The original Children’s Crusade, if it actually happened, didn’t end well for the pre-pubescent zealots, who are said to have ended up as slaves. Today’s kids would know as much if their brainwashers, also known as ‘teachers’, focused on fact rather than getting them into the streets to demonstrate against nasty weather
Anne Summers in 2011 was named by Voguemagazine as “one of the world’s wisest women”. From her memoir Unfettered and Alive, I’d say she’s feisty and crazy-brave, but wise? No.
In 1994, editing Fairfax’s Good Weekend, she rewarded readers with one of her quirky surprises in the cooking section. Celebrity chef Gay Bilson, egged on by Summers, ran a column “The blood of others” about planning to make sausages for dinner guests from three litres of her own blood. Her guests begged off and readers gagged over the “wonderful piece of writing”. Summers “counted this article as one of those I was most proud to publish”.
Her career nearly collapsed in late1983 during her switch from head of the Fin Review in the press gallery to running Keating’s Office of Status of Women (OSW, initially SOW). Driving home from a late dinner the nascent FAS PM&C refused a breath test and overnighted in a cell. Her rationale was that the Canberra Times reported on drunk drivers, and she’d become a joke and couldn’t advance women’s causes: “No, I couldn’t let that happen.” Her permanent head Geoff Yeend was “soothing” and “gracious”, Labor minister Susan Ryan and ex-Treasurer John Howard vouched for her and the obliging magistrate let her off without a conviction. Claiming victim status, Summers now writes, “The only nastiness was from the media”. Such as? The Melbourne Truth, unlike the press gallery hacks, did its job and reported the charge against the gallery president; one journo tried to blackmail her by demanding leaks. She shows no contrition.
It’s Boxing Day 1997 and one of the world’s wisest women finally gets to meet Germaine Greer at an annual party in Balmain hosted by rugby identity Murray Sime and celebrating Chairman Mao’s birthday. Summers: “I had had too many glasses of Jim Beam, a drink I had never tried before (or since) and, embarrassingly, had thrown up in front of her…Despite our both being champions of feminism, we have never really connected; it was probably our first meeting that saw to that.” Amen. As for rugby, it’s “violent and boorish”.
In her job as Keating advisor, she organised a True Believers’ Victory Dinner for 600 in Parliament’s Great Hall to celebrate Keating’s 1993 electoral win. Labor’s HQ was dubious about the $100 a ticket party ($180 today), but she assured them it would be self-financing with volunteer tradies and free entertainment by Yothu Yindi. At the last minute she discovered that the idle Parliament unions had to be paid off for any work done by others, and Yothu Yindi’s crew also wanted pay. She flung herself on the ALP’s mercy and during the partying “sat on the floor at the back of the room, sobbing with humiliation” while being pestered to sign for more liquor. The bill came in at $35,000 ($64,000 today).
Summers’ peak fame was in New York in 1987-88. She organized with publisher Sandra Yates the purchase of Gloria Steinem’s struggling Ms, first for Fairfax ($US12.5m outlay) and then for themselves (plus teen mag startup Sassy) in a $US20m management buyout in mid-1988. After phase one, Summers found chaos including a Ms staffer shickered every lunchtime, subsiding under her desk and passing out. Most staff were paid a pittance but some at the top were paying themselves “extremely well”. As for feminist icon Steinem: “I’d been horrified by the patronising cruelty she dispensed to women she regarded as unimportant”.
In phase two, there was projected buyout value of $US100m value in five years, or $US40m net for the duo. But in a bare three weeks, their business model turned turtle. They’d mass-mailed a Sassyflier that offended religious conservatives. Six top advertisers withdrew $US25m billings and 53 retail chains de-stocked Sassy, dooming the business by September with a $US1m monthly deficit. Back in Canberra as Keating adviser, and dudded on her $US200,000 final year Mscontract, she had to couch-surf while dispatching almost her whole $1700 weekly salary to New York at 50c exchange rate to pay her mortgage there.
She bags her breath-test savior John Howard extravagantly. When he inveighed against political correctness in 1996, “Australian politics changed forever that day.” He “literally opened the floodgates (to) astonishingly hateful racist abuse (that) points to a barely concealed violence simmering beneath the surface of our society.”
Her career was in the doldrums by 2011, which she remedied in calculated fashion with a 7000-word hatchet-job on Andrew Boltfor the Monthly.
Her scoops included embittered quotes from Bolt’s early days’ girlfriend/fiancee, sliming of Bolt’s dead mother as raised in the notorious Nazi-led Dutch town of Aalsmeer, and a swipe at Bolt’s wife Sally Morell which required correction and apology. After this triumph the Left crowd snowed her under with requests for speeches and Fairfax exposure. The big one was Newcastle University’s annual Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture. It became her celebrated defence of Julia Gillard, sufferer of obscene internet abuse. Summer’s nose for controversy paid off again, few noticing her correction and “unreserved apology” to Medibank Private staffers she’d slandered.
Next came her free e-zine Anne Summers Reports (ASR), a bold and classy Left package. The ABC’s Richard Aedy, despite clear ABC guidelines,rattled her can on-airfor donations. Summers’ book claims ASR got ‘rigorous fact checking (and) tough editing’. Maybe not. The August 2015 issue with “a few mistakes” had to be e-pulpedand replaced. Another had a 61 word unproofed parasprayed with 12 typos.
The reports morphed into very successful public “Conversations”. The one with Gillard packed out the Opera House and Melbourne Town Hall. Summers:“She walked out of the darkness towards the love and admiration and the sheer joy of her presence that awaited her that night.” I doubt Summers’ conversations included questions about Gillard’s colorful one-time lover Bruce Wilson.
