Are you bored with violence and bad language on television? Are you sick of left-wing drivel and the sheer inanity of even so-called serious programmes? Then ArgTel is for you. ArgTel is Argus Cable TV. ArgTel offers high-quality television that will stimulate without offending. Here is the schedule for today.


Restful 1958 film of white swans on lily pond (2 hours) with music by Mantovani and his Orchestra. (B&W)
Matters of interest to gentlewomen, incl. Housewife's Helpline (today: Family Cooking in the Servantless Age); Pursuits & Accomplishments (today: Drawing, Petit Point, Pianoforte, French); Care of Our Husbands (today: The Well Starched Collar); Etiquette (today: Do's and Don'ts of Fainting at Funerals). (B&W)
Set your watch by Melbourne's Floral Clock. (B&W)


For RC viewers. (B&W)
The Coronation (1953). Once-in-a-lifetime classic noted for its casting and soundtrack (incl. original score of "Zadok the Priest"). (B&W)
(For schools.) Incl. Health presented by "Medico" (today: Your Body Is Like a Motor Car); Singing Lesson (today: "Dashing Away With the Smoothing Iron", "Tree of Peace", "Linden Lea"); Our World (today: The Story of Coal); Wonders of Science (today: The Modern Ocean Liner, Will Man Ever Reach the Moon?); History (today: Caesar's Conquest of Gaul, Agrarian Reform Under the Later Plantagenets); Geography (today: Peoples of the Tundra, Principal Exports of Brazil); English (today: Regauntlet by Sir Walter Scott; Poems of Felicia Hemans); Mathematics presented by "Euclid" (today: The Isosceles Triangle). (B&W)
1959 film of old bridges of Tasmania (2 hours 30 min.) with music by George Melachrino's Magic Strings. (B&W)


Broaden your horizons with this programme of holiday slides sent in by viewers. This evening: On the Beach at Lorne, Vic.; By Caravan Through the Flinders Ranges, SA; Visit to the Golden Circle Pineapple Juice Factory, Qld; Puffing Billy, Vic; Taronga Park Zoo, NSW; the Invercargill Botanic Gardens, NZ. (B&W)
Incl. News & Sport, Vice-Regal Diary. (B&W)
Hard-hitting investigative programme that tackles the issues that matter (tonight: False Pedigree Scandal at the Almanach de Gotha; Is Gothic or Classical the Ideal Style for Public Architecture?) followed by genteel studio discussion chaired by the late Sir Eric Pearce. (B&W)
Courtesy J. Arthur Rank. (B&W)
Music to dine by from the ArgTel Palm Court Orchestra conducted by Hector Crawford. (B&W)
For gentlemen only: programme of politics and finance. (B&W)
Features Family Quiz (tonight: 597th appearance of world champion Barry Jones); What Am I? (competition to find Australia's best young charade performers); Ballads We Love with Peter Dawson and Florence Austral (tonight: "Velia", "Asleep on the Deep" (arr. Grainger), "The Happy Wanderer", "Trotting to the Fair", "The Lost Chord", "Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar"); Roll Up the Carpet (Dance Music with Dennis Farrington, concludes with "Goodnight Sweetheart"). (B&W)
Favourites from the 1939-1942 Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone. Tonight: Sherlock Holmes and the Gay Hussar (repeat). (B&W)
Favourite choruses from Sankey & Moody sung by George Beverley Shea. (B&W)


30 April 2012


The Anzac march in the inner-city suburb of Burchett Hill took place today under severely restricted conditions after the Burchett Hill City Council refused to issue a permit for a march through the streets. Such an event would be "provocative" to citizens "who do not share the Anglo-imperialist glorification of war," said Councillor Les Rhiannon, the Mayor. "There are many true-blue Aussies from places such as Turkey and Mesopotamia who have lived in Burchett Hill for weeks or even months or longer who have not only suffered the horrors of violence in their earlier countries of abode but who emphatically reject the Judaeo-Christian-Fascist agenda that gave rise to the military adventures of the twentieth century," he said. "Council has a duty to protect their sensitivities."

The march, for those few residents who could be bothered with it - for in addition to true-blue Aussies from Turkey and Mesopotamia the municipality's demographic includes large numbers of well-to-do Green voters who reject the Anzac "myth" as "not in the spirit of world government"- had therefore to be relocated away from public space. The march took place indoors at the RSL Club with arrows posted around the principal rooms to indicate the route the marchers were to follow. From the assembly point in the Tabaret, the route ran through the club's Hungry Digger Bistro ("Seniors' All U Can Eat Menu, $12"), into the bar and the Old Mates Memorabilia Room with its dusty flags and weaponry and fading photographs, and on to the Tobruk Lounge ("the Ideal Venue for Weddings and Celebrations. Ask to see our rates. You'll be pleasantly surprised") where "They shall grow not old" was to be recited.

