90 years ago today

December 15, 2018

In the course of this week I spoke to two people who are about to turn 90.

One is the youngest of my father’s 4 paternal  cousins. She is still in her own home.  Her elder brother died aged 92 about a month ago.

The other is the father of a very old and good friend.  I saw him in hospital and it was a grim occasion.  It is hard to see him ever returning home or even leaving the hospital.

I don’t know many 90-year-olds – in fact these are the only two I can think of – and they both turn 90 today.

What are the odds?

Wrapping up

December 13, 2018

Christmas is coming.  I don’t think I am going to any more live performances this year, so this is a post to wrap things up for the year.

26 10 SSO, de Waart – Beethoven 9

This was a hot ticket:  the orchestra sent out an email requesting any who weren’t going  to return their tickets and receive a credit in exchange.

I expect it was the Beethoven 9 that brought them in.  Once it would have been the return of “Edo” but maybe that aspect is weakening as memory of his tenure as chief conductor fades.

For me, the Haydn Symphony No 104 (also his last; one of the “London” symphonies) was more intriguing.

In the Beethoven, the Chinese bass (or bass-baritone), Shenyang, was phenomenal.  And everyone sang from memory!

De Waart is now 77.  He doesn’t look much older to me than when I first saw him though that is in part a trick because my perception of others’ age has been moving forward (or back) with my own.  The one giveaway is that he has developed a little mannerism of steadying himself on the handrail when he steps down from the podium.

17 11 SSO – Robertson, Capucon, Dvorak, Korngold & Mahler (5)

This was billed (and priced) as a gala concert on the eve of the SSO’s European tour.  We got to hear a kind of fantasy orchestra, with a few choice guests, soon-to-be principal flute Joshua Batty, and I’m guessing soon to go principal trumpet, David Elton, who was appointed principal trumpet at the London Symphony Orchestra this time last year and has been a purely paper presence until this recent return.

4 12 Pinchgut Ataserse

An extreme rarity, performance of the 1740 version of this work by Hasse for the first time since it was performed in Dresden.

At first wasn’t sure whether I would go to this. I was persuaded by the second half caught on the radio on Sunday night (it’s fun these days to follow the score, courtesy of IMSLP) and the availability of reasonably-priced restricted-view seats.

Pinchgut fans seem always to be saying to each other “I think it’s their best yet!” I expect there is a bit of confirmation bias in this or maybe a trick of perspective, but this was probably the most consistently well-sung Pinchgut performance across the 6 principals in recent memory.  Vivica Genaux, though very much promoted as the star of the show, did not stand out incongrously above the rest of the cast.

Orchestrally, the first half was all a bit the same, with long sweeping lush string lines, flutes introduced for moments of pathos, horns for martiality.  There was more variety in the second half.  I most enjoyed Artabano’s aria Pallido il sole (here at 2:39:20 while the link lasts; cf Carlo Vistoli singing a bit slower in 2014 here), not least because the strings managed a sound a bit like muted strings.  In the gloom I couldn’t make out any actual mutes and didn’t see the players removing them.   I remain, as ever, a sucker for muted strings – even if simulated.

7 12 Ensemble Apex

This is a group of young musicians either at or recently from the Sydney Conservatorium.  It’s been going since 2016.  I’m guessing it owes its existence to the conducting ambitions of its director, Sam Weller and the willingness of his fellow-students to assist those (and have some playing opportunities themselves).

Earlier this year, the ensemble gave a  rare performance with dancers of Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin.  I missed that, but in the aftermath  there was an opportunity to sign up for their last concert of the year, to include a performance of Rhapsody in Blue.

I signed up to go, then forgot about it.  So it’s just as well that a reminder email popped into my inbox on Wednesday.

Simon Tedeschi was the the piano soloist.  As well as the Gershwin, he played the Brubeck Blue Rondo as an encore.

