This week I spent two days at a mining conference with Beaconsfield mine survivor Brant Webb, quickly discovering why he’s still mobbed six years on.
He’s not a victim. He’s not a hero either. He’s just a cracking bloke who refuses to be defined by the 14 darkest days of his life.
I was inspired by this unlikely celebrity, and wanted to share it with you…
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Tasmania. Yes, it’s real. It’s “rat shit” and it should be merged into a super-state comprising of the island state, Victoria and South Australia.
That’s what former VIC premier Jeff Kennett told an audience of Tassie locals at a debate last night. Read about it on news.com.au. The ABC’s AM program reported that his rat droppings rhetoric and state-abolishing proposal were well-received by the audience.
Probably because Kennett delivered some hardarse common sense about what Van Diemen’s land needs to do to get booming. And also because there are a number of things for Tassie residents to be glum about, on the face of it at least. Like the tumours on the faces of the Tassie devil which are exterminating the island’s mascot.
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Once at an NRL match, Wests Tigers fullback Tim Brasher hurled a small novelty footy my way. Pretty sure the thing was intended for his nephew or cousin, but I snatched it, I took it home and that was that.
Leaving aside the fact that a Sydney rugby league fan actually got off his backside and went to a game, there is nothing remarkable about this anecdote. Finders, keepers. Especially at sporting venues.
Yet public sympathy today appears to be leaning heavily towards 14 year old obsessive Novak Djokovic fan Melissa Cook, who missed out on a shirt thrown her way. And public fury is being unleashed on the fan who snatched the shirt.
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The “Statement of Principles” signed by the timber industry, the timber union and environmental organisations late last year is easily the best chance for decades to end Tasmania’s debilitating “forest wars”.
Every single organisation that signed on took a risk. A risk that the process would founder through Government intransigence, a risk of being outflanked and denounced by opportunists within their own constituencies, a risk that circumstances may deliver outcomes for their traditional opponents, but not for their own interests.
One of the most fascinating issues now that we have started to move into the ‘delivery’ phase, however, is the high stakes power play developing between the “environmental” greens and the “political” greens.
A few years ago, my wife suggested that we get a pet dog for the kids. The arguments were assembled: it is good for children to learn how to treat animals properly, it will get them outdoors and off the computer, they will get exercise by taking it around the block etc.
By the time we got the cute little thing air freighted to Sydney from the breeding kennel interstate, we had signed for it three times. Once when placing the order for the dog, once when booking it to be sent to Sydney and one more time when I picked it up at the airport. No signature, no puppy. Not once, but three times.
And the point of this story? Well at the moment the Tasmanian Parliament is debating a bill dealing with surrogacy. The bill in its current form permits two men, two women, a single man and even a heterosexual couple to enter into a surrogacy arrangement with a female person, to be known as the “birth mother”, who will seek to become pregnant and give birth to a child.
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A debate about GST distribution in Australia is a debate about our future as a federation. Some states – notably Western Australia – contribute far more than their fair share to the national purse. Others – notably South Australia and Tasmania – take far more than they give.
For example, WA gets about 68c in the dollar back from the Federal Government, while SA gets around $1.30.
It’s obvious that horizontal fiscal equalisation is unfair, and that the GST has moved beyond an Australian ‘fair go’ and more towards an inequitable redistribution of wealth.
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I have just returned from three days in Hobart, attending the opening of MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. It is a $200 million, quixotic project of Tasmanian businessman David Walsh. Walsh commissioned the museum from architect Nonda Katsalidis, filled it with his own art and made admission free.
Walsh has a scientific mind but an artistic temperament. In his interview with Andrew Frost he says that if he could make art, he would. He has an intellectual fascination with Darwinian evolution, time, ancient cultures and the dark areas of our humanity.
The inaugural exhibition is called Monanism, a play on the word onanism (masturbation). MONA and Monanism were exciting and I want to put down a few thoughts now, while the experience is fresh in my mind.
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Update 9:15PM: Appearing on Sky News this evening the crucial three independents Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor say they still have not made up their minds over which party to support. It continues.
Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie’s decision to side with Julia Gillard’s Labor Government is not surprising.
The intelligence officer turned Iraq war whistler blower was basically labelled a clear and present danger to national security by the Howard Government, formally had a fling with The Greens and now holds what is usually a safe Labor seat – hardly paints the picture of someone who would hand Government to the Coalition. Like the laughable attempt by Bob Brown to tell us the day after the election the Greens could side with any party, Wilkie’s decision ended what was a series of false flirtations with Tony Abbott.
But by revealing that Tony Abbott, like Dr Evil making an ambit claim, was willing to write a $1 billion cheque for Royal Hobart Hospital, Wilkie could have done more damage to Abbott than anything Treasury can come up with.
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The Australian Greens is a political party that comes to wreck and to not build.
Their grand plan is to turn Australia, the fourteenth largest economy in the world into Tasmania writ large.
Modern Tasmania lives off the redistributionist largesse of Commonwealth subsidies and public service salaries. Two thirds of the island State is locked up in national parks and its population growth has been historically anaemic for many decades. Through the Hare-Clarke system, development and entrepreneurialism is gridlocked – a happy outcome if you are an advocate of zero population growth and genteel poverty.
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You know Labor is in trouble if people like Clare Mattern have their doubts. Clare has two jobs – one in a skateboarding streetwear store in Launceston – is undecided about her vote, and thinks the Prime Minister shouldn’t have declared herself an atheist.
“I work in a Catholic primary school so I know what a big deal [religion] is to a lot of people,” she said. The assessment of Abbott started similarly cynically: “He seems like a funny personality,” she said, but added: “I don’t know if you call it just being normal and human. But I’m not keen on hearing [Gillard] at all… I thought Kevin Rudd would have done a better job.”
Bagging the guvmint is a national pastime, but it should set the bomb sirens wailing in the Labor party when a Metallica-loving twenty-something lists the Prime Minister’s atheism as a political negative, thinks Kevin Rudd should be leading the party, and then says Tony Abbott seems like a knockabout bloke.
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As elections in two states loom it is becoming absolutely clear that voters are in the process of switching off the Labor Party.
What this means is that Australia will have a changed political landscape post March 20 - no matter what the outcome of the polls.
And the aftershocks from these elections could have profound implications for federal Labor, which will seek re-election with two crippled state divisions providing distractions and baggage.
A plan to generate renewable energy by building wind power turbines on the top of a Hobart office block has been rejected by local planning authority the Hobart City Council.
The news has spawned a fusillade of responses, both critical and supportive, from a strange brew of sources.
As the ABC’s Tony Eastley put it in his report on AM, “Tasmania prides itself on being clean and green, but controversy is never too far away.”
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