfax run with a story so silly? Perhaps the editor responsible was blinded by dislike of Tony Abbott? Maybe unanimous applause was expected by again exposing the misogynist Abbott? Well, it backfired. Only the Correctionalists cheered the side.

As the election nears, supporters of the left are panicking. Rudd the saviour is not delivering as hoped. Voters are now smarter having been swindled for six years watching policy after policy bite the dust. They are aware of accumulated massive debt. They remember the promises not kept, and many lies told. Labor has created a gun-shy electorate that craves honesty in politics.

Before that happens, however, we must suffer mud slinging and personal insults that cause cringe. Australian voters like never before stand upon the cusp of changing the behaviour of those who seek to govern us. September 7 presents opportunity for us to get even with those who have betrayed our trust.

Even some of the Henny-Pennys in the many leftwing barnyards might see a bright blue firmament, rather than a falling grey sky. It matters little whether they do or not because a Coalition victory will humiliate the Correctionalists dream of an Agenda 31.

Socialism is pie-in-the-sky ideology never worked and never will while individuality prevails. And thus, the Correctionalists will have neutered themselves.

To my furtive imagination that prospect is appealing—a kind of sex appeal. Not for some I suppose – Is it?