The concert was held in the “Music Workshop” at the Con.  This is probably a bit small for an orchestra in full cry.  When they play loud you got that kind of sonic constriction of too much music in a confined space that to me says “Band Practice.”  T.hey could do with a set of risers

The other works were:

Adams- Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Koehne- Powerhouse
Marquez- Danzon No.2

Maybe the Adams and the Koehne one after another were a bit too much of the same sort of thing – even though they are really quite different.

Oliver Schermacher played a truly wild clarinet solo at the start of the Gershwin.

I hope the Ensemble comes back next year.


8 12 Sydney Youth Orchestra, Briger, Barker et al, Strauss

I got a tip-off on Friday from someone who goes to many more concerts than I do.  The attraction was that Cheryl Barker would be singing the Four Last Songs and the Marschallin’s part in excerpts from the end of Rosenkavalier. Strauss’s Don Juan rounded out the program, and for completeness I should add that Peter Coleman-Wright had a walk-on moment as the police officer to whom the M replies with the famous “ja ja.”  Alexander Briger conducted.

Cheryl was definitely the highlight of the concert.  She had no difficulty being heard above the orchestra.  Her vibrato is a bit more pronounced than when I last heard her.  In September I felt the orchestra perpetually lagged in a way which must surely have tested her nerve.  Otherwise they made a good fist of things.  The horns were in particularly fine form.  Everyone else could have quietened down a bit more for the woodwind twitters near the end of Im Abendrot.

The gleaners

December 7, 2018


That is the classic image.

So what about this?


That’s meant to be a picture of the woman by the bin. She had a male companion whom I saw first but he spotted me taking this picture and I was shy to take another. He probably thought I was photographing him as a prelude to dobbing him in.

They were both collecting containers from the “yellow” bins left by people outside their houses for council to collect, evidently with the intention of themselves collecting the statutory 10 cents for each one.

I had read about this but this was the first time I’d spotted it.

Councils are not happy about it. The standard council line is:

“The contents of someone’s bin is the legal possession of the property owner when on private land and of council when on the kerbside for collection.”

That’s very cutely expressed. It’s probably correct so far as it goes but there is a bit of a fudge there between possession and property. For example, whatever possession the council has (because the containers are in a bin which is its property and on the street which is also probably its property) is at least subject to the householder changing their mind.

Presumably  councils want to suggest that removing items from bins is stealing because under the container-recycling  scheme, councils themselves (or their contracted recyclers) collect the “deposit” (inverted commas because the 10 cents paid is only about two-thirds of the upfront charge) for containers which they collect.  They probably also are not keen about the contents of bins being scattered on the street by scavengers.

To be fair to the two scavengers I saw, they were perfectly tidy.

D spoke up for them.  “It’s a hard job.”  God knows, the effective hourly rate for collecting containers at 10 cents each cannot be high.

I don’t want to  dob them in.  But I do resent what they are doing.  It is an abuse of the scheme because these containers were already headed for recycling.

Where the abuse hits is if you bother go to a recycling depot.  These  are too few and too widely scattered.  There you will face a lengthy wait behind professional recyclers with enormous sacks containing hundreds of plastic bottles, which they feed into the machine one by one.  It’s like the supermarket transaction cost of being stuck behind people doing enormous weekly shops, but much, much worse.

The only silver lining is that the professionals only bother with the lighter plastic cans and bottles, so that the queue for glass bottles – not in truth worth the trouble but most of what I have to dispose of, is relatively short.





December 3, 2018

In breaking news, the Victorian state government has announced a royal commission into the affair of “Informer 3838.”

This follows the publication, after a short delay, of the High Court’s decision on 5 November in AB (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym) EF (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym) [2018] HCA 58.

