Author Archives: tonythomas061

The Extinction of Honest Science

July 25th 2018

Warmists’ predictions of climate doom haven’t come to pass or anything like it, but give them credit for agility and perseverance in always concocting a fresh scare. The latest meme to keep grants flowing and careers on track: the purported mass die-off of species large and small

planet down drainWith no significant warming for 20 years, the climate alarmists need better scares.  The temperature rise of about 0.8 degC in more than 100 years is not only non-scary, it’s been immensely beneficial for feeding the globe’s burgeoning population. Now  the “extreme weather” furphy  is at work, with any storm or flood attributed  by Al Gore and the Climate Council to fossil fuel emissions. There’s the purported “ocean acidification”  but I’m yet to see evidence that it has hurt a solitary crab, let alone a species.

As for sea-level rises, well, check my birthplace, Fremantle, butting the Indian Ocean: its tide gauge shows 12 cms rise in the past 120 years – compare that with 20cm for the length of my hand. To cap it off, the warmists, including the green-colonised CSIRO, have had to recognize that extra CO2  in the 30 years to 2010  has greened the earth to the extent of two and a half Australias in area.[1]

There are two handy scares still slithering around: “The Anthropocene” and “The Sixth Mass Extinction”. Both are fakes. Both are foisted on kids by green/Left educators. Both require as supposed remedies a supra-national enforcement agency run by the Left/liberal crowd, along with a roll-back of capitalist progress.

Here’s an example. I was in Chicago in 2013 and visited its great natural history centre the Field Museum (named after a 19th century $US9m donor Marshall Field). In the “Evolving Planet” gallery for kids, there was a   chart, “The Geologic Time Scale” showing the classic geologic ages (Silurian, Devonian etc) with markers for the first five extinctions. At the top it read “Today” with a picture of a metropolis, and an arrow labeled “Sixth Mass Extinction”. A red-neon “Extinction Clock” ticked over each time another species supposedly becomes extinct. In the hour or two since the gallery opened, the counter had added another 22 supposed extinctions. The count was based not on reality but fanciful modeling 30 years ago by Harvard professor and environmental activist Dr E.O Wilson, who claimed that 30,000 species were going extinct per year. The true number of known extinctions per year among the planet’s reputed 10 million-or-so species and  averaged over the past 500 years is about two, according to the Red List of the International  Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Yet climate activists want to compare this alleged“Sixth Extinction” with the  end-Permian “great dying” (250 million years ago) and end-Cretaceous dinosaur die-off (66 million years ago).

As for  the“Anthropocene”, it refers to the present geological era in which humans supposedly dominate the planetary processes and destroy other life forms. The label was first seriously proposed in 2001 by  co-Nobelist Paul Crutzen, of ozone-hole fame. It supposedly succeeds our 11,500 year old Holocene, the brief warm spell that has fostered our agriculture and civilisation. No such era and label as “Anthropocene” has been endorsed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS),  the global naming authority. An ICS working group (AWG) endorsed the concept in 2016, positing a start date of 1950. Most geologic eras last about three million years, so the ICS is in no hurry to make a ruling.

The AWG argument goes that thousands of years from now, geologists will uncover a fine dividing layer of “techno-fossils”from the late 20th Century, comprised of ball-point pens, CD platters and mobile phone carcasses.[2] My lost car keys may also turn up. If the ICS is unpersuaded, the “Anthropocene” claimants argue that old labeling conventions can be thrown out since we so urgently need to save the planet.

In this debasement of science, thousands of peer-reviewed papers blather about the “Anthropocene”. Publisher Elsevier has even created a learned journal, “The Anthropocene Review” where academics can flaunt their cringe-worthy research. As Canadian fact-checker Donna Laframboise puts it, “Declaring something to be the case before it has actually happened is unethical. A more scandalous example of fake news is difficult to imagine.”[3]

Contrarian papers on the topics are often binned, as biologists Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier have found, because reviewers worry “as much about political fallout and potential misinterpretation by the public as they do about the validity and rigor of the science.”[4]

Meanwhile  “Anthropocene” fans argue that we humans are now more powerful than traditional geologic forces like volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and shifting planetary orbits. At 11am on October 14, 1968, I was home at Gooseberry Hill in Perth’s Darling Ranges when my house began to shake. I’ll never forget it. The cause was a 6.9 force earthquake centred at Meckering, 100 kilometres further east. I don’t think humans can compete  with such forces, now or ever. You may disagree.

Most of the media’s environment writers have mindlessly propagated the Anthropocene concept.  New Yorker staffer Elizabeth Colbert morphed the story into a book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, and won a Pulitzer for it.[5] As a sample, she tells New Yorker readers about finding some bat corpses: “It struck me, as I stood there holding a bag filled with several dozen stiff, almost weightless bats, that I was watching mass extinction in action.”

Full credit, however, to Ruth Graham of the Boston Globe for her clear-eyed piece in 2014 exposing the naked activism of the “Sixth Extinction” crowd. UCAL ecologist Stephen Hubbell was surprised by the vehement reactions to his critical paper in Nature (2011) about extinction rates, she wrote. Hubbell said that some conservationists effectively told him, “Damn the data, we have an agenda …” Hubbell continued,The only thing science has going for it is truth and the search for truth. If it loses that, it’s really lost its way.”

Most scientists in this field are also strong conservationists, Graham wrote, and many worry that airing dirty laundry about estimates (such as “40,000 species disappearing each year”) could hurt the cause. A Brazil-based extinction specialist, Richard Ladle, spoke to her of “some enormous exaggerations”. A much-publicized 2004 paper, for instance, warned that climate change could put a million species at risk by 2050. Ladle said, “If you keep on talking about very, very large figures and nothing appears to be happening, eventually that’s going to erode public confidence in conservation science.”

Reporter Graham quoted Nigel Stork, a conservation biologist at Griffith University, Qld., who argued in Science in 2013 that the extinction rate was over-stated: “If you express a view that’s different to some people, they say you’re anti-conservation, and that’s not true. Conservation is working. There have been fewer extinctions because we’ve been conserving a key part of the world.” Graham concluded:  “The swirling controversies demonstrate how even ‘science-driven’ policy can sit uneasily with the workings of science itself. Galvanizing public opinion sometimes demands single dramatic certainties, while science proceeds by estimate, correction, and argument.”

The “Anthropocene” and the “Sixth Extinction” are eviscerated in a 8000-word essay“Welcome to the Narcisscene” by Mark Sagoff in the Oakland, Ca.-based Breakthrough Journal.[6] Enough time has elapsed to run a check on scientists’ gruesome predictions of extinctions, Sagoff says. The predictions of decades ago, treated with credulity at the time, have proved ridiculous. Here’s a few of them, tabulated by Griffith’s Nigel Stork. “If some of these higher estimates were true, then we should have already witnessed the extinction of up to 50 percent of all species on Earth in the last 30 years,” Stork wrote. Samples via Sagoff:

  • Myers (1979): 1 million species from 1975-2000.
  • Lovejoy (1980): 15-20% of species between 1980-2000.
  • Paul Ehrlich (1981): 50% species loss by 2000, 100% by 2010-25. [How does this catastrophist retain any credibility?] [7]
  • Lugo (1988): 9% species loss by 2000
  • Raven (1987-88): 2000 tropical plants per year, 25% plant species loss by 2015.
  • Hubbell (2008): 37-50% loss rate for 5308 Amazonian plants by 2020.

Other predictions (not in Stork’s table):

  • Wilson (1988): 17,500 species  being lost per year (more than 500,000 by now).
  • Leakey (1995): 17,000 to 100,000 species being lost per year.
  • Raven (1990): a quarter of plant species to be lost in next several decades.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature tracks species that have gone extinct. Last year’s Red List database looked at 24,230 plant species, and found only 118 had disappeared since 1500, while another 35 are extinct in the wild but survive in cultivation. To meet the criteria of a ‘mass extinction’, we’d need to lose about 18,000. At the current rate, it would take 70,000 more years.

It’s the same with insects. Take the well-studied butterflies, tiger beetles, dragonflies and damsel flies. Only three of 25,000 types have gone extinct in the past 500 years. A “mass extinction” would take 3 million years.

