Archive for February, 2019

Bloody old Barry O’Sullivan

February 19, 2019

In Senate Estimates today, Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan was inveighing against the proposed/impending levy on stevedores, which has been justified as helping to fund Australia’s biosecurity efforts.

His claim is that biosecurity is more threatened by people entering Australia than by imported goods, and that if a levy is to be raised it should be raised from them.

That’s an arguable point. I’ve no idea of the respective risks.  Let’s leave to one side for a moment the legerdemain of “levies” as taxes dressed up as some kind of user-pays impost.

But I  was taken aback at how the senator chose to make his point.  The transcript isn’t up yet, but according to AAP, and reproduced without comment in the regional and national press:

“There’s a bigger chance of us having a biosecurity breach from some bloody old Chinaman that brings in his favourite sausage down the front of his undies,” Senator O’Sullivan said at Tuesday’s hearing.

And later:

“I’m not opposed to a tax to raise money for biosecurity, but from those that pose a risk. So start with the Chinaman,” he said.

Why pick on the “Chinaman”?

It is a word which which all  Chinese-background people I know find offensive because of its historically derogatory usage.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Senator O’B apparently doesn’t know this.

Update here.

And here.

I have been surprised at the slow reaction to this (only SBS and Junkee took up the story at first), because the Chinese-background (and not only Chinese – Japanese Americans have also complained about this) reaction to the term is pretty unequivocal.  The slow media  reaction goes to show how deeply ingrained casual racism is.

Meanwhile, I like to think “Bang goes Bennelong.” John Alexander will have to hit the streets at Eastwood to dissociate himself pdq.


Belatedly (in my opinion) Bill Shorten seized the day to denounce O’Sullivan on Wechat (= the overseas version of the Chinese quasi-Facebook, Weixin – I had an account linked to my Chinese mobile number but have failed to maintain it since that number lapsed).  The leader of the Nationals distanced himself from O’Sullivan (who lost preselection for the Qld No 1 senate spot and will be “retiring” when his term expires this June/July), describing him as “off the reservation.”  It turns out that this too is a phrase with unwelcome associations to Native Americans, as Labor MP Brendan O’Connor was quick to point out.  That may have been a bit of an own goal given that Andrew Leigh, Penny Wong and another Labor parliamentarian have all used the phrase relatively recently, though the (Labor) Northern Territory chief minister has recently disclaimed future use of the term after its connotations were pointed out to him.



Shitting in their own front yard

February 17, 2019


This is the approach to the Sydney Opera House last night.

The temporary structures on the right are for the “stage” which takes over the forecourt for much of the summer.  If an event is actually on the obstruction will be even greater, assisted by black-screened “no peeping” barriers erected to preserve the commercial advantage of those running whatever event it is.

Tonight, nothing was on, but the entire forecourt was still fenced off.  A sign announced that this was for safety because of the construction involved.


The approach continued.  People had to negotiate a kind of fencing maze to get to the front steps.


Note the area in the middle distance of this shot, to the right of the gent with the white t-shirt and jeans fiddling with his phone.  We’ll get back to that.

Meanwhile, here are the men keeping it safe and the scattered objects about the stage from which we need to be protected:



As you negotiate the maze, look more closely at the fenced off area, previously spotted in the middle distance:



That’s right, a fenced off area devoted entirely to fencing off….





February 12, 2019

IMG_20190212_130807A surprisingly large lizard killed on the road directly outside our house.  My shadow for scale.

It must have been headed either from or to our yard.

I would never have imagined such creatures were running around in our relatively built-up area.

I guess this explains why sightings are rare.

Season opener

February 11, 2019

The Sydney Symphony  sent me an email on 30 January.

I only read the heading: “You’re invited to our Season Opening” and in a burst of efficiency consigned it to the Deleted Items folder.

Marketing has debased the word “invite.”

Then there came a reminder email on 5 February.  Maybe the word “Reminder” made me pay more intention.  It turned out that they were, indeed, really, inviting me to the concert.  For free.

Not an invitation to treat but an invitation to a treat!

Specifically, the concert on Saturday night featuring:

Also sprach Zarathustra (also known as the opening music to 2001 A Space Oddysey)
An oboe concerto by Nigel Westlake featuring Diana Doherty and
Percy Grainger’s The Warriors.

After some wrestling with the web-page I snapped up about the last two A reserve tickets – one in row K of the stalls (a bit low) and the other in box B.  I invited my old friend LW. It later turned out LW had received a similar offer but not detected it amongst a backlog of emails.

Out of caution born from experience of the vagaries of weekend trains, I offered to pick LW up at Dulwich Hill and drive to Sydenham.


This turned out to be a wise move because the Bankstown line trains were terminating at Sydenham and we would have had to change trains there anyway.  It was good to have my suspicions vindicated.

At the SOH, my frequent-concertgoer friend C, who keeps up with this sort of thing, had the good oil.  The concert had been a box office disaster.  Hence the free seats.  He was in one too with his friend D. (in another)

I held our tickets behind my back and asked LW to choose.  There was to be no interval so it wasn’t as though we could take turns.