Alas, by 2016 digital ads remained elusive and donations from her 16,500 subscribers fell short. ASR folded in June 2016 after 13 issues and eight Conversations – notwithstanding the Copyright Agency donating $15,000of authors’ money to the e-zine three months earlier. After the folding, $40,000 more donations came in. But essentially, Summers had overlooked that the Left likes its stuff.
Tony Thomas worked in the Press Gallery from 1971-79.
Unfettered and Alive: A Memoir. Anne Summers, Allen & Unwin. 496pp. $39.99.
Lord Tennyson with his “tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean” has been an inspiration to Christiana Figueres (left). She was secretary-general of the top-level UN climate body UNFCCC (2010-16) and spruiked doom on Stan Grant’s Matter of Fact show on ABC-TV on October 9.
Figueres is billed as the architect of 2015′s Paris Accord which commits China, India, and now the US, to nothing. Meanwhile the West is supposed to transfer $US100 billion a year to Third World leaders, such as the PNG politicians who’ve just ordered 40 Maseratis and three Bentleys.
The $US100b is actually small change by Figueres’ standards. A year ago she challenged Principles of Responsible Investment signatories, with $US70 trillion under management, to put 1% into renewables by 2020. If I’ve got all the zeroes down pat, she’s talking $US700 billion.
Snuffles and sobs accompany her listing of future climate horrors unless we spend $US38 trillion on renewables during the next 16 years. That’s nearly half of current world GDP. I was disappointed that she stayed dry-eyed during the encounter with the ever-affable Stan Grant while delivering her litany of climate fictions and forecasts. She also accused the commendably sceptical Grant of using “infantile arguments”.
Are any recent graduates of ritzy St Catherine’s in Sydney’s Waverley reading this piece? Girls, remember her addressing your 1000-strong assembly in 2015. She had a box of Kleenex handy, and bare moments into her speech she told you, “I have tissues here because it always pains me … [a pause] to see [a suppressed sob] … the evidence of what we’ve done.” She explained later to a worshipful SMH reporter, “I always have emotional moments when there are children in front of me…Unfortunately the painful evidence is upon us, there is no country in the world , not one single country, that has not had some extreme weather event that is related to climate change.”
The alarmist Climate Home News has noted, “Her passion for tackling climate change has many times spilled over into tears.” At Cancun in 2010, for example, she dabbed her tissues as she told kids she “had inherited a severely diminished planet [sobs] .. I just can’t look my daughters in the eye and not do what I can [more sobs].” I doubt her two daughters, now aged 30 and 29, will really do it tough. They’re both graduates from top universities (Yale and London School of Economis) and globe-trotting finance/gender/climate consultants.
One tear-jerking oration involves Figueres in the Costa Rican jungle as a kid to see the golden toad, which from 2004 became the supposed first casualty of climate change. Her two daughters would never see one, she mourned. Nice anecdote except that better research has now attributed the apparent loss of the toads to natural El Nino cycles, not global warming.
Palace-raised Figueres is from the ruling dynasty of Costa Rica (pop. 5m). Her father was president for three terms and more than 12 years, while her brother, Jose Figueres, was president for four years. Her mother was a parliamentarian and ambassador to Israel and her half-sister an ambassador to the US. At the UN and later, her politics have been champagne-socialist. She achieved perpetual quotability with this ripper from February 2015, which I’ve taken from the official UN press release:
“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
She views a halt to growth in the West with equanimity. “Industrialised countries must stop growing — that’s fine. But developing countries must continue to grow their economy in order to bring their people out of poverty … We’re saying: “Okay, you guys, you can continue to grow, you can bring your people out of poverty — but you can’t do it with disgusting fossil fuels that those guys use’.”
After the severe flooding in Somerset and on the Thames in 2014, aggravated by maintenance and dredging failures, Figueres tastelessly found a silver lining: “It’s unfortunate that we have to have these weather events, but there is a silver lining if you wish, that they remind us solving climate change, addressing climate change in a timely way, is not a partisan issue.”
Her ideology was also on view in 2014 when she praised the Chinese dictatorship for “doing it right” with its can-do approach to climate “because its political system avoids some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the U.S.” Representative democracy, it’s such a pain!
A year ago, Scientific American headlined her profile: “The woman who saved the planet”. Sub-head: “By harnessing ‘female energy’, Christiana Figueres convinced humanity to take on climate change.” We also read that she has “warded off global catastrophe” by opening the Paris talks not just to governments but “to the private sector, the spiritual community, the scientists.” (Curious, who she puts last, isn’t it? She should also have mentioned the Paris hordes of green NGOs). She claims she created “a surround-sound effect” so that no matter where governments turned, they heard “a chorus of yes, yes, yes. Yes, we can go forward with ambition, yes, this makes economic sense, yes, the technologies are there, yes, the science is there, yes, the morality is there.” But no, Ms Figueres, the $US100 billion a year for the Third World isn’t there and the Green Climate Fund meetings have fallen into farce.
Figueres must stagger under all her honors and awards. They include the Shackleton Medal, the Grand Medal of the City of Paris, the Legion of Honor, the German Great Cross of Merit, the Guardian Medal of Honor, the 2015 Hero of El Pais award, the Global Thinker Award, Four Freedoms Award and the Solar Champion Award from the woke folk of California. She was No 7 on Fortune’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2016, and a Top Five Most Powerful Women in Science last year. Quite a haul for someone who is yet to discover that weather isn’t climate.
Her flagship role today is convenor of the Mission 2020 activist lobby, which in 2017 was claiming humanity had only three years to stop the planet evolving into hothouse earth with “devastating heat extremes and unmanageable sea level rise”. Mission 2020 just wants us to spent $US1 trillion a year by 2020 on renewables and coal phase-outs, thus saving the planet.
