Biggles, No Friend of Reconciliation

Are boys still moved by Group Captain James Bigglesworth? Probably not, as none of WE Johns’ titles is available in my municipal library. As the council is infested with Greens, that shouldn’t surprise, given the aviator’s derring-do in putting down an Aboriginal revolt

biggles mug III grew to maturity on Biggles books. Today the prose of Captain W.E. Johns seems a bit clunky but I never minded this sort of thing:

“I would like a straight answer to a straight question,” he said.

“Have I ever done anything to suggest my answer would not be straight?” asked Biggles evenly.


“Then why bring that up?”

In the later Biggles books, Captain W.E. Johns began inserting a preface.

“In the First World War, Italy and Japan were our allies. In the Second World War, they fought against us.  And so on. The reader must therefore adjust himself to the period concerned so that when the expression “The War” is used, he will understand which war is meant.”

When I would curl up somewhere with Biggles Defies the Swastika while my mother and sister did the washing up, there was no ambiguity about the allies and enemies. Count Erich von Stalhein was not one of ours. But later the Boche, Touregs and Polynesian cannibals were quite likely to write protest letters to The Times about discrimination and hate speech. Von Stalhein came from East Germany, luckily. Turn now to Biggles Buries the Hatchet, Chapter One, “A Visitor Brings News”.

“Did he give his name?”

“Yes. Fritz Loewenhardt. Does that mean anything to you?”

‘Not a thing except it has a solid German ring about it.”

Biggles: “From East or West?”

“From East Berlin.”

A shadow of disapproval crossed Biggles’ face.

The visitor was Von Stalhein’s emissary. Von Stalhein had decided to join the Free World and had been locked up by the East Germans. Biggles to the rescue…

“Everyone waited, eyes on Von Stalhein.

‘Are you asking me to believe you took the appalling risk of coming here to rescue me purely out of.. shall I say sympathy or affection?’

“To you such a motive must appear strange,” said Biggles slowly. “First, strange though it may seem, it may have been something like that, or I would not have come here. I shall expect you to prove your gratitude by refraining from working against us in the future.”

“That remark was quite unnecessary,” stated Von Stalhein. “Your opinion of me may not be very high but I would hardly be as base as that.”

Biggles most endearing trait was his unflappability.   Biggles and the Gun Runners: “’The great thing in life is to keep your sense of humor,’ said Biggles, though getting his Constellation shot down over Southern Sudan by a trigger happy pilot  of the Congolese Air Force was no laughing matter.”

Biggles in his later years turned his hand to lower-grade detective work, like recovering a gentleman farmers’ disappearing bulls. As Biggles puts it, “This racket is not being run by a few country yokels. The crooks are highly organized – and dangerous.”

Just as dangerous was Biggles’ own drift to sententiousness. That story ends, “Up to a point it had worked but the crooks made the mistake, as often made by criminals emboldened by success, of repeating what may have seemed an easy way of making money.” Although Biggles’ Britain did harbor a few crooks, it was a land where press barons  knew how to behave. In Biggles and the Black Peril he thwarts a Russian plot to raid England with a fleet of 30 giant flying boats landing at nine different bases on the English coast. Johns was probably thinking of something like the humungous Dornier DoX of 1929 in the YouTube clip above. The British Air Ministry  “wasted no time” and destroyed all but two of the fictional Soviet superplanes, but not a word of this triumph of British arms and daring ever made it into the newspapers.

“The Ministry had denied any knowledge of the matter to the press, as it was bound to without running the risk of starting a war…The newspapers have guessed there is a lot more behind it, of course, but in the national interest they are allowing the thing to drop.”

Readers need to be alert for bogus versions of Biggles stories. One example I came across reads,

“Suddenly they were airborne. Algy breathed a sigh of relief and eased himself out of the co-pilot’s seat.

“It’s so hot in here,” Algy declared evenly. He began to unzip his flying jacket and soon stood naked in the faint glow of the altimeter.

Ginger blushed hotly.

Algy returned his blush curtly.

Biggles also turned red and blushed and threw the twin-engined Jupiter into a tight turn over the airfield.

“Does my body offend you?” queried Algy sharply.

Suddenly out of the clouds directly ahead of them, Ginger glimpsed the red flash of the Heinkel fighter.

“Get your clothes on, Algy,” murmured Biggles curtly. But it was too late.

“My God, we’re done for!” screamed Ginger.[1]

we johns flyerIn case you hadn’t guessed, that’s a Monty Python parody, but in terms of cadence, dialogue and aviation lingo it is very nearly indistinguishable from its inspiration.

Captain William earl Johns[2]  penned his more action-packed yarns in the tranquility of a Scottish farm. An interviewer wrote, “After a good breakfast, he spends the rest of the day in the open air, often with a picnic lunch, even in winter.” Less efficient at cheating death than his Biggles, he died in 1968 at 75, mid-way through his final  story, Biggles does some Homework, which shows Biggles at last preparing to retire, and meeting his mixed-race replacement.

Johns was a real warrior (left), not an armchair one. He started with the army in the Great War, including the trenches of Gallipoli and in Macedonia. He transferred while still a teenager to the Royal Flying Corps and flew two-seater DH4s on photographic and bombing raids into Germany. That’s him at left, before being shot down, surviving the crash by a miracle and put in prison camps with a death sentence hanging over his head, according to one biographer. He escaped twice and spent the rest of the war in a punishment camp. Thereafter he was with the RAF till 1927, publishing his first Biggles book in 1932.  He re-enlisted with the RAF in 1939, and served in non-combat roles. Post-war he joined the Air Police Unit at Scotland Yard. He drew on each slice of his career for a torrent of at least 150 Biggles and other titles.

All this is just preamble to my real story, discovering a copy of Biggles in Australia last week while fossicking in the State Library, Latrobe Street. Who knew about such a title?

The ten libraries in my Moonee Valley and Moreland districts — both bastions of the Greens –  don’t have a single Biggles book, let alone this one. Statewide, libraries still have about 200 Biggles titles, but no Biggles in Australia. However, five libraries have it included in an omnibus book Biggles’ Dangerous Missions, that includes three other Biggles titles. The  libraries involved, which are either unwitting or hideously racist – the former, surely — are Bayside, Whitehorse, Goldfields, Mildura and Latrobe Library out Morwell way.  The librarians will be in serious trouble if councillors find out this book is on their shelves.

Biggles in Australia must once have been quite popular, at least outside Australia. Reginald Smythe, in his authoritative 1993 guide for youngsters, rates the book as “Very Good Indeed”.[3]   The National Library also has an Angus & Robertson 1981 copy featuring “music by Patrick Cook”. This had me stumped. Unlike Keating, the Musical, Biggles’ misadventures in Australia have never been converted to a melodic treat. In fact, the Patrick Cook did satirical illustrations for this version.

Another version cited carries the warning, unusually for a kids’ book, For Mature Readers.

biggles tridentSo let’s discover what Biggles in Australia is about. Warnings: (a)This article spoils the plot and (b) includes racist language which I do not endorse in any way and cite only out of literary necessity. The tone is set by the frontispiece illustration, showing an Aboriginal in loincloth hurling a weird spear at Biggles (right). Captain Johns refers in the text to a three-barbed spear and the artist[4] has translated this into a Neptune trident, hardly day-wear for a kangaroo hunter.

Another illustration shows Aborigines dancing around a campfire, “shaking their spears, yelling and stamping”. A third is innocuous but features the author’s curious phrasing: “You’re in a great hurry,” bantered Biggles” [to Von Stalhein, no less].

The book opens conventionally (for the Biggles genre) with Biggles & Co asleep in their Otter amphibian in a lagoon off the Kimberley coast. They come under attack from a school of giant squids on holiday from their deep-sea habitat. One wraps its 20-foot tentacles around the Otter but is fended off with a bullet to the tea-plate-sized eye. This chapter is aptly titled, “An Uncomfortable Night.”

The plot of Biggles in Australia involves a posse of Iron Curtain thugs, led by von Stalhein, setting up a communist fifth column in Australia. The spy ring is centred on a “trouble-making agitator” who is a “red hot Communist of the loud-mouthed type”, namely an electrician from Perth  called Adamsen. This pricked my interest, as most of Perth’s red hot Communist agitators dropped in on my family home in Willagee in  the 1950s and I certainly recall some loud arguments about implementation of the revolutionary struggle.

Von Stalhein’s targets cover a broad field, including the Montebello nuclear tests, uranium deposits, Woomera rocket testing, fomenting strikes and creation of a network of Red spies “against the time when they will be needed”.

But Von Stalhein’s most contentious task is to arm disaffected Aborigines in northern  Australia with rifles and grenades and set them off on a Kenyan Mau-Mau type uprising against white civilisation. In Biggles’ concluding words, after thwarting his arch-enemy:

“The plan was to spread a network of agents and operatives all over the continent  both to spy on secret experimental work with atomic and guided missiles, and undermine the country’s economy by the infiltration of agitators into the native settlements as had been done elsewhere. When the trouble started, certain selected blacks were to be provided with firearms. Behind the background of disorder [foreign] scientists [arriving by lugger] were to explore the outback for minerals useful in nuclear research.”

During the book, more detail has been suggested:

Biggles: [Air Controller] West told me this top corner of Australia used to be called the triangle of death on account of the ferocity of the natives. Even today, with native reserves and all that,  they’re not to be trusted. That goes for the half-civilised blacks who work up the Daly for the white planters…You’ll call me an alarmist, I know, but it occurred to me that this is just how the trouble began in Malaya and Kenya.”

Bill [policeman] was staring. “Do you mean Mau-Mau, and that sort of thing?”

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

Bill: “I still don’t see how it could happen here.”

“Neither, I imagine, could the settlers who took their wives and kids to outlying farms in Kenya, and now never move without a gun in each hand…Last night, after that wop had flung a spear at me, the idea suddenly came to me that the set-up in the sparsely populated areas of Australia is exactly the same as in East Africa…

…It only needs one or two people to walk about telling the natives that white men are a lot of thieves who have swindled them out of their land, and turned them into slaves, and the next thing is murder…This dirty business is all part of the Cold War. It has worked in Malaya, Kenya, Indonesia, Burma and all over the Middle East, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t happen here.”

Bill’s expression had changed. “I never looked at it like that,” he admitted soberly.

The policeman estimates there are 50,000 full-bloods and “a lot of mixed breeds” – enough to “do a lot of mischief”.

Sure enough, the blacks soon after club and spear a prospector to death for his rifle. “Now, perhaps, you see what I mean,” Biggles concludes.

The prospector had been generous to the ungrateful naked warriors.

Biggles: “That cuts no ice with blacks when the savage inside ‘em bursts through the thin skin of friendliness they pick up from contact with whites. More than one doctor has been murdered by the man he’s just cured…If I know anything about natives, that bunch is all keyed up to jump. They themselves, with their animal brains, don’t know yet which way they’ll go.”

Towards the book’s climax, policeman Bill addresses a band:

“What yabber-yabber belong you? You been savvy what happen longa here?”

