Posted in Not So Light

Just Joshin’

I recently found myself in an episode of West Wing. You might remember it: it’s the one where Josh Lyman blunders into an internet war in response to comments he makes regarding the US political process. Before he knows it, he is plunged into an escalating conflict – this, because he has ignored the advice of his PA, the adorable Donnatella Moss. She had counselled against involvement, warning him that ‘some of those people haven’t taken their medication’. Typically, Josh dismisses her concerns and soon regrets it.

I too have a Donnatella Moss. Her name is Mary. I’m married to her which means she’s less of a PA and more of a CEO, but that’s a tale for another time. And now the real story begins…

A couple of days ago I saw on my news feed an appalling video of a pup that had been smeared with glue then covered with mud. The poor animal could barely stand or walk and was clearly distressed. Part of its face, including one eye was affected. It was acknowledged that the act had been performed by children. It was horrific and disturbing. But what really shocked me was the response of many who viewed it. With no indication of the age of the children involved, a torrent of invective was nevertheless rained down upon them. One woman suggested that the perpetrators deserved a slow and painful death. I disagreed. My opinion was informed by distant memories of my own childhood, where appreciation of consequences played very little part in my or any of my contemporaries’ decision-making. Of course it’s possible that children have evolved since then, but I doubt it. A possible scenario occurred to me: some boys (yes, sorry about the gender stereotyping) decided it might be fun to put glue and mud on a dog for a laugh, because wouldn’t that be hilarious? If, as a child, in one of my more malleable and idiotic moments, I had been persuaded to do such a thing, I am sure when confronted by the consequences of my act, I would have been mortified.

I decided to respond to this post and informed the CEO. Mary chewed her lip and looked off into the distance as she is wont to do when counselling against one of my hare-brained schemes. ‘There’s a lot of hate out there,’ she murmured. I took that as a yes and proceeded with my plan. I posted a response to ‘Death Lady’, reminding her that the perpetrators were children and the first step toward dealing with the problem might be to make them aware of the effect that it had on the dog. I suggested that ‘death to the children’ might be overreach.

Before long, I had my response – a number of them in fact, and some not entirely complimentary. One man suggested that do-gooders like me are the reason the world is in the state it is in. Another ‘called me out’. I’m not sure what this means. I’m hoping it’s something relatively benign like hot glue guns and mud pies at five paces, because I’ve seen High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and I know these confrontations don’t always end well.

The debate continued and after 24 hours my post had about 700 likes. ‘Death Lady’ was running at around 3,500. I was a bit surprised. I’m not unfamiliar with the minority position, but surely most people would agree with me if only I could make my position clear? I decided to have another crack at it and tapped out my response as Mary chewed her lip, stared into the distance and made strange noises in her throat. I would like to point out that my tone in this second post was, like that of the first, courteous and restrained. I had eschewed my usual shtick of insufferable smartarse and had kept it nice.

The responses continued. It was as though some people believed I had led the attack on the dog in person, egging on my juvenile charges like some deranged and murderous Pied Piper. Although initially disquieted by the vitriol I had attracted, it was now becoming hilarious. But I knew I would need to drag myself out of this vortex otherwise it would go on for ever and I would end up in a death spiral with animal lovers holding me responsible for every animal atrocity from the poisoning of Phar Lap to the murder of Bambi’s mother. I thought it might be wise to draw a line under this dispute. I composed some words and stopped to think, for I confess that this time, in my exasperation, I had farewelled Mr Nice and welcomed Mr Snarky. I decided to run it past Mary. She read it, chewed her lip and got that look again. But this time she said, ‘do it’. So I did. And because she thinks it all right and because it sums up my views and some of the views expressed in opposition, I’ll close with it now:

Well this has been fun, I have to say. I made what I thought was a reasonable point: that children who covered a dog with glue and mud did not deserve to die a slow and painful death. In return I appear to have drawn the ire of intellectuals and moral philosophers from across the globe. Some of them have mounted reasoned and balanced arguments against me. Some have contented themselves with an analysis of my character and intelligence (or lack of). Words such as: moron, idiot, grub, bleeding heart, do-gooder and twat have been given a good airing. Someone suggested that I am ‘missing a huge piece of (my) brain called logic’.

One woman invoked the case of James Bulger, the toddler beaten to death by a pair of ten-year olds. I wonder how the parents of that little boy would regard the comparison. To the woman who drew that helpful analogy I would point out that there are differences between dogs and children. Dogs have four legs; children, ideally, have two. There are other differences as well. You might like to google that.