Figueres in the run-up to the Queensland election late last year was lobbying against the proposed $1 billion concessional rail loan to Adani for its Carmichael coal project. (Who needs Russians?) She claimed the loan would trash Australia’s reputation internationally and undermine the Paris Accords, as if China and India aren’t doing a good job of that already.
During the Stan Grant interview, hyperbole was rampant. “We are at the crossroads deciding the future of humanity on this planet,” she said, also posing three questions, all with false premises:
- Do you want bushfires raging across the East Coast for six months at a time or do you want a thriving and prosperous agricultural sector?After 1degC of global warming, wildfires are on a falling global trend. Australian wheat exports in 50 years are up from 6.4m tonnes to 16m tonnes, with a record 25m tonnes six years ago.
- Do you want to cause geopolitical instability because Pacific nations will not survive (rising seas) and they will have to be simply migrated, or do you want to open up your energy system to be a limitless force from wind and sun and to be a jobs and energy source for the world?Tuvalu’s 101 islands have actually expanded by 3% in area in 40 years. Al Gore falsely claimed in his Inconvenient Truth movie of 2006 — that some island populations had been evacuated, a spurious assertion that has never corrected There are no island refugees from climate change to date. Wind and solar power are unreliable, require subsidies and confer no trade advantage to Australia. The high cost of renewables has reversed our once-powerful energy competitiveness.
- Do you want the Great Barrier Reef or do you want the largest aquatic cemetery in the world?The Barrier Reef has survived thousands of years of much hotter climate than today’s or the purported heat level by 2050. It’s already recovering fast from two years’ bleaching events.
To his credit, Stan Grant kept trying to introduce reality checks such as coal’s status as Australia major energy source and export earner, while Figueres responded with her word salads. “Coal doesn’t have any place in the global energy system anymore … It would be unreasonable to expect Australia would completely demise its coal industry overnight but (it should) smoothly move out of coal energy because you have many other sources of energy and exports…”
She thought replacing coal energy and exports over 10-20 years “should not be that difficult.” Reality check: The anti-coal Coalswarm plant tracker reports that China now has as much new coal-fired capacity under development – 259GW – as the entire US coal-fired power industry – 266GW.
Grant asked why Australia should make sacrifices while China (and India) are unconstrained on emissions.
“That’s a very infantile argument,” she replied, saying that all national commitments were self-determined and voluntary. “It’s a myth that addressing climate change is a huge burden, it’s a huge opportunity. The global economy will grow between 20 and 26 trillion dollars just because we are moving to a new technology creating 65 million new jobs where young people are needing such jobs.”
The supposed “65 million new energy jobs” is a pointer that solar and wind energy is more labor-intensive, hence less productive, than equivalent coal-fired power stations – even disregarding renewables’ unreliability. Subsidised jobs are an economic burden, not a benefit.
Last month in another interview she turned the dial up to 11, claiming inter alia that “catastrophic heat waves” have stricken Australia. “After a year of unprecedented wildfires, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters around the world, it is clear that the climate crisis is already upon us,” she claimed. “Without more effective political leadership to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions immediately, the apocalyptic conditions of a warming planet will become the new normal.”
Figueres’ nickname among sceptics is “Tinkerbell”. If it means she’s divorced from reality, she’s earned it.
Tony Thomas’s new book The West: An insider’s tales – A romping reporter in Perth’s innocent ’60s, can be bought here
 Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is UN-linked but claims independence.
 The brother Jose Maria resigned abruptly as CEO of the World Economic Forum in 2004 after confirming that he had pocketed more than $US900,000 consulting fees from Alcatel, contrary to WEF rules. He blamed an oversight.
 Among the 60 signatories to the document is Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and, from 2000-10, president of the ACTU.
 “The data available to date do not support a general increase in area burned or in fire severity for many regions of the world. Indeed there is increasing evidence that there is overall less fire in the landscape today than there has been centuries ago, although the magnitude of this reduction still needs to be examined in more detail.”
 Drought: “…low confidence in the sign of drought trends since 1950 at global scale… likely to be trends in some regions of the world, including increases in drought in the Mediterranean and W Africa & decreases in droughts in central N America & NW Australia”
Floods: “There is low confidence due to limited evidence, however, that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and the magnitude of floods. ”
Naomi Klein from Canada oversees courses for tens of thousands of Australian high school students.
She’s an anarcho-environmentalist mobilising grass-roots mobs like Occupy to overturn capitalism. She never finished her Bachelor degree but made a hit with her 2014 book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate”. As a New York Times reviewer hyper-ventilated: “[It’s] a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable.” Klein cites a 2012 author of a paper, “Is the Earth fucked?” who tells her, “Yeah, pretty much!”
Klein has collaborated with tax-free charity Cool Australia to provide no fewer than ten discrete lessons based on “This Changes Everything” for our Year 9-10 kids. Each lesson certifies, “Produced in partnership with ‘This Changes Everything’”. Other lessons are co-partnered with lobbyists WWF.
Cool Australia has hundreds of free environment lessons in ready-to-go format. From Cool’s start in 2008, the modules are now used by 89,000 teachers in about 80% of schools. It claims 1.7–1.9 million kids took lessons in 2017, though I dunno, its 2016 figure was only 1m.
Cool is the creation of the Jason and Craig Kimberley family, which sold its Just Jeans chain for $64m in 2001. Independent charity watchdog ChangePath fails Cool on transparency (zero Stars out of three). Who knows where Cool’s $1m revenue in 2016 came from? Donations were only $162,000. It’s got other mega-rich pals like wotif$140m beneficiary Graeme Wood.
Bendigo Bank departed last year as Cool’s big sponsor since 2014. The bank explains guardedly that both parties had moved on and agreed to split. New sponsor is Teachers Health, covering 300,000 educators.
