Monday, 31 December 2012

Military Budget Cuts - a Modest Proposal

Spent Hogmanay watching the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the ABC, and enjoying the precision drill and good bagpipes. I especially liked the Top Secret Drum Corps from Switzerland, all of whom looked like my friend Harry. It quite took me back to the days when they used get the US Marines over to throw entire rifles with fixed bayonets at each other - and catch them.

Thankfully the Top Secret Drum Corps came on after the Australian Defence Force band, whose performance was humiliating to a degree for which even I was not prepared. If it turns up on YouTube in a decent clip, I'll add it, because it has to be seen/heard to be believed.

In 2011 Australia's regimental military bands faced the chop in what was supposed to save the forces $20 billion in 10 years. However, if you watch the Australian Defence Force band's performance, you - like me - will find yourself wondering why the entire military band budget can't be cut, preferably immediately, so that you never have to watch this kind of thing again. (Man, the Norwegians absolutely rolled all over us.)

Why not re-train some of them to catch rifles with fixed bayonets? Especially that grinning dude who tried to sing 'Highway to Hell' ...

Update: The ghastly performance certainly puts this recent announcement in perspective.

Further Update: And we can't say we weren't warned, as far back as August.

Double Update: See QED for more post-plum-pudding surliness.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The First Cuckoo

This just in: Woolworths supermarket on the corner of Stock Road and Leach Highway, Melville, Western Australia, has in its bakery section the first hot cross buns for Easter 2013.

I saw them with my own eyes, and I didn't believe it so, I went back and had another look, and there they were.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Quadrant Funding Cut - Again

The Literature Board of the Australia Council has halved quality conservative magazine Quadrant's funding for 2013, from $40,000 in 2012 down to $20,000. This adds to earlier cuts under the Rudd government which reduced Quadrant's funding from $50,000.

Let's compare this with Meanjin, an obediently left-wing publication, which receives nearly three times that of Quadrant's current funding, while producing only four issues a year, and selling less than 1,000 copies per edition. An Australian subscription costs $80 per year.

Quadrant, on the other hand, is produced ten times a year with two double issues, and sells around 5,500 copies per issue. An Australian subscription costs $79 per year.

I would happily write for them for free, and I would also happily see Quadrant become fully independent of the Australia Council, but that takes generous donors.

***Donations to the Quadrant Foundation are tax-deductible.***

Cheques/money orders to: Quadrant Foundation, Locked Bag 1235, North Melbourne, Vic 3051

Direct debit to: Quadrant Foundation, BSB 012 227, 2031 35458

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Political Employees, Take Note

Thanks to the decision in the Federal Court today by Justice Steve Rares, an interesting legal precedent now exists. Sexual harrassment - and if you're not sure what that is, have a look at the Australian Human Rights Commission website - is now permitted in Commonwealth workplaces associated with major political parties. If you're harrassed, you can complain, but your employer can now successfully use 'political motivation' as a defence against your complaint, even when the employer's employer has already paid you off.

Someone needs to alert WA Liberal MLA Troy Buswell about this, pronto. Buswell has been a source of constant media interest here for his frank and open way of *expressing bonhomie towards people of both sexes.* If you want to know more, just visit his Wikipedia entry, although it's also worth remembering that Buswell's interest in political bras seems to have been shared by Alan Carpenter, then Labor Premier of WA.

More at Quadrant Online.

*I have recently been congratulated on this nice turn of phrase. However, it's simply here so that I can avoid the depressing recital of bra-strap-snapping, chair-sniffing, squirrel-gripping, dry-humping, and other Buswell-related gerunds. O tempora o mores.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Just to ensure that I'm totally unpopular this week - the December issue of Quadrant is now out, with yours truly holding forth on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and its marked parallels with Church officials' pathetic response to complaints about doctrinal and liturgical abuses in the same era.

Taken for Granted

Some of you will be aware I wrote recently on ARC funding for arts and humanities projects, and on the wider malaise in the university system in general.

The Australian's Bernard Lane has followed this up today, both in the print and the online versions.

It breaks my heart to do this, because I still feel like I should wade in and defend ars gratia artis, but I just can't. And no one else so far has managed to produce even a slightly convincing argument, either (I am really looking forward to the carefully-conducted and scientifically-valid published study proving that studying the history of medieval emotions has had an actual impact on the Western Australian suicide rate).

Back in the days before post-modernist relativism, we used to be able to argue that the study of the arts and humanities:
  • supported a Judeo-Christian social and ethical framework;
  • helped to make us a better society as a whole because of this;
  • also made us better people by teaching us to appreciate good art and literature, listen to good music, and read accurate and critical histories;
  • gave us as individuals and as a society a means of expressing eternal truths about life, beauty, goodness and love.
I still argue in this way, because I still believe in all those things, because I'm not a post-modernist or a relativist. But there are very few of us left in academia, or indeed at all.

So here's the thing: without the driving force of the Judeo-Christian framework, I have struggled to find any other ars gratia artis argument for the study of the arts and humanities at all. When you take arts and humanities out of their Christian framework, you are left with 'learning stuff you need to get a job', like, say, Asian languages so that you can save a planeload of people from disgruntled fellow passengers.

In this context, the study of early Jesuit emotions really does become very hard to justify. It may help you get a job as a Jesuit, but I have always understood that those positions were not advertised in the normal way.