For the woman who demanded horsewhipping and the man who suggested that they be shot, I would ask one question: are you prepared to do this yourself? Please think about this before you respond. Are you actually prepared to put a gun to a child’s head, pull the trigger and risk getting some of their brains on your clothing? Even Heinrich Himmler, had difficulty with that. (Google him too, if you have to.) As for the horsewhipping: it’s exhausting and messy. But if you can honestly answer yes to those questions then you become the person you most revile. If you cannot answer yes: welcome to the human race. Your absence has been noted, but it’s great to have you back!

I’m pretty much done now I think, so I’ll withdraw from this debate. Feel free to carry on without me. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any parting shots you care to deliver and I’ll be awarding points out of ten, based on wisdom, but mostly on wit. There will be no monetary prize, but I’m offering you the opportunity for bragging rights over your fellow paragons. I will be acknowledging scores only of six and above, though I will make honourable mention of any particularly lame responses. Please be advised that my decisions will be final and no further correspondence shall be entered into. Thanks for your time. It’s been a real pleasure. 

Posted in Not So Light

The Wrong Day

Fremantle Council has earned itself the support of some, but the ire of many, over its decision to turn its back on the ‘traditional’ Australia Day celebration on January 26th and opt for something they regard as more inclusive.

Opportunistic politicians have jumped on it with alacrity, seeing no doubt a means of demonstrating their wholesome,  motherhood-loving, family-friendly, all round decency and you know, normality, in the face of these left-wing ratbag malcontents who hate Australia and want to turn it into some politically correct black armband-wearing state run by Muslims and aborigines.

Claire Moodie of the ABC, reports in her article of 25th January, that ‘far right groups Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front are planning to converge on Fremantle on Australia Day to protest against what they called “an act of betrayal against Australia”.’

The response of these groups was predictable. Their love of Strahya is incontestable and their respect for its institutions, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are encapsulated with impressive economy by their distinctive rallying cry. (For a copy of their manifesto, visit their website:

It occurred to me recently that, as a child, growing up in regional Australia some fifty years ago, Australia Day loomed very small, if at all, on my horizon. I don’t remember a holiday or anything of any real significance. It prompted me to resort to a quick consultation with my chum Professor Google and I have learned from the National Australia Day Council website that it was not until 1994 that all states and territories began to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on January 26th.

Over the years I’ve heard the term ‘Australian’ or ‘Aussie’ used to describe only those of Anglo-ancestry, born in this country. Those Australians whose ancestors migrated here before ‘Australia’ was invented, or for that matter, before the end of the last Ice Age have, if we ignore the abusive epithets, found their Australian-ness qualified with the prefix ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Original’. I wonder whether some of those so described might find these labels a tad patronising.  As for the others with non-Anglo ancestry, the best they could hope for was to be described as New Australians or, for example, Greeks, and then later perhaps, Greek-Australians.  They were never quite Australians. And although this ghettoisation was exacerbated by parents sending their kids to ‘Greek School’ on weekends, the alienation was definitely a two-way street, with most of the traffic headed the other way.

When I was a kid, living in Bendigo, before Australia Day had become a thing, I was at school with a beautiful girl, whose name I still recall. (I had a bit of a crush, if you must know.) Along with many of her fellow Bendigonians, her ancestors had emigrated from China at the time of the Gold Rush in the 1850s, almost a century before my parents arrived from the UK. I was an Australian however, and she was Chinese.

Even within that majority subset of home-grown Anglos, there was, and in some minds still is, a hierarchy based on the arrival date of one’s ancestors. Given that my parents didn’t get here until 1948, I wasn’t quite the real deal. My parents were Pommies. (My dad was a Scot, so you can imagine how he felt about that description.) The problem with that timescale of ascending virtue is that Aborigines complicated the maths. Old was better than new, but too old was not too good. Pre-1788, oh dear, what was to be done with them? Apart from poisoning them, shooting them, raping them, giving them measles and taking away their children, that is. The answer was to come up with an arithmetic sleight-of-hand, a sort of Goldilocksian timescale that determined what was too old, what was too new and what was ‘just right’.

