Friday, October 31, 2003

Kathryn Greiner says “My Sydney the epitome of intellectual, cultural and spiritual maturity

Dozens of eager search parties set immediately off to find such apparently undiscovered real estate. They are all disappointed to find that, instead of threadbare artists sitting around all day in ripe-for-demolition cafes, Centennial Park’s only claim to culture is a rich grumpy old poof who died in 1990.

When challenged over her misleading hyperbole, the insouciant Greiner replies: “Did I say 'epitome'? Oh dear – I meant epigone”.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Gay financial equality

Although I suspect that Australia’s proponents for gay marriage are an altogether different lot from the gay monarchist crowd (a la Michael Kirby), I think that the two groups have more in common than they would care to admit.

While the pro-gay marriagers are less screamingly self-parodic than the gay monarchists, they share a barren campery, a recherché affection for a faded, moth-eaten institution. It’s not that I’m entirely an Insensitive New Age Poof – 100% sentiment free – but in my more optimistic moments (yes, there are some), I believe that we (meaning gaydom at large) are better than that, and the last thing gay talent should be squandered on is the pursuit of the lowest common denominator – aka status equality.

Anyway, I’ve previously blogged on my fence-sitting about gay marriage. Financial equality, on the other hand, is just common sense. While I’m not very worked up about the failure of the superannuation amendments to get through parliament (rich gays will find a loophole I’m sure, and the rest don’t have enough money to even worry about it), this letter from Darryl Wood highlights a serious, disturbing anomaly. Same-sex relationships are regarded as full partnerships by Centrelink, at least as an excuse for reducing welfare benefits.

This is rank, searing discrimination – unless same-sex relationships are financially equal to straight partnerships in all respects, such status should not be capable of invoking any financial penalty.


US commends bus-drivers-in-police-uniform Bush security operation as “first class" . . .

. . . an impressed CIA asks Australia whether these staff are available to mount a “South Pacific” performance at its Christmas shindig in Langley.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Scumsucking white-collar jobs

Buried under a “Warnie” headline at the Crikey website are some little nuggets about the journalists-in-battery-cages operation called Rehame. Apparently the pay works out to be about the same as a 15 year-old working for Maccas (~7 bucks an hour). Having worked briefly for a media monitoring service (not Rehame) a few years ago, the report rings true, as far as rock-bottom wages and conditions go.

While Rehame’s boss is depicted as a bon vivant, albeit with mercenary tendencies, my own boss-cum-company-owner had no redeeming qualities at all, at least that I could tell. She was a former librarian, whose entrepreneurial streak seemed only to be a fortuitous byproduct of her all-enveloping sadism.

If you ever see an ex-librarian with a business plan and an MBA, then, my advice is to shoot it on sight*.

* Does not apply to “DJ” from Adelaide!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Emergency teacher mistakenly administers gay “training resource” to students . . .

. . . over-defensive Principal fumbles his response – says “the unit was compulsory”, when he meant to say “It’s a pilot for a wacky new teen reality show – Big Pervy Locum”.


Famous Andy Warhol aphorism re-interpreted . . .

. . . Now reads: “Everyone will have an original authenticated Warhol for 14 years”

* (So suck on that, all you baby boomer art collector schmucks)

Monday, October 27, 2003

How-to-vote cards

Australian democracy is tainted by compulsion – and making this even worse is the dressing-up of this compulsion with bell’n’whistles hoopla. I’m not talking brass bands and spangly outfits; I’m talking how-to-vote cards.

For a start, they’re a fuckin insult to anyone with an IQ above the sub-moronic. Believe it or not, I (and I assume most people) go into the polling place having already made my mind up who I’m voting for. And I also understand preferential voting, so I don’t need any help with filling in the other numbers, either. Seriously, what do those hacks handing out the cards expect – I’m going to go for the leaflet with the prettiest-typography? Or, since the hander-outerer hacks are invariably ugly, ill-dressed nerds, do they think that I might be swayed by their piteous appearance to cast a sympathy vote for their party?

Having the whole voting process happen in the faux jollity of a primary school doesn’t help, either. I’m only there against my will, folks – and the fact that I consider braving this gauntlet of geeks to cast my largely futile* vote to be an economically rational alternative to a $20 (or whatever it is) fine amply indicates that I don’t have money to burn at your sausage sizzle, either – so fuck off times two, you pseudo-charitable hotplate monopolists.

The last straw (as usual) is Andrew Norton, who turns out to be one of the aforementioned hander-outerer hacks. To reiterate – my dislike of these people is entirely non-partisan, although I do tend to think that the Greens, of all people, should be averse to the waste of paper (and don’t parry back that it’s all recycled, blah, blah blah – the issue is that my little voting brain does not take kindly to the regurgitated pulp that’s on the leaflets).

Here’s Handy Andy on the polling day fun and games:

The people who look like they are having not just a bad day but a bad life usually breach polling booth etiquette and neither take all how-to-vote cards nor politely decline those they do not want. They ignore or abuse the Liberal volunteer before taking a Labor or nutter party card.

So “polling booth etiquette” apparently demands that one either take all the proffered how-to-vote cards, or “politely decline” them on an individual basis. Option one is logically only for those who humour and gallantly hang on to each incoming telemarketer’s call until the seller hangs up, and option two is a pretty-overt statement of who one is going to vote for (as well as the extraordinary indulgence of a bunch of geeks, a fawning usually only seen at Christmas day lunch when distant relations are present).

Tellingly, Andrew Norton doesn’t even acknowledge as possible that a voter may choose to “ignore” all how-to-vote cards equally – which is what I do. I don’t know or care if I do so “politely”; all I know is that their presence is both voluntary and gratuitous, while mine is not.

* “Futile” because a vote for a minor party in the lower house (save for extraordinary candidates or situations) ultimately counts for only the major party that is earlier preferenced. If (as is often the case), I cannot conscionably give my vote to either major party, I vote informally.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Does Kim (of “Kath and Kim”) have depression?

Leaving aside the theoretical iss-ewes to do with the medical diagnosis of fictional characters, this rant against the most-excellent (and the only ever good) Aussie sitcom “Kath and Kim” has got me mighty worked up.

For whatever reason, “Kath and Kim”-knocking seems to be a particularly Sydney thing (with the exception of Geoff Honnor). I’m assuming here that the John Miner who wrote this latest diatribe is this one. Certainly, a male baby boomer who has both lived high on the international conference-circuit hog and has a chip on his shoulder about depictions of mundane suburban Oz fits the "wanker" identikit perfectly.

I’ll let my case rest with two factual corrections. First, the characters of Prue and Trude were not “belatedly” introduced, as Miner claims. As well as appearing in series one of K&K, they were also in “Big Girls Blouse” – a kind of progenitor to “Kath and Kim”, which featured all the current show’s lead female characters.