And THIS is my point: that the grants thing is not the central problem here. It's a wider malaise, and it stems in part from the corrosive influence of relativism and secularism, and also from the bureaucratisation of the university.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

A Godwin Grech Moment? Hardly

The difference between Julia Gillard's up-to-the-neck-and-higher involvement in AWU dodgy doings and Malcolm Turnbull's gullibility is this:

*Godwin Grech, then a Treasury official, faked one email. Malcolm Turnbull believed him.

Against this, we can pile a mountain of written evidence of wrongdoing from multiple sources:

*including two other people critical to the whole process - Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt;
*including Julia Gillard's own testimony, out of her own mouth, to her employers Slater & Gordon, who were investigating her because they were concerned about her dodginess;
*including her famous Press Conference when she Proved Her Innocence by not answering any questions, but by using the words 'slush fund'. These were misreported as 'trust fund', and Mrs Mathieson went ballistic at the Australian for doing so, and clarified that she actually meant 'slush fund'.

If you would like to read any and all of this evidence, you can. It's all at

This is a long, long way from the Godwin Grech stupidity. This has lifted the lid on union corruption on a grand, national, impressive and profitable scale.

We Are Ashamed

From this afternoon's lively Question Time:

"JULIA GILLARD: We are ashamed to sit in a Parliament with a man of negativity and sleaze and smear."

Myself, I'm ashamed to be living in a country led by a woman of negativity and sleaze and smear, not to mention the following terms she overlooked: obfuscation, circumlocution, lying, bluster, name-calling, dysfunction, histrionics, misandry, spite, viciousness, incompetence.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

I Know No-thing! No-thing!

Julia Gillard's media advisor might like to watch a few Hogan's Heroes re-runs to get some fresh ideas for her next press conference.

More in Quadrant Online.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Meat-Free Monday and Other Traumas

Apparently a group of busybodies nutritionists and whinging nuisances social activists have declared that Mondays should be 'Meat-Free Mondays'. This will calm the oceans, reduce carbon emissions and avert a zombie apocalypse. What it will do to the already-suffering Australian meat industry is anyone's guess, but now would be a good time to start saving up for imported steak.

Happily I spent last night eating a lot of roasted sheep. This meat-free initiative, incidentally, promises that eating less meat will genuinely reduce our environmental impact. I dare him to sit near a certain friend of mine several hours after he's eaten falafel and tell me that without a gas mask.

To clarify an unrelated matter: - yes, that's 'wither' and not 'whither', on account of it being a pune, or play on words, on the part of QED's editor.

And this turned up on the Bourque Report in Canada, which was a nice surprise:

Friday, 23 November 2012

Late Night Public Transport

And here we go again. A French woman (or, according to UK rag the Daily Mail, a group of four French girls) was threatened with violence and insults on a Melbourne bus late at night because she/they started singing in French.

A Racist Attack (the French are apparently a race). A Sexist Attack (it involved women). Scandalous. Outrageous. Terrifying. Moral outrage across the globe.

Most of the moral outrage, however, seems to becoming from people who don't ever use public transport in a large city, especially at night.

Based on my own happy experiences in a number of large cities here and abroad (including Paris), the kind of people who take public transport at night - on, say, a route that runs through a poor and crime-ridden series of suburbs in Melbourne's south-east - are not really the kind of people you might also meet on a Sunday morning, enjoying their double-decaf frappiatocino at a nice cafe near a select row of terrace housing.

They are the kind of people who threaten you with box-cutters and talk about Seeing You Next Tuesday. They can't afford taxis, and they are very often drunk. Not amusing-drunk on good champagne, but nasty-drunk on something like antifreeze. Sometimes they're also on drugs, or off their meds. Sometimes they wear woolly hats and like to stare at you without blinking. Sometimes they're too busy scratching or scrawling tags all over the bus or train windows to notice you at all, and this is usually a good thing.

So when someone decides to start singing in French, and they don't like it, they will tell her to shut up, often in a rude and aggressive way.

If she then decides to continue singing, only louder, they will escalate their abuse.

As yet, I'm still waiting to hear an explanation of why anyone would be singing in French on a bus late at night, running on the Frankston route through Melbourne's poor, crime-ridden south-east, loud enough for everyone to hear in the first place. Now there's the real story.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

True Confessions

Update: In a bizarrely backhanded article, the Sydney Morning Herald puts us all straight about Confession!

Kudos to author of books of dubious orthodoxy and retired bishop Geoffrey Robinson, perennial lefty Catholic Fr Bob, and illicitly-married priest Fr Kevin Lee for all coming out and saying openly that they'd break the seal of the confessional to report paedophilia. And murder. And domestic violence. And maybe a few other things, if they were feeling cranky that day.

I like to know this kind of thing so I don't accidentally pop in to their church on a Saturday morning when I've had a big night out. Who can tell where my (much less exciting) sins would end up? They're all pretty media-savvy, so the sky's the limit.

A priest in a sticky spot can actually ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the Confession with either the miscreant themselves or others, including the police. This is the obvious solution for any priest when a paedophile comes to confess, and it's the one no-one has yet mentioned.

While we're on this subject, when Fr Kevin Lee went to Confession to admit that he'd married a Filipina bar hostess without first being laicised - a woman who didn't even know he was a priest at first, principally because he didn't tell her - did the priest to whom he confessed immediately go and ring up Fr Lee's bishop and report him?