I don’t have a problem with the British. This nation was founded by them and our institutions of Common Law, Presumption of Innocence, Parliamentary Democracy, the Right to Assemble, Freedom of Speech, FREEDOM OF RELIGION, are all good reasons to be grateful that it was the British and not somebody else. And whilst it’s true that some of these rights have spawned others such as: the Right to Dress Like an Idiot, the Right to Wear a Man-Bun, the Right for a Young Woman to Get a Tattoo, the Right for Teenagers to be a Pain in the Arse and most heinous of all, the Right to Barrack for Carlton FC, these appalling corollaries of freedom have to be endured as part of the price we pay and I don’t think the British can be held solely to account for the Man-Bun. I have great admiration for the British, but that said, I don’t want them on our flag, or as our head of state and I don’t think it’s appropriate to commemorate the day they barged in and commenced to take the land off the original inhabitants.

It’s little wonder that some of the descendants of those first (I mean really first) arrivals might feel a bit miffed about the way things have turned out. They may not have been living high off the hog, but they were here and they weren’t doing too badly, then we turned up and things went downhill fast. So I don’t think you can be surprised if some of our fellow Australians want to call January 26th Invasion Day. My own view is that, in persisting to celebrate this day, we add insult to injury. It is an affront to the descendants of the unfortunate people whom we abused and dispossessed. Having done all that, it might be a bit much to expect them to dance a jig and sing ‘Oh Happy Day!’

Some time back, while visiting a friend in a Melbourne hospital, I encountered something that, living in a small town, I had never seen before. A short, squat woman – I presume it was a woman – came walking towards me. I’m guessing she was middle-aged or elderly but I have no idea what she looked like because she was dressed in a burkha. She looked like a black potato bag on legs. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t expect her to explode or suddenly produce an AK-47, but it struck me as odd. I told my kids after, that I thought it was weird. They howled me down as a throwback, although to be fair, they didn’t denounce me as racist. But I stick to my point. I think it is weird, just as I think it would be weird if you wanted to walk through the main street of town with a hessian bag over your head or dressed as Ronald Macdonald. I don’t have a problem if you want to do that, but I reserve my right to think it’s weird. What I don’t have the right to do is abuse, vilify or threaten you for that, nor seek to humiliate you for it, nor do I have the right to insist that you cease and desist. (Although I do have the right to insist that nobody make you wear that hessian bag against your will.) There should be no law against people looking ridiculous, which is good news for any sixty-year old man who dyes his hair. And no, the fact that your girlfriend is younger than your daughter does not justify you dyeing your hair or make you any less ridiculous, it just means that you’re rich. And no, rich doesn’t make you any less ridiculous either. Exhibit A: Donald Trump. But I digress.

My point is that the lady in the burkha has every right to dress and act however she likes while feeling every bit as Australian as the rest of us. All she has to do is obey our laws. She, I’m guessing, is a relatively recent arrival to our country, and like many of the descendants of our very first arrivals, I suspect 26th January has no positive emotional resonance with her.

If we’re looking for a real Australia Day, one to celebrate for all Australians, old and new, why not Federation Day, the day when the separate colonies came together to form a nation, based on the all those aforementioned freedoms, even if they did lead, inevitably, to the rise of the Man-Bun.

‘But oh Dad!’ my kids whine, ‘Federation Day is New Year’s Day. We’ll lose a Public Holiday.’

Tears of pride well in my ageing eyes. My offspring may not wrap themselves in the flag and chant meaningless jingoistic drivel, but when it comes to their worship of the Public Holiday, they are dinky-di.

It’s true, the founders might have been a bit more thoughtful and given us a day later in the year when public holidays are a bit thin on the ground. Perhaps they could have stipulated that the day be memorialised as the first Monday of July, for example, thus enshrining a long weekend, something, I think you’ll agree, we can never have enough of.  But the founders decided to greet the new century with their new nation. Poets and other people with too much time on their hands might search for some sort of moving symbolism in that choice of date, but I’m with my kids here. I think they were a pack of selfish bastards who gave no consideration to the leisure requirements of the generations to follow.

So, 1st January is a date we’re stuck with. It’s not an easy assignment, but as I like to say,  ‘when Life encourages your neighbour’s dog to take a dump on your nature strip, see if it’s possible to make a high-grade alcohol out of it, but get your neighbour to do a taste test before you try it yourself’.

My plan is this: we double up on the first of January, just like we did with Christmas Day. No I’m not suggesting a scaled-down version of New Year’s Day for the servants, because frankly, they get enough consideration as it is. What I had in mind was that we observe both days together over two days. I mean, nobody actually celebrates New Year’s Day anyway. Many Australians are sleeping off a New Year’s Eve hangover so an extra day to recover might be a nice low-key way to ease them into the year, free from all the chest-beating and shallow jingoism. The solution may not be ideal and could have a hint of dog poo in its bouquet, but if we hold our noses and drink it really fast, it might just prove the tonic. Or at least keep us going until we have our very own Republic Day.

