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

The Lunch for Comment Affair

17 February 2000

When I went down to the Brushtail Café for lunch, John Howard was sitting at a table in the corner with his security man. He was drinking whisky and quietly humming 'He's not heavy, he's my brother' off key to himself.

John didn't come into the place often, so I wasn't surprised when he didn't recognise me. It had been decades since our paths crossed. Back then he was selling budgerigars at the old Nock and Kirby's store on George Street and I was a very young PI doing an investigation for the animal rights lobby.

Old Possum was propped up at the bar talking to Joadja. "What are you working on?" he asked, pulling up a stool with his tail.

"It's Fat City for gumshoes at the moment. Work is coming in faster than CIA missions at CARE Australia. I'm looking for The Third Man, or maybe The Third Person."

"Is this something to do with the wonderful old Carol Reed movie that's still running at the Chauvel, with Joseph Cotton playing Holly Martin and Orson Welles as that evil bastard Harry Lime?" Old Possum asked.

"No, no, I'm working on this fascinating little earner about the Lunch for Comment Affair."


"Well, if you read old Alan Ramsay in Saturday's Herald you'd know it's now been revealed in Federal Parliament that Mike Carlton's 1997 assignation at Eduardo's restaurant in Noosa with John Sharp -- he was then the Transport and Aviation Minister -- was paid for by the taxpayers. Anyway, there was a mysterious third person at the lunch. A complicating factor is that, depending on who you believe, it was a dinner, or maybe -- we're talking about Mike Carlton here -- it was a very long lunch that turned into a dinner. Anyway, there was a third person present who's succeeded in having their name suppressed. I'm trying to find out who it was."

"What fun! Any ideas so far?" Jo asked.

"No, I dunno. Let's round up the usual suspects: a mistress; a girlfriend; a gay lover; the head of the Federal Airports Corporation; Stan Howard; Bruce George Baird; Max Moore-Wilton, John Sharp's mum. Anyway, at the lunch, Mike agreed to support Badgerys Creek and he reckons he told Sharp that the ABC wasn't full of limp-wristed lefties."

"That's crap! It's packed with them. Phillip Adams only sticks out from the bunch because he wears a wrist brace, and the mob down at the House of Js are only lefties in an ironic Post-Modernist sense. How good a lunch was it?"

"It was a $276 lunch, but $40 was a tip, so we're looking at $236 or about $80 each. Apparently that didn't include the wine, because Mike said he paid for it ... in fact he said it was all at their own expense, meaning presumably that it was all on their own expense accounts, which is what these people usually mean."

"But you can't be saying Mike agreed to support the Badgerys Creek airport on the basis of a long expense account lunch? Is this what he was hinting at when he said Laws and Jones had been too greedy?"

"Well, you know what they said about Jones: his opinion couldn't be brought, but by God it could be sold. Perhaps Mike's opinion can't be bought, but it can be tempted ..." I ventured.

"... By a dozen fresh oysters and a really well-made basil pesto."