Category Archives: Biographical

On whatever

Arise Sir Tony! We’re not sure why.


At the risk of beating the same old drum, this current Government seems to be heading steadily down the ethical and moral drain, ever since the unexpected election win. So much of the country’s malaise, however, can be traced back to the ascension of one Tony Abbott, firstly as Opposition Leader, and then, unbelievably, as Prime Minister.

As Opposition Leader

He was a surprise, because no-one believed he would ever be elected to lead anything. He was almost universally derided for his open and unashamedly pugnacious Catholicism, and his awkwardness with language, and his seeming inability to move into the 21st century. He was the polar opposite of progressive, and seen as something of a likeable dinosaur.

He had an unexpected skill, however. This special skill lay in his ability to focus on a single, simplistic theme, and then to carry the fight on, daily, against both his own moderate fellow-Liberals, but also against Julia Gillard, until the death. This ‘theme’ was the carbon price, still the best and only successful mechanism so far tried in Australia, to combat climate change. So it became his mania, and we still suffer from his short-term-ism, his willingness to throw Australia under a bus, in pursuit of his own political advancement.

He came to embody opposition; he lived the dictum of the (British) Whig Mr Tierney, “the duty of an Opposition was very simple—it was to oppose everything and propose nothing.”

He was in the right place at the right time – Kevin Rudd and Abbott, between them, destroyed Gillard’s Government, and allowed the election of Abbott, as Prime Minister.

As Prime Minister

Tony Abbott set about dismantling Australia’s pact with its citizens, from day 1. Perhaps his most unpopular act was to break an election promise NOT to cut the funding to the ABC. Of course he did, because he had warned us, back in his Opposition Leader days, that he was somewhat flexible with the truth.

Now if there is one thing Australians hold dear – it is the ABC. If you want a simple test as to whether someone despises the people of Australia, see who wants to dismantle, or hobble, or sell, or just remove funding from, the ABC. Read more about their really reprehensible moral vacuity here https://askbucko.com/2020/04/29/the-abc-is-the-latest-target/

The reason is that we all value information, and we expect it to be delivered without bias, and we don’t want Rupert Murdoch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch or Kerry Stokes to have had a say in what form, or how, it is delivered.

It is profoundly undemocratic to stifle the voice of the public broadcaster, and cutting its funding is just another way to bell the cat, to keep us all in ignorance. And it removes oversight; it allows the political class to escape scrutiny. Which in this country these days can mean all sorts of chicanery.

The list of assassins is long, and it includes people like Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi, Simon Birmingham, Matt Canavan, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Mitch Fifield, Bridget McKenzie, James Patterson and Anne Ruston, to name a few.

Oddly, the names are eerily similar to the list of middle aged people, who are very angry with Greta Thunberg, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg because she dares to have an opinion, and because she is a leader. And she is 17 years old.

Many of these ‘young fogies’ believe that schools are for learning only, and not about thinking. They also disapprove of same-sex marriage. One can only wonder at the double standards shown by the Nationals on the list, because they know full well how much regional Australians value their ABC.

As a backbencher

Of course we all rued the days of Abbott, and we were all desperate to escape him; we were all hugely relieved when someone apparently adult took over. But he never could, really. Abbott held Turnbull as a virtual prisoner, and he led his posse of wreckers on a kamikaze mission to destroy Turnbull, all the while trying to dismantle the renewable energy industry, and to hamstring Australia’s efforts to deal with climate change.

This was not necessarily because he did not believe, (although it is still impossible to know where he stands on the issue), but purely for reasons of personal vindication, and simple revenge. So much for service to the community.

His successor fought the good fight, for as long as he could, but a combination of his own political ineptitude, and his opponents’ bloody-mindedness, finally did him in. It appeared to be a coup, by Abbott’s supporters, at the expense of the Australian people. How depressing to discover that we had a choice between the devil, and the deep blue sea: Peter Dutton, or Scott Morrison.

Abbott had the gall to then state that he was finally satisfied, because Turnbull was no longer PM. He behaved as if removing Turnbull was a noteworthy achievement. Remember that Abbott had promised, “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.”