Jason Kimberley says Cool’s goal is for students to be empowered change agents able to identify and solve world issues. Maybe they should pass their driver’s test before they fix the Middle East.
Teachers require kids, as per Cool lessons, to mobilise to improve society and harangue parents, small businesses, MPs, councillors and the public. With every child in class required to state his/her view, any kid would need outside knowledge and a hero’s courage to buck the teachers.
The climate zealotry in schools – also enforced by teachers unions – contrasts with polls of Australian adults showing 43% sceptical of the human-caused warming doom (Climate Institute, 2017).
Much of Cool’s urgings are harmless, like picking up plastic and conserving tapwater, though it admits to kids’ growing message-fatigue. But Cool’s climate gospel is driven right down to pre-schoolers, or tiny-trots.
“Early Learning Hot and Cold” lesson for pre-schoolers: “Using less electricity and finding alternative and greener sources of electricity – such as wind or solar – is essential to addressing climate change.” The material adds helpfully: New words for children to learn: “Electricity”, “Energy”.
Recommends one teacher: “Great ideas that we can use with the children on the importance of sustainability at kindy and at home.” At kindy? It’s not as though we out-pollute Nigeria.
Klein is a master (or mistress) of videos brainwashing kids with her messages like,“Our economic model is at war with life on earth.”
One film depicts Greek villagers battling an Eldorado Gold project start-up. They chant, “The birds are welcoming us. Everything is blooming. We are one with this mountain. We won’t survive without it. To victory!”
Interviewer: What is the core problem? Peasant woman– “It is the economic system, capitalism I guess… They will go away and leave a desert behind.”
Narrator: Squeeze the earth, squeeze the people.
Mining equipment was torched (not shown in film), while demonstrators are shown being tear-gassed. Eldorado last year mothballed its billion-dollar mine, citing delays with permits. As if Greece needs such projects.
Another movie finishes with Germans – including a rabbi – literally sobbing for joy over new wind and solar plants.
The material harps on imminent economic collapse, hat tip to Karl Marx.“Thought starter: How do you think climate change would be affected if the global economy collapsed?”
Klein’s nostrums include higher wealth taxes and “basic income for all”, carbon taxes, fracking bans and anti-trade ‘re-localising’. She promotes worker and community ownership and “community-controlled” clean energy (tell that to AGL).
Teacher: “Do students have their own strategies for how to develop a clean and just economy?”
Her courses time-travel to the future where all climate horrors have come true, including Sydneysiders expiring from dengue fever.
A strange graphic includes such Tim Flannery-style Gaia worshipping as “Consider everything alive and animate. Create a personal dialogue with your environment. Talk to it.”
Cool lists the Human Rights Commission among its “guys [that] get our creative juices flowing. They are our daily go-tos and our funnest (sic) playmates.” Ex-HRC head Gillian Triggs pops up “fighting for freedom, equality, fairness and Justice”, except for persecuted QUT students and those, sadly, still saying what they like around the kitchen table. Other “funnest playmates” are teachers’ unions and the Victorian Democratic Republic’s Education Department.
(Here’s a factoid: the Victorian Essential Learning Standards up to 2013 prescribed “Climate Change” lessons in seven different subjects for the small kid in Years 1-2, even including “Health, Physical Education – Movement and Physical Activity”).
Klein concludes disarmingly: “What if global warming is not only a crisis? What if it is the best chance we will ever get to build a better world?Change or be changed!”
A 2017 survey found 15-20% of Cool-registered teachers – particularly coordinators – were using the website 10 to more than 30 times a year. Most sought lesson plans which they used four times each. Cool has become a free, popular substitute for teacher-centred input.
Cool’s asylum seeker coverage is just as one-sided – with at least 12 “lessons” based on activist Eve Orner’s 2016“Chasing Asylum” film with such commentary as: “Staff would have to be trained how to use a Hoffman’s knife. The knife would be used to cut people down when they are found hanging.”
Learning Intentions: Students will recognise that human rights and social justice are core in issues relating to seeking asylum. Students will identify ways to take action at their school or in their community…
Teachers love the stuff. “Wow! I’m vibrating with joy after going through your gazillion lessons and resources… this is gold,” testified Terrina Phelan, sustainability teacher at St Mary’s Primary, Echuca, on the website. A coordinator (hopefully not of English courses) wrote that the lessons gave her “piece of mind”. Maybe parents could give their local school a piece of mind too. #
Xavier Herbert (left, in his later years), author of door-stopper Poor Fellow My Country, granted me an interview when I was a callow Perth reporter of 24. Herbert is the only Australian author to have literally disappeared up a gum tree, of which more later. That temporary disappearance must have occurred a few days before my interview.
Poor Fellow, which he published 11 years later in 1975, is a third longer (1463 pages) than War and Peace and weighs two kilograms. It’s much-mocked as ‘Poor Fellow My Typewriter‘. Critics say his 510-page Capricornia of 1938 is better. Both depict the unjust pre-war race relations in the Northern Territory and promote land rights. Geraldton-born, he’d been sponsored for a three-week Adult Education Board tour in early 1964 of his old WA haunts. But he publicly called the tour off and high-tailed it back to the East, pausing only to slander – via myself – the board’s director Hew Roberts, a gentlemanly chap of academic mien.
Herbert seemed in a rage when I arrived for the interview, unless he was just posturing for publicity. Maybe he’d been overdosing on his steroids and methyl-testosterone, though of course I didn’t know about the injections at the time. Truth is, he hadn’t sacked the board: the board had sacked him.
Why bring it up now? Last month I happened across a letter from Roberts to then-State Librarian Mollie Lukis, setting out Roberts’ side of the story. The egomaniac Herbert (1901-84) was up to his old tricks of betraying friendships and picking fights, Roberts explained.
