Tuesday, 30 January 2007

A Justice Minister With a Sick Sense of Humour

Wednesday, 30th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Justice and Customs Minister Senator Chris Ellison will have a big future after politics as a comedy straight man if judged on his performance yesterday when announcing that Australian is sending two Federal policemen to Afghanistan to combat the illegal drug trade.
"This is part of the AFP's commitment to helping other nations in the fight against illegal narcotics," the Minister proudly proclaimed. In his wonderfully understated deadpan style he commented that "the drug trade undermines Afghanistan's security and has been one of areas targeted in Australia's assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan in conjunction with our international partners. It is important for Australia to support efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to deal with the problem."
A similar traditional campaign during 2006 saw, on United Nations estimates, opium production from poppies in Afghanistan rise 49% to 6,700 tons, enough to supply 90% of the world's heroin, restoring the country to the position of the world's number one producer.
But never fear. The AFP's involvement follows a decision taken by the Government late last year and two scoping missions to Afghanistan to review the security situation and issues such as immunities, protections and Coalition facilities available for the AFP personnel. That should put the frighteners in to illegal drug cartels.
It's just a pity that those Dutch do not understand the help that will soon be at hand. Their minister of development, Agnes van Ardenne, said late Monday that the ultimate purpose of Dutch participation in the NATO stabilization force in Afghanistan is to promote reconstruction. "That's only possible if the population is working with us, but the population won't do that if people see that we, as it were, are playing along with the game of destroying the income stream, the only income stream of very many farmers."

Don't Mention the Iraq Word

Wednesday, 30th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Dick Cheney - "scowling like Jabba the Hutt getting a root canal"
A visit by an important American politician would normally be a good way to start an election year. Pictures of a Prime Minister shaking hands with the great and powerful can do wonders for the image.
With the visit next month of US Vice President Dick Cheney the evidence is not so clear cut. The Vice President is on the verge of becoming a figure of fun within the political elite of his own country. I can understand how you might confuse Dick Cheney with Tony Soprano writes one columnist.Appearing more pained than usual, scowling like Jabba the Hutt getting a root canal says another. The chief promoter of the war in Iraq is not exactly the many you want to be seen alongside of when public opinion has turned towards supporting a pull out of existing troops rather than supporting the sending of more.
Not surprising therefore that Iraq got just one little mention in PM John Howard's press release announced the Vice Presidential visit. Expressing his pleasure at seeing Mr Cheney in Sydney from 22-27 February, Mt Howard said:
"The Australia-US alliance is of enduring importance to both countries and makes a significant contribution to international security. Australia and the United States continue to work together toward our common goals. We are cooperating closely to fight terrorism, address global environmental challenges and enhance energy security, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote an open international economic order. Vice President Cheney’s visit will be an important opportunity to reinforce the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Australia and to consult on major international issues such as regional security challenges, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war against terrorism."
Now the task for Mr Howard will be to ensure that the Iraq word continues to be played down when Mr Cheney is actually in the country. Certainly he will have to resist any attempt to get Australia to put any existing, or extra, troops in to positions where they might get shot at. Only the absence of deaths among the Australian contingent has prevented Iraq becoming the vote losing issue that it now is for his peers George Bush and Tony Blair.