“The blacks remained like graven images, their brutish eyes, unwinking , on the policeman…While Bill’s eyes were on them, like animals, they hesitated to do anything; but the instant he turned, they acted. With shrill whistles and strange cries they began to fan out.”

biggles booksGinger deals with the threat by revving the great engines of their Halifax bomber transport to send a wall of slipstream dirt  their way.

The northern natives, author Johns says to my mystification, comprise “Peedongs” in the scrub country and “Myalls” in the jungle.  Bill says, “They’re all pretty wild, but the Arnhem Landers are the worst. Until recently, it was almost certain death to go near them.” (The book was published in 1955). After they capture one black and “two half-breeds” at rifle-point, “there were a few critical moments with the blacks outside…they stood their ground, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, as their primitive brains strove to keep pace with these unusual events.”

“No white man in his right mind would trust some of these black fellows behind him,” says the party’s civilian pilot, Cozens. “They don’t know what they’re doing half the time. People who find excuses for them say they act on impulse. The sight of a gun is enough to make ‘em want to shoot somebody and they can’t resist the temptation. They don’t care who they shoot.”

Ginger says, “Didn’t I read something about an expedition going into Arnhem Land to look for a white woman who was supposed to have been captured by the blacks – after a shipwreck on the coast, or something?” [5]

Later, minus Biggles who is in Darwin, the party  flies in to the Daly Flats settlement, finding it liberally strewn with   corpses of whites and their black “houseboys”, all speared or shot. It appeared that a policeman had been shot first, from behind, “and the sight of blood was all that was necessary to send them  crazy. They’re like that.”

biggles books IIGinger’s party at the hut is then ambushed by “scores of the devils” who are in a frenzy and  “mad to kill”. The party responds with bullets in a scenario reminiscent of Rorke’s Drift or your average climax to an old Western movie. The affray gets it own chapter headed, “The Battle of Daly Flats”.

The battle begins with the natives doing a war dance outside. The pilot Cozens tells Ginger, “Shoot at anything that moves.” The natives set Cozen’s plane on fire, cutting off any retreat. Ginger is perplexed by the horror of their predicament, “in a country he had imagined to be as safe as England. But then, he reflected, the people in Kenya must have felt like that before the Mau-Mau trouble started.”  Their suspicions are confirmed on finding a locked room filled with cheap rifles for distribution to the dark insurgents.

Bertie worries that Biggles may arrive unwittingly and “step right into the custard” – this being as close as W.E.Johns gets to use of profanity. But the first visitors to approach the scene are Von Stalhein’s emissaries, including two blacks carrying their parcels, African-style. Ginger, ever gallant, shouts to warn them, using that resounding cliché,  “The blacks are on the warpath!”

W.E. Johns prose gets surprisingly flaccid as the battle rages, as if he’s nodding off after port before bedtime.

“Cozens must have seen something that aroused his suspicions; or it may have been the very absence of movement that told him what was about to happen; at all events, from the open door towards which they had all moved, he suddenly shouted: ‘Look out!’

He was too late. In an instant the air was full of flying spears, thrown by blacks who had appeared from nowhere, as the saying is.”

Ginger’s party lets fly with volleys of bullets,  downing two or three blacks. Von Stalhein’s second in command cops it with a spear in his back through to his heart, but Ginger and two helpers each put a bullet in the assailant. We aren’t told how many others they fell, only that “There’s about a score left”.

The remote Daly River settlement now gets more like Bourke Street Mall at lunchtime, for Biggles is about to turn up with a colonel and three offsiders. Ginger’s party fling tear gas grenades – conveniently found in the house – to enable Biggles to land.

“’The blacks have gone mad,’ Ginger told him tersely. ‘Hark at ‘em! They’ve killed I don’t know how many people.’”

But the blacks “quietly faded away into their jungle retreats” and it turns out Von Stalhein per se was not with his troops, thus living to fight another day in the next Biggles adventure. The list of communist would-be fifth columnists is discovered “and the entire plot exposed, although for security reasons the soft pedal was kept on the story.”

Biggles’ troupe re-board their Halifax and make a leisurely return to London. Their assistant, the pilot Cozens, “soon got another job and is now flying a Quantas [sic] Constellation.”

The book’s last para concludes:

“So, taking things all round, the only people who came to any harm from Biggles’s visit to Australia were those whose sinister conspiracy had taken him there.

Which was as it should be.”

As a libertarian I don’t want libraries burning the book, but maybe they should keep it in a locked cabinet and release it only to adults. The adults might be further limited only to those who have memorized an Acknowledgement to Traditional Owners.

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here

[1] Biggles and the Naughty  Things, 1941. Quoted in The Brand New Monty Python Paperbok

[2] His highest rank was only Flying Officer but in a pen-name, you can take any rank you like

3. The maniacs guide to the Biggles books : the readers guide to all 100 Biggles books / by Rowland Smythe; Birmingham: Ventos 1993

[4] The illustrations are attributed to “Studio Stead”. There’s still a Yorkshire architect firm of that name that might have taken on the job.

[5] This seems to derive from Eliza Fraser, from a Queensland shipwreck in 1836, who wrote of being captured by the Badtjala people. Fraser Island is named after her.


We Will Make You Green – Book Review

Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex
by Rupert Darwall
Encounter Books, 2017, 352 pages, US$25.99

Anyone remember the “acid rain and forest death” scare of the 1970s and 1980s? Rupert Darwall, in Green Tyranny, provides a reminder of this and much more while “exposing the totalitarian roots of the climate industrial complex”.

Acid rain caused by sulphur emissions from coal-fuelled power stations was supposedly poisoning Scandinavian and northern American soil, lakes, fishes and forests. Scandalously, the national science academies of the US, Canada, UK, Sweden and Norway said so loudly. But it was bunk, and put to rest by a 1990 report by the US government’s National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, a decade-long US$500 million study.

Darwall is not a scientist or an academic but an investment banking and public policy wonk, with an after-hours specialty in the history of ideas. His previous book was The Age of Global Warming: A History (2013). In this new volume, his forensic rigour again puts muscle into every page.

The book gains novelty and heft by focusing on how Sweden and Germany generated the global—or rather, the West’s—renewables transformation. The Swedes (population 8 million) have been extraordinarily influential, due largely to their supposed integrity and independence from power blocs. Above all, the Swedes were father to the IPCC. Darwall busts the stereotype with detail, such as Sweden’s refusal to accept Jews fleeing from the Nazis, and its alliance with NATO in the Cold War that was kept secret from the Swedish and world public (Sweden was not neutral at all). In a hall-of-mirrors exercise, Sweden was also used by the Soviets as a drop-box and credible source for their misinformation campaigns. These included the “nuclear winter” phoney scare, designed to undermine the US nuclear armament drive that, ultimately, led to communism’s defeat. In the twenty-first century Swedish bureaucrats continue to enforce conformity to the state line, including suppression of wayward journalism.

The “climate industrial complex” is necessarily led by the state, with its power to engorge the renewables industry rent-seekers through tax, regulations, laws and administration. “Dense networks connect state bureaucracies and regulatory bodies to universities, think-tanks, NGOs, the media, special interest groups, financiers and their lobbyists, and religious institutions,” Darwall says.

Their aim is to overwhelm business opposition, control advice to government and suppress the sensible objections to draconian renewables targets. Thus is occurring “the largest misallocation of resources in history”. As one example, Angela Merkel coerced the EU in 2007 into a legally-binding 20 per cent renewables target by 2020. This was in the absence of any technical knowhow about the grid integration, let alone the cost (which in Germany’s case alone is heading towards 1.1 trillion euros, about the same as its renovation costs for East Germany). As Darwall puts it, “Government support for wind and solar was less about assuring the survival of the unfittest than guaranteeing the triumph of the unfittest.”

That the climate-saving rationale is a sham is proven by the same environmentalists’ successful attacks on nuclear power and strivings against the dazzlingly emissions-effective fracked gas.

The climate cabal’s own-goals would be hilarious if the issues were not so world-changing. Before 2010, the environmental NGOs attacked Volkswagen as a polluter, but greased by Volkswagen million-euro donations, changed tune and lauded the company in 2012 as the world’s ecologically-nicest car-maker. Then in 2015 the sensational Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal came to light.

A far bigger scandal is the West’s subsidising or enforcing a switch from petrol cars to allegedly low-carbon-dioxide-emission diesel, such that by 2011 more than half of all Europe’s new cars were diesel. But the authorities knew from the start that diesel-based air pollution in big cities is an immediate cancer and health risk. As a London Department of Transport official who had helped draft the UK’s pro-diesel switch put it:

We did not sleepwalk into this. You are talking about killing people today rather than saving lives tomorrow. Occasionally we had to say we were living in a different world and everyone had to swallow hard.

The same authorities are now enforcing anti-diesel policies. As Darwall says, it’s a “world created by environmentalism and carbon policy monomania”.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is on the front line for the climate industrial complex. Its head, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, believes the carrying capacity of the planet is under 1 billion (currently 7.6 billion) because of global warming. He has also warned of a possible “ocean heat belch” that would shock-heat the first ten kilo­metres of the atmosphere by thirty-six degrees. Schellnhuber was Angela Merkel’s top climate adviser for many years and was also appointed by Pope Francis to help write his climate encyclical Laudato Si. The Potsdam Institute, by the way, now partners with Melbourne University. Schellnhuber said at the partnership launch that global warming “has to be tackled with the best scientific evidence”.

Because the renewable targets are so destructive, a vital task of the climate industrial complex is to maintain all-pervasive faith in the supposed warming crisis (notwithstanding the now scientifically accepted finding that the climate models have exaggerated heat forecasts). Darwall believes the complex has created what he calls the “spiral of silence”, a psychological phenomenon known for half a century in which people shrink from expressing dissenting views if they believe their views would be widely unpopular.

As a local example, Robyn Williams of the ABC’s Science Show lavishes time on climate nutter Naomi Oreskes while excluding and mocking sceptics. When finally giving leading sceptics airtime last June, Williams also brought in anti-sceptic professors Andy Pitman and Steve Sherwood with their “gold star” science (Williams’s description) to dominate the conversation lest any listener be contaminated by the likes of US sceptic climatologist Judith Curry. Incidentally, Pitman’s remarks included a prediction of Sydney temperatures of up to fifty-five degrees.

But Australia’s “spiral of silence” is, thankfully, collapsing. The importance of Tony Abbott’s London sceptic speech in October was not just in telling some climate truths but also in legitimising others to defy the “consensus”. It also forced the sceptic case into the left-wing media, where a panicked Fairfax refers even in straight news to “Abbott’s ‘loopy’ speech”.

Darwall’s book abounds in surprising factoids.

• The carbon-dioxide emissions research pioneer Svente Arrhenius inspired the creation in 1922 of the State Institute for Racial Biology. The goal was selective breeding to improve racial characteristics, and one lecturer was the future Nazi “Race Pope” Hans Guenther. In 1933 the Swedes legislated for sterilisation without consent in some cases. The cause was taken up by Gunnar Myrdal (Nobel Prize for economics 1974) advocating sterilisation of “low-quality” people.

