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ASHBY V SLIPPER APPEAL: the first round.

There were surprisingly few members of the general public present at today’s directions hearing before Emmett J in the matter of the Ashby v Slipper applications for leave to appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court. Is this issue dead in the water with the masses and is now only of interest to the mainstream media? I’ll let others decide.

The applications for leave to appeal were not heard today but will be heard before the Full Bench of the Federal Court during their May sittings. At the conclusion of the matter before Emmett J representatives of all parties toddled off to hammer out suitable dates in May.

It was made clear by Emmett J that if leave to appeal is granted by the Full Bench then they would likely go on to hear the appeal at that time during their May sittings.

One thing that did amuse me was the issue of the length of written submissions arguing a case for the leave to appeal to be either granted or rejected. Apparently written submissions are limited to 10 pages but parties for Harmer asked for them to be increased to 30 pages. Emmett J granted this request subject to the presiding judge of the Full Bench countering the request and enforcing the 10 page rule. (For some reason this tickled my fancy and I had a quiet snigger).

The other matter for business was the issue of costs being awarded to Slipper as a result of Rare’s decision now, of course, the subject of two applications for leave to appeal.

Emmett J slated the hearing on costs to 30th May. The logic seems to be if leave isn’t granted then the hearing on costs can go ahead, but it will be totally dependent on the outcome of the leave to appeal.

So bing bang wallah wallah bing bang – all over in a very short time.

The other highly amusing thing for me was my engagement with members of the mainstream media in the lift going down while they chatted between themselves trying to sort out what had just happened in court.

It was my “OH For Fuck’s Sake” moment as I then, without the benefit of any notes, gave them a six point summary as to what had happened – all done and dusted before we hit the ground floor. Once outside the court precincts I was asked to repeat what I had said in the lift, which I did while notes were taken, much to the amusement of the delightful Ross Jones, my comrade for the morning and occasional contributor to Independent Australia, the on-line magazine.

To my very best new friends in the MSM: Today wasn’t exactly rocket science, and it helps to prepare and listen to what is being said in court instead of chatting, even if it is about the case. I don’t even want to think about what is not being taught in journalism degrees.

The focus of the Ashby-Slipper story will change as this appeal proceeds. It isn’t about Ashby anymore or, for that matter, Slipper. Well, maybe a bit. But they are now playing second fiddle to Michael Harmer. Make no mistake Harmer is now driving this engine. That is the story in my view. Appeals will be lodged all the way if necessary because at stake is Harmer’s professional reputation and career. If I was occupying Harmer’s shoes I would be doing the same.

AUSTRALIA DAY: It’s just not my cup of tea.

My father died at the age of 33 from war wounds, or rather illnesses, as a result of his duties as a soldier during World War 2. He wasn’t demobbed until the end of 1946. From the end of the fighting he was moved from Kokoda and then to North Borneo to finally mopping up procedures which placed him right in the fallout area of the two atomic bombs. Sure enough within a decade many of his mates, as well as himself, had succumbed to bizarre and various cancers for which there was no immediate recognition nor name and certainly no cure.

In my father’s case it was a weird form of lymphatic carcinoma usually only seen in toddlers and babies. He took 3 years to die which he did one Christmas Eve. My mother was 27, a baby with two babies. I’m still stunned that she managed to survive, but that’s another story.

His brother, my Uncle Johnny, was shot down on a mission and died within months of WW2 ending in Europe. I also have two great uncles lying in graves in France Never really reaching adulthood, they were old enough to die for ‘their country’, or Great Britain which was then deemed to be near enough. My father’s family is fifth generation now, my mother’s has ancestry who were here in the 1820s for heaven’s sake.

We currently live through a period of time, one that I hope will be mercifully short, where difference, discourse, eccentricity and non-conformity is demonised, hence this introductory preface.

Why is it that I have never felt comfortable about Australia Day as being the day of national pride and flag waving?

The dispossession and subsequent treatment of the indigenous owners by the colonists and later Australian Governments, both State and Federal, is one reason for my disquiet, and that reason alone should suffice for any reasonable person with a sense of justice and fair play.

The fact that this is a time for supposed nationalistic chest-beating and flag waving, and those who don’t are deemed churlish non-patriotic naysayers, is insensitive at best and just plain wrong. To continue with 26th Jan as a National Day is just wrong, wrong, wrong. It is wrong from the perspective of our on-going relations with the original owners. It is wrong from a historical perspective. It is wrong from the cultural position we now hold.

The 26th January is not the anniversary of Australia. It is not our birthday. There’s no birthday cake with candles to blow out for us today. Our correct birthday date is January 1st 1901 when we became officially the Commonwealth of Australia, the country we know and love. The current date 26th Jan is when an English Captain planted a flag and declared this lump of empty land a colony to do with as the English colonial powers wished. Even then the English just squeaked it in winning by a nose before the French landed some days later. Actually if La Peruse had got his finger out and landed on the 24th Jan when he was off the east coast instead of sailing on, we would be parlez vousing all over the place and munching on croissants. As it was the colony barely survived and came within two months of throwing in the towel as a sustainable place to live.

So today is a day that the English should be celebrating rather than us. A day in remembrance of the glories of once having had an Empire on which the sun never set.