I seem to recollect instead that Fr Lee managed to keep the existence of 'Mrs Lee' a secret from most people, including his congregation, for about a year. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Clearly Fr Kevin Lee had not done anything wrong in having sex with a woman he wasn't married to, then attempting marriage with her when he's not been laicised, and then keeping the whole thing secret so that he could continue to be a priest and get paid and say Mass and other fun stuff, and then appearing in a rather self-pitying article in the Weekend Australian magazine where the full extent of his self-justification became apparent.

I like the Sacrament of Confession. I like the fact that it's just between me and God. I also know that if I killed someone and then went to Confession, the priest would withhold absolution from me until I'd done the right thing legally - especially if someone else was in the frame for what I'd done.

Robinson, however, has had the sense to admit that most paedophiles don't actually go to Confession, and those that do, don't confess this crime, so demanding that priests break the seal of the Confessional is pretty pointless - as is his public expression of willingness to break the seal, which actually incurs the penalty of ipso facto excommunication.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

NZ Psychology Dept In Line for Nobel Prize

This just in from the University of Canterbury, NZ: postgraduate psychology researcher Carsten Grimm has discovered - and proven - that doing things you enjoy can make you happy. Conversely, doing things you don't enjoy as much makes you less happy.

I understand that future psychology projects in this department will include rigorous explorations of whether what goes up must also come down; whether sleeping makes you less tired; and a critical testing of the hypothesis that 'if you lose something, this means that you can't find it.'

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Customer is Always Right

The lamentable current state of Australia's universities - and not just in the ARC grants department - can be seen in some of Curtin University's recent vicissitudes. Crisis breeds opportunity, but I'm not sure that these activities can be entirely justified in the name of a market approach to higher education.

In 2011 Curtin's IELTS English language testing centre had to be closed when one of its more enterprising staff members was found offering falsified IELTS results for a tidy fee.

Now, another of Curtin's lecturers has been caught allegedly asking for a bribe to get an international student to a pass grade in an exam.

It's quite a good bribe, too: $100 per mark, a total of $1500. So if you had a student - or a few students - who really failed in an exam, it could be a nice little earner. 

The pressures on universities are many - but they are mostly of their own making. Having entered into a Faustian bargain with the Federal government, they now find themselves chained to the galleys in the doldrums, and there are now the first flickers of pirate sails on the horizon. The reckless drive to secure and retain large numbers of fee-paying international students means that immediate and very obvious opportunities emerge for this kind of scheme, and others.

What this also goes to show is that the entrepreneurial spirit is actually alive and well in Australia, but that it's being crushed, stifled and misdirected by a sclerotic university system. These academics could do really well in the business world; they just need to get out there and get to work.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Crystal Balls

This just in from the successful 2013 ARC grants list (thank you to Greg Melleuish):

Rationality and modernity: a history of fortune telling in modern America
2013 $45,000.00
2014 $50,000.00
2015 $50,000.00
Total $145,000.00

This project will produce the first scholarly history of commercial fortune telling in modern America, told from the point of view of customers as well as practitioners. The history of the persistence of the trade in prophecy well into the twentieth century will shed new light on the relationship of rationality and modernity in United States history.

More at Quadrant Online.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

If Only

Seen at the Post Office today:

Alarmed by what, I wonder? Certainly not the crippling amount of debt they've piled up, or the years of squandering a perfectly good surplus, or introducing taxes that actually lose them money, no matter how much Bruce Springsteen they listen to in the process.

But alarmed about being called corrupt? Check.
About being challenged on their waste? Check.
About having their top spot on the Senate ticket pinched? Check.
About having their integrity questioned? Check.

Wayne Swan's Glorious Five-Year Surplus

This is from Catallaxy in August this year, but it's well worth revisiting.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Asian Century Kicks Off Nicely

Gosh, where's Kevin Rudd when you actually need him?

Australia's bright new future in the Asian Century just got off to a flying start - literally. A Jetstar pilot and crew were held hostage for more than six hours by a mob of angry passengers after their flight was diverted from Beijing to Shanghai because of bad weather.

But thankfully the cabin manager spoke fluent Mandarin, and was able to communicate with the angry mob.
Repeat after me:

放下手中的 塑料餐具. 我们可以谈论这一点.

'Put down the plastic cutlery. We can talk about this.'

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Unsolicited Advice to Mrs Bob Carr

Julian Assange - in Da House

Apparently Julian Assange - sworn enemy of all secrecy, mighty hacker-warrior, glamorous sex god, and planetary philanthropist who had dedicated his life (like Roger Ramjet) to making the world a better place in which to live on - isn't really all that happy hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy any more.

And nor is the embassy. "Assange is said to be living a cramped life inside the embassy. He eats mostly take-out food and uses a treadmill to burn off energy and a vitamin D lamp to make up for the lack of sunlight."

Gosh, he must be a real joy to live with. The reek of stale grease from all those empty pizza boxes and plastic containers piling up; the annoying thud-thud-thud of the treadmill at odd hours of the day and night, the strange glow of the vitamin D lamp under the closed bedroom door. No one to listen to him talk about himself; people not paying any attention to him.

I'd love to make some elaborate comparisons here with Hitler in 1945 or Howard Hughes in 1976, but Assange simply isn't in their league. But I can tell you exactly whose league he is in, and that would be the under-10s.

Assange's attempted game of hide-and-seek with the adults of this world has ended - as so many other small children have had to learn - with the adults sitting in the living room watching TV. Not counting to 100 and then coming to get you, as you so carefully instructed them.

