Thursday, January 16, 2003

Counting the Days

Thursday, 16 January 2003 (Day 34)

According to my quick calculations, it's now 34 days since the Howard Government pulled the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 because Parliament wouldn't pass the bill in its original form. I've decided to adopt a new dateline (as above), to keep track of the number of days that have passed since this event without a major terrorist attack within Australia. I'm hopeful that I won't have to reset it to zero before Parliament resumes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

A Word from the Pot

Wednesday, 15 January 2003

Jack Thomas shot to prominence yesterday, 11 days after he was arrested by police in Pakistan. He's already caught the attention of Tim Blair, who speculates on what sort of loser Thomas will turn out to be, and Wogblog, where this article by Daryl Melham gets a serve.

Now clearly the subbies at the Daily Telegraph, Tim and the Wog are privy to facts that I haven't been able to get hold of: get past the Tele's headline "AUSSIE TRAINED WITH AL-QAEDA", and you'll find the word "alleged" occurs throughout the report. Granted, allegations from the Pakistani police have to be given more weight than allegations from the New South Wales Vice Squad, but at this stage, they're just allegations: not proven fact. Thomas hasn't even been charged with anything yet: he's just been helping the Pakistani police with their enquiries. For 11 days. It wasn't until last Thursday (5 days after he was arrested) that the Government learnt that he was in custody.

The wog's gripe with Daryl Melham is that Melham thinks the Government should do more than just wash its hands of Thomas, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib (Habib's circuitous journey to Guantanamo Bay is described here). According to the Wog, insisting that, as Australian citizens, Hicks, Habib and Thomas are entitled to consular representation and a little more effort from the Government to protect their rights is

So stupid. Guys who end up giving themselves names like "Jihad", or go a-fighting in Afghanistan, or live comfortably in Oz with their families but do not mind leaving wife and kids behind to go back and forth over the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, at a profoundly lousy time in those nations' histories, are not common criminals.

Uncommon criminals is what these folks are.

Very uncommon criminals who can be convicted of a crime by the press and public opinion, without the inconvenience of a trial.

Like it or not, Hicks, Habib and Thomas are Australian citizens and whether the government likes it or not, it has obligations to all of its citizens, not just the ones it approves of. It has a duty to respect all of our rights, not just the ones we need to retain to preserve the belief that we are more civilised than our enemies. As a famous Australian once remarked, you can't cherry-pick the Australian way of life. That goes for governments as well as immigrants.

More Broken News

Wednesday, 15 January 2003

Man dies from mishandling cock.

Now, this is a heirloom.

Monday, January 13, 2003

New Blog

Monday, 13 January 2002

To my renewed embarassment meika von samorzewski has started a blog. One of meika's links is to this piece on dumb blondes which I would be pleased to have written myself. As I didn't I shall have to be content with the nit-picking observation that meika has overlooked the famous Wella Effect which accounts for the rarity of dumb brunettes.

Draggy Bits of Australian History: 1788 to 1795

Monday, 13 January 2002

[This post is the second part of the relaxed and comfortable Tugboat History of Australia (thanks to Gareth Parker for the title). The first part is here. It's another multi-part post, so feel free to add comments wherever you feel they will be most relevant].

The past is like a foreign country: between the highspots and major landmarks there's a lot of sometimes picturesque, but mostly boring, countryside to cover dozing uncomfortably in a cramped seat on a tourist bus. To cover this terrain the hero-historian may be forced to resort to the resources of his local library. There I found Volume I of Manning Clark's A History of Australia, which I'll be using to get through the years from 1788 to 1806, when not a lot happened, give or take the odd spot of malnutrition and debauchery.

I admit that Clark is probably not the most reliable source: he's known to have been one of those lefty "fellow traveller" types that BA Santamaria used to excoriate in his weekly sermon on Channel 9, Point of View, during the 60s and 70s and there were allegations that he was awarded the Order of Lenin. So we shall have to take much of Clark's description of the early years of the new nation of Australia (or New South Wales as it was called then) with a grain of salt. Sea salt obviously, as rock salt may be a little suspect under the circumstances.

