Guest Post: Australia Quirks

April 19th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Australia is full of quirks and oddities. There’s the Queensland time thing for a start.

Then there’s Western Australia. Fiercely parochial and aware it is spearheading the mining boom that keeps the Australian economy moving.

WA groupies have, from time to time, perhaps seriously, but probably not, advocated seceding from Australia to set up its own republic.

And now the Westies have thrown a huge spoke into the wheel of Australian media regulation, with Seven West, the state’s huge media magnate, withdrawing from the Australian Press Council. This follows the Finkelstein Report, which advocated a state-funded media regulator with real teeth.

Most watchers of the media here reckon the Finkelstein model will not eventuate. Smart operators like Jonathan Holmes, host of the ABC Monday night Media Watch, predicted that the newspapers would react by beefing up the largely toothless and under funded self-regulator, the Australian Press Council.

Holmes could not resist a smirk of satisfaction tonight that the three main contributors to the APC – News Ltd, Fairfax and the media union MEAA – had agreed to double the budget of the council from a measly $800,000 a year to $1.6 million in 2012-2013. It also revealed plans to require publisher members to give four years’ notice of intent to leave the council – a response to Finkelstein’s point that newspapers could walk away from the APC at any time.

Too late, though. West Seven had already gone, announcing vague proposals to set up what it quaintly describes as “an independent complaints resolution authority”. Independent from the APC, certainly, but hardly independent from West Seven.

West Seven owns, amongst other things, Channel Seven, Pacific Magazines, the state’s major newspaper, the West Australian, and nearly 40 local and community newspapers.

Its decision to break away has some media watchers speculating that Finkelstein’s Grand Plan (hysterically opposed, of course by virtually all newspaper outlets) may not be dead after all.

There will now be three media regulators in Australia: West’s “independent” outfit, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (dealing with TV, radio and the internet) and the APC.

There is just a possibility the Labor government may have the guts to decide three is two too many and breathe life back into Finkelstein. I sure hope so.

I don’t. The Finkelstein report vastly over-reaches and would introduce significant Government control of speech on the Internet.

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Guest Post: A quiz

April 18th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

I love quizzes, but only if they are trivia ones. That doesn’t mean the question can’t be serious, so long as the atmosphere is fun!

Once when I was a budget adviser I ran a quiz night for Lower Hutt members of the NZ Budget Federation. Most there couldn’t answer some questions because they were rolling on the floor. No, they were laughing, you pillocks, not the other thing!

Someone once told me I knew more senseless, absolutely useless pieces of history than any man she had ever met.

The reason is that as a journalist you know a bit about everything while not knowing much about anything.

So here’s a chance to prove her wrong!

Of the following 10 statements only ONE is true. All the rest I have made up. Your task is simple. FIND THE ONE TRUE STATEMENT.

Anyone using the internet will automatically be disqualified.

I will answer any question, on any of the statements, which is an open-ended question. If you don’t understand what THAT means, look it up, then reconsider whether to take part at all, you are not up to it.

Q!: Henry VIII had six wives

Q2: The capital of Brazil is Rio de Janeiro

Q3: British Secret Service used chickens to pass secret messages between France and Germany during WW1

Q4: Napoleon’s Army never invaded Egypt

Q5: There has been only one Boer War in history

Q6: In his will Shakespeare left his best bed to his wife

Q7: Perth isn’t the most remote major city in the world

Q8: During the shooting of the film the Prince and the Showgirl Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier didn’t fall in love and have a secret affair

Q9: Before he committed suicide, Hitler appointed a Nazi as his successor

Q10: Genius can never be seen on television

 

As this is a contest there will be a mystery prize. This will go to the first contestant who produces the correct answer IF IM AM CONVINCED HE OR SHE DIDN’T USE THE INTERNET TO DO IT.

Ready, steady, go!

PS: To misquote Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: When you have eliminated all the  false statements the one remaining, however unlikely, is the true one.

PPS: This competition ends when I or David decides to end it. All our decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into. David can enter if he likes but he won’t win anything even if he is successful. I was beginning to like the guy, but that was before our separation.

As I know the answer, I won’t be entering!

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Guest Post: Phar Lap

April 17th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

IF ANY AUSTRALIAN EVER CLAIMS PHAR LAP…….

You have my permission to do him grievous bodily harm. Just make sure the last words he hears before those of his Maker are “Phar Lap was a bloody Kiwi, you nong!”

Nong is of course an Australian expression. It can be used in such endearing phrases as “Ya gotcha trackie daks on back ter frint, yah silly nong!”

If Phar Lap is claimed by a thick Aussie ask him two questions:

Q1 “Where wereya born?” He will, of course, reply : “Orstralya, ya nong”

Q2: Does that make YOU Australian?” “Of course it duz, drongo, whatareya?”

Then quietly mention that Phar Lap was born in Timaru. That will almost certainly mean your new mate will suddenly find his bladder is full to the top and he can’t possibly come back till next week and it is a shame about you and your missus leaving for Timbuktu in two hours.

Phar Lap’s record reads: Starts 50, Wins 36, 2nds 3, 3rds 2. I look upon him as the best racehorse ever. Looks good but stats are cold things. The story of Phar Lap must be one of the most extraordinary yarns about an animal and the humans who knew him that ever has been told.

Other punters will name his superior and the fun part is that you can never be wrong. You can’t compare a horse that races in the 1930s, with one of today, the courses are different and knowledge of the horse’s frame has changed with technology. In the 1930s, when Phar Lap ran, trainers worked with intuition, not science.

Two Melbourne men nearly went to jail over a fight as to which horse was better – Phar Lap or an NZer called Carbine. Charged with offensive behavior, the men were lucky the magistrate had a sense of humour. He freed them so long as they continued the argument in a “quiet and gentlemanly manner”.

Only one man originally saw how great Phar Lap could be. He was a struggling trainer, Harry Telford, a man with a brutal temper. He didn’t have a bean, but he knew his racehorses. He chose Phar Lap even before he had seen him.

