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Does it come with fishnets and budgie smugglers? If so, I'm in.
In the aftermath of September 7th, many an ALP supporter to whom I have spoken is far more positive than one would expect given the outcome of the election.
Not quite as Hillsong excited as those who ‘celebrated’ Labor’s comprehensive defeat with Kevin Rudd at his concession speech, but still, not despairing.
Most in fact have been upbeat, looking to the future, energised at a time when, it could be argued, they would be at their lowest ebb.
I’m one of them.
Sad at the prospect of seeing the innovative and nation-building achievements of the Rudd/Gillard period in government being overturned by the incoming Coalition government.
Sad that Australia may be a meaner, less Australian, Australia.
But not despairing.
Why? I didn’t think this would be the case, so I stood back and looked at the situation from the perspective of a rusted-on Labor supporter of 40 years.
I came to this: the Left must right itself. Labor’s family had begun to function as many do, in a love/hate, destructive relationship and, as with many families, some manage this better than others.
Labor didn’t manage its family divisions well. It failed.
Politics is often described as a blood sport, a dog-eat-dog fight to the death. In this contest no-one eats their young more voraciously, or more publicly, than Labor.
This dark art was taken to new heights over the past three years as Labor pulled itself to pieces. Leaking, backgrounding, contradicting, dividing.
All this overshadowing the nearly 600 pieces of legislation passed under the yoke of a minority government. Gonski, NDIS, the NBN, and numerous infrastructure projects, will be remembered for their impact and nation-changing vision.
The minority government proved to be a thorn in the side for Labor, but may in the not too distant future prove to be a blessing for a rebuilding ALP.
Labor’s turmoil ensured the Coalition’s pathway to election victory was relatively simple: stay a small target; sit back and let Labor do the heavy lifting, and the pulling down.
This pathway was aided and abetted by a significant bias from a powerful section of the media. That said, Labor supplied the ammunition as often as not.
And so it came to be that the Coalition came to power in a solid victory on September 7th.
Why then are so many people upbeat?
Anyone remember “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford? In the film’s final scene after unexpectedly winning a place as a Senator, Bill McKay (Redford) pulls his political election specialist Marvin Lucas aside and asks….”What do we do now?”
I think optimistic Labor supporters see this scenario playing out in Tony Abbott’s cabinet meeting room. I’m sure the members of Labor’s shadow bench can sense it as well.
The Coalition spent the vast majority of the past parliament in full metal jacket mode. Coalition MPs attacked Labor’s achievements, on many occasions without any substance behind these attacks.
Negative comment after negative comment, it was brutally effective. The more effective it became the less attention was paid to the validity of the criticism and laziness crept in. The less the Coalition researched. They became used to thinking in Small Target politics.
The media reported each attack until most political watchers could fill in the blanks of the slogans they endlessly repeated.
There was only one end game: to win.
There can be no criticism of the goal to which the Coalition strove. After all winning is the only way to implement policies. The reader’s political bent will decide their position on the tactics chosen.
Small target politics.
How else does one explain the almost unbelievable scenarios in Question Time where the Coalition shadow bench asked no questions in their designated portfolio? Tony Abbott’s abrupt endings to press conferences when questions got specific or asked about the Coalition’s alternative also told the tale.
Pamphlets and slogans. It was all the Coalition needed to win an election where the voting public never had a chance to ask serious questions about their policies.
It won’t be enough to govern though. Coalition members in opposition spent a great deal of time thinking about winning. They didn’t spend enough time thinking about September the 8th, the day the shit got real.
The target just got a whole lot bigger.
The backtracking and real agendas are starting to emerge quickly. No budget emergency, secrecy over the Coalition’s central pillar on asylum seekers, the boat tow-back debacle. Gender inequality and backbench discontent. University chicanery.
One wonders what will be next.
It seems the Coalition achieved a Master Of Opposition but are finding it difficult to begin Government 101.
They simply aren’t ready to govern. Small Target politics has stunted their vision, the scare tactics worked – on them. They are afraid to do anything for fear Labor will do unto others that which was done unto them.
One thing in this defeat gives me great heart. Having governed in minority will serve the Labor Party well. It showed them one thing, late and at great cost.
A party cannot lose its identity: it must be true to itself or people will abandon it.
Labor in opposition needs to return to why I voted for them in 1972: a party not just of ideas and values, but one with the backbone to spit in the eye of those who would sanitise and change it. Labor must stand and fall for its principles.
The election for a leader is a start. Involve the members and general public, engage and inform. Show voters the heart again, as well as the brain.
It’s Time (again) to right the Left.
Much has been spoken about the ‘disproportionate power’ wielded by the cross bench MPs in the formation of the current Federal Parliament.
I feel this view devalues both the concept of the Australian Liberal Democratic System and the intelligence of those who voted for these candidates in their electorate.
The decisions made by those cross bench denizens will always be viewed through the red, blue or green filter of the political prism applied to them.
Many of these views are passed by those outside the electorates represented by them.
Judgements made because they did, or didn’t, fall the way of the party the commentator supports.
These judgements are, by definition, biased.
We all bring bias to an argument, often subconscious, always present.
The irony of the role of the cross bench Independents and minor party MP’s in this parliament, is the “dependence” both major political parties attach to their opinion, and intention in decision making.
A closer, but by no means comprehensive, look at the Independents who negotiated the flavour of the current Australian Government may provide a more measured view of the MPs who made this decision.
It is not my intention to argue for or against or promote any of the policies or various stances taken by the members of the cross bench.
That’s their job in the lead up to the 2013 election.
Now, to the players.
In particular there has been a lot made of the decision both Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott made in supporting the formation of a Labor government.
Some say that both men would be ‘expected’ by their electorates to side with the LNP.
Because both men were previously members of The Nationals?
The operative word here is previously, and in one case, technically incorrect.
A look at both men’s records show they ran as large “I” Independents.
Born in New England.
Tony Windsor has never contested an election as a National candidate.
Originally preselected as a National Party candidate, Windsor eventually stood as, and was elected as, an Independent for Tamworth in the New South Wales State Parliament in 1991.
He, along with three other Independents, supported a Greiner led Liberal government when the Liberals lost 10 seats in the 1991 election.
He held the seat of Tamworth until 2001 when he moved to Federal Parliament as an Independent in the seat of New England.
In doing so Tony Windsor beat the incumbent National Party member.
New England had been held by the Nationals since 1922.
He has held the seat ever since.
Tony Windsor’s constituents like him.
The voters of Tamworth and New England have had many opportunities to vote National throughout his career.
Tony Windsor works hard in their interests.
He is an Independent.
The following link is to Tony Windsor’s press release reply to an interview John Howard gave 60 Minutes regarding his independence.
