Passing Bull 336 –The emptiness of Trumpism

Thank God, we have more or less ducked having God in our politics here.   

Governor DeSantis really worries Trump – who is already threatening blackmail in response.  DeSantis flaunts God as much as the flag.  It is nauseating, and would be political death anywhere else.  But it is the kind of God-given pap that sells in the US.   And leaves them with third world political status in their own sink of credulity.

Frank Bruni in the Times says DeSantis peddles ‘cultural pugilism and relative economic moderation’.

1.  How do you translate that – whatever it may mean – into law – apart from by dismantling health care or defence?  Put shortly, there is no platform, but God and the flag.  And even the most stupid MAGA man knows that God is not in Trump.

2.  Specifically, how do you pose as the ‘freedom’ party when its members pay political allegiance to an omnipotent God and earthly leader who demands more loyalty than Putin or Xi?  How do you pose as being for ‘freedom’ if God does not allow half the human race freedom with their own bodies?  Although there is no record of God ever saying anything about the relevant laws?

There is a more fundamental point.

Shortly before polling stations closed on Tuesday Trump said: ‘Well, I think if they [Republicans] win, I should get all the credit.  If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.’  The triumph of egoism and nihilism.  Verging on madness.

People talk of Trumpism without Trump.  There is no such thing.  Trump stands only for himself.  His ego is too big and his mind is too small – see above – to allow for any one or any thing else.  Is there one person left in the world who looks to be even close to Trump?

Perhaps Americans are grasping that there is nothing – rien –at all in Trump.  The old saying was that the emperor has no clothes.

If so, the nightmare of the world may be coming to an end.  The threat of loss of office and power concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Politics – Trump – Republicans -democracy

Passing Bull 335 –Annual Award for Bullshit

You might think it is too early for Christmas shopping and annual awards, but a recent little gem and a Vesuvial explosion have changed the whole game.  When some lions escaped from a zoo, management said that ‘there had been an integrity issue with the containment fence.’ 

As they say in Rear Window, outstanding!

Then there was this from a speakers’ agent.

Scott Morrison is the true definition of a leader with a 360-degree worldview.  During his tenure, Morrison was tasked with several difficulties that required unique and innovative solutions.  From managing the public safety of the Australians during the pandemic to mitigating an economic crisis, controlling natural disasters, and leading the country while others were at war, Prime Minister Morrison led Australia with his particular brand of calm decisiveness and rationale.  A virtuous [yes, virtuous] globalization mastermind, Morrison lends his boundless influence and experience to audiences around the world.

Rarely in the realm of human history, has so much damage been done in so few words, to both language and logic.  It is a veritable miracle.

Now, here is no Prometheus to steal fire from heaven.  But that the audience gets the Almighty as a free extra is implicit from the express stipulation that the ensainted orator is up for ‘controlling natural disasters.’

So – ring out the tocsin!  Let all the bells peel!  And let the bonfires be released!  The year 2022 will go down as that in which the people of Australia grasped the sheer enormity of the bullet they had just ducked.

Morrison – delusions – false grandeur.

Sponsors in sport

Some players in cricket and netball have objected to wearing some advertising – and that is what it is – on their playing kit.  They do so because they object to the product of the sponsor.  This has led to some discussion.

Why should not a responsible person object to selling a harmful product? 

The problem, then, is the old one.  Where do you draw the line? 

Betting on sport is designed by nasty people to appeal to foolish people.  So that the nasty people profit from the fools.  As a result – and a result that is both predictable and direct – people get hurt; people get broken; and people are killed. 

Gaming is an insidious national cancer, and our failure to treat it is a disgrace to us all.

What decent person would not object to assisting nasty people to achieve those results? 

I know of no answer to that question that supports the current practice.  It is in my view shameful that sporting clubs assist betting on sport when that practice has the ill effects I have referred to.  It also leads inevitably to the risk of corrupting the sport. 

It is equally disgraceful that government continues to receive so much revenue from so vile a source.  Our governments have been bought off from doing the right thing.  This is the very dark side of capitalism.

But for me, our discussion about the reactions of the players overlooks a prior issue when we are talking about players wearing national colours – in, say, cricket, rugby or rugby league. 