As our population continues to grow drawn in the majority from those with a non-English background, the continued use of the 26th Jan becomes an increasingly nonsensical piece of historical inaccuracy, and no longer adequately reflects the cultural mix which is now our heritage. It is an artificial construct imposed on a people who are still coming to terms with their diversity, and for me, it is that artifice which isn’t fair dinkum resulting in discomfort from something sticking in my craw.

Of course there will be those for whom January 1st isn’t good enough because after all it’s also New Year’s Day, and heaven forbid if we lose a national holiday. But it is our birthday and should be recognised as such. But for me, a pacifist from way back, I identify our national day as being ANZAC Day. It’s a day which has earnt our respect and pride; a day which symbolises a fledgling pre-pubescent nationstate’s coming of age through the deaths of her young men; a day when I remember a father, his brother and their mates, two great uncles and others in my family who are no longer with us.


Never let it be said that Twitter can’t convey a message, a life experience or information within the limitation of the 140 character construct.

Earlier today in the midst of all the kerfuffle about changes to the Sole Parent’s Pension and Jenny Macklin’s response about being able to live on New Start payment of $35 per day, L. K. Giesen, with the twitter handle of @theriverfed, tweeted eleven rules for existing on the Sole Parent’s Pension. These individual tweets of her’s said more about what is being faced by single parents who are faced with this desperate struggle than anything else written or stated in the media today.

I felt moved to put her contributions on one page so others might read them. I hope she doesn’t mind but I found it compelling reading.



L.K. Giesen (@theriverfed)

How to live on the sole parents pension.

1. Live somewhere really cheap & socially isolating w crap public transport. Abt 75% income = rent.

2. Use your $15 petrol/pt money getting to half a doz different shops to get cheapest food possible, non-bulk.

3. Never, ever go anywhere for social purposes. Even if you don’t need to buy a coffee, you can’t afford to get there.


4. Be really grateful that your sister pays for you to have a telephone and your mother buys your child food, if you are lucky.


5. In winter, when the park is out of the question, act like going to the play area at Bunnings is a really fun treat. Add a $2 snag? Luxury

6. Forget about replacing stuff that breaks. Never going to happen. Even if it was a necessary thing.

7. Learn to live w paying bills late.


8. Get really, really stingy. Like counting squares of toilet paper stingy.

9. Get over the shame of buying stuff with 5 & 10 cent pieces

10. Learn to cut hair, make your own bread, and just eat whatever your child leaves on his plate.

11. Finally, try really, really hard to avoid depression. Chances are you won’t succeed and all access to support has disappeared.


Hooray for cuts to sole parent payment



Damn. On #4 it should have been ‘mother buys your child shoes” not food. Budget priorities… Rent, then food for kids, then utilities.


L.K. Giesen, @theriverfed, begins a job soon. I do wish her well.

THE SESSIONS: The must-see in what’s left of the year film

Mark O'Brien

Mark O’Brien

Going to see THE SESSIONS which is a movie where the lead character is incapacitated by polio from childhood, was not my idea of a fun time. This genre I usually find to be maudlin, overly sentimental and with enough pretentious affectation that hopes/tends to resonate in the run-up to awards’ season.  As this season is supposed to be the season to be jolly it was apparent this philosophy was not going to apply to our choice of movie. But His Nibs was keen to see it so off we went with me groaning inwardly.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is one of the best films I have seen all year.

I had not seen any advertising, reviews, or the episode that aired some six weeks ago of Australian Story on Ben Lewin the writer-director, an Australian ex-pat now living in L.A., and himself a polio survivor.

The Sessions is such a brave film, and I am not surprised one jot that the film makers had difficulty getting studio and film distribution money or guarantees. Hollywood has two major taboos when it comes to story lines for feature films. The first is having lead characters with a profound disability, unless they are a cute kid. The other taboo is any film taking a  realistic, almost clinical, non-romantic take on sex. At the heart of this film is a story of a profoundly disabled person and his journey to discover all the ins and outs of sex in the optimistic hope of losing his virginity at 38. This film is the double whammy taboo film of taboo films multiplied by a factor of a gigillion.

What I didn’t expect was for the film to be so funny. From go to woe, this film will have you loudly chuckling at the combination of wit through the insightful observations of Mark, our hero, to the repartee in which he engages with all those with whom he shares his adventure. Of particular delight is William H. Macy who plays his local priest and unwilling, although increasingly intrigued, voyeur.

John Hawkes is Mark O’Brien, the journalist-writer-poet who starts his journey when commissioned by The Sun Magazine to write an essay on Sex and the Disabled. The stories he collects cause him to muse “Who are these people?” Their stories provide the catalyst for his own personal journey of sexual discovery. Hawkes is wonderful. You can understand how and why women fall in love with him. I did.

Helen Hunt is breathtakingly gobsmacking as the sex surrogate. She spends a large part of the film naked. Although she has a great body, her’s still obviously is the body of a nearly 50 year old woman. Her sessions with Mark and the relationship that results are important for both our leads. His journey becomes one for her too as she reassesses her relationships, her role and its importance. Her performance is gutsy. Her technique is so deft, so light in touch and nuance, and ultimately, heart-wrenching. Hunt is amazing.

