Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Quote for the Day

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

- Forest E. Witcraft

Pics from the Past

The Martin Place clock face being removed.The whole tower was removed in 1942 for fear of bombing by the Japanese during WWll.

Australia’s first women Olympians, Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie, 1912.

Cumberland Place, The Rocks, Sydney in 1901.

Unemployed man squatting and cooking in the Domain during the Great Depression, Sydney NSW, ca. 1930s

Whaling Byron Bay 1954-1962

Whaling Byron Bay 1954-1962

Corner George and Bridge Streets,Sydney in 1895

Clare Dennis, gold medalist for Australia, 200m breast stroke in world record time, 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

Australian soldiers in Gallipoli 1915, indigenous Australian in centre.

Australian Lionel Logue, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech, shown here at age 26 was the speech therapist responsible for assisting overcome the stammering of King George VI. Pictured above with his future wife, 21-year-old Myrtle Gruenert.

Bold Street bridge collapse, Granville NSW January 18, 1977, caused by train derailment. This was the worst train disaster in Australian history, with 83 deaths and 201 injured.

Five Australian former POWs catch up on news, after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, Sep 1945.

Air raid shelter in Sydney’s Hyde Park during World War II

Australia's first surfer Isabel Letham, who in 1914 surfed at Freshwater Beach with Hawaiian legend, Duke Kahanamoku.

A by-way to Lower George Street, Sydney, 1906

Bus used to transport passengers from Central Station, Sydney, 1898.

The Colored Idea Band of Sonny Clay arrives in Sydney, 1928

Monday, July 6, 2015

Quote for the Day

"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."

- Michael Jordan

Monday Miscellany - Odds, Ends and Personals

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'If you undo the institution of marriage by redefining it for the latest movement or the latest fad, you will open the Pandora's box.”

- Liberal Senate leader Eric Abetz, 
commenting on gay marriage last week

Senator Abetz’s comment had me wondering about Pandora. We generally know that Pandora had something to do with gods and goddesses, that he opened a box and released the troubles of the world. I’m not sure that one can equate that to gay marriage.

In Greek mythology Pandora was the first human woman created by the gods, in some versions as punishment for Prometheus stealing fire and giving it to humans. She was given great beauty by the gods but was also seductive and evil. According to the myth, a curious Pandora opened a jar (in modern accounts mistranslated as "Pandora's box") releasing all the evils of humanity leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again. It is not sure whether Hope remaining in the jar was good (ie to counter the ills released) or bad (ie that Hope was denied humans).

The story of Pandora and the Biblical story of Eve have striking similarities, leading to conjecture as a to a common ancestry or influence. It has also been suggested that the telling of the tales may have deliberately may them closer in content and symbolism.

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Sent to me by Thomas:

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Not sent by Thomas:

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It's that time of the year again, watching the Tour de France every night for 3 weeks.  The second stage, from Utrecht to Zeland in Holland has just finished.

Utrecht was where my father was born, Zeland is what gave New Zealand its name.  Dutch cartographers named the country Nova Zeelandia in 1645, Captain Cook later anglicised it.

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Saw a story on weekend television about a young woman born without arms who has managed to achieve amazing feats despite her disability.  Her name is Jessica Cox and she is now 32.

Jessica stopped using prostehetic arms when she was 14.  She now drives a car, holds a pilot's licence, has two taekwondo black belts and plays the piano. Jessica also types 25 words per minute and is a licensed scuba diver.

She is also incredibly cheerful, optimistic and inspirational.

Her book - "Disarm Your Limits" - is out now.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Quote for the day

Some lesser known Oz political quotes . . .

Caution: risque language in some of the following items.

Byter Charles X mentioned, in an email, of a witty response in the House by Gough Whitlam when he was PM. That has inspired today’s post . . .

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“No, not at all, Joe is just a buffoon out of his depth”.

- Bob Carr, Premier of NSW, when asked whether he was offended by a derogatory remark about Sydney made by Joe Hockey, Federal Minister for Tourism, whilst in Tokyo.

Bob Carr

Joe Hockey

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Whilst Gough Witlam was PM, rural MP Sir Winton Turbull shouted at him 'I am a Country member'. 

Whitlam quickly responded with 'We remember', which earned applause from both sides of the House. 

Whitlam later elaborated: 'He could not understand why, for the first time in all the years he had been speaking in the House, there was instant and loud applause from both sides.” 

Gough Whitlam in later years

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“By way of personal instinct, I have an inherent distaste for grandiose rhetorical statements, which don’t have any substantive dimension to them.”

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister

Kevin Rudd

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“(Sydney Lord Mayor) Clover Moore couldn’t get a fuck on a troop ship coming home.”

- Paul Keating on leaving a planning meeting

Paul Keating

Clover Moore

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MP Nicola Roxon told the Liberal MP Peter Dutton, while proffering a box of unused Howard Government promotional golf balls, ”I can give you some balls if you want them”.

Nicola Roxon

Peter Dutton

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“If there was a university degree for greed, you cunts would all get first-class honours.”

- Paul Keating, then Treasurer, in 1985 after backbenchers had complained about having to substantiate, for tax purposes, their electoral allowances

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John Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia 1968-1971, was accused of having an affair with his personal assistant Ainsley Gotto. Gorton relied on Gotto for political advice. When Minister for the Air Dudley Erwin was omitted from the Ministry following a reshuffle in 1969, Erwin was asked the reason by media representatives. He famously replied “It wiggles, it's shapely and its name is Ainsley Gotto.”