• Hitler domestically was an ardent environmentalist, at the height of the war intervening to protect German wetlands. He backed giant wind tower plans to cut coal consumption, and was still funding wind power research in 1944.

• From 2006 the revered bird-loving group the Audubon Society endorsed “clean energy” wind farms, knowing, as its US president John Flicker said, that “wind turbines sometimes kill a lot of birds”—in fact, nearly 600,000 birds a year in the US, including 80,000 raptors, as well as over 900,000 bats. “We very much appreciate Audubon’s leadership on this issue,” responded the American Wind Energy Association.

• An unintended consequence of California’s legalisation of pot smoking and production is that private indoor pot growers are now consuming 9 per cent of the state’s electricity, jeopardising the state’s emission targets. Some large growers are paying a million dollars a month in electricity bills.

Darwall is writing largely for a US audience, and the book’s timing is obviously caught short by Trump’s counter-attack in favour of fossil fuels. But Darwall’s long-term warning holds:

Global warming poses a question about the nature and purpose of the state: whether its role is to effect a radical transformation of society or whether its principal task is to protect freedom …

Delivering pre-ordained emission cuts requires a powerful administrative state. Uniquely, America’s Constitution and its separation of powers provide checks against it. This, ultimately is what is at stake in the battle of Paris and the climate war. It is a fight for America’s soul.

Some Australian readers may have difficulty following the subtleties of Swedish and German parties and alliances, especially as the parties’ professed and actual policies have at times been in contradiction.

The book lacks an index, which degrades its use as a reference. I was sorely tempted to buy a Kindle version just to do word searches. Darwall’s first book of 440 pages has a 23-page index. I hope his next book (in progress) includes one.

Tony Thomas has published more than 100 climate articles in Quadrant and Quadrant Online

Lecture, Hector, Badger, Brainwash

Just once I’d like to visit a museum, hear a symphony or watch the ABC without being subjected to a tacked-on politically correct sermon because, well, the creatures of the Gramscian Left have colonised those institutions and are devoted to ramming their effluvia down all our throats

PC IIAustralians are all undergoing an immersion experience, washed over by a sea of   taxpayer-funded “progressive” propaganda. It is so pervasive that we may  hardly notice it. For young people, the Left memes are as self-evident as gravity. What follows are a few samples. I’m sure Quadrant subscribers, who all enjoy online posting rights at this site, can add their own to the comments thread below.

ABCTV 7pm News Victoria– Monday’s show (20/11) had an item on a counter-terrorism report by ex-Police Commissioner Ken Lay and former Supreme Court Judge David Harper. The footage focused on Bourke Street Mall, where Demetrious Gargasoulas is accused of driving at reckless and breakneck speed on January 20. Six were killed and dozens injured. His trial is in progress.

ABCTV reporter Melissa Brown said the new counter-terror report “makes 26 recommendations to better protect  Victoria and respond to religious and right-wing extremism.” Gargasoulas doesn’t fit the ‘right-wing’ bill.  Indeed, he told a magistrate last April, “Your Honour, did you know the Muslim faith is the correct faith according to the whole world?” Police say he has a history of drug use, family violence and mental health problems.

In reporter Brown’s reference to “religious and right-wing extremism”, we once again see the ABC’s near-total inability to utter “Islam” in any context other than the most laudatory. Inside the ABC’s green-left bubble, there is also inability to mention left-wing extremism, of which there is plenty in Victoria, with Antifa’s thugs to the fore.

Indeed, the ABCTV report  shamelessly distorts the Lay-Harper report which says on its second page (emphasis added),

Terrorist organisations continue to develop and distribute violent extremist propaganda to influence people that may be vulnerable to radicalisation – whether it be from the far-right, far-left extremism or extremist Islamist ideologies.

Those were the report’s only references to Left and Right ideologies. What’s up, Ms ABC Reporter Brown, can’t you read?

Australian Story: Up next on  ABCTV was Australian Story, which covered the tragic death in July of Australian expat Justine Damond Ruszczyk, who was shot by a Minneapolis cop firing across his partner from the front passenger seat of the police car which responded to her call for help about suspicious noises.

It is 20 minutes into the 30-minute program before the ABC lets us know the cop’s name was Mohamed Noor, and its two references to Somali-born Noor involve all of ten seconds (20.20 minutes to 20.30). The program showed total lack of interest in Noor’s background – which would definitely not be the case if the shooter were, say, a Trump  flag-waver, or an evangelical pastor.

Here are some facts about Noor which the program managed not to mention:

  • Noor  had previously been lauded by the mayor and Somali community as  one of the first Somali-American cops in the area
  • In his two years as cop, Noor was named in three complaints and is being sued for allegedly assaulting a woman.
  • His police training had been fast-tracked to promote diversity in the ranks, according to the Star Tribune, but this is denied by the police chiefs.

The ABC, in its quandary over how to report a guy called Mahomed doing bad stuff, decided “Nothing to see here” and gave that aspect of the story only ten pitiful seconds.

Culture Section:  I went to a recent performance of Beethoven’s 9th  in the Victorian Arts Centre. At the start there were three consecutive announcements by three managers. I can’t remember exactly what – turn off your mobiles,   changes to the cast and whatever. The first official began with an acknowledgement of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the site. And so immediately did the second. And so immediately did the third. A three-peat as the footie fans say. They were all variants on the MSO’s official screed,

The MSO acknowledge [sic] the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are performing. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be in attendance.”

The script does not bother to specify what group the traditional owners were, let alone why all these “Elders” past and present are entitled to more respect than anyone else, especially Elders from “other communities” near and far who happen to also be fans of Beethoven’s 9th.

Trashing C.Y. O’Connor: A week ago I was in the Fremantle Maritime Museum and enjoying its excellent imported Pompeii naval exhibition – notwithstanding that as many as five exhibits were dated wrongly by 2000 years (do curators every check this stuff?). My sister’s two-hour car park was nearly up, but I still had five minutes to check out a small slice of the regular displays. First off was stuff about the “invasion” of Australia. The second involved fiction about the so-called Stolen Generation, but the third was the real ripper: it described engineer C.Y. O’Connor blasting the bar across the Swan River outlet in 1894, finally creating a decent port for Fremantle. Great job, Charles Yelverton O’Connor!

Not so fast, the Museum’s caption seem to insist. It reads (emphasis added):

A rocky limestone bar and silting at the entrance to the Swan River prevented most ships from entering. Dynamite was used to destroy the bar.

Some Aboriginal people believe that an important heritage area was damaged or destroyed along with the bar.

Let me get this straight. “Some” Aborigines “believe” that  C .Y. O’Connor — a real bastard, obviously — blew up their  “important heritage area”. An accusation can hardly be weaker than that. O’Connor shot himself eight years later, after riding his horse into the sea from Fremantle beach. His Fremantle Harbor was a resounding success. He also had completed the Perth-Kalgoorlie water pipeline but was depressed by the mean-spirited criticism of the media, local notables and authorities. The Maritime Museum caption continues in that vicious strain more than a century later, hammering fresh spikes through a dead man’s coffin and reputation.

This display is at Fremantle. Keep in mind the City of Fremantle cancelled this year’s Australia Day fireworks and celebrations in favour of a culturally-inclusive alternative event on January 28.

The Maritime Museum is part of the WA Museum, chaired by Justin Mannolini, law and finance whizz at Gilbert + Tobin. The deputy chair is none other than our PM-in-waiting Julie Bishop. In the latest financial year the Maritime’s visitors tumbled by 18% — 23,000 no-shows, in blunt numbers. I for one don’t intend a repeat visit next year.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print” is available here


  1. Ian MacDougall

    Well say no more! I’d go with the IPA regarding the ABC. It should be broken up and sold off to the highest bidder/s, or those with the best connections. (Though the IPA was all against the Human Rights Commission [as was I] until Timmy Wilson landed his grossly overpaid sinecure there. Then all went quiet on the political Right.)
    Then Timmy scored his Liberal nomination for the Senate. Though it’s been a long time since I visited the IPA website, my guess is that they’ve probably reverted to their old position.
    But the trouble is, given all that, I can’t be bothered to check.
    Every public asset should be given the Hammersley treatment: sold off to overseas interests, to start new feudal dynasties of inherited wealth in an economy whose wealth and income differentials are starting to resemble those of the Tsarist Empire.
    Glory days of Imperial honours, silk and satin ahead! Though my preference is riding to hounds.

    • ianl

      No, your preference is for low level, puerile, concrete-head sarcasm.

      The humour of a John Cleese is really clever.

      Do you see the difference, trollster ?

  2. en passant

    Oz is a nation and culture in terminal decline – by choice.

  3. Salome

    I had to endure a similar payment of respect to the ‘traditional owners’ of the land on which the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall is built only the other night, before Musica Viva hosted a British orchestra. What I can’t quite understand is why it is respectful to acknowledge ‘traditional owners’ without giving them their name. Surely someone knows who the ‘traditional owners’ were. It seems like lazy tokenism, so I took it as such.

    • Bernard Tola

      I suspect that these ceremonies have little to do with any particular Aboriginal people. It is rather about proclaiming the virtue of those who perform them.

    • whitelaughter

      If you name who it is, you risk praising a group that conquered the land from another group (frex in my own part of the world the Ngunnawal hired mercenaries from the Bathurst mob to help conquer much of Canberra from the Walgulu), and will certainly find yourself caught in the middle of competing claims.

  4. Tony Thomas

    Actually, Salome, on the Beethoven 9 night, they did refer to a specific group, probably of the ilk, Wurundjeri of the Kulin “Nation” or some such. I quoted the standard MSO/VCA tribute, which I guess could involve filling in a group if the MSO does a show in say, Echuca. This “Nation” business is totally ridiculous for groups of say, 30 maximum hunter-gatherers. I think it’s a pinch from native American groups that were quite sizeable and with quite a lot of differentiated roles and hierarchies – not that I’m any expert on that.

    • Jody

      (I see I’m still not shut off yet!)

      My eldest son refuses to stand at his childrens’ primary school for “Welcome to Country” ceremonies.

      When the Fleet arrived here in 1788 with the new inhabitants from England to establish the penal colony aboriginals were still starting fires using sticks and this was happening in Europe at EXACTLY the same time:

      • whitelaughter

        that was well worth sharing Jody! One of the joys of defending civilization is getting to *enjoy* civilization :)

      • Nezysquared


      • LBLoveday

        Remember the uproar in the 90s when ex-PM Gorton asked about Aborigines “Why did they never understand after 40,000 years to build a house?”? My recollection, which may be faulty, is that he was effectively forced out of the Liberal Party in consequence.
        I liked another’s comment on the false narratives presented in contemporary schools about Aborigines:
        “I’ve just bought a can of the best house paint available and I’m told if I’m lucky, it’ll last 15 years. Yet I’m shown where some Aborigine has blown some soggy ochre onto a rock and I’m told it’s lasted 40,000 years.
        Where can I get a can of that stuff?”

  5. Keith Kennelly

    I was welcomed to country by the motel owner when he found out I’d just arrived from NZ forty years ago.

