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

On the pirate ship Parliament
16 June 1999

Scandals involving concrete and defence installations go back a long way in Australia. If you take the trip all the way down Anzac Parade to La Perouse you end up at a bare windswept promontary which looks out over the entrance to Botany Bay and across a narrow wooden bridge you'll find Bare Island Fort.

It was built as part of an elaborate scheme recommended by a pair of British military boffins, Jervis and Scratchley, who came to Australia in 1870 as consultants in colonial defence. They wrote a report which recommended a series of forts to defend the entrances to the main harbours on the east coast from raids by hostile powers.

Bare Island was fortified soon after, but there was a problem: the contractor supplied substandard concrete and much of the fort had to be rebuilt. The Chief Colonial Architect's career never recovered, the foreign pirates never came and the place ended up as a home for retired artillerymen and eventually a national park.

I remembered this as the Warren Entsch scandal sailed into the news and McCosker Engineering, another contractor on the RAAF's Weipa base, claimed that Entsch's company had supplied $175,000 worth of concrete that wasn't up to the job after a quick phone call from an RAAF flight sergeant with the likely name of Jones.

It was the sort of shonky tendering that would sink the career of any public servant outside the RAAF or even the Navy's submarine procurement department but John Howard just shrugged his shoulders.

And it didn't stop with concrete, as the week wore on. A Japanese investor in Entsch's north Queensland cattle station, Mr Kunio Yanagida, cheerfully told ABC News that his friend Warren was very helpful in the day to day management of the place.

Entsch's spin-doctors gibbered wildly in their broken English to anybody from the media who would listen. Yanagida was just a simple confused foreigner who didn't savvy the lingo, they said, and smart-arse journalists had put words in his mouth.

Entsch called the critics "sewer rats" and clowned around with his pet macaw which was, according to reliable sources, trained to talk by Joh Bjelke-Peterson and screeches things like "feed the chooks" and "I'm, I'm doing, something, something good for Queensland ... yes, and ... and ... you, you southern socialists ... you ... you're not going to stop us ... Don't you worry about that! ... No my goodness gracious ... I'll eat the whole box of bikkies".

What is it about the Howard Government? Are these people totally illiterate and completely scatty – the sort of dingbats who couldn't run a chook raffle in country pub or are are they just greedheads full of hubris? Is there anything they wouldn't do for an extra dollar? What part of "no" don't they understand?

It's often said that we pay politicians top dollar to buy the best and to keep them honest, to remove the temptation to keep their trotters in the trough of private 'enterprise'. If that's the case, how come the course of parliamentary democracy is so regularly interrupted by these conflict of interest scandals? How come politicians are so regularly caught abusing their lavish travel allowances? How is it that so many of them regularly 'forget' that they hold positions as directors or secretaries of companies, or that they hold shares in companies the government does business with? How much money do they really want? What would satisfy them?

The truth is that if they aren't comfortably well off before they're elected (and most politicians are) they become so the moment they're elected ... but that doesn't seem to satisfy lots of them and the problem isn't going away. If it isn't Warren Entsch's hardware shop it's questions about Paul Keating's piggery.

Privately, it must break Gerard Henderson's heart.