The IUCN manages data on 67,000 animal types. About 800 have gone extinct in the past 500 years. At this rate, it would take 25,000 years for a “mass extinction”.

All up, of 100,000 plants and animals, about two are lost per year. It would take another 34,000 years for a “mass extinction”.

Sagoff demolishes a subsidiary warmist argument: that current extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times (or even 10,000 times) the “normal” rates in the earth’s history. This seems extra scary, as it is intended to be. But a mass extinction would still take 34,000 years at the present rate, assuming no new species evolve. The argument about “1000 times ‘normal’” means that, normally, the same loss would take 34,000,000 years. It’s a  true-life version of this little joke:

An astronomer in a lecture predicts the earth will be swallowed by the sun in 8 billion years. He asks a distressed lady in the audience: “Why are you upset about something 8 billion years away?”

“Eight billion years? Oh, I thought you said 8 MILLION!”

Australian climate warriors have been influential in the debate. Sagoff’s article cites studies by Will Steffen (ANU and Climate Council) and Clive Hamilton, but wrongly describes the latter, an ethicist and one-time Greens candidate, as an ‘earth system scientist’. Hamilton  argues that  “on the side of responsibility are gathered the armies of scientific insight into Earth’s physical limits.” Against these are “mobilized the armies of avarice intrinsic to an economic structure driven by the profit motive.”[8] Well that’s telling us capitalists.

Steffen, whose research inspired the  2011 carbon tax, was lead author with Nobelist Crutzen in a discussion paper on the “Anthropocene” for the Royal Society the same year.[9] Steffen asserted that we are already at “Stage 3” of the “Anthropocene” era. Conceding that the term is only “informal”, Steffen accused humanity of not just being responsible for global warming but also of meddling with vital nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur cycles, along with fresh water despoliation and “likely driving the sixth major extinction event in Earth history … the first caused by a biological species.”

Steffen digressed into warning of “peak oil”, citing that oil production would need to rise 26% by 2030 to meet demand. “The prospects of achieving this level of increased production in just two decades at prices that are affordable in the developing world seem highly unlikely,” he wrote, suggesting a “significant risk of a peak before 2020.” Oil was then about $US100 a barrel, today $US70 thanks to the abundance of fracked petroleum.

Steffen also warned that we are close to “peak phosphorous”, suggesting some sort of “equitable” rationing to help the third world’s food security. Rock phosphate was then about $US200 a ton, today about $US100. By the way, never take stock tips from climate scientists who claim expertise in discerning the future up to 2100.

Needless to say, Steffen saw the crises’ solution in “effective global governance” run by his like-minded colleagues at the UN or via enforceable treaties. But since the 2009 Copenhagen conference was a flop in terms of “very deep and rapid cuts to emissions” (he was writing before the 2015 Paris flop), he shifts to earnest discussion about geo-engineering to cool the earth. “Only recently a taboo topic, geo-engineering has rapidly become a serious research topic and in situ tests may subsequently be undertaken if the research shows promising approaches,” he wrote.[10] He instances pumping sulphate particles into the stratosphere as cooling agents, but concludes rather sensibly that “ultimately, the near inevitability of unforeseen consequences should give humanity pause for serious reflection before embarking on any geo-engineering approaches.”

His argument surfaces some curious ideas. Sulphur particles in the air cause more than 500,000 premature deaths per year and damage the environment, he notes. “This creates a dilemma for environmental policymakers, because emission reductions of SO2 … for health and ecological considerations, add to global warming and associated negative consequences, such as sea level rise…[C]omplete improvement in air quality could lead to a global average surface air temperature increase by 0.8◦C on most continents and 4◦C in the Arctic.” Not many people would see any “dilemma” in saving lives by cleaning up air pollution.

Steffen then launches a pre-emptive strike against “Anthropocene” and “Mass Extinction” deniers. Like sceptics of the warming doctrine, he asserts they are driven not by “evidence and explanation” but “by beliefs and values and occasionally by cynical self-interest.” Sceptics have cognitive dissonance such that the more challenged they are by facts, the more they cling to their beliefs, he claims:

“This response may become even more pronounced for the Anthropocene, when the notion of human ‘progress’ or the place of humanity in the natural world is directly challenged. In fact, the belief systems and assumptions that underpin neo-classical economic thinking, which in turn has been a major driver of the Great Acceleration [since 1950] are directly challenged by the concept of the Anthropocene.”

What economic system Steffen prefers, he doesn’t say. He finishes with,

“The ultimate drivers of the Anthropocene if they continue unabated through this century, may well threaten the viability of contemporary civilization and perhaps even the future existence of Homo sapiens.”

Others, like University of Wollongong geographer Noel Castree, are even more critical of economic progress.  He writes,

“Even more than the concept of global warming, the Anthropocene is provocative because it implies that our current way of life, especially in wealthy parts of the world, is utterly unsustainable. Large companies who make profits from environmental despoliation – oil multinationals, chemical companies, car makers and countless others – have much to lose if the concept becomes linked with political agendas devoted to things like degrowth and decarbonisation.

… We don’t need the ICS’s imprimatur to appreciate that we are indeed waving goodbye to Earth as we have known it throughout human civilisation.”

I assume Professor Castree doesn’t use a car.

Sceptics have their own version of the current “Anthropocene” such as the “Narcissiscene” and “Greenoscene”. My favorite is the “Adjustoscene” where data has been altered to fit the climate models. Ruder people talk of the “Idioscene” or the “Obscene”. Keep it civil, folks.

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

[1] “We are indeed in a new age, the Anthropocene,” CSIRO author Pep Canadell writes.

[2] The chairman of the AWG, Jan Zalasiewicz  noted that “technofossils such as ball-point pens, CDs, or mobile phones” had “spread rapidly around the world from the time of their first use” and provided “stratigraphic criteria that can be used to identify deposits that post-date the mid-20th century, and this, on current evidence, we consider to be the optimal position for an Anthropocene boundary.”

[3] Laframboise busted the claim of then IPCC-chair and now sex-charge defendant Rajendra Pachauri that the 2007 IPCC report comprised only peer-reviewed work. She counted that 5,587 of 18,531 citations were non-peer reviewed.

[4] Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier, “Uncomfortable Questions and Inconvenient Data in Conservation Science,” in Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier, and Brian Silliman, eds., Effective Conservation Science: Data Not Dogma (Oxford University Press, 2017), 4.

[5] The book blurbed, “Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.”

[6] Mark Sagoff is a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy and author of The Economy of the Earth.

[7]   The Population Bomb, a best seller Paul Ehrlich published in 1968, began, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Only last year Ehrlich described the situation as “biological annihilation”.

[8] Hamilton, C., Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene (John Wiley & Sons, 2017), 134.

[9] Will Steffen, et al., “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (2011): 842–867.

[10] Steffen seems unaware that during the “global cooling” scare of the 1970s, fanciful geo-engineering projects were bruited to make the planet warmer. These included, for example, manipulating warm currents by damming the Bering Strait or a dam from Florida to Cuba.


Global Brand Julia


Her misogyny speech opened many doors for our first female PM


had complained that GPE couldn’t man- age its key documents, with staff running around on fruitless searches. Our Depart- ment of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) in 2012 rated GPE as ‘weak’ on demonstrable results. Julie Bishop has shovelled a fur- ther $230m to GPE, no questions asked.

But Britain makes its donations severely contingent on improved GPE performance. Our DFAT’s favorable GPE appraisal last May showed none of the hard scrutiny given by the Norwe- gians, Dutch and British.

In April last year Bangladesh test- ed Gillard’s diplomatic skills by welshing on its education spending. Bangladesh’s Mass Education Secretary is on the GPE board, so the problem was inside the tent.

GPE gave Bangladesh $US100m for 2011-17, conditional on raising education towards 20 per cent of its budget. By the 2017-18 deadline, the share was at a deri- sory 12.6 per cent and Bangladesh had only spent $US20m of the $US100m.