There was some confusion during the earlier stages of the programme. The Burchett Hill RSL, its membership sadly depleted, depends for its survival on the income from its bistro, bar and Tabaret, which are let out to commercial management. Due to an oversight the bistro franchisees, a Mr and Mrs Gupta, had not been informed that the march had been relocated and were busy serving early lunches to two coach parties of Japanese tourists when the marchers came through. Several of the more ancient marchers, hearing numbers called out for meal orders and seeing facial features dimly familiar from earlier years, fancied they were being recalled to their regiments and marched, as closely "at the double" as their years would permit, past the servery into the kitchen, from which they were ejected by various Gupta male relatives. One elderly veteran ended up in the "food waste only" wheelie bin; another found himself among the frozen "today's house-baked" gourmet pies in the walk-in freezer. Other marchers, seeing the tables and crockery, thought it was a scheduled break and sat down to order "a nice cuppa and a bit of fruitcake" (a nice cuppa and fruitcake being about the last things you can get at the Hungry Digger, which prides itself instead on its "great coffee" and "Mediterranean-style grazing"). Several marchers were found to have been left behind in the Tabaret, one complaining that he'd "lost his shirt".

It having been discovered as the march set off that the space between the gaming machines, tables, chairs and other fittings was too cramped for the band to carry its cumbersome instruments, the marchers were musically unaccompanied except by croaking renditions of "Hitler Had Only One Brass Ball" and "Pack Up Your Troubles" from a few of the older diggers, some in wheelchairs. The Last Post was sounded on the synthesiser on the dais of the Tobruk Lounge, used for discos and dances.

The council ban on a public march did not mean that there was no official Anzac commemoration at the Burchett Hill War Memorial in Chavez (formerly Civic) Square. "There is no reason," said Councillor Rhiannon, "why this traditional celebration of mateship should be hijacked by a lot of old rednecks", nor that it should reflect "discredited class conflicts that Australian working people were dragged into by the skin of their teeth". For this morning's council-sponsored "inclusive" Anzac ceremony, the memorial was tastefully draped in the rainbow and Aboriginal flags. There was no march ("a militaristic anachronism") and the speakers were drawn from among what Councillor Rhiannon described as "the voices excluded from Anzac Days of the past". Aboriginal "Auntie" Lorraine-Louitja Bromberg-Heiss, representing the Tomandjeri nation on whose land or ngurumbang, states a plaque, the War Memorial stands, made a ringing plea for "the European occupiers of the Australian continent to pay accrued rental with compound interest for their use of army camps and barracks around so-called Darwin and elsewhere on the pretext of defending the country against the 'yellowfella' Japanese, who," she reflected, "might otherwise have expelled the whitefella invader." Marriage-equality activist Deirdre Hogg said she spoke "for all lesbian, gay and differently-gendered people" in demanding an instant apology "with punitive damages" from the three branches of the defence establishment for "the blatant homophobia of Forces' humour" as exemplified in the kind of jokes she had heard from her grandfather and his army friends. "As a child I was brutally subjected to vile references to gay men with Irish surnames and someone called Patrick fitting Gerald and vice versa. There were sneering whispers of 'backs to the wall' when my Uncle Neville, who lived with his mother, came to visit, as well as highly unacceptable comments about 'butch' members of the women's defence forces and 'scissoring'," she said.

Greens councillor Dave McStir, a shop steward at the Burchett Hill Town Hall branch of the Municipal Workers' Union, delivered an eloquent condemnation of the coal industry for its contribution to "the war machine", though the full force of his remarks was unfortunately lost on account of his Glasgow accent. Then came a musical interlude. Grade III children from Burchett Hill primary school, coached by their teachers, chanted the popular 1970s refrain, "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh / We shall fight and we shall win", a great favourite at moratoriums and campus sit-ins of yesteryear. This brought a nostalgic tear to many an ageing eye.

Local churchman and Argus contributor Canon Owen Featherhead was about to conclude the ceremony with a prayer asking forgiveness for "the misguided Allied powers for their lack of charity towards nations with a different worldview" when there came the sound of slurred swearing and a party of Vietnam vets from the RSL, refreshed by their post-march "reunion", lurched into view with an armload of supposedly spent anti-tank shells abstracted from the Old Mates Memorabilia Room. These they proceeded to load into the historic cannon that stands on the steps of the War Memorial, swivelling it on its creaking base towards the official party. A roar like thunder, a flash of light and a wide rent in the rainbow flag indicated that someone in the memorabilia room had blundered, but Councillor Rhiannon was no longer around to ask who, or to demand the usual full-scale inquiry.

25 April 2012


Whoever bestowed its name on the Watergate Building in Washington could not have dreamt of the linguistic gift that he, with the subsequent assistance of Tricky Dicky's minions, was making to posterity . How many "-gates" have we had since then? I suppose "Climategate" was the most recent big one. On the way into the city the other night I noticed a bright neon sign high over Flinders Street with the word "Canongate". Flinders Street is where St Paul's Cathedral is and such is the association that "-gate" has acquired in my mind that for an instant the idea occurred that some canon had been up to something dodgy. I expect Bishopsgate in London would have the same effect.

Though not involving bishops or canons there is a cause celebre with a clerical association gathering steam that I suppose could merit a "-gate"ship. L'affaire Slipper might qualify not only as "Slippergate" (which I haven't yet seen but give it time) or "Speakergate" but as "clergymangate", given that the Hon. Peter, Speaker of the House, is also the Rev. Peter, an ordained cleric in the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia.

