From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Matrimonial on the Indian Pacific

1 February 2006

I don’t often do matrimonial investigations, but this one was hard to resist. Just for starters the client’s husband was a prominent developer and she was absolutely loaded.

Any PI will tell you that when the client says their husband is cheating on them they’re almost invariably right – the thing, however, is to prove it.

“He booked a sleeper on Saturday’s Indian Pacific to Perth. I’m absolutely certain he’s going to rendezvous with some woman on board”, she said.

Well, it was plausible, and it’d certainly be a novel way to conceal an affair, I thought. Besides, I love train travel and doing it at the client’s expense appealed to me.

“I’d like to take a female associate along”, I said, “Partly as a cover, and partly ’cos it makes round-the-clock surveillance easier and less obtrusive”. But mostly, I felt that Joadja needed a holiday.

“Whatever. I just want the evidence”.

“And when he gets to Perth?”

“I doubt if he’ll try anything there. When he isn’t attending to business he’ll be hanging out with my sister’s family. Then he’s flying back. If he’s up to mischief, it’ll be on the train”.

Sweet. I rang a woman I knew at the train company booking office. The subject had booked a Red Kangaroo sleeper and they’d put him in one by himself. I booked for two and my contact put us in a cabin opposite his.

The Indian Pacific rolled out of Central at 3.00 pm. We’d checked in at 1.45 and watched the subject arrive and take his bag to his cabin. I knew there was one woman travelling unaccompanied in the sleeper, but when I eyeballed her she looked much too old to appeal to our man. That left the possibility that his woman was travelling in the day-nighter class – a sleek young backpacker perhaps – and he was going to smuggle her into his cabin. That would make sense of the odd fact that a man who could easily afford to travel the spiffy Gold Kangaroo class was slumming it in a cramped second-class sleeper.

I guessed he’d make contact with the woman in the lounge or maybe the diner after we left Sydney. We staked them out but the subject stayed in his cabin.

I was half absorbed in an old sci-fi novel when Bob Ellis slouched into the diner, clutching a bottle of red from the buffet counter. He was dressed in his trademark cheap black double-breasted suit, voluminous inexpensive white business shirt and sandals. The self-styled ‘dusty national icon’ and gloomy bard of the ALP’s moral decline set up at a vacant table and began dictating notes into his mobile phone in a deep sepulchral voice. Holy Mother of Marx, I thought – here I am on a matrimonial investigation and who should turn up but the country’s most celebrated adulterer. What is it about paunchy, depressive, balding, rheumy-eyed writers that women find so fatally attractive?

Just then, Joadja came back from the lounge. “Ohhh … look, there’s Bob Ellis!” she whispered.

“Get back to the cabin, right now” I said, “I’m gonna tape your ankles together and lock you in”.

“Filthy-minded marsupial.”

As the train rolled relentlessly west it transpired that our subject was just enjoying time out. I did see him look longingly at a blond German backpacker, but he didn’t even try to buy her a drink.

The great writer didn’t score either. He left the train at Adelaide, and slowly shuffled away, dragging his little suitcase.

Not that the expedition had all been my idea, of course, but by the time we rolled into Perth Terminal I was feeling faintly embarrassed by the lack of a result. I walked out into the carpark and rang the client on the mobile.

“I thought I should tell you right away” I said, “He hardly spoke to another person during the whole trip. We never saw him do more than exchange pleasantries with anybody else, and nobody was ever in his cabin”. She sounded crestfallen.

“I dunno … maybe, just maybe, you’re right”, I said. “Bob Ellis was on the train, he got off in Adelaide. Maybe your husband’s trollop made a bee-line for Bob instead”.

“Ohhh … not the Bob Ellis? Bob’s so lovely. I’ll bet that’s what happened!”, she replied. sounding happier already. She thanked me for my work and promised to pop a cheque in the mail forthwith.

Sometimes it’s kinder to leave the client with a little ray of hope