Tag Archives: Australia

Vanity Publishing

In the last few days, Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, has increased her share holding in Fairfax Media to just under 15 percent.  She has already bought a share of Channel 10, and it is widely suggested that she hopes to use her newpaper and television interests to help shape the political debate in such areas as mining policy, taxation and climate change.  Another mining magnate, Clive Palmer, has also mused – perhaps not very seriously – about buying into newspapers, or starting up a new one of his own.

Ever since the first barbarian employed the first bard to sing his praises, there has been a link between media and politics, but the link has shifted lately.  People like Silvio Berlusconi – or Donald Trump? – made their fortunes from the media first, then used these millions to carve out a place in politics.

In the age of the internet, though, the old media no longer generates a fortune, so that for Gina Rinehart or Clive Palmer, dabbling in newspapers has become a rich person’s hobby.  To these noisy miners (thank you, Annabel Crabb), it’s pin money anyway, and it comes with the glittering prospect of having a significant influence on the public debate.

It’s not a new idea either. Continue reading

Images of Cinderella

Footage of Julia Gillard in Canberra being dragged by a security detachment to a waiting car went viral yesterday.  At one stage, she was running neck and neck for top viewing on the BBC website with George Clooney.

There will be an investigation, endless analysis and blame – but the image of the stumbling PM was probably more striking than anything that may follow.  And the image reminded me of another picture, in grainy black and white, of another woman dragged across the bitumen by solid men without necks, and losing a shoe in the process – Evdokia Petrova, nearly 60 years ago. Continue reading

Charles Dickens and Australia

Watercolour of Abel Magwitch from Great Expect...

Abel Magwitch, from Wikipedia

Two hundred years ago this year, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February.  As a result, we are about to be drowned in Dickensiana.  So I thought I’d get in early by looking at one common element in many of Dickens’ novels, his use of Australia as a plot device. Continue reading

When the Boat People were Welcome

The problem of unauthorised boat arrivals on the north coast of Australia shows no sign of going away any time soon, despite all the good will – and more particularly the bad will – of politicians and the public.

Yet the subject of a permeable frontier in the north is hardly new.  The poor Indonesian fishermen who today transport cargoes of desperate people to our shores are the 21st century descendents of the poor fishermen who sailed south to the lands they called Marege [Arnhem Land] and Kayu Jawa [Kimberley] in the 18th and 19th centuries to harvest shark fin and sea slugs [bêche de mer or trepang] for the Chinese market.  The sailing season is similar, with most boats arriving before and after the summer cyclone season – though one difference is that, in these days of diesel motors, they are no longer dependent on the monsoons to propel their boats.

The other difference is that once, these visitors were enthusiastically welcomed by the British settlers in northern Australia. Continue reading

The President and the Barmaid

And I spent my soul in kisses, crushed upon your scarlet mouth,
Oh! My red-lipped, sun-browned sweetheart, dark-eyed daughter of the south.

With all the kissing and cuddling that’s been going on lately between Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, maybe it’s time to quote the words of another American President with a thing for Australian women.

I have heard several times in the last week that until LBJ came to Harold Holt’s funeral in 1967, no American President had visited Australia.  The truth is, Australia is a long way from the rest of the world.  Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said (though I can’t find hard evidence) that he had never visited Australia, because he had never been on the way to Antarctica.  So it is not surprising that world leaders didn’t visit Australia before the era of fast air travel.  Nowadays, of course, they all find an excuse to come, especially during the northern winter.

But in fact, one American President spent a considerable time in Australia and left his mark on it.

President Hoover stamp 1965

Hoover stamp, 1965, from Wikimedia

Herbert Hoover arrived in Kalgoorlie as a young geologist straight out of Stanford University, in 1897. Continue reading