    I was chuffed.

    I think today’s welcome to country a bit much.

    I mean just how often can I be welcomed?

  6. peter prenavon

    they say dna of persons claiming to be of aboriginal decent will show different mobs arrived at different times from different directions,
    they say these mobs behaved as all mobs throughout history behaved, that is the weak were pushed out of the best land replaced by the strong. the strongest mob to arrive in Australia came via England from 1770 ish.
    and you guessed it, they behaved just as the mobs before them behaved, and added their dna to the mix.
    with free speech, the ABC AND THEIR TRAVELLING COMPANIONS , have every right to pick out one mob, and champion them as the victim or as the hero of this fictional story they push. As long as they state, their stories are fictional and factual.

  7. Jody

    All of this is a consequence of what happens when the pond scum rises to the top. Meanwhile, this beautiful man exits planet earth (24 hrs ago) and we continue to tolerate more and more of the feral variety:

  8. MOAB

    It is amazing how all the good stuff was allowed to be privatised, but a piece of garbage that is ABC is still taxpayer-funded.

Inside Hitler’s Dark Tower

Gazing down upon Berlin are the substantial remains of a flak tower intended to protect the Nazi capital from RAF bombers. Less than entirely successful in that endeavour, they became citadels of misery and horror for those who looked to them for refuge

aa gun berlinSomewhere I’d read that Berlin still had a giant flak tower left over from the war. We only had a week in an Airbnb flat in an outer suburb and I didn’t give the tower any priority. But our last day, a Sunday, was a slack morning.   I checked and discovered the flak tower was only three stops down the U-Bahn in the Humboldthain Park.

First, I’ll describe my morning’s adventure, and then  how the Berlin flak towers defended the city. Detouring from my supermarket-shopping for lunch ingredients, I was at the park by 10.30 am. A path led to steps on a steep hill, with  trees on all sides blocking the view. I couldn’t see any tower but kept climbing. In fact I was ascending a mountain of rubble around the 40m tower,  which had been partly blown up by the French-zone occupiers in 1948.[1]   They had to leave the north side intact because a Russian-run railway was only metres away in a deep cutting. For the same reason, the rubble mountain had to stop half-way up the tower to avoid avalanches into the cutting.

Once my view cleared, I could see the tower poking out of the hill like a giant concrete chimney.  Its height is equal to a 13-storey building.  From the roof, Berlin stretches to the horizon all around. To add to the visual drama,  a roped-up mountaineer  was half up the concrete face, urged on by companions just visible at the top.

The wall is pockmarked by Russian artillery hits during the battle for Berlin, but even the Russians’ 203mm cannon  couldn’t weaken the 2-3m thick walls. On the roof I little knew I was walking on nearly four metres of reinforced concrete. At the roof’s highest point   a blue and white vertical sculpture rises another 11m, with ravens jostling to sit on the top point. The sculpture is a 1967 monument towards a united Germany, sited  for East Berliners to look up to, and to annoy their authorities.

At the roof’s two north corners are circular balconies that once surrounded 12.8cm anti-aircraft (AA) guns, four times more powerful than the standard 88mm AA guns. Below the gun pits was another platform which once bristled with 20mm quad cannons to fend off any lower-flying attackers. The roof and walkways were daubed with graffiti and confined by spiked black fences. Leftover trash from junkies didn’t improve the aesthetics.

I was just heading downstairs for home when I saw that a steel door in the central column was open, and a bearded young bloke was fussing inside with some paperwork. “Can I come in?” I asked in my best German, but he turned out to be a  Sydneysider working for the Berlin  Underworlds Association, which runs tower tours. “When’s the next one? Can I join?” I asked, without real hope.

“In five minutes, but it’s fully booked. The insurers are strict about numbers.”

He phoned his office anyway, grinned and said there had been two drop-outs. But after the tour I’d have to go back to his nearby  office to pay the 11 Euro fee. The 90-minute tour also happened to be the only English-language tour that day. My luck was in! Our young Brazilian guide, Luiz, arrived with a group of about 25 in tow. The inside tour was not for sissies, and as we put on hard hats Luiz warned about trip-hazards, stepways, dark corners and group indiscipline. We were to traverse the upper three of the original six floors. No photos, please.

The whole interior was a gloomy jumble of concrete ruins and wall segments, created by   demolition attempts involving fearsome tonnages of TNT. The initial blasts were meant to knock down the walls but the TNT just played havoc with the interior. I’ve seen nothing like this scale of destruction before. The only comparison would be with piles of big boulders flung onto shore by a tidal wave, or earthquake devastation. Luiz shone his torch at one ceiling where an internal reinforced-concrete wall had been anchored. This thick wall had been blown backwards about a metre.

Steel walkways join gaps in wrecked stairways. On all sides are black abysses. Decades ago, when the tower was not properly secured, young explorers got in and several were  injured by falls, one fatally. Apart from  concrete lumps, there were only some cabling trays on ceilings and meagre remnants of an elevator and an ammunition hoist. Looters, official and private, stripped everything bare, starting from the moment Berlin surrendered. One no-go area was a cavern inhabited by a dozen species of bats. To help them hibernate, the tours run only from April to October. Tour guides normally choose entertainment over accuracy, but Luiz kept us enthralled and didn’t make stuff up.

zoo flak towerThe flak tower story is not well known, except to WW2 buffs. Records are patchy and the Russians still have secrets to keep, especially about art treasures they looted from safe storage in the towers.  The first flak tower was at the Berlin Zoo (left), followed by another at Friedrichshain Park and finally “my” tower at Humboldthain. The coordinated trio was  intended to put an anti-aircraft umbrella over central Berlin.

In his Great Dictator spoof of 1940, Charlie Chaplin pulls the lanyard on a giant howitzer, which lobs a shell that demolishes a distant backyard dunny. The sequence that gave Hitler his tower idea was also somewhat farcical.  The real-war timeline went:

Night of August 24-25, 1940: A JU88 bomber in a group targeting the Thameshaven Oil Terminal strays off-course and one of its bombs damages the Church of St Giles in Cripplegate in the East End.[2]

Night of 25-26 August: On Churchill’s orders for reprisal, a force of  Hampdens and Wellingtons  (all twin-engined), set off to bomb Berlin’s Tempelhof airport and a nearby Siemens factory complex. The Hampden raid merely destroyed the summerhouse of a home in Rosenthal suburb, injuring two people.  The Wellingtons couldn’t find the factory under cloud, and their bombs fell on farmland, causing Berliners to joke that the Brits were trying to starve them out.

Night of August 28-29: Churchill orders a further Hampden raid, which hits housing around Berlin’s Goerlitzer railway station, killing eight, wounding 21 and causing vast German public indignation. The raids infuriated Hitler and Goering, the latter having invited Germans in  September, 1939, to “call me ‘Meyer’” if any bomber got through to the Ruhr, which is 400km closer than Berlin for RAF pilots.[3]

Early September 1940: Hitler issues two directives. A public one orders revenge attacks on British cities, just as the Luftwaffe assault on RAF airfields is succeeding. The diversion, as everyone knows and writes, leads to Germany’s defeat in the Battle of Britain.    Non-publicly, Hitler also orders construction of the flak towers, with secondary use as civilian air-raid shelters.[4] He even did some hand-sketches for the design.

In a bizarre touch, Hitler  was so certain about  Berlin’s immunity from ground attack that he integrated the towers into the design of his madman’s world-capital “Germania”.[5] The best 3D model of this “world capital” was built for the much-parodied Hitler bio-epic Downfall (2004). It has triumphal arcs (dwarfing the Arc de Triomphe) astride 120m-wide boulevards, and a People’s Hall 320m high for an audience of 180,000.[6] Hence the flak tower walls even had numerous openings for windows, ready for the imagined post-war museums,  theatres and restaurants.

Building the towers was a serious diversion from Hitler’s primary war effort. Each day trains and barges needed to deliver 2000 tonnes of concrete, steel and timber. Germany’s national rail timetable was adjusted to give the flak humbmaterials priority. The first tower was at the Zoo, with concrete pours round the clock to finish the job in six months. The site was flood-lit nightly despite the blackout, except during actual raids. As soon as this tower was completed, contractors started on the Friedrichshain Tower and finally Humboldthain (left). Hamburg later got two towers and Vienna three.[7] None were put out of action in the war.

The Berlin towers at each top corner deployed a formidable 12.8cm AA gun. This had twin barrels 8m long, able to throw 26kg shells 15 kilometres high.  Electrically loaded, each gun could fire up to 20 rounds a minute (80 per minute per tower). The gun’s 26-tonne weight made it impracticable except for the towers, and only 34 were in use by early 1945. Ammunition came up to the roof via a ‘paternoster’ lift (resembling an vertical escalator). This device was capped by a 72-tonne steel dome for protection against bombs. As a fail-safe, shells could be brought up four floors by a normal lift and hand-carried up two more floors.

Air Marshall Goering liked to visit the guns. He was prone to idly pushing buttons and testing levers, so before he arrived troops had to unload the live shells manually and substitute blanks. I found the spiral staircase taxing even without carrying shells – no wonder the troops hated Goering’s visits.

The smoke and shock waves meant the guns’ aiming data had to be generated off-site. Hence each tower had a more compact control tower within half a kilometre, connected by underground cables . That tower was similar in height (40m) but with sides only 50-by-23 metres, compared with 70-by-70m for the mighty gun towers.

The control tower system coordinated the total Berlin air defences, including observers, radar, searchlights, fighter planes, and  guns. With its 6.5m diameter “Wuerzburg Giant” radar dishes, a control tower could pick up a bomber stream 70km out, and retract 12m down into an armored dome when bombs started to fall.  The three towers’ gunners, with their massive firepower, sought to intercept bombers in a 250m-by-250m  “shooting box” of bursting shells. The aiming had to “lead” the   bombers by more than a kilometre ahead to allow for the shells’ 15 second travel. Planes could dive or weave but German analogue computers in the control towers could adjust the guns’ aim within 10-15 seconds.

Heinkel He 219The third floor of Humboldthain used parts from crashed allied planes for top secret research on counter-measures against allied  radar such as the “H2S” guidance system . The lab’s output also enabled night-fighters to home in on bombers, using the whisker-like nose antennas as seen on the Heinkel He 219 (right).

So how successful were the towers? Not very.

Humboldthain  was credited with 32 kills, Friedrichshain with 16-20 and the Zoo tower with 13. That’s a total of about 60 bombers, though other guesses range from 20 to 90. An unknown number  were damaged and limped away to crash elsewhere. The Germans estimated it took 3000 shells from the 12.8cm guns to knock down one bomber via the cloud of shrapnel. The towers certainly deterred the bombers from massing over Berlin to create Dresden-style fire storms, and forced the bombers to their maximum height.

The towers as air-raid shelters did save thousands of civilians during the raids. The lowest two floors of each tower pair were designed for up to 15,000 people but had to cope with as many as 40,000. Crowds queued on suitcases outside during the day to get inside during night raids. The conditions became appalling with foul air, hospital corpses, vermin and concrete dust.              

