Sunday, July 5, 2015

Quote for the day

Some lesser known Oz political quotes . . .

Caution: risque language in some of the following items.

Byter Charles X mentioned, in an email, of a witty response in the House by Gough Whitlam when he was PM. That has inspired today’s post . . .

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“No, not at all, Joe is just a buffoon out of his depth”.

- Bob Carr, Premier of NSW, when asked whether he was offended by a derogatory remark about Sydney made by Joe Hockey, Federal Minister for Tourism, whilst in Tokyo.

Bob Carr

Joe Hockey

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Whilst Gough Witlam was PM, rural MP Sir Winton Turbull shouted at him 'I am a Country member'. 

Whitlam quickly responded with 'We remember', which earned applause from both sides of the House. 

Whitlam later elaborated: 'He could not understand why, for the first time in all the years he had been speaking in the House, there was instant and loud applause from both sides.” 

Gough Whitlam in later years

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“By way of personal instinct, I have an inherent distaste for grandiose rhetorical statements, which don’t have any substantive dimension to them.”

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister

Kevin Rudd

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“(Sydney Lord Mayor) Clover Moore couldn’t get a fuck on a troop ship coming home.”

- Paul Keating on leaving a planning meeting

Paul Keating

Clover Moore

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MP Nicola Roxon told the Liberal MP Peter Dutton, while proffering a box of unused Howard Government promotional golf balls, ”I can give you some balls if you want them”.

Nicola Roxon

Peter Dutton

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“If there was a university degree for greed, you cunts would all get first-class honours.”

- Paul Keating, then Treasurer, in 1985 after backbenchers had complained about having to substantiate, for tax purposes, their electoral allowances

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John Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia 1968-1971, was accused of having an affair with his personal assistant Ainsley Gotto. Gorton relied on Gotto for political advice. When Minister for the Air Dudley Erwin was omitted from the Ministry following a reshuffle in 1969, Erwin was asked the reason by media representatives. He famously replied “It wiggles, it's shapely and its name is Ainsley Gotto.”

On one occasion, an MP addressing the House in a speech critical of the Government asked why the Prime Minister was not present and where was he? “He’s gone to Mount Ainslie” interjected another MP, referring to a prominent landmark and tourist attraction in Canberra.

Ainsley Gotto and John Gorton

Mt Ainslie behind Old Parliament House

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"I ask you to carefully consider the record of my government and vote Labor.”

- Liberal Prime Minister William McMahon whilst campaigning in 1972. 

 William McMahon with wife Sonia

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Sir Henry Bolte, 38th and longest serving Premier of Victoria. Is also well remembered as the last Australian politician to approve capital punishment. Ronald Ryan had been sentenced to death by hanging for a prison break in which a guard had been killed. Bolte had the power to recommend clemency but declined to exercise it, arguing that the death penalty was a necessary deterrent for crime against government officials and law enforcement officers.

All calls for clemency, petitions and protests were to no avail and Ryan was hanged in 1967.

A journalist asked Bolte what he was doing at the moment that Ronald Ryan was hanged. “One of the three Ss, I suppose” he replied. When asked what he meant, he responded: “A shit, a shave or a shower.”

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“One of the benefits of global warming is there's not as many icebergs in the North Atlantic.”

- Clive Palmer, MP

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Quote for the day

“But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.”

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881) 

British Conservative politician and writer, who twice served as Prime Minister. He played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach. Disraeli is remembered for his influential voice in world affairs, his political battles with the Liberal leader William Ewart Gladstone, and his one-nation conservatism or "Tory democracy". He made the Conservatives the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire. He is, at 2015, the only British Prime Minister of Jewish birth. 

Bonus quote: 

In 1835 Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Roman Catholic leader, attacked Disraeli in the House of Commons. In the course of his unrestrained invective, he referred to Disraeli’s Jewish ancestry. 
Disraeli replied, ‘Yes, I am a Jew, and while the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.’”

Prisons, Per and Cigarettes

One of the main news stories a few days ago was the prison riot in Melbourne. Inmates at the Metropolitan Remand Centre rioted in response to the introduction of a ban on cigarettes and smoking in Victorian jails. The ban is to be introduced in New South Wales prisons in another month.

One of the reports on the Melbourne riot offered the statistic that 84% of inmates smoke. Importantly, cigarettes are also a form of currency within the prison system.

The relevance of this to today’s story is that I had an appointment with a client, Per (pronounced “Peer”) on the same morning as my having watched morning news broadcasts of the rioting. Per’s story also involves imprisonment and cigarettes.

I wish to make clear at the outset that I usually don’t disclose client’s information or use real names, but that Per has given his okay to my telling this story. There is also a reason why I am using his real first name, which will become apparent later.

I have acted for Per as his lawyer for many years. In that time he has also become a friend.

