But he was equally determined to use the platform delivered by his gong by beating it on such things as the virtues of Australia reducing its sugar consumption. Just as he told the ABC’s 7.30, he sees the way forward as the government introducing legislation to limit ads for sweet products, most particularly during children’s TV, getting a better labelling system so you don’t have to get a magnifying glass and a calculator to work out sugar content, and introducing a levy on sugar sweetened beverages. Each one of those proposals is a long overdue no brainer, and the fact that they will drive Big Sugar nuts is just a bonus. Dr Muecke is a good man, and one to get behind.
Penny drops reading Pascoe
Among other things while on the summer break, I, like many of you, read Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu . . . and was hugely impressed. Pascoe, as you know, finds himself in the middle of a culture war for having had the temerity to contend that the First Peoples were a lot more than hunters and gathers and in many areas had sophisticated systems of agriculture and food storage based around well-established villages. The attacks on him have two prongs: that his book is all fantasy, and that he has no Indigenous blood himself as he has claimed.
On the latter issue, I have no clue, though am happy to accept him at his word. And either way it makes zero difference as to the worth of his book.
On the matter of the book I say this strongly: NO ONE who has actually READ the book, can say he is a fantasist. For when you actually read it, the penny drops. There is a minimum of Pascoe, and a maximum of first person accounts from explorers and first settlers on what they saw at first contact with the First Nations people and, all put together, his case is unanswerable – as inconvenient as that might be for those who seek to downplay just how precious a culture was destroyed by white settlement.
Testing the acting chops
Meantime, believe it your not, your humble correspondent has been busy in recent times preparing to take Gail Louw’s award-winning one-man play, Shackleton’s Carpenter, to the Maritime Museum in the last week of February. I’ll be doing a dramatised reading, telling the story of one of the men with Shackleton on his epic 1915 trip from Antarctica to South Georgia in an open boat. Harry McNish was the carpenter who built up the sides of the boat to give it a better chance to get through open seas and yet, while 24 of the 27 men with Shackleton received the coveted Polar Medal, he did not, and finished his life homeless on the docks in Wellington. I know, I know, playing a grumpy old bastard will stretch my dramatic talents, but I’m going to give it a go! All proceeds are going to my charity, the Footpath Library, and you can book here. Come along!
Joke of the Week
On a beautiful summer’s day, two American tourists are driving through Wales.
At Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogoch, they stop for lunch, and one of the tourists asks the waitress, “Before we order, I wonder if you could settle an argument for us? Can you pronounce where we are, very, very, very slowly?”
The waitress leans over and says, “Burrr . . . gurrr . . . king.”
Quotes of the Week
“I cannot help but be appalled that someone who minimised violence towards women, who is part of the inevitable pushback and backlash that we all experience as we pioneer a way forward, would be awarded.” – Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty takes aim at Bettina Arndt – who infamously blamed the female victim of a pedophile for her “sexually provocative behaviour” – after she received an AM in the Australia Day Honours list.
“A properly conservative government [should] make it easier for women in the workforce to have more kids. That is a real problem in every Western country: middle class women do not have enough kids. Women in the welfare system have lots of kids.” – Tony Abbott this week, being very Tony Abbott on the Tony Abbott scale of things.
“There definitely were mistakes made, things I would do differently.” – Former British prime minister David Cameron looking back on Brexit.
“The criminalisation of people who use drugs has totally and utterly failed. It hasn’t stopped people using drugs. It hasn’t saved lives. What it has done is clog the courts, give otherwise innocent people criminal records and push people away from seeking treatment.” – NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, the party’s spokesperson for drug law reform, saying that she would introduce a bill this year to decriminalise the possession and use of illicit drugs in NSW.
“The longer the distance, the shorter the gender pace gap. In 5 kilometres, men run 17.9 per cent faster than women, at marathon distance the difference is just 11.1 per cent, 100-mile (160.9km) races see the difference shrink to just .25 per cent, and above 195 miles (313.8km), women are actually 0.6 per cent faster than men.” – Professor Evangelos Pappas, the head of physiotherapy at the University of Sydney and an expert in biomechanics.
“I think it’s important to note that the Auditor-General did not find there were no ineligible projects that were funded under this scheme and nor did he say rules had been broken. There was a ministerial authority to make decisions in this matter and that’s what was exercised.” – Scott Morrison tap dances as quickly as he can to distance himself from the sports rorts affair.
“Tennis Australia is facing a dilemma: What do they do with their crazy aunt?” –John McEnroe delivers a verbal overhead smash at Margaret Court ahead of her recognition ceremony in the Rod Laver Arena this week.
“If the President does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” – Famed American jurist Alan Dershowitz at the Senate impeachment trial this week. Hello, Richard Nixon? You’re off the hook on Watergate!
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.