If there is an individual who bears responsibility for Australia’s recent ‘fall from grace’, it is Abbott. He is shameless, a self-confessed liar and a man who seems to have jumped on the gravy train early, and who continues to ride it. He lacks the personal insight to reflect on his legacy, which is threadbare at best. Many struggle to find a single achievement to honour him for.

He was removed from his leadership role, and coincidentally the Prime Ministership in 2015, and then he got the ‘bum’s rush’ from his own electorate in 2018. He did manage to get back onto the public payroll in October 2019, when he was appointed to the council of the Australian War Memorial.

Post politics

In an attempt to retain some sort of relevance he has continued to travel the world, making speeches to anyone who will listen. Recently he has excelled, giving support to reactionary and oafish world leaders, including Boris Johnson and Viktor Orbán of Hungary, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/13/tony-abbott-doubles-down-on-praise-for-hungarys-far-right-pm-viktor-orban.

He also believes that the world is in the grip of a climate cult https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-wildfires-bushfires-latest-tony-abbott-climate-change-scott-morrison-a9268801.html.

He has stated that he remains ready to serve. Today Tony Abbott was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. Some may remember the public outrage when he awarded a knighthood to Prince Philip on Australia Day in 2015. What irony that he is awarded a gong, on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, five years later. Could it be a ‘quid pro quo’?

This article has been updated to include changes, including the awarding of the AC to Tony Abbott in the Queens Birthday 2020 Honours List

Rita Hayworth via Graham Greene


Do not cull your books – you will regret it

I started to cull my books recently. As old age approaches I routinely decide that I need to gain more space, and to really get rid of what I will never get around to reading, sort of like “use it, or lose it”. I noticed once, in a list of ‘best-ever books’, Stendahl’s Scarlet and Black. Some time later I spied a copy in an op-shop for $2, and promptly bought it. It has been gathering dust ever since. No disrespect to M. Stendahl, but I will never read it. Not even if he could arrange for someone, maybe his great grandson, to pay me.

There are other books, and authors, with whom I have a warmer relationship. The finds can be illuminating, and as often as not the books you find can be a trap, because once you start to pull them out of their hiding places, you are apt to find old friends, and enemies, and then your state of mind is thrown into turmoil. Forgive the over-wrought writing, but we are discussing literature, we hope, and it probably sends your pulse racing. N’est ce pas?

How does Graham Greene connect with Rita Hayworth?

One such book pulled from a dark corner was ‘Travels with My Aunt”, by Graham Greene. Greene died in 1991, and his reputation has not faded, as much as receded into the background, with qualifications. Easily pigeon-holed as a ‘Catholic writer’ he is so much more. Anyway, I happened on this book again, and found myself drawn down an interesting rabbit hole. Bear with me as I re-trace my steps.

Reading about his fictional aunt reminded me of what might be called a meme now, maybe a theme then; that of the rogue maiden aunt, who is wild and free, against all expectations, and unashamedly so! We have one in our family, but that is another story!

The name Auntie Mame sprang to mind, and having a minute on my hands, I googled the term. Were the fictional aunts connected, had Greene lifted the character, was his tale an original book, or was it all based on a movie, written by someone else?

Discovering Rita Hayworth – You will love her

The first entry for Auntie Mame was a YouTube film clip. It was of Rita Hayworth dancing, and her dancing was, to my untrained mind, spectacular. But even more spectacular was the fact that Rita Hayworth could actually dance, at all. I’d heard of her, but she was of the distant past. Some had described her as the most beautiful of the Hollywood female stars, but I expected that the funny hair-do, and the wooden speech, would lose me.

That video was of her dancing with Fred Astaire. We’ve all heard of him, but he is very definitely last century. You know, the 1950’s called, and they want their tap shoes back. The song is called “The Shorty George”, and I defy anyone with a pulse not to be gobsmacked by their virtuosity, and the swinging charm, and sheer joy, of it all. See it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUhhKELUxB0 You don’t see dancing like that, anywhere, anytime. She is one of six dancers to have danced with Fred Astaire, and also Gene Kelly. Gene Kelly was known as the most athletic of the male dancers in movies, but Rita Hayworth matches him, every step of the way. Watch this and breathe in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz3CPzdCDws If I sound awed, I am.