But perhaps this is too harsh - perhaps it would be fairer to compare Assange to that ubiquitious teenage son, now in his 30s, who refuses to leave the family nest and spends his days in front of the computer with his bedroom blinds drawn.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Unelected Foreign Minister's Wife Spends $120K in 6 Months

It's been a busy week at the trough. Here's Bob Carr defending the expenditure chalked up by having his wife Helena accompany him everywhere:

"I am proud that Helena has accompanied me on every trip I've done, because while I am talking to the Foreign Minister she is inspecting aid projects or talking to groups of women ... I think it is very, very good that Helena has been there with me. She's done meetings, she's inspected aid projects ... in China she had her own program and she's made a good contribution ... I think every stage in our bid for the UN seat it was an advantage for the Foreign Minister to be accompanied by a wife who was born in Malaysia of Indian and Chinese parents," he said.
Oh. Well, that's all right then.
It's nice, isn't it, that our unelected Foreign Minister has an equally unelected wife who is allowed to travel at taxpayers' expense to work on 'her program' in China and inspect aid projects elsewhere.
And I especially like the last bit, which sounded both sexist AND racist, but I daresay no-one else has noticed.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Bill Shorten's Mother-in-Law Retains $400K Job

This just in:

Our Prime Minister has recommended to the Queen that Governor-General Quentin Bryce's term of office be extended to March 2014.

Is this to protect against any possible repeat of those unfortunate events of 1975?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Only $25 Million!

You know, I could give you a whole lot of stuff here about how much that $25 million we just blew on the UN Security Council could have purchased back at home in unglamorous Australia.

We could have frittered it away on things like effective drug addiction programs, mobile ear clinics for Indigenous communities, women's shelters, or scholarships for bright but disadvantaged kids to attend swanky private schools.

Or we could have filled a giant pinata in the shape of Senator Chris Evans' head with 250 ARC grants of $100,000 each and allowed random academics to beat it to pieces and then run off with a grant to research the importance of fatigue-testing cocktail umbrellas, the changing definition of the word 'misogyny' in contemporary Australia, the physics of the perfect golf shot, climate change in the works of [insert name of this year's literary luvvie], or really whatever takes their fancy.

Or, instead of bribing the Security Council, the Australian government could simply have given every voter in the country $2 to vote for them in the next election. This, and a promise of a bag of mixed lollies and a ride on their bike every now and then, might have worked wonders with some sectors of the voting public.

But really, the indefatigable Ainu Campbell-Barracks has said it all for me at Quadrant Online. So I don't need to say anything more. For now.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Thomson's Defence

This morning's Australian: "A DEFIANT Craig Thomson is threatening to sue anyone who claims he's had sex with prostitutes and is boasting he will win a court battle with the Commonwealth."

Sounds good to me. Perhaps he's engaged Nicola Roxon on his legal team? Her track record in this area - suppressing sleaze, keeping stuff out of court, covering up misogyny and protecting her government's one-seat majority - is pretty solid.

What Does It Take?

I watched with interest yesterday as Google News' various sources went from reporting Craig Thomson's scandalous charges, to reporting how Thomson was going to have them all thrown out and would get off scot-free, except for a massive and probably bankrupting fine.

But of course, bankruptcy would mean he would have to stand down as an MHR, so it would be a good thing, obviously, if all the charges were thrown out. And as for that whole misleading-parliament thing - weeeelllll, he could still keep serving, because after all, it's such a lot of fuss and bother to have a by-election when there's a Federal one round the corner.

The relief on the part of these news services was almost palpable, and their anxiety over Thomson's future quite touching. One felt as if they were on the verge of passing the hat round for poor old Craig.

So now I ask you: just what DOES a member of parliament have to do at the moment to be forced to stand down?

The Prime Minister staged a coup to displace a sitting Prime Minister and grab his job for herself. She is still up to her neck in some shonky business involving the AWU and the theft of around $400,000, all files relating to which have mysteriously disappeared, if indeed they ever existed. But she's still there.

Our Treasurer is delusional enough to think that his views on the US elections are of any concern to anyone except perhaps his immediate family. He also believes that if we spend more and more money it will miraculously grow back behind the sofa cushions. But he's still there.

Our Attorney General appears to have interfered with and attempted to block court proceedings. Peter Slipper was securely tucked away behind Nicola Roxon's skirts, and wasn't going anywhere until someone got to him behind the scenes. And even then he chose to fall on his sword, rather than be dismissed.

If Craig Thomson pranced naked into the chamber during a televised broadcast and waggled his bare bottom at the camera, would that do it? Or would some sub-section of some statute be wheeled out to argue that this kind of thing is in fact within the acceptable range of Parliamentary behaviour?

And just where does it say that in a hung parliament all bets are off, and the normal rules don't apply?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

FWA Charges Craig Thomson

And again, the day just gets better and better:

If found guilty, Thomson will face some whopping fines at the very least.

But if he's found guilty, then there's also the question of whether he misled Parliament during The Craig Thomson Hour.

Thomson is claiming that Fair Work Australia have been pressured into making this decision as part of a 'political process.' That would be much in the same way that James Ashby was pressured into claiming he'd been sexually harrassed by Peter Slipper, and the way Julia Gillard was young and naive when she signed all those rather grown-up looking documents for her married boyfriend and (in Gillard's own words) slush-fund operator.

The implication is quite clear from these infantile dummy-spitters: they believe that, if we didn't have a hung parliament, they would have been allowed to get away with anything they pretty much felt like. After all, that's the whole point of getting elected, isn't it? Snout A goes into Trough B, and stays there?