Judge Slams Premier

Tuesday, 30th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Jim Spigelman with former boss, Gough Whitlam.
Australia would rarely have had a senior judge with more experience in politics and the executive branch of government than Jim Spigelman. The NSW Chief Justice moved with ease through the political ranks as adviser and chief of staff for Gough Whitlam as Opposition Leader and Prime Minister before effortlessly making the transition to departmental secretary running media policy. But for the crass stupidity of the NSW Branch of the Labor Party which refused to find him a winnable seat he might be leading the federal party today instead of heading the queue for elevation to the High Court should it be Labor’s task to replace Murray Gleeson.
Justice Spigelman is well qualified to make a comment or two about the way that politicians forget about the medium and long term consequences of their words and actions when it comes to election time. It takes one to spot one, as they say, and he composed a bit of political rhetoric in his time. So it was timely that the chose the opening of the legal year yesterday to none too gently remind NSW politicians that there is a price to pay for attacking the independence of the judiciary. "Our society cannot be governed by the rule of the law," Justice Spigelman said, "without an institutionalised arrangement for the independence of the judiciary. Further more, democracy depends on the courts enforcing what the Parliament intended, not what the executive wants."
Warming to his task, His Honour referred to the most frequent litigant in NSW being the executive branch of government. "People who are used to getting their way do not usually take kindly to their wishes being frustrated," he commented. It was vital that the exercise of judicial power be insulated, indeed isolated, from pressure or interference by the executive branch of government.
Those comments were by way of a prelude to attacking the NSW Premier Maurice Iemma for promising to impose two community representatives onto the conduct division of the NSW Judicial Commission. The conduct division has the job of considering complaints about the way judges perform their job. Justice Spigelman disclosed that he had written to the Premier expressing his disappointment that there was no prior discussion about the proposal and stressed "it would be wrong and contrary to constitutional principle if an appointment to a conduct division were to be made by the executive branch of government."
Behind all the polite language this was an amazing attack by the head of a state’s judiciary on the head of the executive government. Not that Me Iemma seems too worried. His response this morning was to say "the chief justice is entitled to represent the views of the judiciary but I am representing the views of the people of NSW who expect a higher level of judicial accountability and transparency when it comes to the hearing of complaints against judges," Mr Iemma said. A spokesman for Mr Iemma said he rejected the notion, as argued by Justice Spigelman, that political interference undermined the courts.

A Long Way from Howard's Battlers

Tuesday, 30th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Kevin Rudd persuaded Ms McKew to join his staff as an adviser.
Maxine McKew is a model of educated elegance – well mannered, well spoken and beautifully dressed. An identikit representative if Labor is trying to present itself to the tertiary educated working women and men of the nation’s central business districts with a keen interest in political events.
Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd persuaded Ms McKew to join his staff as an adviser and she will surely blend in well with his own intellectual interests. Undoubtedly she will provide a cultured and thoughtful touch to his forthcoming policy pronouncements. Now there is increasing speculation that Ms McKew will graduate from being a mere political consultant to a candidate with Gerard McManus writing in today’s Melbourne Herald Sun that Labor insiders say she could be installed in the Sydney outer western suburbs seat of Fowler
Prime Minister John Howard has a different taste in women. His Liberal Party has seen the advantage of having women in vote winning positions but has forsaken elegance for a more down to earth style like that of Jackie Kelly in Lindsay and Joanna Gash in Gilmore. Both have proved considerable assets as Howard has positioned himself to win the support of the aspirational workers.
It makes for an interesting contrast in campaigning styles – Rudd appealing to a different level to Howard’s. To me McKew brings a touch of theWhitlamesque to the Rudd machine. It is yet to be seen if it’s time to pass beyond the battlers.

The Power of the Police

Tuesday, 30th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is certainly a realist. He understands there's not much fun in being a policeman forced to deal with drink crazed violence. He knows too that the patience of Job is hard to maintain when provoked by a drunk throwing punches. And above all he realises that things would be a lot worse in Aboriginal communities if police refused to serve in them.
The prospect of just such a police boycott must be giving Mr Beattie more sleepless nights than treated sewage as the Queensland Police Union prepares for meetings throughout the state over the next week to consider industrial action in protest over the recommendation to charge Senior Sergeant Hurley with the manslaughter of Mulrunji Doomadgee as recommended by an independent review of the case by former NSW chief justice Sir Lawrence Street. At least the Premier can be thankful for the assurance yesterday by union vice president vice president Denis Fitzpatrick that Queenslanders would not see police abandon their responsibilities. A full scale police strike is thus unlikely.

Monday, 29 January 2007

With Friends Like Glenn...