Born in Lismore.
Elected as a National member for Port Macquarie in the New South Wales State Parliament in 1996 with 46.71% of the primary vote.
Reelected in 1999, he increased his primary vote to 56.05% of the primary vote.
Oakeshott became increasingly disenchanted with the National Party and in 2002 he left the party stating -
“On reflection, my mistake was I didn’t realise the consequence of not doing more due diligence on ideology,” he says. “I just said, ‘Oh yeah, they’re the party around here, I’m a young bloke, I need a job’. That cuts both ways. I don’t think they did enough due diligence on me.”
- Rob Oakeshott, The Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2010
He ran as an Independent in 2003, increasing his primary vote to 69.75%, against his National opponent’s primary vote of 14%.
Rob Oakeshott entered Federal politics when he won a by-election for the seat of Lyne in 2008, securing over two-thirds of the primary vote.
Reelected in 2010, he was offered, and refused, a Minister for Regional Australia portfolio in the Gillard led government, maintaining his independent role.
On the resignation of the Speaker Harry Jenkins in November 2011, Tony Abbott offered to nominate Oakeshott as Speaker in a deal designed to deliver the LNP government.
He refused, maintaining his independence.
Shortly before the Australian Labor Party leadership spill in 2012, Oakeshott stated that he would not, as a matter of course, continue to support the minority Labor Government if Labor changed leaders.
He further stated that he would be prepared to work with whomever could provide stable government, and would consider negotiating with the Liberal-National coalition to that end, although his preference would be to deal with former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull over Tony Abbott.
Once again Rob Oakeshott displayed his independent credentials.
In the event, Prime Minister Julia Gillard survived the leadership spill and Oakeshott continued his support for the minority Labor Government.
The voters of Port Macquarie and Lyne have had many opportunities to vote National throughout Rob Oakeshott’s career.
Rob Oakeshott works hard in their interests.
He is an Independent.
Both men weigh up situations in terms of what they consider will be best for their constituents and nation as a whole.
It’s why their constituents voted for them.
Born in Tamworth:
Originally a Green candidate in Tasmanian State politics, Wilkie entered Federal Parliament as an Independent in 2010 for Denison.
Andrew Wilkie supported the formation of a Labor government. He guaranteed support in matters of supply and no confidence.
He is seen as a “single issue” politician with his position on gambling reform.
Changes to pre-commitment technology and trialling has since led to Wilkie withdrawing his on-going support of the government.
However, he has stated that he will only support a motion of no confidence in a case of “serious misconduct.”
His constituents will have a chance to mark his report card in 2013.
Bob Katter, (Katter’s Australian Party), and Adam Bandt, (Australian Greens), are not Independents, (although Katter was at the time of the 2010 election).
However, as cross benchers, they had a pivotal role in the formation of the current government.
Their vote cannot be taken as given by either major party.
Born in Cloncurry.
Elected as a Country Party MLA, for Flinders, in the Queensland Parliament.
He held the position from 1974 to 1992.
Katter then moved to the Federal Parliament in 1992, winning the seat of Kennedy.
Over time he grew disillusioned with the Coalition’s agenda in government and became an Independent in 2001.
He held the seat comfortably.
Kennedy is the fourth safest seat in the nation.
His constituents like his somewhat quirky style.
He is passionate about their concerns.
In June 2011 Bob Katter formed Katter’s Australian Party.
Bob Katter eventually gave his vote to the LNP in the 2010 election.
This was not a foregone conclusion. Katter had a 20 point wish list.
Had either leader of the major parties agreed to his demands they would have secured his vote.
Neither leader met these demands.
In the end Katter decided to vote for the party with which he had more in common philosophically.
Katter still negotiates with, and often supports, ALP measures.
He has recently posited he would be prepared to give his support to the Labor Party, (in the event of a Rudd led government), if they agreed to his 20 point plan.
He negotiates independently.
The voters of Kennedy have had many opportunities to vote National throughout his career.
They believe that Bob Katter works hard in their interests.
Born in Adelaide:
Elected as a Green to the Federal seat of Melbourne in 2010.
Adam Bandt is the second Green parliamentarian in the House of Representatives.
His main platforms are human rights and environmental issues.
Bandt supported the formation of a Labor government in 2010.
His stance on environmental issues and human rights has led to various disagreements with the Labor Party since.
His constituents will have a chance to mark his report card in 2013.
These cross benchers horse traded with Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard in the days before the 2010 election was finally decided.
They looked at the policies, the plans, their negotiation skills and just as importantly, their character.
Their constituents gave them this task.
“Do what is best for us.”
The fact that it took as long as it did for these five to make a final decision demonstrates their intention to negotiate and deliver the best possible outcome for their constituents and the nation
There is a lot of pressure exerted on the cross benchers given the combative nature of the parliament.
Love them or loathe them, but don’t think you know how they will vote.
To do so is fraught with danger.
Just ask Tony Abbott and the commentators who assumed the, so called, conservatives in Windsor and Oakeshott would deliver the keys to The Lodge.
To assume is to make an ass out of u and me, (and those who based their negotiations on that premise).
Look at the cross benchers’ political history, their voting patterns, and their aspirations for the electorate and the nation.
Judge them by all means, but don’t take them for granted.
It’s been an interesting week on Twitter.
It got me thinking about the twitter experience.
There was the usual argy bargy in parliament, a retiring pope, and the biggest news of all – Twitter is full of people who don’t tweet the way others would like them to tweet!
I know that if you only talk to like minded tweeps who share your love of cats, dogs, food, movies, politics, etc, etc you’re shocked at this revelation.
I hate to burst your little bubble of happy, but all is not wine and roses in our social media haven.
It’s like Pleasantville after it turned to colour and the trouble started.
Yes, that’s right, some people use twitter in a different way to you.
People post opinions, people disagree, people disagree with the person who disagreed with them, all of a sudden it’s getting louder…….
Some people are more touchy than others, that’s not a criticism by the way, just an observation.
Some people on Twitter are experts, just ask them, but be quick.
You won’t need to wait long before they tell you how, why, where you were wrong, and how to be a better tweep in future.
Just tweet like them!
They’re a little condescending.
It’s their way of using Twitter.
Some will send you links, (googled after you challenged their wisdom), to prove their point.
They don’t react well if you comment negatively on the wisdom they’ve bestowed on you.
In fact, they get downright snippy.
It’s their way of using Twitter.
Some people have a persistent view of things.
Some may call it fixated.
They talk about the same issues more than once.
Possibly because they hold their beliefs passionately.
Be it politics, social issues, environmental issues, cats, dogs a myriad of topics.
Sometimes they get a bit loud.
It’s their way of using Twitter.