Second, no character on “Kath and Kim” is remotely close to being what I’d consider poor, or (Brett aside) even working class. Kath is of independent means and Kel is your average John Howard-voting small businessman (that’s them as Melbourne-dwellers, anyway – Geoff Honnor pegs them as Lathamite aspirationals, but I don’t see any sign of them being 4WD owning fuckwits). What none of the characters emphatically are is university-educated, and it is here that Miner really gives his age away.

Miner had a mid-70s undergraduate education entirely on the public teat, and – as is so often the case with his privileged ilk – seems utterly incapable of grasping today’s Realpolitik that user-pays tertiary education often correlates with later unemployment and poverty. Kath’s also being a baby boomer means that her lack of higher ed is neither here nor there on the personal wealth front, but for Kim – a sort of flagbearer for generation Y – being a spoilt princess for a living is undoubtedly a very, very clever career choice on her part. After all, why slog it out at the call centre – which is full of graduates who often really are clinically depressed – when she can shop at the mall and otherwise mooch her days away, all free of the stresses of a large HECS bill, and the related anxiety that there should be something more?

If Kim is suffering from depression, then – I’ll have what she’s having.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Jesuit reaches intellectual rock bottom – starts to believe own Church’s PR guff

As a prolapsed Catholic (meaning a combination of “professionally lapsed” and “mysteriously sunken and now hanging loosely from my own bottom”), excessive hubris on my own part is a distinct life hazard. Which is why, wherever possible, I try to pick on someone my own size.

Enter the Jesuits – a clerical order (for those of you unfamiliar with Catholic heraldry’s low-key approach) known for both its depth of learning and robust independence from the Papal seat-warmer and fashion of the day.

And disgracing the Jesuits on both these counts is one Fr Emmet P Costello, entering into the long-running Christopher Hitchens/Mother Theresa imbroglio. Unforgivably, Fr Costello leaps to Mother Theresa’s defence by invoking the conversion of Malcolm Muggeridge. Anyone who has even flipped through Hitchens’s 1995 book The Missionary Position will know that Muggeridge is Hitchens’s Exhibit Number 1 for his case against the midget Albanian nun. A fact that is also freely and abundantly available on the internet.

Jesuits – your intellectual sloppiness here is the unfortunate equivalent of the interiors of Mother Theresa’s foetid, septic hospices. Methinks it’s high time you became one of those self-flagellating orders.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

“Full” and fuller text of Bush speech

This is strange: the American-version “full text” is about half the length of the Australian version. It’s not an obvious conspiracy-type thing, mind – the most egregious piece of bullshit occurs in both versions:

Since the liberation of Iraq, we have discovered Saddam's clandestine network of biological laboratories, his design work on prohibited long-range missiles, his elaborate campaign to hide illegal weapons programs.

Possibly, the discrepancy between the two “full texts” can be explained by the American public’s notorious geographic ignorance. Even the shorter version mentions four other countries by name (Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand and Indonesia) as of current significance to the US Australia relationship (in addition to the rattling-off of wars jointly fought by previous generations). Mention of any more nations may have risked total meltdown in the average American’s brain.

More likely, however, is that the second half is “For Australian Eyes Mainly” – a move designed not so much to protect the Americans, as to indulge the Australians. It is the equivalent of the token few lines of “local” material a stand-up comic visiting Australia does, before launching into his/her well-worn, globalised routine. A fly-in, busy celebrity often has to externally (that is, locally) source such “local” material, of course, and indeed, the speech’s "Aussie" second half strikes some quintessentially Gallipolli-esque chords, especially with its climax coming in General Douglas MacArthur’s WWII darkest hour speech.

Also telling is this:

Australia's agenda with China is the same as my country's.

Telling, because it is not at all a Yankee presumption, but a fervent aspiration on Australia’s part. The future emergence of China as a fully-fledged superpower – largely standing in for what the USSR was between ~1960 and ~1980 – leaves America in a win-win situation. If the West’s current process of China appeasement goes pear-shaped (through a war over Taiwan or even a trade war), it will be back to business-as-usual for the US, in one sense.

In contrast, the current Australia-China relationship is not only perilously one-sided, there is nowhere for Australia to go should things turn rocky later on. Australia has already bet its entire stake on the China card, while the US is keeping a poker face.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Select elite cults of the world, Part 1 – Acoustic Ecology

It’s funny what you find when you look up the loose threads of a Gen X public individual’s existence on the net. There aren’t many of them of course, and of those that there are, most are narrow specialists in their public profile (e.g. sports figures).

No plodding specialist is Melbourne composer and arts czar Jonathan Mills – most freshly famous for making today’s “Smart 100 Australians” list. My curiosity was piqued by the list’s brief bio of him:

Jonathan Mills, director of two Melbourne festivals, and professor in environmental acoustics at RMIT

Knowing a bit about RMIT (and much more about the abysmal state of Australian academia), I was intrigued – Australia has very few professors under the age of 40; and what was “environmental acoustics”, anyway?

Sadly for me (hoping for a true Gen X success story), Jonathan turns out to be an adjunct professor only. Which title (in Australia, but not the US) means little, if anything, in terms of academic achievement. Worse, a similar zero seems to attach to the whole discipline of “environmental acoustics”, or its synonym (at least in Jonathan Mills’s case) “acoustic ecology”.

For an organisation only founded in 1993, Jonathan has indeed been at its very leading edge, having been an Australian delegate to the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology between 1991 and 1996.

With the grandly-titled World Forum apparently having hit Melbourne earlier this year, I expected to find a lot of local coverage of the event. Alas – only one internet record of the March 2003 festivities seems to have been made (ironically enough, as a passing reference in a blog!). No word, however, on what contributions local-boy Jonathan may have made to the event. Perhaps he was tied up in one of those pesky culture-industry board meetings he is forever getting dragooned into.

The final piece of the Jonathan Mills and “acoustic ecology” jigsaw is here. Nigel Frayne, a Melbourne-based “sound designer” (and, judging by his quote “sound recording is not the main focus of our business”, general wanker), turns out to be “chair of the board of the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology and the president of the affiliated group in Australia”. In other words, Jonathan Mills’s mate, and vice versa.

Acoustic ecology – nice prestige bludge if you can get it.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Special UK “Big Brother” to be made for the secondary school market

When I read this and then thought about it a while, I decided it had to be a joke, an elaborate one admittedly, to get past the bullshit-detectors at the Guardian and SMH.

The main clue here was this line:

In a remarkable show of restraint, cigarettes and alcohol are barred.

Dripping with sarcasm, no? I mean, anything made for an educational, or even (as I’d prefer here) edutainment market, doesn’t need “restraint” to exclude cigarettes and alcohol, any more than a modern listed-company CEO needs restraint to stop bragging to shareholders at the AGM how much he/she is shafting them – it’s part of the job, dummy.

