The whole idea of state-sanctioned racism, treating non-whites as second-class citizens by law, seems ludicrous now, yet it lasted into the 1990s in South Africa.
It was always a ludicrous concept, of course. No wonder The Goodies parodied it as “Apart-Height” in one of their episodes.
As a kid growing up, there had often been news from South Africa, of violence in the townships.
Some of my (white) English relatives actually lived there for a time, and in 1984 my mother visited them. While it appeared my relatives treated people well, my mother came back with amazing photos of Whites Only signs in public places, and stories of the segregation of whites and others, entrenched by an inherently racist rule of law.
I’ve had to look up the date — 11th February 1990 — but I remember it was a Sunday night in Australia. I was 19, and I stayed up watching television. On-screen for an awfully long time was a shot of a driveway outside the prison where Nelson Mandela was being held. Those present, and the many of us watching on television, were waiting for him to walk out to his freedom.
The ABC was taking a feed from the South African Broadcasting Corporation. When the SABC went to a commercial break, the camera man would take his camera off his shoulder and point it at the ground, or swing it around randomly. The commentators noted that he obviously hadn’t been told his shots were being relayed around the world.
Eventually, Nelson Mandela appeared, in a suit, walking out into the world, to the cheers of onlookers.
Over the years, as South Africa has transformed, I’ve often thought of that night in 1990, and I did so again on Friday when news of Mandela’s death came through. That night was just one remarkable moment in a wholly remarkable life.
And who remembers this song — the iconic Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials?
And this one, not nearly so iconic: Sun City by just about everyone (even Peter Garrett’s in there somewhere)…
My time on the PTUA committee only overlapped with Paul’s by about a year or so. I was newsletter editor in his final year as President. But I remembered him from my days as an “ordinary” member in the 90s, and in my time as Prez and afterwards, I encountered him regularly around the traps. There were few more passionate and articulate about public transport than he.
Paul died last night from cancer, aged just 52.
As late as last week he was still contributing to the debate, with this video that he sent along to the packed Trains Not Tollroads public meeting.
Over more than 25 years, he made a huge contribution to the transport debate in Melbourne. It must have been tough work in the 80s and 90s, when public transport was being neglected and patronage was on the decline. By the time the new century clicked around, patronage was climbing again thanks to a booming CBD and growing population — making the political sell for improved services easier.
Paul will be sorely missed.
RIP Comrade. Thoughts with Erica and family.
I get The Age delivered on weekends. On Saturdays in particular it’s good to lazily read its numerous sections in the morning.
So I picked it up wanting to know who won the football last night: Richmond or Fremantle? I just want to know if I tipped it right.
Then I flick through the entire Sports section (not something I do very often, I confess) looking for an answer. It’s not there. Any number of other football-related articles, but not the result of last night’s game.
It seems that while the printed version that landed on my doorstep sometime around 6am doesn’t have it, a later edition (including the Digital Edition) does have it, on page 4.
Now, I know the game was in Perth, so would have been a couple of hours behind a Melbourne Friday night game. But it was three-quarter time when I went to bed around 11pm last night, so surely they could have got a result into the paper to be delivered about 7 hours later?
I eventually went back to the Footy Tips web site to find it. I correctly tipped Freo.
And they wonder why the mainstream media is in trouble.
Was it in the Herald Sun delivered to homes?
This report from last night’s ABC TV news is well worth watching: Western Australian students visiting Passchendaele, and taking on the roles of real WW1 soldiers for a day.
The emotional moment in the story is as the connection with their forebears is really nailed, when late in the day, they learn of “their” soldier’s fate.
Radio version with transcript: Belgian museum recreates the horror of war for history students
I’m certainly not knocking it, but does anybody know why ANZAC Day badges are a tax-deductible donation, when most payments to charities where you get something in return (such as a badge or raffle ticket) are not?
As the ATO says, the donation must “truly be a gift”.
Examples of payments that are not gifts include:
purchases of raffle or art union tickets
purchases of items such as chocolates and pens
So is there some specific exclusion for ANZAC Day badges?
Update: See comments. An item which is purely for promotional purposes is excluded.
[ANZAC Day] doesn’t celebrate men and women who were somehow different to us. It merely pays homage to those who were, and remain, just like us but who, through the disadvantages of history, were called upon to do things all but beyond our comprehension.
If you missed it, check the opening sketch from last night’s Mad As Hell, which did a great job of satirising football games on ANZAC Day.
Tragic events in Boston last week.
Being quite interested in language, a couple of things about the use of words caught my eye as events unfolded.
This is something I’ve noticed before, during all-too-often incidents in the US: the term they now use is “active shooter”. In this case it was at MIT, where a policeman was killed — it’s suspected by the bombers.
LiveLeak.com: BREAKING: Active Shooter at MIT
In Australia we’d probably say there’s a gunman on the loose (it’s almost always a bloke, right?) or in terms of an armed and dangerous suspect. Perhaps it’s because the sight of any gun in the hands of a civilian in a public area is so rare in Australia that we haven’t developed such succinct shorthand.