Some people engage, some don’t.
Some are needy, some support.
Some jump into conversations, some don’t.
Some tout their business, product, lifestyle, most don’t.
Some troll, (a term I’ve yet to have explained to my satisfaction), some are trolled.
Some rant, some react, some ignore.
Some grandstand, some quietly watch and enjoy the sideshow.
Some are brilliant, witty, informative, entertaining, infuriating, foolish, some are wise.
It’s their way of using Twitter.
We’re all different, and at different times a lot of us fall into some of the categories I’ve listed above.
I’m guilty of most of them.
Twitter is a smorgasbord. It’s what brings us back each day – variety.
You get to choose your sustenance.
Sometimes it’s a degustation, sometimes you just want dessert.
It’s our way of using Twitter.
Of course where you choose to engage can determine the tone of the dinner conversation.
If it’s purely a social conversation there are many avenues for you to enjoy the virtual company of others and hang out.
I often do.
Then there’s #auspol.
It’s a little “we’re not in Kansas any more Toto.”
It’s no place for the faint hearted, it’s a virtual Bedlam.
Here’s another revelation:
No-one ever changed anyone’s voting intentions on the #auspol hashtag by whipping out their “mine’s bigger than yours” data and providing dazzling insights into the economy, etc.
For some, it’s a peeing competition, pure and simple. Chase an argument, pick a fight.
They just want to argue with other tweeps, admittedly some more cogently and respectfully than others.
For some it’s mental stimulation and a great way to test your theories against others.
The like minded touch base, agree, get some information, pass some on, have a bit of fun.
The opposing view holders do the same with their followers.
We’ve all got familiars in the Twitterverse.
I spend a lot of time down the #auspol rabbit hole.
I’ve never had a discussion with a tweep with opposing views and thought, “I’ll convert this one.”
I don’t worry about how loud they are, or that they repeat the same message. That’s what they believe.
I’ll challenge them if I think they’re wrong or talking rubbish. They do the same to me.
Some discussions are more pleasant than others, just like real life proper people.
I attempt to be civil, fail from time to time and blunder on.
I do have the occasional love hate relationship but that’s life.
I’ll survive, so will they.
It’s our way of using Twitter.
Were I the type to give advice on how to use twitter it would be this:
We’re all here for differing reasons, these will shift and change.
No-one’s reason is better or worse than mine.
Everyone has a right to their opinion.
I have a right to mine.
I have a right to challenge others’ opinions.
If I tweeted a comment, or retweeted it, someone has a right to challenge me on it.
I’ll be wrong on occasion, when I am I’ll tweet it and correct the error if possible.
I have no control, or right to control, what others say, how they say it, or how often they choose to repeat it.
If people want to fixate, it’s OK.
If they want to rant, it’s OK.
If they’re impolite, it’s OK.
If and when these things bother me, it’s OK.
If and when I can’t bear their tweets, it’s OK.
I have options, so have those reading my tweets or blogs:
If someone wants to ask for advice on tweeting they’ll ask for it.
Free advice is cheap, no one wants it, don’t give it.
So, loosen the cork a tad, get over yourself, lighten up.
No-one’s the font of all knowledge.
It’s one way of using Twitter.
I’ll take my own advice now and shut up.
I’m off to Vuvuzela practice.
Liberals are just not funny!
Not a bit!
This lack of humour extends from the top to the bottom.
I’m not talking about their policies, they probably will be, we don’t know yet.
On Monday’s QandA Christopher Pyne mentioned 40 policies were ‘released.’
Apparently they took the opportunity to run off and hide in the ether.
I’m pretty sure Tony Abbott’s next set of stapled stream of unconsciousness won’t be ‘The Wit Of Tony Abbott’ – a collection of the knee slappers he told at the LNP Christmas party after three lite Sprite shandies.
Nah, sorta scary, definitely not funny.
Joe Hockey, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, Andrew Robb, (I actually almost forgot Andrew, that’s telling).
Can you point to one Liberal MP who looks like they’d be a fun date?
Imagine an arvo at the pub?
They’re dour, bitter, twisted and just a lot stitched up.
‘Lemon, lime and extra bitters all round barkeep, and yes, I do want the 5 cents change you socialist bludger!’…..
Then, the discussion segues seamlessly into how much cheaper truffles would be without the carbon tax.
I exaggerate of course, it’s squab, not truffles.
Maybe it’s the constant negative message.
Maybe it’s listening to Tony droning on incessantly.
Maybe they have a humerus removed when they become Liberal MPs?
Whatever it is, they have Dementor like powers to suck the marrow from your funny bone.
I’m deliberately separating Liberals from Nationals.
I find Barnaby Joyce hilarious. I’m not sure he intends to be, but I’d have a drink with him any day.
I imagine you’d hear a few classics after a few Bundabergs.
Bob Katter also amuses me from time to time. His stance on certain issues is appalling but every now and then he pops up with a zinger.
The Nats of course have Warren Truss………sorry, I dozed off while deciding on his fun-o-meter rating.
So no, Warren isn’t a funny man either.
Then there are some Liberal supporters on Twitter.
Some humourless buggers here.
Jumping into conversations, tweeting in half formed phrases and hurling abuse. Then, when challenged, they call you a troll and block you.
They’re not bright enough to argue their case.
They’re a bit of a buzz kill really.
Imagine a tweet up with that lot…
At this point I should say not all Liberal Tweeps are like this.
I have many respectful, yet take the piss, discussions with a few Right tweeps.
They are funny, clever and make their point well.
We rarely agree, don’t really attempt to change each other’s minds, then move on.
My best friend is a Liberal supporter.
We don’t talk politics. He’s bigger than me.
Exceptions prove the rule.
Their media cheer squad aren’t funny either.
Alan Jones 2GB, bristling with ‘facts’ he’s made up, or worse, quoting Monckton and Plimer. Disrespectful, ACMA sanctioned for his hateful, racist comments.
He isn’t a funny man.
Ray Hadley 2GB, ex taxi driver, know it all, buffoon, aggressive.
Imagine being trapped in Sydney CBD traffic with that bloke.
He isn’t a funny man.
Paul Murray is on Sky.
Between whining about everything being the fault of the Labor government and,…well,…whining about everything being the fault of the Labor government, he attempts to be University Revue droll.
He’s nasty, incorrect, (his latest tripe, an assertion that the government is in caretaker mode), and completely biased.
He begins his show with “keen to hear what you think.”
Paul doesn’t really want to, unless you agree with him.
I told him what I think a few times.
He blocked me, that’s not keen at all.
He has no sense of humour.
He isn’t a funny man.
Joe Hildebrand, if you know his name there’s no need to expand here. If you don’t, half your luck.
He isn’t a funny man either.