Monday, 29th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Glenn Milne
Ardent supporters can be a pest at times and this morning Peter Costello probably puts Glenn Milne in that category. Over the years the Treasurer has basked in the praise of the punchy little columnist for The Australian but now that John Howard is not going, reminders of leadership contests to come are not what Mr Costello needs. Milne's column under the headline "Turnbull could sink" will be interpreted in Canberra as reflecting the views of a churlish Costello wishing failure upon his chief potential rival for the Liberal leadership.
The column itself suggests that Turnbull's rapid elevation to Cabinet rank is the result not of merit but of Prime Ministerial patronage designed to ensure that Costello has a challenger of substance when the great man finally departs. Heaven forbid but Turnbull recently even "chatted amiably with Janette Howard, the ultimate arbiter of who gets entry into Howard's inner orbit." Has the man who once declared that Howard was the "Prime Minister who broke the nation's heart" over the republic got no shame?
For good measure Glenn has tossed in that best of all sources, the anonymous Liberal MP who declares that the PM will see the error of his ways when Turnbull starts getting on his nerves by starting to "claim credit for fixing the water crisis." Perhaps that is true but elsewhere the thrust of the column is that the water crisis will not be easily or quickly fixed as state Premiers bring forth their weasel words and protracted negotiations end up in the High Court.
A little each way commentary, of course, is not important when the main message is to leave the impression that a two-faced Howard is principally concerned with making future life difficult for your mate the Treasurer. As Milne puts it: "Despite the Prime Minister's public comments to the contrary, few in the Liberal caucus are in any doubt that Howard is constructing the Turnbull edifice as yet another bulwark against Costello."

Rallying the Donors

Monday, 29th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Brian Loughnane
Frightening the potential donors is an essential tactic for those who must take the hat around to finance election campaigns so the Liberal party's federal secretary Brian Loughnane took the opportunity when chatting to Young Liberals at the weekend to pretend that his team would be at a sizeable disadvantage when the next election campaign comes. Labor and its union allies, suggested Mr Loughnane, would spend a combined $50 million while the poor little Liberal Party would have less than $20 million.
Both figures should be taken with considerable skepticism but there is no doubt that things are looking better for Labor fund raising than for several campaigns. For the union movement this election is a last stand against the industrial relations changes of the Howard Government. If the Coalition is returned for a further three years there will be little chance of stopping the spread of work place agreements to the point where their future abolition becomes virtually impractical. It is a case of now or never if the remnants of trade union power are to be preserved so this is the time to use any hidden reserves tucked away on union balance sheets. As well as the ACTU running its own advertising campaign the Labor Party can expect substantially higher contributions.
From the business community, the share Labor gets depends very much on the assessments companies make as to the likely return on their investment. If Labor is seen as having little chance of winning, or of doing things business does not like if it does win, the money dries up. Under Mark Latham both these things applied and financing of the last campaign suffered accordingly.
With Kevin Rudd at the helm the expectation of a good Labor showing has increased and polls that six months ago were deemed unbelievable are now believed by many. That makes business leaders keener to understand what a Rudd Government might have in store for them and it is much easier for a donor to party funds to get a hearing than it is for a company that refuses to play the game of political donations at all and very much harder for one with a record of giving to the Coalition and not to Labor.
Brian Loughnane is well aware that Rudd has made a difference and that companies are likely to split their donations more evenly between his team and Labor than they have in the recent past. We should not feel too sorry for him though. The Coalition will still have the advantage of the mass of taxpayer-funded advertising which should ensure that this is a very profitable year for television companies.

A High Water Profile Where it Counts

Monday, 29th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Ownership dispute of the Googong dam is delighting the voters of Queanbeyan.
Gary Nairn, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in charge of water, did not achieve the national prominence of a Malcolm Turnbull but he has shown some skill in using the issue to the advantage of the Coalition in his own electorate of Eden Monaro.
Nairn, now Special Minister of State, was involved before his promotion in long running negotiations between the Federal and ACT governments on the ownership of the Googong dam and its water just outside of the national capital.
Control of the dam was originally ceded to the Commonwealth to provide an adequate supply to Canberra but the transfer to the local ACT government was not completed at the time self government was imposed. From memory there was some wrangle or other about liability in the event of the dam collapsing but it was always assumed that control would eventually pass to the administration which actually used it.
Over the border in Queanbeyan, water is provided by the grace and favour of the ACT electricity and water authority and, according to Nairn, this has stopped the expansion of the neighbor Canberrans describe as struggle town which he represents in the Parliament. His answer, suggested to the PM, was for the Commonwealth to retain control of the Googong dam so a water policy could be developed for the whole region around it and not just for Canberra.
This, naturally enough, has enraged ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope who wonders why he was not consulted before such an arbitrary decision was made. And the more Mr Stanhope protests, the happier Mr Nairn becomes as his voters of Queanbeyan delight in the role reversal as the other side of the border struggles for its water.

Friday, 26 January 2007

What About Water in My Back Yard?