He was leafing through a sales catalogue for Trentham when a horse’s pedigree caught his eye. He found the horse, though seemingly poorly bred (his Mum, Entreaty broke down after her first race) had royal blood if you went back far enough. Ironically the blue blood in his background belonged to a horse named……..yes, it was Carbine!

Night after night for a month, he went back over the pedigree again and again. Not only did each sleepless night make him more convinced this one could be a champion, but could be the best horse of time.

But Telford had no money, it was the depression and all the wealthy had all the spoils.

So Telford managed to persuade a rich American, Dave Davis, to buy the horse without seeing it. Phar Lap was bought for 160 guineas, almost nothing even in those days.

When Davis saw his purchase he said: “Sell him, he looks like a camel” True, he had boils all over his face and was very skinny. But he didn’t have two humps, he had a man who believed in him and blue blood in his veins.

So Telford leased PL from Davis for three years for nothing. If the horse won any money Davis would get a share.

Both men were happy. Davis was mega rich and had nothing to lose, Telford whose record to that time was very ordinary, had three years to pursue his dream.

When PL first appeared on a course, people laughed at him. Some joker said to call him Lightning because he was so slow.

That much seems to be true. What happened in the next few moments is subject to debate. We do know that Telford, having no sense of humour, rejected the Lightning name, but only after serious consideration. He refused, he said, because the name had too many letters .

It has to have seven letters he declared.

Why seven?

“The three last three Melbourne Cup winners all had seven letters, It has got to be seven.”

Then the stories differ.

The generally accepted view is that an Oriental gent nearby suggested “Phar Lap” because that was a Sinhalese for lightning. The story sometimes says that word was farlap and Telford only accepted it when it was pointed out to him that he could change the “f” to a “ph”. Nice yarn but definitely not so.

But did the Oriental ever exist? The authoritative written work on Phar Lap, while pointing out the words are Thai, doesn’t even mention the gent from Asia. But a researcher met the man’s sister who insisted her medical student brother, Aubrey Moor Ping, HAD named Phar Lap.

Other true stories about this, the greatest of all horses include.

• He ran a poor last in his first race. He took five starts to land a win, and was unplaced in his next four. Then he ran a second.

• After that, he was third twice, then won 31 races, a sequence broken only by two thirds and two seconds.. He followed that up with eight more wins, before finishing well back in the 1931 Melbourne Cup under a record weight.

• He ended his career winning his only international run, donkey licking smart field at Aguq Caliente in New Mexico

• He nearly didn’t make it to his Melbourne Cup victory. After an attempt on his life (see below) he was smuggled out to a safer property. When it was time for him to leave for Flemington the horse float wouldn’t start. When he finally got there, just minutes before the race the crowd roared: “He’s Arrived!”

And by the time he died he was, and will inevitably remain, the most popular athlete in Australia, human or non human.

So what happened? How did this seeming carthorse became the greatest equine in the world?

Two things:

1. The size of his heart, Literally. After he died, Phar Lap’s heart was weighed in at 6.2 kgs, nearly twice the normal size.

2. A man who seemingly didn’t have a heart at all. Telford decided early that his new horse had ability he was just lazy. So he put the gelding through a training schedule that would have killed a lesser horse. But Phar Lap thrived on it.

Even in death, Phar Lap caused controversy. He died just after his New Mexico race and fans to this day still believe he was killed by bookmakers who knew how much he was going to cost if he lived.

After all, bookies had tried before. Just days before his effortless Cup win there was an attempt to shoot the horse from a moving car. Phar Lap reared and his regular attendant, Tommy Woodcock put his body between the car and the horse to save him.

Almost certainly the death came from natural causes – colic due to munching wet grass.

Some of the people who also lived the Phar Lap legend met sticky ends. His first jockey, Cashy Martin, did in a race fall while still in his teens. Like Telford, he knew Phar Lap was going to be great and lived long enough to see him win his Melbourne Cup.

Tommy Woodcock and the horse were inseparable. Woodcock lived to a ripe old age and nearly trained a Melbourne Cup winner himself when his horse, Reckless, finished a close second.

After Phar Lap, Telford never had a decent horse again. He over reached himself financially and died in 1960.

His regular jockey, Jim Pike, won a fortune and then lost it on gambling and booze. He died in a home for destitutes.

Dunno what happened to Davis, the rich Yank and no one cares. He was a liar and a rogue and publicly insisted that the first time he clapped eyes on the horse he knew he had a champion.

Phar Lap was one of only two sports figures who were so good the authorities tried to change the rules in order to make them lose.

And, of course, the Aussie battlers loved him. It was in the depression and Bobby, as he was known affectionately, and his battler trainer were sticking it up the toffee noses.

There have been many good horses and will be many more. But there was only one Phar Lap. His body, stuffed and mounted is in Melbourne Museum. It looks so lifelike you can almost hear him thinking: “Let’s give those toffee noses just one more hiding, Jim”

An interesting history of Phar Lap.

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Guest Post: Kiwis in Australia

April 16th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

When last counted, more than 500,000 Kiwis were living in Australia. Why do so many of us fly across the Tasman to live in the camp of our bitterest sporting rival?

I can’t answer for the other 499,998, but here is why Mr and Mrs Freedman, Sacha, the huntaway and Sunny the Golden Labrador became Australian residents.

BTW it is bloody expensive flying a dog across the ditch, far more expensive than flying yourself. The two dogs travelled in the same plane as we did and it was uncanny to listen to Sunny barking her head off as we taxied down the runway.

A main reason we chose Brisbane was because of the weather. We were sick to death of grey Wellington days and rainy southerly blows.

Not that it doesn’t rain here, but at least it is warm rain. To date we have escaped the floods – at one stage we thought about living in Ipswich, but changed our minds, thank goodness.

Brisbane has hot, rainy summers and warm, dry winters. So far the temperatures we have experienced have ranged from around 22 degrees (when true Queenslanders complain about the cold and reach for their long johns) through to 38 degrees, which is bloody hot. When it is that warm Queenslanders grab for a beer and head for the beach.