There is no room for malarkey in this film. There are no fancy camera angles, soft lighting, mawkish music and fancy sexual choreography in the sex scenes. There is a truth that can be simultaneously confronting and delightfully engaging.

This film is a joy. There were a number of members of the audience who, quite frankly, didn’t want to leave the cinema delaying the process by chatting, laughing, crying. It is an up-lifting film dealing with two difficult subjects as seen through the eyes of one man. The film is given additional street cred as it is based on a true story. An essay written by Mark O’Brien entitled ‘On Seeing a Sex Surrogate’ was published in The Sun Magazine in its May issue, 1990.

If you miss this film you miss a gem. Apparently it is scheduled for the Moonlight Cinema during the Sydney Festival. It can currently be seen at the Dendy Theatre Quays. 1030am. 445pm Do yourself a favour and play hooky from work to see a great film. When was the last time you did that?

Mark O’Brien’s web page.

Mark O’Brien’s essay


The news came through early last week. My much loved 87 year-old uncle, the last of my mother’s siblings, had died. The funeral would be on Friday. I spoke to my cousin to inform her that I would be flying up to Tweed Heads for the service.

After Thursday’s two hour root canal session, which was considerably less painful than Wednesday’s two hour session, I grabbed my carry-on and headed to the airport. While waiting for the call to board my plane I received an email informing me there was a family gathering “at the Tweed Heads Bowling Club at 6pm NSW time”. I did think that the wording ‘NSW time’ was somewhat superfluous as Tweed Heads is in NSW, although I’ve always had my doubts for different reasons. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight every ‘Danger, Danger Will Robinson’ nerve should have been tingling but my mind was preoccupied with the pleasant anticipation of seeing family members I hadn’t seen for ages, even though it was in such sad circumstances.

Parnell family dinners, yep I have Parnell genes in my DNA along with the Evatt ones. Parnell family dinners are legendary. Our Irish ancestry, from way back who knows when, used to come to the fore during these culinary, family occasions. Grandparents, great-, as well as not great, aunts and uncles, plus all the cousins would sit around a huge table, and it would then be on for young and old.

These dinners became a learning exercise in conversational multi-tasking. (A skill I’ve found especially useful on twitter so many years later). There would be nothing less than four conversations being conducted at once. Each member of the family was expected to be able to follow each conversational narrative and then make meaningful contributions at the appropriate time. Children were encouraged to participate. Contributions to the conversation often meant interruptions where the loudest voice won so the definition of ‘appropriate’ really meant:  for the family member making a ‘contribution’ at a time that best suited them.

The dinner din grew to a certain decibel level resulting in my grandmother looking sweetly around at everyone and then starting to fiddle with her extremely beautiful, curly, silver hair. Of course, everyone at the table knew she had turned her hearing aids off so they shouted even more loudly in the hope that one word in four would be heard. Fat chance! These dinners were raucous, slanderous and great fun. There was this heightened sense of the absurd running through members of the older Parnell generation who had a talent for then being able to turn the most seemingly commonplace into a delightful story where the ridiculous ruled. Raconteurs: one and all.

I make no apologies for the digression. You now have a glimpse of a fondly remembered childhood, one which puts Gordon, my late uncle, into a context. The Evatt family get-togethers were not quite as enjoyable as they were intellectually more rigorous and daunting for all sorts of reasons I won’t bother with as they have no bearing on this story.

On arrival at Coolangatta Airport my phone automatically jumped to QLD time, which was to be expected being in QLD at the time. A cab took me off to Tweeds but, despite crossing the border back into NSW, my phone didn’t jump back. I arrived at my cheap and cheerful motel, which serendipitously was opposite the Tweed Heads Bowling Club, site of the family get-together. I was given my key and a breakfast form to fill out. The times the reception desk was open for business were NSW times.

A box of chocolates and a Thank you card from my cousin, who could organise a Royal Coronation with one hand tied behind her back, were waiting in my room. Again the missive in the card included the dinner being at 6pm NSW time, the funeral would be at 10am the next day QLD time, no NSW time, the motel’s digital phone was in NSW time, my phone and pad were in QLD time, the breakfast menu room service delivery times were QLD time, check out was in NSW time.

Beginning to get the picture?

I arrived at the family dinner, 6pm NSW time, 5pm QLD time, and instead of the usual greetings and expressions of sympathy as you would expect at such a time, my first words to the assembled throng were, “What the fuck is going on with the time thing?” To which there was a chorus of “Welcome to Tweed Heads”.

My lovely aunt started with the arguments against daylight-saving involving curtains and cows. Only a few minutes, in either time zone, had passed since I had arrived at the restaurant and already everyone was having their say about two time-zone living. Being a Parnell family dinner, all opinions were being given simultaneously and the decibel level of the restaurant immediately increased ten-fold. I was home.

My poor beautiful Aunt still grieving for the man with whom she had shared so much for so long, was lambasted by the rest of the table. But not for nothing has she been a member of the Parnell family for over 63 years. Against one and all, she gave as good as she got, and I got into trouble for using the F word. You could hear my laughter in both time zones.

Later on in the evening individual members of the family started detailing the difficulties of living with two time zones. In this matter the state border no longer exists. Businesses choose whether to follow one time or the other, and indeed often both, depending on which time zone best suits. It is not a matter of crossing a metaphorical bridge and, ping, you are in another time zone. The town of Tweed Heads is not having to endure parallel times rather simultaneous time zones seemingly occupying the same space.