Friday, 26th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
There is one key political factor about the land through which the rivers of the Murray Darling Basin flow. It is basically solid Coalition territory.
That gives Labor an easy and politically advantageous response to the Prime Ministerial water initiative. Let the Coalition worry about water for the irrigators. Kevin Rudd can concentrate on providing water for people in the cities and towns where this year's election will be won or lost. A promise by Rudd that a government he leads will ensure people can once again water their lawns will beat John Howard's concerns about deciding which farmers can have how much water to put on their crops.
What is needed, Federal Labor can argue without upsetting its State colleagues, is assistance for the states to invest in the infrastructure needed to ensure the cities never again run short. Getting rid of urban water restrictions should be the first priority.
An environmental concern for healthy rivers can be tossed in for good measure. By all means support governments, State and Federal, buying back water rights from the irrigators so the Murray starts flowing again. Some city voters might like to have their self interest disguised behind some rhetoric about a concern for nature but do not forget where the votes are.
The South Australian Premier Mike Rann showed the way this morning with his reaction to John Howard's plan. "If the Federal Government takes over, moves in, uses some sort of scheme to take over our rivers", Rann argued on ABC radio, "that means that the Government is politically beholden to the cotton industry and the rice industry, and the upstream irrigators would be in control of water."

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

The Message in a Name

Wednesday, 24th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The Master Politician will once again flirt with xenophobia without himself being condemned as an Anglo Saxon racist.
It was appropriate that the newspapers were full of Australian flag stories on the day Prime Minister John Howard announced his pre-election ministerial changes. We are going to see a lot of flag waving from now until polling day. Nationalism is going to be the Government's big re-election theme.
The change in name announced by Mr Howard provides the clue. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs is dead. Long live the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Get ready as the master politician flirts again with the difficult task of tapping the underlying xenophobia in many Australians without himself being condemned as an Anglo Saxon racist. Mr Howard managed it once years ago when raising fears about the levels of Asian migration and again when he exploited imaginary children being thrown overboard by undesirable queue jumping illegal immigrants.
The sacked Amanda Vanstone will surely be relieved that she has been relieved of the duty to preside over this latest bit of wedge politics. The good Senator might have been a tough Immigration Minister in withstanding the attacks of bleeding heart lawyers but she retained her small "l" liberalism through the difficult time of rebuilding a shattered department. It was good to hear so many refugee advocacy groups finally acknowledge on the day of her departure that she had done a lot to humanize the refugee and detention process.
Her successor Kevin Andrews will be ideologically better suited to replacing a concentration on multiculturalism with an emphasis on citizenship. Senator Vanstone had left it to Andrew Robb as Parliamentary Secretary to handle the distasteful task of pretending that Australia needs to give would-be citizens tests in English and civics. Mr Andrews will be quite stern enough on his own on this issue so Mr Robb has been rewarded with a proper ministry of his own for laying the groundwork.

A Liberal Nuclear Retreat

Wednesday, 24th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Peter Debnam welcomes policy debate but does not support the Young Liberals push for nuclear reactors to replace coal burners.
The New South Wales Liberal Leader Peter Debnam has given a clear indication that the Liberal Party’s flirtation with nuclear energy has come to an end.
Last year Prime Minister John Howard was full of reformist zeal as he had a band of experts prepare a report on the potential of a uranium based energy future for Australia. The timing of the release of the expert's report predicting that nuclear power stations could indeed be practical in a decade or so was the first sign that the Prime Ministerial enthusiasm was waning. News is buried on Christmas Eve and Mr Debnam's comments yesterday suggest why: the pollsters have told the Liberals that the public do not want a bar of anything nuclear anywhere near their own back yard.
Mr Debnam will be relieved that his firm opposition to nuclear power yesterday received little coverage anywhere but on ABC radio which had reported that those pesky Young Liberals would be following the original Howard line at their federal conference and calling for reactors to replace coal burners as a way of combating global warming. "I'm looking at new energy sources, not old," he said. "Nuclear technology is 50 years old - we want to move forward."
The original Howard proposal to put nuclear power on the political agenda was little more than an attempt to expose the Labor Party as hypocrites who now agreed with increasing uranium exports so other countries could contribute to limiting greenhouse gas emissions while not being prepared to do the same thing at home. But Australians, it seems, are quite prepared to tolerate a little bit of hypocrisy and there are few politicians more able to handle a view like that than Honest John.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Leaders Shouldn't Fling It