The background is succinctly summarised in the first paragraph:

Early in February 2015, the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission provided to the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police (“AB”), and AB in turn provided to the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions (“CD”), a copy of a report (“the IBAC Report”) concerning the way in which Victoria Police had deployed EF, a police informer, in obtaining criminal convictions against Antonios (“Tony”) Mokbel and six of his criminal associates (“the Convicted Persons”). The Report concluded among other things that EF, while purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons, provided information to Victoria Police that had the potential to undermine the Convicted Persons’ defences to criminal charges of which they were later convicted and that EF also provided information to Victoria Police about other persons for whom EF had acted as counsel and who later made statements against Mokbel and various of the other Convicted Persons. Following a review of the prosecutions of the Convicted Persons, CD concluded that he was under a duty as Director of Public Prosecutions to disclose some of the information from the IBAC Report (“the information”) to the Convicted Persons.

That’s all very hush-hush, isn’t it? Surely the identity of the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police and the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions can’t be that much of a secret?

EF, of course, is another story.

CD’s intention set the cat among the pigeons, though it took a while for the wheels of justice to grind into action. To cut a long story short, in mid to late 2016, EF and AB appied to the Victorian Supreme Court for injunctions restraining CD from passing on the relevant information to the criminals in question. Ginnane J knocked them back in June 2017 (1) (2). On appeal, the Victorian Court of Appeal knocked them back in November 2017. The police and EF obtained special leave to appeal to the High Court in June 2018, which has now also knocked them back, unanimously revoking the grant of special leave.

The basis of the revocation was an acceptance by the High Court (on the police’s say-so rather than EF’s) that EF could be adequately protected by the Victorian Police. In that case, the need to uphold the integrity of the criminal law system (to which EF’s conduct and the police’s conduct in encouraging and exploiting her in it is a scandalous and outrageous affront) trumped any other bases on which EF’s identity as a police informant was entitled to be kept a secret.

All of these proceedings were conducted in camera.

Obviously, Mokbel and the various convicted persons will know straight away who EF is.

I know nothing about Victorian criminal lawyers, but it took me about 5 minutes to make a pretty good guess. And if I’m right, then there’s enough information out there already about EF for Mokbel et al to at least suspect that EF was working with the police. I suppose they might have thought she was working with the police for them. (See comments here: in truth the cat must well have been not only among the pigeons but out of the bag a good 4 years ago.) It’s not as if such characters are above acting on a mere suspicion.

Nevertheless, the court has made orders prohibiting the disclosure other than in specified exceptions of “the real name or image of EF in connection with these proceedings” and the proceedings below until 5 February 2019. Presumably that is to give EF a head start should she decide to go into witness protection and (I surmise) the state an opportunity to act if she declines to do so and her children need to be taken away from her so that they can go into protection.

It’s a murky world out there. I hope that EF and her children escape reprisal. Meanwhile, she and the police have surely made life more dangerous for other lawyers and their families in the future.

You better watch out

December 2, 2018

According to the traditional Australian reckoning, yesterday was the first day of summer.

I honoured this with my first trip to Wylie’s Baths for the season.  This was later than usual on account of some earlier over-convident over-exertion of my shoulder in the municipal pool. At Wylies the water is already a refreshing 20 point something degrees.

Other seasonal signs: the squawk of the channel-billed cuckoo and the insistent cries of the koels through the night.  Jasmine in the air.  School-leavers festively crowding the city and be-uniformed private school children with their parents on night trains home from city speech days. Boys about ten years older than the target age whooping it up at night on the play equipment in a nearby park.

And Christmas is coming.

For the second time, D and I find ourselves living next to a child with rage issues.

The first was in Dulwich Hill,our last home but one.  The tenant in the other half of our semi was a woman with a son and a daughter.  D complained that when we met (as you do) going in and out of our houses, there was a total absence of the usual neighbourly friendliness.  Even the time when I took delivery of (lavish)Christmas presents in their absence scarcely brought a detectable thaw.  Maybe the mother was embarrassed by the terrible tantrums that the boy, aged about 10 or 11, frequently turned on for half an hour to an hour at a time,screaming, wailing, stamping up and down the corridor adjoining the party wall, slamming doors and banging objects.  Only exhaustion seemed to bring these episodes to a close.