25 April 2012



Don't you just love to sit in the garden and watch the beautiful things of nature? I am fortunate enough to live in the near countryside and I just adore relaxing in a deck chair and seeing all the different birds who pop in for a "flying visit"and the fluffy rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) going about their bunny business.

Sad to say, some of the bunnies are a teeny bit naughty and eat my tender seedlings. I've devised a little punishment to teach them they shouldn't do that. It consists of a delicious home-made poison which I spray on some of the tastier-looking plants and leave for the greedy visitors to gobble up. It's slow to take effect and I understand very painful internally, which gives the bob-tailed predators time to repent before passing on.

I am marketing this preparation as "Edna's Cottage Garden Bunny Confiture". I've had it packaged up very professionally in olde-worlde style in lovely jars with gingham over the lid and a pretty hand-lettered label (at least it looks hand-lettered, no one could tell it isn't) and I am making it available to other garden-lovers with uninvited visitors, care of me at Argus, at the ridiculously low price of $79.95 a jar plus p&p. I expect to be able to sell it in bulk as well, to whoever's responsible for keeping down Australia's cuniculous community now that myxo is no longer effective.

Readers might also like to know about my strychnine cherries for birds - dangle them on your fruit trees, they look just like the real thing and they are deadly. My daughter's cockatoo, "Loudmouth", who kindly helped in the experimental phase, would testify to that if he were still among us.

Over the coming weeks I'll be trying out the snail and slug guillotine I've invented. It's very simple, just two razor blades powered by torch batteries. You can activate it from your mobile phone. I'm sure it will be effective and great fun to use.

Happy gardening!

24 April 2012


Readings bookshops in Melbourne are like university bookrooms of a certain era: every square inch not filled with stock is plastered with leftish and progressive journals, Dissent being not merely a theme, but hanging there on a bulldog clip (though dissent from what is hard to define in such a homogeneity of thought).  As in a university, Readings staff tend to be pasty-faced not-as-young-as-they-would-like-to-be-thought men with ponytails and a vaguely grubby air and a distinctly patronising manner, all presumably either doctoral students or would-be novelists constrained to serve behind a counter for subsistence until their thesis gains them eternal tenure in some English department or their masterpiece sets the bookshop tills ringing (or more likely brings the author to the attention of those who hold the purse strings of public largesse).

Leftishness hangs in the air at a Readings bookshop like incense in a Catholic church after a funeral. On the other hand Readings is a successful commercial enterprise so you would suppose they couldn't afford to be too ideologically or intellectually snooty about what they stock. I imagine even Bryce Courtenay finds a place on their shelves and perhaps even among the selections of hot new releases near the front door, if not quite in the window.

Well, if Bryce Courtenay does I'll tell you who doesn't. Today I went to the Readings shop in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn, the branch that I imagine to commend itself to its local clientele would need to be the most bourgeois and least Left-Banky of all their establishments. I asked for James Delingpole's Killing the Planet to Save It, published in Australia by that counter-cultural Olympia Press of our day, Connor Court. Delingpole is an English journalist of wit and perspicacity whose reporting uncovered the dodgy e-mails that led to the "Climategate" scandal, a revelation that probably did more than anything else to hole the barque of global warming "settled science" below the waterline. He is on Australia on a speaking tour which has had quite a bit of publicity and I thought that that at least would be enough to gain his book admittance to the hallowed portals of Readings, even if they ordered in only a few copies for cranks, cranks' money being as good as anyone else's.

No, Delingpole does not find a place on the shelves of Readings. The assistant, a rather pleasant woman rather than a male doctoral student with attitude, didn't exactly reel back in horror but she did shoot me an odd look when I asked for the book, not so much as though she thought I was a crank - well I hope not - but as though she thought I might be having her on. Then she composed her face. "No," she said, "we don't stock that. There have been one or two requests, but ... our buyers didn't order it. I'll mention it to the buyer. We could get it in for you..."

I wasn't surprised. It will be interesting in due course to see the sales figures for Killing the Planet to Save It in Australia. My guess is that like Ian Plimer's similarly sceptical bestseller Heaven and Earth (also published by Connor Court) it will sell much better than a lot of the pretentious but on-message potboilers that Readings does stock. I therefore fear we are dealing not with a commercial decision but an ideological one after all. Readings not stocking Delingpole is a case of censorship, pure and simple.

20 April 2012


Argus occasionally enjoys a hamburger as a little excursion into sheer gluttony from a more conventional diet. Usually the hamburgers are from the excellent Andrew's, the old-fashioned hamburger bar in Albert Park that's been supplying them to other gluttons since 1939. Yester even, though, it was suggested that, for variety and comparison, perhaps a hamburger from a different supplier ought to be tried. Argus rang his local branch of Urban Burger to do the ordering. "I'd like two hamburgers, one with ..." There was a sharp intake of breath at the other end of the line. "We don't have hamburgers." "No? What do you have?" "We have beefburgers."

Ah, they'd be the sort that originally came from Beefburg then.