And then there are these caricatured-sounding quotes, supposedly from the mouth of the edutainment’s commissioner, one Heather Rabbatts:

We're trying to create innovative programming about stuff you didn't learn at school but should have. It struck me that we should start making programs that are much more synergistic with the station's audience, educational shows that work across the schedule and bring alive the issues and preoccupations of 14 to 19-year-olds.

People say public service broadcasting is all about creating those high-value moments which no one watches. But why not also have high-value moments which millions of people watch? I don't have any romantic notion about education. It's tough and the requirements of the [14 to 19-year-old] audience is different to what it was 10 years ago.

The ability to read and write are all [sic] important, but do they also have the life skills to navigate their way through a complicated world? It's tough, because a quarter of this age group [in Britain] leaves school without any qualifications at all. They are bored and they want to be entertained.

What kind of a fuckwit could say these things, from any position of power or authority? If I had kids, I certainly wouldn’t let them anywhere near such a babbling-psycho.

It turns out that Heather Rabbatts is real (and a baby boomer, of course), but in a scarily, post-modern parodic way – she is a guru, of sorts. Googling her name results in reams of (non-duplicated) hits, mostly of her speaking at management and motivational conferences. And her “thing”? – turning around, as CEO, the financially-stricken London Borough of Merton in the mid 90s, a feat achieved by her sacking 1200 staff.

When I think of a reality TV concept cruel – and appropriate – enough for Heather Rabbatts and her ilk to be on, I’ll post an update.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Public funding, sport and universities

High-level (or what used to be called “elite”, before that became a dirty word) sport has a tradition of public funding in most first-world and (now) ex-communist countries. As far as I’m aware, the Australian Right have never had too much of a problem with this, despite the sheer ideological affront of it all. Apart from the most dollar (and sweat) intensive of the athlete academies being housed in the old command’n’control states – cue “boo hiss” – there is a simple and virtually irrefutable match between private sponsorship dollars and high-level sports funding, at least in poly sports-mad Australia. In other words, what business has the State being involved in the industry at all? While a necessary exception could be made here for unsponsorable sports (Academy of Tunnel-ball, anyone?), the broader rule stands – the price of accepting taxpayer dollars is putting up with government meddling and interference; and so, such a price is unacceptably high.

That, anyway, is the persistent argument mounted by Melbourne Uni VC, Professor Alan Gilbert, and his ever-faithful sidekick, Andrew Norton – only applied to universities, not sport, of course. According to Professor Gilbert:

My second target tonight is the heretical idea that, for universities, public funding is uniquely legitimate.

Perhaps more than anywhere else, Australia has reified the idea of a public university. In most parts of the world, public universities, creatures of the 19 and 20 centuries, remain only one model among several. But in Australian higher education debates are often dominated by people suspicious of any funding that does not come from the public purse.

The ideological strength of these convictions is astonishing. Even when they are obliged by sheer weight of evidence to concede that levels of public funding fall well short of what is required for an internationally competitive higher education system, people persuaded of the unique legitimacy of public funding still commonly resist private finding strategies with partisan zeal, and oppose in principle the engagement of universities in commercial activities.

In assuming that public funding alone is free from corrupting influences associated with the power of the purse, advocates of the public university are either implying that he (or she) who pays the piper calls the tune - except, curiously, when Government is the paymaster — or, alternatively, insisting that Governments always play wholesome and uplifting tunes. The corollary is that sponsorship, benign in its public form, undermines the very legitimacy of the idea of a university when it comes from private sources, and especially from the commercial world.

Having been a Vice-Chancellor for 13 years, that seems to me to be an arrestingly innocent view. No one remotely in touch with reality could believe that Government funding flows to universities without either strings attached or far-reaching policy, interventions. Those advocating the exclusive legitimacy of public funding must therefore believe that Government interventions are uniformly benign. But that, too, seems extraordinarily naïve. The truth is that all funding entails a danger of undue influence. The immense importance that universities have placed historically on high levels of institutional autonomy is a measure of their determination to ensure that no patron, whether a medieval prince, a fee-paying student, a profit-driven corporation sponsoring research
or a modern state, is ever able to compromise the integrity of scholarship or the independence of research.

The irony is that Government paymasters are usually the most demanding of all sponsors when it comes to trying to call the tune in the academy.

If applied to high-level sports academies, Professor Gilbert’s thoughts* are easily seen for what they are – agenda-mongering bullshit. Granted, there is no absolute, good reason why the state should financially (or otherwise) be involved in such academies. Further, there is abundant evidence that government paymasters, more so than private sponsors, indirectly breed organisational complacency (surely the worst form of sponsor interference of all). So why, oh why does Australia persist with socialist-style (and scale) sporting academies?

Of course, any fool or jock knows the answer to this – excellence. The private sector is good at, and for, many things, but it doesn’t – and couldn’t – run high-level sports academies. By “private sector”, here BTW, I exclude US-style bountiful legacies (rich dead Australians are, for whatever reason, keener to be remembered via anachronistic art and most-compelling-Ukranian-peasant literary competitions, or perpetual trusts for the siphoning of income from poor Victorians into the pockets of Tasmanian rustics and/or mass-murdering psychopaths.)

Bringing the argument back to higher education, what is the difference between it and sport in Australia? (Insert obvious joke here . . . laugh, and move on.) Okay, scale and “bang for buck” is a big one – total public spending on sports academies is a fraction of that on unis, because most obviously, there is vastly bigger head-count at the latter, just as there should be.

Countering this, however, is what I would term the “Interfering with Excellence Paradox”. That is, the higher the stakes – for government/sponsor as well as everyone else – then the less interference from on high. An Australian government that micro-managed its top sports academy would soon find its efforts were distinctively counter-productive. Ditto surely for universities, at least if there was only one, or at most a handful, of them. Which there is not, but here’s the rub – in both sport and academe, the government’s money pump reaches a point of diminishing returns. At and below this quality** tipping-point, there is nothing to be gained from handing over taxpayer dollars.

Which means, then, that government interference is an inevitable, necessary and good thing – but only at the bottom, marginal end of the industry. Those institutions who proclaim, with just cause, their excellence, should be left alone to get on with it – to make their sponsor proud, if you like – while those who are just treading water in the Olympic swimming trial scheme of things should be left to find their own level in the private sector.

Either way, the governmental “interference” is but a sort, sweet moment.

* The true irony of which thoughts is that these thoughts were delivered as the 2003 Menzies Oration. Translation: hundreds of graduands had to sit through this rant, before they could collect their ribbon-wrapped degrees. The mums and dads in the audience must have been thrilled to hear Professor Gilbert pay out on the ideological taintedness of their offspring’s new degrees.

