Saturday, July 30, 2016

A tale of two uncles - a short story

My entry into 
the Jolley Short Story Competion 
Australian Book Review Magazine

Two uncles

The daily battle had begun.  It was an ordinary March day in Sydney, the day was bright and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, my little sister only 18 months gurgled in the background but that was the day when my family was blown apart.  At home I had to stand near the door of the kitchen every day so that my mother could see me do my ‘exercises’.  These exercises consisted of loud exhaling with a chest rattle then a throaty cough so that phlegm could come up.  The daily battle was on ‘just 10 spits and you can go to school’ but I have done enough.  “Ten spits or you stay there!” was the firm reply as a noise at the door disturbed the mother to son battle of wills.

Mum went to the door, I could just hear her voice when she gave a loud gasp and choked back a cry.  I could not see what was happening and given her mood when she left me it was not wise to ask or interfere with what was happening at the front door.  Men could be heard carrying something heavy, “put him on the bed” said Mum and the door to our parent’s bedroom opened and closed. 

I stood in my spot with a blue chipped enamel chamber pot on a stool beside me, it had an inch of water in it and floating around it were the previous efforts.  My hands were on my chest down near my stomach, push in when you breathe in and let go when breathing out, cough and spit.  All this time my mother raced past me and out to the toilet in the backyard with another potty in her hand, her face was grim and tears streamed down her face.

Finally after three such trips I said timidly “What’s happening?”  Mum suddenly brought herself up with a jerk as if she just realised I was still there.  Choking back tears and almost snarling she said “get to school!”  I rapidly complied and was out the door and on my way.

School was only a short walk away but I was running late and the assembly before school was already underway.  I gingerly made my way to back of where all the other eight year olds were assembled and was not noticed.  I tried to get the attention of my two older brothers but they were a long way away and I didn’t get a chance to tell them that something was dreadfully wrong, something that was very disturbing.  It was pretty obvious that Dad was seriously ill but the details had been hidden from me.  The school day was starting and I would go them at recess and tell them what had happened.  I was left with a huge feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach till recess when the PA blared out my name and the names of my brothers demanding “come to the Headmaster’s office.”  My brothers had already assembled at the steps leading up to the little parish school’s only office, it was more of a storeroom as the headmaster taught all day and did no administration work.

Pennants from school competitions littered the desk and some other school items, text books, papers and of course a cane or two.

The brother in charge had a solemn look on his face, this is bad I thought.
“I am sorry to have to tell you this but your father died this morning.”  My two older brothers immediately began to cry and shake.  I was too stunned to comprehend what had been said but the feeling of foreboding and dread continued to knot and twist inside me.  I suppose I cried too but I remember it as a time when I didn’t cry much.

The days that followed were a whirl of neighbours, a priest or two, some nuns and maybe some religious brothers coming to our house and expressing sadness and condolences.  I was shooed out of the house and whenever I was out I was constantly hugged by the mothers of my friends.  “You poor boy, so sad” and such cooing noises and the offer of a sweet or two.  All this was so overwhelming and confusing.

In this mix came Uncle Ned, dad’s older brother down from Queensland full of confidence and charm.  Ned stood at six foot with jet grey hair swept back over a big head and intense eyes.  He charmed everyone around the house, boasted of how much he was prepared to help the now stricken family.  On one occasion he took my little sister around the corner to take some pressure off my mother and he bought her an ice cream.  She took one lick of it and threw it away.  A story he recounted with much mirth how the ice cream sailed through the air and landed upside down on the footpath.

Another Uncle arrived and he was entirely different from Ned.  Uncle Paul was Mum’s oldest brother, he was tall too but much taller and thinner.  His hair was black and his eyes were black and his skin was tanned and sun damaged.  He was a successful wheat and sheep farmer from South Australian.  He spoke with a slow drawl and was rather withdrawn but kindly.

The funeral day arrived and Mum firmly forbad me from attending.  She was in a terrible state barely holding herself together.  She was mainly in tears or just holding them back and her face rarely registered the surroundings. 

The funeral over, the whole family came back to house looking rather sad and exhausted by the emotional drain of the sudden death of my father.  Mum was the worst affected and she took to bed.  We were allowed to visit her bedside and even two weeks after the death she was still crying.  She would say things such as “Your Dad should be canonized, we are going to approach the Vatican to start the process”.  At which point I looked up at my parent’s bedroom wall which had the face of Jesus in a rather big portrait staring back at me with his heart exposed with huge thorns sticking out of it.  I was surprised to hear such news as Dad was a fairly ordinary, even very overweight man who was around 20 stone when he died.  He did not exhibit to me much holiness or kind patience, rather he was rather impatient, given to big explosions of anger and a vigorous user of the razor sharpener strap on my brothers and me.  Nevertheless Mum said this and it was to be believed. 

Adults around us began to worry about mother while she continued to stay in bed and gradually it became obvious she needed to be hospitalized for a nervous breakdown.  The children had to be seen to and in a process that I did not have a say in or any of my brothers or sister.  My sister who was too young to express a preference and she was swept up by some nearby neighbours who were of the most doting kind.  They were delighted to have a small child in their midst again.  My older brothers were assigned to a catholic boarding school in the country and were to spend their holidays with some local friends of Mum and Dad.  I was to go with my Uncle Ned to Brisbane where he was the principal of a state primary school.