Putting on the green and gold for our country is one of the few times we can decently refer to pride in our country.  We have a proper aversion to the word ‘patriot’ here – just look at the damage it does in America – but being part of an international sporting contest gives us a decent licence to feel it.  (Even the Germans are prepared to bring out their flag for the footy.)

It is just so vulgar – so depressingly common – to ask those who wear our colours – my colours –also to wear an ad for a sponsor.  Because those entrusted with handing out the jersey want the sponsor’s money.  Isn’t that just bloody grubby and unworthy of you and me?  Irrespective of what the sponsor sells or even stands for.  Those entrusted with running the sport – and it is a form of trust – are putting my colours up for sale.  We don’t do it for our judges, priests, or soldiers, and we shouldn’t do it to our cricketers and footballers.

Now, I am not saying that Pat Cummins and my team are being asked to turn out like sluts in white boots in the Bois de Boulogne.  But I am saying that people wearing the green and gold are asked to demean themselves and me by acting as salesmen while they are representing me. 

How can we tolerate any of this stuff?

My NRL team – Melbourne Storm – customarily wears the Crown logo.  That troubles me and it annoys me, and it is the subject of barbed comments by my friends.  But I am free to react accordingly – by, for example, going elsewhere to give my support. 

But I cannot and I will not do that for my nation’s teams – such as those led by Donald Bradman, John Eales, or Mal Meninga.  And it is not just the boys and girls of Australia who look up to these people.  They, and what they stand for, are part of the very fibre of this nation.  (And while I am about it, the Kangaroos’ jumper is the stand-out.  That’s what I call a bloody footy jumper.)

Let me give one example.  There was a time when you might have said that there could be no harm in the Wallabies’ wearing a red kangaroo on their jumper in support of the national airline.  But this listed company is now widely seen by the people of Australia to be as repellent as its preposterously overpaid boss. 

Who would want to be seen standing up for Telstra?  Or NAB?  Or the Australian Christian Lobby?  Or Foxtel?  What if some lunatic in government thought it would be a good idea to send the Wallabies out to endorse Centrelink – a name that fills most Australians with fear and loathing?

So, let us urge what used to be called the Panama Hat Brigade – the mob who put down Dawn Fraser and Cathy Freeman and who put up Kevan Gosper – to clean up their act and stop trashing our colours.

And the same goes for other big events in our national life.  It is a matter of taste or judgment whether you regard the Lexus Melbourne Cup as being as silly or offensive as the Fosters Melbourne Cup.  Then there was the time when the ownership of a national totem was shared with a foreign airline based in a nation that is mired in corruption and which treats half its people as doormats and all gay people with contempt.  How is that sporting bodies and players can wave through an outfit as repellent as that, but put up a red light to a smaller mob from Hong Kong whose sin is to dabble unfashionably in coal?

All that sponging is surely equally degrading – both to me and to the city that is the sports capital of the world.  It is time to cut it out.

Sponsorship in sport – gaming in sport – corruption – hypocrisy – misgovernment.

Freedom of religion – caste?

Ancient Law was written by Sir Henry Maine and published in 1861.  For a variety of reasons, all of which are depressing, you will not see such scholarship or juristic writing again. 

The book is famous for the reference to the movement from status to contract.  The whole book has profoundly affected my thinking about the law, and I keep going back to it. 

As I did this morning when reflecting on the appointment of a Hindu as Prime Minister of England.

I wondered what might be his attitude to caste.  That is I believe a tenet or practice of the Hindu religion.  It is in my view evil.  It represents the reverse of the maxim referred to above, and it is utterly unacceptable in this country – which is committed to equality – at least of opportunity. 

I recalled that Maine had something lapidary to say about caste.  I set it out below.  You will see another reason why we will not see this kind of writing now.  (I apologise for the glitches in transition.  I am an ageing two-fingered typist.)

The question then arises.  Do those agitating for a Bill of Rights to protect freedom of religion say that Hindus should be free to practise and propagate their creed on caste?

Among the chief advantages which the Twelve Tables and similar codes conferred on the societies which obtained them, was the protection which they afforded against the frauds of the privileged oligarchy and also against the spontaneous depravation and debasement of the national institutions.  The Roman Code was merely an enunciation in words of the existing customs of the Roman people.  Relatively to the progress of the Romans in civilisation, it was a remarkably early code, and it was published at a time when Roman society had barely emerged from that intellectual condition in which civil obligation and religious duty are inevitably confounded.