The refusal of Queensland to join the other Eastern states in daylight-saving causes all sorts of problems for those living in the border towns. If you live in the NSW time and work in QLD time, or worse, if one partner works in NSW time and the other works in QLD time, kids going to different schools in different times, etcetera, life is suddenly faced with a seemingly endless list of additional difficulties. On the face of it they may seem trivial, mere irritations solved by simply adding or subtracting an hour. In reality they morph into a living nightmare for the family. FREE TIP: Taxis are best ordered in QLD time.

I am no slouch when it comes to mathematics, but this schizophrenic approach to having to organise your life would drive me completely dippy. You know when you have that first bite of ice cream on a very hot day and you get brain freeze, which hurts. Now you know how I felt for the day and night I spent at Tweeds. I became so neurotic that I would miss both my breakfast and the funeral I had alarms set at various times, on every time piece, in both time zones. For an hour the following morning all you could hear was the sound of alarms going off at regular intervals.

Gordon would have thought the whole palaver with the time and alarm clocks an absolute hoot.

There is an acceptance within Tweeds that Queensland will never introduce daylight saving because of curtains and cows. I don’t believe it and I can’t help but feel that I am having my leg thoroughly pulled. I can understand a perverse recalcitrance on Queensland’s part causing them to do the exact opposite to that which NSW or Victoria have adopted. (Remember the railway gauge debacle). I applaud any desire to continually march to the beat of a different drum. These philosophies I understand even if they cost the Queensland economy a motsa because of the impact on tourism and the additional cost of doing business interstate. But if anyone still seriously uses the argument of curtains and cows to oppose the introduction of daylight saving I’m starting to think disenfranchisement should be the order of the day.

My cousins deal with dual time zones by being either early or late.

My phone and pad didn’t return to NSW time until I arrived back in Sydney.

My brain is still thawing out.


Gordon Parnell

(1925 – 2012)


Photo by author

Mixing by hand

                          The one-and-a-half pound christmas cake


There is a magic to Christmas cakes. It is a combination of that intoxicating aroma hitting your senses as you prepare to taste that first morsel.  It’s also knowing that each mouthful will have a slightly different flavour from the previous piece as the varying ingredients kick in. Each mouthful is a delicious little surprise packet.

This is the recipe for the Christmas Cake that my mother, and when she no longer could make it, my sister, @atticafinch, uses. Its origins are in the Original Women’s Weekly Cookbook. My copy of this invaluable book is tattered beyond repair and, truth to tell isn’t really mine. I gave it to His Nibs as a wedding present nearly 40 years ago. Of course all measurements in our cookbook are in the old imperial standard, and can cause confusion especially in recipes where ingredient measurements are critical to a successful outcome. This is one such recipe.

Over the years fundamental changes have been made to the recipe. They have resulted from personal taste and experience in what seems to work best.  But it is still fundamentally the Women’s Weekly Cookbook recipe – bless their cotton socks.

The one-and-a-half pound fruit cake is named because there is one-and-a-half pounds each of butter and brown sugar. This is the Arnie Schwarzenegger of fruit cakes. The recipe is full proof and tastes divine.

NOTE: This cake requires a square cake tin 30cm (12 inches) deep.


3 kg of Mixed Fruit (6lbs 10oz)

1.25 kg combination of dried: apricots, peaches, pineapple, pears; glacé fruit & mixed peel (2lbs 8oz)

1 & 1/2 cups of Grand Marnier (This is the secret ingredient. It works better with the fruit).

750g of Butter  (1 and a 1/2 lbs)

750g of Brown Sugar (1 and a 1/2 lbs)

3 teaspoons of grated Lemon rind

3 teaspoons of grated Orange rind

3 teaspoons of Vanilla extract

6 tablespoons Marmalade (whiskey marmalade is nice)

12 Eggs

7 & 1/2 cups of sifted Plain Flour

1/2 teaspoon of Salt

3 teaspoons of All Spice

3/4 teaspoon of Cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon of Nutmeg


Photo by the author

4.25kg of mixed fruit soaking in Grand Marnier

  •  The recipe calls for chopping the fruit, placing it all in a basin and pouring the alcoholic spirit over it. Then cover the basin. We let the fruit soak in the alcohol for a week. Once a day give the fruit and alcohol a stir. The best way to do this is with your hands. The benefit of that is, of course, being able to give them a good lick afterwards. NOTE: It takes up a lot of space in the fridge.
  • Cream the butter with the brown sugar, the grated fruit rinds, vanilla extract  and marmalade. We call this the goop.
  • Add the eggs to the goop, one egg at a time and mixing it in well each time.
Photo by the author

Creamed butter and sugar

NOTE: The next two steps require you to alternate between the two.

  •  After the eggs have been mixed into the goop, add some of the alcohol soaked fruit. NOT ALL AT ONCE.  Cup your hands and scoop out the first lot of fruit and put it into the goop. DON’T LICK YOUR FINGERS. You can do this after you have finished. Fold the fruit into the goop. The best and most effective method is to fold the fruit in with your hands. You will burn out any mixing engine unless it is a serious industrial cake mixer, or you will get blisters on your hands if you use a wooden spoon. In both instances they won’t be as effective.
  • Fold in a cup of the sifted flour. Again using your hands.
  • REPEAT. Fold fruit in the goop.  Fold Flour in the goop. Fruit. Flour. Repeat until there are no further ingredients. Mix well. Make sure there is no dry flour left in the goop.