In no time at all I was on a plane on my own with a big label on me with my name on it and destination being slightly fussed over by a hostess whose responsibility it was to get me onto the correct plane and into the arms of those who were going look after me. 

The plane trip from Sydney had been my first and Uncle Ned met me at the airport.  He was really pleased to see me and we drove through the streets of Brisbane in his big car.  Another new experience, as our family never owned a car.  The Storey Bridge was decked in decorations because of the Queen’s visit and the streets had all sorts of bunting on them.  I was very impressed and thought Brisbane was always gaily lit.

I was introduced to my Aunt Liz and all my cousins who were all a lot older than me.  Young Ned was about twenty five, Bridget twenty two, Kate twenty and Peg sixteen.  Uncle and family were kind at first.  Our family’s lack of contact with this family, their age, contributed to my sense of being a stranger in a cool climate.  The only one that I could barely relate to was Peg, but she being a girl and 16 there were no common interests.  She and I had many battles, and much mutual teasing.

I was accommodated in a room in an old wooden Queenslander with the big space underneath and slowly began to become accustomed to my new circumstances.  The day started as usual and I presumed that the family was giving me time to settle before I was to go to the school next door but after weeks it became obvious that I was not going to go to school but I was to wander around day after day till it was time to sleep.  Shortly after arriving in Brisbane we moved to another school near Ipswich called Blackstone.  Maybe this is why I didn’t start school, perhaps I was to start school in Ipswich.

Ipswich was the same as the Brisbane place, we lived in the principal’s house next door to the school.  Nothing was said to me about school so I had the whole day to myself and no specific thing to achieve.  I figured out a routine.  As the day got under way and the sounds of the school receded I made immediately for a clump of wattle some distance into the bush at the back of the house.  It was a remarkable place in the dry area of Ipswich at that time of year.  The little clump was cool, green and yellow.  The wattle trees surrounded a patch of grass.  I would lie in the grass in the shade of a tree and look up at the sky.  I was conscious of the blue patches surrounded by balls of yellow. 

I dreamt or day dreamt that if I looked at the sky long enough I could see the wind.  It was shaped in circles with a clear heavy dot in the centre.  These circles increased in numbers the longer I looked at the patches of blue.  Each circle seemed to have movement of its own, it was hard at first to take in all the movement so I would eventually follow just one circle’s progress.  Happily, these circles formed groups usually in a wavy line which went across the sky and disappeared, only for other circles and lines to appear at the other edge of the circles I was watching.  Usually, the circles and lines crashed in to the ground, dispersing and fading from view.  A quick blink of the eyes and a shake of the head could make these items disappear.

Meanwhile, the scent of the grass and wattle brought an incredible sense of unity with nature.  I was happy in this place.  I chewed on a blade of grass and thought of times back home. 

Here I was in Queensland to live with my father’s brother Uncle Ned.  Before the tragedy I had never known Uncle Ned or knew of his existence.  He turned out to be quite the opposite of how he portrayed himself during the funeral preparation.  He was an austere man.  His blue eyes were incredibly intense and if he turned them on to you he almost had the power to look through you.  His eyes, his manner must have been a terribly powerful weapon in his chosen profession of a teacher in the Education Department of Queensland.  His manner and expression gave the impression of coldness and irritability.

It was during this time at Uncle Ned’s, I began to talk to myself.  While I was slouching in the grove, it was then that I spoke rather long and loudly about all my troubles.  I became aware of talking so loudly that I glanced around to make sure no one was around to hear me.  I was completely alone.  I was free to talk to myself all day.

Eventually as the day wore on, I would leave the grove and head for my other place: it was the top of a nearby hill.  When you emerged from the bush near the top of the hill you were greeted with a sight of sheer desolation.  Bits of masonry were strewn about the top of the hill which was covered by exposed earth, black rocks and numerous large cracks in the surface of the earth.  From these cracks small spirals of pungent smoke arose adding to the environment’s bareness.  Apparently the mansion on the hill had been destroyed when there was a mining disaster under the house.  I was told that fires were still going on down below and that’s where the smoke came from.  The small cracks or gullies provided jumping challenges and I spent much time in the day jumping cracks, throwing stones into the gullies.  When the air got too bad around the gullies I ran to a vantage point to look out over the town of Ipswich.  I could also vaguely see the RAAF airbase from the hill and while I watched, Canberra Jet Bombers were taking off and landing.  One day I could see a plume of smoke coming up from the base and learnt later that a bomber had crashed and killed its occupants.  I thought of the children left behind by this accident with no father like me.

I would know when to come back to house for lunch and when to come back to the house and go out on the front steps and wait for Peg to struggle up the hill in her posh black schoolgirl uniform all hot and bothered.  We would exchange pleasantries or not so pleasantries and she would lie down to get over the exertions of the day.