Now a barbarous society practising a body of customs, is exposed to some especial dangers which may be absolutely fatal to its progress in civilisation.  The usages which a particular community is found to have adopted in its infancy and in its primitive seats are generally those which are on the whole best suited to promote its physical and moral well-being; and, if they are retained in their integrity until new social wants have taught new practices, the upward march of society is almost certain.  But unhappily there is a law of development which ever threatens to operate upon unwritten usage.  The customs are of course obeyed by multitudes who are incapable of understanding the true ground of

their expediency, and who are therefore left inevitably to invent superstitious reasons for their permanence.  

A process then commences which may be shortly described by saying that usage which is reasonable generates usage which is unreasonable. Analogy,

the most valuable of instruments in the maturity of jurisprudence, is the most dangerous of snares in its infancy. Prohibitions and ordinances, originally confined, for good reasons, to a single description of acts, are made to apply to all acts of the same class, because a man menaced with the anger of the gods for doing one thing, feels a natural terror in doing any other thing which is remotely like it. After one kind of food has been interdicted for sanitary reasons, the prohibition is extended to all food resembling it, though the resemblance occasionally depends on analogies the most fanciful.

So, again, a wise provision for insuring general cleanliness dictates in time long routines of ceremonial ablution; and that division into classes which at a particular crisis of social history is necessary for the maintenance of the national existence

degenerates into the most disastrous and blighting of all human institutions Caste.  

The fate of the Hindu law is, in fact, the measure of the value of the Roman code.  

Ethnology shows us that the Romans and the Hindus sprang from the same original stock and there is indeed a striking resemblance between what appear to have been their original customs.  Even now, Hindu jurisprudence has a substratum of forethought and sound judgment, but irrational

imitation has engrafted in it an immense apparatus of cruel absurdities.  

From these corruptions the Romans were protected by their code.  It was compiled while the usage was still wholesome, and a hundred years afterwards it might have been too late.   The Hindu

law has been to a great extent embodied in writing, but, ancient as in one sense are the compendia which still exist in Sanskrit, they contain ample evidence that they were drawn up after the mischief

had been done.   We are not of course entitled to say that if the Twelve Tables had not been published the Romans would have been condemned to a civilisation as feeble and perverted as that of the

Hindus, but thus much at least is certain, that with their code they were exempt from the very chance of so unhappy a destiny.

Freedom of religion – Sir Henry Maine – Hindus – caste.

Passing Bull 334 –The wisdom of George

Some politicians and members of the press live by labels.  Some who call themselves ‘conservatives’ loathe those whom they label as ‘progressives.’  Each term is as dubious as the other.  Each is in truth bullshit.

The Liberal Party has trouble – as much trouble as the Labor Party – in saying what it is about.  There tend to be at least two views – one the old type of ‘conservative’; the other, the old type of ‘liberal.’  Each of those terms is now useless – bullshit, in truth. 

That does not stop either side citing Robert Menzies in support.

Take George Brandis.  He wants some people to leave Menzies alone.  He refers without naming them to the Sky After Dark crowd who recently saluted Nigel Farage.  Brandis says that Menzies was influenced by both Gladstone and Deakin – ‘anti-socialist progressives.’

…. he very deliberately avoided naming [the Liberal Party] the ‘Conservative Party’….  ‘We took the name ‘Liberal’ because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary, but believing in the individual, his rights and his enterprise, and rejecting the Socialist panacea.

Of course, there was much that was conservative about Menzies.  This was most obvious in his traditionalism, in particular his sentimental devotion to British institutions.

Are you clear about all that?  True ‘Liberals’ are not ‘conservatives,’ but ‘progressives’.  But they are against Socialism.

When did you last run into a Socialist?  Someone who believes in Medicare, or relief from rising power prices, or disaster relief for fires, floods, and epidemics – that blow the deficit to Kingdom Come?

Each of the labels ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’, and ‘socialist’ is now useless at best and positively dangerous at worst.

The bullshit is and has been for a long time obvious.  And it obscures one sad issue for our two-party system.  Name one policy statement of the Liberal Party or the Labor Party that is flatly contradicted by the other.