This fracas, though interesting to me, ranks low on the Richter scale as Xavier Herbert stories. So I’ll consign it to the end of this piece and start with more entertaining stuff. The first tale is about him circumcising himself at 45 as a wedding present for his Jewish bride; the other concerns his failed effort at 79 to recruit a 24yo rabid feminist (her own description) as his live-in secretary and bed-mate, in exchange for authoring his official biography. This lady, Ann McGrath, is now an ANU history professor with an OAM.
Herbert had been running an affair since 1930 with an uneducated Cockney woman Sadie Norden. They married in 1946. For nearly 50 years she took a role as servant to his genius, while he flaunted his affairs and treated her like dirt.
The circumcision saga, chronicled by academic Russell McDougall,, has origins in the epochal Fremantle wharf riots of 1919, where one striker was killed when rival unions went to war. A young scab, Herbert jumped in to help a besieged constable and a striker landed a punch that broke his nose. Herbert became an ardent advocate of the Left after that and dubbed himself Broken-Nosed Sam. As decades passed, he began theorizing that his creative writing emanated from “the body” and his busted schnoz was giving him writer’s block and maybe suppressing his virility. In addition, he subscribed to a view that male Jews have big noses, but with an inverse relationship to penis size. (Author McDougall uses the tactful term “Jewish nostrility”). Herbert also wanted to match his bride-to-be’s Jewishness, but he was uncircumcised. There’s a lot of symbolism going on here. He started his new life with the nose job.
Herbert wanted Sadie’s wedding this time to be sensational, and he determined to give her an unbeatable gift, a surprise on her wedding night, by appearing to her fully undressed – that is, circumcised. Over the years he had developed quite a psychological complex over not being ‘pruned’ as a child, exacerbated by his knowing that, according to Jewish law, his uncircumcised penis was the sign of a barbarian. He had gone into the House of Israel by the back gate, uncircumcised, but he was determined not to leave it that way.
“In his heart he clung to Catholicism, for he loved the True Church even as he could not believe in Jesus, who in his view was a ‘phoney.’ … Still, he was ashamed to present himself uncut to his bride, and he determined to reshape himself. It was his way of making his wedding day the Day of Atonement and claiming the higher innocence of those who are forgiven their sins. He presented himself to Sadie streamlined, wrapped in gauze.
“It is hard to say if she were impressed, and of course there is no way now to prove beyond doubt that the story is even true. But for him it had the imaginative truth of art; and it would appear that, recalling the power he had gained from the straightening of his nose, he was encouraged to think that, once circumcised, he might also become more decisive. Thus, on July 1, 1953, he recorded in his log, ‘the beginning of the great days of my life — my Great Days, let me call them — in which I am able to do anything I want to do.’
None of this makes the cut (no pun intended) in Frances de Groen’s dispassionate biography of Herbert. Maybe she didn’t believe it.
When Sadie became terminally ill, Herbert treated her as a nuisance, and when she died he wasted no time casting about for a worshipful younger woman as servant/slave. Women found his literary fame and apparent hyper-masculinity enticing, and in short order he had fetched up a middle-class Melbourne divorcee half his age to his home in Redlynch, near Cairns. She had imagined Herbert as a kindly protector and took off down south again when confronted with her bed duties. The overtures repeated, with Ann McGrath among the refuseniks. He finally gravitated to a platonic and professional relationship with a young Cairns bank clerk as his secretary. He left her his whole estate, which he had long pledged to Aboriginal rights, Israel, and aspiring Cairns writers.
Now for that tale by Ann McGrath. Around 1981 she was a new-minted lecturer at Darwin Community College. She much admired Herbert’s writings and activism for Aborigines, the environment and the republic. From 1977, she said, he was her “great man”.
She initially didn’t like the macho elements of Capricornia. “It was the era of high 1970s feminism, with me busy reading writers like Doris Lessing and Kate Millett” she writes. But researching cattle workers, she was struck by the book’s 1920s frontier tales of cruelty, race and class division, pretension, snobbery, and violence.
She was an expert witness on the Finnis River Kungarakany land claim and awed to learn that Herbert would also give evidence at the venue, a Darwin church. McGrath dressed in a ‘school marmish’ way, trying to look conservative and mature for the court case. She had dropped the tie-dyed hippy look in exchange for a very prim retro linen dress and jacket, and put her hair in a bun.
“Xavier Herbert invited me out to dinner. I suggested that I also invite Mickey Dewar (1956-2017), a history graduate from Melbourne University who was undertaking a Diploma of Education.”
McGrath was 24, Dewar 25, and Herbert was 79. For the dinner McGrath wore cream and maroon printed Indian harem pants, perhaps the wrong choice. Herbert was bereft of female comfort, as he had been since Sadie’s death a year or so earlier.
Over the meal, Xavier made a proposition for both of us to consider. He explained that he lacked a muse, which was essential to his ability to continue to write. To finish his planned last great novel — one that, if I recall correctly, would see Australia transformed and become a successful and fair republic, a ‘True Commonwealth’ — he needed a helpmate. This woman would be essential in enabling him to meet his last writing challenge. She would also gain the right to author his official biography. It sounded attractive in a way and unpleasantly subservient in another. So the deal was – you got to write his biography in exchange for looking after him in a devoted way – to replicate the role that a ‘traditional’ wife was supposed to perform. We were not given details.
Despite being a rabid feminist, I could not help but feel excited by the idea of writing the biography of the ‘great man’ I so admired.
Mickey was also a fan. She was absolutely gorgeous, plus brilliantly flirtatious and sexy.
Mickey had read Poor Fellow My Country five times. As a dedicated Herbert fan, she was equally dizzy at this unexpected privilege of dining with Xavier.