If those who call themselves patriots took the trouble to learn something of the nation’s history, they might be prepared to settle on a more appropriate date for celebration. But that is unlikely. They seem determined to inflict their own notion of Australian-ness on the rest of us, reminding me of Samuel Johnson’s famous words: ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’.

As far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to live in this country, love this country, obey its laws, and respect the rights of others to live without harassment, abuse or ridicule has the right to call themselves an Australian, without any qualifying prefix. And I believe that a new Australia Day, commemorating January 1st 1901, a date that heralded the birth of a new nation, is one with the power to unite Australians every bit as much as the one we have now, threatens to divide them.

Posted in Not So Light

Oh Canada – just do it!

I’ve always admired the Canadians. They seem like fairly easy-going, civilised people; sort of like nice Americans, but without the automatic weapons. And let’s face it, living next door to a self-obsessed megalomaniac can’t be easy. It’d be like when you go to a party or out to dinner and you’re stuck next to someone who spends the entire evening talking about themselves – oh God, just shoot me! Except that they’re heavily armed, have no sense of irony and they might just do that. Don’t get me wrong – I like the Americans. I’m just glad I don’t live next door to them. So I think the Canadians are great for being to be able to put up with all that. And I love the fact that they have a tourist attraction called The Inside Passage. Seriously, if that doesn’t attract tourists, nothing will. They also have a great flag:

Canadian flag

See? Isn’t it a beauty? I’m obsessed with the Canadian flag, because I think it serves as a model for what ours should be, but I won’t go into that now – that’s a diatribe for another day. The Canadians also have a great national anthem – ‘O Canada’. It’s spine-tinglingly beautiful. Whenever I hear it, it makes me want to become a Canadian – except, not really. Here is a link if you want to have a listen.

Now, the thing is, the Canadians are debating whether or not to make a small but significant change to the lyrics of ‘O Canada’. They want to change from, “all thy sons command” to “all of us command.” Elizabeth Renzetti, in The Globe and Mail, June 3rd, puts the case in favour. I think she pretty well nails it. She notes that a previous attempt to change the language failed and suspects that the phrase ‘gender neutral’ caused conservative heartburn. She says: “It is an infelicitous phrase…No one would name a boat or a horse Gender Neutral. If it were me, I wouldn’t say the changes make the anthem gender-neutral, I’d say they make it fair…”

It’s made me think about something that’s exercised my mind for a while and that’s the question of gender and language – specifically the word ‘man’ and its use in the English language. ‘Man’ refers both to the species and the gender. We, men that is, have appropriated the word, and use it as we please. The word ‘woman’ derives from, and is subordinate to the word ‘man’, just as Eve was derived from Adam’s rib and is therefore subordinate to him. The notion is anachronistic and it seems to me that a change in the language is overdue.

In an attempt to be gender neutral, or as Ms Renzetti might say, fair, we have amended the word ‘chairman’ to ‘chairperson’. It might be fair, but it’s inelegant. And what of words like ‘manpower’, ‘manslaughter’, ‘man-made’, ‘man-hour’? In a world where women drive trains and trams, fly aircraft and sail ships, should ‘railwaymen’, ‘tramwaymen’, ‘airmen’ and ‘seamen’ be applied to women? I think not. And in the case of the latter, never, ever without her consent.

So what does that leave us with? We could go with ‘railwayperson/s’ which sounds ridiculous or ‘railway–men and –women’ which is a bit of a mouthful. Applying the same logic, we end up with ‘seaperson/s’ or ‘sea people’ which sounds like something out of Phoenician history, or ‘sea–men and –women’ which, if you say it quickly, sounds interesting, but kind of rude.

I think the solution is, and I hope you’re sitting down, because this is going to sound ridiculous, but I think we should change the word for ‘man’, where it denotes gender. To put it simply: if we took the words ‘man’ and ‘human’ and switched their meanings, so that ‘man’ is only ever used to denote the species, and ‘human’, the adult male thereof, life would be simpler. After, of course, it had gone through a really difficult and protracted period of confusion, hysteria, outrage and abuse. Blood would flow in the streets and I fear that some of it might be mine, but let’s face it, you’ve got to die of something and I’ve lived a life, if you can call it that. But I digress.