Liberal – conservative – progressive – socialist

Religious freedom

The nonsense about ‘religious freedom’ just keeps going – even after the blessed exit of the man from Hillsong. 

As Kant said, no one can stop you praying to God.  But if God, or Allah, calls on you to follow Him in dealing with other people, you may have to confront Caesar.  And if God puts you in conflict with Caesar, our community says that Caesar must prevail.

We would not I think be having this discussion if people of some faiths did not wish to treat differently people of different sex or sexuality – women and gay people.  And those people wish to be able to do that in a way that discriminates against people.  But Caesar has banned that discrimination.  This claim for ‘religious freedom’ is therefore a claim for a kind of privilege – a dispensation from the general law on the ground of religious belief, and nothing else.

I regard this as offensive as it is silly.

We are not talking about beliefs, but conduct – when people of faith seek to give effect to their beliefs in ways that affect other people.  And where they then harm others.  In our polity, my freedom ends when my exercise of it might hurt you.  And there is no doubt that what some people want to do to people of a different faith or sexuality hurts those people.

So, the law cannot control what I believe, but it must control what I do.  And I cannot be heard to say that Caesar should license me to discriminate against some people just because God says that I can or must do so.  Some may cite scripture to support that case.  I would not.

On that ground, I would oppose altering our laws to accommodate people of faith.

There is another ground.  Good friends of mine are Anglican or Catholic – and real ones: they are in communion with their church.  We may waffle on about the differences between them, but my own position is simple.  People of faith believe that all faiths have no sufficient basis except one – theirs.  I have no exception.  I think they are all up the creek.  But, viewed from the eye of eternity, or God, every faith is a minority in the world at large.  It just depends which side of the street, or border, you are born on.

The reason for these insoluble differences of religion is clear.  We are talking of issues of faith, not logic.  No one can ‘prove’ their case in this arena – although a lot of otherwise very bright people thought they had.  Faith is beyond logic. 

When people speak of the word of God, they refer to what someone else said God has said, as interpreted by God knows how many wise men through the ages.  It is, if you like, a combination of hearsay and opinion evidence.  But it is a matter of religious belief that is wholly fallible.  By definition, that must be the case with issues of faith.  You may get a rock to build a church on, but not a case to change our laws in ways that may hurt others.  No faith can be universal – or applied universally.

On that ground also, I would reject any change of our laws to accommodate some people of faith.  If you believe that humanity is moving upwards, it must in some part because we are continuing to cut down our reliance on the supernatural.  Australia is not a religious nation, and we should not be changing our laws to suit those who wish we were.

There is one other issue.  Some people of faith are agitating these issues in ways that are in my view not just groundless, but actually harmful to others.  It is an irony that people claim to be victims of discrimination as a minority – because they wish to discriminate against another minority.  When, across the world, any faith must be a minority.

The Australian Christian Lobby, a frightful contradiction in terms, looks the worst.  They want to sponsor arguments that will cause division in the community and pain to many in it.  That they do so purportedly in the name of a man loved and revered through history makes it so much harder to bear. 

But their conduct shows the need for our lawmakers to look closely at any grounds in our laws, relating to charities, corporations or tax, that gives them or anyone like them any relief from or protection against our general laws.  It is wrong that the community as a whole should be giving aid to those working against others in that community.

I will instruct my parliamentary members accordingly.  Who knows?  This may be the moment for those phantoms – the silent majority or quiet Australians.  The noise from a zealous minority has served to drown out sense and fairness for far too long.

Politics- ACL – God – faith – logic.

MY SECOND TOP SHELF – 42

MINI & MINI COOPER

Colour Family Album

Andrea and David Sparrow

Veloce Publishing PLC, 1997; bound with illustrated cloth boards and colour photos; rebound with one quarter leather, and slip case.

My first Mini will almost certainly be my last car.  What a way to go out!  Mine is almost identical to the Mini Cooper shown on the front and rear covers of this book – red with white stripes, roof, and mirror caps.  The cover also features a Britannica, with the Union Jack on the shield.  She has the kind of look on her face that people get walking to the dentist’s chair.  This may because she has been asked to pose with the helmet, spear and shield – and designer sun-glasses.  Well you also get a badge for the Rallye Monte-Carlo.  Could this vehicle come within the purview of that frightful word ‘iconic’?

