Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Doust Files, Albany Advertiser, 17/8/2010

At the time of writing this column, I am somewhat relieved to know that this most boring of elections is almost over.
Never have I known such a vacuous contest, with both leaders touting policies that could, just as easily, belong to the other.
Those of you at least as old as me will well remember the great contests of the past, even the 1962 stoush between the magician Menzies and the artless Caldwell makes this current bout look like something  from World Championship Wrestling.
And who could forget Fraser versus Hawke, then Peacock up against Hawke, followed by Howard v Hawke, then Peacock again, then Keating versus Hawke, then Keating chucking cake at Hewson and, oh yes, Lazarus himself, Howard tumbling Keating.
What tussles. What drama. You could even, hard to believe I know, tell the difference between the party platforms.
My personal favourite was the Fraser Hawke clash of 1983 and I saved the entire election campaign in political cartoons.
In those days telex machines were standard issue in state government offices and I worked in one as a contract journalist.
Each and every day reams and reams of telex print outs were tossed in bins and then laid to rest in the Shenton Park garbage dump.
But not where I worked. I lovingly saved reams, stuck them on my cubicle walls and on their backs I glued every single political cartoon from the nation’s major daily newspapers.
The epic 1983 battle is probably best remembered for the carton by Ron Tandberg (Melbourne Age) of Malcolm Fraser with his pants down.
But how did we get to this contest, this inane slap-up devoid of real difference and absence of vision, where the only recognisable difference between the leaders is that one is a man and the other a women and even then we can’t be sure because they both wear pants?
Until they go to the beach, then it’s obvious, because one is clearly smuggling feral animals, which, by the way, is a Federal offence and I’m surprised he hasn’t been on Border patrol.
I blame Bob Hawke. Sorry, let me rephrase that, Mary Wheatley would blame Bob Hawke.
Mary was one of those champion country women who could darn a sock, ride a horse over a cliff, shoot a pig, strangle a fox, crochet a delicate doily, nurse a dying chook, and bake the best Pavlova ever.
What’s she got to do with it? She once said at a party up at our house in Bridgetown, while Hawke was still president of the ACTU, that he would be the next Liberal Prime Minister. We all laughed.
What she meant was, if Hawke gets in he will take us on a lurch to the right, which he did. And we’ve been lurching to the right ever since.
The two major parties are so far right that even Bob Menzies would be shaking in his grave, right alongside Malcolm Fraser, who isn’t there yet, but clearly sometimes wishes he was.
A few people I know are disappointed that Kevin “Elmer” Rudd and Malcolm “Mad Max” Turnbull are not facing each other. At the very least, the level of debate would be well above the current denominator.
Very few of us, of course, would have any idea what the hell they were talking about, but big slabs of me misses the drama, the difference, the facing off of two massive, delusional egos, tragically flawed and destined to fall and rise and fall again.
Oh, the good old days.
It's all over now, but not quite. 
Here are what I believe to be the best outcomes of the election: the rejection of Wilson Tuckey, the rise of the Greens, the election of a 20 year old, and the two major parties get what they deserve - hung!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Column 2, Albany Advertiser 3/8/2010

Down on the beach I am known to many as “the guy with the cut off pants”.
Or “the guy who is always picking stuff up”. And sometimes, simply, “that guy”.
Those who walk regularly along that wonderful stretch of coast between Ellen Cove and Emu Point don’t have time to get names, we’re too busy walking, getting our daily, breathing that air direct off the Antarctic, embracing the Great Southern Ocean.
Yes, I said embrace, even at this time of the year. I can tell you, there is nothing more bracing than walking into the Great Southern and allowing the freeze to creep up your body until you no longer have any feeling below the waist.
Then there’s the first dive, oh, help me please. That’s when the freeze takes charge of your head and leaves you bereft of thought, sensibility, memory, or taste and when you are done and the ocean spits you on the beach like the rag you are you run like hell for those hot showers.
Who is responsible for those hot showers?
This person should be nominated for Citizen of the Winter Months.
I love this person. I will care for this person in old age and deliver chocolates and garlic to his or her door on demand, on request, at any time of day or night.
Excuse me, I left the scene of the column. This offering was to be about the debris I find on the beach. Deviations, be warned, will occur regularly.
The debris gets to me. I can’t help myself. Have to pick it up.
In the beginning I only picked up the big stuff, the plastic bags, nappies, tin cans, plastic bottles, large lumps of poly something or other and large clumps of fishing line.
I walked by the small stuff, thinking, well that won’t cause any harm. It won’t kill anything.
Then I read about the swirls. The swirls changed my attitude. Now I pick up every single item, no matter how big, how small, even if it’s not there and I can’t see it.
What are the swirls? Good question.
Out  there, in the big blue yonder, as you can imagine, people are dumping all kinds of trash into bays, off ships, into rivers, drains and much of it finds its way, eventually, in to our great oceans.
And when it gets there it floats along, inanimate, sometimes swallowed by an unsuspecting fish or mammal, but often just floating, drifting in the currents, taken along by ocean movement, until it meets a swirl.
A swirl is an eddy like current that collects stuff and sends it around and around and around forever and ever.
They are like cities of waste in the middle of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans and to attempt to remove them would be to cause havoc and destruction to all other creatures in the immediate vicinity.
There are a number of massive swirls in the planet’s great oceans, packed tight with human debris and there is not a thing we can do about it, except hang our heads in shame.
Oh, two other things: don’t dump your stuff and, if you are not a dumper, do the planet a favour and pick up the dumpers dumping as soon as you see it.
Ps: From now on I will refer to Perth as The Big Swirl and Canberra as The Pig Swirl.