When he put the muse/biography proposition to us, I was willing to think about it, albeit sceptically. I was a young PhD student, with much yet to do on my thesis, yet the idea of being the one to write the biography of a famous, still living, ‘outback legend’, Indigenous rights activist and patriotic reformer was exciting and tempting.
Mickey was much more sensible than me. Without much ado, as the dinner neared its end and the proposition was to be considered, she proclaimed: ‘I’m not the one. I have already found my great love.’ Mickey was one for dramatic moments, and although taken by surprise I was much impressed by her decisiveness.
I prevaricated, we had letters going to and fro about my duties, and so the story goes on. [But she never took up his offer].
One of the reasons my younger self was fascinated by Xavier was because he seemed to embody ‘the Australian legend’ – the ‘real bushman’ … To understand Australian history better, I wanted to understand an exotic, probably dated, form of Australian masculinity… I later realised that his was a carefully self-constructed character that he enjoyed conveying to the public, especially urban audiences.
In a modest footnote about the muse role, McGrath records, “When I later tried to get more specific details it included secretarial duties such as answering the phone and all the other support and services a husband could apparently expect of a wife. Sex was optional but clearly on his mind.”
Kylie Tennant catches a lift with Herbert aboard his BSA in 1964, about the time of his visit to WA.
Subsequently, she accepted his invitation to a camping trip, with Aboriginal artist Dick Roughsey and rock-art expert Percy Trezise. She slept in a separate “lady’s tent”. Herbert and Trezise talked incessantly and she was understandably glad to bug out early. Both she and Herbert kept diaries and when she read his after he died, “his version of events is rather different from mine.” Duelling diaries, she called it, sparing us the details.
Now for my own Xavier encounter when Herbert aborted his speaking tour of WA’s northern and eastern wheatbelt. I have dim recall of a nuggetty blue-eyed bloke in irascible mood. His career was at a low ebb, with his latest novel Soldiers’ Women dubbed by critic Geoffrey Dutton “an appalling and embarrassing flop”. My report included,
He was sick of being treated like a naughty schoolboy by the Adult Education Board. He said that he had had a row with AEB director Hew Roberts, on Monday. Mr Roberts, he said, had criticised him for having criticised WA in the press and had said he was making everyone wild with his unbridled criticism.
“He went on like a schoolteacher, nag nag nag,” Mr Herbert said. “He said he was not going to allow Commonwealth money to be spent for me to go around abusing WA.”
Mr Herbert said he had assured Mr Roberts that he would only talk about his writing in his lectures but Mr Roberts had asked for an assurance that he would not upset people who asked him questions after a lecture.
“I said I had better go home where I belong and Mr Roberts said, ‘Do’”.
Mr Roberts had since made four requests and had written him a letter asking him to stay but he had ignored all of them.
He would have been quite happy to do the tour alone on his motor cycle, talking to people whenever he felt like it, but the board had kept arranging and delaying things, and wanted him to go with a driver and organiser.
“I’m not a man like that,” Mr Herbert said. “It drove me mad.”
Hew Roberts in my report responded diplomatically and mentioned that Herbert had refused any Commonwealth money. Roberts’ real feelings are in this letter I recently turned up, written three years later. He was forwarding to Molly Lukis at the State Library some press clippings about Herbert’s visit which he found when cleaning up his house.
“It occurred to me that [the clippings] represent a portion of the biography of Xavier Herbert as he saw himself.
In the short time he was with us, Molly and I developed a great affection for Xavier, slightly tinged with pity. While abusing the board and me in the press, he virtually lived with us. He loved anomalies and would let our cat eat from his plate while having his meals and talking with the boys. He was quiet in speech and a warm personality, but he was entirely shut up within himself. He would ride away on a powerful motorcycle he had borrowed, and of which he was obviously scared – all part of a deep fear of growing old – old and undramatic. He was the only person we have met who was genuinely an egomaniac.
Do you remember Herbert McClintock [Communist artist], who painted under the name of Max Evert and used to exhibit in the West Australian Newspapers Gallery, and was the first “modern” painter living here? He was somewhat the same. The moment he began to be well-established he would feel trapped in his own style. He would then hate his previous work as Xavier hates Capricornia with an almost vitriolic hatred. McClintock could have been as great as Dobell or Nolan, but for McClintock. I suppose Xavier Herbert could have been as great as Patrick White, or greater, but for Xavier Herbert.
Best wishes, Hew.”
Herbert’s WA trip makes it into Francis de Groen’s biography, which sheds further light on Herbert’s dummy-spit:
Few people knew or cared who he was or what he had written and he felt both snubbed and isolated. He responded by quarrelling publicly with the Board of Adult Education over his accommodation and itinerary then going into hiding, emerging only to denigrate his home state. Fluctuating between exaltation and depression, he spent his days wandering alone around Fremantle and Cottesloe, haunting the sites of his youth and reminiscing about the happier moments spent there … Except for Henrietta Drake-Brockman and Mary Durack, the WA literary community also ignored him and he reciprocated in kind. He arrived late and drunk to a party organized by Mary Durack and disappeared up a gum tree into a cubbyhouse where he sulked…In late April the Adult Education Board terminated his contract. He pretended that he had withdrawn his services to protect his right to criticize his home State.
This isn’t an article about Herbert’s literary merit. I’d just mention that to 1960 Herbert garnered three Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowships and in 1963 he got a CLF Literary Pension for Life, at 7 pounds a week [$200 in modern money] and indexed to inflation. Today’s supplicants: eat your hearts out.
Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be ordered here. To get tickets to the launch in Carlton at 6pm on October 10, click here.
 The Materialization and Transformation of Xavier Herbert: A Body of Work Committed to Australia.McDougall, Russell.Cross / Cultures, suppl. Literature for Our Times; Leiden Iss. 145, (2012): 187-200,409.