Of course, it’s a ridiculous idea, I get that. And it’s not going to happen. But imagine if it already had. Imagine if we had been born into an English-speaking world where there was no gender-bias in our language and the male and female of the species both derived from the same root. I’ve just made a truly hilarious pun that only my fellow Australians and my New Zealand neighbours will appreciate. So I’ve provided a link. New Zealanders, for the benefit of overseas readers, play Canada to our US. They are sensible, funny and they keep beating us at rugby, which is really annoying, or would be, if I cared about rugby. It’s true, their flag is nowhere near as good as Canada’s. It looks like ours and both are in serious need of a makeover, but that is a rant for another time. Like the Canadians, they have an absolute cracker of a national anthem. If you don’t believe me, have a listen. But I digress. And I need to move on, because if your attention span is anything like mine, I probably lost you at ‘I like the Americans’.

Returning to my ridiculous idea that will never get up: obviously there would need to be some sort of transition period, like when the UK adopted decimal currency and transitioned from ‘pence’ to ‘new pence’ and then back to ‘pence’ again.

I’m not sure exactly how it would be handled. Maybe it is as simple as ‘man’ and ‘men’ become ‘human’ and ‘humen’. Maybe, acknowledging, our chromosomal differences we could become xmen and ymen. Just so you know, I’m not really that keen on the idea of not being a man anymore, even if it does mean I get to be more human. I don’t like change any more than the next man, woman or human. I don’t always feel like going to work either. But sometimes you’ve just got to human up. As for being a yman? Well better than being an xman with those great steel claws extruding from my arms. And if those sideburns looked ridiculous on Hugh Jackman, what hope would I have! Anyway, I’m not really a details human. I’ll leave that to somebody else to figure out. I’ve put enough effort into this already and my work here is almost done.

I’ll conclude by saying I’m not going to weigh in on the right to life/pro-choice debate by suggesting that we are literally human before we are male or female. But in a figurative sense, of course we are. We are all human first, before we are black or white, male or female, straight or gay or anything in between. And if we could frame a nomenclature that acknowledged our common humanity and asserted its primacy, then I think that would be fair.

Posted in Not So Light

Indi-abolical Strife

Whenever anybody says, “I don’t mean to be rude,” I pretty much know what I’m in for. Likewise the phrase “with respect”, when introducing an argument in rebuttal. My own personal favourite is, “I’m not racist, but…” This particular phrase, employed almost exclusively by the toxically stupid, invariably heralds an opinion that is, at best, patronising to other races, and at worst, vilifying. I have now, courtesy of Marty Corboys, National Party candidate for the Federal seat of Indi, found another snappy little conversation starter. His words, quoted by Gabrielle Chan in the Guardian on May 16 were: “Without sounding sexist, some people are rapt to have a man to vote for.”

Marty has said a mouthful here, for not only has he denied any sexism on his part, he’s dismissed, with a figurative wave of the hand, the notion that anyone might even suspect him of it. He’s not only telling us what he thinks, he’s telling us what we think. Learning a lesson from Marty, I’ll refrain from speaking for anyone other than myself and say simply that I am troubled by the unconscious sexism and the patronising tone of his remarks and perhaps even more so, given that this man is seeking public office, by their boundless stupidity.

And while I’m on the subject of boundless stupidity in the seat of Indi, let’s consider its former Representative, Sophie Mirabella. Ms Mirabella recently captured a headline with her suggestion that her defeat in 2013 had cost the electorate a $10 million grant to the Wangaratta Hospital. With this remark Ms Mirabella implicated her own party in pork-barrelling and, continuing the porcine theme, made a ham-fisted attempt at blackmailing her electorate. It was a spectacular shot in the foot, always a hazardous manoeuvre, made all the more so by the fact that her foot was wedged firmly in her mouth at the time.

But despite this self-inflicted wound, Sophie hobbles on, trouper that she is. She remains undaunted by what she claims is a whispering campaign against her from people within her own party. Not content to imply that the Liberals are guilty of punishing the voters of Indi for voting her out, she is now suggesting disunity in the party. She should be grateful the internal campaign against her, if indeed it exists, is only a whisper. But she is one tough lady. Just ask her. Matthew Knott reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17th May, quoted Mirabella as saying, “a strong woman in politics and a strong woman on the conservative side is not what those who oppose the conservative side of politics want to see, obviously.”