The lifestyle is great in Queensland. It is so laid back you sometimes have to give a Queenslander a kick to ensure he is still breathing.

The populace is generally welcoming. Get ready to be continually calling “darling” “sweetie” and “love” by the women behind the counter.

We had been here less than a day when a supermarket staffer kept calling me “darling”. Carolyn looked at me sideways with a quizzical “I know he can be a fast worker, but surely not THAT fast”.

They are also very generous. The first Easter we were here, the Commonwealth Bank stuffed up our payments and left us with no money. Cheekily, I went next door and asked a guy I had never met whether he could tide us over for the long weekend.

“No trouble.” He grinned , taking out his wallet. “A hundred be enough?”

I offered Carolyn’s engagement ring as security.

“What would I do with that?” my new mate laughed. “Just pay me back when you can.” We did.

Also Queensland is wonderfully egalitarian. I haven’t seen a Ferrari or a Rolls Royce in two years. A few Porsches and BMWs, but most Bananalanders drive good ordinary cars.

The cost of living is cheaper than NZ in many areas. You can buy a loaf of bread for $1 and two litres of milk for $2. Bananas are cheap except during the floods when the price rocketed to $13.99 a kilo. You can now buy a kilo for 99c in some fruit shops.

Not that Queensland doesn’t have its faults. There are some right wierdos here. When we arrived we bought a car from a great guy in Kingston, between Br isbane and Beenleigh, where we live. Later we decided to trade down to something smaller and naturally went back to the same place.

But our guy had gone and been replaced by Abbott and Costello. They made an offer for the car, then toddled off for a few minutes. When they came back they pretended never to have met us.

“What car? Who are you people? Why do you think we have seen you before?”

Police can be a problem, as I think I have mentioned.

But the fauna is wonderful. To wake up at around 4am to the sound of kookaburras, to see cockatoos and even the occasional koala in the trees is a magical experience.

And sport is everywhere. As a kiwi who has adopted Australia and has no intention of returning, I support Australian teams so long as they are not playing Kiwis. With one exception.

I will never, ever, support the Australian cricket team.

Everything has its limits.

I have a t-shirt that says “I support two teams – New Zealand and anyone playing Australia”. I now make an exception for when Australia plays against the English rugby team.

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Guest Post: Gambling in Australia

April 15th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Australians are incessant, almost pathological gamblers.

If two kookaburras land on a tree miles in the outback, it’s a fair bet that within minutes a bookie is making odds as to which one will fly away first.

Latest figures available show $69 a year is bet for every man, woman and child in Australia.

“Most forms of gambling are legal in Australia, and the activity is highly popular. The average adult Aussie will lose about $1,000 (US $679) on gambling each year. This means that Australians lose more money per adult at gambling than any other group on the planet. This number has increased 2½ times over the last 25 years. In fact, more money is spent on gambling than on sporting, cultural or entertainment events.” -world gambling review website.

Australia, with 360, has more racecourses than any other country in the world. Poker machines make up 56% of the gambling industry here. In Brisbane you can go to a race meeting every day of the week if you want. Within two hours drive there are courses at Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Beaudesert, Gold Coast plus two in the city, Eagle Farm and Doomben, the two just across the road from each other.

Gambling addiction is a huge problem, a 2010 report by one hospital showed 17% of attempted suicides were problem gamblers.

Recently the Gillard Government, cheered on by Independent Andrew Wilkie, threatened to introduce “mandatory pre commitment” for pokie gamblers. This would require EVERY gambler to set a limit before he, or she, said down to mindlessly pull a handle or push a button.

This was well intentioned nonsense. Firstly, it treated all gamblers as if they were addicts, and secondly, a gambler could set any limit at all, from $1 to a gazillion. The Lib/Nat coalition’s response was even worse: they proposed voluntary pre commitment. What’s next, asking every smoker to sign a piece of paper saying they wouldn’t take more than two puffs a day, but nothing would happen to them if they didn’t keep their promise?

The chartered clubs, a huge industry here, went ballistic. They rely on pokie revenue to such an extent that one club near where I live offers lifetime membership for $1. No, not $1 a year, a buck for the rest of your life!

But the clubs did a very clever thing. Rather than taking up the example of the billionaires of the mining industry and entering a full on war which made the newspapers lots of money in advertising, the clubs kept their powder dry and sat down and talked to the government. It worked and the legislation was watered down.

Wilkie went into a sulk, Abbott looked silly and, for once, Gillard pulled a handle and landed the aces. Labor backbenchers, reliant on gambling votes, heaved a huge sigh of relief,

Bookmakers are legal in Australia. In NZ they are not, except for the TAB, which can offer what is called “fixed prices”. “Tote odds” are also available.

Tote odds means the winners receive back all the money gambled, less taxes and the TAB’s take. That way the TAB doesn’t care which horse wins, the total payout is always the same.

A bookie sets his own odds relying on his skill and knowledge. So he hopes an outsider wins so he doesn’t have to pay out much. When a hot favourite gets rolled, the bookies smile.

The NZ TAB is, in my opinion, a rotten bookie. The moment a horse is subject to a decent bet it brings its price down. A good bookie, confident in his knowledge and ability would keep the price the same and invite a big punter to “have another go”.

There are legends of battles between big (and I mean BIG) punters and top bookies. One tells of a punter who put $250,000 on a 10-1 shot. Come again, smiled the bookmaker and put the price up two points. The punter wagered another 250k. The horse lost.

In my heyday I enjoyed a punt. Not big, the most I ever put on a horse was $200 at 10-1. It won easily.

I once collected over $3000 for a $10 bet. I bet that four horses in different races would all run a place at good odds and they all did.

Gambling can be fun or can lead to misery. The simple rule is: Don’t gamble money you can’t afford to lose.

Good punting!