He’s also a tad precious if you try to help him with some friendly advice.
Joe blocked me as well.
The list goes on but I’ll stop.
In conclusion I have some advice.
If you don’t like it feel free to block me. It’s all the rage at the moment.
If you want some humour with your politics steer clear of #auspol.
Or in the words of Alan Jones – ‘man up!’
Now that’s funny!
PS (and stop me if you’ve heard this one)
Morrison, Bishop, a Tamil MP and an Interpreter go into a bar………
The fortnight before Parliament returns in 2013 has been, if one believes the journalists, take a deep breath – ‘turbulent’, ‘chaos’.
To be fair, events have moved apace and most were caught off guard, something the fourth estate takes personally in this day and age of the 24 second, get a scoop, beat twitter to the punch, news cycle.
It culminated on Friday night with the announcement of the resignation of Chris Evans and Nicola Roxon.
Nova Peris – captain’s pick, an unusual but not unique, selection of a candidate by either major party.
Announcement of the election date, not a common practice, but again not the first time more than the minimum notice of an election has been given.
Resignation of sitting members in an election year, nothing unusual about that either.
The one thing that was unexpected was the timing of the Thomson arrest on fraud charges, (one of which refers to the purchase of an ice cream).
I’m not attempting to make light of Mr Thomson’s situation.
It is a serious matter for him, his family and friends.
As the case runs its course his guilt, or innocence, will become clear.
This I where I part company with some who comment.
They seem to think we operate under the French system of justice.
It seemed to me that Tony Abbott wasn’t too surprised when Lyndal Curtis informed him of Thomson’s arrest. In fact, his only answer in the appalling Q&A that followed his National Press Club speech that wasn’t his trademark wooden, passionless delivery related to this revelation.
I’m often called cynical so I’ll let you form your own conclusions.
Then of course we had the late night Friday Twitter explosion. Journalists who tell us, (ad nauseum), about their indifference to the upstart that is Twitter, cracking their necks to be the first with a nod nod, wink wink, tweet regarding resignations, reshuffles and the dire situation facing the Labor government.
As usual, much of the sensible commentary regarding, who – what – where, came from Twitter.
I’ll not refer to the hysterical reaction that the announcement of the election date created, except to say that if the early announcement was such a fillip for the LNP I’d love to see their reaction to something that hurt them.
Bluster, indignation, blended with hubris and smug self congratulation.
If the term chaos should be aimed at either party look no further than the LNP, they are in a state of frenzy.
Now to the timing:
Julia Gillard is no fool.
The ‘rough and tumble’ to put it mildly, of Labor politics is no place for the faint hearted.
No-one rises to the top without smarts, integrity and a backbone.
The PM has all these qualities in abundance.
The role as PM has tested her mettle, hardened her resolve, not her ideals.
Abbott’s “the PM won’t lie down and die” was Freudian in its truth.
All the LNP’s Machiavellian plotting to bring her down came to nought.
Saw the opportunity to put a stop to the constant yapping and snapping of the LNP calling for an election.
Saw the opportunity to put a stop to the constant LNP attempt to destabilise the economy to their own ends.
Saw the opportunity to put a stop to negativity and rank LNP politicking.
Saw the opportunity to put the spotlight on Tony Abbott’s refusal to outline any credible plan for the nation.
Eager to get on with governance of an economy the envy of the world by any economic measure, Julia Gillard took control.
The PM’s National Press Club address, the day before Tony Abbott, gave her the upper hand, and the opportunity to make the running. It was an opportunity not to be missed.
Neutralise the uncertainty, take away the conjecture, give the Australian public surety. Surely a good thing.
Enter Tony Abbott:
His speech revealed nothing new at The National Press Club the next day, save the promise to take back the school kids’ bonus.
Motherhood statements, “We’ll do better than them because we’re us.”
Complete with a plug for his two most recent publications devoid of any real information.
He did however make a fatal mistake:
Abbott stated emphatically that he will leave his current shadow cabinet in place if he wins in 2013.
The cabinet that was thrown out in 2007.
A poll that saw a sitting PM unceremoniously dumped.
A successful team Tony??
This followed a farcical mini campaign launch in Western Sydney, their new heartland, an area where the LNP plan to store nuclear waste.
A heartland, I’m willing to bet, that some invited guests needed to find by SatNav.
He played his hand that day, showed the PM he had no plan, he blinked.
As the PM said in her presser announcing the resignation and reshuffle, she had discussed with Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans the best time for them to resign twelve months earlier.
No time frame except ‘not now’ they had things to do:
*Plain packaging, that was easy.
Take on big tobacco, win, set a world standard in the fight against tobacco-related diseases.
*Royal Commission into Child Abuse, no-one’s gone near that time bomb, ever.
*Immigration bedded down, by no means perfect in my mind.
I anticipate a change in a second term Gillard led government.
Plans set for implementation
NDIS, Gonski, NBN rollout.
A possible surplus?
An Opposition second class shadow bench so focussed on smear and fear they haven’t bothered with a plan.
Gillard knows this, the mini campaign proved the LNP’s desperation.
No real plans, other than cuts to services.
Newman, Baillieu and O’Farrell are trialling that plan in the eastern states.
Tony Abbott would have to either deliver some facts and figures, or procrastinate.
Surely the mini campaign was based on costings?
If not, then why bother?
The time and place offered an opportunity.
Julia Gillard knows Tony Abbott can’t maintain the facade of ‘positivity’ he’d embraced for a week. All the while his shadow cabinet acting like nasty schoolboys.
She knows even the most biased will see his shallowness over a seven and a half month marathon.
The main stream media can’t hide his faults for that long.
How many times can one man run away?
How many times can one man obfuscate?
The press have labelled the announcement of the date of the election, among other things, as handing an advantage to the LOTO, putting him on the same level.
Indeed she has.
The PM also has the opportunity to refresh her front bench, give them seven and a half months to make their mark.
Something Tony Abbott has sworn not to do – refresh an underperforming stale team.
There’s an old saying Mr Abbott – ‘Be careful what you wish for.’
Julia Gillard knows Tony Abbott well. She studied him for years.
He didn’t spend the time studying her.
At that time she wanted his job, she studied him, she knows him.
Now he wants her job, but he didn’t do his homework.
Perfect timing may never have occurred.
It did last week.
Tony Abbott is not a Liberal.
Malcolm Fraser knows it, Malcolm Turnbull knows it, in his heart of hearts, Joe Hockey knows it.
Indeed, any member of today’s Liberal Party who is a student of the once great party, founded by Sir Robert Menzies, knows it.
It’s the greater Australian public who think Abbott is the alpha Liberal.