It was pretty good, though for Argus's money Andrew still has the edge.

17 April 2012


I have never been a fan of Michael Leunig, the cartoonist and all-purpose sage whose doodles and squiggles throw the kind of people who vote Green and believe everything they read in the Age into transports of ecstasy. His drawings exhibit no great skill or charm and the faux-innocent observations and bits of doggerel that go with them read like a satire on Left-wing pieties.

Here is an example. Beside a figure of a trademark Leunig funny little man clutching a wad of cash and walking into a bank appear the lines:






Oh, sorry, that wasn't Leunig at all, that was written by me, in the old Argus in Quadrant fifteen years ago. But I should say that apart from *Jeff and John (Kennett and Howard for very young readers) being no longer on the political scene nothing much has changed.

This Easter Leunig produced a vapid cartoon in the Age depicting Christ as Humpty Dumpty putting himself together after three days. I suppose it could be thought offensive if that didn't imply taking this poseur seriously. Nevertheless, the usual considerations apply. Would Leunig portray Mahommed as Humpty Dumpty? Yes, the day pigs fly. Would the Age publish it? Same answer. Indeed, would Leunig's feeble drawings be so idolised if they conveyed a a conservative point of view? Oh dear, what a hard question.

16 April 2012


Highway collectors are out in force at many a busy intersection this weekend to raise funds for a very worthy cause: to send an Aussie team of collectors to the international highway collecting championships in Los Angeles later this year. Los Angeles has been chosen to host this year's "collection Olympics" because its complex highway system offers collectors "a fantastic challenge to cause some world-class snarl-ups" says Brendan Heist, coach of "Support Victims of Pyorrhoea", current champions in the Australian Collecting League.

Since its emergence in the 1990s highway collecting has turned into a multi-million dollar growth sport with many charities fielding a team. "It's the simple rules that make it so popular," says Heist, who cut his teeth with "Help Our Kids", an early starter in the game that has now become one of the country's highest-profile clubs. "Basically teams of collectors are assigned to major road junctions where they compete to see who can score the biggest traffic jam." Points are awarded for skill in various areas of collecting, for instance in persuading "difficult" motorists - "the type that look the other way when the collector comes past" - to wind down their windows and make a contribution. Bonus points are awarded to the team responsible when drivers anxious to get out of a "scrum" of besieging collectors become confused by the excitement of the game and drive off into the intersection without noticing that the lights are still red. There are also points to be notched up for the amount of embarrassment a team can cause to drivers without small change. Victoria's Dandenong Road "Collecting For Community Arts" team scored a runaway victory in this category last Sunday by forcing three motorists to pay by credit card (all players have been equipped with card and EFTPOS facilities since the "sorry I've got no cash in the car" excuse became a serious problem for "the gate"). Most teams will also accept donations in kind. Last year's "Standover Champions", the Maroondah Highway club "Give For Young People Against Climate Denialism", gained extra merit points for persuading a number of motorists to hand over their watches.

Meanwhile, accusations of "driver hooliganism" have been made by the League following an "unacceptable level of road rage" during last Saturday's big clash on the Pyrmont Bridge Road-Wattle Street ground in Sydney ("the Wimbledon of highway collecting"). The trouble broke out because of a mix-up in match schedules which led to four clubs battling for collecting rights over the same intersection. Nineteen players were injured when motorists caught in one of the biggest snarl-ups in the history of collecting left their cars and ran riot, threatening collectors, kicking collecting tins and trampling "Caution - Highway Collectors" placards. "This is the kind of thing that gives our sport a bad name," says Heist. "Drivers need to remember that  they are spectators at the game, not participants. Leave the threats and the violence to us."

Los Angeles will also be an opportunity for the International Highway Collecting Authority to rule on the dispute that's been threatening to divide the collecting community: whether giving should be voluntary or mandatory. Supporters of mandatory donations, such as Andy Turpin, president of "Give Or We'll Bash Your Car", who has already suggested that "uncooperative" drivers who fail to contribute should have their vehicles "expropriated" and sold "to defray collecting expenses", say that if highway collectors are going to be taken seriously they need to drop their "amateur cap-in-hand" status and take inspiration from the "great tradition of highway collecting in the no-nonsense days of the stagecoach and 'your money or your life'."

14 April 2012


What better than a good laugh to forget the gloom of Labor's constant slide in the polls? Or as stand-up comedy artist Judith Lousy puts it, "Don't crack the shits, guys, crack a joke instead!"

Lousy sets the tone for this year's bigger-than-ever Argus Comedy Festival. "Basically we're about bringing a more cerebral approach to the business of belly laughs," explains the whacky monologuist whose stage delivery the Age recently described as "martini dry". A self-confessed "ball-breaker", Judith nevertheless sees herself as "having a healing role in a dysfunctional society". She may be "Australia's edgiest new comedy voice" (Gay Observer) but she is devoted to making this country "a place that's a bit less psychologically fucked than it is now". Her comedy, in other words, is therapeutic, or as she puts it herself": "My monologues, which are what my act basically consists of, are basically designed to encourage my audiences not so much to piss themselves - though of course they do - as to know themselves. So-called 'humorous' comedy by itself, without something that gets in under your skin, just leaves the audience's repressions bottled up behind a smokescreen of laughter. I go beyond the laughs to dissect the psyche and if that means what some people call talking dirty, I talk dirty."