I consider our gaming laws relics from Queen Victoria. Some changes I would make:

  • Remove the TAB monopoly on sports betting
  • Allow Internet gambling (esp as Kiwis just user overseas sites anyway)
  • Allow any Casino operator that meets good character tests to set up a casino in a suitable area
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Guest Post: Union corruption

April 5th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Former Health Services Union official Craig Thomson has been a naughty boy. He used a union credit card to visit ladies of the night, obviously to try and recruit them as union members.

Thomson is also a Labor MP. To be a Labor MP in Australia it is not quite compulsory to have been a unionist, but is certainly an advantage.

The dominance of unionists in the Parliamentary Party is distinctly unhealthy. Not only does it give the LNP a stick to beat the left over the head with, but union officials are not always nice people to know

Not that union connections are restricted to leftwing parties. Bill iBirch once confessed to me he had joined the Meatworkers Union when just a lad, probably not something he would bring up over the pinot noir at a National Party pissup.

Thopmson’s dilemma has been all over the rightwing papers and the LNP, understandably, are having a ball. Constant demands that Thomson release to the media his laundry list and the extent of his vegemite addiction are in the news every day.

Questions beginning “Given that the member for Dobell is a proven debaucher of innocent young females, could the Minister please explain……” tumble out one after the other like clowns in a circus.

And the police, Fair Work Australia and a very suspicious man in a grubby raincoat and felt fedora who looks definitely ASIO, have all been ferreting away to get the dirt on Craig T.

Julia Gillard is standing by this ratbag because she has no choice. When the cold winds of a snap election are blowing up your majority skirt all you can do is try to pull it down even if the result is that you protect a scumbag like Thomson.

My prediction is that Thomson will not be charged and if he is will not be convicted. Fucking a prostitute using your penis and someone else’s credit card is hardly the crime of the century.

Thomson, incidentally, was born in Wellington.

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Guest Post: A Pyrrhic Victory

April 4th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Can Do Campbell Newman has a huge problem with his enormous victory in the Queensland State election. He now has to try and keep 78 ambitious politicians in line when many of them must know they will be one term wonders. Everyone will want a job and those who end up being about as active as the guys who are doing some sort of road works at the end of our street and have been doing whatever it is for almost two years now will be mischief makers.

The LNP will have to hire the Gabba for the caucus meetings while Labor can have theirs in a phone box.

Labor has hit rock bottom and their only way now is up.

The result is typical of the sort of outcome you get with an FPP system.. There are no winners, practically no Opposition and all Campbell’s little puppies will be pooping on the floor and weeing on the carpet.

Can Do was a major in the Army and was nicknamed Noddy because he got up to a few tricks. He is also an authoritarian who doesn’t listen to anyone and expects everybody to have their kit spick and span and their gear in pristine order.

His attempt to keep his huge team under control promises to be an interesting sight.

Campbell will indeed have no effective opposition from other parties, so the opposition will come from within his own party. I know from experience of National’s 1990 landslide win, that some of your new MPs are not that well suited to be MPs. In seats that you never expected to win, the nomination often goes to whomever wants it. So Campbell will have some difficult MPs to deal with.

The good news for him though it that short of being found to be having an incestous affair with four nuns, Campbell will get a second term. Even a third term at this stage looks likely as Labor will need a lot of time to go from seven MPs to the 45 needed to govern.

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Guest Post: Life on a benefit

March 25th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Life on a benefit, or pension is tough.

People of the rightwing persuasion think they know all about living on a low, fixed income. It is easy to sit in your Eastborne home, dabbling in painting, and thinking you know everything that should be done to the poor, isn’t it Lindsay Mitchell?

Or to sit on your wobble butt in Parliament, pocketing a six-figure ministerial salary, swanning around in your gas guzzler and declaring that because you “made  it” everyone else should make it, too, even though you’ve taken away most of the stuff which helped you to get along. Isn’t it, Paula Bennett?

Or to regale the masses with stories of about how your mother lived in a state house, but you rose to be a millionaire Prime Minister. Isn’t it Mr Key?

The people who know about living on a benefit are the beneficiaries themselves. I’m one and have been for a couple of years. I worked all my life. That I am on welfare is not my fault and I don’t like being there.

I don’t like not being able to live like other people just because I am sick. I don’t like not being able to take my wife for a night out or enjoy a movie or a drink. I don’t like being stuck at home because I have no money for petrol. I don’t like eating baked beans because I have no cash for food.

I can hear the righties now: Stop whining, get off your bum, be grateful that WE look after you……if that is your only response, don’t  bother, I’ve already heard it before.

Not only have I been a beneficiary, but I have also worked with beneficiaries as a budget adviser and food bank co-ordinator. So I think I know what I am talking about.

My experience is that beneficiaries are often the best budgeters of all. They have to be.

Every dollar, every cent, is stretched to breaking point. So are your nerves and your patience when you heard words like ”bludger” from people who should know better, but don’t.

Keeping the dole low might have some justification if you KNOW people on the dole don’t want to work.

PS: If you want to tell me about the dole bludger down the road who spends his life surfing on the taxpayer, or the solo Mum who keeps having kids to stay on the DPB, I’ve heard it all before and I’m not interested. I want solutions, please, not third hand stories about your uncle’s cousin’s mother-in-law’s next door neighbour’s  grandson. I don’t care, Okay?

But there is no justification in treating invalids as if they have no value. And that’s what governments in both NZ and Australia do, Labor, Labour, Liberal or National. They are all the same. It is not good enough and it has to stop.

A benefit gives you just enough to survive on. I use that word deliberately. Starving is not living.

As NZers living on the benefit in Australia we receive income from Centrelink every fortnight and from WINZ once a month. The WINZ payment has to be converted to $AUS. Sometimes this benefits us with a few dollars extra.

When that happens, Centrelink reduces our income to compensate. But do they do the opposite thing if the conversion rate works against us? Oh, dear me no.

For luxuries we have Austar, the cheapest possible package. Beats staring at the walls when you can’t go anywhere because the gas tank is empty.

I know a few pensioners in Australia and they admit what they do to make ends meet. They shoplift from supermarkets.