WARNING: This is messy as you will be up to your elbows in deliciously smelling goop.  A kitchen hand to help with the supply of the ingredients during last two steps is highly recommended. Be careful the assistant doesn’t try and sneak a little bit of what is happening in the large bowl or plastic bucket in which your cake is being mixed.

Photo by the author

Into the tin

  •  After mixing all your ingredients you are ready to fill your lined tin.

For steps on how to LINE YOUR CAKE TIN see below.

  •  Fill your tin with the deliciously smelling, can’t wait, intoxicating mixed goop.
  • To make sure your mixture settles and has no air bubbles in it you need to drop the tin. I know this step sounds perverse. Get an old bath towel, double it over and put it on the floor. Allow the tin to drop on to the towel from about 12 inches, oh sorry, 30 cm from the floor. Do this a couple of times.
  • To glaze the top of the cake mixture.  Just before you pop the cake into the oven smooth the top of the cake by wetting your hands with water and gently rubbing it over the top of the cake mixture.  It ensures there is a nice even cake top and also gives a semi-gloss sheen to the finished cake.
Photo by the author.

Glazing top of cake

  • Pop it into a pre-heated oven. The temperature is a slow oven for the first hour at 150C and then turn down the oven to a very slow oven at 120C for a further 5.5 to 6 hours.

NOTE: If you have a fan forced or fan assisted oven you will need to adjust your temperatures according to the instruction manual.

FURTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Every hour turn you cake 90′ clockwise ensuring that your cake cooks evenly.

Photo by author

Into the oven

  • After the requisite cooking time check that the cake is cooked by poking the centre of the cake with a skewer or a thin-bladed knife. If it comes out clean it is cooked through.
  • As soon as the cake is out of the oven leave it in the tin to cool, but immediately wrap it, cake tin and all, in aluminium foil to stop the top of the cake from hardening.
  • When the cake has cooled take it out of its tin, wrap the whole (including the grease proof and brown paper) in aluminium foil, and place it in a huge air-tight cake tin.



Do this before you start cooking your cake.

You will need to line your tin. The easiest tins to line are square ones (which is just as well as square cakes are easier to cut into equal slabs). The cooking time for the cake is a long one and the paper that lines the tin protects your cake mixture goop, and ensures a more evenly cooked cake.

  • Line the tin with two layers of brown paper.
  • The next layer is one of greaseproof paper on which you will pour your cake goop. The greaseproof paper has to be 4cm (1&1/2 ins) above the height of the sides of the tin. The cake will rise.

You may wonder why we make such a large cake. This cake lasts the family for ages, well into February. There are no nuts in it as nuts go rancid quite quickly.

It also becomes a source of great Xmas presents. Cut the cake into individual slabs, package them up in a nice cake tin (a Christmassy one if you can), and you have the best of gifts you can give anyone.

I have the recipes for the Quarter-Pound, Half-Pound and One-Pound Christmas Cakes. The procedures for cooking the cakes are exactly the same as I’ve outlined above, however, the ingredient amounts and cooking times vary. Let me know and I’ll happily work out the different measurements for all the ingredients, as well as the applicable cooking times. If you require this in imperial measurements let me know and I’ll happily provide them.

Christmas Cake straight out of the oven.

Christmas Cake straight out of the oven.





And, for the first time this year, Merry Christmas.




EXTRA TIP:    We cut this cake a few days after it had been cooked and it still had not been properly rested. If you do this your first few pieces will crumble. We don’t care. We can’t wait.  A week later the cake cuts beautifully and tastes even better. This year’s Christmas Cake is a triumph. It also helps to cut your cake with a serrated knife because of the variety and density of the ingredients.


A finished morsel ready to eat. Delicious. Perfect.

A finished morsel ready to eat. Moist, full of flavour. Perfection.


So the media wants a context.  How about contexts – plural?  There is never a single context in politics. It is always a complex recipe of sub-texts and alternative agendas which are the contexts. I can walk, talk and chew gum simultaneously. It would appear that the mainstream media can’t or won’t.

How about a media now so involved in a 24 hour, or less, story time-zone that they no longer look at bigger pictures. Why? Such analyses either don’t fit in with the desired agenda and direction of the media organization for whom they work; or many media workers are now suffering from a kind of media driven attention deficit disorder; or in any story it’s too difficult and time-consuming to explain the combination of contexts that drive any narrative.

The mainstream media had their ‘Alan Jones moment’ this week. They still appear to be in some state of shock. Haven’t we all been alternatively amused and outraged at the apparent discomfiture of the mainstream media as we see them scramble about to try and justify why their supposed analysis of the Prime Minister’s speech was so off the mark?! Why was it that ordinary people have stated how wrong the media is?  How is it that her speech has resonated not only in Australia, but around the world? How is it that her speech is now ranked among those great defining speeches of an Australian political leader, one that will be remembered long after we say Peter who? How is it that her speech has become a viral on-line must-see?  How did we get it so wrong?