I don’t know, but since I got mine, I can see why some people call it the poor man’s Ferrari.  It may only cost about one twentieth of a Ferrari, but you get personality and style – and raw driving pleasure.  I am far too old to claim the benefit of a mid-life crisis, but I am happy to admit to wallowing in one last fling.  I have not driven a Ferrari – and will sadly shuffle off this mortal coil marked by that virginity – but I suspect that those who do have a Ferrari know what it is like not just to provoke being looked at – but to invite and to get raw smiles.  You may be surprised how often people come up to you after you have parked your Mini and say – ‘I like your car, Mate,’ or ‘My Dad had one of those and can’t stop talking about it’, or ‘My young daughter has her heart set on a Mini’.  Even an eight year old girl outside my General Store said ‘Gee, I love that Mini Cooper.’  The man who I guess was her dad had probably put her up to it, but it was not a bad start to that day.  Why shouldn’t a charming car be the engine of goodwill among people?

The Mini was born in England in 1959.  It was then associated with two great names in British motoring – Austin and Morris – and it was owned by the British Motor Corporation.  In 1969 it came out in its own name.  For many reasons, not least its role in some movies, such as The Italian Job, it achieved something like a cult status that is still recalled by people of my age – and many a lot younger. 

Ownership of the marque moved from British Leyland to Rover to BMW.  As owners of Bentleys will tell you, there is a lot to be said for a car that has a German engine and English coachwork.  People who turn their noses up at the English component forget the long proud history of that nation in making motor cars.  They still make most of the cars that surround the engines of most F1 cars.  Motor racing does appeal to a very different demographic (social class, Old Boy) in England and Germany than in Australia.  You might be surprised where you will run into the most polite kind of petrol head.  You might even find some in our most discrete gentlemen’s clubs.

Most Minis now take part of their name from John Cooper.  He was a most extraordinary engineer, even by the high standards of those involved in British motor car engineering.  It was he who changed the face of motor sport at its fastest and highest levels by putting the engine behind the driver in Formula I and the Indianapolis 500.  ‘We certainly had no feeling that we were creating some scientific breakthrough!…We put the engine at the rear…because it was the practical thing to do’.  That is a definitively English remark. 

Cooper effected a similar revolution in ordinary motor car racing with the distinctive handling of the Mini.  Younger people may not be aware of the impact of this kind of car on that kind of racing.  It won rallies all round the world.  It even won at Bathurst, and it won the Dakar, perhaps the toughest competitive event in sport, for four years straight from 2012 to 2015.  Whichever way you look at it, the pedigree of the Mini Cooper is assured.  

This book speaks to most of all that, but I have the book for the pictures – including the mini-skirt – and a slice of English social history.  The Introduction reads:

Surely anyone in Britain who remembers the sixties will have fond memories of the Mini.  At some point in the sixties or seventies, you either owned one or learned to drive in one, dated someone with one, or sadly could not afford one.  If you were to be transported back to those heady days, of course, you could discover that the ride was not very comfortable, and that older models came with ‘free indoor rain’; that wasn’t the point.  In the sixties the Mini was not just a car, but part of a whole new way of life.  Post-war austerities had given way to new freedoms – of movement, of expression, and of views.  This was the car being seen increasingly on the streets, the car that was winning the Monte Carlo Rally, the car that everyone wanted.  The production life of the Mini has spanned three distinct eras [1997- pre BMW] – BMC, Leyland and Rover.  And woven into the first and last of these eras is the amazing Cooper success story.  Clearly the Mini has earned the accolade of a true classic.

Well, some of those older Ferraris were doubtless not that easy to handle, and the Mini Cooper you get now has none of characteristic problems of cars made half a century ago.  Rather the marriage of German and English history and engineering delivers an appealing hat trick – style (or charm), heft, and reliability; you may as well add economy; and history. 

If I have a philosophy, this car fits two of its premises very well.  The first is that I believe that God laid out a very handsome table for us all, and that courtesy requires that I should do all I can to enjoy what is on offer.  The second is that if you have worked hard and been paid for it, you should not hesitate to reward yourself.  In my view money is only of any use when you part with it to get back something that means more to you – either something that you need or that just gives raw pleasure.  There has to be more to life than work and money.  Or, as the German historian Theodor Mommsen said:

When a man no longer finds enjoyment in work, and works merely in order to attain enjoyment as quickly as possible, it is a mere accident that he does not become a criminal.