Gillard, styled ‘Her Excellency’, and CEO Alice Albright (daughter of Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Made- laine) formed a tag team to bounce the Bangladesh finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith. Gillard warned him that his pledge for 20 per cent for education ‘is one of the key elements of the GPE replenishment this year [2017] and a criti- cal condition for access to the next grant.’ He had already been warned that ‘if the existing 12.6 per cent does not show improvement, it is highly likely that the GPE Board will not consider the domes- tic finance requirement met if Bangladesh fails to indicate an upward trend toward 20 per cent.’ Gillard and Albright carped that spending of GPE’s funds had ‘stag- nated’ so badly that the country would miss the spending deadline.

Gillard warned of sanctions includ- ing clawing back unspent money unless the World Bank (GPE’s agent) could re- allocate the money in the country. The dispute was listed six months ago as ‘on- going’. GPE told me – strangely – that there had been ‘no dispute’ about the $US100m grant; the affair was just a due diligence process.

Conclusion: How nobler Gillard seems on the world stage than when, say, in 2012 her security had to physically res- cue her, Mrs Petrova-style, from an indig- enous riot outside a Canberra restaurant, a riot engineered by her own staffer.

Gillard at Kings College claimed that ‘it will take over 200 years until women have the same pay and job oppor- tunities as men.’ In 2011 lucky NSW peo- ple had a Legislative Council president Amanda Fazio, a premier Kristina Kene- ally, a prime minister Julia Gillard, and a governor-general Quentin Bryce.

Go, Julia!



month the blog for the global public service published its 100 most influ- ential fighters for women’s equality. In fourth place was young Malala Yousafzai. Islamists shot her in the head for advocat- ing girls’ education. Gillard ranked ahead in third place.

Why No 3? Because in office, saysapolitical, Gillard was an ‘outspoken opponent of sexism in politics’ – cue her anti-misogyny speech of 2012. Plus last April she became the inaugural chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leader- ship at King’s College, London. Creating it was her own idea. She’s only been chair for a couple of months so bouquets seem premature. Kings College blurbed, ‘While in office, she became widely known as an outspoken opponent of sexism in politics’ – that speech again.

Gillard is with New York’s Harry Walker Agency, the ‘world’s leading speakers bureau’, fee on application. She’s done at least ten gigs, including for an Emirates outfit. (Emirates’ penal code endorses wife-beating providing you don’t leave marks). The bureau’s site includes: ‘Gillard’s prominence as an internation- ally celebrated feminist was solidified following her now-viral 2012 Parliament speech on misogyny’.

Her most important job has been chair since 2014 of the multilateral Glob- al Partnership for Education (GPE). Her GPE biography includes, ‘In Octo- ber 2012, Ms Gillard received worldwide attention for her speech in parliament on the treatment of women in professional and public life.’

Gillard, we learn, ‘successfully man- aged Australia’s economy during the global economic crises’, although she didn’t become PM till 2010, three years after the GFC hit. Gillard also ‘reformed Australia’s education at every level from early childhood to university’. Meanwhile we slip below Kazakhstan for secondary maths/science.

But back to that misogyny speech: Gillard was orating in defence of her Speaker, Peter Slipper, a Liberal party defector. Tony Abbott moved no-confi- dence over Slipper’s lurid text-messaging.

Here’s one text about women’s geni- tals (Trigger-warning – highly offensive):They look like a mussel removed from its shell. Look at a bottle of mussel meat! Salty c—s in brine! Gillard’s Scottish media manager John McTernan, who wrote the speech, was prone to sexism himself. Dur- ing a disagreement with one of his staffers, he emailed office-wide, “C—-, you will be c—ed too’. (Pre-Gillard he’d been ‘Think- er in Residence’ for SA’s Labor Premier Mike Rann).

Gillard mid-oration suggested that Abbott’s looking at his watch showed that cad’s misogyny. The Global Part- nership that Gillard chairs has allocated $US368m to Ethiopia, where 92 per cent of Muslim girls are genitally mutilated with knives and razors – and some sewn up. GPE says more education for girls correlates with less mutilation. It seems a slow remedy.

Gillard crusaded for Hillary Clin- ton’s re-election without any disclaimer as GPE chair. Clinton got videos made in 2015 of Gillard extolling her virtues and dissing her front-running opponent Trump. When I inquired, GPE assured me: ‘GPE is a firmly non-partisan and apo- litical partnership working with all govern- ments to ensure that children have access to a quality education.’ (GPE’s empha- sis). The board reappointed her in early 2016 for a further three years, praising her good work. In May, Gillard squired Clin- ton round the Melbourne-Sydney speech market, a Trump-bashing exercise. Lack- ing a $195 ticket, I don’t know if Gillard disclaimed her GPE non-partisan role.

Gillard has been GPE’s white-haired girl (make that red-haired) since 2011 when she bailed GPE out of a funding hole with $270m courtesy of taxpayers. Tradi- tional donors the Netherlands and Spain dumped GPE. (GPE says they’re back but only 1.5m euros cash so far). Norway

railing clouds of glory’ is so apt for Julia Gillard AC’s post- prime ministerial career. This

the spectator australia | 21 july 2018 |


Heart of darkness

Sometimes African rulers get so corrupt that Western aid donors go on strike. Take what Trump would call the shit-hole state of Malawi (please!).

Malawi relies on donors for 40 per cent of its spending. In 2013 a junior public servant was caught with cash bales of $US300,000 in his car boot. Raids on bureaucrats’ homes and car boots located more bales. Then someone shot the finance ministry’s budget director.

‘Cashgate’ travelled up to ministerial level, with initial allegations of a snaffled $US50m escalating to $US250m. The entire cabinet resigned. Normally-lavish donor Norway led a freezing of $US150m in aid, pending reforms.

Australian taxpayers’ despatched a bit over $A98m to Malawi in the past decade. Heck, round it to $100m. In the pre-scandal year we put in $23m. Was it coincidence that next year we halved it to $12m? All is forgiven because post-scandal we’ve given Malawi $46m-plus.

Aid ain’t transformative. Malawi’s signature accomplishment is breeding – 3 per cent annual population growth. In the five years to 2016, national income fell 11 per cent and income per head plummeted from $US440 to $US320. Schools are so useless that three-quarters of kids in sixth-grade primary can’t read. School incompetence is general, with countries typically wasting half their education budget on schooling by semi-literate teachers with national teacher absentee rates up to 42 per cent.

The 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa (23 Islamic, including Malawi) are a bottomless pit for corruption and donors’ funds. OECD puts total aid in the five years 2012-2016 at $USD297 billion. Australia does its bit. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) totals our decade’s aid there (to 2018-19) at $A2.4 billion.

DFAT explains that Australia has a ‘clear national interest’ in the security, stability and prosperity of sub-Saharan Africa. Australia is developing good economic partnerships through targeted aid. Our strength is in our experience and expertise in human capacity building and the agriculture and extractive sectors.

But Western aid, alas, averages the same $US50 billion a year as $US50 billion-plus in ‘illicit outflows’ via politicians, officials, business people and criminals, a figure not disputed by the OECD. A pan-African study in 2013 put illicit outflows from 1980-2009 at $US1.2-1.4 trillion, again about equal to aid.

Most is in commerce. For example, Mozambique’s timber exporters were declaring 260,000 cubic metres of global exports when China alone was importing 450,000 cubic metres from Mozambique.

Guinea is rich in iron ore. One mine was reckoned good for $US7b annual exports for 20 years. In 2008 the Guinea government sold a multinational the mining rights for $US165m. The company promptly sold-on half its concession for $US2.5b. A successor government re-let the concession for $US20 billion, a far cry from the original $165m.

Africa’s resources-rich countries, tragically, are showing worse progress on welfare. Illiteracy rates are higher, life is shorter, women and children go hungrier and get beaten up more often.

It’s nasty stuff because any $US100m retained in the country could buy 100m malaria dosages or 10m treated bed nets, for example.

Even nastier: female genital mutilation rates. Here’s the top ten: Somalia 98 per cent; Guinea 96 per cent; Djibouti 95 per cent; Egypt 91 per cent; Eritrea and Mali 89 per cent; Sierra Leone and Sudan 88 per cent; Burkino Faso and Gambia, 76 per cent. All except Eritrea are Islamic states.

