17 October 2007

Views from London

As I type this highly civilised human beings are flying overhead waiting to land at Heathrow. ( Acknowledgement to George Orwell ).

I've enjoyed the last few days catching up with my family and reacquainting myself with some aspects of English/ London life. The grandchildren are pleased to see me, and the weather has been good: today there is barely a cloud in the sky, so I must go out and make the most of it.

Last night I saw the winner of the Booker Prize, The Gathering by Anne Enright announced live on the BBC TV News: can you imagine something like that happening in Australia?

There's plenty more I could write about but the sunny outdoors beckons. I've also taken many photos and will post a selection soon.

09 October 2007

Matt Price

I'm sorry to read that doctors have discovered tumours in Matt Price's brain. I enjoy his ability to take the mickey out of politicians so hope that he makes a full recovery, and that during his treatment he's also able to continue to publish some pieces in his characteristic style.

Death in Afghanistan

An Australian soldier, Trooper David Pearce, has been killed on active service in Afghanistan. This is distressing, if hardly surprising, news given the tenor of reports emerging from that benighted country. The ADF has released a statement on behalf of the soldier's family . I also offer my condolences to his family, friends and comrades.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact the death has on Australian public opinion. While there is bipartisan support for the country's involvement in Afghanistan, the secrecy in which military operations have been shrouded together with the, until now, lack of fatalities have meant that most people know, and probably care, little about what is going on there. This may now change.

Jeff Sparrow in today's
Crikey runs an eye over the situation and asks "just what do we hope to achieve?" Good question, and I wait for the government (and the opposition) to attempt an answer.

06 October 2007

Unacknowledged war veteran turns 85

This is Ted, who lives in an aged care home near me and who turned 85 yesterday. His life has included war service in the Royal Marine band of HMS Exeter which was lost in the Battle of the Java Sea on 1 March 1942. Ted survived the sinking and spent the following three and a half years as a POW of the Japanese.

The band's war service has been outlined in an article written several years ago (as far as I can gather) by one of its members. The author hadn't heard of Ted since 1945 and asked anyone who knew his whereabouts to get in touch. I've tried to do so on Ted's behalf but am still waiting for a reply. Unfortunately British service records, at least for the Second World War, are not as accessible online as their Australian equivalents . It seems that a man who suffered considerably for his country is unlikely to have his contribution acknowledged or recorded for succeeding generations. In the Internet age there is little excuse for this.

That said, Ted is making the most of his life. He is mentally alert and is a familiar sight around the neighbourhood as he pushes his walking aid briskly to and from the shops: he always has a cheerful smile and friendly word for the many friends he's made in his time here. Even so, he's told me several times that he'd like to hear from any of his former shipmates (or fellow POWs). I will of course pass any messages on.

02 October 2007

Brief mentions #2

# Mr Rudd for two terms?

On last night's 7.30 Report Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan, apart from fluffing her dates, appeared to suggest that Mr Rudd is seeking two terms:

Well, Kerry, anyone who knows the vaguest thing about this sort of technology knows that you start much before three months after an announcement. This has been going on pretty well since about 19... Sorry, 2005, and has been rolled out and been planned. Kevin Rudd popped up opportunistically out of the ground with a fantasy plan that's not going to be delivered, not only - forget 2009 - 2013? How many terms does Kevin Rudd think he's going to have in government? Seriously, I mean, that's not a broadband plan. If you're going to have to wait till 2013 to get broadband, you're not going to be able to do much with it.

Is this an emerging Coalition strategy: effectively admit that Labor will win the impending election but plan to limit them to one term?

# Excoriating stuff: Minister uses four syllable word on TV

On tonight's 7.30 Report Industrial relations Minister Joe Hockey said, apropos of some criticism levelled at him for criticising the bona fides of some union funded rersearchers "yet somehow I'm excoriated for my pointing out that these academics have had long-standing involvements with the union movement." In case people didn't know what he was talking about, his next sentence reverted to cliche: "I mean, what's good for the goose is good for the gander".

# Premier urged to " talk like rest of us" as he seeks new speechwriter and touches forelock to English royalty:

Interesting piece in Today's Advertiser/ Adelaide Now about Premier Rann being urged to stop sounding like Alexander Downer. Another article discusses Mr Rann's quest for a new speechwriter :

Applicants need the usual triumvirate of experience, exceptional writing skills and "a very sound understanding of government affairs, parliamentary and political processes".

A knowledge of the correct way to emphasise "the $6 billion air warfare destroyer contract" and "the state's mining boom" will, of course, be presumed.

But considering the raw material with which the applicant has to work, we make no apologies for suggesting one more essential quality. Soul.

For only a person with soul can look to a future of sustained economic growth for all South Australians.

Only a person with soul can appreciate this "all-time high in jobs, an equal all-time low in unemployment and an all-time high in private sector investment".

And only a person with soul can introduce the Treasurer to a room filled with Budget-hungry journalists and cause even the most battle-hardened cynic to shed a tear and applaud his fiscal brilliance.

If you have soul, if you can hear Mr Rann's dulcet tones shaping the future, please apply to Michele Virgo at virgo.michele@dpc.sa.gov.au. Think not what your state can do for you, but what you can do for Mr Rann.

Mr Rann has also been touching his forelock, or its contemporary equivalent, to the Duke of Kent , who is visiting SA (and slumming it by flying Qantas if this photo is accurate). HRH is here primarily to open an the Australian branch of The Royal Institution of Great Britain.