You Want Fries With That?

Fr Z again - just passing it on:

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Freedom of Speech and other Myths

We've had a nice week here in Perth.

* On Monday, Spectator Australia editor Tom Switzer spoke to a group of around 80 people upstairs at the Claremont Hotel (60 of whom were economics and commerce students, mostly from UWA) about the current US presidential election campaign. A rowdy and good time subsequently had by all, even CIS founder Greg Lindsay (not Greg Sheridan - this is what happens when I overdo the orange juice) and Hal Colebatch.

* On Wednesday, columnist and legal eagle Professor James Allan (over here for speaking engagements) made the acquaintance of Perth's best-kept secret, the Perth Mint.

* On Friday-Saturday, Murdoch University's Law School hosted a seminar on 'Threats to Freedom of Speech', featuring Allan, Chris Berg (keynote), Professor Augusto Zimmerman and others. Very impressive turnout - again predominantly under 40 years of age - and plenty of cut-and-thrust.

The Mannkal Economic Education Foundation has been very busy sponsoring these events! Here in the golden West we are (I think) generally more friendly towards wealth creation and big ideas, but it's still great to see so many people getting an intellectual breath of fresh air in these otherwise foetid times. (And what a nice change NOT to be talking about misogyny, dubious powers of attorney and sexting.)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Michael Smith News

The blog Michael Smith News has, as you would expect, lit up like a Christmas tree over the last few days. It's a refreshing pocket of freedom of speech in an increasingly shrill world - a place where ordinary voting people are allowed and encouraged to view documents pertaining to our Prime Minister's past working life, at their leisure, and to judge for themselves.

The latest? Claims that Gillard 'witnessed' the transfer of a power of attorney during the AWU mess when the person making the transfer was not even in the room, or in fact the same state.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Down Down, Deeper and Down

And the day just gets better and better:

1) Fairfax have linked Gillard to more stolen union funds and dodgy property deals from the Bruce Wilson era. Professor Bunyip also has a few more comments on the matter.

2) And another academic writer has contacted me today and told me how a critique of his (circa 2004) on the ARC was spiked by the Australian's Higher Education supplement on the grounds that it was defamatory.

Ye Canna Change the Laws of Physics

What's really interesting for me is to watch and see just how much longer this Government can last.

The laws of physics don't seem to apply to politics. It seems that you really can pile up more and more garbage on a flimsy platform, and it can bear an infinite amount of weight. Or that you can push the lid down on a boiling saucepan of liquid, and it will just stay down.

Or will it? I watched some of Mrs Mathieson's antics this afternoon, and I saw someone who was rattled. Seriously rattled. Fighting-in-a-corner, starved-cat rattled.

Hasn't she done us proud, our first woman Prime Minister. Latched on to the union jugular early on in her career and never looked back, before knifing her way to the top job. Along the way she's shown us that all she really cares about is power. She has not a shred of policy to her name; no conviction, no principle, and no plans for the future apart from the next 24-hour media cycle.

And so she dips into the vocabulary of insult and slander to try to defend her appalling track record as Prime Minister. An inordinate amount of her time - and the time of her current henchperson-in-chief Nicola Roxon - seems to have been spent covering things up. These things involved both Gillard and her union chums from way back, or more recently the unfortunate and rather disorganised love life of P Slipper Esq.

Gillard has faithfully, each time, used the saucepan-lid principle:

- use any and all means to hold it down,
- when you can't hold it down any longer, let it ooze out the sides and make a mess on the stovetop,
- then blame Tony Abbott and call him a sexist for pointing out that you are probably the worst Prime Minister in this country's history.

Let's just keep watching, shall we?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Well, That Made Sense, Didn't It

Julia Gillard has just attacked Tony Abbott because he's called for Peter Slipper's resignation.

She has called him - in an outburst of startling unoriginality - a sexist and a misogynist.

So, let's do the math:

- The twice-married Peter Slipper repeatedly sexts a young and good-looking gay man who works for him
- Peter Slipper expresses in these sexts a marked dislike for lady bits
- Peter Slipper tells the court that he loves his wife (despite her having the same unpleasant lady bits)
- Peter Slipper is therefore Husband of the Year and an innocent victim of Liberal Party machinations.

- Tony Abbott shows no signs of being fazed by strong women, having been married to one for years
- Tony Abbott turns his back on Nicola Roxon in parliament
- Tony Abbott calls for the resignation of lady-bits-insulter and office masher Peter Slipper as Speaker of the House of Representatives
- Tony Abbott is a misogynist sexist pig.

- Julia Gillard was involved in the 1990s with a married union boss who has left her in the lurch to answer (or not answer) a series of awkward questions
- Julia Gillard set up what she later admitted was a 'slush fund' for her boyfriend
- Julia Gillard resigned under mysterious circumstances after an internal investigation of the above at Slater & Gordon
- Julia Gillard became Prime Minister by knifing the incumbent with the help of some union buddies
- Julia Gillard has appointed incompetent women to her Cabinet, including Nicola Roxon and Tanya Plibersek
- Julia Gillard is therefore Woman of the Year and an innocent victim of Liberal Party sexism and misogyny.

Yup. All adds up to me.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Trick Questions and Double Standards

Q: When is bullying not bullying?
A: When you do it to Alan Jones.

Q: When is sexism not sexism?
A: When you do it to Tony Abbott.

Q: When is misogyny not misogyny?
A: When you do it to Gina Rinehart.