This lazy, non-eventful life continued for several months until someone’s conscience was pricked and Aunt Liz announced that she would teach me Grade 3 work until I was reunited with my family.  She was a terrible teacher.  We would gather the materials we needed and sit on stools near a low table on the verandah and just 10 metres from our position was a fully functioning free State School for my age group.  Nevertheless we would sit in this position and Aunt Liz would try to get some attention and learning going in me.  I was completely out of the routine and could or would not put the slightest effort into anything remotely resembling school work.  As the ‘lesson’ continued I would become aware of Aunt Liz’s growing displeasure.  The ‘niceness’ would slowly creep off her face.  The tension mingled with the humidity of the day would be obscuring the already blurry mathematical symbols.  What became starkly obvious was that Aunty Liz was getting angry and annoyed even after a relatively short time.  This made learning even more difficult.

Still Aunt persisted in her martyrdom of teaching a talentless boy until one fateful day her anger boiled up after I said something contradicting her.  I caught a sudden movement of Auntie’s body out of the corner of my eye.  Instinctively, I ducked and Aunt’s arm kept swinging in the arc it was meant to.  This action brought her whole body to such a precarious position on the stool that the stool collapsed.  The effect on Aunt was even more dramatic.  She was deposited a few feet from the stool in a struggling, gasping heap.

Before the heap could right itself I left the verandah and ran down the backyard and onto the bush further on.  I was only eight years old and I didn’t go to school.  My aunt gave up teaching me after that day, so I reverted to the old routine of going into the bush for hours each day and day dreaming.

I was getting used to the house routine and what was going on there.  The evening was a time we all assembled around the dining table.  All except for Uncle Ned.  He as was his practice, was having his meal in the study.  How Uncle Ned managed to have a study in the houses provided by the education department I don’t know but in every house the family went to, one room was always ‘Dad’s study’.  The family tradition was such that he retired to his study and left the family to Aunt Liz.  Uncle always seemed to be unhappy, discontented and unable to communicate with anyone in the family.  It was almost a relief to have him away from the general family because he seemed as if he would bite or snap at you at any moment.  What the reason for his condition was I, an eight year old, couldn’t tell but he was always understood to be working on some school work or writing a textbook.

Quite naturally Auntie Liz was the focus of the family – especially as the family was all grown up.  They seemed zealous to prove to her how much she was loved and admired.  I could never understood the reason for this lavish praise as Aunt Liz seemed very ordinary to me, and a bit cranky at times.  However, Aunt was always the queen at any meal and many honours were showered on her by her doting offspring.

Aunt took her matriarchal position and surveyed the table and then gave a nod to start eating after the Lord was thanked for providing the meal.  One dinner time conversation that I remember went like this.  It started off with some heavy talk about the man who supplied wood for our household needs.  Young Ned was indignantly telling the story of how this man had nearly knocked his Mum over in the street.  The story was that ‘Mum’, with her head up as usual, had not looked where she was going and stepped off the curb.  The man in his big flash car braked suddenly and nearly hit Mum.  The wood contractor had then had the temerity, and positively dastardly hide, of sticking his head out of the window and abusing Mum.  Mum got such a shock!  That disgusting man!  He ought to apologise!  There was much agreement around the table at these noble sentiments of young Ned’s – a real mother’s treasure.  A flash of inspiration crossed young Ned’s face; he enthusiastically suggested that we discontinue our contract with that awful man.  “Anyone who treats my mother so disrespectfully doesn’t deserve to have our business.”  Even more encouraging nods – young Ned was a real credit to the family.  After all, he had to fulfill the role of man of the house as his father had forgotten about it.  Aunt sat quietly during this display of loyalty, just managing to restrain young Ned’s enthusiasm to acceptable limits.

Days of aimless wanderings in the bush and the occasional bit of schoolwork were interrupted one day when it was announced that Peg had to go to a doctor for her ‘checkup’ in Brisbane.  We got in the car and Aunt Liz launched into how she had uncovered the best lung specialist in Brisbane and insisted that he treat ‘her Peg’.  “What she got?” I asked.  “Well dear it is lung complaint called Bronchiectasis”.  Aunt Liz replied.  “That’s what I’ve got!” I said.  “I know dear” said Aunt.

We entered a large hospital waiting room full of people of all ages and economic status.  The room had the whiff of chloroform that permeated all hospitals.  It was a smell I was familiar with, after spending countless consultations with specialists with mirrors on their heads and x-rays of lungs in the background.  At one stage I was subjected to sharp sticks being inserted up my nose to prevent sinus and another unique form of torture, the Broncho gram where a large pipe was inserted from the mouth into the lung without anesthetics.  I was fully aware of what to expect.  The people present waiting at this Queensland hospital were largely silent and waited on long chairs and as patients were seen, the row stood up and snaked its way until finally it was your turn when your name was called.  After about an hour Liz was called.  I stood up with Peg but Aunt Liz turned to me and said.  “No no just Peg, you wait here dear” and they went to see the fabulous specialist.  Maybe I was next but after a while Peg and Liz reemerged and collected me and we walked to the car and drove home.

The days of absent minded wanderings came to end around October when it was announced that it was time to go to Sydney.  The two older daughters Bridget and Kate now came into their own and started discussing what they were going to do in Sydney.  I listened half interested in all the places they wanted to see and concerns that young women in their early twenties were interested in.  The main thing was that I was going home.  I could see my mum and my brothers and sisters and we could be together again.  I packed things up as best as I could and the next day early we were off.  The journey to Sydney was slow as the road was very narrow and busy in places, while trucks and caravans slowed down our progress.  We stayed overnight in a hotel somewhere and next day around the early afternoon I began to recognize landmarks from the many suburban bus trips I had taken. 