Oh, dear, I can hear the righteous right clacking their dentures already.

I don’t condone theft, but I do understand it. One of my mates has a wife who was recently told she was deficient in Vitamin D. Her doctor did not advise sitting in the sun, the strongest on earth, and recommended using Vitamin tablets.

Yeah, right, at 50c each! So my mate sneaks along the supermarket aisle, waits till no-one is looking, grabs a packet and sticks it in his pocket.

He isn’t proud of what he does, but is not ashamed, either. He does it to survive.

So if you want to know what it is like on a pension or a benefit ask the people who know. Tell Lindsay Mitchell, Paula Bennett and John Key to go stuff themselves.

Personally I see little difference between condoning something and saying you understand it in a sympathetic tone.  It’s like the person saying “I don’t condone domestic violence, but boy does that sheila get naggy, and it is the only way to make her listen”.

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Guest Post: Nothing is quite what it seems

March 22nd, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Guest Post by Peter Freedman:

When I became a journalist the first thing I was taught was that names were news. Many people don’t mind what you say about them so long as you spell their names properly.

I was also taught facts were sacred. The old adage was: “When in doubt, leave out. Better still, find out.”

I was also taught there are at least two sides to every story and nothing is quite as it seems.

This story is literally true:

I have visited a brothel only once in my life. The girls were so impressed with me that they gave ME money. When I left they all invited me back, offering their services at a discount.”

So is this story:

I have shared a bed with journalist Jane Clifton, politician Annette King and singer Millie Small”   If you remember Millie, then you ARE getting old.

Now for the truth.

I was conducting a collection for the Daffodil Day. Me and an old mate Gwyll Williams were given the Waiwhetu industrial area. Nestled snugly down an alleyway is the establishment known as The Quarry Inn.

I suggested going in, but Gwyll demurred, reckoning his wife would kill him if she found out. So I went alone.

I explained myself to the bloodshot eye at the door and was let in. There, all the girls, gorgeous creatures lounging around in various stages of undress,  donated, the only one who wouldn’t was the owner.

As I left several of the girls asked me to come back again.

One gave me a sly wink.

“Give ya a discount,” she grinned.

I and a few others shared a bed with the lovely Jane in the St George Hotel in Wellington. We were attending a union conference. All we did was drink and pass around an illegal substance.

I interviewed Annette after she won a seat in Parliament. The small beachside bach was full of rowdy Labourites and the only place we could go for some quietness was a poky bedroom.

Millie Small was visiting Napier for a concert. She got the flu, but still agreed to an interview and photographs. I perched on the bed while asking her questions. Lovely girl, a real trooper.

Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Question everything and never believe anything you read or are told. Not even this.

I think Millie Small now qualifies for a super gold card :-)

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Guest Post: Ten favourite movies

March 14th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

Recently at a small party, conversation died. To liven it up again our host asked us to name out Ten Favourite Movies.

So we each sat in a corner of the room and wrote them down. Everyone had finished with a quarter of an hour. Everybody, bar one. Guess who?

I said I was having trouble whittling them down and needed a larger piece of paper.

“How many have you got to choose from?” said mein host courageously.

“Not many,” I cheerily replied. “Down to the last 172, should be finished in an hour. My wife sighed and gave one of her famous  “What the f- is he up to NOW?” looks.

Anyway, this is my ten for now, Tomorrow the list will be quite different.

  1. Inherit the Wind. I am amazed at the number of so called film buffs who have never heard of this film. A real classic based loosely on the Tennessee monkey trial. Now, there wasn’t a chimp in the dock but might as well have been for all the importance the defendant was ,The trial was over a school teacher persuaded by the CLU to test the state law which barred the teaching of evolution. The pawn is played by Dick York later Darren as he was Bewitched.

    The two real antagonists were, in reality, the legal leviathans Clarence Darrow (Spencer Tracey) and William Jennings Bryan (Frederic March),.The men were lifelong friends, Bryan stood unsuccessfully for President with Darrow’s support. But the two drifted apart and found themselves squaring off in a  mall Bible Belt town,.Tracey and March are, of course, brilliant, and so is Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter in Mash) as a befuddled  judge. But star of the show is Gene Kelly, who doesn’t dance a step but cleans up in the role of a cynical big city news hound. His best line comes as Bryan is welcomed into the town by the good citizens all singing in unison: “Gimme that Old Time Religion” Seeing Kelly as a stranger needing a bed, one worthy woman asks him if he needs a nice, clean place to stay” “I had one,” says Kelly, “but I left it to come here.”

  2.  Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Surely needs no introduction here, the greatest Aussie film ever made. Knocks that fat girl’s wedding for six. If Dame Edna had accepted a part it would have been No 1. If you haven’t seen it you have missed what one diminutive Asian lady can do with table tennis balls. No more hints, but please remember to duck.
  3. The Bird Cage. I didn’t care for Mr R Williams till I saw him in this. He’s brilliant but he doesn’t steal the show. Nathan Lane as the “lady” of the house almost takes the honours in his campest performance, but I give my Oscar to Gene Hackman as the tight laced Senator who finds his daughter wants to marry into one of THOSE sort of families. The final scene where a blond-wigged Hackman in drag escapes the paparazzi to the tune of “We are Family” must be one of the funniest in movie history.
  4.  Casablanca. Nothing more to say, move on. Louis, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship. PS: If anyone bets you “Play it again Sam, is this movie’s most famous line take them on. Bergman begs: “Play it Sam, play as Time Goes By.” There is no “again” never was and never will.
  5. The African Queen. Bogey and his longtime co-star Bergman sail down an African river to torpedo a German boat with home made weaponry. Look for a superb cameo role by the rotund Richard Morley.
  6. Mississippi Burning. Hackman again, this time as an unconventional FBI man alongside William Dafoe, the straight man. They go to the Miss to investigate the death of two white guys and a negro who had been campaigning for black rights. Closely allied to a real story. Many memorable moments, but the best has to be when a negro hired by the FBI kidnaps the town Mayor and holds him in a small shed, threatening to castrate him if he doesn’t cough. “Do you know, Mr Mayor, how much you bleed when your balls are cut off?”
  7. Stand By Me. I hate Stephen King but this is magic. A group of young boys go looking for a body and learn the realities of life. Too many stars and great scenes to mention but the classic line has to be “Suck my fat one, you cheap dimestore hood!”
  8. Romeo and Juliet – the de Caprio/Clare Danes version by a nose from the delightful Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. The Leslie Howard version made in the 30s doesn’t even get to the gate. FFS Romeo was about 17, not 42!
  9. Shakespeare in Love. Even if you hate the Bard you HAVE to see this. If R and J wasn’t written this way it should have been. Dame Judi takes the cake with her OTT Queen Liz 1 and has the best line, muttering “too late, too late” when  the men are tardy in lowering their capes to prevent the royal tootsies encountering the London mud.
  10. White Heat. Had to get Cagney in somewhere. Along with E G Robinson’s Little Caesar, this is the quintessential gangster movie. Cagney is awesome as the psychopathic killer Codey Jarrett, but Margaret Whycherly steals her scenes as Ma Jarrett. Almost certainly based on the reallife Ma Barker. Ma Jarrett is evil, immoral, unscrupulous and magnificent.

