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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Brushtail Graphics

Distributor troubles

30 December 1999

Not long after the rain stopped on Christmas Day, the office bell rang. It was, as I expected, Old Possum.

"Merry Christmas, you clapped-out old marsupial! Come up and have a cider", I said. He chuckled to himself as he hobbled slowly up the stairs.

The café was closed and Joadja had laid out some Christmas cheer on a nice old batik tablecloth spread over the desk.

"I stopped for a while to watch the traffic on the Eastern Distributor. Very interesting, very interesting", Old Possum said. "I'd say southbound traffic has already reached capacity, but the toll-paying traffic going north is another question altogether".

"Yeah, I helped with 'The Peoples' Count' the other day", Jo said, pulling up the comfy office chair for Old Possum. "We counted 23,494 vehicles and the next day the Airport Motorway spokesman said they had 23,280, so we were conservatively correct.

"If you factor in weekends and public holidays, I reckon that'd be a weekly average of less than 20,000 vehicles a day, which is income of $60,000 a day. That's about $22 million a year. That'd be pretty healthy if it was a small chain of coffee-and-muffin shops, but this is a $700 million project with $500 million worth of debt. Just the interest payments would be costing them $40 million a year. Then there's over $9 million a year to Leightons for operating the road. That's already $50 million and we haven't said anything about repaying the loan itself. How are they ever going to give anything to the investors?"

Joadja poured herself another bubbly and Old possum took a swig of his cider.

"It might take years to get to average daily toll-paying traffic of 40,000", Joadja went on. "The traffic going south is almost twice the volume of the traffic going north through the toll-booths, which gives you an idea how resistant motorists are to paying the $3 toll. But okay, let's assume that toll-paying traffic doubles to 40,000 a day, that's revenue of $44 million, but at that point the bugger will be gridlocked in the peak hour. You should have seen the toll-booth queues at eight o'clock."

"Yeah, and I mean, if you were driving to the city from the airport, you'd be halfway there via O'Riordan Street in the time it took you to get onto the Distributor, lights or no lights or you could go through Newtown, which is much more interesting", I mused, dipping a rice cracker in some basil pesto.

"And when they open the William Street exit in May next year, things might get worse rather than better. A few motorists entering at Moore Park Road will cross the stream of traffic to exit at William Street. You only get a few seconds to do that and I reckon it'll be dangerous to do at speed, and in peak hour they'll be crawling along asking other motorists to let them cross over. That'll slow the traffic down even more."

Joadja laughed. "And what about the Telegraph's campaign to make motorists who don't use the thing look like dole cheats!" That'll come undone as soon as they bludgeon a few thousand quote-unquote toll avoiders onto the motorway. The north-bound lanes will congest immediately. I can't wait until people come back to work in February and traffic builds up".

"So what do you reckon the Airport Motorway mob will do?"

Old Possum twisted the top off another cider. "Well, they've got a few options", he said. "They could go back to the government and ask for a handout of about $30 million a year, or they could ask for tolls on southbound traffic, or the government might pay them shadow tolls but any of those would be political dynamite. No, whichever way you look at it, I reckon it'll be a political debacle."