I leant over from the back seat and said: “Just up here is a Fire Station at that corner you can turn, and I can show you the way to Mum’s hospital.”  At which point one of the girls suddenly turned around in an angry way and said rather loudly “Do you think we came down here just for you?  No! We came down here for a holiday and we will deal with you when we are ready.”  Crestfallen and sullen, I sank back into the seat hoping the world could not see me.

In the course of the next few days I was taken to visit my mother in hospital.  She was clearly still fragile, shaky and pale looking, but overjoyed to see me and became very weepy with emotion and began constantly touching and stroking my face.  Somehow it became clear that Mum was not going to be discharged from hospital for a few weeks and that I was now in care of a social worker from the Catholic Church.  She explained that my mother was not well enough yet and that I would have to spend some time in an orphanage near Woy Woy.

The time in the orphanage seemed to go quickly and one day a nun approached me and said that early tomorrow we will get you up early and we have arranged for a man to escort you to Sydney.  The ‘man’ duly arrived early the next day, he was gaunt with a haunted look in his eyes, he wore a navy blue suit that shone with wear and he seemed to have an especially bad case of dandruff with flakes all along the top of his coat.  He did not say much but he did his job and delivered me to a room in the city with the same social worker in it but best of all my mother and little sister were present.  The social worker left us and Mum explained that we would spend one night in Sydney and the next day would fly over to have a holiday with Uncle Paul on his wheat and sheep farm.

A few days later my older brothers arrived from Sydney, they too had been flown over to the Eyre Peninsula at Uncle Paul’s expense.  Uncle Paul’s at Tooligie was a flat place where I had spent some months a few years prior.  I had been diagnosed with bronchiectasis and a Doctor had said he needs a dry climate so Uncle Paul came to the rescue for the first time. 

I was able to go to school with my cousins though it was a small one teacher school and a long trip each day but it was a joy!  I had to walk back for miles over unsealed roads towards Uncle Paul’s till someone came and picked me up.  The land was under cultivation for wheat and it grew extremely well and waved and moved with the breeze and the land stretched to the horizon except for one hill that poked out defiantly and it was wheat or sheep in every direction.  I even shot with a .22 and Uncle Paul taught me how to set rabbit traps and how to skin them.  I think I made a considerable dint in the rabbit population of Tooligie at the time.  Uncle was pleased I was taking an interest and he had all sorts of itinerant workers at his place who showed interest and spoke with strange accents.  Auntie Kit was very generous and doting, she did most of the picking up after school.

Here we were back at Tooligie and at last we were a family again minus a father but at least we were together again and I could forget the casual indifference of Uncle Ned’s family.  We spent over six weeks together doing odd jobs around the farm and getting to know some nearby cousins, some mischief as well.  As time went on Mum seemed to get stronger and more confident.

Uncle Paul and his wife Kit were childless and very keen to have a family and now here was a readymade family on their doorstep.  Paul came to this farm barely able to make a living out of it.  He lived in a tin shack with his brother and gradually cleared the tough mallee from the land to make it fit for a wheat farm.  There were long days of hard labour and little return from the land that lacked some essential elements.  The time drifted into years and by the time Paul was established enough to marry he was in his early fifties and Kit his partner was close to the end of her child bearing age.  The alternatives flashed before them; adopt or pass on the farm to his brother’s kids nearby.  They were undecided but what they did know was they ached for children.  In their time of indecision along came Paul’s younger sister, my mother, obviously not coping with the death of her husband, sick and emotionally unstable.  The situation was ripe for a solution to Paul’s and Kit’s childless problem.  Paul and Kit presented the idea to his sister.  How about you move here, we can set you up in a house nearby or in the nearest largest town and I pay for the children’s education at pretty good schools.  In return the children would have to spend a great deal of time here on the farm and maybe one of them could be farmer and inherit his farm. 

Long long discussions were held into the night.  Mum could see the generosity of the offer but she could also see a trap for herself.  Mum even in her delicate condition was appreciative but adamant, she would strike out on her own, she would not go through another series of electric shock treatments, she would rule her own family thanks very much.  Mum packed us up to take the long trek back to Sydney via train to restart our Sydney lives minus a father.

