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Sewage Swim

The irony of Sydney’s richest suburbs pumping untreated sewage into the Pacific Ocean today is rich indeed! Yup, it’s true: three ‘outfalls’ are still dropping raw sewage from the cliffs behind Vaucluse and Diamond Bay into the ocean near South Head. The arse end of ex PM Turnbull’s Federal seat of Wentworth?

The resulting visible plumes of ‘brown fuzz’ on the surface are a cocktail of algae, high bacteria count, colonies of stinging jellyfish known as hydroids, and represent a high environmental risk. The ocean floor there is piling up with toilet paper, sanitary products, wet wipes and plastics.

Twice I have swum through this area in the Bondi to Watsons Bay ocean swim. Doubly dumb, heroic and also in a duo each time to share the 10kms course. Maybe my immunity came from decades of surf swimming in the dodgy water of eastern Sydney beaches, before the 1990-92 Deep Ocean Outfalls started carrying primary-treated sewage about 3 kms out on the ocean floor (where it’s feasted on by marine life). In those not-so-good old days, we sometimes swam in dun-coloured water with a smattering of unsanitary floaty objects.

But, there is good news on the horizon. The NSW government is finally dealing with these ‘legacy’ ocean sewer pipes from 1916,1932 & 1936. Our Gladys is right on to it, only twenty years after it was first raised, and has announced a $86m project to re-direct the sewage to the Bondi Waste Water Treatment Plant by 2020. Those feasting sewer fish are in for some upper-class treats!

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Redex 1954 Redux

Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel ‘A Long Way From Home’, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a car rally that captivated the nation. 

Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Carey charges full speed into this story, with characters, ideas and narratives bouncing off each other, until it settles down to a manageable rhythm. Probably an apt metaphor as the real hero of the story is the amazing Redex Round Australia Reliability Trial of 1954 (second of three). 

Among the larger-than-life central characters he even manages to invent a blond, German background, part aboriginal man, and reflects on our inglorious 20th century indigenous history.

Regular KC readers might recall my father John (Jack) in Berlin 36 Redux. Well, he’s also in the background of this story, as he competed in this 15,400 kms trial, driving a Chevrolet (car 36) for Christey’s Motor Auctions. Only 120 out of 263 entrants managed to finish the punishing event, with points lost for late arrivals and replaced parts. Dad’s car finished 97th.

His mate, legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray won in a Ford V8, incredibly with no points lost, and Carey draws on his character. My childhood memories include calling in to Murray’s Bondi garage with my father for a chin wag with Jack later on.

If you want to know more about him, get ‘Gelignite Jack Murray, An Aussie Larrikin Legend’ by his son Phil Murray – it’s not literature, but lots of photos and cars, and O’Hara too.

The Christey’s crew learned a few tricks, as in 1955 they entered the Trial again, with a longer 16,900 kms route round the country: their Ford Customline (car 76) came a very creditable 20th out of 54 finishers and 276 starters! 

I reckon Carey captures the hardships of the Trial and devil-may-care attitude of the self-reliant bunch of individuals who threw themselves into this ‘adventure of a lifetime’ – overall, a rollicking good read, as the cliche goes. Highly recommended.

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A best seller by Israeli historian Yuval Harari, which has sold 10 million copies, been translated into 50 languages, it’s unequivocally a must-read. Written in plain, unadorned English (translated from Hebrew, so presumably like the original edition), it traces human evolution from the earliest skirmishes with our Neanderthal cousins down through the ages, to finish with the meaning of life!

If you join the fan club you won’t be disappointed, as he simply explains, or explains simply, the overall arrangements in our shared world – particularly through the powerful interaction of evolutionary biology and the multitude of cultures and associated artefacts that we sapiens have created. 

We developed speech to start gossiping, says Yuval, more or less, and it’s what we fundamentally like doing best and most. As an unalloyed atheist, I particularly liked his confirmation of my long-held explanation of religious belief as a manifestation of our innate ability for myth creation and story-telling over the millennia. 

You’ll have to read it to discover the meaning of life, as I ain’t telling you here. 

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Philistines Rule, OK!

So, the ‘iconic’ (obligatory adjective) Sydney Opera House is our biggest billboard, so sayeth PM Scott Morrison aka ScoMo, endorsing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s approval of advertising on the famous roof sails of this UNESCO Heritage-listed building, to promote a horse-racing event. 

It’s a quintessential Sydney story, where Shock Jock Supremo Jones pulls the strings on Our Gladys, and we then learn that his business partners have nags running in the race – a redolent whiff of his ‘cash for comment’ era. 

I’m not sure that’s what UNESCO had in mind, but maybe it’s the epitome of OzCulture for crass gambling promotion to prevail over aesthetic considerations in a display of rampant philistinism (a word to put back into common usage). To cap it off, ingenuous ScoMo doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. I believe him.

The Pentecostal PM evinces a daggy soccer dad image, and as self-styled marketing guru who in a previous gig at the Australian Tourist Commission oversaw the cringeworthy ‘where the bloody hell are you’ advertising campaign, he has a track record as Chief Philistine. And is Our Glad channelling Edna Everage?