Per is Danish, a larrikin who commonly greets people with the Danish “hej”, pronounced “hi”, and says goodbye with “hej hej”. He has a charming Danish accent.

Back in 1991 Per made a trip overseas. Whilst in Moscow, he picked up some Soviet medals at the local markets and, thinking that he would sell them in Sydney for a significant profit, he put them at the bottom of his pack when he left. Unfortunately he was searched and the medals were found. Big mistake. It turned out that the medals were classed as “State Treasures”, attempting to smuggle State Treasures out of Russia carried significant penalties.

Per was placed in detention, not in one of the mainstream prisons but in one of three former Moscow political prisons, Lubyanka.

Lubyanka Prison

The political prisons were much more cramped, archaic and inhospitable than the mainstream jails. Lubyanka had been both a political prison and the headquarters of the former KGB. It is estimated by some that up to 40,000 political prisoners “disappeared” whist imprisoned at Lubyanka.

Per shared a 2 metres x 4 metres (6.6 feet x 13 feet) cell with 3 other inmates.

I received letters from him occasionally over the 9 months that he was imprisoned, without trial. He seemed to accept his conditions stoically and did not complain. In one letter he apologised for the quality of his handwriting, saying that it was winter in Moscow, the cell was not heated and he was writing with strips of cloth wrapped around his hands.  He also said that the cold was numbing and that his hands felt frozen.

Eventually he was released without ever going to trial. He arrived back in Sydney and it took some time for his physical and mental wellbeing to be restored.

When Per came to see me last week he brought with him a Marlboro cigarette pack. He explained that he had come across it whilst going through some old belongings and though it might be of interest for me to see it. 

The cigarette contained a deck of playing cards made out of the back of cigarette packets, the numbers and symbols having been added by hand

The pack of cards had been made by Per whilst he was imprisoned in Lubyanka. He told me that prisoners were only allowed chess games, no cards, and that they were allowed to smoke. 

I mentioned that there was a reason I was using Per’s real name. If you look at the joker, above, you will see that incorporated in the word “Joker” is the name “Per”.

It’s an interesting comparison with the Melbourne riot circumstances, those prisoners being allowed to have cards but no cigarettes.

Per made the card deck so as to be able to pass the time with the other prisoners.  It was a valuable item, so that whenever he had to go anywhere he took his cigarette pack with the cards with him.

One final comment: Per discovered, on returning to Sydney, that the same medals that he had sought to smuggle out of Russia were freely available for purchase in Sydney military memorabilia and medal shops.

Hej hej, Per.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Quote for the Day

- John Mortimer (1923-2009)

British barrister, author, playwright and screenwriter, creator of the character Horace Rumpole, who was based on his father Clifford.

Bonus John Mortimer quote:

"I had inherited what my father called the art of the advocate, or the irritating habit of looking for the flaw in any argument."

Funny Friday

Some topical themes this week . . .

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It will shortly be the 4th of July, or as the Americans write it, July 4th, thereby causing a lot of confusion with international communications when most other countries go by day/month/year . . . 04/07/2015 rather than the American 07/04/2015.  Still that's minor, the Seppos also eat with the wrong hand, drive on the wrong side of the road and still use the imperial system of weights and measures.  

Btw, that difference caused the loss of a $125m NASA Mars Orbiter back in 1999 when it crashed after seeking to enter Mars' orbit.  It had reached mars after a 285 day journey and was being guided into Mars' orbit but ended up 100km closer than planned and about 25km (15 miles) below proper functioning level. The propulsion system overheated and it crashed and burned.  Later investigation showed the cause:  the Lockheed & Martin engineering team had used metric units of measurement (consistent with a NASA directive years before that all units of measurement be metric) whilst NASA worked in imperial units. 

Happy 239th Birthday, America . . . 

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By way of explanation, John Hancock was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  His signature is so large and bold that it has given rise to the use of his name as a colloquial expression for a signature, as in "Put your John Hancock there."  According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but the story is apocryphal and originated years after the original signing.

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. . .  and some comments on the situation in Greece:

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The only place in the world where Monopoly money is worth more than real money.

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I felt really privileged to meet the richest man in Greece yesterday.

And I must say he did a wonderful job of polishing my shoes.

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What does the Big Bang Theory have that Greece doesn't?

A Penny.

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An Italian fisherman's boat capsized off the coast of Greece today. He managed to swim ashore with nothing but the clothes on his back and one Euro in his pocket. 

He is now the richest man in Greece.

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I've just written a Musical.

The story is this:
We are in a financial mess, and we give our money to another country. 

It's called 'Greece'.

Corn Corner:

What is the difference between the substance inside a fire hydrant and the substance on the outside of it? 

H20 is on the inside, and K9P is on the outside.