Ned was one Uncle who had a family and an extra family member and couldn’t care less.  Paul was another Uncle desperate to have a family but wasn’t allowed by a fiercely independent younger sister.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Waterloo Residents fight back

Since getting notices just before Christmas that nearly 2,400 residents will be cleared out of Waterloo, public housing tenants have been disturbed and angry. Now they are preparing to fight back and started their campaign on Saturday April 23 at Waterloo Green.  Despite driving rain and wind a sizable crowd turned out to hear local tenants, Jenny Leong MP and representatives from other public housing areas in the inner city who have been similarly affected by the NSW Government’s social cleansing policy.
Millers Point and Glebe representatives told of the insensitivity and bullying by government agents as they threaten and ‘persuade’ people to move away from familiar areas and people.  Both areas have suffered people being hospitalized, suffering heart attacks, and even some suicides and deaths. have occurred.  Brad Hazzard, the Minister for Social Housing, should be renamed Health Hazzard, they said. 
Public housing is not a commodity, the rally was told, but an asset that performs a special role in supporting people with health and other problems. In the towers surrounding Waterloo Green and further afield people look after one another. The Waterloo community has grown like this over decades but now the NSW Government is ripping it apart.
Jenny Leong, the Greens MP for Newtown, assured the residents that those who wanted to stay would find a firm supporter and friend in her.  She would do all she could to fight the eviction and destruction of the community by the Baird Government.
The Government regards the people of Waterloo and other public housing tenants as just pawns to be moved around to make way for profits and private developers. But speakers at the picnic insisted that residents are treasures, people who have contributed to building Sydney. 
Public housing tenants are former teachers, soldiers, TV cameramen, migrants, refugees, indigenous people   the list is long.  People who have emerged from these towers include talented footballers and academics.
Imagine Mr. Baird’s mother being moved to a suburb where she did not want to go! Yet it is somehow OK to treat the tenants of Waterloo as pawns to be moved to Ulladulla, Wilton or Katoomba.
The recently formed Waterloo Public Housing Action Group is leading a fast growing fight back. The picnic was the first of more events intended to show the people of Sydney that Waterloo residents have a right to live in their city!  They will not allow anyone to drive them from the city they built.

A petition has been started and a protest song is already up on you tube. Everyone is being urged to like the campaign’s new facebook page.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

book Review of Conversations in peace for a teachers' newspaper

Conversations in Peace
The Sydney Peace Prize Lectures 1998-2011
Edited by Lynda Blanchard and Hannah Middleton

This collection of the acceptance speeches of the first eleven winners of the Sydney Peace Prize is a real gem.  The laureates are listed below but among them are Desmond Tutu, Xanana Gusmao, novelist Arundhati Roy, Patrick Dodson, John Pilger and Noam Chomsky.  From this list it is easy to see what an inspirational body of work we have in this little book.

Each recipient comes at the topic of peace from a different angle and often with the experience of a different country but the uniting factor is ‘peace with justice’.  In the foreword Professor Stuart Rees, who founded the Sydney Peace Prize, quotes a poem by Bertolt Brecht:

Justice is the bread of the people
As daily bread is necessary
So is daily justice
It is even necessary several times a day.

Peace with justice should be the vision of every educator and every school as here in Australia we face the swirling possibility of communal disruption caused by events in the Middle East. How we approach these problems is the key to social harmony and tolerance which is another facet of peace.

Peace is a many sided gem and can be approached from many angles.  The recipients speak passionately through the pages on topics as diverse as the violence of poverty, reconciliation in South Africa, Palestine, Australian indigenous justice, rights of the child, disarmament, human rights, the environment, non-violence and much more.

The prize winners who speak so eloquently and movingly are truly inspiring. They provide an essential antidote to the so-called war against terror which is ending neither violence nor terrorism.

Conversations in Peace has much to offer educators as well as the wider community as we deal with a world so desperately in need of peace with justice. 

Sydney Peace Prize recipients 1998 -2011 (in order): Muhammad Yunus, Desmond Tutu, Xanana Gusmao, William Deane, Mary Robinson, Hanan Ashrawi, Arundhati Roy, Olara Otunnu, Irene Khan, Hans Blix, Patrick Dodson, John Pilger, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky.

The book can be purchased for $30 through the Sydney Peace Foundation at

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Syria Demo Speech Sept 13 2015

Rally against the bombing of Syria by Australian Forces.

Sunday September 13, 2015

Australian military forces have meddled in Syria 3 times in the last 100 years.  Each time they interfered they had a negative effect.  They meddled and destroyed their way thru Damascus in WW1.  .  They were there in WW2 to fight the Facist French allies of Nazi Germany.  They are there now!  They have never gone to Syria because Australia is in anyway threatened but because they wish to obey the dictates of an Empire.  Originally we slavishly followed the British Empire and now we are the same with the US Empire.  It is about time our political leaders stood up for our interests and the interests of our common humanity with all peoples.

More recent history would tell us that every time we have assisted the US in intervening in the Middle East it has been an exercise in brutality that has fractured and disabled countries and left them in increasing spirals of violence.  Each time we have seen a miserable failure.  I speak of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

The US lied to us about Vietnam.  We know they lied to us about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  The former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser called the British and now the US dangerous allies that lead us into dreadful blunders like the Iraq war.  A reasonably competent Government and equally aware Opposition would be cautious about springing to the aid of the US in this instance but no we have the same old groveling acceptance of whatever the US says is OK.  We say it is not OK but is opening the door to more brutality, more terrorism, and more refugees seeking some future outside of Syria

Australia is always ready to undertake these stupid and cruel adventures because we spend so much on the military so we can be prepared and tooled up to jump to attention when Uncle Sam calls.  We are not under any threat yet our expenditure on the military goes up each year and the Abbott Government has promised to get it up from $32 billion to close to $40 billion.  We in the peace movement campaign constantly to decrease military spending. 