So there it is. Some great movies didn’t make it, like almost anything based on Dickens. Some Like It Hot, with the immortal line uttered by Dave Barry, a besotted millionaire with the hots for Miss Jack Lemmon. As the couple speed away in his motorboat, Lemmon finally has to come clean. I can’t marry, you, I drink. That’s okay says Barry. I smoke say Lemmon. I don’t mind, Barry replies. I can’t give you children. No problem, we’l l adopt some. Lemmon flings off his wig and shouts: “I can’t marry you, I’m a man!” Barry doesn’t hesitate.

“Well, nobody’s perfect,” he says.

That’s my list, How about giving yours?

This isn’t a top 10, but some movies I love and can always watch again.

  1. Shawshank Redemption
  2. Love Actually
  3. Four weddings and a funeral
  4. Kick-Ass
  5. Lord of the Rings
  6. Blues Brothers
  7. Kill Bill Vol I
  8. South Park
  9. Life of Brian
  10. Star Wars Episode IV
  11. The Omen (I and II)
  12. Alien
  13. No Way Out
  14. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  15. Ben-Hur
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A Katter amongst the pigeons

March 13th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Guest Post by Peter Freedman:

It had to happen. Sooner or later Bob Katter would do something absolutely tasteless, totally without any merit of any kind, to try to win votes in the Queensland State election.

Katter is a sort of Australian Winston Peters. He has been in politics for yonks and recently formed his own party. He called it the Australia Party, then decided a more humble The Katter Party sounded better and tried to delay the entire election while the change was made. He lost that round.

Now he has come up with this ad:

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/state-election-2012/newman-to-prioritise-fair-dinkum-normal-families-20120312-1utcj.html

For those who can’t get to the link, the ad about is the attitude of opponent, Liberal leader Campbell Newman, over gay marriage.  It repeats the same clip of Newman saying he supports gay marriage, interspersed with a pixelated pic of two apparently naked men being friendly, but not THAT friendly.

The ad asks: “Is a vote for Campbell Newman a vote for gay marriage?” The answer to that incredibly complex question will come later.

On the surface it is just a grubby tasteless ad, the sort that has become a part of modern politics. Sigh at the drop in standards and move on.

Yet this ad has caused a huge kerfuffle in Australia! You would think The Governor General had been snapped performing oral sex on the Prime Minister, while the entire Australia cricket team stood admiringly waiting their turn.

Yes, this is a strange country. The GG, Quentin Bryce, is actually a female.  Ask that question at your next trivia night.

But the reaction to this ad is probably the strangest I have seen since arriving in Australia. Everyone is talking about it. Still worse I can’t find anyone who is defending it, except Bob K himself of course. And me.

The ad, while perhaps disgusting and offensive to some, is true. Newman DOES support gay marriage. The pic of the two men is not indecent, the pixels cover their chests, FFS, and the shot stops well before the dangly bits.

Isn’t this ad just another example of free speech?

Not if you believe last night’s Q and A on the ABC.  There were five people on the panel, an Aboriginal leader, a bright young Labor Cabinet minister, an elderly weather beaten farming leader, a cocky youthful feminist writer and a Liberal MP who wants to be the party leader but dare not say so. A more diverse mob would be hard to find.

Yet they all agreed. Katter’s ad should be banned. It demonized gay people, it was homophobic and deeply objectionable. Throw it on the fire, I say!

But wait, there’s more. Australia’s third most rightwing columnist, Andrew Bolt, the same gentleman so adored by Australia’s fourth most rightwing columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, wants the ad banned as well. Or so the feminist writer said.

Bolt’s blog is here:

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/katter_disgraces_himself/

Nowhere that I can find does he call for a ban. But he clearly didn’t like the advertisement, terms like “a vile ad, openly and shamelessly appealing to homophobia” tend to give that impression.

Unfortunately for his credibility, Bolt has been openly and shamelessly appealing to the worst of human nature for years.  This man has been openly and shamelessly in and out of court so often there’s talk of providing a revolving door marked “Andrew Bolt Entrance” on one side and “Andrew Bolt Exit” on the other.

Bolt is a “Stolen Generation” denier. Despite all the historical documentation he continues to claim that large numbers of black kids weren’t snatched from their families to be placed with white families. He once asked a professor to provide “just 10 names” of stolen kids.  When the prof produced four pages of names, Bolt still remained unconvinced.

Then he defamed a magistrate, claiming she had hugged two drug traffickers as she set them free.  The magistrate said she shook their hands to congratulate them for completing a rehab programme and a jury believed her. Bolt got it wrong because he couldn’t be bothered contacting the magistrate for her side of the story, one of the first things I learned when I became a journalist. It is called “balance” or “getting both sides”.