An  account of the towers by Armin Lehmann, a junior courier moving in and out of Hitler’s bunker, relates:

“Men women and children would exist for days on end, squashed side by side like sardines along every corridor and in every room. The lavatories would very quickly cease to function, clogged up by overuse and impossible to flush because of lack of running water. The passageways of the hospital units became make-do mortuaries for the dead – the nurses and doctors fearing death themselves if they dared venture out to bury the corpses.  Buckets of severed limbs and other putrid body parts lined all the corridors.”

Ursula von Kardorff, in her Berlin Diary 1942-45, wrote of the Zoo flak tower, January 25, 1944:

“A herd of people in the darkness, running like animals towards the entrances – too small and much too narrow. Rude police and officers herd the unwilling crowd up the stairs for distribution on the various floors. For every new floor the crowd grinds to a halt. A woman broke down, screaming. She was convinced she would be in greater danger on the upper floors. “I have a husband at the front,” she shrieked. “I am  not going up there.” At long last she was taken away. The towers have spiral staircases. Loving couples seek them out – a travesty on a carnival.

“When the anti-aircraft guns on the roof are firing, the building trembles and all heads duck as if a reaper was swung over them. People are standing pell-mell; scared bourgeois, weary wives, shabby foreigners dragging all their belongings with  them in huge sacks, and soldiers emitting an air of embarrassment. I thought: God have mercy upon us if panic strikes.”

The Russians in their final push to the Reichstag found the towers impregnable, both to air attack and artillery. The towers’ giant guns could be depressed far enough to knock out dozens of Soviet tanks, until surrender was negotiated on May 2.

flak humb IIAnother role for the towers was storing priceless artworks from the museums. A few days before my expedition, we’d noticed a sad label in the Alte Museum saying that three cases of its ancient gold pieces had been shipped to the Zoo Tower for safety,  but were taken by the Russians immediately after the surrender and never seen since. The Russians (whose own art treasures had been plundered or destroyed) did return some treasures to the East German regime in  the late 1950s, including the bust of Nefertiti and the Pergamon Altar.

Demolishing the Berlin towers was a challenge. The Russians began in April, 1946, with what the allies scoffed at as a ‘rustic’ approach – they   packed tonnes of explosives into their gun tower around the fully-stocked lockers of big shells. The blast knocked the tower walls down but also   damaged streets for kilometres around.

The British began in July, 1947, with a successful blast of the Zoo control tower and a month later invited the world press to record the destruction of the main tower, involving 25 tonnes of TNT. The  blast left the tower still standing. One US pressman commented sardonically, “Made in Germany”. The engineers spent the next four months drilling 400 holes into the tower for 35 tonnes of dynamite. This blast succeeded but  also  damaged the Russian-run S-Bahn, ratcheting up the impending Cold War tensions.

The French-zone tower in Humboldthain (left) abutted the same S-Bahn. They blew the control tower successfully in December, 1947, but damaged AEG factories nearby and broke windows as distant as Rosenthaler Platz (where I had started my U-bahn trip). The gun tower needed three blasts – the final one with 25 tonnes of TNT – just to knock down the south side. The north side was left intact to avoid enraging the Russians further over damage to the rail line.

It was thanks to this French concern that I was able to have my morning’s adventure scrambling around the remains of the flak tower. I remembered to buy some lunch on my way home, but lunchtime was well passed and I had some explaining to do to my legally-conjoined opposite-sex partner.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays,  That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here

[1] The 1300 rubble workers at Humboldtshain included women from 15-50 whose labor earned them ration cards.  The 1300 workers shifted 1.5m tonnes of rubble.

[2] Goering next morning   demanded the names of the crews so he could transfer them to the infantry. The straying plane was in fact commanded by Major Rudolf Hallensleben, who remained in the Luftwaffe and three years later won the Knight’s Cross.

[3] Goering’s quote is often misquoted to refer to Berlin rather than the Ruhr.

[4] Virtually none would be bomb proof but since civilians didn’t know, the shelters boosted morale.

[5]  In the Fuehrer’s own words, Germania would “only be comparable with ancient Egypt, Babylon or Rome. What is London, what is Paris by comparison!”

[6] Such a crowd in fact would cause the structure’s biggest-ever dome to spout down internal rain from all the condensed breaths.

[7] Vienna’s towers include current conversions to   an aquarium, army base and storehouse.

The ABC’s Agenda-Bending ‘Nobelist’

Penny Whetton was once Peter and a nob catastropharian at the error-prone IPCC, where his shtick was global calamity. Now that she is on the gay-marriage bandwagon, the national broadcaster came calling to bolster its pro-SSM coverage with the view of a Stockholm laureate. He wasn’t and she isn’t

penny whettonAbout climate change, the ABC displays  pitiful ignorance. Holding its tax-fed reporters and producers to account is about as productive as chiding toddlers for wet nappies.

Still, someone needs to supply some elementary  instruction and it might as well be me, although I was planning to wash to dog this morning.

Through yesterday (Sunday) the ABC news site was burbling about Melbourne climate scientist Penny Whetton as a “Nobel Prize winner” a la Albert Einstein and our locals such as Macfarlane Burnett, Peter Doherty and Brian Schmidt.[1] [2]

The story was actually focused on Whetton’s legal same-sex marriage to Greens federal senator Janet Rice. When they married 31 years ago, Whetton was the male and the couple now have two  adult sons. Whetton transitioned to female, while  two females continued in what they say is their loving and legal marriage. All well and gender-good, albeit a tad confusing.

On the flagship 7pm TV news last night, reporter Elias Clure (should that be “Clureless”?) intoned, “Senator Rice and Miss Whetton, a Nobel Prize recipient, are one of the few same sex couples in a legally binding marriage…”

The ABC film crew then cut to a certificate on the couple’s wall, with a replica of the official Nobel picture and screed. The clip moved to a close-up to show the text reading, “Presented to PENNY WHETTON for contributing to the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE for 2007 to the IPCC.”[3]

The certificate is signed by the  IPCC’s  then-chair (2002-15), the porn-novel author and alleged (very) dirty old man Rajendra Pachauri. Now 77, he resigned abruptly in February, 2015, when accused by a 29-year-old female subordinate of an 18-month sexual harassment onslaught.[4] The Whetton certificate is counter-signed by the IPCC’s then-secretary, Ms Renate Christ. It’s a rare example of the ABC taking Christ’s words seriously.

The Peace Prize also has been awarded to the corrupt and murderous late  billionaire Yasser Arafat (1994)[5]  and the tottering and terror-traumatised European Union (2012)[6].

The Peace Prize in 2007 went jointly to electricity-guzzling CO2 hypocrite Al Gore[7] and the IPCC itself for pumping out fake climate-catastrophe warnings (the IPCC’s climate models continue to over-forecast actual warming by two to three times).

IPCC Chair Pachauri wrote on October 16, 2007, to the hundreds of lead authors of the IPCC’s 2007 report saying that they could all now call themselves Nobel laureates:

“I have been stunned in a pleasant way with the news of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for the IPCC. This makes each of you Nobel Laureates and it is my privilege to acknowledge this honour on your behalf.”

Among the patsies who fell for Pachauri’s hype were our own CSIRO and Monash University, neither of which thought to check Pachauri’s claim with the Nobel secretariat in Oslo. Deakin Univerisity’s vice-chancellor, Jane den Hollander, awarded Nobel Prize status to Pachauri himself. Penny Whetton, then leading the CSIRO’s Climate Change Impact and Risks group, joined the 2007 self-congratulation at the Nobel for herself and her colleagues.[8]

Pachauri hot-footed to the local Snap-Print and ran off personalized Nobel certificates for posting to thousands of contributors to the IPCC since its foundation in 1988, including reviewers, panelists, technical geeks and bureaucrats. For what it’s worth, a Jewish historical society has estimated Australia’s 2007 “Nobellists” alone at 100 to 200 climate careerists.

These certificates have the unimpeachable authenticity of a Zimbabwean 100 billion dollar note, or of the incessant forecasts since 1988 of an ice-free Arctic (current sea ice extent: about 8 million square kilometres).

The epitome of such pomposity is world-leading climate alarmist Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann, who in an affidavit   accused his detractors of the brand-new crime of “personal defamation of a  Nobel Prize recipient.”[9]

Certificate recipients include those, I suppose, who fantasised in the Fourth Report (2007) that the Himalayan glaciers would melt in 2035 and leave billions on the Subcontinent bereft of fresh water.[10] A top member of the IPCC cabal, Kevin Trenberth, emailed his pals that Christmas:  “Season’s greetings to all my fellow Nobel Laureates, even if we did not get to go to Oslo.”[11]

This   posturing about “Nobels” got so all-pervasive that someone (I assume the Nobel’s secretariat in Oslo) read the riot act to the IPCC. This forced the IPCC in October 2012 to tell its Nobel-winning myriads  to back-off:

The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.” (My emphasis).

Understandably, this IPCC missive was not signed by Pachauri, who had falsely lent his authority to the original fake-Nobel proliferation. The IPCC has also warned,

“No individual, no matter what their involvement with the IPCC, can pass themselves off an a Nobel Laureate. Not even Dr Rajendra Pachauri  is an individual laureate.”[12]

No wonder Oslo was worried. If pseudo-scientists on the IPCC could claim Nobel Laureate status because the IPCC got the Peace Prize, then every one of the 500 million citizens of the European Union is also a Nobel laureates (via the EU’s 2012 Peace Prize).

I have previously urged the IPCC to issue a recall notice for its Nobel  certificates, as these bits of paper continue to befuddle the media innocents at the ABC and elsewhere. Penny Whetton could replace the blank spot on her wall with an equivalent poster, say, of mermaids frolicking with dolphins in a coral wonderland.

Tony Thomas won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his book of Quadrant essays last year, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print. Purchase it here.

[1] Through a stealth edit, the news item today now calls Whetton “a renowned climatologist”.

[2] SBS also treats Whetton as a Nobel laureate

[3] IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

[4] New Delhi police ever since have been trying to get him into court to answer their charges of molestation, stalking, sexual harassment and criminal intimidation. If convicted, he could spend seven years in jail.

[5] Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize parchment is now held by Hamas gunmen, who grabbed it when looting his house a decade ago.

[6] The EU’s prize was “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. Europe is such a peaceful place these days, just ask any culturally enriched London train passenger. In the case of Australia, the measures mentioned are inducing world-topping electricity prices and the odd blackout.

[7] The swimming pool at one of Gore’ mansions consumes as much electricity for heating as six normal houses in total.

[8] The eight “Nobellists” celebrated by the CSIRO on October 16, 2007 were Penny Whetton, Kevin Hennessy, Roger Jones, Ian Watterson, Barrie Pittock, Bryson Bates, Nathan Bindoff, and Mark Howden.

[9] Mann’s “Hockey Stick” paleoclimate study of 1999 was adopted by the IPCC in 2001 as its landmark justification that current warming is unprecedented in 1000 years, but thereafter became one of the most debunked studies in climate history. Two decades later Mann is still fighting court orders to disclose his underlying data.