We campaign to have Australia as an independent non aligned country out of a US – Australia military alliance, it is the influence of the US which makes us spend so much on the military and makes us host nearly 50 US bases here so the US can harass other countries and now we even host US marines in Darwin.  It is time for the Yankees to go home not for the bombing of Syria by Australian forces!  We fight for our country to be free of the US military and our involvement with the US in its brutal wars.

The IS or Daesh threat has been simplified to the usual simple slogans of a thuggish Prime Minister ‘the fight is coming to us’ what nonsense!  Australians have more chance of being eaten by Sharks than dying at the hands of Daesh!  The situation in Syria is extremely complicated with Russia, US, and NATO involved as well as the competing interests of Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kurdistan, Iran and Iraq, the Emirates.  As well as ethnic and religious tensions that is playing a part in the continuation of the conflict.  Some of these countries have been tacitly or overtly supporting and supplying the Daesh with weapons yet they have not been called to account or forced to back down.  This is where the struggle against Daesh should start with starving them of weapons and military equipment.

We are 14,000 kms away from Syria we could do more for a political settlement of the conflict than aiding the bombing of the Syrian people.  Refugee workers are reporting that people are fleeing Coalition bombing as well as the bombing by others.  Even the US Secretary of State has made the statement that Russian military involvement “could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows’.  What a laughable statement as if US bombing and Australian bombing would not do the same thing? 

The Australian Government has taken the brutal option in relation to the Syrian Civil War and we as Australian citizens are obliged to engage in a massive resistance campaign against this vulgar and bigoted Government.

Attendance at these rallies is a great way to start this campaign and congratulations for getting out today to be here and say loudly NO!

Extend that by using these cards or other means of communicating with Government.  Let them feel a storm of pressure as they boast about how the RAAF flew into Syria yesterday.
Sign petitions – online ones and others
Boycott any WW1 celebrations and remind people this was the first time Australia meddled and harmed Syria!
Fight to get the US bases out of Australia as these bases facilitate attacks on other countries by the US.

Join with your local peace group, political group or any group to condemn this action by the Government.  Do not keep you’re disgust to your close circle of acquaintances but let your Government feel the heat of your anger and resistance!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Anti-Bases after nearly 30 years

Talk by  DD for Pol in pub
April 30 2015

American Bases in Australia:  too close for comfort – more of them, more important, more binding us more tightly – still a target.
  There are occasions when the English language fails us and by way of introduction I wish to do an apparent diversion but it has relevance – trust me.  If I was a substantial person in this society instead of dwelling on the outskirts and I proclaimed that children over 8 should be allowed back into the mines, factories and other workplaces, this would be proclaimed RADICAL.  If I was to say that pensioners should be on a living wage I would be howled down as so 20th Century or last century.  You see backward failed policies of 150 years ago are radical and progressive ideas that work are dismissed.  This is the climate we live in today.  The progressive is backward and the backward is radical!

Imagine if you are into peace!  Another word that does not convey dynamism but status quo and uncontroversial views of pretty valleys or seascapes, that is why a lot of people add peace with justice to give the topic a bit of oomph.  It gets even worse if you add ‘peace activist’ to a phrase, you now have two dirty words ‘peace’ and ‘activist’ both words have in the minds of the general population been devalued and representing a bygone era.  Peace activism means dynamic hard work and attention to detail and longevity.  One wise man once said to me if I wanted quick results go and grow cabbages.  A young person at a recent meeting said to me he was surprised that a person my age gave a damn (he actually used shit). 

My aim tonight is that you should and we all should give a shit especially as we see our country going under the weight of an aggressive super power who does not have the best wishes for the people of this country but acts for the rapacious corporations of its own country and perhaps an insignificant sector of this society the so called 1% or even 0.01%.

How has the Anti-Bases gone on informing, activating and alarming the general population, the strata represented here tonight?  At first blush it is to use the anal  xx analogy pretty shithouse.  We can trace our history to 1987 nearly 30 years ago.

Our first t-shirts said ‘Close Pine Gap, Nurrungar, and North West Cape and the 27 other US Bases.  If we were to renew that T-Shirt today we would have to say:  ‘Close Pine Gap, North West Cape,   and the other 50 Bases.  At the same time kick out the training bases, the US Marines from Darwin, forbid the use of our land for drones, and any use of airports and harbours for US Navy and US Air Force.  By this time the t-shirt would be even more unmarketable than the present t-shirt. 

By any measure this is a gross failure on the part of the Anti-Bases.  We started with 27 Bases now we have 50, and on top of that we the Marines, Drones, US Navy, US Airforce and on top of that they are using those bases to spy on us.  (Read from p.122 Greenwald book- about the Snowden revelations).  Draw attention to the handout on the Snowden revelations.
In its heyday Anti-Bases could put 2,000 protesters into the desert around Pine Gap or Nurrungar.  We wiped the footy finals off the front pages of the Sunday papers.  (see pic)

Anti-Bases activists in Australia can whinge about all the obstacles to achieving our goals – little or no money versus unlimited billions of the pro US group, no publicity, both major parties are so pro the US President Obama could say of them what he said of Australian soldiers in Darwin when he announced the pivot to Asia and the US Marines to be stationed in Darwin. 
Afghanistan. I know many of you served there, including proud members of the 1st Brigade. Like generations before you, you've lived and served alongside your American colleagues - day in and day out. You work together so well, it's often said you can't tell where our guys end and you guys begin.”