** Much as I hate the q-word in the higher ed context, I can’t think of a substitute term here. “Quality” in higher ed is not an exact counterpart to empirically-measurable quality in sport (e.g. gold medals), but in terms of national outcomes, the analogy still holds.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Brendan Nelson – make your mind up

Today, of course, is higher education strike day. Up in Darwin, blogger-academic Ken Parish is scabbing – albeit with some qualms and qualifications (typical lawyer!), while in Brisbane fellow aca-blogger John Quiggin is firmly downing tools, including to the point of making sure his pay will be docked.

More ambiguously, down the road from chez Watson, at the dreaming (although cream-brick and squat) spires of Melbourne Uni, Andrew Norton – blogger and policy aide-de-camp to that institution’s outgoing VC – has successfully braved the picket lines, only to then sit down at work and tap-tap at his blog. Which is a tried and true form of passive resistance-style industrial action in Australia – doing one’s private stuff on the boss’s time.

On the other hand, Andrew could well argue that his blog’s description of today’s strike as “pointless” is well within the general duties of his job. After all, Education Minister Brendan Nelson had used that exact same adjective in a news report 41 minutes earlier, and re-transcribing what the Great Leader has previously said should, at least in the current political climate, be applauded as well-intentioned homage (and certainly not derided as lazy, private partisan politicking in place of doing actual work).

And speaking of Dr Nelson, I am unsure what to make of this, his latest ultimatum:

"If Australia is to continue to enjoy a world class higher education system, change and investment is urgently required." (same URL)

When my expensively educated – but now sadly little-utilised – mind read this, I distinctly recalled that Dr Nelson has previously spoke of regaining our “world class” higher education system. In other words, that such a status had been lost, albeit hopefully only temporarily. (As to why this tidbit stuck in my brain – I half-wrote a blog some time ago regarding a somewhat fanciful legal action, in which I would demand a “put option” of my (earning-power-sending-backwards) degrees from the government; under which I would renounce them, but in return be reimbursed for the half-a-million dollars or so they have (not-at-all-fancifully) cost me, as naturally set off by the (relatively piffling) government subsidies I received while doing some of them.)

Anyway, back to the main issue – does Australia enjoy “a world class higher education system” right now, according to Brendan Nelson? Today, it’s clearly a “yes” but funnily enough, in September, it was this:

They said to me throughout the course of the review that it was critically important if we're going to have a world-class higher education system that the universities themselves be able to set the HECS charge.

and similarly, in July:

We will not ever have a world-class higher education system or individual university in this country so long as we continue with an arrangement that says every university is the same. It's a fantasy that needs to end.

“It's a fantasy that needs to end”. Touché, Dr Nelson.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Gutter and gutter-er journalism

The allegations made by former swimmer Emma Fuller against her one-time coach Greg Hodge have, in only the two days since they were first aired*, degenerated into an ugly battle by proxy between the Seven and Nine TV networks. “Ugly” of course, because while cutthroat competition between rival TV networks – and their rival dumbed-down “current affairs” shows in particular – is to be expected, staging a battle of the eyeballs and (network) egos involving real human lives at their most vulnerable is disgusting, sheer exploitation.

Of the two networks and their respective tabloid flagships, Seven’s “Today Tonight” deserves the stronger condemnation. While Nine’s original story could hardly be described as balanced, they were fairly careful – as far as I could tell – to only put to air material that would not attract a defamation writ. In contrast, Seven has declared open slather on Emma Fuller, seeming happy to airing any piece of “dirt” on her at all. Unfortunately for the young Emma, if Seven’s campaign against her is eventually revealed as baseless smearing, her defamation payout is unlikely to be anything near as fiscally hurtful to Seven as the whopper amount paid to John Marsden, a higher-profile victim of an ill-conceived Seven witch-hunt.

And the “Who do you believe?” 1900- and website-voting poll at is even lower down in the gutter. Memo to Seven – current affairs is not (yet) reality TV.

* Broadcast on “A Current Affair” 13 October 2003 (no URL)

Monday, October 13, 2003

The triumph of the will of George Adams – the Tattersall's secret empire

Wacky bequests – multi-million dollar trusts for the upkeep of a favourite cat, and the like – is something of an English speciality. In Australia, the beneficiaries of a wacky will are more likely to be fat cats of the human variety.

George Adams (1839-1904) was a gambler turned gaming industry magnate. His knack was to turn Tattersall's – originally a private (members only) gambling club – into a pari-mutuel outfit open to all comers. Unlike bookmakers, and even casino operators going through a statistically abnormal bad batch, operators of pari-mutuel gambling do so on an utterly risk-free basis – as long as there is a cake, their cut of it is assured, and payouts to punters can only be out of what remains.

Correction 14 October 2003. Tattersall's 19th C sweeps, although based on horse race results, were not “pari-mutuel”; rather they seem to have been (also operator risk-free) conventional lotteries, with the winning horse’s number standing in for today’s plastic ball number. Thus, winning was a matter of pure chance (and so fixed-odds), while pari-mutuel betting offers varying and floating odds.

Oh, and after government taxes have taken their cut, too. Perhaps surprisingly, late 19th century colonial governments did not immediately embrace George Adams's burgeoning business. He was run out of New South Wales, found temporary jurisdictional refuge in Queensland and then Tasmania, before finally finding a warmer set of palms to grease within the state of Victoria.

Correction 14 October 2003. As last night’s “Four Corners” made clear, while George Adams was indeed run out of New South Wales (in 1892), he received a warm and lasting welcome in Tasmania, before his estate’s business domicile, and so tax base, was poached by state of Victoria in 1954.

Which state and Tattersall's have ever after remained the closest of friends and business acquaintances. In the ninety-nine years since George Adams’s death, Tattersall's has made few adjustments to its business model. Long ago, its original monopoly over pari-mutuel betting on horse-racing was handed over to a Victorian government authority, since privatised, and now known as Tabcorp.

Correction 14 October 2003. As noted above, Tattersall's sweeps, although based on horse race results, were not pari-mutuel, or totalizator, based. Victoria’s TAB was only established in 1961, by which time Tattersall's sweeps had become modern lotteries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John Wren built an illegal gaming empire based on pari-mutuel betting – just prior to the Australian invention of the automatic totalizator in 1913.

Most notably, in recent years, Tattersall's and Tabcorp were handed the master-license for all of Victoria’s poker machines. Again, this was a business coup true to the spirit of the late George Adams – a risk-free licence to print money ($6bn in 2002), albeit sharing it with one other (a long-time cosy “competitor”, at that).