[10] This furphy, based purely on a magazine’s scuttle-butt, passed through all IPCC review processes and later led to nine “erratas”, even conceding dud arithmetic.

[11] Trenberth wrote the all-time classic Climategate email:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.”

[12] The Punch (5 February, 2010)



  1. ianl

    Yet again the propensity of the MSM, in particular the ABC, to control and censor the public “information” flow to suit a propagandising agenda.

    Now a brief recount of an egregious example of this from last night’s 8pm Sky News (Tuesday Sept 19th 2017) that even Cassandra (my alter ego) had never thought to see (just lacked the imagination, you see). To understand the perniciousness of this incident, one need only know that Foxtel has an “R” rating application it uses for (mostly) films on its’ World Movies channel it has deemed as requiring R-certificate censorship. A screen suddenly fronts that requires a 4-digit code to be fed in before any broadcast is allowed to continue – the TV screen is black-blocked, sound off, with only this code requirement showing until you dutifully obey or change channels to something apparently less deemable.

    So, most unusually, I tuned into Jones & Credlin (Channel 601) a few minutes prior to 8pm because the promos had said something like Credlin and guest Abbott would be robustly discussing the energy mess we have. Although Credlin is not much on hard policy detail (at least the few times I’ve seen her), she does have access to the public megaphone for cross-examination of the slimy ones.

    Suddenly, just before the Jones/Credlin segment was due to start, the sound from the TV stopped. I turned around to see what had gone wrong (not paying attention till then), and there was the deemable R-certificate censorship screen, demanding I feed in the release code so I could watch a segment of political commentary (not some soft-porn film).

    For me, a minor inconvenience and a large belly laugh at the juveniles running Sky. But it seems likely that the more casual of the audience may have concluded that violence/sex unacceptable to family life was about to be screened and so changed channels, or even not noticed for some time that the broadcast was stopped.

    Foxtel and Sky News deemed a political commentary segment to be of R-certificate content, in the same category as pornography or highly graphic portrayals of violence. As I’ve noted, this censorship possibility had never occurred to me – obviously, I just lacked the imagination. And no, this wasn’t a “mistake” or a programme “glitch”. It was meant by Sky as a pathetically jejune attempt to censor its’ own broadcast segment. This is the abysmal bottom level we have reached on the road to Disenlightenment. The MSM is toxic, repulsive.

  2. StephenD

    The ABC should be privatised or better still just closed down. There is no justification for a government-funded media outlet in this day and age. The ABC was established to ensure there was a media outlet free of commercial influence. However that is the least of our worries now. What we have got instead is taxpayer-funded Green-Left media dinosaur. Like the AHRC, which is also blatantly biased in the same direction, the ABC is tireless in promoting an outdated ideology not shared by at least half of the people who are being forced to pay for it. This is an abuse of government funds.
    I pay for Quadrant, without government assistant. Let people stupid enough to like the ABC pay for the rotten thing themselves. It worked well for the Climate Council, which continues to offer indispensable advice to its adoring public, such as that they should eat their leftovers to help save the planet. The ABC operates at a similar intellectual level, and no doubt has many supporters among the intelligentsia of Australia who will prove more than happy to pay for its indispensable services.

    • Doc S

      What an excellent idea. They could transition to a public subscription service like the US’ PBS (the American ABC equivalent) To quote the Wikipedia entry: “PBS is an independently operated non-profit organization and is the most prominent provider of government-funded educational television programming to public television stations in the United States… PBS is funded by member station dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, government agencies, corporations, foundations and individual citizens.” So not entirely off the taxpayer’s teat as it were, but near as dammit AND a perfectly good model for dare I say it, ‘our’ ABC! Just think of the money the government would save – a $billion or two a year – certainly help pay our half-a-trillion deficit nes pa? Get Cory or Pauline to put a private member’s bill up (or one of the more spine-possessing Coalition MPs). Now wouldn’t that be a thing to see?

  3. Jody

    These gender benders only get a glimpse because we live in the ‘Age of the Abnormal’ (my GPs words).

  4. padraic

    The ABC types just make it up as they go along and they do not appear to do any background research. Their pronunciation of rural Australian place names is appalling. That could be because most of their staff are from the northern hemisphere and or possibly because they have never got beyond Newtown railway station.

  5. Patrick McCauley

    Hahahahahahahahaha. Lovely TT … what a lovely mind you have … such a light touch on such heavy things is rare indeed. Thank you. Made my day.

  6. colman moloney

    TT, I bought your book and thought it was sensational. If you keep writing this stuff, you might have to whip out another.

  7. Doubting Thomas

    If he does, I’ll buy it.

Miserable in Mexico

The offer of a free trip to the land of conquistadores and Aztecs, bullfights, bargains, mariachis and margaritas airlifted an eager traveller from his newsroom desk and deposited him in a country no less well known for mindless officialdom, lost bags and loose bowels

aztec tongueOne of the perks of journalism used to be the junkets to foreign lands. Embassies, airlines, and resorts were happy to give us a good time, all expenses paid. The quid pro quo was puff pieces about our delightful experiences. This soft corruption ended for me about 1990 when Fairfax banned junkets.

In 1983, for no good reason, I scored a junket to Acapulco, Mexico. It remains my lifetime’s most ulcerous  travel experience.   Even 34  years later, I still flinch about that trip.

The saga began with a shout from our editor, “Who wants a week in Acapulco?”

“Me!” I shouted back across the desks, expecting a torrid  tussle with  colleagues.

But I was the lone applicant. It was a travel agents’ conference in Acapulco, followed by a sampling of Mexico’s terrific archaeological/historical sites — a nice break from  cranking out stories about tax.

All I knew about Acapulco was Elvis Presley’s Fun in Acapulco movie of 20 years earlier, where he co-starred with Ursula Andress (I’ll waive the easy pun). Actually Presley never set foot in Mexico, doing his scenes on a Hollywood lot because he’d  become persona non grata after an earlier visit.[i]

My glitches on departure from Melbourne AIrport were not dire but not good omens either. My wife driving, we set off along the freeway in good time, with a detour to collect a stack of   reporters’ business cards from the home of a colleague en route. We got lost, had sharp intra-car altercations, and arrived late at the Departures ramp red-faced and no longer on speaking terms. I exited the car   giving wife a perfunctory peck on the cheek, and she burst into tears. A  parking official ordered me back to deliver a more romantic farewell, probably not part of his job description.

I hastened through formalities and with a sigh of relief, settled into my TAA  seat for takeoff.

A call: “Is Mr Anthony Thomas on this flight?” I raised my hand. The hostess   handed me – for heaven’s sake! – my pad of travellers’ cheques.   I had dropped the bundle in the ticketing queue.   A Good Samaritan had picked them up and the airport staff had tracked me down,   minutes before the plane shut its door.

At Sydney I  rang wife to complain that I had previously asked her to sew up the rip in my jacket’s inner pocket. This had not been done and the travellers cheques had slipped through the gap. Wife did not take kindly to being scapegoated. Most women can intuit her retort.

Nothing untoward happened at transit at Los Angeles, except that my short-term US visa carried a coded notation that I had been an Australian Communist Party member (from age 18-22), which aroused   surliness from officials.

I changed to Mexico’s official carrier, Aeromexico, for the leg to Mexico City. It turned out that the entry airport for immigration was Guadalajara. We landed at 4am and by then  I was in a long-haul travellers’ zombie state. We shuffled in  a queue for our entry stamp and somehow I exited to the domestic transfer gate without the clerk’s bang of his  stamp on my passport. The omission was a time-bomb because there was now no evidence I had entered Mexico legally.

But I had no premonition of this catastrophe to come. I finally settled into my hotel in Acapulco and dutifully attended  talks for travel agents about why Acapulco exceeded any other of earth’s delights­.

I scanned my welcome pack. It offered delegates a free add-on flight to another Mexican tourist destination plus several days free hotel accommodation there. This looked promising. I needed to justify my BRW Magazine trip with a business story or two. There was nothing in the add-on’s terms to prevent me nominating Mexico City, where I could do some serious interviews.

I explained my odd preference to a couple of young Mexican travel officials at the conference desk. They   grudgingly  conceded that the terms permitted it technically but not in spirit. They kept me waiting lengthily while they attended to other people and then told me to come back at noon next day. When I did, the desk was closed. I finally cornered them and  they  did sign my   free-hotel stay in the capital’s swanky Zona Rosa district.

“Could I please get a room that’s not near the lift?” I asked.

After more discussion the older man said “Sure!” and scribbled a note in Spanish.  “Give it to reception,” he said.

Their hostility abated. They wished me a great trip, and we split up with friendly handshakes.

Back at my  hotel I evinced the repulsive conditions of “Montezuma’s Revenge”. I’d avoided bug-ridden water but the buffet’s salads had been washed from the kitchen tap. Bodily fluids rocketed incessantly out of my every bodily exit. Everyone thinks their gastro is the worst ever survived,  and mine was like that. Two days went by.

Somehow in a fevered and dehydrated state I staggered onto my plane for Mexico City. I lunged for an orange juice, downed it and it stayed down. My gastro was over.

At the new hotel I handed reception my signed accommodation warrants and  the hand-written note. The desk clerk briskly checked and ticked the form but did a double-take at the note. He conferred with peers and then in a sorrowfully polite and sympathetic way told me, “This note says that under no circumstances are you to have any free accommodation.” Yet another gringo outsmarted by the natives.

As it turned out, prices in Mexico were ridiculously cheap for holders of dollars. That’s because Mexican governments had way overspent their prospective oil revenues and   defaulted on USD80b of   debt. This led to    three  peso devaluations  totaling 500%.  Tourists with dollars could spend like royalty. For the locals, it was not so pleasant. Everyone   who had borrowed dollars now owed five times as much. Businesses went broke, workers got fired and the economy was flat on its back.

I’ve forgotten what the hotel charged, but   dinner at its best restaurant was $A12-$15 and amazingly, a domestic air trip was barely $A20.

I went on a shopping binge and bought a suitcase-load of presents for my short-suffering wife, including a Parisian-style sky-blue satin nightie; suits and shoes for myself; kids clothes, you name it, at what were like charity-shop prices.

I went to an optician’s  shop for new specs. They were delighted to have a customer and made a big fuss of me.

For work, I interviewed a Chamber of Manufactures boss at his large factory. En route to his office we passed a room with a couple of women workers, and I asked what he was making in the main factory. “Nothing,” he said.   His workforce was now just the two ladies.

At another executive’s home, I commented on the old rifle on pegs above his mantelpiece. “That belonged to my grandfather,” he said. “If ever things here get too bad, I’ll   load it and serve my country.” I was  used to the idea of Leftist revolutions but he was readying for a coup from the Right.

My guide Leticia drove me about, cheerfully pointing out the neo-Gothic mansion of ex-police chief and cocaine-trafficker Arturo Durazo   which the new government had opened as a “museum of corruption”.[ii]

After a day at the glorious ruins of Teotihuacan I was ready to fly back to Los Angeles and  home. I had my old suitcase full of old clothes and unwashed underpants, plus a new-bought suitcase   stuffed like a   treasure chest with  finery.

