The Question of Albo
A small but loud-voiced number of subscribers wrote to me after I assessed Anthony Albanese – that’s him, the new ALP leader – a dunce as a politician, Cabinet Minister, Shadow Minister, Deputy Leader and now Top Dog.
I checked with very well-informed contacts in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane to discover whether I’d done Albo a terrible disservice and under-estimated his ability to “grow in the job”.
Far from “growing in the job” since taking over he has actually grown smaller. He now sounds and looks like a teenager trying to appear serious in a school play.
He has taken to wearing a bush hat, an accoutrement borrowed from his friend, the late Tim Fischer, the former Nationals leader. It doesn’t help. In Queensland it revives long-buried memories of another National, Premier Sir Joh B’Donkey Petersen.
If he changes his hat will it help? No. Once a lightweight always a lightweight.
ScoMo on the run
When you think of Pastor Scott Morrison, Australia’s current Prime Minister, the words “headless chicken” come to mind.
In a matter of weeks, Morrison has been to Hanoi, capital of the People’s Socialist Republic of Vietnam, London to visit Boris Johnson and Britain’s other high profile law-breaker Mrs Betty Windsor, Paris to say “g’day” to French President Macron, the most unpopular President EVER, Berlin to shakey-shake hands with Angela Merkel, Germany’s most unpopular Chancellor since WW2, and then off to Washington and New York to grovel before the world’s most reviled leader President Donald Trump, Manhattan’s alleged fraudster.
In the course of his lightning tour, the Pentecostalist Prime Minister has backed the Hanoi Stalinists in their territorial row with China; backed Boris Johnson’s bid to form trading partnerships with the EU, China, the USA and Australia; gone to war against Iran (an ally of China) in the Strait of Hormuz; supported Trump’s trade war against China, Iran and Russia, and welcomed US warships, warplanes and special forces to Australia and the Pacific.
Australian diplomats at home and abroad have given up in despair. Long-nurtured relationships are being torn up with wild abandon. Yesterday’s friends have become today’s enemies. Faced with the choice of pledging support to Washington or Beijing, Morrison has chosen Washington – while kidding everyone that he is still a friend of China. Beijing doesn’t believe this and neither do I. Morrison is a fully paid-up Washington man.
All trust has been destroyed by his efforts to hold onto his occupation of The Lodge. Meanwhile, at home his position is being white-anted by Peter Dutton, the ex-Queensland cop and leader of the far-right faction in the Coalition. The slavish media may call Morrison the Prime Minister when he’s touring abroad, but at home he is lap-dog to Dutton.
Politics and the ABC
When the late, great Brian Johns became managing director of the ABC he startled the Board and senior executives by declaring that the only true friends of the ABC were NOT in the Labor Government but in the National Party.
Johns was branded as a heretic. Protests flooded into his office from staffers and ex-staffers.
But the wily, intellectually-minded Johns knew what he was talking about. After all he was a former Canberra political correspondent of the SMH, the first publisher at Penguin Australia, first director of SBS, and then the ABC. He knew the Australian political scene backwards and vast experience taught him that the Labor Governments of Hawke and Keating loathed the public broadcaster.
Any time that funds were needed to glamorise the Budget, the ABC’s funding was cut or delayed.
Johns went ahead with his plan to encourage wider and more informed coverage of the bush. Tiny ABC offices were opened in the outback and reporters encouraged to use tape recorders and cameras to capture bush stories.
At first the Nationals were sceptical but later they saw the benefits of a locally-based ABC giving people a voice.
Today, the Johns initiative has done its dash. The new recruits to the ABC want their own agenda to be the priority. They loathe the modern-day Nationals for their inexcusable, pig-headed opposition to gender politics, abortion, same sex marriage, land care, science and secularism.
An acquaintance with an R.M.Williams franchise in Sydney’s CBD tells me that he is making a “fortune” selling drize-a-bone gear. One of his anecdotes is worth repeating:
A slim-hipped, trendy TV presenter bought a complete “bush” outfit for several thousand dollars. He came back later to buy riding boots with three-inch raised heels. “Going bush?” my friend asked. “No, I’m going to Randwick for the races,” he retorted.
Sucking up to Bojo
Quentin Letts is Fleet Street’s gold-plated rottweiler. He will write an excruciatingly toxic piece if asked by any publisher, editor or features editor. His principal targets are politicians or celebrities.
While disagreeing with most of his deplorable articles, I have to confess they are brilliantly written and engagingly amusing.
His 2017 book, Patronising Bastards – How the elite betrayed Britain, followed an earlier volume entitled, Fifty People Who Buggered up Britain.
His hobbies are gossip, hymn-singing and cricket but he is currently covering tracks over previous articles on Prime Minister Boris “Bojo” Johnson. There are many others doing the same.
When he was elected PM by a few hundred largely male, white reactionaries from the Home Counties, Johnson was declared the country’s “saviour”.
Allison Pearson wrote in the London Telegraph: “He struck a rather lovely chord when he spoke about how it is Conservatives who have best understood ‘how to manage the jostling sets of instincts in the human heart’. After the punishingly prosaic Mrs May, it sounded like pure poetry.”
Fashionable young fogey Toby Young wrote: “With his imposing physical build, his thick neck, and his broad, Germanic forehead there was also something of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch about him. You could imagine him in lederhosen, wandering through the Black Forest with an axe over his shoulder looking for ogres to kill. This same combination – a state of advanced dishevelment and a sense of coiled strength, of an almost tangible will to power – was even more pronounced in his way of speaking. From the first moment I saw him I felt I was in the presence of someone special, someone capable of achieving great things.”
Spectator columnist James Delingpole gave Bojo the thumbs-up writing: “He happens to be the second Prime Minister with whom I was friends at university.” [Oxford, of course].
Murdoch’s favourite newspaper The Sun greeted his arrival at No 10 nine weeks ago with wild enthusiasm but after 11 Law Lords unanimously declared him and the Queen of Australia, aka Mrs Betty Windsor, “liars”, Murdoch joined other tabloids to put the boot in.
As I have spent more than 50 years as a reporter I am often asked: “What has happened to the modern-day media?” It’s a good question.
The basic answer is that the media has become a smaller and smaller group of privately-owned monopolies. They are driven by crazed owners (nothing new about that) with the addition of money-hungry investors. The culture shift has trashed journalism and its practitioners as well.
This week’s Australian, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship publication in Oz provides an example of what I mean:
Sharri Markson, national political editor of the Daily Telegraph and former diarist and media editor of The Australian was named journalist of the year at the Canberra Press Gallery’s midwinter ball, now a fully-owned subsidiary of Murdoch sleaze Inc.
Greta meets Fred
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is the money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?”
- Greta Thunberg,16, delivering an inspirational message to the UN Climate Change Action Summit in New York on 23 September 2019.
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Thus, at every step we are reminded that we belong to nature. We by no means rule over nature like a conqueror. We exist, with flesh, blood and brain, in nature’s midst. We have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”
- Frederick Engels, delivering an inspirational message in his essay The part played by Labour in the transition from ape to man written in June 1876
“I want children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future, and I think it is important we gave them confidence that they will not only have a wonderful country and pristine environment to live in, that they will also have an economy to live in as well. I do not want our children to have anxieties about these issues.”
- Pastor Scott Morrison, Australia Prime Minister, addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on 25 September 2019