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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Reconciliation by the river

1 June 2000

Sunday morning was bright and clear. A cold blustering southerly cut through my fur as Joadja and I went down to the station around nine to catch the train to North Sydney.

The carriage was full of Reconciliation marchers and as we emerged from the underground the Harbour Bridge was already packed.

At North Sydney station a huge crush of happy people shuffled off the train, out onto Blue Street and south towards the bridge. Blue Street. Ah yes, William Blue was black, I remembered. A Jamaican transported for God knows what petty crime.

It was a triumphant crowd. A huge Aboriginal flag flew from the top of the bridge. Everybody was stunned at the numbers. The road rises slightly as you approach the southern tollgates and I looked back. There was a sea of people stretching across the bridge and I knew then that over a quarter of a million people would walk over it for Reconciliation.

When we got to the southern tollgates Jo said: "Show me this historic house you're doing the investigation about. Can't we get there on the train?"

And so we left the marchers and took the fifteen minute ride on the Airport Line to North Arncliffe.

After the tunnel, the sunlight falling into Wolli Creek Station caught us by surprise. We walked up the stairs to ground level and we might be have been in the country somewhere. According to the aerial photos I'd seen, there was once a gravel depot here, but the sunken platform now lay in the middle of an open field.

"Why did they call it Wolli Creek station?" Jo asked.

"Well, Wolli Creek joins the Cooks River just on the other side of the Illawarra Line over there and I gather there was once a tramway depot here called Wolli Creek Depot; and then again, there was that long fight to save Wolli Creek from the M5 freeway, so I guess it's apt."

Outside the station we turned east, walked over the levee bank and out onto the floodplain which runs down to the edge of the Cooks River. Tempe House lay beyond an ugly chainwire fence. John Verge designed it for Alexander Brodie Spark, a most successful merchant of Old Sydney. It looked quietly elegant, a cultured Englishman's Italianate utopia.

"How romantic!" exclaimed Jo. "Exquisite! Reminds me of a painting. Perhaps one of those views of the English countryside by Constable?"

"Much closer to home. I think we've seen it somewhere. A bloke called Samuel Elyard painted the house just after it was finished in 1834, or maybe '36. It's in the Mitchell Library. Conrad Martens painted it too."

"So what do the developers want?"

"They want to throw up an arc of 13 storey flats from the riverbank, over the top of the station, around the back of that little church and Tempe House and over to the edge of the Princes Highway. There'd only be this little strip of land in front of the house running down to the river."

"That's terrible! Something like this should be treasured. It should all be parkland. I can see a village back over there, south of the station. That would be lovely ... but for heaven's sake, it shouldn't be Hong Kong by the River."

It was such a small space, about 250 metres wide, sandwiched between the Illawarra Line and the Princes Highway, maybe five or six hectares in all. So little to save, and yet what a difference it'd make.

We walked down to the river in silence. In the little park on the other side a few dozen people were picnicking.

"A penny for your thoughts", said Jo.

"I was thinking about Old Willy", I said. "He was Brodie Spark's Aboriginal boatman. He used to meet Spark over on the other side and row him across. He must have known the river before the white men arrived. Saving this place from the greedheads should be as much for Old Willy as for his master".