Here’s another little case study. Rwanda’s strongman President Paul Kagame is an Arsenal soccer fan. Last month he paid £30m ($A53m) for ‘Visit Rwanda’ to sponsor Arsenal. His clique can now enjoy perks like an Arsenal hospitality box. Rwanda also runs a loss-making airline that swallowed half a billion US dollars in government support from 2013-16. But 40 per cent live in squalor, 90 per cent have no electricity and it’s even rationed to hospitals. Teachers’ pay can lag five months.

Western donors give Rwanda about $US1b a year. The unhappy Brits’ contribution is about $US100m a year. In the past six years Australia gave $19m to Rwanda in official aid, equivalent to a third of Kagame’s payout to Arsenal.

Australia’s aid is now focused 90 per cent on what Julie Bishop re-assuringly calls the ‘Indo-Pacific’. But who’s ‘Indo-Pacific’? Answer: Pacific Islands – 10 including PNG; SEA and East Asia – eight countries including surprise entrant Mongolia; South and West Asia – eight countries including Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and the never-quite-drowning tourist mecca Maldives. And big surprise: African East Coast – Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and South Africa. Kenya by the way has a 27 per cent FGM rate and Tanzania 15 per cent.

This list of supplicants is broad indeed but not as broad as in the Rudd/Gillard era of your-cash-to-burn. In one year, 2011, we rained money on 48 of the 49 sub-Saharan states. That was Kevin Rudd’s strategy for a Security Council seat for 2013-2014.

Guinea-Bissau was the orphan with no grant. It’s not the worst in Africa (that’s Equatorial Guinea, a Christian state whose ruthless dictator has been in power for 38 years. His son in 2016 complained of a home burglary of 60 million euros). According to the US State Department, Islamic Guinea-Bissau features bureaucrats and the military topping up their salaries courtesy of international drug cartels, 45 per cent of the girls and women getting their genitals carved up, ‘wide-spread wife beating’, schools ‘only open intermittently due to strikes by teachers’ and girls being forced into prostitution if they reject arranged marriages. But countries almost as bad did get Kevin’s grants.

Our diplomats in five posts (58 staff) went crazy trying to ‘build relationships’ with scores of indifferent and unscrupulous African states. But in the most cost-effective last-minute gesture in diplomatic history, on General Assembly voting day our reps slipped each voter a Cadbury’s Caramello Koala. We won the poll.

While donors fret, sub-Sahara has become a population time-bomb, many countries gaining 3 per cent a year. Africa’s 1.26b could double to 2.53b by 2050, the UN projects, and nearly double again to 4.47b by 2100. The big feller is Nigeria, now 190m, but growing to 410m by 2050 and 794m by 2100. Currently Islamic forces in Nigeria are ‘ethnic cleansing’ Christian communities and Boko Haram is brutally suppressing girls’ education. (Australia’s decade of Nigerian aid: $48.5m).

Life expectancy below Sahara is 57, fourteen years under world average. In six countries you’re lucky to get forty years’ healthy life.

Across Africa 4 per cent are HIV victims, five times the global average and about forty times the rate in Australia. In South Africa, WHO data for 2016 show one in five adults (18.9 per cent) has HIV with 270,000 new infections a year. Swaziland (27 per cent prevalence!), Botswana and Lesotho are even worse.

Meanwhile African billionaires are on the rise. The 2018 count by Forbes was 23, worth an average $US3b. Isobel dos Santos, worth $US2.7b, happens to be the daughter of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos who lingered 38 years in office.

The truly criminal waste in our aid is ‘climate aid’. PM Turnbull, DFAT says, has committed Australia to ‘play its part’ in helping mobilise $US100b a year by 2020 for third world anti-warming efforts. Turnbull in 2015 pledged at least $A1b over five years, disingenuously subtracting it from our existing aid budget. Australia will consider future climate commitments in due course, DFAT adds.

So in three years 2014-16 we’ve tipped in $720m. With 2017-18 added (no data yet) we must have hit the billion, and counting.

DFAT is now evaluating its climate aid. To date it’s been claiming that the usual Pacific storms are a ‘climate’ manifestation, so don’t expect objectivity.

The epitome of climate insanity was our $13m program called System for Land-based Emissions Estimation in Kenya (Sleek) which we finished in mid-2016. The program helped Kenya to count its land-based greenhouse gas emissions for UN reporting requirements. DFAT farmed Sleek out to Bill Clinton’s ‘Clinton Climate Initiative’ (CCI), hopefully cleaner than Bill’s Clinton Foundation. An audit for DFAT by GHD Pty Ltd enthused about Sleek but had to rate it ‘borderline’ for sustainability, financial reporting and risk management.

The auditors envision an ‘upscaled’ Sleek rolled out across East Africa as ‘voluntary (and/or compulsory) carbon markets gain momentum…The value of systems/tools like Sleek will increase dramatically.’ Yeah? Ordinary Kenyans obsess more about their next meal and staying safe than emissions. The US State Dept. critique talks of ‘unlawful and politically motivated killings; forced disappearances; torture; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient judiciary; lack of accountability in many cases involving violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting.’ [FGM rate: 27 per cent]

Senegal hosted the February funding round of the Julia Gillard-chaired multilateral Global Partnership for Education. More than 1200 aid big-wigs, plus singer Rihanna, thronged Dakar. Senegal President Macky Sall was conference hero although Western pledges of $US2.3b fell short of the target $US3.1b. Our Julie Bishop pledged $A90m, additional to her $140m in 2014 and Gillard’s $270m in 2011. GPE’s had $570m from Australia. It typically spends nearly 80% of its funds on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Aid literature deplores ‘violence against girls’ in African schools. I’d assumed this meant bullying among kids, or corporal punishments. But State’s report on Senegal last year says parents keep daughters at home to escape ‘predatory teachers [who] could ruin their reputations and future marriage prospects’. Other reports merely deplore sexual harassment; only State Dept. adds ‘by school staff’.

Unremarked by the delegates, Senegal’s government-supported Quranic teachers chain, beat, rape and sometimes kill their ‘talibes’ – live-in children aged 5-10, says State Dept. They beg on the streets for up to five hours a day for food and money for their teacher – 30,000 begging in Dakar alone last year.

Whatever, Senegal’s education minister was promoted this month to vice-chair of GPE for his ‘remarkable achievements in improving the education system in Senegal [and] his global leadership advocating for the right to education for all children.’

Aid is always contentious but should we mis-spend it closer to home?

Ms Guthrie and her Effing ABC


Ms Guthrie and her Effing ABC

The national broadcaster’s boss this week fronted Melbourne’s Press Club, where she meekly endured a hectoring by underling Jon Faine that can only confirm how far the ABC has moved beyond both shame and supervision. Then came our Tony Thomas with his ABC-approved filthy mouth…

giggles IIIn what organisation other than the ABC can an employee insult the managing director to the wide world and emerge from it covered in managerial bouquets? This is a wonder arising from Michelle Guthrie’s ballyhooed address (before and after) to the Melbourne Press Club yesterday (June 19).

Last Thursday, Melbourne’s ABC 774 morning shock jock Jon Faine broadcast the following in the course of a rantabout the ABC being “done over” by the Coalition government (if only that were true!):

“I’ve been here since 1989 busting my guts for a vision and a set of values and, quite frankly, I’m sick of getting it ripped apart because of the failure of our managers.

“[Guthrie’s] been remarkably quiet and reluctant to engage in what she herself has previously ­described as ‘megaphone campaigning’. She says, ‘No, the best way to protect the ABC is to work quietly behind the scenes’. And that’s ­obviously delivered a terrible outcome in the last budget.”

So, Faine indicates that Guthrie is a leadership failure in general, someone who has stood mute while ABC “values” are trashed  and is now running a mistaken, top-level strategy that has severely damaged the institution.

I was going to ask Guthrie at the Press Club why she hadn’t already sacked this unruly employee[i] but Richard Ferguson of The Australian beat me to it. He asked, “Have you spoken to Jon Faine about his criticism of upper management? If not, do you have a message for him today?”