Left unchanged for the last ninety-nine years is the basic legal structure of the Tattersall's empire, post George Adams’s death. As a private trust, the business reverted to the secrecy of the private club Tattersall's originally began as, before big George took the whole show to the masses. Although a corporate shell (actually two – Tattersall's Gaming Pty Ltd and Tattersall's Holdings Pty Ltd) has been overlaid on the business, so as for it to be capable of holding a gaming licence, the owners of the cash-cow business are not shareholders of either company. As beneficiaries of a private trust, the owners’ identities are regarded by law as nobody’s business – unless and until the reciprocal relationship between owner and manager (beneficiary and trustee) breaks down.

Amazingly enough, judging by this story in today’s Herald-Sun (as well as promos for a “Four Corners” story to air tonight) at least some of the Tattersall's owners have decided to disturb the longstanding cosy club. I say “amazingly”, because even though the trustees’ alleged failure to inform the beneficiaries of their remuneration is clearly a legitimate grievance, killing the goose that laid the golden egg must be a distinct medium-term risk. According to one dissident beneficiary:

Publicly listing the company "would make it more accountable to the Victorian public (and) stop it from being run like a secret society. The current structure isn't in the best interests of the company and the community."

Err, actually I think you might find that “the best interests of the community" would be served – if not by trucking away every last poker machine in the state to the scrapyard – by granting the licenses (due for renewal in 2012) only in exchange for 99% of their value being returned as taxes to the state. In other words, the licences should not be handed out on a “to print money” basis, but only in return for work to be actually done. Which leaves nix for free-riding beneficiaries, as well as their even fatter-feline trust managers, of course.

And calling for the Tattersall's trust to be publicly listed, as the dissident beneficiary goes on to do, is surely a big gamble – and gambling is something that none of the beneficiaries, or their well-paid trustees have ever been called upon to do. The more light that is shone upon the yellowing will-paper of George Adams, the thinner their – and/or anybody else’s – claims to a share from a golden goose will be. If it is the Tattersall's beneficiaries who are the ones that bring the end to this Havisham-esque relic, then the sight of George’s will (and the bloated empire that it has carried to this day) turning into dust will be all the sweeter.

Update 14 October 2003

Excellent “Four Corners” last night. The post-show forum is well-worth trawling through, but as it’s a pain in the arse to navigate, I’ve taken the liberty to put up a few gems, below. Highlights: (i) it seems that many (if not most) of the beneficiaries are Tasmanian “old money” (insert own joke here), and (ii) the comments of a beneficiary, “Peter”.


From: Ormond 13/10/2003 10:00:25 PM
Subject: re: secret beneficieries nonsense post id: 212

Anecdotally, I can support the assertion that the pokies have greatly increased the income some of the beneficiaries are receiving.

In Tasmania, one pastoralist (who married a beneficiary) has had his Tatts dividend increase from $200,000 p.a. to $2M p.a. This has permitted him, naturally, to buy up more than 50,000 acres in the last three years alone.

The assertion that Tattersall's is a great philanthropic company is absolute rubbish. Talk about spin. All the money taken from the suburban poor is being transferred to the clapped-out, fly-blown "old money", much of them in Tasmania.

ABC Stateline in Tassie recently did a piece on one mob of beneficiaries, the Harvey girls who have "worked hard" to buy back the old family farm east of Oatlands in the midlands of Tasmania.

From: kenneth 13/10/2003 10:13:16 PM
Subject: re: Tatt's economic arguments are false post id: 294

Arguably an unproductive dollar out of the hands of many is a productive fortune in the hands of a few. That was one of the rationales for the government imprimatur for tatts in Tasmania to begin with - creation of wealthy people who would invest in the growth of a new city. Of course, the moral issues that we see with addiction are odious.

From: peter 13/10/2003
Subject: re: Such genorisity post id: 260

How can you say that so glibly? I am a beneficiary and a bit of that money comes out of my income.

I DO NOT begrudge it one bit - I am proud to be connected with Tattersalls and I support their charitable activities wholeheartedly.

From: peter 13/10/2003 11:02:08 PM
Subject: re: Such genorisity post id: 447

Rich (with sarcasm)KarenP, does any business that makes a profit have this "licence to print money"? Your response is patronizing and thoughtless - there were many good reasons why Tatts was invited to provide this service to the people of Victoria but you countenance the existence of none. Was it Tatt's responsibility to refuse the offer - if a "public company " board had done so they would have been sacked forthwith, and rightly so.

From: peter 13/10/2003 11:04:36 PM
Subject: re: Such genorisity post id: 448

Include yourself in that reaping - by far the larger part of the misery reaping goes back to you, citizen of Victoria. Show your mettle and refuse any and all services provided by government.

From: peter 13/10/2003 11:55:48 PM
Subject: re: Such genorisity post id: 468

Ok, as long as all of you that have anything inherited do the same. Maybe James Packer should start the ball rolling.

From: peter 13/10/2003 11:53:13 PM
Subject: re: Benefits of gambling post id: 467

I blew my entire pay for ten years on a business that failed, even though I followed all the best advice available. They say that most new businesses fail - shouldn't we have a failed business's anonymous?


In summary, then, "Peter" is a handy, complete case-history of the fact that the beneficiaries are (i) parasitical weasels and (ii) shithouse entrepreneurs themselves. The fact that most (?) of his ilk are rural Tasmanians, and so semi-invisible, just makes it worse. It also throws an interesting new light, for me, on the sad case of one particularly fucked-up Tattersall’s beneficiary, Tasmania's Martin Bryant.


Man takes “service desk” literally . . .

. . . and dies of a heart attack for his trouble.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Architect of HECS lashes out at umpteenth, latest extension to scheme

“My original House of Debt blueprint always kept the debt ‘ambiguous’” says Professor Bruce Chapman. Well, sorry Bruce – it seems that nothing can help the architectural integrity of your little creation now. It’s grown like topsy, and with acres of fake brick cladding to match.

Back to the drawing board – I dare you.

Friday, October 10, 2003

CrashBurn update

Since I wrote this, CrashBurn’s ratings have gone downhill exponentially – appropriately enough, like a graph of a Gen X’rs career (well, my own anyway).

Channel Ten must be now praying for the return of ratings like those of the Week 2 “slump” – 890,000 – given that Week 7 (the first week in its new 9.30pm slot) saw it down to 461,000, and last Monday (Week 9) saw the show score a breathtakingly low 138,187 viewers nationally.

Ten, clearly not impressed, but nonetheless seemingly committed – contractually or otherwise – to seeing the 13-epper out, has now moved CrashBurn into the 10.30pm slot for its final, four-ep limp along the home straight.