Also in the US, “gunman” might have different connotations. So might “shooter” (which is less gender-specific) on its own.
I wonder if the culture of gun ownership has led to these words not being adequate, plus the (unfortunately) regular need for a term which quickly conveys the situation, thus they’ve moved to “active shooter”.
After the active shooter(s) got away, automated telephone calls were used to tell residents in some areas of Boston to stay in their homes.
These are apparently known as robocalls. Similar things have been used here and in other countries, in emergency and other situations (remember the John Howard election call?) but I wasn’t aware of this particular term before.
The surviving bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction.
I find this fascinating. The information released publicly suggests the suspects made the bombs out of pressure cookers. Are these Weapons of Mass Destruction now?
Make no mistake, these bombs had a terrible toll: three dead at the scene, and scores injured, many seriously.
But I had always assumed that WMDs meant that we were talking about destruction on a large scale. Missiles, military grade explosives, chemical weapons, even nuclear devices. The types of things that take out whole regions of cities, or at least whole city blocks.
Notably however, and this may be relevant, is that there seems to be a belief that the bombers planned to perform more attacks… though anything else they had planned doesn’t quite fit into the use of charge.
In looking through my late father’s papers, I found the following, which he wrote about an incident on Rupert Murdoch’s Sydney Daily Mirror in the mid-1960s.
I found it fascinating in light of the News Of The World controversy that was uncovered during 2011, though of course one should not jump to conclusions about the practices in the 1960s versus more recently, particularly at News’s current Australian newspapers.
I want to make it particularly clear that I’ve never had an issue with reporters I’ve dealt with at the Herald Sun, various local Leader publications, and other News Limited papers (or from other publishers).
(The Daily Mirror merged with the Daily Telegraph in 1990.)
Perhaps more recent debate about Australian media reform is also relevant.
I have not modified the text apart from making minor typographical corrections, adding some paragraph breaks for ease of reading, and inserting an image of the newspaper article (found separately in my dad’s papers) into the text.
I note the same incident is discussed in this recent article by Richard Neville (named below as then editor of Oz — which should not be confused with The Australian, which started later in 1964). Other references can be found by searching Google for the boy’s name.
However, aside from a quick look at these, I have not verified that any of the information in the account below is accurate, such as checking with those named for their side of the story.
A likely scenario to this incident is: In 1963, Murdoch was eager for Calwell to beat Menzies. In 1964, NSW had a state ALP Govt to which, of the four Sydney dailies, only Murdoch’s Mirror was sympathetic. Elections were due in 1965. It is possible that a Kitchen-Cabinet decision was taken to let him off the hook. He had then only two dailies, worked just up stairs from us, and was in those days accessible in personality.
The boy lived in Zetland, which comes under Sydney Central Police. What still seems striking is the helpless outrage, not only of whole communities, but of an entire police force.
David Bowman has asked had I any hard detail on a parallel incident on Murdoch’s News Of The World (London). News Of The World would have six school sex stories every year, and you cannot check the consequences, the way you can this one, by putting the Sydney Sun and Mirror stories side by side, say in the Mitchell or National Libraries, then checking in Oz that the incident did actually occur, then picking up the name of the boy in the Perth Sunday Times.
Early in 1964, the circulations of Sydney’s two afternoon dailies, the Mirror and the Sun, were running about level. The Mirror was continually angling to win, if only for that day, the race for circulation.
Both papers run first at 9.30am to hit the streets at 11am. The edition sent to press at 11.30am to hit the streets at 1pm is normally not greatly altered during the rest of the day. Therefore a story well prepared the preceding day can knock the rival paper off balance.
This is the story of a Mirror front page and its consequences. I was a D Grade reporter on the Mirror at the time, and played no part in the events I now record.
Charles Stokes, who had a long history on Sydney papers as a Churches correspondent – he was a very up-front Anglican – found this story, and brought it to the editor, the late and unlamented Zell Rabin, who said on the Wednesday, “Give it a beat up!”
We ran it as front page lead on Thursday 12 March 1964 in all editions. The headline was SCHOOL SEX!, the school was named as the J.J.Cahill Memorial High School, Mascot, and we claimed that parents were angry at widespread fornication among the pupils. We stated that already a thirteen year old boy and a fourteen year old girl had been suspended from school: photograph of school and one angry parent, a Mr J.Attard.
The Sun found itself forced to get a few paragraphs together, which they could only do for their final edition (3.30pm for 5pm) so we won the circulation race handily that day. They were accurate. They said only that a parent had read his daughter’s diary, and on this basis, the boy and girl were under temporary suspension, pending investigation, medical examination, etc.
In 1964, fourteen year old girls’ diaries were likely to be vague and imaginative.