Jon Faine’s greatest snits, featuring James Delingpole,
Tony Abbott and Gillard/Wilson investigator Mark Baker

To my bewilderment, and perhaps Faine’s,  Guthrie responded with affectionate laughter for the 774 morning host before Flanagan had even finished. She replied with a simper: “Jon is a great broadcaster! What is fantastic about Jon and our other amazing broadcasters is that they are leading the conversations that matter to people. The great thing about the ABC is that we matter. When you see all the attention placed on us it is fantastic to be relevant…”

Thus emboldened, Faine dissed and badgered her some more: “No-one could be more pleased than me to see you do it [make speeches]. We don’t understand why you are so reluctant to do it more. We need a champion, a public champion, not a managing director who hides from the media or public engagement. We have to engage with [the public]. Are you prepared to do more?”

Guthrie began by saying she didn’t agree that she hid from the media. Faine then talked over her and did so loudly, a habit many of his on-air guests have endured. “I can’t get you on my show, nor can my colleagues or rivals.” Faine then allowed Guthrie to resume and she ran a line that “the more you speak, the less you are heard” and that speaking with impact mattered most.

The Guthrie/Faine or Faine/Guthrie power relationship typifies all you need to know about ABC management’s control of staff.

On another ABC note, readers may wonder why I am by-lined atop this report as “Swearing Man”. The soubriquet was bestowed – and not in a friendly way –  by the meeting’s compere and ABC presenter Michael Rowland.

Ms Guthrie’s Press Club performance can be viewed in full here

I wanted to ask Guthrie about the filthy language to be heard on the ABC, especially in its purported “comedy” programs. Loathe as I am to use foul words in public, especially when addressing a woman, I nevertheless forced the ABC-endorsed obscenities to cross my lips. If such language is good enough for the national broadcaster to beam into millions in prime time, the person in overall charge couldn’t complain at hearing them at the press club. My question went as follows:

“Your would-be comedian Greg Larsen  on Tonightly last March called Australian Conservative candidate Kevin Bailey a c**t. In that four-minute segment I’ve counted two ‘f***s’ and eight ‘c***s’. Although the ABC apologised [to Bailey personally], management had checked the segment before it went to air and it complied with ABC editorial  and classification standards. How can you defend such standards?”

Compere  Michael Rowland chipped in nervously, “We’re not going out live to air are we?” His fear was odd, as Tonightly’s “f***s” and “c***s” had certainly gone out, live-to-air, to a vastly larger audience than the Press Club lunchers. (editor’s note: while those vulgarities appear quite acceptable at the ABC, perhaps even in the executive suite, they are not appreciated at Quadrant Online, hence the coy asterisking. Those who missed the broadcast, can tolerate a painfully unfunny alleged comedian and endure the aren’t-we-just-so-cute-and-shocking schtick of compere and guest can see what their taxes pay for in the clip below.)

Guthrie, no giggles this time but appearing somewhat flummoxed, replied that the Tonightly episode was being independently investigated and had been referred to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for review and determination.

“It is important to make sure we reflect community standards and also important to understand the context in which it is done,” she began.

“What is appropriate for 7pm News or Play School is very different from appropriateness in a comedy program at 9 or 9.30pm on our comedy channel. It is not one size fits all, it very much depends on the context.”

So in the ABC/Guthrieworld, the words “f***” and “c***” are OK in context. Maybe her colleagues uses the latter, although misogynist, in the  context of ABC board meetings, in a humorous way of course. (‘Pass me the effing salary list, old c***’?’ Surely not!)

I was hurt that compere Rowland dubbed me “Swearing Man”, merely for quoting what his own organisation delivers to the public, when I managed to get in the forum’s last question:

“The BBC’s last annual report discloses the pay of its 20 top news and current affairs presenters. The BBC since 2009 has published the salaries of all its 106 executives on 150,000 pounds plus, and their expense claims and gifts as well. So what’s the problem with disclosing ABC managers and presenters salaries likewise?”

Guthrie replied: “The issue is currently the subject of a proposed Parliamentary bill. I don’t think you are correct to say it is the top 20 presenters. It is actually [equivalent to disclosing] my salary, my friend [chief financial and strategy  officer]  Louise Higgins’ salary, as well as directors and heads of our content teams.

“That disclosure is more than provided by private media organisations or public listed ones.

“On top of that it is more than required by the public service. We have been very clear in saying our highest paid presenter is paid a fraction of the highest paid BBC presenter. We have no gender pay gap at any level.

“Anything more than that [in disclosure] is really going to impact our ability to retain staff and also invades their privacy in ways completely unacceptable.”

Was I wrong? The BBC does not disclose its top 20 presenters’ pay? Where do I start?  The BBC gives them in bands of £50,000 so I’ll take the mid-points. A run  of the mill BBC news and current affairs presenter called  James Naughtie (love that name!) gets 175,000 pounds.  A Martha Kearney, presenter, is on£225,000. An Eddie Mair is top dog presenter on £325,000

On radio, mid-level gal presenter Moira Stuart is on £175,000, whereas top guy Steve Wright is on a handsome £525,000. a Lot of BBC presenters are called “multi-genre” like Mark Chapman on £225,000. And top man is a Chris Evans on a stunning £2,225,000. If Ms Guthrie would like more detail she can contact my secretary.

Little more is to be said. I made my hasty exit, feeling somehow I had made myself unpopular among the 98% ABC fans at the lunch. As I went past the TV cameras, one of the cameramen snarled, “You’re a c***!”

He refused to say who he worked for.

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

[i] Faine suggested last Thursday that he might be in jeopardy: “If it gets me into trouble, then so be it.”

Emma Alberici, you’ve done it again!

Even casual stock-watchers know shares of vaccine-maker CSL go for around $180. But not the ABC’s go-to market guru, stumblebum chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici. She didn’t bat an eye while presenting the closing price as $7.31

emma IIAmong the members of our retired guys’ tennis club there is a boffin who used to work at Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL). When it floated at $2.30 in 1994, he used an idle $10,000 to take up the staff offer. He never sold the parcel. You probably know that CSL has been a sensational long-term investment. When this guy returned my serve, I’d think, “Nice slice, James Packer!”

CSL is one of my rare good picks. I bought  160 shares at about $31 donkey’s years ago, a $5000 investment, and I’ve watched my parcel rocket to around $28,000. So whenever CSL’s share price flashes up on the finance segment of the ABC’s 7pm news, I salivate like Pavlov’s dog. On Friday (May 18) it was ABC chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici handling the finance section. She did an excellent intro comparing Australian and NZ budget and economic parameters. Well done, Emma!

See also:  The ABC’s Alan Sunderland rallies the troops

The great thing about Emma’s stuff is that you can be sure every element has been fact-checked with fantastic thoroughness. That’s because she got the ABC into a wagon-load of trouble with her news story and commentary in February on businesses’ alleged tax  scamming.[1]

Her nine errors in the news piece and general ignorance of the subject saw a cringing ABC beaten up by an outraged Prime Minister, the Treasurer, plus the Communications Minister and business leaders.[2] It turned out that even a prior two-hour briefing from Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Hirschhorn had failed to enlighten her to the basics of company tax. For example, tax is paid on profit, not on revenue. Concepts such as carry-forward of losses (think Qantas) were way beyond her reach.

A Treasurer’s adviser  on February 14 sent the ABC a 1600 word email concluding,  “Ms Alberici’s story reveals an inherent bias and is ­activism disguised as journalism, and we would expect more from the ABC’s chief economics correspondent.”

See also: ABC to Complainant: Drop Dead

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie blamed “inadequate editorial resources” — $1.2 billion a year only goes so far, you know –  for the publication of the articles. The national broadcaster has since increased editorial oversight, she said.

So last night, after New Zealand, Emma moved on to the boilerplate finance stuff — the day’s exchange rates, global indexes and, finally, local stocks.

“Shares in CSL put in a stellar performance today on the back of a fairly harsh northern hemisphere flu season,” Emma said as I drooled at the thought of my expanding wealth. She didn’t mention the price but my eyes flicked to her graphic alongside. The prices listed at the closing bell for Woodside and Santos were spot-on, but was this about CSL?