She is of course absolutely right. She would also be right had she substituted the word ‘man’ for ‘woman’ or ‘person’ for ‘man’ or, for that matter, ‘aardvark’ for all of the above, because the last thing an anti-conservative wants to see is a strong anything on the conservative side of politics. Although I, for one, would vote for an aardvark, weak, strong or just as it comes, ahead of either Sophie Mirabella or Marty Corboys. And I would say to the pair of them, “I don’t mean to be rude, and I say this with the utmost respect, but…” You can guess the rest.

Posted in Not So Light

When reporting the news is not enough

Two weeks ago, I had never heard of Tara Brown. I have since learned that she is employed by a television programme entitled ’60 Minutes’, and that’s not all it feels entitled to, apparently. Discerning viewers have dubbed the programme “45 minutes” and it is this 15 minute discrepancy that is the key to the fiasco embroiling Ms Brown and her hapless associates.

In an article dated April 17th, Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Kylie Northover, quotes two of Brown’s colleagues: Karl Stefanovic and Tracy Grimshaw. Stefanovic once appeared on television in an apparent state of intoxication after attending the Logies. Getting drunk is not a crime unless you are a person of indigenous heritage, but attending the Logies or even watching them should be – so I declare my bias here. Karl Stefanovic may be a very nice guy, but he appears to be a dickhead. He is involved with a morning television programme, but not, I have been able to ascertain, the one hosted by the bald guy from Port Adelaide who sits on a couch surrounded by women, which is nice work if you can get it. I don’t watch the bald guy’s show, or Stefanovic’s either, because I work for a living and because preliminary investigations suggest that both programmes are in fact steaming piles of horseshit. Grimshaw hosts a programme in the evening. She bobs up on my screen as I change channels. I had never really formed an opinion of her except to note that she has a hairdo. Subsequent investigations have revealed that she is in fact, a hairdo. She divides opinion between intelligent people who think she’s an idiot and idiots who think she’s intelligent.

As I read Northover’s article I discovered that Stefanovic is not an idiot. In his defence of Brown, he uses words like, ‘personal’, ‘definition’, ‘cornerstones’, ‘simplicity’, ‘complex’, ‘elusive’, ‘forensically’ and ‘notorious’, so, assuming he knows what all these words mean, on the upside, he is a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, but on the downside, he’s coming off a very low base.

Grimshaw, on the other hand in her ‘defence’ of Brown, concentrates on more weighty issues: “Tara doesn’t come across as some commando. I’ve never seen her dirty. Or even remotely dishevelled. She could wear a white shirt in the Syrian desert and it would still be white and unwrinkled after three days. I’d get coffee on mine before I left the airport.”

Some might have hoped for a more wide-ranging defence from Grimshaw: an acknowledgement of Brown’s hairdo, for example, or praise for her ability to accessorise, but I am impressed (if a little disappointed) to learn that Tara Brown does not go commando on assignment. I am equally impressed to learn of Brown’s ability to keep a white shirt clean, which is no small thing when reporting from one of the planet’s hottest, smelliest and ickiest locales. And don’t forget there are people dying there too, so there’s that as well.

From the outset of this truly awful story, my sympathy, like many others, has been with the mother, Sally Faulkner. Ill-advised, even foolish, she may have been, but any parent who loves his or her children, can relate to Faulkner’s desperation and her determination to do whatever needed to be done, in order to get them back. This is not to deny the rights of the father. The problem, as Mr Stefanovic has identified, is a complex one. Whatever the rights or wrongs of this case, there can be no doubt that what Sally Faulkner did, she did for love.

The motivations of Channel Nine and Child Abduction Recovery International are equally obvious, and are also a kind of love, though perhaps in less readily identifiable form. Both organisations are shining examples of capitalist culture, exhibiting the corporate virtues of greed, arrogance, amorality and hubris. Nine’s decision to downsize, to cut their partners adrift and leave them to their fate in a Lebanese gaol was an act upholding the highest traditions of economic rationalism.

The one exquisite, high point of this tragic farce has been to watch Channel Nine skewered by its own opportunism. Whoever dreamed this up, presumably the same genius responsible for serving up the mind-numbing litany of cooking, home renovation and so-called reality programmes, should be invited to take a pay cut and offered a position overseeing turd management in the Channel Nine toilets. As for Tara Brown, who two weeks ago I’d never heard of, but who I now know to be a woman of irreproachable grooming: it’s time for you to retire now and write that book. Just remember your audience and keep it simple. But you know all that, don’t you.

Tara Brown – a woman of irreproachable grooming.