Friday, 19th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Kevin Rudd should have left the mudflinging to his assistant Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen (right)
Kevin Rudd should have been on holiday this week. Most certainly he should not have been commenting on John Howard’s couple of days of relaxation. Any plus there might have been for Labor from carping about the cost of a VIP plane flight to Broome was undone by its Leader doing the flinging. Australians find mud distasteful and the clever politicians who realize that some of it still sticks find someone else to do the smearing.
When it came to John and Janette landing in Broome to spend a few days when returning from a conference in the Philippines, Labor's assistant Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen was well suited for the role of flinger in chief. No none has ever heard of him but his comment that the "Australian people would expect that a holiday should be paid for by the person having the holiday, not by them" helped kick the story along. It did not need Mr Rudd to kick things along by pledging that he would never use publicly funded transport for his holidays.
That statement will surely displease all those Labor Party hangers on looking to him as an inheritor of the Gough Whitlam mantle. Gough as Prime Minister made an art form of visiting some of the world's most interesting and beautiful spots and was mightily unhappy, I remember, about having to return to express his sympathy to the survivors of the Darwin hurricane before jetting back to the Isle of Rhodes. A couple of days at Cable Beach would have been as nothing to him. The great Labor Leader used to fly his entourage at government expense up to Reef House near Cairns to spend a few days working on writing a speech and that was when he was Opposition Leader
We can, of course, yearn for a return of the days when a motel room at Hawk's Nest was a suitable site for a Prime Ministerial holiday and perhaps John Howard would as well. He and his family went to that same beach for 20 years until 1999 when the intrusive surveillance of cameramen made relaxation impossible for the Howards and other guests. The added complication of increased security in this age of mad mullahs makes that kind of holiday an impossibility.
Still, we need not feel too much sorrow for the Prime Minister. There are worse places than Kirribilli to be confined for one's annual leave.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Germans Take the South Park Line While the British Government Takes the Money

Thursday, 18th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
In Scientology doctrine, Xenu (as depicted above in South Park) is an alien ruler of the "Galactic Confederacy" who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of aliens to Earth in DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to wreak chaos and havoc today.
South Park viewers probably have got the message that Scientology was founded on the belief that evil aliens had been planting irrational thoughts into our heads. The brilliant episode "In The Closet" is worth hunting down on one of those file sharing sites to giggle along as Kyle is brainwashed into becoming a Scientologist and made to believe he is the reincarnated spirit of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.The only criticism, perhaps, is that, while fun is poked at the sexual orientation of Tom Cruise and John Travolta, by having them "hide in a closet", the true stupidity of the religion Jamie Packer flirts with is under exposed.
The South Park script writers could not, for example, go into detail about Ron Hubbard’s view that "there are only two answers for the handling of people from 2.0 down on the tone scale, neither one of which has anything to do with reasoning with them or listening to their justification of their acts. The first is to raise them on the tone scale by un-enturbulating some of their theta by any one of the three valid processes. The other is to dispose of them quietly and without sorrow."
In Germany it is perhaps understandable that the politicians worry about a group that flirts with supporting genocide. As the controversial church opened a six-story center in Berlin this month, Spiegel Online reported that "politicians are calling for the organization to be placed under closer surveillance." The news magazine reported that the Church of Scientology is a controversial organization in Germany, and is regarded as dangerous by the federal government. It is one of the organizations currently being monitored by Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country's domestic intelligence agency, which also keeps an eye on neo-Nazis, left-wing extremists and Islamist terrorists. "There is substantial evidence that the Scientology Organization is involved in activities directed against the free democratic order," Spiegel quotes the Office for the Protection of the Constitution warning in its most recent annual report.
Australian politicians have been relatively silent on the subject since the High Court confirmed Scientology’s status as a church and the passage in 1982 by the Victorian Parliament of the Psychological Practices (Scientology) Bill which repealed legislation passed in 1965 which had prohibited the use of an galvanometer E meter or similar instrument except by a registered psychologist or with the consent of the Victorian Psychological Council and prohibited the teaching, practice or application of Scientology for fee or reward.
In Britain the politicians are even more relaxed. Both the Labour and the Conservative parties took payments of thousands of pounds to enable the charity Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), which is affiliated with the Scientology Church, to have stalls at their last party conferences. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: "Scientology is a dubious cult at best and it's worrying that it seems to have infiltrated both Labour and the Tories in this way. It only goes to show that some politicians are prepared to take money from anyone. Given Scientology's record of spin it is no surprise that they have links to this Labour Government."