By now I was wasting lots of time, so I decided to waste some more. I looked Rita Hayworth up in Wikipedia. Her biography is relatively straightforward, but with profound and disturbing facts, which are treated as incidental, and almost glossed over.

From a very early age she was sexually abused by her father, and the abuse appears to have continued until at least early adulthood. She seems to have, in some ways at least, overcome this horrendous start, however, and managed to build a very successful career, over a long time. She was the most successful female actor of her generation.

She was however, then married to a succession of exploitative men, some of whom were introduced to her by her father, and she never found happiness with any of them. She was battling dangerous demons, however, and the Wikipedia entry tells a tale of monumental rages, escalating alcohol abuse, and mental deterioration. It is almost a relief when Alzheimer’s Disease makes an appearance, because she shows a steady decline in her physical and mental health. In this way the movie industry can move on. She has a disease, and that explains her demise. No problem.

There is no speculation about the effects on her, and her mental health, from her early, and sustained abuse. It is quite shocking to read, because it assumes a level of acceptance, of another one of life’s hurdles, with no sensibility of, and no admiration for, her resilience. And of course, her father is not mentioned again; he was not sent to jail, he seems to have sailed on into obscurity, and her life was shortened, so that she died at age 68. Her daughter looked after her until her premature death. Thank God for small mercies.

Of course she has been dead for thirty years now, but it seems that history has treated her roughly, and without due care and consideration. Her tale, to me, smacks of courage, character and indomitable will. Who knew her story in full? Her videos still deliver much, of vitality, of an inner beauty, and of joy. Fred Astaire always said she was his favourite dance partner. Watch her here, again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz3CPzdCDws

Travels with My Aunt is a great book. I must review it sometime.

Ask Santo Santoro – he can arrange it


It is often great to catch up with folk we have forgotten about. One such individual is Santo Santoro, a man with an interesting background, and clearly a big future.

Like many of our candidates for the “He’ll Never be Prime Minister Award” Santoro was never elected to his position in the Senate. That is correct – he was appointed by the Queensland Government, to replace a retiring senator, without receiving a single vote to become a Senator.

To be entirely truthful he was not overly stellar in his performance, although he did accuse the ABC of being “disloyal” to Australian soldiers serving in Iraq, because the staff were advised to not refer to them as “our troops”. Presumably this was in response to many in the Australian electorate (with whom Senator Santoro had had limited prior contact, due to his not having been actually elected) who considered the war in Iraq to be wrong, and not “our war”.

Be that as it may, he then had a slight stumble over some shares, and was found to be in breach of the Senate’s rules concerning declaring his interests. He resigned from the Senate. Apart from the fact that he was confused about the difference between a charity and a political lobby group, he left with apparently no stain on his character, as he next became a Liberal Party Vice-President.

He then became a full-time lobbyist, or as he seems to suggest in his marketing materials, he provides “introductory services” to politicians. He has apparently got Peter Dutton on speed-dial, and he will arrange a meeting with the Minister, for a figure of $20,000. Does this make him a sort of ‘matchmaker’? For a fee?

This is a disgraceful situation for our democracy. The Minister asserts that he gained nothing from his meeting with Huang Xiangmo, a man who is barred from visiting Australia, because he is suspected of being a Chinese agent. And yet a Minister of the Crown is spoken of as someone who can be somehow wrangled into a meeting, just by the lobbyist picking up the phone. This lobbyist is obviously a man with considerable pull to achieve such a meeting.

If nothing else, Peter Dutton has brought the Ministry into disrepute, again. Remember when Andrew Burnes from Helloworld stated that Joe Hockey ‘owed’ him? This seems to be eerily similar, in that past or present Ministers of the current Liberal Government, appear powerless to resist the blandishments of those who call upon them for favours. No wonder even Malcolm Turnbull is appalled! Never a better time for a federal ICAC.