Why not, many of the main stream media, unwilling to look back, or too caught up in the next big story they hope to break reinforce this falsehood almost hourly.
Ming The Merciless would have grabbed this pretender by the scruff of the neck, marched him to the door and expelled him from the party.
Menzies was not a conservative in Abbott’s reactionary, backward, self serving way. He wanted the best for a nation, not simply the job.
So what is Anthony John Abbott, if not a Liberal?
His roots are far more twisted in the bedrock of religious bigotry.
His politics are those of the Democratic Labor Party – the DLP.
This isn’t conjecture.
Any google search of Abbott’s early days reveal this.
Indeed, the man himself admits it, or did, before political expedience, and advisors, warned him of the folly of speaking the truth about his past beliefs.
Tony Abbott once described himself as the love child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop.
He forgot to mention his godfather – BA Santamaria.
Santamaria, religious zealot, reactionary, the master of anti-communist propaganda, a very dangerous man.
Tony is BA’s man.
In 1998 he made a statement in Parliament about Bob Santamaria, who had recently died. Abbott called him “a philosophical star by which you could always steer” and “the greatest living Australian”
He is BA’s man – with a twist, and, a very dangerous man.
Tony Abbott is not a Liberal, he is not a neocon, he is an ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Catholic, an alpha DLP male.
He has no female mentors.
Abbott’s political conviction is like quicksilver.
He owes no allegiance the the Liberal Party, it is simply a vehicle for his ambition and mission.
“How Tony Abbott Laboured Over Choice Of Party”
by Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt – The Australian
quotes letters, from Abbott, to BA Santamaria, declaring his admiration of Santamaria and the DLP agenda.
One thing is certain however, while Abbott’s political affiliation has not been lifelong, his religious conviction has.
And this conviction reflects DLP values.
Many of you will be too young to remember, or even know of, Bob Santamaria, founder of the DLP.
The Democratic Labor Party, misnomer writ large, formed with one purpose, to counteract the perceived influence of communism in the Australian Labor Party.
Communism was competition for the flock, considered a threat, and, as such, had to be nullified.
The Catholic Church is, after all is said and done, a corporation, competition isn’t welcome.
The DLP is Catholic to its bootstraps.
It was to be the political vehicle by which the Catholic Church in Australia would circumvent the separation of Church and State.
The DLP intention was simple, split the ALP vote, destroy its communist roots, have it wither on the vine, replace it with a party representing the Catholic political agenda.
This was not a party formed with the credo of keeping the bastards honest.
Its delivery method:
The Catholic Weekly (print journal),
Point Of View – BA Santamaria’s quiet, poisonous message delivered through television,
Regular newspaper columns.
The message was simple, and always the same.
A vote for Labor was a vote for communism.
I can attest to this, I sat through rantings from rabid priests at Mass every Sunday.
I listened to my father, a non-Catholic, read from The Catholic Weekly and praise this man.
In the end the DLP’s demise came at the hands of church parishioners sick of being told how to vote.
Its divisive nature and sermonising turned those it sought to convert against it.
Many thought the DLP dead, buried and cremated.
The DLP is happy to promote this thought.
Nothing is further from the truth.
It lives quietly in dark recesses, in places guarded by secrecy.
It thrives on disharmony and division.
It feeds on suspicion and fear.
It asks for, and gives no quarter.
It builds by destroying.
It lurks, waiting for the right moment.
Division of Church and State is anathema.
The end justifies the means.
Power is all.
It is patient.
The dogma of the DLP fits Tony Abbott like a glove.
It employs the KISS principle:
Simple distortion of the truth repeated and repeated.
Brain washing of the simplest kind.
Abbott is a simple man.
Abbott learnt the dogma well.
The end justifies the means.
Power is all.
Tony Abbott was educated at St Aloysius’ College and then St Ignatius’ Riverview, by Jesuits, good men, the Catholic church’s storm troopers, exorcists, hard men, first in – last out types, and, paradoxically, amongst the most forward thinking in the Catholic Church, (issuing condoms one of their many uncatholic practices).
Jesuits, while dedicated and compassionate men, are, above all else, disciplined. They both accept and expect it.
Tony Abbott doesn’t take discipline well. He also lacks compassion. His dedication to his cause however, is well honed.
His cause is power and success.
One cannot help but feel that Abbott heard the term ill discipline often.
He was drawn, as was his father, to the priesthood.
Instead, he attended university, completing his studies in law and economics.
His politics, while there, revealed his predisposition to employ the DLP method of choice: division, subversion, aggression, confrontation.
He finished his tertiary education at Oxford winning a Rhodes Scholar through the influence of Father Costello, a Jesuit political mentor he idolised while at Riverview.
On his return Abbott thought he’d found his calling, the priesthood.
He began his training at St Patrick’s Seminary at Manly.
He left the seminary after three years.
He had this to say of his experience:
“Three years’ grinding struggle was over,” he later wrote of his experience. “But a dream had died as well – the dream that I could join that splendoured company founded by Christ which has angered, amazed and enthralled the world ever since.”
‘Tough Guy For Canberra’
Tony Abbott’s underpinning religious ties to the Catholic church are well documented.
His close personal friendship with Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s (if not official, certainly perceived), senior Catholic Archbishop, is strong.
Pell is well connected in Rome, a Vatican favourite. He has the ear of Pope Benedict XVI.
Pell is also a perfect example of DLP values.
Politically involved and totally opposed to any form of reform or forward thinking in religious practice.
Abbott once denied meeting Pell to Tony Jones on Lateline.
A curious, and foolish, stance to take on national television.
Pell is a close confidante of Abbott, his confessor. It is well known that they meet regularly and often.
As Abbott finally, and aggressively, posited, there is nothing wrong with meeting the cardinal.
Why then lie so blatantly about this meeting?
We are left to conjecture.
One thing is certain, shining a light on the power behind the glory is not always appreciated.
Tony Abbott suffers from one of the uglier seven deadly sins – Pride. It’s still his greatest failing. He lacks the thing others who enter the priesthood possess, humility – the ability to subjugate oneself to the greater good.
This is unbecoming in priest, and politician.
He knows this.
Abbott would have made a wonderful evangelist but for one thing – he lacks charisma, the successful orator’s greatest skill. The ability to draw in the wavering, the unsure.
He is belligerent, without the skill to temper his undoubted zeal with patience.
The only son of doting parents, expected to succeed, feted, número uno.
Failed as a priest, (his mother once stated he would be Pope or Prime Minister), Abbott found himself at a crossroads.
A stint in journalism and as a business manager followed, before his reactionary talents found an outlet as a political advisor and Executive Director of Australians For Constitutional Democracy.
The pathway to his mother’s second prediction beckoned, and with it, the chance to succeed.