All that afternoon, parents were ringing us saying, “What have you done to us? Ours is a good school.” Gerald Stone and I had the two front desks in the newsroom. Three thirteen year old boys appeared, and Stone was deputed to listen to them. When he had sent them off, he murmured to me that it took guts for kids of that age to come into the city, and ride up in Murdoch’s lifts. Later, as I left the building, kids were shouting, “We think your paper stinks!”
That night, the boy hanged himself, and a copy of our front page was found in his pocket.
The next day, Friday, the nits who hope to collect £2 by ringing in a piece of news were ringing all the other papers. Their reaction was a stunned “This might have happened to us.”
On Saturday the nits were ringing us. I was on duty, as was Charles, and the editor came in when he heard the news. Charles was upset for quite some time. He said it was the parents’ fault. They lacked understanding.
Zell went out to beard the bereaved mother. As Charles said, she lacked understanding, having been more concerned for her husband and her’s neighbourhood reputation than for the state of mind of her son. She told Zell that for days young Johnny had been watching the awful violence they have on TV, cowboys, gangsters, etc, then lo and behold, she went and found him hanging from the rotary clothes hoist. Perhaps she and Zell were not looking each other in the eye.
Zell runs a story to that effect in the early editions, before the sports results begin to pour in. No names, no address, and it looks quite a moral little story.
But we also have Sunday papers in other state capitals. At least our Perth paper, the Sunday Times, runs quite a different story that is sent out, by a bungle I should hope. It is also a moral story. It says that a boy in Sydney, aged thirteen, who had been suspended from school for sexual misbehaviour hanged himself as a result. Name and address are supplied.
As it happens, government doctors find the girl was a virgin.
Our crim reporters find it hard to get tips from the police for some time, because they think Zell should be in the dock for manslaughter.
When the inquest comes up, the Sydney Morning Herald pulls itself together, and sends a reporter and photographer. The coroner says, no photos, no reports. Laurie Oakes muttered to me (only a guess) that Murdoch bribed him.
I was telling the story all around town. Geoffrey Lehmann, then a young lawyer, asked me if he could give it to Oz. I said he could give it to whomever he wished, adding sarcastically that Oz editors Richard Neville and Richard Walsh, with their sex-in-the-head obsession with nymphets would fuck it up. Lehmann used to get invites to their exclusive nymphet parties. They did. Eight sentences which their most devoted admirers don’t even remember, and their punchline was – THE GIRL WAS A VIRGIN! Oh big deal fellers!
I handed this story, with the related press clippings to Brian Johns, for the Ethics Committee of the Australian Journalists Association. They took no action. It would be interesting to know if the AJA still had this material. The related Saturday Mirror might be hard to track down, because material is shed as it becomes mainly a sports results paper as the afternoon progresses. (Also check various state editions of Truth, Adelaide News, Sunday Mail?)
I was basically saving up to go to England, where I ended up sitting out the Vietnam War. On my return, I found good-hearted Sydney journalists (say Dick Hall) had forgotten, or pretended to forget the incident. A ready amnesia for an event that caricatured so horribly their occupational rationale?
Charles Stokes also came to London, got on the London Guardian. He was then appointed to a lectureship on journalism at Queensland University, but is now with a NSW Government Dept. (He was picked sight unseen by the then Senior Lecturer-in-Charge, an old Guardian man, but was finally told the University wished he’d go away.)
No one was ever punished for this incident, any more than the London Sun beat-up men are. (Sydney Morning Herald and Age Weekend Magazine 18-3-89 has the story of how Elton John forced Murdoch to pay out £1,000,000.)
When Rabin died in 1967 aged 35, people made an incredible fuss about the Boy Genius of Tabloids – even an obituary in the London Times (not then owned by Murdoch). It was probably written by Murdoch who was then in London, and who as he then was, liked Zell because he’d stand up to him.
Perhaps out of courtesy to the pontiff it’s time to update the signs?
I don’t read The Age in paper form everyday, but when I do, it’s either on the weekend where I can spread out as much as I like (so broadsheet is fine, though the smaller format of the supplements is fine too), or on weekdays on the train, where the broadsheet format is extremely awkward to handle.
Many of us will know the feeling — we’ve managed to find a nook on the train where we can unfold the paper without hitting other people with it, struggled just to turn the page without it inadvertently folding in on itself, and finally got to the new page only to find it’s a bloody double-spread of adverts for Dan Murphy’s or some other booze outlet we have no interest in reading.
It may be seen by some teary nostalgics as the end of an era, but I for one welcome the new compact tabloid format.
Mind you, as Jonathan Green writes in this interesting article, it may just forestalls the inevitable continuing decline of paper sales.
It does sound like some kind of paywall will go up around the web site, too. It’s unclear how well that’s worked for News Limited papers such as the Herald Sun, given there are easy ways of circumventing much of it.
I also wonder what on earth Fairfax were thinking when they built The Age’s Tullamarine printing plant, now set to close within a year or two, but which only opened ten years ago at a cost of $220 million — all set up with highly expensive printing presses to print broadsheets. Did really nobody see coming the decline of classified ad revenue, and thus big fat broadsheet newspapers?