Q: Why are some people not protected by law?
A: Because we don't like them.

See Quadrant Online for the rest.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Yikes! Part IV

And it continues further. I emailed AFR and asked why the story had still been run in an electronic version when it had been spiked on Friday evening. It turns out someone had forgotten to delete the web version.

So anyone who read AFR's electronic version on the weekend - and indeed until a few minutes ago - would have been able to access this too-hot-for-publication piece.

If you try the link now, it's not there any more ...

I'm waiting to see what happens next, but isn't it splendid how I haven't once used the word 'Fairfax' as a pejorative phrase?

Yikes! Part III

And so it goes on. A Scholarly Lady Chum just emailed me this:

Go figure. But I can hardly complain. Don't forget to visit the unexpurgated version at Quadrant Online.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Yikes! Part II

I knew it was too good to be true! This evening (EST) the Australian Financial Review spiked my weekend edition story on grantsmanship in the arts and humanities.

The legal people didn't like it, apparently, and felt that while writing something like that in Quadrant was OK, putting it in the AFR wasn't.

I would like to say something trenchant here, but it's Friday afternoon (Perth time) and it's a long weekend, and the sun is shining at last, and the Grand Final is tomorrow, so I'm just going to have a nice G & T instead.

PS. The editing process did enable me to pick up one error: Professor Rebekah Brown's sociology grant was actually $195,000 and not $238,698. This has been corrected in the Quadrant Online version of the article, but not in the print edition.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Nakoula v Assange - Some PR Advice

Nakoula B. Nakoula, the so-called film-maker apparently responsible for The Innocence of Muslims, is just a smidge away from becoming a multimedia celebrity of global proportions.

He's already got the slightly ridiculous name; all he has to do now is follow my easy step-by-step guide.

1) Seek asylum in the nearest Ecuadorian embassy;

2) Appear on the balcony to hordes of fans waving placards, and make a pompous speech;

3) Annoy everyone in the embassy so much that they encourage you to beam a live telecast to the UN and insist that the United States government get off your back about those piss-ant fraud charges, when really everyone knows that they are just persecuting you for your exercise of the right to freedom of speech;

4) Make sure your next movie is really offensive to Christians and/or endangers the lives of even more US military personnel;

5) Be feted on At the Movies by David and Margaret;

6) Have a mini-series made about you.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


There I was, just on my way out to yet another birthday dinner in a swanky restaurant (this is my annual excursion into How The Other Half Lives) when I was phoned by Keith Windschuttle and told that my forthcoming Quadrant piece will be - with any luck and some pruning - appearing in the Australian Financial Review this weekend.

For those of you who are interested, it's called 'Taken for Granted: funding arts and humanities research in Australia'. AFR's Shelley Gare assures me it's 'an original argument', but given that it recommends dismantling the ARC in a context of massive tax and university reform, that could be like a politician making a 'courageous' decision.

So with a faint and growing sense of being in front of a firing squad, I am off to Coco's for oysters and good times. Hope youse guys enjoy whatever it is you're having ...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Free Speech Saves Lives

The problem in Libya is not the West in general. Look at the images - if you can bear it - of those men dragging Ambassador Stevens to death. They’re all wearing Western clothes, and the man dragging him has his mobile phone clasped in his mouth.

There may be Western clothes in Libya, but what there isn’t is a history of free speech. Free speech is pacifying. Yes, it allows you to spread vileness - but it also allows vileness to be countered with argument, amendment, correction, and apology if necessary. It may whip up strong feelings, but it also disseminates them equally effectively.

More to come at Quadrant Online (quite possibly).

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Incest? No Wukkas

This just in: film director Nick Cassavetes says he's fine with incest, as it's pretty much like being gay.

After her rant on Q&A the other night at Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, I'm eagerly awaiting Catherine "Marriage was invented, love wasn't" Deveney's comments on this fascinating development.

It would also be nice to hear round about now from 'Neil Pharaoh, co-convenor of The Australian Rainbow Labor Network', as we did over the gay-sex-v-smoking thing.

Or is that the chirping of crickets I hear?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Yup. Totally Causes Cancer.

UPDATE: I'm not saying a thing ...

Just a quick update vis-a-vis the Lewandowsky furore:

1) I am a climate skeptic.

2) I believe smoking can indeed cause cancer. I am happy to accept that the links are proven, and that smoking has caused and continues to cause cancer in a great many other people.

It hasn't caused cancer in me yet, and it hasn't caused it in any of my blood relatives who smoked like utter choo-choos for decades, including my grandmothers, both of whom rolled their own. (Granny No 1 had to quit in her late 70s because she had dementia; Granny No 2 also quit in her 70s for reasons that escape me. Both died of non-cancerous illnesses.) So even with my total lack of first-hand experience of smoking causing cancer, I can accept the science.

Just to clarify a few other issues:

- Princess Diana's driver was drunk
- Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon
- I don't know or particularly care who shot JFK, but I will concede that a large number of people had excellent motives to do so, starting with his wife.

More on Lewandowsky from Joanne Nova.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Up in Smoke

Jules needs to do a quick head count:

1) are there more gay activists or smokers in this country?
2) And who's raising the most revenue?

As a smoking person, I am deeply offended at Gillard's decision to withdraw from speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby because she believes that smoking is more harmful to people's health than homosexual acts.

This is offensive, heartless and wrong. It's really disgraceful, and Gillard should be forced to apologise to the smoking community immediately.