 University of Queensland Press, 1998.
 When she asked him to cook potato chips for dinner, he whinged “I was to end my days as housekeeper to a sick old lady.” At a literary wake for Sadie, he threw punches at guests and stormed off into the street.
 Ann McGrath is the 2017 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University. She has published numerous articles and books on gender, colonialism and most recently on deep history.
 Lukis is justly famed as WA’s first archivist (from 1945) and first director of the Battye Library of WA History (from 1956).
Apropos Michelle Guthrie’s sacking, and the bitchy tweet ‘Excellent decision’ by Four Corner’s Sally Neighbour, the ABC has always been a snakepit for management-staff relations and the sisterhood. Science Show guy Robyn Williams in his just-out memoir Turmoilsays he’s called a couple of senior managers ‘vermin’ in internal emails, and others ‘galloping mediocrities’. He writes, ‘I am usually in deep loathing of someone in the ABC and it’s usually someone in charge.’ And later, ‘Hatred…invariably consumes the hater. But I still want to murder that smug bastard in TV management.’
Sadly, Williams has bowel cancer and his memoir deals with that unflinchingly. He snaps that the ABC’s HR minions are all over him about cutting resources, but no chums from the ‘ABC People’ department have ever in 47 years come downstairs to ask about his health.
Managers are also mean to managers. Williams still mourns one of Guthrie’s predecessors, Talbot Duckmanton, general manager from 1965-82. Well-regarded by staff when they weren’t on strike, he was consigned by management post-retirement ‘to the ash can of history’ for his last 13 years, not even beng sent an annual report.
Williams’ history reads like a caricature of an ABC presenter. His Welsh coal-mining father and union executive Gwyn Williams was not just a Stalinist but a 1950s Vienna-based communist spy, albeit ‘amateur in the extreme’. The family’s sumptuous Russian-zone top flat (marble staircases and chandeliers) came with two servants. His father’s spy career was ‘brief and, apparently, ineffectual. I’d love to see his files from MI5,’ Robyn Williams writes.
He spent his youth on left-anarchist adventures but then turned his back on Reds, their dull meetings and Stalin’s nuclear fist. Like Media Watch’s Jonathan Holmes, he affirms that the ABC crowd are left-leaners, but says that so are ‘most tertiary-educated folk one comes across. This does not constitute a conspiracy. It constitutes a cultural mix and intellectuals (don’t panic – I mean those who work with their minds) more commonly sound like Reds than do manual workers. It used to be the other way around.’
Leftists are akin to Christ, actually. ‘It is traditional for the Left to have an over-optimistic regard for humanity, as Jesus did, oddly enough, and the right, let’s call him Nigel [Farage?] or Osama [bin Laden?], to think we’re all a step away from villainy and must be thwarted.’
He was a bully at his 1950s London state-grammar school, but we can allow that he was only 15. ‘We learned our Stalinism young,’ he writes. Just to show off, he beat up a ‘weak’ and ‘hopeless’ boy, who was ‘as pugilistic as Bambi’. Williams ‘hit him hard in the face. He turned without resistance and so I pummeled his kidneys as if to break his back, simulating a cold frenzy.’ Williams’ pals, initially gloating, got frightened and intervened at last to rescue the collapsed and coughing student. Williams never apologised to his ‘miserable, crushed victim’ but did resolve to eschew such shameful violence henceforth.
He may have dumped Red dogma, substituting ‘science marches’ for ‘peace marches’, but not the attitudes. He nominates as ‘evil’ the US Tea Party small-government lobby (along with ‘men who beat women’) and Trump for being nasty to climate doomsters. Saying Margaret Thatcher was wrong, he needs to ask, ‘But was she evil?’ – ‘Not ultimately.’ But he is in no doubt Republicans were ‘evil’ to thwart the agenda of Obama, whom he describes as charming and naive. The cohort not called ‘evil’ is Islamist terrorists, who are just called ‘truck drivers’, ‘zealots’ or ‘fanatics with a purpose’.
His rants must go down a treat in the ABC staff canteen. ‘The newspapers are little more than propaganda sheets and words like “left-wing”, “taxpayer funded”, “elites” and “expert” are constant insults. Even now “inner-city type” as disparagement reminds me very much of the way “international type” was once used as code for “dirty Semite” in Der Stürmer.’
Nations must shun war, he says. ‘Otherwise we shall simply have to take out our babies and line them up to be killed before taking our turn to do likewise to the enemy. Otherwise we shall inherit a whirlwind.’ (A stylist with gravitas, he ain’t).
In his world upside-down, he believes that Rights have captured the Internet via search algorithms (Google chiefs would be amused) and Trump wants to ‘invade North Korea’.
Williams doesn’t come across in Turmoil as a nice guy, but his Science Show of 42 years duration has fostered young scientists and educated the community on the joy of science affairs, give or take its warming-catastrophe hysteria. On Williams’ show a year ago, UNSW Professor Andy Pitman predicted 55 degree Celsius for Sydney-siders. Williams claims that some ABC departments are abjectly downplaying the warming threat to avoid ‘offending financial interests’. Wow.
He frets that blue-collars, jobless factory workers and ‘Mr and Mrs Ordinary’ are tilting to Trump, Nigel Farage and Pauline Hanson out of innate stupidity. He brackets them alongside Neanderthals.
Williams likes to humble-brag. ‘Yes, I have seven doctorates, but if you live long enough most people in public life get lucky, they get doctored…’. At a Boston ‘dinner of the stars’, he felt embarrassed at being the only one ‘without a Nobel Prize or a book selling more than 5 million copies.’ His real degree is a BSc (Hons) from London University, but we discover that he cut lab work and his BSc was ‘a pretty ordinary one, a gentleman’s degree’.