Lousy was a rookie comedian in the Burchett Hill University students' Gang Bang Show when she was spotted by director and arts entrepreneur Robyn Lesdyke and invited to combine her feisty monologues with the part of Ophelia in Lesdyke's all-woman comedy staging of Romeo and Juliet at the Adelaide Festival. Gigs on IBC comedy shows followed. She was even invited to perform her "anti-religion anti-comedy" sketch "Jesus! You Actually Believe that Crap?" in a Compass edition on "Faith and Humour", though she declined scornfully when challenged by a conservative newspaper columnist to present a similar sketch on the Islamic religion, describing the challenge as "disingenious shit-stirring".

Lousy joins a strong international team of comedy talent for this year's festival. Guest performers include Scottish stand-up comedian Billy Foulis, Seamus O'Sweare, a stand-up comedian from Dublin, stand-up comedian Lenny Scheisser from New York, promising young New Zealand stand-up comedian Nelson Smutt, Fijian stand-up comedian Wesley Guano and, of course top Australian performers Will Krude, Dave O'Yawne and Marieke Esterhazy-MacPherson ("the blonde blackfella" who recently went to court to show that her 0.008 per cent of Tomanjeri blood qualified her as what she calls a "fully paid up Aboriginal person").

Last year's Argus Comedy Festival was universally acclaimed as the best yet although one critic in a right-wing journal ("fascist rag," shrieks Marieke) had the temerity to break ranks and said that having sat through "what must have been platoons of stand-up comedians not once was my face tempted into even the shadow of a smile." "God there are some sad-arses around," was Judith Lousy's reaction. "Lighten up, mate. Or why don't you just go and dig a hole and die in it?"

12 April 2012


Melbourne society is mourning one of the last of its grandes dames, Dulcie Slingback, fashion writer and arbiter elegantiarum to the wealthy and well-born for more years than anyone can remember. A striking figure in her signature colours of puce and tangerine with royal blue accessories, Miss Slingback ("never Ms!" as she once told an Age reporter) was believed to be 106.

Although she had previously enjoyed a reputation for well-bred reticence, Miss Slingback caused a flutter in social dovecotes when in the 1990s she published her memoirs What Would You Like For Breakfast? In it she revealed intimate details of her private life and named some of Australia's best known men, most of them public figures, with whom she said "I have enjoyed breakfast - and I am not an early riser." The names of these "dear dear friends" read like a who's who of the Australian establishment. Prime minister Billy Hughes, for instance, she described in her book as "a wiry little monkey with his hands all over the place, presentable except that he drank his breakfast tea out of the saucer". Another sometime prime minister, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, "never took off his spats, not even for a bubble bath before retiring". General Sir John Monash "surprised me by appearing at breakfast in a negligee". The gangster "Squizzy" Taylor "brought fifteen minders to breakfast and gave me a Georgian silver coffee pot that turned out to be 'hot'". Henry Lawson "insisted on lighting a camp fire and boiling a breakfast billy in the middle of my drawing-room carpet". The medical missionary Dr John Flynn ("Flynn of the Inland") "liked nothing better than a game of doctors and nurses before breakfast." Foreign minister Lord Casey was "very formal; even after a number of breakfasts he never called me anything other than 'my dear Miss Slingback'". Names were a difficulty for another politician, Sir Billy Snedden. "He could never remember mine. He must have had so many breakfasts - usually, I understand, in motels - though I think he often skipped that part of the proceedings."

Her comments on her famous breakfast companions were frank if not uniformly flattering. The aviation pioneer Charles Kingsford-Smith "was so handsome in his goggles and leather flying cap though his teeth could have done with a bit of work". He liked to have his breakfast served "on one of those horrible little plastic tray things they give you in aeroplanes when you're flying steerage - at least I've been told they do, I myself have always 'turned left'." Celebrated comedian "Mo" Roy Rene she described as "not too keen on soap and water" with "breath that would melt Ayers Rock". Peter Dawson "practised his singing all night, which became a bit of a bore. Every time I dropped off I'd wake within five minutes to 'The Floral Dance' or 'Boots boots boots, marching up and down again'. He was not asked to breakfast again." Australia's greatest dancer, Sir Robert Helpmann, was described in Miss Slingback's book as "very athletic and a bit Betty Bothways - in fact much more one way than the other - but willing to try anything". The mining magnate Lang Hancock "looked like a toad, though he had plenty of what counted".

For over half a century Miss Slingback contributed the column "What the Well Dressed Dowager is Wearing" to Vogue Australia ("and I never missed an edition," she used to boast over her trademark breakfast martini). Her passing certainly marks the end of an era.