As co-convenor of the Australian Conservative Rainbow Smoking Lobby, I denounce her comments as smokophobic in the worst degree. Haven't we progressed at all in this country?

More at Quadrant Online.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Fix the Schools? No Wukkas

The ALP Federal government is going to save the school system by the tried-and-true method of throwing huge sums of money into a mysterious black hole. Out of the other end of this hole will emerge a magnificent, glittering, internationally competitive school system that will be the envy of less blessed nations. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, because actually you have heard this one before. Here are some of the other ways in which the current Federal government has helped to solve the school system’s problems:

Project: Building the Education Revolution, $16.2 billion
Impact on educational outcomes: Unknown.

Project: Building 3742 school libraries in the last 3 years (as part of BER), $4 billion
Impact on educational outcomes: Library closures as schools move to virtual libraries.

Project: One Laptop Per Child project 2012 Federal grant, $11.7million
Impact on educational outcomes: No published evaluations available.

Project: Labor’s ‘literacy and numeracy partnership’ (4 years), $540 million
Impact on educational outcomes: No measurable improvements in either literacy or numeracy.

Project: Solar panels for school roofs, $324 million
Impact on educational outcomes: Unknown.

More to come at Quadrant Online.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Gillard's & Wilson's Slush Fund - the Evidence

Bolta is sharing this, so I will too:

"Michael Smith, the 2UE broadcaster who lost his job after asking the Prime Minister too many questions about the AWU scandal, has promised to put up all the relevant documents so readers can make up their own minds."

An End to Race-Based Welfare Entitlement?

Hear what Professor Marcia Langton has to say on ABC24:

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Pot, Meet Kettle

Heard Ms Gillard's rant yesterday about the evil sexists who are persecuting her? Got a few moments to spare? You might enjoy: 

·        Reading the transcript of Gillard’s Slater & Gordon interrogation and discovering just what she thinks of certain ethnic minorities in this country;
·        Saying the words ‘Julie Bishop’ to yourself and thinking of what kind of media and satirical coverage she’s endured for years;
·        A reminder from May 2012 of what the ABC’s best and brightest think of successful women entrepreneurs in ths country;
·        Googling the terms ‘leftism misogyny’ and being pleasantly surprised by the huge number of results;
·        Something from Bolta in 2010 on the vile misogyny of the local Left.

More (shortly) at Quadrant Online.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Because he knows he's going to get away with it.

Because he knows his erstwhile boss is in similar trouble, and that she's going to get away with it too.

Because he knows he's never, ever going to see the inside of a courtroom, let alone a prison.

Because he knows his erstwhile boss is also immune from prosecution.

Because he knows that if he goes down, a whole lot of other people will also have to go down.

Because he knows those people are never, ever going to go down.

Why is this man smiling?

Because we let him get away with it.

(photo courtesy of SkyNews)

Friday, 17 August 2012

That Pickering Blog

Larry Pickering has been getting a fair bit of media attention over his blog accounts of the AWU scandal. At the present time we still enjoy a modicum of free speech in this country, but this may change at any moment, so you'd better catch them while you can.

More at Quadrant Online.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Project WA

Today Ron Manners and IPA launched Project Western Australia, their radical economic blueprint for the future development of this resource-rich State.  This report will be distributed to all Western Australian State and Federal Members of Parliament.

What might a future WA look like with:

·        A deregulated and privatised water system?
·        Electricity reform?
·        Better protection of property rights?
·        Full privatisation of public transport?
·        More relaxed liquor licensing?

Go to and find out ...

Monday, 6 August 2012

NDIS: Coulda, woulda, shoulda?

I am watching with interest as the new National Disability Insurance Scheme promises to install yet another layer of cumbersome bureaucracy at both State and Federal level. This should make it even harder for people with lifetime disabilities to access a suddenly- and mysteriously-shrunken pot of funding.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Baby, He Was Born To Run

Now it’s just getting plain weird. In the wake of Bob Hawke’s serenade of the ACTU Congress and Craig Emerson’s unprecedented public Skyhooks eruption, tonight a roomful of painfully embarrassed people will witness Australia’s clown prince of economics and unreconstructed distributivist Wayne Swan engage in death-defying feats of Dad-trying-to-be-cool ...

Read more at Quadrant Online.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

You Didn't Win That! Somebody Else Won That For You!

Fr Z strikes again - and he's got a whole PAGE of them.

Alive and Quite Possibly Kicking

I'll be speaking at the three-day Colloquium to be held at Campion College, Old Toongabbie, at the end of August.

The Colloquium will run from Friday 31 August - Sunday 2 September, on 'The Christian view of history and the revival of the Liberal Arts'. For the details, see below. The registration form also gives you a preliminary program of speakers and papers.

I'll be speaking on Saturday, late afternoon, and my topic is 'When Worlds Collide: the Catholic histories of Warren Carroll and Eamon Duffy'.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Garbo Speaks!

Campion College have very generously archived an audio recording of a presentation I gave in December 2011.
'Breaking the 180 degree rule: is God back in the movies?'

The full series of talks can be found at:

My presentation begins at 1 minute 30 seconds, after the ad for Campion College and my introduction by Dr Susanna Rizzo.

Here's (Another) One We Prepared Earlier

'Unworthy of Strong Women', in J Biggs, R Davies (eds) The Subversion of Australian Universities (2002).

My musings on the Orr, Rindos and Ormond College affairs, and also - for the first time in print - self-defence tactics for use at a wine-and-cheese. Some advice never goes out of date, even after 10 years.