On one occasion, an MP addressing the House in a speech critical of the Government asked why the Prime Minister was not present and where was he? “He’s gone to Mount Ainslie” interjected another MP, referring to a prominent landmark and tourist attraction in Canberra.

Ainsley Gotto and John Gorton

Mt Ainslie behind Old Parliament House

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"I ask you to carefully consider the record of my government and vote Labor.”

- Liberal Prime Minister William McMahon whilst campaigning in 1972. 

 William McMahon with wife Sonia

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Sir Henry Bolte, 38th and longest serving Premier of Victoria. Is also well remembered as the last Australian politician to approve capital punishment. Ronald Ryan had been sentenced to death by hanging for a prison break in which a guard had been killed. Bolte had the power to recommend clemency but declined to exercise it, arguing that the death penalty was a necessary deterrent for crime against government officials and law enforcement officers.

All calls for clemency, petitions and protests were to no avail and Ryan was hanged in 1967.

A journalist asked Bolte what he was doing at the moment that Ronald Ryan was hanged. “One of the three Ss, I suppose” he replied. When asked what he meant, he responded: “A shit, a shave or a shower.”

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“One of the benefits of global warming is there's not as many icebergs in the North Atlantic.”

- Clive Palmer, MP

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Quote for the day

“But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.”

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881) 

British Conservative politician and writer, who twice served as Prime Minister. He played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach. Disraeli is remembered for his influential voice in world affairs, his political battles with the Liberal leader William Ewart Gladstone, and his one-nation conservatism or "Tory democracy". He made the Conservatives the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire. He is, at 2015, the only British Prime Minister of Jewish birth. 

Bonus quote: 

In 1835 Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Roman Catholic leader, attacked Disraeli in the House of Commons. In the course of his unrestrained invective, he referred to Disraeli’s Jewish ancestry. 
Disraeli replied, ‘Yes, I am a Jew, and while the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.’”

Prisons, Per and Cigarettes

One of the main news stories a few days ago was the prison riot in Melbourne. Inmates at the Metropolitan Remand Centre rioted in response to the introduction of a ban on cigarettes and smoking in Victorian jails. The ban is to be introduced in New South Wales prisons in another month.

One of the reports on the Melbourne riot offered the statistic that 84% of inmates smoke. Importantly, cigarettes are also a form of currency within the prison system.

The relevance of this to today’s story is that I had an appointment with a client, Per (pronounced “Peer”) on the same morning as my having watched morning news broadcasts of the rioting. Per’s story also involves imprisonment and cigarettes.

I wish to make clear at the outset that I usually don’t disclose client’s information or use real names, but that Per has given his okay to my telling this story. There is also a reason why I am using his real first name, which will become apparent later.

I have acted for Per as his lawyer for many years. In that time he has also become a friend.

Per is Danish, a larrikin who commonly greets people with the Danish “hej”, pronounced “hi”, and says goodbye with “hej hej”. He has a charming Danish accent.

Back in 1991 Per made a trip overseas. Whilst in Moscow, he picked up some Soviet medals at the local markets and, thinking that he would sell them in Sydney for a significant profit, he put them at the bottom of his pack when he left. Unfortunately he was searched and the medals were found. Big mistake. It turned out that the medals were classed as “State Treasures”, attempting to smuggle State Treasures out of Russia carried significant penalties.

Per was placed in detention, not in one of the mainstream prisons but in one of three former Moscow political prisons, Lubyanka.

Lubyanka Prison

The political prisons were much more cramped, archaic and inhospitable than the mainstream jails. Lubyanka had been both a political prison and the headquarters of the former KGB. It is estimated by some that up to 40,000 political prisoners “disappeared” whist imprisoned at Lubyanka.

Per shared a 2 metres x 4 metres (6.6 feet x 13 feet) cell with 3 other inmates.

I received letters from him occasionally over the 9 months that he was imprisoned, without trial. He seemed to accept his conditions stoically and did not complain. In one letter he apologised for the quality of his handwriting, saying that it was winter in Moscow, the cell was not heated and he was writing with strips of cloth wrapped around his hands.  He also said that the cold was numbing and that his hands felt frozen.

Eventually he was released without ever going to trial. He arrived back in Sydney and it took some time for his physical and mental wellbeing to be restored.

When Per came to see me last week he brought with him a Marlboro cigarette pack. He explained that he had come across it whilst going through some old belongings and though it might be of interest for me to see it. 

The cigarette contained a deck of playing cards made out of the back of cigarette packets, the numbers and symbols having been added by hand

The pack of cards had been made by Per whilst he was imprisoned in Lubyanka. He told me that prisoners were only allowed chess games, no cards, and that they were allowed to smoke. 

I mentioned that there was a reason I was using Per’s real name. If you look at the joker, above, you will see that incorporated in the word “Joker” is the name “Per”.

It’s an interesting comparison with the Melbourne riot circumstances, those prisoners being allowed to have cards but no cigarettes.

Per made the card deck so as to be able to pass the time with the other prisoners.  It was a valuable item, so that whenever he had to go anywhere he took his cigarette pack with the cards with him.

One final comment: Per discovered, on returning to Sydney, that the same medals that he had sought to smuggle out of Russia were freely available for purchase in Sydney military memorabilia and medal shops.

Hej hej, Per.