You can drive my Mini Cooper either in automatic or manually.  I took mine to the Grampians to test out the gearing on the sandy roads out the back – the terrain is typical of WRC rally tracks.  The locals told me it was too wet.  So, I went to the top of the biggest mountain on bitumen, and then, at the second attempt, came down without touching the brakes once.  When I got back home, I reported on this to two very distinguished and proper ladies of letters.  One of them replied:

Whee! My greatest car thrill was driving down the Stelvio – 27 hairpin bends, I think – into Italy. Took it as fast as I could. Loved it.

‘Whee!’, indeed.  There should be a lot more of it.  We could all be bloody dead tomorrow.

Passing Bull 333 –Evading the question

We are used to politicians refusing to answer questions – either directly or at all.  It is very bad for their reputation.  I dealt with it in part in my book What’s Wrong?  See below.

It often occurs to me that television interviewers – such as Kay Burley on Sky News (UK) – should have the benefit of a rule to the effect of our rules of Supreme Court pleading.  If one party does not deal specifically with an allegation of another party, that allegation will be taken to have been admitted – a mere general denial is not sufficient. 

So, if a Tory MP refuses to deal with a specific question, and just rolls out the party line on the issue currently fixating the English, Kay Burley can say that they may be taken to have admitted the answer to the question in a manner adversely to them – as the price of their repeated failure to deal with it.  On behalf of her viewers, she rejects an implicit claim to a right of silence.

And, to her credit, that is I think just what Kay Burley does.

There should be more of it.

Evading the question: Extracts from What’s Wrong?

Here are some of the most popular techniques.

  • Restate or reframe the question so that you can answer it in a way that is favourable to yourself. Mediators are trained to do this in a good way to try to take some heat out of the dispute. It is notorious that opinion polls can be slanted by the way the question is framed. ‘Do you think it is in the public interest for the media to have more protection – more freedom of speech, if you like – in reporting on political issues?’ That is very different to: ‘Should we give Rupert Murdoch carte blanche to walk all over us in political cat fights?’ Instead of saying what your party has done, say what its policy is. This is very common – offering motherhood in place of fact.  Alternatively, instead of talking about policy, say what your party has in fact done. This simple if blatant evasion is standard. For question A you have response X; for question B you have response Y; and so on.
  • Challenge a premise of the question. ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ is objectionable as it assumes that you do beat your wife. What about ‘Why do you call this informant a whistle-blower? He is just a common garden snitch and liar.’ ‘I object to your labelling this man as a conservative. He is a closet lefty … anarchist … alarmist’ – and so on.
  • If you get a chance to say that the question is ambiguous, think about saying so. (Some lawyers think that if their opponent looks clumsy, it may be best to leave them to try to dog paddle to shore on their own.)
  • Brand the question as hypothetical and say that you don’t answer hypothetical questions. (This may sometimes be true.)
  • Or invoke some other trite label. ‘I don’t engage in the Canberra bubble’, ‘water cooler gossip’, ‘locker room banter’, ‘hearsay’, ‘bloviations of the elites’, ‘virtue signalling’, ‘politically motivated …’, ‘fake news’ or ‘deep state’. Or, I speak to ‘quiet Australians’ (who never answer back). Or, ‘I am not into the politics of envy’ (but don’t wind me up on Cartier watches). You can get the full range of this nonsense every day in the press. Seasoned operatives take the view that the more meaningless and inflammatory the label, the better off the response. It may depend on the acuity of the audience.
  • If asked about the past, say that you are focussed on the future.  One Australian Minister, whose sense is matched by their deportment – the avoidance of gender is deliberate – always ‘looks to move on’. (Walking backwards for Christmas does not enjoy a good pedigree.) Then, when asked about the future, you decline to speculate on the suppositious or academic. The golden template is in these immortal lines from possibly the greatest movie ever made:

Yvonne: Where were you last night?

Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.

Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?

Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.

But, alas, that kind of spark is missing from those who bring coals into the Australian Parliament.