The horse racing event is called The Everest, so how the image of that word on the Opera House will promote tourism here is a mystery only explained by bluster and bullshit. And make no mistake, the Sport of Kings is for gambling, and certainly not for the benefit of exercising the poor nags and jockeys.

Cultural cringe at being Australian is the only response to this travesty, at least amongst us elitists, but it’s not a comfortable feeling. Optimists thought we had left fundamental philistinism behind us in the maligned 1950s, but it’s in our DNA!

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The New Black

Despite colonial Van Demonian (oh yeah!) attempts to exterminate its aborigines in the 1820-30s, it seems that the extant Tasmanian aboriginal population is growing abnormally well. In the latest census Tassie’s resident population comprises 5.5% Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, compared to 3.3% nationally.

The data collection is through self-identification, with the latest figure up from 4.7% in the previous census, which prompts speculation. Perhaps ‘stolen generation’ cultural renewal is encouraging people to reclaim their previously suppressed aboriginal heritage. Maybe more aboriginal people are moving across Bass Strait, and/or ‘natural increase’ is occurring?

Aboriginal Land Council estimates around 20,000 aborigines in Tasmania, so Chairman Michael Mansell reckons the census figure of 28,537 is too high. Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre CEO Heather Sculthorpe says aboriginal numbers were reduced to a few hundred after the Black Wars and could not have grown through natural increase and immigration (from the mainland) to be the highest proportion in Australia.

So, something is going on in Tasmanian minds when they increasingly self-identify as aboriginal. Mansell says that some might be ‘mistaken’ and others ‘opportunistic’. But I reckon it’s much more positive than that: perhaps being aboriginal is the new cool, hip trend and Tasmanians are at the pioneering cutting edge, out on the fringe, so to speak.  Dare I say, the new black?

Imagine if more of us claim aboriginal heritage and we go way past apologies and reconciliation into a new nirvana of collective pride in our ancient land’s earliest culture. We latecomers could then be assigned honorary belonging to ‘country’ somewhere, maybe learn some local language and take care of that country?

* Thanks to Anne Mather (The Mercury, 09 Sept 2018) for her report and interviews, which prompted this reflection. Inflection?

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Well, it wasn’t rocket surgery for KC to correctly predict the PM’s imminent demise.

The political circus act in the big top tent in Canberra had its inevitable denouement yesterday with the elevation, so to speak, of the egregious ScoMo to the top job, after all semblances of personal loyalty and party unity were rudely trashed in a week of bald-faced lying and treachery amongst thieves.

Amongst the many Brutus look-alikes the Big Belgian aka Mathias ranked highly in his treasonous volte-face: one day standing photogenically alongside our erstwhile PM Malcolm of Point Piper, and the next day embracing the assassin’s cabal.

It’s another sad day for Australian politics, when once again personal enmities and hard-nosed ideologues behead their own leader in an orgy of self-destruction. The three As choir boys Abbott, Abetz and Andrews, all inspired by Christian self-righteousness and revenge, got their man. But they over-reached when their anointed Trojan horse Dutton went down to ScoMo, who of course is another bible-basher – is something Machiavellian going on there?  

Malcolm’s valedictory speech predictably also, was full of self-congratulations for a PM job well-done. He looked like he’d won the lottery instead of unceremoniously chucked out on his ear. That man’s ego is bullet-proof. An insincere opportunist, who will disappear into the ever-growing dustbin of minor prime ministerial figures who strutted and fretted their time on the political stage and signified nothing. 

A threnody to the disappearing Australian body politic, may it not rest in peace!

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Shorten Sweet

Since this yummy headline appeared over a Paddy Manning article in The Monthly on 30 July, I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to recycle it, shamelessly. Regular KC readers know already that we favour and savour two-word ‘rhyming’ captions, and this one is a beauty: it’s short and sweet!

Manning was looking at the results of the ‘Super Saturday’ Federal elections, where Labor scooped four of the five electorates contested that day. Alternative PM Bill Shorten’s prospects of continuing as Labor leader and prevailing at the next election got a sugar hit indeed.

Well, today that recycling opportunity arrived, as PM Malcolm of Point Piper was metaphorically wounded (mortally?) in his own party room while staving off a leadership challenge from arch-conservative Peter Dutton. I agree with the pundits that Malcolm will not survive as PM, and the coup de grace may even come later this week.

Political soothsaying may be a sucker’s game, so to speak, but I reckon Shorten’s odds of electoral success just shortened again, and he’s definitely looking very sweet for the upcoming elections, not to mention the rest of his party in general.

The proverbial drover’s dog would also be looking pretty sweet against the motley Coalition crew running around like a mob of sheep in ever-diminishing circles, or is that lambs to the slaughter. Dutton is on the nose, outside a few supporters in the Shallow Deep North just up from Brizzie, so another feckless challenger may eventually claim the Titanic captain’s guernsey and get to re-arrange the deck chairs. Plus ça change!

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