I’m not sure whether CrashBurn was also made from the start with an eye on (and some upfront pre-sale dollars from) the international sales market. If so, the show’s tanking might not be solely the fault of its demographic klutziness – “the arbiter of what foreign audiences want from Australian TV”, Catherine Payne, may well have gone over the draft script with her tragic wand, her prescriptive pen of cultural-blandness:

"Australian TV networks . . . know that when they rely on funding from overseas, there are certain things they can do to make [shows] more internationally appealing," she says. For example, Payne says Australians tend to talk very quickly so the diction of our actors remains critical, and she also requests that colloquialisms be removed from scripts unless absolutely necessary. "I will look at a show and ask them to focus less on this area and more on that, bearing in mind the international sales," she says.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Son (and Daughter) of Boomer emerges – and it ain’t pretty

Whaddya get when the most selfish, conceited generation in history breeds? More of the same, of course – but the scary thing is that the spawn of greed and excess are now adults.

None of this is really news, of course. But as the lavish and well-lubricated (I assume) launch party last night of this Nike ad, sorry, report into Generation Y has already recouped its “investment” – via today’s saturation, uncritical media coverage – I thought I’d better poop this cynical little boomer-marketeers party.

First, note the demographic parameters set up in the report – Generation Y apparently covers those born between 1975 and 1987. A starting year which happens to annex a Poland-size proportion of the years generally allocated to Gen X (1963-1978), meaning that Gen X is denied the dignity of least having a 15 year running time. Actually though, I don’t care about this latest indignity, of Gen X being relegated to a demographic rump, an inter-generational interstice.

In fact, Generation Y can roll on in, with its conquering tanks, all the way back to those born in the early 70s, as far as I’m concerned. The reason being that this all the better differentiates my generation (or what’s left of it) from what came before and after it – we are not the children of boomers. (Or alternatively, of those of us born in the sixties to very young (boomer) parents, these have never subsequently forgiven us for the costs we caused them – endless such hardships ranging from having to do fewer drugs in the sixties, to having to liquidate a few shares in September 1987 (ha!) to set aside for the kids’ uni fees.)

Make no mistake then – Generation Y’s kiddies are truly cut from their parent’s own cloth. This may sound paradoxical – after all, weren’t boomers the generation for flaunting all authority, including that of the parental kind? Even more saliently, doesn’t Generation Y share – however reluctantly – Gen X’s foundational badge of honour, in being a generation whose lifetime living standard, on average, is significantly below that of their parents? How has Generation Y's anger response to being ripped-off been so sublimated and, moreover, how has their parents’ rank hypocrisy been transformed into an autochthonous (= coming from nowhere) authority over their offspring?

One magic word explains how Generation Y has been able to inwardly thrive in such improbable circumstances – sycophancy. This is a generation which is not merely at peace with authority; it can’t help itself from fingering open the fly of power, wherever it sees it, and then pleasuring its orb. This is a generation 62% of which say Australia is becoming too much like America, but which rates Nike – the epitome of American boomer mediocrity (and a client of the report’s commissioners) – as its favourite brand. This is a generation which is not so much indulged by its parents as pimped and primed daily for a life of “mini-me” vacuous materialism.

I could go on like this for quite a bit more, like railing against “the Glitterazzi” – the “largely conscience-free”*, me-and-my-material-possessions-first group who are the supposedly dominant, 25% of Generation Y. Unfortunately, though, I’m already starting to sound too “in my day”-ish already. I’ll leave then, on a different-but-related note, of oh-so-Boomer observedness (NOT) about the youth of today

Writing in this week’s Australian Higher Ed supplement**, David Brooks is impressed by the “sucking-up skills" of many of his students at Yale uni:

I got a call from a politician in California who said that one of his important donors had a daughter at Yale who really wanted to get into the [high-demand] course [that I was teaching]. Such networking skills at such a young age make you want to stand and gape

Yep, that’s right – a Generation Y girl makes a simple phone call to Daddy, and this is written-up by the “gap[ing]” (and panting too, one assumes) middle-aged Brooks as ultra-impressive networking skills on her part. In my day (sorry, it just came out), pimp-Daddys were at least seen for what they were, rather than bizarrely reverse-puppeteered, so that their Rolodoxes become a personal achievement of the novice young ho. Oh, and being a sycophantic ho was not usually a role one aspired to, either. But what would I know – as a Gen X true-believer, I am my own worst pimp.

* Simon Canning “Generation Y not love your parents” The Australian 9 October 2003 (no URL)

** David Brooks “A triumphant march of the sycophant” The Australian Higher Ed supplement 8 October 2003 (no URL)

Update 10 October 2003

Generation Y speaks up; says it feels pressured by Gen X. There, there Amy – it’s all right; I give you my personal guarantee that we are not trying to conscript you into following our “failed” paths, or to otherwise pin you down. If you still feel the stinging unjustness of yesterday’s article, I suggest you go drop a few hundred at your local fashion strip to make you feel better. And it makes me feel better too – with your boomer parents no doubt onto every tax lurk in the land, the unavoidable GST you pay on your clothes alone each fortnight must come close to covering my dole.

Oh, and as to what I said about “the Saffy generation” back in June, I take it back – to the extent that I suggested that Saffy was a Gen X’er. She’s Generation Y, of course.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Gay America, 5 years after Matthew Shepard's crucifixion

The redneck mood on the Wyoming prairie has mellowed somewhat, but the most interesting development overall seems to be a new-ish gay Republicans lobby group; one of "grass-tops", to complement the grass-roots Log Cabin Republicans.

Personally, I like to think of myself as grass-versatile when it comes to sex (and politics too, I guess), but dem gay Republicans sure like their fenced enclosures, over the other side of which the grass will no doubt be always keener, and the arse forever leaner. That’s the free market for you, I s’pose. Which grass-category might the pro-Schwarzenegger, gay Republican Andrew Sullivan luxuriate in, I wonder? The grass-gropers, perhaps – motto: “When it goes flaccid, elect it”.

Talking of being mates with the Bush family (as the "grass-tops" most-avowedly are), there’s no word on how the gay top-meister lobby fit in, and socialise with, those other well-known buddies of the Bush’s, the scimitar-happy Saudi royals. A rolling head gathers no grass, perhaps?

The labour productivity miracle another explanation

Corrupt official licensors must have one at eleven.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Schwarzenegger and the appeal of fascism

I was going to blog something along these lines, until William Rees-Mogg beat me to it – and said what needs to be said much better than I could have. He not only wrote calmly around a hot-button issue (and I’m not referring to Arnie’s hoovering hands), he managed to avoid including the near-irresistible, but overall-unhelpful jibe: “What is it with populist politicians from Austria?”.

Equally impressively, despite the misleading title for his Op Ed, Rees-Mogg gives the 'Gropernator' angle short shrift – not because it doesn’t matter, but because there are better, bigger reasons for opposing the rise of Arnie. To which I’d add that Bill Clinton and Monica-gate surely showed once and for all that there is little point is seeking to punish through the ballot box men who misuse office (or in Arnie’s case, fame) for sexual perks. In the Clintons’ case [note plural], Monica-gate was ultimately a big plus for capturing the female vote, thanks to the pivotal, career-defining role played by Saint Hillary – a role that Schwarzenegger’s wife is, of course, even better-placed to play to perfection, if and when the need arises.