That little mishap cost Bolt, or his employers, $246,000 in damages.

Then in late 2010, Bolt was sued by seven people for a series of columns claiming white people in Australia sometimes pretend to be black for political or career advancement. Again he was found to have broken the law. Fortunately for his employers the seven only wanted their names cleared and sought no money .

Every time he is criticized Bolt falls back on his rights  of free speech.  But isn’t Bob Katter’s ad free speech? Apparently not.

I am of Jewish ancestry. If a Nazi in full uniform marched up and down a public spot yelling  “Sieg Heil” I wouldn’t stop and offer him some matzo ball soup.  But I would believe he had a right to make a dick  of himself, whether  beschnittener or unbeschnittener. It’s called free speech.

“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend with my life your right to say it” – Though these words are regularly attributed to Voltaire, they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906).

 “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also”  Henrich Heine,99 years before the Nazis came to power.

 Think about it.

For the record I do not agree with what Peter has said on Andrew Bolt.  Nowhere has Bolt said the ad should be banned (as noted) so there is no issue of consistency. I would have thought Peter would welcome the leading conservative commentator in Australia saying “But to oppose civil unions is just bloody-minded interference in the lives of others”.

There is also another side of the story on the issues cited about Bolt. For example the debate about the stolen generation wasn’t whether or not lots of Aboriginal children were not put into white families. It was about how many were taken without the consent of a parent, and where there was no abuse – which is far fewer number.

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Guest Post: Mental Mania

March 12th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

I suffer from a mental illness.

That probably won’t surprise too many of you.

I am happy to tell about my illness for two reasons. Firstly, there is still a view that having an MI means you are dangerous and mad. I am not either. Next this is an encouragement to men, especially, that you do not need to suffer in silence.

As John Kirwan says, tell someone. And if they don’t get it tell someone else. Keep telling someone till they get it. That’s what I did.

I get panic attacks. Looking back, I now recognize that I have suffered these attacks most of my life. My wife remembers me getting the shakes during our marriage ceremony. I still maintain this was just anticipation of the night to come, but, perhaps not.

The symptoms of panic are varied. Most commonplace is uncontrollable shaking and what is called a “feeling of impending doom” – the fear that something big and nasty is just around the next corner. And it is coming for YOU. You don’t know what it is except that it is coming……

Random and silly fears are also common. Once, while peeling prawns I became convinced that they would poison us unless I removed every single bit of the black membrane. Another time I woke in the middle of the night, shook my wife awake demanding we evacuate immediately because the house was about to catch fire.

“Go back to bed, you silly old fool,” she said lovingly. And when I awoke the house was still standing.

My illness came to a head about two years ago when I suffered all the symptoms of a heart attack. The ambos did an ECG which showed my ticker was fine.

We went to hospital where they conducted test after test. All came back normal. The doctors told me I was suffering from stress.

Three nights later, I thought I was having a stroke. Back to hospital. Even more tests, scans, xrays. All results were normal, normal, normal.

So why was I feeling so crook when there was nothing wrong?

“It’s all in your head, dear,” said the nurse, gently patting my hand.

This time I went to the doctor who gave me some pills. In a couple of days , I felt right. YIPPEE, I WAS CURED!

So I stopped taking the drug. Staunch Kiwi bloke doesn’t need THOSE THINGS.

Bad move. My next panic attack lasted 48 hours. By the end I was almost suicidal.

So I went back to the doctor ,then to a counselor. Finally to a shrink. SHE GOT IT.

Now I am kept under control by a cocktail of drugs. I will never be cured and will pop pills for the rest of my life. Far better than the alternative.

And remember this:

If you THINK you are going mad, that’s the surest sign that you are not. It’s only if you don’t think you are growing mad, but everyone else is going loopy, that you are really going insane.

PS: I have just reread that last sentence five times and still don’t understand it.

Sheet, maybe I AM going loony……..Aghhhhhhh!!!

I admire people who do or have suffered from mental illness to be so upfront about it. I know that it helps a lot of people out there who have been through the same, and see they are not alone.

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Queensland Police

March 9th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Peter Freedman:

When I told them I was moving to Queensland, all my Bananaland mates, includung the conservatuves, had one piece of advice: Watch out for the Queensland Police.

“They’re aggressive, unpleasant, corrupt and a pack of bastards” one wrote me. And he is a policeman!

Since then I have had three meetings with the Maroons in blue.

No1: Shortly after we arrived in Brisbane, my teenage granddaughter and two of her mates asked me to take them to Subway for lunch. The carpark was tight and slightly uphill. Backing out, my towbar accidentally touched the bumper of the car behind.

I got out, spoke to the other driver who inspected his car and declared there was no damage done. We shook hands and were both about to leave when some scruffy character in jeans and a sweat shirt demanded to see my licence. He was a plainclothes policeman, he claimed, flashing a gun and a warrant card.

And so he was. He breathalysed me and warned that, technically, I was an unlicensed driver (a NZ licence is valid in Australia for only four months).

The other driver intervened, saying that no damage had been done, and was warned he would be arrested. Finally, unable to catch me for anything, the officer stalked away.

No 2: My wife and I drove north of Brisbane to Gympie, a pleasant little town a couple of hours away. We found a restaurant and settled in for lunch (I was then thrown out for not wearing shoes, but that’s another story). We settled in at a second eating place where the staff didn’t care whether I was barefoot or not.

We had a Leisurely meal, with a cocktail to start and shared a bottle of wine. Then started to drive back into town.

On a four lane motorway. most of it very straight, my wife was pulled over for exceeding the speed limit. Speed limits in Queensland are crazy, one moment the limit can be 120kph, then 100, then 110, then back to 120 again.

The cop declared my wife was just under the limit, but still required her to travel with him to the cop shop for a blood test. I was left to follow them in our car. Interestingly Mr Plod never asked ME if I had been drinking or even if I had a licence.