To digress for just a little moment. The week’s highlight for me was seeing the Friday evening’s Contrarians on SkyNews (Australia’s answer to Fox News) where a panel of blokes, not a woman within cooee,  sat there and very seriously pontificated about sexism and the PM’s speech. They were, because they just don’t get it, totally wrong in their quaint but erroneous conclusions. I know they must have felt smug as they restored their view of the world by the end of the programme. It is nice to think that their mothers still love them anyway.

If I hear one more time that the only way to assess the PM’s speech was in the sole CONTEXT of defending Peter Slipper, I’ll bitch slap the nearest member of the media.

Does anybody honestly think for a nanosecond that, after her condemnation of text messages from and to Peter Slipper, and after expressing her concern for turning Parliament into a kangaroo court, she gave a moment’s thought to Slipper for the remainder of her speech, some 12 minutes out of 15? Honestly?!  If they do then they do live on a different planet. Is the mainstream media so blinkered in their interpretation of what occurs politically that they can only see it coming from the narrow parliamentary political construct in which they sit in a gallery? Is it any wonder then that their self-censoring bias can be so easily manipulated. The problem for the media is that this bias can then be so easily seen in circumstances such as occurred earlier this week.

The Peter Slipper motion of the Leader of the Opposition was more of a catalyst than a context. It was an attempt by Tony Abbott to gain traction for being ‘woman friendly’; an attempt that came hard on the heels of his wife’s saying what a nice man he is, Really! Truly!

How about these for contexts in common? The first, Abbott lecturing in defence of women, using words that a little more than a week before Alan Jones had used in a such a deliberately painful and contemptuous way.

How about the context of a woman still deeply grieving for a beloved father that she could not do anything but react to the venom and vitriol of the past fortnight, especially when confronted repeatedly by the very selective language used by Tony Abbott.

What Abbott and the media were not prepared for was the Prime Minister’s ENOUGH IS ENOUGH moment.

In addition to the context of the PM’s treatment over the past two to three weeks since her father’s death; how about the context of the PM’s treatment over the past two years since the last election by both the Opposition and the mainstream media.

For two years the PM  has had to endure a level of abuse from the Opposition benches. Those in the mainstream media have been complicit. They have been only too happy to follow the Opposition’s lead by their silence on the obvious sexism or worse, contributing to it.  The prevailing view, I believe, was that She won’t complain because if She objects and plays the ‘gender card’, we’ll hammer her. The problem is, as with all examples of bullying discrimination whether it’s racism, sexism or plain old fashioned religious bigotry, if it is not exposed early on it only gets worse both in the language used or in the acts of violence that are a natural repercussion. No one in the media has raised the issue of sexism displayed against the PM in any on-going or meaningful way, that is until fairly recently, and then only as a result of on-line opinion pieces. The media’s treatment of her has emboldened the Opposition forces to be not only relentless in their sexism but also increasingly more extreme in their language used.

How about another context, one with wider applications? How about the context of how women are treated in Australian society generally – the professions including politics and the law, the work place generally, the role of women as defined by the advertising and entertainment industries, as well as the inadequate voice given to women in the media?

How about a context where no-one in the media challenges Mr Abbott? What about his history of the treatment of women in power at Sydney Uni, his bullying methods used to keep control within his own political party and, by extension, the coalition, his negotiations with Tony Windsor, and his demand that the political party of the conscience vote be no longer the political party of the conscience vote when Abbott disagrees with the issue.

So how many contexts is that now? So many I’ve lost count.

Come on members of the media – wake up and smell what you are standing in, knee deep!

The PRIME MINISTER. the SPEAKER and the LEADER of the OPPOSITION: what a day.

Can I just say at the outset that the mainstream media’s analysis (and I’m using this term ironically) of yesterday’s performance by the Prime Minister is a glowing indication of what is wrong with their coverage of federal politics.

After two yeas of enduring a level of abuse with a certain level of humour and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of good grace, the Prime Minister rose to her feet and said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

When reading Peter Hartcher’s article this morning in the SMH it would seem the underlying theme dominating his piece is that she, and presumably therefore women generally, are not permitted to complain of gender discrimination or abuse.  BALDERDASH! Hartcher’s opinion piece like many others in the mainstream media peddling a similar line, says more about his character, his inner prejudice and bias than any attempted illumination on the issue of misogyny still so prevalent in all levels of our society.

To find some clear minded and cold blooded analysis of yesterday’s events I have to travel overseas and read comprehensive coverage in the New Yorker, NYTimes and other fairly reputable journals in the USA and UK.  This failure on the part of Australian mainstream media makes me want to weep with frustration.

In fact it was the Prime Minister’s finest hour so far.

Can I clarify at the outset, just in case dear reader you think I’m so one eyed that I’m blinded to faults or points of disagreement with this Labor Government, I’m not. There are a number of policy and procedural matters with which I take issue with the Government and its leader. But you have to be deaf, dumb and blind to not see the gender based discrimination and abuse she faces daily, which wouldn’t occur if she had a Y chromosome and a dangly bit.  Well, she may not have a dangly bit but she sure has balls.