He turned his gaze to a larger stage.
Preaching from the mega pulpit.
A DLP Crusader.
Defender Of The Faith.
Abbott made his choice.
In his mind he chose the lesser of two evils, the Liberal Party.
Any sniff of DLP leanings would have banished Abbott to the ALP wilderness, forever.
Since joining the Liberal Party, Abbott has continued to employ the same tactics as both backbencher and minister.
Attack, he knows no other way.
He is a self confessed attack dog, proud of the role.
It suits his zealot proclivities well.
His religious fundamentalism underpins everything he does.
He is pure DLP, he does nothing to offend the faith.
He does, however, have one point of difference from Santamaria, one that makes him all the more dangerous – Abbott is pragmatic.
He is driven to succeed.
He will do what it takes.
This does not mean he isn’t conflicted.
Look at his reaction when forced to take a secular path in politics.
The conflict is there for all to see.
It flickers behind his eyes, just below the surface, masked by his unconvincing smile.
There are a litany of offences Abbott has committed against truth, science, and common decency, as he applies DLP tactics to his politics.
Take a look at these examples.
There is no tampering involved, Tony Abbott said these things.
There are many more.
This pattern of behaviour has increased as his hold over the party has tightened.
He took his failure as a priest as a sign to pursue this calling in order to succeed, and succeed he must. His pride demands it, his religious conviction demands it.
Zealous, dogma driven, relentless, uncompromising, willing to do anything to win power, including lie.
This is a DLP trait.
This is a dangerous man.
The constant negativity, lack of substance and empty rhetoric are pure DLP, and pure 1954 tactics.
Treat the electorate like children.
Tell them everything will be better under God and the LNP, (DLP)
Tell them to trust, play on their fears, tell them you’ll make it better.
Lie, manipulate, the end justifies the means, confess later.
This is a very dangerous man!
The MPs who elected him must look on in horror as his agenda dawns on them. For them it’s too late to change. They’re stuck with him.
Of course Abbott has his supporters.
Abbott finds the zealots and weeds out the rest.
His shadow ministry bristles with his acolytes, chosen for their loyalty and discipline to his cause rather than ability. They are cold, dispassionate, driven like their leader.
No-one in that group has the talent, or support, to challenge Abbott.
This is not the LNP of my youth, or even that of Malcolm Fraser.
They have no agenda other than power.
No agenda other than tear down.
Reactionary, no ideas, no thought to the future.
It comes from the top.
Abbott’s fly in the ointment is his inability to control his internal rage, he displays it far too often.
It shows in the very essence of his demeanor, no amount of media training can overcome this flaw.
He has made errors when cornered. Like a child with his hand in the cookie jar he has no answers.
Abbott’s ill tempered responses have hurt his public profile.
His minders learnt from it.
It’s a lesson well learnt, Abbott rarely gives one on one interviews, refuses to answer questions and simply walks away when pressed.
What other politician would dare to treat the electorate in this manner?
His constant stunts aren’t about pure politics, they’re about him.
Abbott needs a conduit to be successful, a way to feed his pride.
Abbott’s silences and shaking aren’t about him not wanting to answer, they’re about him controlling what he really wants to say, or do.
Remember the bizarre Mark Riley confrontation?
Abbott looked like he wanted nothing more than to punch Riley in the face.
It is his way, attack.
It’s why he now walks away when his pearls aren’t accepted without question. It angers him.
As the media fail in their duty to hold Abbott to account for his obvious lies and failure to answer questions, and sections actively promote his version of the truth, (Chris Uhlmann stood for the DLP), so Abbott’s confidence grows.
He is a dangerous man.
Abbott’s outbursts and behaviour are passed off as, wacky, eccentric, rude, offensive, any manner of ‘Tony being Tony’ moments by the media.
‘Tony being Tony’ means a man whose politics is rooted in division, manipulation of secular government, the ignoring of the principle of separation of Church and State.
Google the Democratic Labor Party.
Google BA Santamaria – Tony Abbott
Google George Pell – Tony Abbott
You won’t need long to join the dots.
It’s there for all to see.
Julia Gillard knows this, she has a plan. Give the public the opportunity to see Tony Abbott close up. Two hundred and twenty five days to see BA’s man in action, expose this straw man for what he is.
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing.
A very dangerous man.
I wrote this blog prior to Tony Abbott’s National Press Club appearance.
It gives me no pleasure, indeed it frightens me, that he reinforced my fears so rapidly.
“Then I was a man under authority. Now I am the authority!” should bring a chill to the heart of all Australians, no matter their political affiliation or preference.
What behaviour should we expect of Abbott were he to become Prime Minister?
Anthony John Abbott – Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing « lmrh5, WhitWords, Steve, and 14 others are discussing. Toggle Comments
I took a friend to visit my mother today. A friend of twenty years. My friend had never met my mother, she and I had been estranged for quite a while.
Time passes quickly when anger and denial play their dark subversive games.
When it’s easier to blame than admit.
When it’s easier to block out than to feel.
When it’s easier to live in the moment than to reflect.
My visit was one of acceptance, feeling and reflection although I didn’t know this at the time.
I’ve never been one to think too deeply or lift up the layers and really see – until today.
My visit was to clean my father’s shed.
I lost dad in March 2010 to cancer. That most insidious of diseases. It ate him away. Took his dignity before it took his life.
It is its way.
The way it took my grandfather.
His dignity too.
They were fibro roofers.
Carried fibro up ladders on their strong backs.
Clad our house in fibro.
Let me help them carry, cut, drill fibro, clad our house in fibro when I was 6 years old.
They were slowly killed by fibro.
My grandfather 45 years ago.
Dad was stoic, as men of his generation are. No-one should have to rely on his son to bathe, dress and change him.
He knew I didn’t mind.
His words expressed his gratitude, his eyes expressed his sorrow and helplessness.
Mum had decided the shed needed to be cleaned out.
‘Your father would want it gone, he was always going to do it. He just never got around to it.’
So my friend and I set to work.
Sorting piles of what to throw away, what to give to dad’s many friends, what to sell.
As we went through cupboards, drawers and filing cabinets, (where else would you keep a circular saw), I began to feel his presence. I’m not a great believer in organised religion, I’m a lapsed Catholic. But I am spiritual, I do believe we are surrounded by our departed loved ones.
The more I looked, the more melancholy I became. Jars of screws, pieces of sandpaper, nuts and bolts, broken drill bits. What was dad thinking?
Then I stopped and listened, not to a sound, to a memory.
‘You never know when this will come in handy.’
Dad’s words to mum when he took these bits and pieces into the shed.
Mum chuckling and saying nothing. She didn’t care, she loved him unconditionally as he did her.
My friend also sensed dad watching.