I gave up trying to keep in touch with his police car, which weaved among the traffic, sometimes excdeeding 140kph.When I finally found the police station this prick was waiting for me, demanding to know why I took so long. When I told him, he shouted: “Nonsense, you don’t know you’re talking about.” He then demanded I not come on to police property!

As soon as he had disappeared inside I went hunting for a superior officer and found a very friendly acting Senior Sergeant who took my complaint.

Leaving the station, I bumped into the Senior Constable again.

“Your wife was very lucky,” he snarled, “She was just under the limit.”

“Well, you’re not so lucky,” I replied, “I have just laid a complaint about you.”

“Won’t do you any good. We’re bulletproof,” he boasted back. He then refused to show me his warrant card and when I tried to shake hands with him asked me: “Why should I shake hands with the likes of you?”

It took several weeks for my complaint to be acknowledged. Then I received a curt letter saying it had been investigated, no further action would be taken, and the matter was closed.

I wrote back, stating it was far from closed. I asked how the investigation was conducted, who was interviewed and why I was not spoken to by the investigators. I received back a second copy of the first letter.

Weeks later, someone apparently decided this was not quite good enough and wrote to me again. This time I was told the constable had been interviewed, my wife questioned (she was sitting in the back of the car and had no idea how fast it was going). The letter then said the constable could not possibly have been speeding if you compared the distance he travelled with the time he had taken.

This evidence, of course demonstrates only the average speed, part of the journey was through a built up area!

No 3: I was stopped by a cop, a good one this time, for having expired registration (“rego” , of course in Australia). He approached me armed with a large screwdriver…..

Having yet to become used to police carrying guns, I had this vision of being stabbed to death, rather than shot down. But no, all he wanted to do was to remove the number plates. It cost me $750 in fines, another $350 to reregister the car, plus $70 for the Australian equivalent of a WOF.

The policeman also mentioned I was an unlicensed driver and to “get that fixed some time”.

Cripes, this is a crazy country!

I must say that I often think we don’t realise how lucky we are with our Police.

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Queensland Politics

March 7th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Another guest post from Peter Freedman:

Queensland politics is different from those anywhere else in the world.

First they produced Joh Bjelke Petersen, probably the only interesting human being ever to come out of Dannevirke.

Joh was a crook, no two ways about it. When the law finally caught up with him and he was charged with perjury, Sir Joh beat the wrap by somehow smuggling one of his most fervent supporters on to the jury. The young man obediently refused to accept the plethora of evidence against his idol and caused a hung jury.

The authorities somehow managed to find Sir Joh was too gaga to stand trial a seconed time, so the crookest polly in Australian history died without a stain on his black character.

But Joh wasn’t alone. One of his Ministers, a man mountain named Russ Hinze. was once stopped for speeding. He pulled out a map of Queensland from the glove box, pointed to some spot in the middle of the state amd inquired of the cowering cop: “Now, sonny, how would you like to be transported to THERE?”

Hinze’s favourite saying was “never conduct an enquiry until you know for sure what the outcome will be”. Like his mentor he died just soon enough to avoid going to prison.

Sir Joh, whose wife Flo was famous for her scones but little else, also had his share of saws. Conducting press conferences was “feeding the chooks” and his consistent reply to any awkward question was: “Don’t you worry about that…….”

He also once told the London Spectator Queensland would be far better off it banned the media. That way, he declared “No-one would know anything”. Hard to argue with his logic, anyway,

Queenslanders go to the polls again on March 24, but even that isn’t certain. There’s a cat amongst the pigeons – a Katter to be precise.

Only Queensland could produce a man like Bob Katter, a mixture of Joh and Winston Peters in a ten-gallon hat.

Katter may single handedly delay the election because after registering his party as the Australian Party, he humbly changed his mind and decided it should be called the Katter Party. So he toddled off to court demanding that 2,000,000 voting papers be destroyed so the correct party name could be included in the new ones. Australians are a nation of gamblers, with more racecourses than any other nation, but the odds on Bob aren’t good.

The chances of a change in Government are, however. Labor is trying to win its ninth consecutive election, which must be some sort of record everywhere but in Singapore, so the “let’s give the other mob a go” syndrome is well and truly at work. But the other mob are not in great shape.

They had so much faith in their Parliamentary leader that they dumped him shortly before the election and replaced him with someone who wasn’t even an MP!So exit Jon Paul Whatsisname and enter stage right Campbell “Can Do” Newman, Lord Mayor of Brisbane, surely the only Parliamentary leader in the world who has to watch the proceedings of the House from the public gallery and cannot utter a word without being evicted.

The move was understandable. The Labor Premier, Anna Bligh, great-great-great-greatgranddaughter of William Bligh of the Bounty, is every bit as stubborn as her illustrious predecessor and equally liable to flog her underlings if they don’t perform.

But she inherited a mess from Peter Beattie, including a ticking time bomb called the Queensland Health payroll which is such a dog’s breakfast it overpaid some workers up to $300,000 and now wants its money back.

But “Can Do” also has his problems, it seems that if anything crooked can be done in business “Can Do” has already done it. Dodgy little tricks like his family setting up a company to flog flood protection software just a few days after South East Queensland was inundated (as it was US software, the FBI is showing an interest) or helping a property developer gain permission to build two high risers on the Gold Coast in return for seven donations to his election coffers, under seven different names. This could only have been leaked by someone within the LNP, probably one of the current Liberal MPs, all of whom refused to give up their seats to allow Newman to slip into Parliament by byelection.

So Newman is standing in the Labor-held seat of Ashgrove in Brisbane, and he has a fight on his hands against the popular Kathy Jones. His party could win, but Newman could be defeated, giving Jon Paul Whatsisname a chance to return in triumph.

Current Premier Anaa Bligh is very impressive and gave such a stellar performance during the floods that, albeit briefly, her party gained in the polls. It has since fallen back, and defeat looks very likely.

Somehow, down there in the bowels of Hell where he belongs, I can hear sir Joh saying with a grin: “Now, don’t you worry about that……..”

I love the description of Bob Katter – it’s perfect.

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