The corollary to Rees-Mogg’s anti-Arnie argument is the rather bleak set of economic fundamentals in the US accounts, which everyone kind of knows about already, but is otherwise not allowed to be raised at the political dinner table. If nothing else then, Schwarzenegger's rise serves as a useful reminder that the kitty is truly empty this time. Simply put, the once-great USA – through its forward-scouting proxy, California – is plainly, irrefutably looking for strong leadership, no questions asked and no holds barred.

Schwarzenegger’s problem is not particularly that he hails from the entertainment industry (in whose jargon he is a “pre-existing asset” and “master franchise”). Hell, Ronald Reagan set the precedent for B-movie actors morphing into “character” politicians decades ago (Governor of California 1967-1975). Rather, it is today’s combination of Schwarzenegger’s peculiar character (screen-derived, but not confined) with a visible meltdown in the twin institutions of democracy and economic progressivism which makes the Schwarzenegger juggernaut so disturbing. Here’s Rees-Mogg’s nutshell take on this:

[Schwarzenegger] relies on catch phrases and on empty generalisation. He does not debate the issues. His campaign exists outside rationality, in the world of celebrity and sensation. The politics of mass emotion are the politics of fascism. The core of all fascist movements is the direct relationship between the leader and the masses, not mediated through the institutions of democracy.

What does the leader do? He provides leadership. What allows him to provide leadership? The strength of his will. What is the evidence of the leader's will? The exciting feeling he creates of ultimate ruthlessness.

Finally, the gist of Rees-Mogg’s argument should serve as a wake-up call for Australians, that fascism doesn’t aways present itself in the obvious garb of xenophobic nationalism, aka Hansonism. For what it’s worth (and of course the whole point is that it hardly matters, once you start going down the “strong leader” road), Schwarzenegger appears just slightly left-of-centre – a Tony Blair on steroids, and without even New Labour’s pretence of being the electorate’s agent, of doing the people’s bidding.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Malcolm Turnbull – bringer of mass hardened manhoods to the swooning Libs

Should Malcolm Turnbull succeed in pushing his way into federal parliament, the Liberal Party will be stiff with ambitious, youngish men all pressing for the top.

AFR journo Tony Walker has obviously missed his calling as a Mills and Boon writer

Friday, October 03, 2003

The health crisis and Australian federalism

The current crisis in Australian public hospitals is a Doctors vs Lawyers contest in more than one way. As well as being kept fuelled by a feeding frenzy by the legal profession (and its ever-reliable luncheon date, the insurance industry), the crisis has brought to the surface Australia’s ugly federal structure – a ridiculous, ramshackle division of powers that many lawyers pretend to hold sacred, even while politicians exploit its gaping loopholes to run the nation (and its states) into the ground. Quite simply, the Commonwealth and the states are currently playing a zero-sum, Barlow and Chambers game of mutual blame over the health care crisis.

So let me, as a lawyer, commit the ultimate sacrilege and suggest that no Australian gives a fig for states’ rights, insofar as it prevents the orderly allocation of medical services for them. Just fix this problem please – NOW. If it requires giving the Commonwealth total power over public health, then what’s the big deal? (and who cares what the lawyers may bleat? Just tie them to a trolley in a corridor somewhere, and let ‘em rot as the their precious Constitution is fed down through their i/v drips.)

Thursday, October 02, 2003

George Pell – one Cardinal Sin retires as another is inaugurated at 62

At first I was going to start by saying “Apologies to non-Catholics for the cryptic headline”, but then I realised that even this little ex-altar boy had gone in too deep – thus committing the cardinal sin of punning well beyond the pale. My point here is that "cardinal sin" is well-enough known in secular use, but its technical/theological definition escapes me – it rings a bell (but no more) from high school; it’s not in my Shorter Oxford; and googling { "cardinal sin" theology commit } only results in one theologically relevant hit in the top ten. (Go there if you need reassurance that masturbation is not a cardinal sin, but be warned, it also contains hilariously specific advice about the degrees of sin committed by a man who masturbates “with a picture of” (i) his wife, (ii) another woman, or (iii) another man “in his mind's eye”. Only 15 y.o. straight boys who use the K-Mart underwear’n’pyjama catalogue for the job are left out of this neat little degree-of-sin ranking schema, but I’m prepared to go out on a theological limb, to fill in this particular blank – if your “mind's eye” has got her in pink flannelette, boys, then I'm so sorry, but you’re going absolutely, 100% straight to hell.)

Anyway, on to George Pell. Often criticised for not moving with the times, this is certainly not true of Pell’s penchant for PR-meisters and their ilk. Last year saw Tess Livingstone pen what is possibly the shallowest biography of a divisive public figure ever published in Australia – a see-no-evilness, more recently turned up a notch to become bare-faced lying, with Livingstone crediting Pell “for being one of the first prelates to get serious about clerical sexual abuse”.

Late last year, after writing this about what I saw as the inadequacies of her biographical research into Pell’s homecoming to Ballarat in May 1971 at a time when the incidence of sexual abuse within the diocese was at fever-pitch, I emailed Livingstone. She did not reply, and her comments above indicate that she was, or at least has since become, deeply complicit with keeping a lid on what the young Pell knew about sexual abuse in the Ballarat diocese in the early 1970s.

Livingstone’s unctuous praise for Pell is hardly exceptional among journalists, of course; her above vox pop was contained in an Age article full of the same stuff (and with at least one glaring factual inconsistency – the article places Pell as having become principal of the Institute of Catholic Education (Ballarat) in both 1973 and 1981).

One useful bit of info in The Age article, though, was the revelation that George Pell, who I had already sized up as a mentor slut, has another apparent mentor in his closet: Eric D’Arcy (b 1924), a Melbourne University philosopher (1962-1981), Bishop of Sale (1981-1988) and Archbishop of Hobart (1988-1999). Now, D’Arcy’s middling career in church and academe – together with the fact that its length and breadth seems unusually untainted by any proximity to clerical sexual abuse – may suggest that he is a curious mentor for an eminence such as Pell; a mere “mentor minor”, if you like. Sure enough, it turns out that D’Arcy was more of a mentor procurer for Pell; influencing him to "hitch his star" to B.A. Santamaria (previously accounted for as one of Pell’s capital-M mentors). Just so it’s completely clear, then – Eric D’Arcy and George Pell shared the great figure of B.A. Santamaria as mentor, with the older D’Arcy getting in there first, and then bringing Pell into the fold as agent only, not as mentor in his own right.