Sometimes I would hear the mother remonstrate with him, but mostly not.

I remember that, aged about six, I developed a “cross dance” for tantrums.  I suspect my parents tolerated or even encouraged it as a way of letting me work out whatever rage it was in a ritualized and essentially playful fashion.  I soon grew out of it.

This boy’s rages sounded like  something much more than momentary anger.  There was unhappiness and surely he was psychologically disturbed.  I’d like to think he was receiving treatment for whatever it was.  Meanwhile his mother and his sister took the brunt of it.  It is a worry to think what might happen if he grew up to exhibit such unchecked behaviour as an adult.

When we moved to Canterbury two years ago we thought CB,  the younger of the two children next door,  to be a girl.  Peering figuratively through (our) Venetians, D determined otherwise.  CB is  a bit of a squealer when he cries or yells.  D complains that CB  cries “like a girl.”  Ironically,  D’s elder sisters back in China have (in D’s absence) have told me that, as a child, D was “always crying.”

It is hard to tell CB’s age.  I suspect that CB is small for his, and his elder brother, BB, big for his.  CB might be 10 or 11; BB 14 or 15.  Their back yard is mostly paved and has a basketball hoop.  It seems almost a law of physics that the bang of the ball will lead to tears.

At first I thought CB’s crying and squealing  was the traditional younger sibling response to older-sibling bullying, but when I listened more carefully it became clear to me that BB is very patient with CB.  Maybe things were different when BB was younger and CB’s behaviour is a carry-over from that.  Quite frankly, an outburst from CB is so predictable that, if I were BB, I would never start playing with him, but I suppose it is one of those things which has developed over time so that the family are used to it.

It’s also become clear to me that CB’s rages are more than a sibling thing, because from time to time there are mammoth tantrums which have nothing to do with BB.  As with the boy next door at Dulwich Hill, objects are thrown and there is much stamping and banging. Mercifully, CB  doesn’t sound as unhappy as the boy next door at Dulwich Hill used to sound, and the displays never go on as long as those did.

D’s diagnosis is that CB has been spoilt. Who knows? It is easy to be a critic.

I find it hard to believe that CB behaves in this way outside the home, such as at school.  As for home, once such a pattern of behaviour becomes entrenched one wonders how it might be broken.

Yesterday, CB had a major outburst.  I overheard his father issue a warning about “Christmas.”

Good luck with that one.




November 27, 2018

kama reserve with cocky

When I go to Canberra, Kama Nature Reserve exerts a strange attraction.

It’s the trees. For example, these two:

2 trees at kama

The more upright of the two is showing signs of stress:

tree under stress

It still provides shelters to spiders (though you’ll have to take my word on that):

spider nest


The other proves difficult to photograph. How long has it been doubling back on itself?

twisted tree 2

tangled tree 2

And then there are the ex-trees, from the reserve’s days as a pastoral property:

lichen kama wide shot

Worth a second glance:

lichen kama


November 25, 2018

The domestic bath tub, I have been reading, is an endangered species.

This must be a trend which has been a long time coming. My father, who died 2 years ago aged almost 90, told me he hadn’t taken a bath since he was a teenager. It had been showers for him. When, aged 8 or 9, I was deemed old enough to take a shower rather than a bath, I too embraced the change. It was a step into adulthood and also modernity – a bit like the point later where I took up coffee (albeit instant at first) in preference to tea.

It seems everyone is in too much of a hurry these days for a bath, and they take up too much space.

Nevertheless, as an adult, living in (mostly) older and unrenovated rental properties, I have always had a bath, and taken one when time allowed. It is a simple and cheap pleasure.

It’s not only good ideas that come to you in the bath. It was in the outside bathroom at Bailey St, Newtown, at the cruelly early age of 27, that the cold tiles behind my resting head revealed to me that I was losing my hair.