He’s quirky, retaining his post-Vienna poverty habits. This is notwithstanding annual ABC pay for the Williams couple for decades at maybe $300,000 in total in today’s money, and I presume dual membership of the ABC’s gold-plated defined-benefit super.
But Williams has no car or mobile phone, still uses a typewriter and scrap paper, has a house 3.6m wide and hasn’t bought any clothes for ten years, preferring hand-me-downs. He likes to budget $15 for three days’ food, such as two chicken drumsticks for 80c and a $4 loaf. (He sheepishly admits to buying wine from a separate account).
Instead, he has spent up on his 30-40 global flights, mainly to Greece and Balliol, Oxford. He evinces no sympathy for those hit by green-energy price rises – turn unused devices off, he says, instead of ‘whingeing about the hefty bills’.
I dunno, Guthrie may be well out of the ABC snakepit. #
Ex-chairman of BHP (1997-99), Jerry Ellis (left) ex-chancellor of Monash University, and an ex-director of ANZ Bank, has called for Australia to dump the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Ellis’s intervention puts cat among climate pigeons.
The alarmists like to lie that sceptics are a fringe group. Ellis is hardly fringe. His former BHP continues to promote the story about human-caused catastrophic CO2 warming, as does Monash University. Ellis is an awkwardness for both.
By coming out against climate alarmism, Ellis, 91, is giving added respectability to scepticism, much as ex-PM Tony Abbott did with his London sceptic speech of last October.[i] The credibility of the sceptic case, of course, rests not on authority figures but data such as the more than two-fold exaggeration of warming since 1980 by the climate models on which the CO2 scare is based.
Here is Ellis’s statement on Paris.
Why Australia should Clexit Paris Treaty
It is clear that the push to meet the Paris carbon dioxide emission targets is leading to higher power costs, and hence prices, and unreliable supply.
It is also a fact that the predictions of the warmists have not happened.
The IPCC scientific reports are stated in possibilities, yet the guidance for policy makers is written as certainty. A farce.
I hope the new leadership of the Australian Government has the courage to guide our country in a rational manner on this subject. as Angus Taylor seems keen to do, and abandons the Paris Treaty.
Jerry Ellis AO
Ellis’ intervention comes on the heels of calls from Green Climate Fund supporters for Australia to add another $400m to its $1b plus commitment and $200m contribution to date. The fund under the Paris accord is supposed to parcel up $US100b a year in developed country donations to help the third-world combat climate change. The fund peaked at $US10b – thanks particularly to President Obama – but has only $US3b left. Its July meeting of donors and third-worlders disbanded in chaos with no decisions made and the resignation on the spot of its executive director, Australian ex-climate bureaucrat Howard Bamsey.
The policy of Ellis’s former BHP on climate change reads:
BHP accepts the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of climate change science, which has found that warming of the climate is unequivocal, the human influence is clear and physical impacts are unavoidable.
Climate change is a global challenge that requires a collaborative market and policy response. Playing our part in responding to climate change is a priority governance and strategic issue for BHP. Our Board is actively engaged in the governance of climate change issues, supported by the Sustainability Committee. Management has primary responsibility for the design and implementation of our climate change strategy.
Our climate change strategy focuses on reducing our operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, investing in low emissions technologies, promoting product stewardship, managing climate-related risk and opportunity, and working with others to enhance the global policy and market response.”
Former One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts has replied to Ellis,
“A pity that your [BHP] successor in Jac Nasser, his CEO Andrew Mackenzie and his Coal Division President who is now Minerals Operations President Mike Henry lack your understanding.
What holds them back? Is theirs a lack of basic knowledge, a lack of integrity or a lack of courage? Or do they simply not care about humanity and the environment. Coal saved the whales. Coal saved the forests. Coal gave us cheap, clean energy that raised human productivity, prosperity and wealth that enables us today to care for the environment better than at any time in human history.”
Ellis is Chairman of MBD Energy, a director of Iron Road and on the Advisory Council of The Sentient Group. He is an ex- chairman of auto brake company Pacifica Group Ltd, and has chaired Australia’s premier environmental advocacy group Landcare Australia.
Ellis’ statement is published on the website of the Clexit [Climate Exit] Coalition.
The coalition was set up in 2016 by Queensland’s Viv Forbes, who runs it as secretary. A semi-retired geologist and current livestock breeder, he put in 40 years’ work for coal, minerals and petroleum companies including as a director of Stanmore Coal. The coalition committee includes ex-Czech President (2003-13) Vaclav Klaus , who is patron, Professors Will Happer (US) and Ole Humlum (Norway), Chris (Lord) Monckton and leading blogger Roger Tattersall (UK) and astrophysicist and geoscientist Dr Willie Soon (US).
Forbes this month invited members to add a statement on why their country should quit the Paris Accord. Ellis, an original coalition member, responded with this week’s statement. Others came in from more than 20 people representing Sweden, France, US, UK, Canada, Germany and others.
Ellis is now in the same camp as Hugh Morgan, CEO of Western Mining 1990-2003 and a Reserve Bank director 1996-2007. Morgan said today, “Ellis is absolutely right. People think the Paris Accord is just about commitments to lower CO2. It is really about transferring wealth through the UN to the so-called Less Developed Countries. It’s about advancing centralised control of people’s lives on a global scale.”
Morgan believes the alarmist movement has got so far because of backing by Western millennials who have been indoctrinated during their education. Enjoying living standards unprecedented in world history, they have embraced alarmism as a new secular religion, he says.
Ellis’ intervention could encourage other Paris sceptics to come out, including some top figures in Australia’s premier science bodies.
Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be pre-ordered here. To get tickets to the launch in Carlton at 6pm on October 10, click here.