How? They’d never met.
She is the most spiritual person I know. She has taught me a great deal. Not always gently, she can be brutally honest, but lessons just the same.
As we continued I began to feel uneasy. Yes the old drills and hammers were useless.
Why couldn’t I put them on the junk pile?
It hit me suddenly, like a sledgehammer.
I was sifting through my childhood.
These were not just dad’s things, these were my grandfather’s tools as well. They had both been roofers. Fixed fibro, with all it’s carcinogenic asbestos fibre, to buildings for years. It was no coincidence that both died from cancer.
These were the tools of the trade that killed them.
I remember being taken to building sites as a child and climbing ladders and walking rooves like I was king of the world, while my mother fussed and fretted below.
I was with pop and dad, I was safe. I’d used these tools inexpertly and inefficiently but as far as I was concerned like a master craftsman.
These were my happiest days, in the company of the men who shaped my life, who made me who I am today.
Two kind, gentle, loving men.
Back in the shed I realised, not one, but two men watched as we sorted through their lives.
Here the folding rule I coveted as a child, there the roofing nails I watched hammered in precisely with a steady hand and eagle eye.
How could I decide what was worthy, what was junk?
Mum came to the shed and asked how we were going. Would we like lunch?
I needed a break, needed to clear my head.
My friend and I washed our hands and sat down to lunch. I wasn’t good company. My head was full of fibro, drills, saws, caulking guns and thick pencils sharpened with a penknife.
I made perfunctory comments in appropriate places but my mind was still in the shed.
My friend sensed my unease, she was ever the perceptive one, intuitive and always sees through my veneer.
She is however gentle, if brutally honest, and lets me sort myself out, most of the time.
We had lunched outside and as we cleaned up the plates my mother came over with an old metal watering can. I looked at it and went to take it from her thinking it was to be added to the throw away pile.
She didn’t let go and asked if I’d heard of its origin.
Origin? It’s an old metal watering can.
My mother then told me something that has changed my life forever.
The watering can was handmade by my grandfather, 70 years ago.
It still holds water, its seams are perfect.
It is a work of art.
It has sat unattended and unloved in the garden for 70 years, a testament to a backyard artisan who loved his craft.
It is special.
Mum was a little taken aback by my reaction to her tale.
You see I cried.
She offered it to me on the spot.
Although tempted , it still remains with her, she needs a link to her past.
Time enough for me to hold it close and pass it on.
After lunch we went back to the shed.
I understood why dad never threw things away. He knew their value.
Not in dollars and cents.
Dad knew the value of the connection to his past, the fact that things are not judged by what they are worth, but by what memories they evoke.
I threw nothing out yesterday.
I will throw nothing out tomorrow either.
I learned a lesson yesterday.
I learned the real value of things.
There will always be a place in my shed for a broken drill bit and a piece of useless sandpaper.
I have discovered a place to visit when I need to speak with two of my favourite people surrounded by the things neither could throw away – a life time of memories.
What price that gift?
I have been giving a lot of thought to my way of life recently.
I live well.
I have a roof over my head.
I’m warm at night.
I have enough to eat and drink.
I have money to entertain myself.
I’m even contemplating moving into the city to live as I spend a lot of my free time in there.
So all in all I can’t complain.
During one of my recent visits I realised what should be important to me in 2011 and beyond.
A Kind Heart!
I contribute to Medecins Sans Frontieres and Mission Australia every month. Both worthy causes. Both deserving of the meagre amount I give them to continue the work within their field.
I feel good about it.
A salve for my conscience.
It allows me to believe I have a kind heart, or it did until that visit.
That day I passed a homeless man begging in the street.
You see lots of homeless people on Sydney’s streets nowadays.
So many that it becomes too painful to recognise they exist.
So many that we consider them a nuisance.
So many that we accuse them of being drunks or bludgers who would prefer to beg than get a job.
So many that it embarrasses us.
So many that we pretend not to see them.
So many that they almost become invisible.
I was walking with a friend and almost didn’t notice him.
I’d seen this man before, sitting on the cold pavement with his head bowed, unwilling or unable to meet the gaze of the passers-by, an old cloth cap in front of him hoping for a coin.
In too much pain to meet anyone’s gaze.
Not wanting to be a nuisance.
Not wishing to appear a drunk or a wanting to feel like a bludger.
Trying to blend into the pavement.
Pretending to be invisible.
I have dropped my small change into this man’s hat before. In the past it’s been more out of embarrassment at my comparative riches rather than compassion or a sense of duty to someone who will never be in my position.
A salve for my conscience.
An – ‘aren’t you a kind man’ – make myself feel better act.
A self serving act.
A selfish act.
This time I didn’t stop to give this gentleman a coin, I told my friend I normally give support yet this time I merely told her of my usual ‘good deed.’
To garner praise for my generosity in the past?
To justify not giving him a coin or two this time?
To salve my conscience perhaps?
We spoke about the plight of the homeless and how difficult it must be to be homeless in this beautiful harbour city, this Emerald City.
My friend told me her mother had a saying that, (and here I paraphrase, her mother was far more eloquent), it was more difficult to put out your hand to take than it was to hold out your hand to give.
We continued on. I saw her to her car and she drove off.
Her mother’s words stayed with me as I headed back the way we had come.
I had an uneasy feeling as I walked, why had I passed him by this time?
In a hurry?
Embarrassed by the thought of being taken for an easy mark by other passers-by?
I was in no hurry.
I had plenty of change.
I care little for other’s opinions in this regard.
No reason whatsoever.
I retraced my steps and approached the gentleman, still sitting, head bowed, statue still, invisible.
I pulled some money from my wallet and was about to drop it in his battered cap when he slowly raised his head and looked at me.
This was no beggar, no drunk, no bludger.
This was a fellow human on the same journey as me.
There but for the grace of God go you or I.
I passed the money into his hand. He shook it and thanked me quietly. I wished him well, an inane response considering his lot in life.
I walked away, conscience salved, feeling better about my self but different somehow.
I have a kinder heart.
I think I know why.
I have had the distinct honour of knowing one truly kind, generous and giving woman.
She was my mother in law.
She welcomed me into her home when she could as easily have turned me away.
She never uttered an unkind word about anyone, always gave of herself in kind, baking being her speciality.
She fed the hungry, donated her time and considerable energy to those worse off than she, although she was far from well off herself.
It mattered not what she had, she shared and was rewarded by the knowledge that she had helped someone.
She asked for nothing in return and would be embarrassed were anyone to mention her deeds.
She was admirable and loved by all who knew her.
She had a kind heart!
Those of you who have read my previous blogs know of my belief in an afterlife. Not that dictated by churches, rather somewhere where we will meet our relatives and friends and be welcomed, somewhere safe.