It was early on Sunday and the  airport was somnolent. At the check-in desk a bored male clerk assessed my ticket, passport and US visa. Ticket: OK.  Visa: OK. Passport: he thumbed through the pages, getting irritated.

“There is no entry stamp, senor. How did you arrive?”

“Through Guadalajara.”

“I’m sorry but I have no evidence of that. Kindly go to the Immigration Office.”

I vaguely remembered that  4am mix-up at Guadalajara. How could I have been such a damn fool?

At Immigration, bored officials conferred and advised that my departure  to Los Angeles was out of the question until the entry issue was sorted out. “How long?” I asked. They shrugged. “A week? Maybe a month. It depends.”

A further horror dawned. Even if  my entry snafu got sorted out, my US Visa   would have expired.

In forlorn tones I thanked the immigration people. Lugging my old and new suitcases, I   roamed through the sleepy airport in near tearful state, hoping like Micawber that something would turn up.

Most offices were shut. The few people on duty couldn’t be bothered with my self-inflicted problem.

I had only one resource: my status as a guest of Aeromexico. I discovered the airline’s  office, and   two   officials sat up in surprise. I flung myself at their feet, metaphorically and very nearly literally. Their English was not good but my faulty passport told its own tale. They   took an interest in this rare predicament and tossed around  scenarios, none sounding hopeful.

I’d arrived with several hours to spare but by now boarding calls for my plane were adding to my panic.

The officials explained that the immigration crisis point would be at touchdown at Mazatlan en route, where passport formalities took their final form.

They came up with a stop-gap measure. They would telex  to Mazatlan   and request   some leeway for a befuddled and none-too-bright Aeromexico guest from Australia. The Mazatlan   people might or might not be sympathetic.  Depending on their mood, I would either exit Mexico or sink into a Sargasso Sea of insoluble problems. One of the chaps walked  off to the telex office and came back with a copy for me.

I rushed back  to the ticketing desk, suitcases clattering. This time I got a boarding pass and the  suitcases disappeared down the chute.

We rumbled skywards. With most bad shocks, the onset is sudden and there’s not   an hour of foreknowledge.  But with each minute in the air, I felt my whole body tensing and warping at the crisis to come. My imagination pictured hide-bound   officials unwilling to budge an inch.

I was like an adrenalin-filled animal poised for fight or flight, or the third choice often overlooked, frozen to the spot.

At Mazatlan I joined the shuffle to  the small and non-descript terminal. We formed a queue to immigration, passports in hand, plus, in my case,   the telex.

The room had its immigration counter on one side  and a booth opposite with tourist tat of the sombrero kind, and some duty-free liquor.

A young official took one look at my  telex and waved me aside  to be dealt with last. Every other person got processed and drifted out the door to the transit gate.

The young man  now gave my case his attention. He locked eyes with a colleague, they conferred, shrugged, and BANG! he brought down his EXIT stamp.  It was done so casually.  I couldn’t believe it.

I tried to sincerely thank the officials, but they seemed unimpressed. The elder made a gesture towards the liquor counter. I took the hint, raced over and returned with  a Black Label whisky which they palmed under the counter.

Now I was treading on air. A dead man had been brought back to euphoric life.  And so I returned to Los Angeles,   and headed to baggage collection. After the usual wait, my No 1 suitcase of old clothes  materialized. I waited for my treasure-filled No 2.   Everyone else got their bags and left. No more bags came out, especially not mine.

It’s human nature, after surviving one crisis, to get worked up about some new trifle, e.g. the fate of my plunder from Mexico City.  I fought back   waves of anger and self-pity.

At the missing-bag counter, they   said the bag was probably still in Mazatlan. It would turn up eventually and they would ring my Los Angeles hotel.

I knew better. The bottle of whisky had just been a down payment on the exit stamp. Some lucky stud in Mazatlan was now got up in  my Saville Row-quality suit and heading for the hacienda where a  senorita in a pale-blue satin nightie lay panting.

A homeless person took up residence under my hotel window and for two nights howled like wolf. I felt the same.

On the phone the lost-bag people gave the standard response, “Nothing yet”. On my final morning, with departure to Melbourne at 2pm, I took a call from the airport,  “Your bag has arrived, it’s here for collection.”

Well I never! It was a piece of cake to grab it, put the two bags down the Qantas chute, and make my uneventful return home.

Little remains to tell. The lingerie items and especially the sky-blue satin nightie, were all too  small  for my wife, who in any case was expanding through pregnancy. The new gentleman’s shoes   pinched and    I had to throw them out unworn.

I wanted to reward somehow the Aeromexico officials at Mexico City whose help had saved my bacon. I didn’t know their names but from their telex, one was called Nuno. I drafted a letter on best BRW letterhead to the director of public relations at Aeromexico, showering Mr Nuno with praise for unparalleled  customer service. I visualized Mr Nuno’s delight at this unexpected fillip to his personnel file.  After I posted it, a colleague pointed out that “Nuno” was just the telex operator.

Some months later, I thought   the new Mexican specs needed a check and  dropped in to a Bourke-St optician. He tested them and asked, “Where did you get them made?”

“Mexico City.”

“Well, the centres of the two lenses are out by nearly two centimetres. I’m surprised you haven’t gone cross-eyed.”

Now an optician might get such a measurement wrong by a millimeter or so, but   two centimetres was no accident. I imagined the Mexican opticians exchanging winks as I left their shop. Every patriotic Mexican resented  free-spending gringos profiting from their distress.

I deserved worse: the Acapulco junket was just a near disaster. And getting stuck in a Mexican-US no-man’s-land would have made a  better story. For all that, I was happy to get back to writing tax and accounting revelations.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years In  Print”, is available here.






[i] Some high-up had posted Elvis a signed blank cheque which he could fill in for  the amount, provided he came and sang at the mogul’s daughter’s 15th birthday party. He declined the  offer, whereupon the mogul invented calumnies about him that led to riots and burning of Elvis records.

[ii] Durazo had brought in a 2% “voluntary” levy on policemen ‘s wages, ostensibly for his mausoleum.  The police budget was so straightened that cops had to pay for their own bullets and motorbike petrol. They in turn practised the “mordida” or private-enterprise fining of motorists.

Durazo’s reform-minded successor had the right idea, saying,“ The police cannot be an island of purity in a society like ours, but we will try to reduce corruption to the level of the rest of the country.” 


A Museum Makes an Exhibition of Itself

To be fair, there really is a lot of good stuff on display at the National Museum of Australia, but that value for the taxpayer dollar is hugely diminished by the distortions and sheer bastardry of the institution’s promotion of ‘stolen generation’ myths and slanders of self-sacrificing missionaries

NMA buildingCan a leopard change its spots? The National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra can’t. From inception it was captured by the Left’s social justice warriors and they’re still cementing their long march through the joint today.

The original  design for a wall  included some irregular dots and bumps. As an in-joke, the NMA crowd organized some of the dots to read, in braille, “Forgive us our genocide”, and “Sorry”. These were  stealthy insults to then Prime Minister Howard, who was scheduled to open the NMA in 2001. The plot was exposed and the braille words were made illegible.

I happened to visit the NMA last weekend, including the Aboriginal rights display.

It includes a 1997 poster featuring a hideous caricature of Pauline Hanson with “Pauline’s Menu of Truth” concocted by the cross-cultural “Campfire Group” of Brisbane artists. The pompous NMA caption says the group

harnessed  satire as a means of addressing issues negatively affecting Indigenous people in order to maintain a dialogue and challenge the veracity of information disseminated as fact. Fish ‘n Chips is a commentary on the policies and personalities of the late 1990s.”

pauline poster IIThe NMA has adopted here the ABC trick of deriding and insulting Hanson (e.g. as “Redneck Emperor”) using the pretext of “comedy”, as in the ABC’s “Pauline Pantsdown” shtick or an earlier ABC stunt of broadcasting filthy and defamatory songs about her.[1]To spot the agenda, try to imagine the NMA letting rip with comedic and insulting exhibits from a right-wing group about Julia Gillard, Penny Wong or The Green’s Sarah Hanson-Young.

Nearby in the NMA show, one of the larger (if not largest) historical posters was from the Communist Party of Australia, circa 1982. It included the party’s red flag and the wording, “You’re on aboriginal land…Pay the rent…Land rights now!”

The NMA-written caption reads

“At the time of the 1967 referendum, the Communist Party of Australia gained support from indigenous rights campaigners for their vocal stance against racially discriminatory policies.” The poster was “donated by Mr Peter A Murphy, Sydney District Committee, Communist Party of Australia.”

Bravo the Communist Party of Australia, except  that its Soviet parent and financier had a  habit of murdering racial minorities en masse. Mongolians (100,000 out of 2.4m), Chechens (up to 200,000 or 33-50% of the total), Volga Germans (160,000  dead) and Cossacks spring   to mind.   I’m not saying this NMA caption was inaccurate, just that it seems a bit unbalanced –   other, larger groups – Christian lobbies for example – were also campaigning for Aboriginal causes.[2]

I took a few more steps and another NMA caption literally stopped me in my tracks.

NMA CPA poster“Missions and Reserves” was the heading. The text began with a quote from a Gracie Bond of Cherbourg’s Barambah Mission (Qld) dated 2008:

“Growing up on ‘the mish’ was hard and life was tough. The way my family were treated is heartbreaking – especially the kids. That anyone could think that missions were about ‘protecting’ or ‘benefiting’ Aboriginal people is unbelievable.”

The main text reads:

“Between 1860 and 1978 there were over 200 registered government-controlled missions and reserves across Australia. These were compounds established to contain or control Aboriginal people and restrict or prevent their movement across their traditional lands. Originally, missions differed from reserves in that they were established by church groups rather than secular authorities, but later the word ‘mission’ came to refer to both.

“Those living on missions had their lives controlled by government officials. This could result in residents being unable to leave the mission without written permission, having little or no control over their money, and having their mail censored or withheld, for example. Often they faced the fear of having their children removed. The mission experience was so pervasive that it affected lives and families well after the dismantling of missions in the late 1970s.” [My emphasis].

I am deeply suspicious about the NMA’s attempt to conflate government-run settlements (mainly oriented to welfare distribution) and church-run missions with a philanthropic emphasis on education, protection of vulnerable girls and boys, job-training and Christianising. This mixing-up of the two types implies that the worst paternalism and neglect at the government-run establishments (e.g. at Moore River Settlement in WA’s south-west) were just as prevalent in the church-run stations.

Also, note the sheer bastardry of the NMA in wiping off the generations of self-sacrifice and charity of those church stalwarts who dedicated their lives to Aboriginal protection and betterment. NMA people drawing their fat public service salaries in Canberra (and many of the staff seem to be on the gold-plated public service super schemes)[3] would find it hard to identify with earlier Australians living for  decades amid the heat, flies and isolation of the outback. These missionaries and helpers were ministering to people suffering frightful diseases and disadvantages. The indigenous girls rescued by missions were saved from  violent cultural practices such as rape by mature and old men, including sexual tearing of girls hardly beyond toddler stage.