11 April 2012


Was the Second World War fought in vain? From the point of view of British sovereignty you might think so. The United Kingdom is now a subjugated country, ruled by an undemocratic foreign regime. What the might of the Wehrmacht could not achieve, the masters of the European Union have had handed to them on a plate by treaty without a shot fired. I suppose the British can console themselves with the thought that if one is going to lose one's sovereignty Brussels now is obviously preferable to Berlin then; but surely neither would have been better, and given that the latter was repelled at great cost, what a pity to have let the former have it for free.

10 April 2012



What a joyful time is Easter, a time of goodwill and merriment for all. Or it should be. But I hope we are mindful of those in our community who cannot rejoice in this season. Those who are sorely tried by "discrimination" for instance. I think of our many Moslem friends, who probably feel a bit "out of it" as we Christians celebrate the birth of our Saviour. It would be a nice gesture, would it not, if we were to join in their celebrations for the birth of the founder of their faith, whenever that is.

Then there are those victims of discrimination who are not allowed to declare their love and commitment to each other in the beautiful ceremony of marriage. I know many such people, and indeed my daughter Elspeth is among them. It is a source of great sorrow to me that as her father and a Christian minister I am unable to officiate at the wedding that Elspeth and her "intended" Bev would dearly like to have, as I was able to officiate when Elspeth married Harold some years ago. There is no Easter joy in that deprivation.

Nor should we forget those good and gifted servants of the people, the Labor members of parliament in Queensland now dispossessed of their seats, victims every one of them of discrimination in the form of racist and "redneck" reaction whipped up by the Satanic forces of the Murdoch press. As a "true believer" (in both senses!) myself, one who lived through the glorious days of Gough, I can only say that they who now taste the bitter cup of an ungrateful electorate truly share in the suffering of Him who was "despised and rejected of men" or should I say persons.

I think too of our "First Australians". Excluded from our constitution, excluded from much of their land, are they not like the Babe in the manger excluded from the inn? Easter ought to be a time for the rest of us, so privileged and often uncaring, to stretch out the hand of friendship to a First Australian and invite them into our home for good fellowship and a "prawn on the barbie" - or perhaps it should be a witchetty grub - and a glass of Easter cheer.

I remember - though as I advance into the "sere and yellow" I have to admit that my memory is not what it was - I remember that when I was a young missionary in Arnhem Land my spouse Enid and I got to know many First Australians. Although I was a bearer of the Gospel, the "good news" they might not otherwise have heard, I used to say to Enid that our mission work should not be "a one-way street" but that we and they should learn from each other. We decided to surprise our Indigenous congregation by learning some of their customs, such as the ancient and enchanting smoking dance. With the aid of a volume of anthropology and various "props", including some beautiful stringybark loin cloths run up by Enid on her Singer, and the contents of her cosmetics case, we prepared and rehearsed the dance until we were satisfied with our "act", as theatre people say. At Matins on Easter morning, instead of a sermon, I lit some back numbers of The Anglican piled up in the font and Enid and I performed our dance. Well, we certainly succeeded in our object of surprising our congregation. I suppose it must be owing to years of being on the the "receiving end" of prejudice and patronisation, but our audience, I regret to say, did not take our exercise in inculturation in the spirit in which it was intended. Amid a loud commotion, pews were knocked over and our organist produced a bone and pointed it at Enid and me. "Mine tinkit our dance am only for blackfellas," expostulated one of the more warrior-like members of our flock. "You get hell off our land, whitey, you and missus with face like possum's bum or" - here he bared his teeth - "you find out how kangaroo feels with boomerang on neck." Two of our sidesmen, perhaps not quite themselves, chased after Enid in her loin cloth and I very much fear would have violated her had she not been so fleet of foot. Yet who can blame these worthy people? Have we not all felt angry at times or felt that our special interests have been trampled upon? And is that not part of the great virtue of humility which we associate particularly with Easter? Enid and I felt that humility very keenly when we found that the flames in the font had spread to the whole mission and we were left with nothing but the loin cloths we were standing in.

I always think that Easter is especially Easter if experienced in Jerusalem, the Holy City - and not holy only to us Christians; respect for Jerusalem is something that unites several faiths, as from time to I remind my friend and colleague Imam Ibn al Choppa-hedoff Poofa of the Burchett Hill Mosque (his reply, "Jerusalem unite us when last Israeli pig there gets throat slit" is discouraging but I persevere). A few years ago Enid and I achieved a lifelong ambition of spending Easter in Jerusalem. Though not "touristy types" we naturally wanted to see as many as possible of the sacred places Our Lord Himself would have known if they had been still standing. I said to our driver, "Take us somewhere where we can feel the excitement of walking on holy ground." When we alighted from our coach we were guided into a large hall where, over the busy hubbub of chatter we could hear the clinking of money. A bank? Why on earth would he have brought us here? "No," said Enid, clutching my arm with excitement. "Look at the money-changers. This must be the Temple." We were both overcome with emotion. "Is this is the successor to the Temple destroyed in 70 AD?" I asked our guide. "What this shit you say 70AD?" he replied. "This Maison Golda Meir Grand Jerusalem Casino built last year. Most exciting place in city." How bitterly disappointed I felt, just as the Carpenter of Nazareth must have done when Peter failed him in the Garden of Gethsemene. I could see Enid examining her handbag. "My dear," I said, "let us leave, my soul is sorely troubled." But she had vanished. Late that night she returned to the hotel, on foot because, like the Prodigal Son, she had not enough of "the ready" left to afford a taxi.

