Barilaro defended the Blue Mountains wipe-out by saying: “The Blue Mountains did actually lodge [applications] but they didn’t meet the criteria. The projects weren’t ready under the criteria that they had to be able to be completed within six months or started within six months … [with] a million-dollar minimum threshold.”
Hearing it, Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill was gobsmacked. “That was the first we ever heard of criteria!” he told me. “There had been no mention of any criteria whatsoever, written or spoken, and now we are told that we didn’t qualify because of not meeting criteria we weren’t told about.”
An example of a Blue Mountains project that was knocked back was a $75,000 grant to give the Mt Riverview Rural Fire Service expanded facilities for their 80 male and female volunteers. These frontline fire volunteers have to share a shack with ONE toilet. Surely they were deserving of an extra toilet and changing rooms in a grant that would support the local construction industry? Apparently not.
But $13.1 million to go to Wagga Wagga’s Visy Pulp and Paper, owned by big-time Liberal Party donor and Australia’s richest man, Anthony Pratt? No problem!
This is your politics as usual, Mr Barilaro? You’ve got the Big End of Town well looked after, but what about the blackened, singed folk on the edge of the towns, actually fighting the fires? Can’t we look after them?
And while I’ve got you, can you explain Mayor Greenhill’s question to me, how, if $1 million was the criteria, no fewer than 34 of the grants handed out were under that amount, including: $131,000 to Kempsey oyster farm; $194,000 to a St Ives honey wine producer; and just $43,000 to a cellar door in the Snowy Valleys region? And how, while denying $75,000 to Mt Riverview R.F.S. you can still find $107,000 to Macleay River Haulage in Kempsey Shire to “purchase safe and effective machinery that will produce bulk firewood”. All of those grants in Coalition electorates, of course. I look forward to your thunderous reply.
Meantime, the mind boggles.
No urban myth
This week’s news that a Sydney teenager caught a massive barramundi in the Parramatta River is fascinating on a couple of counts. Like the famed “Blue Mountains panther” – often claimed to have been seen, but never captured – the “Barra in the Parra” was meant to be an urban myth, one of those stories that fishermen tell of no more credibility than “You shoulda seen the one that got away.” But here it was, and a healthy one at that, at 38 centimetres. True, it is a mystery how a fish native to Northern Australia found its way into our waters but I am hoping it is a sign of the increasing health of our harbour more than anything. There is still a way to go, mind, before we get back to the grand old days. Back in 1992, I interviewed an old man born at Blues Point in the early part of last century, Bill Barnett, who reminisced about his early memories of troop ships blowing their whistles in victory as they steamed up the Harbour in homecoming from the Great War, sending their wash over the five car ferries that were doing the job that the Bridge does now. And he also talked of the fishing!
“It was a different time back then,” he told me. “The Harbour was clean and teeming with fish. Mum would say ‘Bill, go and catch us some bream for tea’ and you’d just throw a line in the Harbour until you caught bream or the sort of fish she wanted and it would never take long.”
The traditional rule I’ve been told is that fish caught east of the Bridge are safe to eat, while fish caught to the west might be suspect due to remaining pollution, but the waters have been wonderfully cleaned up of late, and if there’s a barra in the Parra, we must be on the way up!
An odd episode
The Stan Grant thing that has been splashed all over the papers this week? It’s all rather odd. My wife and I have had an Australia Day party for a couple of decades for long-time friends and close colleagues we have come to know well in the media. Stan has been a semi-regular attendee, only to write a mocking piece about it in The Australian a fortnight ago.
And that’s where the trouble started . . . His contention that it was all just fun fiction, all satire, seemed odd as the piece ran complete with real names and a photo of my wife and I, with a comments section where punters in turn sneered at my approach to Indigenous matters. For the record, and contrary to what Stan wrote, I don’t have a framed Redfern speech on my wall, nor a photo of me hugging Cathy Freeman, nor Indigenous paintings. We don’t even have the party on Australia Day any more, having moved it to an Independence Day gathering the day before, for obvious reasons.
As to Stan’s most oft quoted line that it is a “lefty love-in”, that too was passing odd. I am not in the habit of bandying around the names of my guests because I respect their privacy, but as my friendships have never been confined by political allegiances – tedious! – over the years there have been plenty there from across the political spectrum.
As I say, all very odd, but the guts of it is Stan certainly took umbrage at my book on Captain Cook, which, far from being a whitewashing of Cook, was the first major one to point out that it was Cook himself who fired the first shots on the First Nations men so heroically defending their land at Botany Bay.
So that’s where it stands. As to those people who have contacted me asking why they weren’t invited to the annual party, fear not. A couple of vacancies have recently opened up!
Joke of the Week
A young man from Potts Point has just got his driver’s licence and asks his father if they could discuss using the family car. His father replies that he’d like to make a deal with his son. “You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little and get your hair cut, then we’ll talk about the car.”
The lad thinks about that for a moment, before deciding he’ll settle for the offer, and they agree on it. After about six weeks, his father says, “Son, I’m real proud. You brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible. On the other hand, I’m really disappointed that you haven’t got your hair cut.”
The young man pauses a moment and says, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I noticed in my Bible studies that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair and there’s even a strong argument that Jesus had long hair.”
To this his father replies, “Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?”
Tweet of the Week
“I wonder what his policy will be on pork-barrelling. Because paleo.” – Shaun Micallef @shaunmicallef responds to the news that Paleo Pete Evans might run for the Senate.
Quotes of the Week
“We are not worried, or I’m certainly not worried, about what might happen in 30 years’ time.” – In one sentence Michael McCormack blows away all idea that the Coalition is serious about reducing emissions. Deputy PM how can you claim to care about action on climate change if you don’t care about where we will be in 2050? It is your duty as a responsible leader to care!
“As far as cities go, Sydney is on another level. So the question is, why do we put up with eyesores like the Cahill Expressway. Why is it controversial to even suggest that something has to be done about the White Bay precinct? The western harbour (the area around White Bay) is such a beautiful stretch of waterfront, that in any other city in the world would be a major visitor attraction, so it’s ironic that, until recently, all you could ever do there was to get on a boat to go somewhere else – Tasmania, no less.” – NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
“Sydneysiders are optimistic that life will be better in 12 months and you can fairly easily draw a line from that to COVID-19. We believe that if the crisis has not passed yet, it will pass in the coming year. Countries like the UK, which are further ahead in the vaccine, don’t have that optimism.” – Eamon Waterford, deputy chief executive of the Committee for Sydney.
“There may have been too much gunpowder in there – that’s what our bomb squad suspects, that that’s the reason the entire thing exploded.” – Lieutenant Liz Rich, a police spokeswoman, after a cannon, fired to celebrate a baby’s birth in Michigan, exploded and killed a guest at the party.
“I’m just trying to come out here and do the best that I can. I’ve done the preparation. I’ve eaten my brussels sprouts, done everything to put myself in a position that I can go out there and perform at the best level I can.” – Ash Barty’s recipe for success in the Australian Open.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.