Abbott’s wife’s performance in raising Tony’s feminine side on the weekend was part of the strategy that was designed to achieve a few things: it was the scatter gun approach. It was to further highlight his newly acquired feminist credentials, get rid of a Liberal Party traitor, and undermine the Prime Minister: all with the added benefit of making him more appealing to the large number of Australian women who think he is a controlling chauvinist shit.

He didn’t count on the Prime Minister reaching her ENOUGH IS ENOUGH line in the sand moment where she wiped the floor with him as he sat uncomfortably having to listen while the metaphorical mirror was lifted and pointed in his direction.

His use of the words ‘dying in shame’, words repeated three times in the one almost grammatically correct sentence, was gobsmacking. If he meant it, it was as nasty a piece of emotional abuse as I’ve ever seen on the floor of the House. He has said later in a radio interview that he had forgotten the significance of those words. This makes him either a man with the attention span of a gnat, or a deliberately emotionally abusive bully. Take your pick. Whether you believe it was deliberate or not, in either instance it makes him unfit to be Prime Minister.

Peter Slipper’s resignation from the role of Speaker was not unexpected.

Should the House have sacked him? Not while a court case is still being decided. Perceptions can also taint the system of justice and in this area it is better to be prudent.

Do I think Peter Slipper needed to go?  Yes. There was too much self-inflicted baggage. It is unfortunate, as I believe him to be the best Speaker of the House I’ve seen ever. (and I’m old).

Do I think yesterday’s attempt to pass a motion of no confidence and censure against the Speaker was a wise strategy on the part of the Liberal thinkers’ brigade? No I do not.

What Slipper’s resignation has done is remove himself from being a problem for the Government. I can’t see him returning to the Liberal fold for any reason. They have crucified him.

Peter Slipper is now the Liberal Party’s problem. Irrespective of the outcome of the court case, questions of Mal Brough’s, Christopher Pyne’s and Tony Abbott’s involvement in, or knowledge of, the circumstances that lead ultimately to Peter Slipper’s downfall will bubble back up to the surface and they have to be praying that Ashby will hang tough. Gulp!

These next few months are going to be interesting indeed.


Alan Jones really does have the happy knack of offending almost everyone without really trying. All he has to do is open his mouth and it just seems to tumble out. Points of view seem never to be substantiated by facts or evidence, no corrections are made when proved incorrect, instead vitriol and venom are the order of the day when he is in anyway challenged.  Civilised public discourse has never been his long suit.  It is almost as if there is a disconnect between his mouth and his brain.

He now accuses of being cyber bullies those of us who publicly came out and informed his advertisers we would no longer purchase goods from them if they continued to promote their goods on his breakfast programme.

It started with his destroying the joint remark about women in any position of power or leadership, and continued to even higher levels of outrage following his comments on the death of the Prime Minister’s father. Bouquets to both @JaneCaro  @JennaPrice  @turnleft2013 @destroyingthejoint

For Jones, a man who has turned bullying into an art form, to now accuse us of bullying is outrageous if it wasn’t so amusingly ironic.

Since 1985 we have been subjected to Alan Jones’s particularly pointed bias and bullying. He has consistently been the voice of divisive bile, pouring scorn on those he sees as being marginalized and without a voice – easy targets to garner headlines.

This Teflon coated shock jock has created an aura of not being able to be touched. Very little criticism has been cast his way by political leaders from either side of politics. Their simple wish was to curry favour. I always believed Jones’s influence was disproportionate to his actual listening audience. But he was master of managing the mainstream media for his own ends; that of continual self-promotion and that of his broadcasting interests.

Alan Jones pretty much has the freedom of speech to do all but incite sections of the community to riot and hate.  Companies have the freedom to advertise their products with him.

I just want to state loudly and clearly that I have rights too. I have the right to state publicly that I will not buy products from those companies who advertise with him. It is called a free market. I don’t have to buy at Woolworths, I can choose to buy at Coles or IGA or Aldi. My choice doesn’t need to come from where they advertise or who has the best price. If, for example, your goods are made from using child labour in some third world country I will not buy your stuff.

I also have the freedom to state publicly, as well as in private correspondence to those companies, the reasons behind my exercising this freedom of consumer choice. (See previous blog post:

What has changed?

The social media now has given a voice to the voiceless, and empowered the seemingly powerless. On our own we are one small voice speaking in a whisper, cautiously taking one small step at a time. As a group I found myself as part of an organic chain reaction of outrage, and to the shouts of “Enough is enough” this group has discovered a voice, which can now be heard. The unstructured, organic reaction to Alan Jones has changed the media dynamic.  The extent of that change remains to be seen.

But it was a helluva first step.

For me? I shall continue on as one little old lady unashamedly #destroyingthejoint.