Obama thinks we are so united he can’t tell us apart.  Is that how we want to think of ourselves?  Surely we could have a more rounded independent country than that.

Looking at the short comings of the Anti-Bases campaign the view it would seem on this assessment as pretty bleak. 

In academia there are people who study social movements even the Anti-Bases campaign – one such academic Adrian Ricketts of Southern Cross Uni Lismore says activists who come to me crying burn out, and non progress I say to them look at what your enemies are saying about you and your campaign.  We are not expecting them to name Anti-Bases but to refer in general to the issue.

One such enemy was Malcolm Fraser recently deceased his book Dangerous Allies was an eye opener or at least it should have been.  Nevertheless this book is so significant that we should have two new initial clusters in our language BF, and AF.  When the recent deployment to Iraq came up politicians could have used Malcolm’s experience and said we have heard all this before, it didn’t work then and it won’t work now.  His lesson about how dangerous the headlong unquestioning obedience to a major power was a lesson that has to be drummed into our major parties and the population.  On Pine Gap there has been no whistle blowers yet we have this book allowed by a US operative David Rosenberg at the base for 17 years.  (hold up) He said  ‘by writing this book I hope to provide more understanding of what Pine Gap does and the necessity of maintaining ever-vigilant eyes and ears that protect the lives of everyday Australians and Americans including the soldiers that protect us, wherever they may serve’…..p. 173  When he launched the book at Gleebooks down the road I asked him how did he feel that the intelligence he had gathered was used to bomb the bunker in Gulf War 1 with over 150 civilians in it?  He replied without a moments hesitation ‘oh I just gave the military the info how they use it is up to them.’  We know from Snowden all of the above is a bald face lie.  Why do they lie and falsify?  because of the actions of groups like anti-bases and many other citizens.

Still looking at the enemy in 1983 the fence at the entrance of Pine Gap was a cattle fence.  The women of 1983 soon made short work of that, in 1987 it was a fence that was 2 metres high which stretched for a short distance either side of the entrance and then it reverted to a cattle fence waist high.  Each year the fence has gotten taller and the security has gotten stronger.  This was not security against IS but Australian citizens like you and me.  You cannot go within a km of the fence.  We do have an impact, but is it enough?  Obviously not but it is a start and we must keep up the fight.

Abbott keeps talking about the fight coming to us well here is the other fight that is coming to you the Talisman Sabre 2015 exercise.  In this exercise which is every two years $100 million + will be spent by 30,000 US and Australian troops in an exercise that ranges over large sections of Australia.  The aim of the exercise as Obama says is to blur the difference between US troops and Australian or to use the jargon word interoperability.  They train to invade other countries thru tropical jungles, savannah woodlands and other climate zones so as to be ready to go where the US leads.  The main focus is always around Rockhampton where the Shoalwater Bay Training Area is but there are many more sites as you can see.  Richmond RAAF Base is a site from where some training will arise. 

The media strategy about our protests in Rockhampton are that the protests are a Central Queensland issue and not of interest to the other capital cities even Brisbane will not get much Talisman Sabre 15 protest coverage.  The media and to some extent the Government like it that way so discussion is limited to a small conservative section of the Queensland coast.  The peace movement is trying to counter this, this year with major protests in Brisbane and Sydney on or near the time of Talisman Sabre. 

The take home message from tonight is to keep an eye out for the details of the actions around TS in SydneyBrisbane is having a major conference on xxx at yyy to which you are all invited.  The peace movement under the present guise of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network IPAN is conducting a major attempt to have 100 pilgrims violate the sacred bombing range of the US and Australian military and hold up proceedings.  There is further information on these actions to come.  By all means get involved and show you care.  You may not be in a condition to go lolloping around a bombing range and sleeping rough for a day or two while 30,000 soldiers wait for you to be found.  There are so many levels on which you can contribute from liking us on facebook, following us on twitter and of course a financial contribution would be appreciated.  Even buy and wear the T-Shirt! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hannah's speech at 96th Anniversary of the Founding of the Palestinians Peoples Party (PPP)

Speech delivered at Lakemba 9th Feb 2015
Dear Comrades
I am delighted to bring greetings and congratulations from the Communist Party of Australia to this celebration of the anniversary of the re-establishment in 1982 of the Palestinian Communist Party, later renamed the Palestinian Peoples Party
I do not wish to speak of the history of the PPP or the struggle for the liberation of Palestine tonight. Other speakers are doing that.
I want to ask an important question: Why are we all here? Why should we bother to celebrate this anniversary?
I answer because communist parties are essential, because communists have the historically unprecedented “great mission” of changing the world.

In the constant struggle for peace and social justice in our world, many organisations and many social forces are involved. They all have something to contribute and their unity creates a force which in the end is irresistible.
But there is a greater vision: not just a better society but a society transformed, a socialist world in which working people take power and build a truly civilised and sustainable society.
English poet Alice Maynall wrote this about our vision of socialism:

Socialism, comrade
Is like the red, red rose
Day by day it opens
And day by day it grows
Its roots are ever spreading
And its sweetness never goes,
And soon I think its petals
Will the whole wide world enclose.