D, too, appreciates a bath. Once we were living together we settled into taking more baths than either of us had taken before because we could share the water in a kind of Jack-Sprat (and wife) solution. I would go in first, when the water was hottest. D (who likes the water a bit cooler and to soak much longer) would follow.

So it was a blow when, on our last move, we were forced to move into a house without a bath. It had disappeared in the landlord’s renovations which took place immediately before our arrival.

D is determined. He managed to rig up a substitute in the outside laundry: a narrow and deep box made by him from non-waterproof chipboard which he lined with plastic and filled with a hose from the laundry tub. But it was cumbersome and not something which could be lightly enterprised. At the end the water needed to be siphoned off onto the lawn.

D is a great curbside scavenger. When we passed a discarded bath tub he would slow and sometimes stop to inspect it, but none was worth retrieving.

A week or so ago, D arrived in the car to pick me up from somewhere with a large wrapped object in the back: a small fibreglass bath which he’d found at the Salvation Army store at Tempe and bought for $50. It was a gamble. When we got home, we measured the bath and the shower recess. Yes, the bath would fit! We manhandled it in. We found a plug. There remained only the problem of how to get the water from the shower head to the bath without losing water or temperature.

This is D’s solution:




We’re very pleased with it.

Is it over?

November 11, 2018


This morning, at the eleventh hour, to commemorate the occasion at Marrickville war memorial.

Sydney sprummer blossoms, jasmine, gums and kunzea, perfumed the air.

Inside the hall there was a some kind of convention of Rubik’s cubers.


On the hour, a bell tolled from the church diagonally opposite.


The mother of a couple leaving the convention touched her children on the shoulder to stand still.

There were four or five others there who must have had the same idea that I had.

Across the road someone continued a loud conversation on his mobile phone oblivious of the moment.

Just after any notional silence had probably run its course, a few uniformed personnel wandered down from the nearby fire brigade and stood silently in front of the memorial for a minute or so.

In the laneway next to the former Marrickville hospital, now being turned into apartments, a lucky cat nodded below the rear view mirror of a parked car. I watched a peewit/magpie lark repeatedly attack its own reflection in that car and three others.

Tribunal being discreet

November 8, 2018

From DPO v Children’s Guardian [2018] NSWCATAD 258:

  1. The applicant was a member of a particular group as a young adult, over thirty years ago. That group was involved in an armed conflict with another group.
  2. Shooting broke out between the two groups and several people were killed, including a teenage girl.
  3. The applicant was convicted of manslaughter on the basis of the doctrine of common purpose. He fired two shots during the exchange of gunfire between the two groups. He did not, personally, kill anyone and he says that he fired the shots up into the air and in self-defence.

Just to explain a bit more.  Tribunal cases involving the Children’s Guardian are almost always about people trying to get a working with children check clearance.  Such clearances are required if you have a job or are involved in volunteer activities where you are likely to come into contact with children.

Under  the Act the Children’s Guardian must refuse a clearance to a disqualified person and cancel such a clearance granted to someone it becomes aware to be a disqualified person.  You are a disqualified person if you have committed as an adult any of a long list of disqualifying offences, of which manslaughter of a child (other than in a motor car accident) is one, unless you can prove to the Tribunal that you do not pose a risk to the safety of children.

If you already have a clearance or are applying for one and come within a wider range of suspicious circumstances, including being charged of a wide range of offences even if you were acquitted, the Children’s Guardian must conduct a risk assessment and may determine to cancel your clearance or refuse to issue one.  In that case, you can apply to the tribunal to review the Children’s Guardian’s decision.

Decisions of the tribunal are published in a manner which is designed to protect the privacy of the applicants; often there are also questions of protecting the privacy of victims or alleged victims of the wrongdoing or alleged wrongdoing which has caused the person to either be disqualified or found by the Children’s Guardian to pose a risk to the safety of children.

Still, I was amused by the Tribunal’s coy description which I have quoted above of the event which led to PMO’s conviction.  Surely, even if over thirty years ago, an armed affray between groups involving firearms and leading to the death of “several” people including one child would be well lodged in public memory?