OMG! According to the ABC, my favourite stock was wallowing at $7.31. Last time I checked it had been over $170. Some utter catastrophe had occurred. Should I hang on – a strategy that served me badly throughout the Great Financial Crisis, or sell and garner $1170 (less brokerage) towards my half-yearly electricity bill?

error albericiNothing to see here, folks, especially subject knowledge and editorial rigour.

Surely, given Emma’s history and  Michelle Guthrie’s “increased editorial oversight”, this $7.31 couldn’t have been just another ABC cock-up? Surely, as the ABC’s go-to guru on matters financial, she would checked the facts and details of her report before going to air?

I checked the price: Oh happy day! My CSL babies were actually at $183!

There’s quite a difference between Emma’s $7.31 and the actual $183. It’s not like she mistook $183 for $138 or $173. If Emma knew just a tiny bit about the company sector, she would have known before going to air and, presumably, eyeballing her script, that $7.31 didn’t compute.

But why $7.31? At first I thought it was confusion with builder Downer EDL which had a $7.31 high on Friday. But the explanation is much simpler: $7.31 was CSL’s increase yesterday, which Emma presented as the actual price.

The ABC– all muscle, no fat –  gets its share prices garbled not just occasionally but often. To the green/lefties there, sharemarket prices must be gobbledegook.[3] Their retirement lifestyle is assured by that 15.4% super contribution from the ABC – all muscle, no fat.[4]

So no-one there has noticed the CSL howler – I’ll demand a correction, just for entertainment. Oh, and Ms Guthrie, ramp up that editorial oversight a notch.

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


[1] One piece was headed “Tax-free billions: Australia’s largest companies haven’t paid corporate tax in three years”.

[2] It became a double-header embarrassment last month when ABC political editor Andrew Probyn got busted by ACMA for his anti-Abbott rant last October

[3] More than 40 per cent of ABC journalists who answered a survey question about their political attitudes are Greens supporters, four times the support the minor party enjoys in the wider population.

[4] ABC veterans on the old defined benefit super schemes enjoy 20% plus as equivalent super contribution

Footnote: The ABC has issued a correction as a result of my complaint.

Duffy’s Truck and Me


It would be rash to declare that a 1926 Whippet Six taught a young man invaluable lessons in the ways of the world, but in the Western Australia of the 1940s it did encourage a future artist’s creativity, a healthy regard for self-preservation and, when the clutch failed, a certain skill with obscuring the truth

old whippetAt age 16, in 1940, I was offered a job at Kendenup Stores, a typical country store selling everything from bread to bolts, owned by Mr David H Duff, usually known as Dave Duff, and more usually as Duffy.[i] My appointment was as a result of a recent sacking, which came about as a result of an unexpected return to the Stores by Duffy, who had been checking something on his nearby farm. The sack-ee had been engaged in sexual intercourse with the comely young woman who also worked at the Stores.

I obtained the news of the cause of the sacking at first-hand, as possibly many people did, as Duffy was not a taciturn character. I heard him telling Herb McClure, “I came in just as he was pulling his pants back on, and she, well…” (pointing at the floor) “… there are her heel-marks.”

My days at Duffy’s were most interesting, not least because Duffy was a manager in the true sense of the word. He understood the ways of country people, whether they were old or young. My first name is Samuel but no-one in our large family was called by their christened name.  Mine had suffered, through three elder brothers and no doubt my elder sister, the usual fate of transmogrification to “Plum”. Sam…Samson…Damson…Damson Plum…Plum. I hated Plum as a name, and I had never heard of a damson plum, unbelievably in a township that grew the best apples and stonefruit in the West.

kendenup II

At the Stores (above, as it exists today), I decided I needed a change of name. I said to Duffy, without giving any reason, and of course he knew the nicknames of every child in the district, “I want to be known by my second name, Geoff.” He, being a sensitive soul, and also being built like the man on the label of the Holbrook’s Worcestershire sauce bottle, spread the word and there were no transgressions, bless him.

Duffy had a truck, a very famous truck. It not only was used to deliver all of the merchandise to the Stores from the railway siding, and to deliver orders of goods to some of his clientele, but was the only truck big enough to carry loads of children from the local school to annual picnics. Not many local farmers had cars or trucks even then, the horse and buggy being the usual mode of transport.

Duffy’s truck was a 1926 Willys-Overland Whippet Six (a careful restored model is pictured below). It had a manual gear change, with no such thing as synchromesh, let alone automatic transmission. Its electric charger had long since given up the ghost, and the engine consumed large quantities of lubricating oil. The gear box tended to drop out of any of the higher gears unless the gear lever was held in place tightly, but perversely would remain stuck in low gear of its own accord. Duffy had a peculiar knack of exacerbating these malfunctions, and would ask in his uniquely gravelly voice whether anyone in creation could sort things out.

I had such an ability, even if it was embryonic at this stage. Duffy told me to take off the top of the gearbox, and maybe something would come to mind. There was an internal lever which was partly distorted, and I could see that it had been welded previously and was somewhat misaligned. Maybe if one was careful with the gear stick, some sort of truce could be maintained. I could see that Duffy was not going to spend money on mechanical maintenance, and that tightening up the nuts holding the top of the gearbox was going to be a waste of time.

whippet truck

Sure enough, a couple of days later Duffy arrived at the Stores, and both he and the truck were at boiling point.  Trembling with rage as he made his way into the shop, his portly figure shaking, he roared, “Fix the bloody truck, Geoff!” He had got the gears stuck in low gear at the farm five miles away, and had driven the truck to the Stores at a steady walking pace, engine roaring all the way.

I deftly removed two floorboards, undid four nuts on the top of the gearbox, unstuck the gear, put everything back, and filled the radiator with tank water.  Then two minutes later I announced to Duffy’s bewilderment that the truck was ready. “Christ almighty, how did you do that?”

When I had been there for a few months, Duffy’s confidence in me grew enough  for him to leave me in charge while he went to Perth for two weeks, probably to cement firm relations with the insurance company he was agent for, “Sun Alliance”.

I was putting the truck away at evening closing time, and I could not resist flooring the accelerator on the gravel approach to the garage, which was just rough sapling posts and rafters clad with corrugated galvanized iron sheeting.

Unfortunately several mechanical failures occurred simultaneously. The clutch linkage broke, the gear lever stuck in low gear and the accelerator jammed.

With great presence of mind, I kept the front of the truck heading for the open front of the garage, and I realized that the only way to arrest its progress was to cut off the ignition. I stabbed at the switch just as the radiator went through the back wall of the garage. Why Duffy even bothered to garage it, or to even have a garage for such a heap of junk, I sat pondering as I listened to the last sheet of corrugated iron hit the gravel. The echoes died away and a sprinkle of chaff and a couple of feathers from a bird’s nest in the roof timbers landed in my lap. Luckily the roof stayed up, and even more luckily, I was the only witness to the episode. An early arrival next morning armed with a hammer and some springhead nails would be required to carry out necessary repairs.

I began more sophisticated vehicle handling techniques after this. Having to hand-crank the engine was acceptable but if it started with the throttle advanced and jumped into a forward gear I was a dead man. Surely a safer method would be to put the gears into reverse, so that when and if it started, I could leap through the open side of the cabin, disengage reverse, engage a forward gear and proceed upon my way. I tried the method a couple of times, but getting run over by the front wheels as they overtook me from behind was less attractive than leaping out of their way as I faced them.

My favorite method was to lock the handbrake, pull the choke out, ignition off, gears in neutral and prime the engine with four turns of the crank handle. Then change the gears to extra-low forward, off with the handbrake. Advance the throttle one third, ignition on, and position the crank handle and heave.  A leap to the left, reach into the cabin to grab the wooden steering wheel and manipulate the gear lever to arrive at a suitable forward speed for the voyage to the next obstacle – the gate to the paddock with the killing shed where the mutton was ready hung for delivery back to the Stores. After a time I became so adept at changing gears without the assistance of the clutch that I wondered why clutches were ever fitted to vehicles.

