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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Danse macabre
Carr and Greiner rise from the grave

13 March 2012

I’d slept in after working half-way through the night on a case, and when I woke and went down to the café for breakfast the sun was already poking into Werrong Lane. Bicycles littered the lane and a clutch of the regular cycle commuters from the offices along Sydney Street were tucking into Joadja’s celebrated breakfast menu.

“Hey Nick, you scruffy old gumshoe, you look like you slept in your clothes. Come and join us”. It was Tarkis from the advertising agency. He was right. I had. He was looking very natty in a multi-coloured lycra skin graft. I ordered the vegetarian breakfast and a long black.

“Will you look at this”, Tarkis went on, waving the local paper. “Barry O’Farrell’s bashing Clover Moore over her cycleways again. Boy, is he dancing to the Murdoch tune. Didn’t take long, did it?”

“Yeah, but does he really believe a word of the nonsense he’s spouting?” said old Stanley, the retired colonel, who usually stopped by for breakfast after his morning ride around Centennial Park.  “Of course he doesn’t. And the proof is that his own transport master plan is sure to enshrine the importance of cycling”.

He pulled a wad of A4 printout from his daypack and flipped through the pages.

“Here it is, right here in the government’s discussion paper: ‘5.2.6 How can cycling be encouraged?’ And it’s pretty good stuff too: ‘Cycling and walking have become more popular in recent years. There are opportunities to maintain this trend by improving, connecting and expanding cycling and walking networks …’. And this, ‘In the Sydney city centre, cycling has increased in peak periods’ and here, ‘… an opportunity for Transport for NSW and councils to work together to increase the use of bicycles…’ And they say they want to double the bicycle mode share for trips of less than 10 kilometres by 2016. Wonderful! But 2016 is only four years away. If they’re going to achieve that, they’d better start peddling”.

Tarkis wiped the mushroom juice off his plate with his last bit of toast. “It does sound very Clover Moore. So why does O’Farrell bullshit like he does? And why has he saddled himself with a political corpse like ‘Nicotine Nick’ Greiner and this silly Infrastructure NSW mob who are working at cross-purposes with  Gladys Berejiklian? She seems to me to be doing things that needed to be done for public transport”.

“Well, on one reading, he has to. The evil Murdoch press demands it. Day in and day out they bash Clover over her cycleways. What’s a conservative politician supposed to do? All we can hope for is that he says one thing and does the opposite.

“Speaking of grubby two-facedness and corpses rising”, I said. “What about Gillard resurrecting Bob Carr? This is the bloke who gave us spin-cycle managerialism and the shambolic government that led the NSW ALP to disaster; the bloke who gave us Obeid, Tripodi, Costa and Roozendaal, to name but a few. When he got himself into the media saying good things, you knew he was about to do the opposite”.

“Yeah. It’s really weird”, said Joadja, who had bought out my order. “I saw him the other night on TV. He looked like some character from a Medieval woodcut – like a danse macabre corpse, rising from his political grave”. She shuddered involuntarily.

Maybe Carr’s appointment could be explained by the ALP’s decaying talent pool. It certainly seemed ‘unsafe’. I had the feeling that maybe the circumstances surrounding Carr’s surprise resignation, right after the Cross-City Tunnel debacle, in July 2005, might come back to haunt Gillard.

Carr passed off his resignation as a decision to “move on” after 10 years in the job, but I wasn’t the only one to wonder about the timing. Nor about the fact that Carr was immediately followed by his deputy, Andrew Refshauge, and treasurer, Mike Egan.

At the time, there was speculation that Sir Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, might sue the government over the incredibly dodgy traffic figures backing the tollway he’d been sold. He might have lost, but the sordid details, trotted out in court, would have brought down the Carr government.