Is this our planet?

Often seems as if it is…


Thanks to my friend Philip Costello in New York – and formerly of Chippendale, Redfern and Surry Hills – for posting this on Facebook a little while back. In 1939 when that cover was printed the word probably hadn’t yet acquired its current meaning – in the UK and Australia for sure, but I am not sure if it is used in the USA even if that is where so many of them seem to live.

It has appeared in print in the quality Australian Press:


He’s a knobhead sometimes but I have always gotten on with him. He has a weird, egocentric way about him and he’s a dick in a bad mood but I tell him to get f—ed. [But] you can talk to him. You can have a joke…

Not always a knobhead but surrounded by them is Malcolm Turnbull whose recent address in Perth was to my mind perfectly reasonable. His colleagues should take it to heart, as indeed should those on the government side. Not relating to Turnbull’s speech but to another matter, Jim Belshaw’s latest post said this:

I don’t have a general answer. I don’t think that we are going to stop it through laws, protocols or codes of conduct. I don’t think that we should try to stop people expressing very strong views that we find distasteful in private. That’s their right. I do think that we should demand respect and manners in public discourse, that we should call those who do not display them.

I also suggest that we start at the top, with the political leadership and the commentariat. The next time a commentator calls the PM or opposition leader dismissively by their surname, object. The next time a commentator refers to you dismissively as the punters, object. The next time Treasurer Swan or PM Gillard or Mr Abbott play the game, object. I know that this probably sounds a bit silly and futile, but groups exercise their control in this way. And Australia is just a big group. 

In his speech Malcolm Turnbull said:


In the crowded and chaotic arena of public life, it was hard to have a rational and informed debate about the republic back then. It‟s even harder now.

There is almost nothing more important to good government and our nation‟s future than the quality, honesty and clarity of political discourse: how we explain policy challenges and trade-offs, and educate voters about the constraints we have to work within…how we express our position, our basis for reaching it and why it differs from that of our opponents if this is the case…how we communicate changes in policy and their implications.

Yet paradoxically, there is almost nowhere else in our national life where the incentives to be untruthful or to purposefully mislead are so great, and the adverse consequences of such behaviour so modest.

As Michelle Grattan says he is “entirely spot on” but “prescribing solutions is much more difficult.”

Sometimes I wish they would all just grow up! Knobheads!

Found an old Nicholson cartoon of a former waspish occupant of a high chair in Canberra:


Not entirely relevant, but I like it.