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Will the Hydrogen Economy be "The Vision Thing"?

Wednesday, 17th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
Newt Gingrich outlines what he call his Bold Solutions for Energy to Help National Security, the Economy and the Environment
With the dawn of an election year the political operatives get down to the task of developing a policy or two with which to try and convince a skeptical public that their leader is something more than a cynical politician trying to preserve his own rewarding lifestyle. Finding "the vision thing" the operatives call it and the purpose is to provide a coating of idealism around the more naked vote buying promises that are the key components of campaigning.
Many voters, you see, like to pretend that they are motivated by more than grubby self interest when filling in the ballot paper. It sounds better to tell the workmates you vote Calathumpian because that is the party that will build a better future for your children than to admit that the motive is to grab their promised $5000 child support rebate. A disguise of idealism is an important electoral component.
Important, maybe, but difficult to find. It is not every election that a Bob Hawke can wrap his bribes with talk of bringing back together an Australia that Malcolm Fraser wrought asunder as in 1983.
John Howard and his team tackle the task better than most. Their version of a safe and secure island nation protected from dangerous foreigners who would throw their own children to the sharks was truly visionary. Saving mortgage payers from the ravages of rising interest rates did not have the same idealistic ring but it sufficed in Labor’s absence of anything better.
This time the vision most needed probably has to involve the future of the planet because every climatic anomaly these days – hot days, cold days, floods and droughts – is put down to global warming. Politicians needs to show they are concerned and have an answer that does not involve actually having to do anything where success or failure can be judged during their years in office. Quite a difficult assignment for the operatives but I suspect that the task has been made easier for those on the Liberal Party side by the path breaking work in the United States by Newt Gingrich who is back at the task of influencing the Republican Party with his 21st century contract with America.
In his latest newsletter Gingrich outlines what he call his Bold Solutions for Energy to Help National Security, the Economy and the Environment and right at the top of the list is creating "a series of incentives and prizes to develop a hydrogen economy and return the Middle Eastern oil supply to being a petrochemical feedstock." I can hear already Prime Minister Howard explaining how a hydrogen economy would be better for Australia and the whole of the free world. A hydrogen economy would be better for the environment (no carbon loading of the atmosphere). A hydrogen economy would be better for the Australian economy because it would keep at home all the cash we are currently sending to the Middle East.
While working to develop a hydrogen economy, John and Newt could say in unison, there should also be an interim strategy to include incentives for conservation and for renewable fuels, including wind, solar and biofuels. It is better to send the money, they chant, to Australian and American farmers than to send it to foreign dictators. A truly wonderful vision.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

A Cryptic Report

Tuesday, 9th January, 2007  - Richard Farmer 
The Christmas and New Year holidays were a newspaper and internet free zone for me so my knowledge of the death by bashing of a young man in Griffith came exclusively from ABC radio. At first it sounded like just another piece of senseless teenage violence that was probably alcohol induced but then there came references that hinted at something more. There was a mysterious "we" involved as in one of the youths doing the bashing saying "This is now we roll in this town."
For we listeners, it was as if the ABC was giving a replacement for my missing crosswords. Just that cryptic reference and then the voice of the mayor saying there was no racial trouble in his town. It sounded like the ghost of Al Grassby giving another of those defences of the Italian community to deny that there was any Mafia-like involvement in the death of a boy of good Anglo-Saxon stock.
The repetition of the dead man's name, Andrew Farrugia, suggested this was not the case so a fertile mind was left with the impression that the unmentionable "we" could be Moslem but was probably Aboriginal. They were the only groups I could think of where political correctness would dictate that the true identity of murderers be kept secret.
And so it was this morning that while turning to the morning cryptic I glanced at Paul Sheehan writing on the opinion page of the Sydney Morning Herald and learned that those charged were Aborigines and that it was a common occurrence for young Aborigines to cruise around Griffith looking for a brawl.
It is hard to disagree with Mr Sheehan's conclusion that Andrew Farrugia was killed by racists and that "the time for whitewashing, blame-shifting and rationalising racism in any form is over."