  • If the matter is sensitive – say, gun control or climate change – say that current or recent events make it in bad taste to allow ‘political point scoring’ to cloud delicate and personal issues. You can use the word opportunistic – and hope that you are not asked to say what you mean.
  • A primary object is to keep onside that part of the audience that fears doubt and is made insecure by a want of finality (sometimes known as ‘the base’ – a useful double entendre). That sadly is a large part of the audience (although not as large in Australia as in the United States). For that purpose, keep serving up the same old platitudes. The simpler, the better. But be careful about mixing escalation and increase in volume with repetition.
  • Be like a good poker player. Just bluff hard and big, and look them dead in the eye and dare them to call you out. After all, this is all about saving face. You could model this aspect on President Xi. (Who would play poker with that sphinx?)
  • Blind them with science or big words. This is mandatory in any discussion of science or economics. (The two are very different things.) We are reminded of the immortal advice cited by Professor Frankfurt in On Bullshit – ‘Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through.’ It’s like throwing sand in your protagonist’s eyes. But this response, too, requires care. Your supporters take offence if they think you are deliberately aiming to go above their heads (which it is alarmingly easy to do).
  • Bury them with detail. ‘Yes, in order to deal with that issue in the manner it deserves, I need to take you to some of the figures …’ This is called a snow job. It is very common in legal and commercial negotiations. You may look aggrieved if you are called on to get to the point. ‘This is not a matter to be entered into lightly or ill-advisedly.’ You could then give the stern Andrew Bolt look of dolour – with appropriate hand gestures.
  • Alternatively, you may say that the question calls for an opinion that you are not qualified to give. You must apply this technique with extreme care – especially if you devote most of your time to offering opinions on just about anything under the sun (which is the case for many lawyers and most politicians).
  • A similar caution goes for slowing down the process by taking an inordinate time to answer the question – or, more properly, to respond to the question. This technique can be useful in dealing with tyro journalists or barristers in cross-examination, but it may not fit your schtick – this is no place for modesty – and it may not appeal to that ghastly mirage called your ‘base.’ They are happy with front and bluff, and are not impressed by a devotion to care – or, for that matter, by fidelity of any colour.
  • Depending on the forum, you may choose to be pleasant – you should always at least look polite and courteous and under control. If you are prepared to resort to flattery, leave aside the trowel. ‘That’s a very good question’ is badly overdone. And don’t ramble. You might convict yourself out of your own mouth. And avoid traps like ‘sincerely’ or ‘honestly.’ (What is your condition when you do not expressly adopt that position?)
  • An alternative is to belittle the questioner. This, too, requires care and skill. Many people don’t like bullies. (That proposition is just one of those that is refuted by the recent rise of the two worst leaders in the history of the West.) Cajolery may be better. (Blackmail of course should be avoided.)
  • Attack the questioner head on. ‘Well, that’s just the kind of bias I would expect from the ABC.’ (Compare: ‘Well, Mr Hawke, what does it feel like to have blood on your hands at last?’– or the spray to that effect from a man with as big an ego as that of his subject.)
  • Play the man, a tactic that is repellently overused by diverting attention to the other side. ‘Well, we are not perfect. We are realists. But just have a look at the mess that our opponents left for us – and for you, the people.’ This is intellectual trash, but you get truckloads of it every day, and the people out of doors don’t hear the sighs or groans.
  • If in doubt, start a fight. This has been the resort of lawyers and businesspeople from time out of mind. It comes ever so naturally to those who appeal to the gutter, because they know that the gutter enjoys a good fight.
  • The alternative to a fight is just to walk out. That may be easier to live with than an admission of guilt – and the whole point of the exercise is to avoid precisely that.

Those are some of the more common techniques. The questioner must recall one of the major rules of cross-examination: Make sure that the witness answers the question. If you get a snow job or some other windy evasion, bring them back to the point. ‘Well, are you quite finished? Are you sure?’ ‘Did you understand the question? Well then, could you now please answer it?’ (It’s about even money that they will say that they forget what the question was – and sometimes that may be the case.)

Politics – evading the question – deemed admission.

The King and I – and the Wizard of Oz

England has done so much for me with the common law, its constitutional history, Shakespeare, and the rest.  It has furnished my mind, and given me and my family a good living.  No other nation gets near its achievements.  If Shakespeare is my bible, footy and cricket are my religion.  And the law shares the other passions of my life.

But I am also fiercely proud to be Australian – yes, proud.  No other nation could do for me.  If I am out of this land for a fortnight, I get toey.