Finally, there is considering the connections between cardinal sin and mentoring. The first has gone from an “Oh-my-God-I-can-smell-the-brimstone-for-real!” moral boundary to a lazy journalistic cliché in only a generation; over which same time mentoring has expanded in leaps and bounds, out of select bishop’s palace rooms and into every corporate training guru’s textbook. Might there be a connection here? The more mentored, the more demented the individual? When sin can supposedly be calibrated according to a masturbatorial “mind’s eye”, surely it’s time for some back-to-basics theology. And I suggest that mentor monogamy would be a good start here, George.

Update 3 October 2003

Poor Frank Devine! Although his “tell it like it is” writing style usually gets at least my grudging admiration, his Oz column today in defence of Pell has him (Devine) paddling well out of his depth.

Frank starts going horribly wrong very early, by using the ole “cardinal sin” pun in his Op Ed’s headline. Earth to Frank: the use of gratuitous puns can be forgiven, but due atonement must be made in the body of the same article. As it stands, Frank grievously mistakes getting-in an early pun as giving him a plenary licence to breeze.

And oh does such jocularity ill-suit the object of his sentiment. Pell is as breezy as a south wind atop Hobart’s Mt Wellington – his knack and persona is to amplify what is otherwise an innocent sensation into a full-fledged, merciless vortex. Thus, when Frank innocently suggests:

The new cardinal networks brilliantly. The Prime Minister is a friend.

he nails Pell – the crawling-est Church sycophant since every-dictator’s-favourite-nun Mother Theresa – exactly, if inadvertently.

Even better for me, is this handy bit of info:

Several journalists rode hobbyhorses into [the news of Pell being made Cardinal] – notably Chris McGillion who once again reported in The Sydney Morning Herald that in 1996 Pell "broke ranks" with the other Catholic bishops and undermined their efforts to construct a national system for dealing with sexual abuse by priests, putting his own system into the Melbourne archdiocese. In fact, within weeks of Pell's becoming Archbishop, Victoria's premier Jeff Kennett took him aside at a social gathering and told him: "You blokes have to do something about this situation, or I will." Pell acted quickly.

You little beauty! Yesterday, when I called Tess Livingstone a liar for crediting Pell “for being one of the first prelates to get serious about clerical sexual abuse”, I must admit I was winging it somewhat. In Australia, calling someone a liar is the surest way of attracting a defamation writ, and Australia’s pro-plaintiff defamation laws make things particularly hard for a defendant to such a case, who has to prove the truth of his/her statement by establishing the falseness of the converse; i.e. I would have to prove that Pell was an outright laggard when it came to getting serious about clerical sexual abuse. But this is all sweet now, thanks to Frank and his little nugget about Jeff Kennett’s 1996 ultimatum to Pell, which has established precisely that fact.

Finally, there is this Devine bottler:

I think Pell has the good fortune of being a man whose time has come . . . "You don't find many 'progressive' Catholics under 50," Pell observed recently.

Errr, quite. I think you may find, Frank, that this has something to do with Gen X (raised as) Catholics being the young meat of preference (and/or availability) for pedophile priests. And to turn a blind eye, and stick with an organisation when oneself, or one’s peers, have been so abused does not ordinarily suggest a “progressive” state of mind. Further, such fuck-ups have to be mentally of the far Right, in order for them to lap up the vague blaming of clerical sexual abuse on the “liberal society (of the time)”, rather than pursuing the $50,000* hush money (or the box) question.

Here, there is much that still needs to be answered – in a nutshell, never mind the boxes of tissues and spare change that is “Towards Healing”, just answer this – what was the Catholic Church hierarchy (and that includes you, George Pell) doing about pedophile priests in the 1970s and 1980s?

Perhaps Frank Devine could provide some insight here, once his current round of cork-popping is finished, of course. “Inspiring speaker” Pell has been consistently and conspicuously silent on the topic, other that for occasional moments of terse and blanket denial.

* Not simply a derisory amount, it is also a capped maximum

Elle “I would never read a book I hadn't written myself” Macpherson diagnosed with depression . . .

. . . recovery being hampered by her need to write a three-volume opus, “The Anatomy of Melancholy” before she can begin to understand her condition.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

“The Big Issue” – an experiment in corporate workfare?

Like Tony Blair’s New Labour – with whose ideology and inner circle of identities it shares much – Australia’s “The Big Issue” magazine is probably often thought of as vaguely progressive, or at least blandly benign. Personally, much of my own ambivalence has probably been because I don’t know whether to write for it (prestigious but no doubt unpaid), or sell it (the converse) – I am eminently qualified to do both.

Since the sacking of the magazine’s editor story blew up last week, though, I’ve become convinced that there is something seriously amiss with “The Big Issue”, lock stock.

If you want some general background and lowdown, go here. In summary, “The Big Issue” makes a loss, and treats its vendors badly while doing so. Two facts, which when combined, can only mean that the whole “helping people help themselves” ethos of the magazine is a complete crock. Rather, the underlying socio-commercial structure gives vendors a taste of the subsistence-wage whip, and with painting-roadside-rocks futility thrown in – the magazine’s national circulation is tiny, and doesn’t cover its $1.50/unit production costs (which low circulation is hardly a fault of the vendors, I hasten to add).

The question thus arises: couldn’t the corporate charity money currently sunk into the production costs of the magazine be better spent, as a more direct form of welfare? Alternatively, given the magazine’s low circulation in a nation full of left-leaning, literate inner-urban types (who I assume are its intended audience), couldn’t its content be revamped, so it is actually a successful seller? Heck, I’m no business head, but I would have thought that producing a magazine that lots of people would want to buy would be in the interests of everyone concerned. But that sort of ambition is a big “no”, according to Melbourne graphic designer and “The Big Issue” board member, Andrew Hoyne:

Mr Hoyne said the dispute was triggered by a struggle between Ms Antony, a freelance journalist who became editor in February, and Mr Manallack. "She has wanted autonomy, but we don't work like that. The Big Issue is not about producing a cutting-edge current affairs magazine. It's about making money for homeless vendors."

It’s official, then: “we” want the vendors to sell a shit product, because the less money they make, the more grateful they will be for every scrap. The “we”, BTW, refers to a board that comes entirely from the “suit#” end of town, and has only one* rep from the publishing industry on it – and yet insists on editorial control!

# Purists might object to a 35 y.o. graphic designer (Andrew Hoyne) being called a "suit". M'lud, I submit this blog in evidence, which is, incidentally, the most egregious instance of corporate cock-sucking I have ever read.

* The Age story mentions Peter Miller, general manager of sales and marketing for Pacific Publications in Sydney, as being a board member, while the website – which is obviously severely out of date – has no publishing industry reps on the board at all.

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