Nearing the gate I would change noisily down through the gears to extra-low again, reduce the throttle setting, align the front of the truck roughly with the gate centre and leap out. I would race the truck to the closed gate and would barely have it open while the driverless truck ambled through with mostly an inch or two clearance to the gate post. I would close and fasten the gate, as any careful farmer would, and race off after the truck if it looked as if it was going to collide with the fence. Otherwise I would roll a smoke as the truck did a wide circle or two around the paddock before we met on the way to the killing shed. I would stop the engine there, load up the mutton and the entrails and be off to the Stores with only three stops to go. One for the gate, one for the pen containing Duffy’s pigs to dump the entrails (waste not, want not), and one to pick up any deliveries from the railway station.

When Duffy came back from Perth, I had to tell him about some of the additional faults in the truck, convincing him that these had occurred gradually and despite the gentlest of handling. Even the glistening new nails in the end of the garage were explained away with brilliant lies. Maybe the fact that I had managed to cart 50 tons of superphosphate from the railway station to the shed at the back of the Stores during the period of slow but steady mechanical breakdown was believable. However when I tried to show him how to drive the truck without using the clutch, he pursed his lips a bit and rubbed his forehead. “I’m not as agile as you, you young coot! Take it over to Colmer’s and get it repaired, but mind you get a quote first.”

The gearbox remained in a terrible state. Apparently the quote was too high, and as long as I was around, Duffy’s truck would be on the road somewhere. A whippet, it wasn’t.

Quadrant Online readers owe this memoir of life in the vanished West to contributor Tony Thomas, who explains that Geoff Allen was his uncle on his mother’s side. We don’t know when he wrote Duffy’s Truck or, for that matter, where and when the cantankerous vehicle ended its days. Geoff (1924-2000) was a Perth artist and later a maker of bespoke jewelry. Some of his pieces are in the collection of the WA Art Gallery.

[i] Kendenup is a hamlet (pop today, 1000) 70km north of Albany.


Monash Uni: Mad, Rad and Dangerous to Knowledge

Green/Left groupthink at Monash University has reached the point where the brains trust thought it a good idea to woo prospective students with a collage of violent social-justice film clips presented against a soundtrack of violent rap lyrics. Here’s a better idea: don’t send your kids there

monashUrgent! Urgent! If you’ve got a degree from Monash University, don’t let anyone know. Your alma mater has completely lost its mind. Who would want to be associated with its agitprop video for recruiting teenagers?  There are more than 11,000 views so far and a swathe of hostile responses from once-loyal alumni and potential students.

The violent and mendacious 60-second montage is also on the university’s home page, creating a university’s minute of infamy. Which of its clips would you vote as the most creepy?

  • A young Monash woman walks up (at 50secs) and defiantly rips down a lecture-theatre wall chart being discussed by three males, two in suits and one is balding. No reason can be ascertained for her wimmynly  rage. The text says, “Our Clayton campus  is committed to being a living example of positive change.”
  • Someone shimmies around wearing a Donald Trump mask. The backing song goes, “Yeah the big bully killed ‘em all”.  The video text blames “populism” for Trump’s election. (The video is supposed to advertise the university’s sophistication in international relations).
  • Monash students demonstrate for “Grants not Fees” – other suckers can pay for students’ privileges. An Aboriginal and a shaved-head woman are to the fore.[1]
  • Aborigines demonstrate (at 40secs) to “Stop the Genocide” (what genocide?) and for treaty-backed sovereignty
  • A polar bear plays hopscotch on ice floes, as proof of global warming’s  veracity (even Monash might have checked that Al Gore’s polar bear peril was and remains a crock)
  • Any of the violence-porn clips crammed into the 60 seconds – from the opening sucker punch by a masked “punch a nazi” hooligan, to injured or dead Arabs to explosions and an elephant crumpling when shot by poachers.

A Monash University spokesperson responded to on-line criticism (emphasis added),

As an institution, we firmly believe in its message. This is us drawing a line in the sand about what we think a top university [Monash ranks equal 80th worldwide] has to contribute to the world. In 2016 we encouraged our community to challenge the status quo and question what is put in front of them in order to move forward. Now we want people to take action.”

The video’s background “song” is Blaccout, shouted by Aboriginal hip-hoppers A.B. Original.  Lyrics with the video include:

Yeah, the big bully built the wall (y’all feel that?)
Yeah, the big bully killed ‘em all (y’all feel that?)

A line from the song, “What the fuck we doin’?” applies equally to Monash’s administrators. Many adults wouldn’t trust teenagers with their car keys or an empty house. But Monash literally demands that its would-be students challenge the social order:

“For sixty years our work has changed the world.
But this is only the beginning. Now it’s over to you. 
Because we’re not asking you, we’re telling you:

The Blaccout song per se appears to incite its audience to start fires, one hopes metaphorically but maybe literally. Mercifully, the lines below didn’t make it to the video:

What you doin’ with your life, boy?
Stand up and then fight, boy
You wanna change their minds, boy?
You wanna start them fires, boy?
What you doin’ with your life, girl?
Better stand up and then fight, girl
You wanna change their minds, girl?
You wanna start them fires, girl?

Another clip shows US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, banging down his gavel. In linked sub-text, Monash claims loftily that its brain researchers are “identifying why some humans can’t help but agree – even when the stakes are high”. The clip seems another cheap shot at the US, not that it makes much sense.

There are two iterations of the video. You can play the 60 seconds straight through on youtube  (the version embedded above), but Monash prefers you play the one on its home page and hit “pause” to bring up an official text/explanation for each element of footage in the clip. About a third of the video is worthy stuff — Monash researching diseases, PTSD, conservation, aged care, obesity and so on.  The rest is green/Left propaganda, such as boat people’s ‘rights’ and jejune pacificism.

An early clip appears to show US troops in Afghanistan. The grammatically confused sub-text begins: “We’ve waged war on ending wars.” It continues with grotesque overstatement, “Our Gender, Peace and Security Centre seeks out roadblocks to peace and demolishes them. [As in the Middle East, not.] We’ve partnered with the Department of Foreign Affairs to help shape policies that work in Asia and beyond. If you don’t like war, change it.” The get a idea of what the centre gets up to, click here for a briefing on gender-related climate matters. And do notice how the research is funded by Action Aid Australia (AAA). Where does AAA get the money to wage its green/Left campaigns? Well, according to the organisation’s 2016 annual report (page 30), from you, taxpayers, via a $3 million grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

We should be grateful that Monash psych whizzes will solve the North Korean nuclear crisis. Against a clip of a Kim Jong-un missile launch, they explain:

“Why do we play global games of chicken? Our School of Psychological Sciences applies principles of psychology to topical issues digging to the root of controversy and current events to work out the why behind retaliation and other destructive behaviours. If you don’t like mutually assured destruction, change it.”

Again, Monash offers this dated, corny rhetoric while bragging about its international-relations sophistication.

Other messages suggestive of low-IQ or naive Monash administrators include, “If you don’t like bombing kids/armed conflict/gender inequality/ change it.”  There’s a predictable hint of anti-capitalism ignorance: “If you don’t like boom and bust, change it”. Maybe Monash’s students include lots of little Lord Keyneses.

Equally ludicrous and no less ignorant is a clip of a cyclone with the message,

“Humans are partly to blame for freak weather that destroys our economies and environment.[2] We owe it to the Earth to fix this.[3] In the meantime, our Centre for Excellence of Climate Extremes is improving weather predictions and developing strategies to reduce devastation. If you don’t like freak weather, change it.”

Hmm. Could Monash  also organise some rain on my garden please?

A shot of a glacier calving has text:

“It’s actually not too late to save the planet. We’re at the forefront of efforts to stop climate change and environmental devastation…our researchers are world-leading. If you don’t like global warming, change it.”

Wow, after 4.5 billion years, no more climate change, thanks to Monash’s claque of climate scientists.

It takes only 26 seconds for the virtue-signalling by Monash dilettantes to spectacularly backfire. Fulminating against cyber-bullying, they cite as “hate speech”  a tactless tweet in 2013 by a 30-year-old American PR manager, Justine Sacco, who was then subjected to an on-line pile-on by tens of thousands of social justice warriors. One  example, “We are about to watch this @JustineSacco bitch get fired. In REAL time. Before she even KNOWS she’s getting fired.” Fired, she was.