That too taught me humility. We had to stay at the YMCA for the remainder of our visit because Enid's evening at the tables had exhausted our cash-card and credit resources. It was not the cleanest of places and there was a fair amount of what I am told is termed "action" going on in the shower stalls. Yet adversity gave us a true insight into the meaning of Easter. Even when we returned to "Oz" and, Enid's losses being more extensive than they first appeared, found we had to sell our car and mortgage our home I was buoyed up by the thought that Easter is not about winning but about losing. In the short term, that is.

For as at the first Easter, we rise again. Our financial embarrassment was left behind as new opportunities for ministry arose, new challenges to bring new rewards. I am happy to say that before long I was appointed to a permanent position at the World Council of Churches, with Enid and me flying hither and yon to anti-poverty conferences and anti-sexism conventions like two  seasoned "jet setters".

"Down" but never "out". Is that not the message of Easter in a nutshell?

Canon Featherhead, now retired, is chair of the Burchett Hill Churches Action Against Fracking Alliance.

8 April 2012


The inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill ("proudly twinned with Pyongyang") is proud of its rich "street life" in which restaurants and cafes under a sea of market umbrellas spill out on to pavements meant for people to walk along. But the jostle of pedestrians and gourmandising patrons has created something of a nuisance and at last something is to be done about it.

Burchett Hill Council has decided to ban pedestrians from walking along the city's "eat streets" without a specific permit. Restaurateurs have been loud in their complaints that pedestrians are "getting in the way" of outdoor restaurant tables. "Al fresco dining is a sign of our sophistication in Burchett Hill and uncontrolled walkers are an obstacle to reaching its full potential," says legendary chef Lou Salmonella, proprietor of the popular Cafe Botulismo Bar Ristorante Gastro-Grill and Gourmet Kitchen. "People with no intention of sitting down to eat just wandering along the street and bumping into tables make outdoor service difficult and carry individual rights just too far," he told Argus through a miasma of frying peanut oil while overseeing his staff in the preparation of the restaurant's celebrated "signature range" of "designer dishes".

"What's more, inconsiderate people use the excuse of 'doing their shopping' to try and park their cars right alongside our kerbside tables, blowing their exhaust fumes all over our customers." These emissions, Mr Salmonella pointed out, "tainted" the taste of the innovative dishes ("all with fresh seasonal ingredients, locally sourced") for which Cafe Botulismo is renowned. (He did not add, though he might have, that from time to time he has been privately grateful to the smell of the exhaust gases, when the locally sourced fish or brains were not as fresh as they might have been.)

Burchett Hill Council estimates that, as part of the city's quest for the "tourist dollar", restaurant capacity could be "quadrupled" if the narrow sections of street presently given over to pedestrians were rezoned to make room for extra tables and chairs. The Mayor, Councillor Les Rhiannon, said that "consideration should also be given" to designating the roadside strip where cars are parked a "permanent clearway for restaurant use with more chairs and tables, waiter stations and coffee machines."

Responding to ratepayers' protests that the pavement tables were themselves an "intrusion" into publicly owned space, Councillor Rhiannon said that it was" a cardinal principle of local government" that "Council knows best". Nevertheless, Council did not want to "ride roughshod" over its ratepayers and would issue permits to pedestrians with "legitimate reasons" for wishing to use the street. This would "safeguard the right of all citizens in a democratic society to free and unrestricted movement". He said that "legitimate reasons" could range from "going to a restaurant to going to a bar or cafe, or even calling into one to make a booking."

Jarrod Crass, Burchett Hill's thrusting new Director of Tourism Marketing Development, says expanding restaurant space further into the street is just "a drop in the bucket" if the municipality is "to really get serious about putting its name in lights on the international dining map". He says there are many "under-used public spaces" in Burchett Hill - "Pioneers' Park, the War Memorial with its Avenue to the Fallen, the Burchett Bovines footy oval, the local library, the senior citizens' centre, to name but a few" - that "would make great restaurants and clubs". His ambition, he said, was "to not rest until Burchett Hill is covered with restaurant tables and chairs, spreading ever wider, like a carpet of flowers, a magnet for gourmets everywhere."

6 April 2012


The momentum built up by "liberation" movements can continue after the subject group has been liberated from all the manmade civil disabilities the movement set out to liberate it from and go rolling on to seek liberation from non-manmade, natural or imaginary ones. Women, for example, have been "liberated" from all the alleged constraints our "patriarchal" civilisation was able to devise. But liberation is also sought from the natural sequence that if a woman has sexual intercourse it will probably lead to pregnancy. We can't have that, can we? It's not fair, men are not thus burdened, it's discrimination. Women want to have sex and enjoy it, like men do, without the inconvenient consequence. So, if the pill or condom hasn't worked, or he or she couldn't be bothered, kill the consequence and we can all have a good time. No one cares that another living being has to pay the cost, by its extinction, of this supposed liberation.