I suppose I could have wracked my brains trying to work it out.  Instead, Google was my friend.

Suing Gina Rinehart- an update

November 7, 2018

Under the title Deep Pockets, I have been maintaining now for some years a post which endeavours to keep track of developments in the long-running dispute between Gina Rinehart and some of her children.

The latest instalment in this saga, listed in my chronology as number 52, is an interlocutory decision delivered by Justice Brereton on 5 November 2018 on a notice of motion which was first brought by Bianca in September 2015 after, following orders made in May 2015 that Bianca replace Gina as trustee of the family trust, Gina failed to deliver all of the trust documents to Bianca.

Since nobody clicks on the links, this is what I have written there about the latest decision:

52.   (5 November 2018) Hancock v Rinehart (Trust documents)[2018] NSWSC 1684

This was a notice of motion filed on 3 September 2015.  Paragraphs 4 to 17 of Justice Brereton’s reasons for judgment are devoted to  its “labyrinthine procedural history.”  Suffice to say that considerable parts of that history are unsuccessful rearguard actions mounted by Gina and her camp, including 38A, 41, and 42 above, though some of the intervening delays involved documents belatedly produced or discovered in the hands of third parties.  Submissions finally closed in August 2017.

After mulling over it for a mere 15 months, Justice Brereton determined that Mrs Rinehart had not handed over all of the trust documents which she was ordered to hand over on 28 May 2015, and that she should be required to swear an affidavit verifying her production in terms of his decision as to what should and what need not be handed over, which she could at least potentially be cross examined on at a later date.

That would be a first for Gina or close to it: the beauty of being a very rich person is that you never actually have to do anything yourself.  Everything can be attended to by others who will do what you want and tell you as best they can what you want to hear whilst shielding you in many cases from direct scrutiny.  Even now, the scale of the task of identifying and producing trust documents to the new trustee is such (though I wonder maybe not so much as is claimed involves  the identification of documents as opposed to the vetting of documents to see whether they might be withheld) that if cross examined Gina could presumably palm the responsibility off on some minion, at least so as to avoid any direct censure.

As it was, Brereton J did not  find that Gina had deliberately withheld documents  or that there was an absence of good faith in her compliance with the orders (see [101]).  That’s the beauty of all that expensive advice and arguable though ultimately unsuccessful grounds for withholding them. Nor was he prepared to find that Gina had acted so unreasonably (once again, there were arguable points) so as to attract the sanction of an order for costs on an indemnity basis.


Just to put this in context:

  • the proceedings commenced in September 2011, triggered by the proposals advanced by Gina on the eve of her youngest child’s twenty-first (maybe twenty-fifth, whichever was the one significant for the passing of trust interests to all of the children) birthday;
  • In October 2013, when an actual trial was imminent, Gina’s counsel announced that she no longer wished to continue as trustee of the trust – though it was evident that she still affected to jump rather than be pushed and wished to play a part in the selection of her replacement.  – I have called this a “Clayton’s capitulation.”
  • In mid-2014, there was a contested hearing on who should be the replacement trustee;
  • In May 2015, Brereton J published his decision that Bianca be the new trustee.

That is only one strand of the multiple fronts on which this dispute is being fought.  On another front, Gina’s victory on appeal to the Full Federal Court that proceedings brought by Bianca alleging breach of trust by her in siphoning off various mining interests from the trust should be referred to arbitration has been appealed by Bianca and is set down for hearing on 13 November 2018.

The “Deep pockets” that I had in mind in my main post on this topic were obviously Gina’s.  It is a scandal, hardly unique to this case, that deep-pocketed defendants’ rearguard actions, even when ultimately unsuccessful, are so rewarded, without even the censure of indemnity costs.   It doesn’t help that judges are busy people and decisions (reasons must be prepared carefully because an appeal on any arguable point is almost inevitable) are such a long time coming.