Can I say at the outset that I am not a lawyer I just seem to have accumulated a plethora of legal subjects in the various tertiary qualifications amassed over time. This has resulted in a love affair with matters legal. I guess it also helps that there have been lawyers in almost every generation of my family going back 900 years, give or take.
Being comparatively new to the whole social media thing I would like to just take the time to raise a couple of issues that are causing me some concern following the dreadful circumstances of Jill Meagher’s death.
Social Media allows all of us a ready voice enabling and empowering us to comment on virtually any matter.  It is a wonderful feeling of liberation. But there are a number of occasions where certain lines must be drawn in the sand, which result in our collectively needing to shut up.
The situation surrounding Jill Meagher’s death is such an occasion.
Now that the matter is sub judice, under the management of the justice system, under the judge as it were, all of us need to allow the administration of justice to do its job untainted by our opinions fuelled by our horror at the manner of Ms Meagher’s death.
Media workers have an obligation ethically as well as legally under the contempt sub judice rules, to report within the constraints that sub judice contempt allows.  This also applies to those of us who engage in social media. We too are obliged to follow the law.
If anyone of us in our ignorance taints or unwittingly corrupts the justice process then there is always the possibility that someone will walk who probably shouldn’t, or who will be incarcerated when they were innocent.
The courts are not supposed to take notice of the baying of the wolves at their door, but that kind of pressure can be hard to withstand. After all, judges too are only human.
Being in USA last year for the duration of the Casey Anthony trial, including the jury’s verdict and its aftermath, underscored how much I value the restrictions imposed on how our media covers criminal cases.  (Of course, this applies to members of the general public as well.)
There is no doubt that in the Casey Anthony matter a Not Guilty verdict would have been far more difficult for a jury if they had not been sequestered.
The sequestering of a jury is where a jury is effectively removed from the world. Their isolation effectively means no contact with the outside; no phones, papers, television, i-pads, i-pods, no i-anything. The aim is to ensure that the jury is not tainted by outside influences. The Casey Anthony jury was held in isolation for the duration of the trial until a verdict was reached, which was nearly seven weeks. It happens rarely in Australia, probably because of the costs associated with the practice.
The American media’s frenzied coverage of the Casey Anthony case was most unpleasant to witness. The vast majority of the mainstream media were convinced of her guilt in the murder of her 2-year old infant.  As for the shock-jocks on pay TV and radio, they were relentless in their pursuit of her, and gobsmackingly outrageous in the extreme.
Only a small select group of the media reminded people, during the trial process,  of fundamental human rights such as, the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence and the onus of proof resting on the State’s representative to present a case proving beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of the person charged.  This small select media group included The New York Times and the faux news programme, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.
The vitriol hurled at members of the jury who found Casey Anthony not guilty of murder in the state of Florida (which has a capital punishment for murder 1) was unexpected and unprecedented. Individual members of the jury were so distressed they were moved to comment publicly citing some of their reasons behind the verdict.
They included two critical concerns for all jury members. The first was that the state wasn’t able to ascertain how the child actually died. The second was the absence of incriminating hard evidence rather than speculation and assumptions about how people should behave in these kinds of circumstances. It was on the speculation and assumptions that the rest of the country had convicted Casey Anthony and had metaphorically already strung her up.

The American media’s role was reprehensible. They didn’t like being shown to be wrong and therefore, made fools of by the jury. I suspect that the State of Florida’s decision to go with the big charge of murder one rather than a lesser charge of manslaughter, didn’t help.
To this day I don’t know whether Ms Anthony did or did not deliberately kill her child. And that is the point. The State’s DA was unable to supply the sufficient hard evidence to prove that she, beyond a reasonable doubt, did. On that basis there had to be only one outcome. It was a sophisticated decision by 12 members of the general public who took their responsibilities as jurors very seriously, and who were greeted by venom and death threats after their decision was handed down.
The whole time we were following the Anthony Case we were comparing it to Lindy Chamberlain. Enough said.
The area of contempt law in Australia does need to be clarified ensuring we all know what is expected of us. It also needs to be consistent and less discretionary, however, this is an on-going debate, which brighter minds than mine will ultimately resolve.
I’ve included a truncated version of the TIME ZONES for reporting and commenting on criminal matters that appears in Mark Pearson’s excellent ‘The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law – Dealing with legal and ethical issues’.  (Allen &  Unwin)


AFTER crime; BEFORE arrest or charges have been laid:

No restrictions are on reporting for contempt. Please remember that defamation can still apply.

AFTER  arrest or charges; BEFORE first court appearances:  

Reporting is to be limited to the BARE  FACTS of the crime. Do not interview witnesses.  Don’t mention confessions, previous charges or convictions , and there’s to be no identification of the defendant as this is usually an issue that will come before the court..

AFTER charges laid, during preliminary court appearances:   

As above. The details of the court appearance can be carefully reported.

DURING trial: 

The description of the BARE FACTS and a ‘fair and accurate’ report of the trial. Don’t try and second-guess the jury. Don’t speculate on a result.

AFTER trial BEFORE Appeal Expiry Date: 

Report with extreme care. An appeal can result in a new trial so as  no-one wants to taint the process therefore there’s no interviewing jurors, witnesses nor any implication that an acquitted person is guilty.

AFTER appeal or acquittal: 

GO for it.

Remember defamation laws still apply at all times.

Anyone can be charged with contempt subjudice. This is a defence for the administration of justice to proceed without being tainted. The right to a fair trial is as important a right as the freedoms to speak, assemble, to worship, etc. These fundamental rights underpin the basis of our democratic society. They form one group among many aspects of that, which civilizes us.
What does our civilized society need from us – the average Joe, or Josephine Citizen? In this instance it requires our patience, tolerance and minimal understanding of how the administration of justice works so it can do its job properly and effectively on behalf of us all.

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