I also believe those that love us are around us all the time. They guide and teach us. You just have to be open to the signs.
I was given a sign by two women that day with kind hearts.
One I knew, respected and loved, one I’d never met.
They encouraged me to reach out to those less fortunate, those in need, those invisible souls who, for whatever reason, are reduced to begging in the streets in a beautiful city that I share with them.
I found another gentleman that day and gave a little to him.
Nothing much to me, a warm meal for him.
I then drove home to my big house and warm bed, I think I have the better of the situation.
I’ll still give to Mission Australia, Medecins Sans Frontieres and put money in the Salvos box. However I’ll also not overlook those who share my city and need some help.
A salve for my conscience is starting to feel more like the joy of giving.
It’s a much better feeling.
Two women showed me something that day
Thank you ladies.
We all need a kind heart.
As I write this blog I’m pondering if it will ever see the light of day or if I will get to the end, read it, then consign it to the trash.
I do a lot of pondering of late.
Mostly from the Witching Hour to 4 am – the Deadman’s Watch.
I had a period in my life when I was a little more open to ideas than the cynical mid life crisis, sports car driving, (yes I actually had one), Gryff who sits in The Opera Bar this bright Sydney afternoon. Sitting sifting through the detritus scattered on the floor of my brain.
I just came across this nugget gathering dust way back in a seldom travelled corridor.
It is true, as told to me.
If you read it please feel free to form your own conclusions.
I once worked with a Norwegian gentleman.
He was in his 60′s, 6′ 6″ tall, fit and strong, a hard working man.
He did however like a drink after work.
We often sat late into the night talking in a beer garden, then go home to his little place and drink till the wee hours.
He was mesmerising.
He had been a sailor for many years and told the most entertaining stories of foreign lands – adventures if you will.
I only saw him rattled once in all the nights he spoke of typhoons, cyclones, pirates, (yes pirates), brawls, and knife fights.
This particular evening I brought up the topic of sailors and superstition.
He pointed to a small tattoo on both his wrists. It resembled a capital Y with the vertical stroke extended to the height of the letter. It looked like the imprint a bird’s claw would make.
He had no other tattoos.
He told me it was a Norse symbol of protection. Indeed, it was a bird symbol.
Then he told me when and why he had them, or rather some of the reason.
He was a young man, just joined the merchant navy, like most males in his family. He carried the DNA of warrior kings. It ran deep in his veins.
This proud son of AEgir quieted, became still as he told me this story.
Gave me goosebumps then in the dark of his garden, does now as I commit it to print here among the flotsam and jetsam of the planet, tossed tsunami like into The Opera Bar this bright Sunday afternoon:
Dead Man’s Watch – Midnight till 4am.
The watch no-one wants.
The stories a young seaman is told.
Such strange stories.
Initiation or preparation?
He knows this is the watch when souls most often depart the body and walk the Earth one last time before leaving – The first mate told him so. It must be true!
He knows he’ll see strange lights and hear strange sounds – The stoker told him. It must be true!
So far north the radio mast will glow when the Northern Lights shine – strange lights.
The oceans depths, home to the strange and yet to be discovered, whale song, cargo shifting/squealing in the hold – strange sounds.
So easy to make the facts fit.
He’s heard this type of story in his family home his whole life.
Told by uncles and cousins and family friends.
The later the hour, the less guarded the tongue, the stranger the story.
As if the hour itself and the dulled sense of secrecy draws the stories to the surface. Dredged up from deep caverns of the mind.
Never spoken in the light of day with a clear head.
He paused and looked at me a little too soberly for a man who just drank his hundredth beer for the evening.
Dead Man’s Watch
His first time on the watch.
A crew member is ill below decks. Too far from port to expect help. Everyone knows what may happen, it’s the sea, everyone knows the risks.
His voice is thick with emotion.
The sounds – low and almost inaudible at first. He strains to determine the direction, unable to pinpoint them. Then louder, more distinct sounds. Footfalls on the external ladder leading to the decks below the bridge.
A welcome visitor to break the tension. He turned, expecting to see a crew mate who couldn’t sleep, a common phenomenon when below decks became too claustrophobic, no-one appeared.
The footfalls continued past the window of his station but no crew member passed.
They paused in the doorway then continued on.
He stopped, looked at me to gauge my reaction. His look stopped any glib retort.
In fact his gaze caused the hair on the back of my neck to rise.
This was a man who believed what he was saying.
Real or not, to him it was the absolute truth.
The footfalls continue back and forth.
Then the lights – like lightning, in flickering staccato, begin.
He waited for the sound of thunder.
No sound came.
Too zealous to leave his post to investigate, (not a frightened 19 year old boy), he remained there amid the sounds and lights for an hour.
Surely there is an explanation?
“What would you have done Greef?” (as close as he ever got to my name).
“Me?” “I’d have stayed where I was until I was relieved!” This is true.
My answer seemed to please him no end.
“No it is not the way of the sea, I went out on deck to investigate.”
His face didn’t quite reflect the bravado in his voice.
“And?” I asked
“The lights were from the radio tower. Solar flares had charged the air, made it glow in a spectrum of colours, nothing more!”
“And the footfalls?”
“Sounds of the men below travelling through the bulkhead, metal conducts sounds very well, nothing more!” The flares and sounds began fading at that time and the rest of the watch was uneventful.
Nothing more, this long story, in the end quite ordinary had convinced him to get the only tattoos of his thirty years at sea?
I rose to get another round from the fridge.
He simply motioned to me to sit down.
“I finished my watch. My relief told me that the sick crew member was dead. Died during my shift.
I spoke to the ship’s physician later that day. He told me that the sailor had started to deteriorate just after 2:00am and passed away at 3:15.
Dead Man’s Watch Greef. I got these tattoos in the next port.”
I sat not knowing what to say. What to offer to the discussion. The silence lingered between us while neither spoke. Finally he broke the silence.
“Now please get the whisky from the pantry Greef.”
I had one as well!
Please accept my apologies for the abrupt ending.
I thought long and hard about how to finish this piece, how to tie it all together, how to make it look ‘right.’
I couldn’t do it because it happened exactly as I have written it.
We moved on to another topic, no clue of what it was now. This was many, many years ago.
We never spoke of it again but it has stayed with me all these years. I think it was the look behind his eyes as he told me his tale that made it stick.
He trusted me with a secret that night long ago.
His eyes told me something, told me not to talk about the fear of a 19 year old on his first Dead Man’s Watch.
He’s gone now to Valhalla, to sail heaven’s seas with his wild, anarchic ancestors.
Was it coincidence that brought him to me in the hours between midnight and 4am?
You can form your own conclusions.