We have in this ancient land a vast history and an unlimited future.  We have almost lost that cringe that so demeaned us before.  And while we think ‘patriot’ is a dirty word, we Australians do love our country.  We just don’t say so – except when we play, and beat, England.

There are places – like the Grampians, the Bungle Bungles, the Surf Coast, and Uluru – where I connect to the earth in a way that is real.

Our aboriginals are like that, and their art knows no equal.  And beside their and our ancient history, the English story is near to nothing in the eye of eternity.

We can enjoy the British pageantry – they are the experts – and even be moved by it.  But it is British, and we are not.  We are Australian.  We – the people around me here in Yarraville – may have ancestors from all round the world, so even before we come back to our First Nations, it is false and unhealthy to suggest that we in Yarraville, or Yuendemu, should see our history through a British prism.

So, I am affronted when people run my country down.  If you insult my people, you insult me.

After fifty years in the law and writing about English history and jurisprudence, I am affronted by any suggestion that we cannot be trusted to conduct our affairs without the intervention of a foreign monarch.

It demeans me that this notion – bred out of insecurity – still gets peddled by people who should know better, but who just refuse to meet the changing moods and needs of our nation.

It is often the same people who refuse to budge on issues like the climate and reconciliation with the First Nations.   At the risk of descending to tribalism, too many people seem wedded to yesterday because that platform plays well and pays well among our disaffected, and those cursed by feelings of inferiority, or their contentment with our present mediocrity.

Our constitution is a schedule to an act of the Imperial Parliament, when the Queen was an Empress (of the Indians, not us).  The role of the King is simply put, but not clear – as we have discovered on at least two occasions.  ‘The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the King and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the King’s representative.’  The Governor-General runs the country by representing the King with his power – in accordance with British conventions.

Here are two anomalies.  The King must be an Anglican.  That British constitutional law is beyond our power, but it offends us and it is contrary to our laws.  Hereditary succession also offends us.  If this King lasts as long as his mother, no Australian under about sixty will have had a head of state who was not a white Anglican aged more than sixty.

Each anomaly is absurd and insulting.  Does anyone now insist that the King has some reserve power above that of his Australian representative? 

If no, he can be removed as useless, like an appendix; if yes, he infringes our sovereignty.

While I accept that our somnolence would survive the late Queen, it is the one aching wound in a life otherwise blessed beyond measure.  The change will come, but not in my lifetime.

Now, I cannot vouch for my preferred course, much less measure it, but as I have full faith and confidence in my own people, I have a settled conviction that this nation will flower when we quit our dependence on the English crown, and take our stand in our own right. 

All that is left then is detail – and people who say that we here cannot manage that detail cannot think much of Australia.

I do not care for labels like ‘republican’ or ‘monarchist’.  All I want is for the executive power of the Commonwealth to be both vested in and exercisable by an Australian under a constitution made in Australia. 

Republic – monarchy – independence.

PB 332 – Postscript

One member of the Essendon board is Dorothy Hisgrove. 

Two things.  With that history, Dorothy is a world authority on bullshit.  And she knows all about Mr Thorburn. 

According to The Age, Dorothy was assigned to support consultant EY’s work on the process of selecting a CEO.

That makes her position very interesting for all sorts of reasons.

It has been a while since I looked up ‘imputed knowledge’, but I would like to see her explanation of the part she played as an experienced executive whose role generally has been to promote the elixirs of inclusion and diversity.

Agatha Christie may have had trouble topping this.

Dorothy Hisgrove – Director

Bachelor of Business, Graduate Diploma in Marketing

Dorothy joined the Board in August 2021.

She is a proven business leader and trusted adviser to board and executive management on leadership, workforce strategy, culture and business performance.

She has held senior leadership roles across several sectors with a focus on the development and implementation of growth and transformation programs in large and complex organisations.

Dorothy is currently national managing partner of people and inclusion at KPMG Australia, and a director of Teach for Australia.

In previous roles, she was a partner and chief people officer at PwC Australia; general manager of people, customer and community at the Australian Football League (AFL); general manager of culture and communications at Australia Post; and general manager of people engagement, culture, diversity and change at National Australia Bank.

‘Dorothy is a member of the People and Remuneration Committee.

Essendon – Thorburn – religious freedom – conflicts of interest – City on a Hill