LW got Row K.  Immediately I regretted my even-handedness and even more when I got inside and found my seat was right up against the wall on the left hand side of that box.  Actually I knew that already but I’ve never sat in one of these before.  Note to self: never buy any of those seats!

David Robertson conducted.

I adjusted as best as I could to the pokey seat which detracted considerably from the splendour of the sound, though the view was comprehensive.  My favourite bit is the moment in the waltz where you can imagine someone clicking their heels in the air for a hemiola, but there are other felicities.  David Elton seems still to be here notwithstanding his London gig, and did the trumpet solos proud.

Emma Dunch gave a little talk as the stage was being reset for the Westlake.  I took the opportunity to squeeze out of my seat and sit in the front row of the box.  My mood lifted.  What a splendid seat!  My new neighbour, who had moved from a seat on the aisle where she said she couldn’t see the back corner of the orchestra, agreed.  She all-but unwrapped an Anticol so that it rested on the wrapping paper, “just in case.”

The Westlake was delightful.  The scoring for the orchestra is hollowed out to allow space for the oboe to be heard – no woodwind and with only horns as the other blown instruments, plus harp, piano and lots of percussion.

The gent at the end of the row began to get a coughing fit and my neighbour passed the Anticol, still sitting on the paper as though on a platter, down to him.  He gratefully (and trustingly) accepted it.

As ever, I most enjoyed the slow movement.  It was only in the last movement that I felt the inability of the oboe to play really loud, as DD launched into what could easily at times be thought of as electric guitar licks in a rather funky finale.  She must have been exhausted by the end.

The applause was warm.  NW came up to the stage,  I thought a bit more might have been made at that point of the contribution by “Justice” Jane Matthews who had provided funds to assist in its commissioning.  Still, she looked happy, from a distance.  Good on her!

“Asthma” explained the gent, and introduced himself to my neighbour.  By now we were all friends and quite chatty – though not, of course during the music.

And then the most enormous orchestra reemerged for the Grainger.

It was a big night for double-reedists because this work includes a prominent solo for what the program notes told me would be a Hecklephone (extremely rare) but what was more probably a bass oboe.

“The Warriors” is an eclectic work: I fancied I caught reminiscences of Stravinsky (‘The Firebird’) and Offenbach (the can-can – though this was more rhythmic than melodic).  It was written by Grainger as an “imaginary ballet.”  Maybe he was just too late to the party because the commission from Diaghilev never came.  Harmonically it’s nothing way out but there is a kind of naive inventiveness – think Charles Ives.  My new seat was perfect to catch the offstage brass playing from outside the north-east upstairs doors.

Afterwards LW was dismissive of the Strauss – the work rather than the performance – he’s such a snob! – but we both agreed that it was a most enjoyable concert.

Circular Quay was packed with Chinese New Year promenaders – lots of families out to catch the festive illuminated “zodiacs.”  This year pride of place next to the Opera House went to the  pig – constructed from luminescent sticks which changed colour most beguilingly.

Owing to the trackwork rearrangements we had to take a train first to Town Hall and then change to the Eastern Suburbs line to Sydenham.  I could not restrain  an inward frisson of smug satisfaction as LW and I slipped away to the car whilst our fellow-Bankstown-liners trudged across and down to platform 1 to await their connection.

Afternote – September 2019

Tributes are now being paid to Jane Matthews following her death on 31 August.  This post was intended and can now stand as my own little tribute to her.

Property vs lives

February 5, 2019

There have been floods in Townsville.

On Monday, Qld police issued the following bulletin:

Missing men, Aitkenvale
myPolice on Feb 4, 2019 @ 7:22pm
Townsville police are appealing for public assistance to help locate two men possibly missing in the Aitkenvale area.

The men were last seen in Ross River Road, Aitkenvale early this morning (February 4) near flood waters.

Extensive enquiries today with family and friends have failed to locate the men.

A water and land search has commenced of flood waters and the general area as a precaution.

One is described as an Aboriginal man, approximately 165cms tall with a slim build and short black hair.

The other is described as an Aboriginal man, approximately 165cms tall with a proportionate build and short black hair (image: blue shirt).

It is unknown what the men were wearing with police appealing for anyone who may have seen them or has any information in relation to their current whereabouts to contact police (details below).

Late on Tuesday afternoon, there was an update:

Update: Missing men, Aitkenvale
myPolice on Feb 5, 2019 @ 4:50pm
Townsville police conducting a search operation in flood waters at Aitkenvale have located the bodies of two men this afternoon.

The bodies were found near Aitkenvale Park around midday and have been identified. Next of kin of the men have been advised.

The discovery follows a search operation which commenced after two men, aged 21 and 23, were seen near flood waters on Ross River Road early yesterday morning.

Police will prepare a report for the Coroner.

The Ethical Standards Command will investigate the matter for the State Coroner with oversight by the Crime and Corruption Commission.