The campaign for "gay marriage" is similarly a demand for liberation from nature. "Gay liberation" has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its pioneers and not only have homosexuals been liberated from all the disabilities and prejudice to which they were supposedly subjected but they have acquired a privileged status. Their "feelings" are protected in a body of legislation against "homophobia". But they cannot be liberated from what nature imposes. You might as well try to liberate males from the injustice of not being able to bear children (and if they could you can bet there'd be a gay abortion campaign) as liberate them from the "discrimination" of not being able to marry each other. Yet that marriage is a union between a man and woman is not discrimination against anybody but a basic shared assumption of the human race. Quod semper quod ubique quod ab omnibus.

Basic shared assumptions are the bedrock of a civilisation. They are its club rules, its core beliefs. They determine - if not its raison d'etre, which is fundamentally the same for all civilisations - its direction and the conduct of its members. If some citizens cease to accept the assumptions on which their society is based civil cohesion is weakened. This is what has happened, under the battering ram of minority activism and secularism, to the shared assumption in our society about what constitutes marriage. That this assumption can be so easily abandoned when a gaggle of pushy gays and lesbians in a particular place at a particular time in history in a civilisation that is losing its way say their feelings are hurt by not being able to celebrate their commitment in public, or, more cynically, are interested not so much in marriage per se as in the seal of community approval they think the right to get married will confer on their sexual preferences, is a sign of how close to dissolution our society has become.

To see traditional marriage as discrimination against couples of the same sex you have to take the ideological view that gender is a "social construct", that humanity is not by natural order divided into male and female but is a mass of mix-and-match individuals. You need to see humans as so many "units"  sufficient in themselves rather than men and women, complementary to each other. This of course is the whole thrust of feminism and "queer theory" and it is from such aberrations that the demand for same-sex marriage fundamentally springs.

That said, just as the abortion industry flourishes as the greatest manifestation of collective selfishness our  society has known, gay marriage may well become general. The Roman Catholic bishops of Victoria have recently issued a pastoral letter opposing same-sex marriage as contrary to the "true meaning of marriage". One wishes the bishops well, but in the society we live in now it is likely that the gays will get their way. In all contemporary legislation relating to sex the  tendency is consistently towards whatever was unacceptable to conventional morality a generation or so ago. Voter apathy will help too. Although gays and lesbians wanting marriage are a minority (even among gays and lesbians), one suspects that most heterosexuals, whose attitude to marriage has become increasingly cavalier over the last generation, don't care about the issue one way or the other.

The state will call gay marriage marriage but it is not marriage. Gay relationships can have much in common with marriage on the level of feelings and emotions but they are not the same because there is no sexual complementarity, which has always and everywhere been the sine qua non of marriage, the prime function of which is the continuation of the species. Yes, plenty of people get married who cannot have children (will not can be a ground for invalidating the marriage) but their unions qualify as marriage because they are entered into for the mutual comfort and support which has always been recognised, if not practised, as a subsidiary function of marriage. "Marriage equality" activists would probably say that these are the grounds that justify their own unions being called marriage, but is there not an illogicality in a category of persons entering a state whose principal function they can never even in theory have the faintest possibility of fulfilling?

Further, if "gay marriages" are recognised as marriage by the state you need a new word for heterosexual marriage. Call it heterosexual marriage and you have already defined it as not being the same as gay marriage. Where is the "equality" in that?  If the state designates all "marriages" marriages, without distinction, stretching the meaning of the word will not obscure the fact that heterosexual marriage will remain different in kind from "gay marriage". The two forms may be legally equal but not equal in substance, whatever you call them.

As for the bishops, if "gay marriage" is legislated for, they should treat it as they presently treat state-sanctioned divorce. Basing its position on Matthew 19:6 the Roman Catholic Church does not recognise divorce. People whom the state has separated, perfectly legally in secular terms, remain married in Catholic eyes and cannot be remarried. People who are remarried are not accepted as being such by the Church. Yet the state insists that they are. The legalisation of "gay marriage" would simply extend the category of persons whom the Church does not regard as validly married. If this puts the Church further at odds with the secular state, is that not its destiny?

5 April 2012


From the City of Port Phillip's trashy but relentlessly right-on ratepayer-funded "official newsletter" Divercity (get it?) :

"Adam Cauley is fired up about cigarette butts and other rubbish in our city... On his last Butt Safari survey, Adam and others counted an amazing 23,721 butts in gutters and on a small section of beach."

Port Phillip being what it is, i.e. in large part St Kilda, it is helpful to have it specified that these were cigarette butts.

It is also tempting to suggest that Adam, in addition to getting a life, could now turn his energies to finding out how much money the anti-smoking campaign "Quit" gets from the taxpayer, and whether in the light of his Butt Survey it is money well spent.

Argus has always suspected that such quangoes as "Quit" (or "Quit Victoria" to give it its full name) and the TAC with their ludicrously incompetent efforts to scare smokers and drivers have never been more than a front for transferring large sums of taxpayers' money to one of the less agreeable appurtenances of capitalism, advertising agencies.

By the way, is "Quit Victoria" an imperative and if so is that what the Victorian government really means?

3 April 2012