Her 2013 tweet, which she says was silly and self-mocking, read, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She later told the New York Times, “I cried out my body weight in the first 24 hours. It was incredibly traumatic. You don’t sleep. You wake up in the middle of the night forgetting where you are.” She released an apology statement and cut short her vacation. Workers were threatening to strike at the hotels she had booked if she showed up. She was told no one could guarantee her safety. All-oblivious to her destroyed life, the bullies at Monash write:

“As cyberbullying and trolling become increasingly common, our Education faculty is focused on examining their impact and developing strategies to protect the vulnerable from being drowned out. If you don’t like hate speech, change it.”[4]

The video includes the obligatory bleeding-heart clip of boat people being rescued. “Conflict. Persecution. Eviction. We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of displaced people denied access to the most basic right: safety… while in sharp relief, our Australian Border Deaths Database aims to prevent grave tragedies becoming banal statistics. If you don’t like social injustice, change it.” A glance at the data base shows well over 2000 deaths, the vast bulk from foundering of people-smugglers’ leaky boats during Labor’s permissive regime. The Monash intellectuals fail to notice any connection.

Monash is located close to the epicentre of Sudanese teenage home invasions. But it’s hard to know what to make of this Monash entry:

“Being safe in our own homes should be a right not a privilege. Our Civil Engineering department serves as a leader in engineering for extremes, protecting society by making our infrastructure more resilient to the pressures of fire, flooding and attacks [by whom?]. If you don’t like unsafe housing, change it.”

Perhaps Monash engineers now design steel-grilled safe-rooms in houses against ethnic gangs, as used in South Africa and PNG.

In a few cases the text gets Monash off the hook. For example the brutal opening clip is of a man in suit talking on a Washington street and getting sucker-punched by a masked Antifa-style thug who runs off. The speaker was real life Richard B. Spencer, a (non-violent) white supremacist. The sub-text includes,

“The rise in extremism is undeniable.  Crying ignorance doesn’t cut it. Our Global Terrorism Research Centre  gives us a view, and our partnerships with the UN ensure a clear direction. Understanding the underlying causes are (sic) the first steps to eradicating terror. If you don’t like anarchism and terrorism, change it.”

Although fatuous, the message seems to disapprove of both parties. Oh, and predictably, the entire video contains no hint about  the Islamic terror convulsing Western countries.

Hostile on-line YouTube commenters let rip.  Note they seem to emanate from the Monash and student community, not from political junkees.

“Xal: Crossing this university off the list, anyone who wants a future as anything other than a whining self righteous parasite should do the same.”

Only Guest claims the video was “(p)resented to a group before official release. In Q&A somebody asked if this video will deter some researchers and students and your answer was ‘We don’t want them’. So much about diversity and inclusiveness.”

AndyZ: I was considering doing a PhD at Monash. Forget about that. This is a classic example of  what Jonathan Haidt describes as an ‘activist’ university.[5] I am much more interested in going to a ‘truth’ university; that is where you will find open minds.

Even loyal Monash alumni are appalled.

GR writes, “I absolutely applaud the achievements of your alumni and researchers. It is my opinion that this video is rife with a political agenda from the imagery and the backing track. Extremely well produced and edited, I might add, I really liked it. But as an educational institution, funded by the public, why are you taking an obvious (to myself and clearly a few others in the comments) political position? This video, I interpreted as a dog whistle to the minority of radicals that have interests in tearing down institutions, values and traditions that built the free world.”

A blogger names himself as a Monash academic and writes

“Shame Monash Shame! Great way to start the day opening up the ‘’ page on my office desktop to have this ‘Rubbish’ in front of me. This does not reflect a politically bi-partisan viewpoint and if it is intended to attract students, it’s (a) poor marketing tool. As a teacher at Monash are we  expected to have this looping on big screens during our enforced attendance at the next open day?”

Luke replied:

“You’re a brave man. I advise you to screenshot this exchange should a kangaroo court inquisition follow. Thanks for tackling the serious question of overt political bias in academia.”

Eddie, self-described as a former soldier and alumnus:

“I’m saddened by this aggressive propaganda, which blatantly endorses extremism.”

Chowzoo: “Even worse, they’ve somehow entitled themselves to the moral high ground. Many, many people aren’t receptive to that, in fact it turns them off completely.”

Pramoda: “You lost me when you put Donald Trump’s effigy in the video. From that point you lost your plot that you are talking about global issues as (the) vast majority of us don’t see a democratically elected leader is a problem. …(It) would have been more appropriate to show an undemocratically elected  leader Xi Jinping. You know, the guy who’s just elected himself leader forever! But that might alienate your core customer base. Chinese students… :)

The Monash officials took fright at the hostility and began posting rationales, referring critics to the pause-and-text facility on the version of the clip at their website. Their efforts reinforces the criticisms. They appear delusional about Monash and its 80th place on the world rankings:

“This isn’t about Monash taking a position — political or otherwise. We are tackling the questions of the time and not just taking a stand on global issues, but working towards solving them.”

That wan response did nothing to mollify critics:

Julius: “Ridiculous. How are you ‘solving’ the problems of the world? You aren’t.   You are actually creating more hate and fear by making a nasty video that preaches anarchy and violence.”

Rex: “Whether a student decides to engage in political discourse or not should have nothing to do with you. By taking a position, you alienate the students attending Monash that hold different political views to the ones presented here.”

Karl: “Cultural (M)arxism needs to be thrown in the dustbin of history. Instead of trying to fallaciously ‘fix’ society, how about fixing yourselves?”

Bernard: “I thought going to Uni was about getting an Education and not about solving someone’s personal anger management issues.”

These drew more response from officials:

“We think of a university as a place to develop critical thinking abilities and challenge the status quo to make the world a better place. What students choose to do beyond that is up to them. It’s our job to equip them with the tools to enact the change they want to see.”

Once again, the university’s response prompted obvious — and angry — comments:

 Graniteau: “Caption — ‘Rebellion strongly encouraged’. You must be kidding yourself if you couldn’t see how this can be interpreted as partisan propaganda.”

M-L: “Monash University is now seriously off (my)  list or at least at the very bottom. I’m so disappointed because I was impressed with The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and it was a serious consideration for me together with the Qld Con. How can you allow such radical political propaganda to be representative of Monash?”

The officials tried again:

“We firmly believe attending Monash will help contribute towards change. What students choose to do while they are here, and beyond, is up to them… We’d love to have you join us! … Universities enable students to develop critical thinking skills, feel encouraged to challenge the status quo and be exposed to diverse people and cultures, broadening our understanding of the world and the issues we all face. Progressing positive change can be as simple as having the ability to consider different perspectives and cultures and have (sic) a more open mind. And that does the whole world good.”

More criticism

Ralph:  “My children wont be going anywhere near your pathetic university. I’d like them educated not indoctrinated.”

This prompted Monash’s online sophist to respond:

“Monash is not taking a position – political or otherwise.”

Which again incited furious responses

Jon: “Not taking a position? Pffft, just look at the lyrics of the music you have chosen. ‘Changing minds by fighting people’… honestly this is so dumb.  By a ‘university’ too! WTF?”

Julius: “Monash, is it an IT bot replying to posts? The replies by Monash are inane and blah blah robot leftist speak.”

Saturn580: “Go ahead, turn your once-respected institution of learning into a playground for radical left-wing activists. See how well that worked out for Universities in the United States.”

Summing up, the video disaster is an all-too-revealing insight into the monoculture at Monash. In most large institutions, review processes cull outrageous material before it can cause any public disgrace.  At the Monash Monoversity, the groupthink is so strong that no-one imagined the video could backfire.

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

[1] The next clip features anti-gun bisexual Emma Gonzales 18, a survivor from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

[2] Losses  from  weather disasters have declined since 1990 after adjustment for population increases and density. The IPCC 2013 report disavows that warming has increased most forms of violent weather.

[3] Note the quasi-religiosity

[4]  A similar instance of Monash know-nothing (or deceit) is the familiar pic of power chimneys belching the supposed black clouds of CO2: “If you don’t like our future going up in smoke, change it.” The university pledges to be 100% renewables powered by 2030, “acting as a living lab to prove that a sustainable future is possible.” I suspect they’ll keep emergency diesel generators in the basement.

[5] Haidt is an American social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University‘s Stern School of Business