It is only through the leadership of an active, organized, cohesive and disciplined party that we are going to be able to implement the magnificent aim of a world free of exploitation, injustice, oppression and war.
To win peace, justice, democracy, bread and land there must be a party of the working class, a Marxist-Leninist party, a communist party.
British poet CD Lewis wrote this about the influence of communists:

Why do we all, seeing a Marxist, feel small?
That small catspaw ruffles our calm.
That touch of storm brewing, shivers
The torches even in this vault.
And the shame unsettles a high esteem.
It is the future walking to meet us all.
Mark him. He is only what we are, mortal.
Yet from the night of history, where
We lie dreaming still, he is wide awake.

Weak, liable to ill-luck — yet rock

Where we are slight eddies.
Mark him, workers and all who wish
The world aright — he is what
Your sons will be, the road these
Times must take.

Communist parties have proved in a number of countries that they are capable of conducting the struggle to win political power from the capitalist ruling class and end the rule of the exploiters.
But this victory is only possible if communists are closely connected with the people and always concern themselves with the daily as well as the long-term needs of the workers and other exploited social groups in society.
Communist parties seek to establish their political leadership by winning support for their policies and by earning respect for their members by their commitment, organisation and activities in the struggles of the working people.
This in turn depends on our ability to work democratically side by side with others, arguing our position while respecting the views of others and, at each stage, helping to unify the politically progressive and socialist forces.

Vic Williams, an Australian worker, communist and poet, wrote:

Hold to your course, my Party, weapon of workers,
Give us your sight and your arms as we go to battle.
Their towers upon towers are falling, we build from
                   the rubble.
Can those who killed our millions be ever repentant?
Take guns from the hands of the killers, the spoils
                   from the robbers,
For the sacked, the evicted, the prisoned to make
                   world of the future.
Hold to your course, my Party, our world will prevail!

Communist parties are parties of struggle and activism and they are the driving force for change, in alliance with other social forces.
The great Bulgarian communist Georgi Dimitrov said:
We Communists are people of action. Ours is the problem of practical struggle against the offensive of capital, against fascism and the threat of imperialist war, the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism. It is precisely this practical task that obliges Communist cadres to equip themselves with revolutionary theory, for theory gives those engaged in practical work the power of orientation, clarity of vision, assurance in work, belief in the triumph of our cause.”

For all these reasons and more it is right and important that we are here tonight to celebrate the existence and the achievements of the Palestinian Peoples Party — for without a communist party it will not be possible to liberate the Palestinian people.
And the Palestinian people will be liberated.
The world Communist movement continues to grow and gain in influence. Today 40% of the world’s people live in countries where a Communist Party is in power or participates in the government
We salute the courageous past and express our confidence in the future work of the Palestinian Peoples Party.
Let me finish with the poem by the great Pablo Neruda about his party, about my Communist Party of Australia, about the Palestinian Peoples Party:

You have joined the strength of all the living.
You have given me the country again as in a birth
You have given me the freedom that the loner cannot
You taught me to kindle kindness, like fire.
You have given me the rectitude that the tree
You taught me to see the unity and the difference
                    among mankind.
You showed me how one being's pain has perished in
                     the  victory of all.
You taught me to sleep in beds hard as my brothers.
You made me build on reality as on a rock.
You made me adversary of the evil doer and wall of
                    the frantic.
You have made me see the world's clarity and the
                    possibility of happiness.
You have made me indestructible because with you
                    I do not end in myself

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Poem about Joe Hockey from 2006 during the workchoices debate

Joe Hockey shrugs his shoulders mostly

We went to Joe Hockey
Representing the down-trodden teachers
He was looking smug and well fed
And why not?  I am a father to be!
He giggled, laughed and shrugged his shoulders

Schools can’t run the way you mob plan it?
For heavens sake why not?
Competition’s the name of game
You teachers should compete more
Then you’d be better paid!

He giggled, laughed and shrugged his shoulders

I know where you’re coming from
And we aren’t from there
We’re from the land of individual competition.
We’re from the great liberal party.
We compete

He giggled laughed and shrugged

In fact I should be paid more than my colleagues
I work harder than they do.
Why can’t I get paid like they do in the private sector?
You mean like cleaners?
No the directors on millions!

He giggled laughed and shrugged

The church is not happy
I know
The Parish Priest has had a ‘go’ at me.

He giggled laughed and shrugged

I’ve seen fear in the eyes of the teachers
They know when I say ‘let go’
I mean sacked!
I’d like to do something about it
Take heart individual competition
And let the kids go to hell.

He giggled laughed and shrugged

You can sack us at the end of our term
We are really going through with this IR stuff
The population and the nation will thank us in the long run
We were voted in after Tampa because the world loved us and loves us still

He giggled, laughed and shrugged

I’m off to paternity leave for some time
That was won by unions!
Oh that is so 20th Century!
It is a new century now
And I’m off to enjoy it
So I bid you a cheery farewell

He said with a giggle laugh and shrug.

By Denis Doherty
August 29, 2005