From 1788 to 1792 the growing nation was governed by Arthur Phillip, a Keatingesque visionary who believed his mission was to lay a foundation for a prosperous free society. In this he was at odds with the convict mainstream, but like Keating he had the support of the nation's intellectual elite, the officers of the garrison. To be fair to Phillip the convicts' notion of relaxation and comfort was some distance from our modern notion: despite the efforts of the Rev Richard Johnson, they remained largely untouched by the pneuma of the Graeco-Christian tradition and preferred the Secular Humanist theft ethic to the the much more productive Calvinist work ethic. Any notion that comfort and relaxation were the evening rewards of a day's hard work, rather than a natural right, was alien to them.


It is hardly surprising then that the new nation did not prosper as it should under Phillip. Due to bureaucratic bungling in the purchase of supplies for the First Fleet, the agricultural tools provided for the first settlers were totally unsuited to the environment. Government farms were set up to provide food for the first citizens of Australia but there were, unsurprisingly, numerous crop failures and petty malfeasances which impeded efficient food production. Relations with the natives were strained and not improved by Phillip's attempts to demonstrate the clear superiority of European culture and British justice: despite being invited to two public floggings, the native pre-Australians remained unimpressed. However as many of the natives were carried off by a smallpox epidemic in 1789, the issue of race relations was a relatively minor problem.

Faced with numerous difficulties, Phillip realised early that the nation building enterprise was doomed from the outset, unless an aspirational class could be encouraged to develop. He therefore wrote to Lord Sydney in 1788, proposing that free settlers be allowed to emigrate to the new settlement. This suggestion was, quite wisely, adopted, however the parlous situation was not relieved until Phillip returned to England in December 1792 and Major Francis Grose took over as Acting Governor. On his departure, Phillip took with him two natives Bennilong and Yem-mer-ra-wan-nie and two unnamed convicts who, according to Clark had "conducted themselves to his satisfaction", although it would be unwise to read too much into this statement.

Grose realised that the growing economic demands of the new nation could not be met by a Soviet style command economy based on the government farms and moved to outsource food production. Since land was plentiful, Grose made land grants to the officers of the garrison and the more respectable free settlers. He also encouraged the development of a free market economy by allowing the officers to engage in trade, buying up the cargoes of incoming vessels for resale to settlers and convicts.


These years saw some significant arrivals: John MacArthur in 1789, Samuel Marsden in 1794 and the Irish. Transportation of Irish convicts began in Cork in 1791. As the (unofficial) relaxed and comfortable preamble to the Australian Constitution says:

The Australian nation is woven together of people from many ancestries and arrivals. ... In every generation immigrants have brought great enrichment to our nation's life.

Of course that enrichment has not always been initially welcome and so it was with the Irish, whose Catholicism was regarded with suspicion by the, largely Protestant, educated elite of the new nation. However, the Protestant work ethic was as alien to them as it was to the rest of the convict mainstream, and there is plenty of evidence that in this case, the new arrivals had little difficulty assimilating.

February 1794 saw the transportation of the first Lefties to Australia, with four of the five "Scottish Martyrs": Thomas Muir, the Reverend Thomas Fyshe Palmer, Maurice Margarot and William Skirving. The fifth, Joseph Gerrald was transported the following year. Their removal to Port jackson may have benefited the social order in England but whether their influence would be beneficial for Australia remains to be seen.

Grose resigned as Acting Governor in May 1794 and returned to England in December of that year, leaving Captain Paterson in temporary charge of the settlement under the title of Administrator. He was replaced in September 1795 by John Hunter of whom I shall have more to say in the next installment. Right now it's time to find a convenient roadhouse where the passengers can stretch their legs while the bus driver takes a much-needed leak.

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