Moreover, the NMA’s caption does its best to liken the missions to closed compounds (or even a mild form of concentration camp), supposedly forcing Aborigines to stay there despite the  alleged appalling conditions inflicted by monstrous white overlords and overladies.

What bunk! First, the norm was that groups drifted in seeking better food and lifestyle than the bush offered (especially during drought). Missions, often staffed by a  bare handful of people, were  keen  to return them to their own lands rather than have them idly consuming mission resources. Second, when a group felt like returning to their lands, they just went. Who or what could prevent them?

To the extent women and children were in locked dormitories at night, it was for protection against the male black uniapon IImarauders, especially young men whose normal sex partners were monopolized by polygamous elders, with powers of witchcraft and payback to enforce their authority.

The would-be young marauders included David Unaipon, 25 at the time and whose portrait in suitcoat, winged collar and tie now graces our $50 note.

I include this anecdote thanks to the wonderful researches of Joe Lane in Adelaide, who   spent  years patiently re-keying and posting on-line at hand-written  early documents from SA’s missions and archives.

On May 27, 1898, the superintendent of Point McLeay Mission on Lake Alexandrina, Thomas Sutton, wrote to the Rev. Dalton, secretary of the Aborigines’ Friends’ Association in Adelaide, the mission’s agent. Sutton’s letter concerned Unaipon, who was Point McLeay-born:

“We have had a rather startling experience with some of our young men, and I regret very much that David Unaipon has been the ringleader of it all.

Last Monday night, about 11 o’clock or later, voices were heard in the dining room of the Dormitory but before it could be ascertained who they were, they made their escape. I set to work at once to investigate the matter, which resulted in proving most conclusively that David was the leader of three others, viz., Willie Butcher, Pat Williams and Mansell Tripp; first of all David persuaded P. Williams to leave his bed in the young men’s room to join them, then he tried to persuade Tom Lawson to do so but he refused; and subsequently led the above band; we found that he had a key that would open the young women’s door – (that is why I have sent for patent locks) – and if they had not been surprised and hindered, I don’t know what would have happened.

“I can only hope that no entrance has been previously made. I tried them on Wednesday morning and sentenced David to 6 months banishment from the station and from subsequent revelation am going to make it 12 months; and the other two who, I believe, were foolishly led into it but did not go to the extent of the others, I gave them the option of one month’s work without pay or 3 months’ banishment. I think they will choose the former. It has been a great worry to me especially the part that David played, but I believe the prompt punishment will be a good lesson to others.”

Sutton’s discipline didn’t prove very effective, as Unaipon and his co-conspirator simply camped just outside the station boundary. Three weeks later (June 18), Sutton was writing again to Dalton:

“D. Unaipon & W. Butcher I regret to say that these two fellows are now camping on the reserve just outside our ground; if we cannot get control of reserve, it is no use trying to carry out our regulations; the natives will only laugh at us.”

This Unaipon episode is just-by-the-way.[4] The missions generally had far more serious issues to deal with. For example, a prime purpose of many missions was to save children from infanticide, or save half-caste girls from the vilest prostitution,  leading to  rapid death from disease.

As mentioned, the NMA caption starts with the 2008 quote from Gracie Bond from Cherbourg, which is now a self-governing Aboriginal community (population 1300) three hours’ drive north-west of Brisbane. In that very year – though the NMA doesn’t mention it – Cherbourg was so dysfunctional that one in ten inhabitants was bashed severely enough to be recorded on police statistics. (The next year the rate fell to “only” 7%). Police rated 60% of the assaults in the “serious” category. The rate of hospitalization from assaults was more than 30 times the  Queensland average.

As for the children in Cherbourg, at least one in 20 at that time were  involved in substantiated notifications of being at risk of harm.[5]

I’ll repeat Gracie Bond’s allegation in the NMA but now in this black-on-black Cherbourg context:

That anyone could think that missions were about ‘protecting’ or ‘benefiting’ Aboriginal people is unbelievable.”

Moving along the NMA walkway, one gets the full “stolen generation” message, including that children were still being removed and traumatised as late as 1970, to be “better off raised as whites”, alleges the NMA. In other words, Prime Ministers Chifley, Menzies, Holt and Gorton presided over racist child-stealing regimes (federally); as did such decent state individuals as WA Premiers Bert Hawke (uncle of Bob) and Dave Brand (Lib).[6]

In Queensland the policy was to corral Aborigines away from the white community, not to integrate them. From 1908 to 1971, separations of Aboriginal children in  Queensland from their parents averaged four per yearand that was for all reasons, including neglect, incapacity etc.[7]

In South Australia the law explicitly forbade child removals without parental and judicial consent. The Victorian government from 1996-2003 ran six investigations seeking “stolen generation” evidence and individuals and found none, other than 300 informal adoptions and fosterings-out in the 1960s, which earlier governments had discovered, condemned and corrected.

In the Northern Territory, two “stolen generation” individuals sued for compensation, these being the best examples out of 550 prospective cases that phalanxes of lawyers could turn up. Both claimants lost – one case had involved possible parental consent and the other, re Peter Gunner, evinced the horrific evidence that his mother, Topsy, had abandoned the baby Peter on an ants’ nest or stuffed him down a rabbit hole, the finer details vary.

In  NSW, of 2600 children removed between 1912 and 1968, two-thirds were simply teenagers boarded out for apprenticeships (as also occurred with white teenagers) and the other third were largely welfare cases, such as orphans, destitutes and abused children. The NSW cases that involved weakly ambiguous support for the “stolen” thesis totaled three persons.[8]

The NMA display strongly features PM Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology to the “stolen generation”, in which he said,

“We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.”

Tragically, since Rudd’s 2008 pledge, the number of indigenous children in out-of-home care has actually risen by two-thirds, to 15,455, as of June, 2015, such that these children represent 35% of all those in out-of-home-care  and 5.25% of all indigenous children – and the rate is rising. Even SBS TV wonders if there are more of these removals now than at “any other time in Australian history”.

Historian Keith Windschuttle estimates the total removals nationally (for all reasons) from 1880-1970 at about 8250, an annual rate of about 90 that is totally dwarfed by removals today.[9] The NMA could mount quite an interesting display on this contrast, if it chose.

I wasn’t intending a critique of the NMA, which is chaired by business man David Jones (VGI Partners; Kudos Energy) and  run by Dr Mathew Trinca, costs taxpayers $41m a year and gets  1.35m visitors annually
. Just for the rcord, Trinca had this to say about his institution when interviewed by the ABC:

“The one thing good about the cultural institutions of Canberra and elsewhere around the country is that they can be sources that people can trust.”

I just wanted to enjoy myself before my plane took off for Melbourne. Instead, I found myself choking on the NMA’s hotbeds of identity politics, notwithstanding that most of the NMA stuff is pretty good.

I notice that conservative columnist and Institute of Public Affairs board member Janet Albrechtsen is on the NMA’s council, along with gender-Valkyrie and journalism academic Catharine Lumby.  Surely Albrechstsen needs to rock the NMA boat a bit?

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print” is available here.

[1] “Before the Chamber Judge, [Hanson] contended that the broadcast material gave rise to imputations that she is a homosexual, a prostitute, involved in unnatural sexual practices, associated with the Ku Klux Klan, a man and/or a transvestite and involved in or party to sexual activities with children. The [ABC] essentially contended that the material amounted merely to vulgar abuse and was not defamatory.”

[2] Another caption does refer to “academics, Christians, trade unions, peace activists, women’s suffrage groups…A broad range of political interests and parties, including the Australian Liberal and Labor parties, the Communist Party of Australia and the Socialist Party of Australia, also offered support.” Note that ‘Christians’ are listed second behind ‘academics’.

[3] NMA expenses last year for the gold-plated defined-benefit and the defined-contribution super were roughly the same.

[4] Put Unaipon’s shenanigans down to youthful indiscretion. Wiki says he was later employed by the Aborigines’ Friends’ Association as a deputationer, in which role he travelled and preached widely in seeking support for the Point McLeay Mission

[5] A child involved in multiple notifications was counted only as one case

[6] I was a reporter in Perth from 1958-69 and from a household active on Indigenous causes, but recall no such allegation of child-stealing ever being raised, let alone creating any controversy.

[7] This data is from the Qld Govt’s own submission to the “Stolen Generation” inquiry.

[8] Details from Keith Windschuttle’s “The Stolen Generations 1881-2008” or my “Pocket Windschuttle” summarizing his 660-page book.

[9] Ronald Wilson’s Bringing Them Home report (1997) implied up to 100,000 forced removals of half-caste children. Rudd’s apology halved that to “up to 50,000”. Neither cited any documentation for their wild estimates.


  1. pgang

    Years ago I visited a friend who was pastor at a very old mission. At that stage it had already been taken over by the authorities, and it was falling inevitably into decay. Anyway he told me a harrowing tale of an adventure he had recently had. A young man had been murdered (I can’t remember the details), and his tribe or family were rampaging and the situation was quickly fomenting. The police and school teachers were under siege in their compound, frightened for their lives. In desperation, a policeman phoned the pastor to ask if there was anything he could to do help. With extraordinary courage, this young family man left his house and went amongst the crowd, and found the dead youth’s mother or grandmother, who was in mourning. He started praying with her, and eventually the crowd calmed down and joined in with reverence, then dispersed. That is an example of what the missions did for these communities by bringing the truth into their lives and displacing their dreadful superstitions.


    The meanings of words change: ‘late’, in the nineteenth century, didn’t necessarily mean ‘passed away’, simply that the former holder of an office or position was no longer in that position. ‘Removed’ meant’ moved’, or ‘transferred’, or ‘went from/to’. A policeman might be ‘removed’ from one place to another. Children ‘removed’ – especially if they were fourteen or fifteen – may have been apprenticed, or engaged, at some place away from their family. A hundred years ago, what we would now regard as children were employed at far younger ages: my grand-father went to work at nine in the 1880s, which wasn’t uncommon. School leaving age before 1914 was twelve, and in fact even in the 1950s, fourteen was the school leaving age. Old-age pensions weren’t available until around 1908. Unemployment benefits were unknown before the Depression. Single mother benefits didn’t come in until about 1971. Times certainly do change.

  3. Alistair

    Tony, Your articles are always so brilliant they make me feel ill!
    The problem is these ignorant ….. know that they must do everything in their power to vilify everyone from the past in order to misdirect away from the REAL crisis that is happening today, courtesy of poorly thought out self-determination policies of Nugget (and thats pretty much how I think of him) Coombs and his ilk. During the missionary period there was zero youth suicide, zero child sex abuse, low levels of Aboriginal incarceration, zero phoetal alcohol syndrome, low levels of domestic violence, low levels of drug and alcohol addiction, and on and on. The missionaries simply would not tolerate it. In these “enlightened” times though, the progressive government bureaucrats not only tolerate all these, but supress any disenting voices vilify anyone who attempts to correct the record.