Our First-Class 'Second-Class Citizen'

This just in from Michael Kirby, a man who recently announced that he felt like a second-class citizen because he and his longtime partner could not marry.

On this occasion - his receiving yet another public award, to universal acclaim, while enjoying his presumably well-funded retirement from the top ranks of the legal profession - we feel his pain.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Quadrant (magazine) Articles, 1996-2012

Reaping the Whirlwind
December 2012

[Featuring disappearing files, a traduced Catholic lawyer and an almost-castrated Italian Archbishop. Now free to all good and well-behaved readers!]

Taken for granted: funding arts and humanities research in Australia
October 2012

Imagine a world in which humanities and arts academics were given credit not for winning enormous grants, but for their ability to function without them. What if academic excellence was measured by who could produce the most for the lowest cost?

Fact, counterfactual, and fiction: some current dilemmas in history
January-February 2012

[Featuring an extract from my kiss-and-tell forthcoming historical novel Only For Sheep, a thrilling tale of love, lust and colonial expansion in the dusty plains of New South Wales. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

November 2011

[Featuring a chauffeur-driven historian, Florence Nightingale in a fugue state, and the perils of knowing things about people. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

March 2010 

Indigenous Australians, far from languishing in brute savagery under white domination, appear in the archives—and consequently in this book—as lively, irrepressible, audacious, ambitious, clever, eager, talented. 

June 2009

[Featuring the Rule of St Benedict, Geoffrey Blainey, and people who are obsessed with Germans. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

Dunlop and MacKillop
March 1996: 59-60

[Featuring me on the subject of sanctity, heroism and not fitting in. Not hinting or anything …]

Quadrant (magazine) Book and Film Reviews, 1996 - 2011

Blameless yet talented
R J Stove, Cesar Franck: his life and times, Scarecrow Press, 2012.
July-August 2012

[Featuring a happily married composer, the Prussian Army, and a very large box of chocolates. Quadrant subscriber access only.]
Jan Gothard, Greater Expectations: living with Down Syndrome in the 21st century, Fremantle Press, 2011.
June 2011

[Featuring a bitchy obstetrician’s nurse, devious Education Departments, and the triumph of the human spirit. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

A.G. Evans, William Wardell: Building with Conviction, Connor Court, 2010.
November 2010

In June 1865, St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney burnt to the ground. When Archbishop Polding heard the news, he was almost as flattened as the cathedral, but he was sensible enough to approach a really good architect—a proven cathedral-builder and a man who clearly knew his onions. And so he commissioned William Wardell to design the new St Mary’s.

Juno-esque in Saffron [review of Claire McCarthy’s The Waiting City, 2010)
September 2010

[Featuring a collapsing marriage, a bout of food poisoning, and the supreme warrior-mother goddess Durga. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

Linda Himelstein, The King of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire, HarperCollins, 2009.
May 2010

This is where the story of Pyotr Smirnov enthrals, because he overcame the constant obstacles, maximised his opportunities, and, importantly, never allowed a setback to reduce him to sitting on the stove all day and complaining like someone out of Chekhov.

Adrian Goldsworthy, The Fall of the West: The Death of the Roman Superpower, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2009
April 2010

[Featuring global warming, the fall of Kevin Rudd, and some slitty-eyed Huns. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor, Yale University Press, 2009
October 2009

[Featuring the original Vicar of Bray, a scandalised Quadrant editor, and an archiepiscopal slipper. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, HarperCollins, 2008
May 2009

Madame Clicquot was plain, tough and sharp-tongued, and like a lot of plain, tough and sharp-tongued women in trying circumstances, seemed to have a penchant for handsome young men with promise.

Stephan Talty, Empire of Blue Water: Henry Morgan and the Pirates Who Ruled the Caribbean Waves, Simon & Schuster, 2008
March 2009

[Featuring my speculations about (a) what would have happened if Oliver Cromwell had joined the Mayflower voyage, and (b) Burt Lancaster in tights. Quadrant subscriber access only.]

Virginia Nicholson, Singled Out: how two million women survived without men after the First World War, Penguin, 2008
January-February 2009

I especially liked the Irish-born French scholar Enid Starkie, the blue-trousered scandal of the Senior Common Room.

Civilised disagreement
Peter Coleman (ed), Double take: Six incorrect essays, Mandarin, 1996
May 1996: 80-81

Monday, 16 July 2012

Doomed Planet - Donna Laframboise in Australia

Donna Laframboise in Australia
Laframboise represents a long and noble tradition of investigative journalism. Long may she prosper - and what a timely reminder of all the good reasons to attack the Finkelstein project here.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Quadrant Poetry - updated!

Poetry  (updated! and now in reverse chronological order by date of first writing)

Hope Road (2012)

Paradox (2009)

Saturdays (2009)

Knit (2008)

Personals Ad (2008)

A Difficult First Date (1998, 2008)

Fickle (1998, 2008)

My Friendly Neighbourhood Psychiatrist (1997, 2008)

Belladonna (1996, 2008)

Witch Hunt (1993, 2008)

Spirit Level (1989, 2008)

The reply of the Marxist professor to the used-car salesman (for R J Stove) 
Quadrant, October 1996: 71

Love song of the modern woman to her partner
Quadrant, July/Aug 1996: 86 [*a shorter version of this also appeared in Chronicles magazine in the US, but I can't for the life of me find it now]