Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gerard Henderson, and all the debates we don't need to have because a silent Gerard Henderson is golden ...

(Above: today's piece is so dull we offer up this image as a visual metaphor for the need for a little risk-taking, or a good distorting lens, or a little Photoshop, found at Kevin Garrison the CEO of the Cockpit).

There's nothing like dipping into the past to be reminded of splendid historical insights.

What a pity the world is now spared Gerard Henderson's insights into the Xmas office party as first unveiled in The Australian in December 1987 under the header Our Passion For Party-Going Is Such A Brainless Pursuit.

Yep, he was a desiccated prudish coconut of a conservative way back when. No doubt it was intended to be whimsical, in the same way that being smacked about the head by a dead fish is Monty Python whimsical.

Henderson is so conservative in fact that in Australia's Aborigines And The Rights That Went Wrong, he scribbled these immortal words:

Those Aborigines who worked on cattle stations were paid a minimum wage which was significantly below the award wage for whites. But station owners were required by government decree to supply food and shelter for Aboriginal employees and their families.
This was not utopia but the system worked well enough.

Sadly you have to chance on a fifty cent copy of Gerard Henderson Scribbles On (and On and On and On and On) in an op shop to discover such gems, bon mots and insights.

Yep, it was way better for blacks to keep on working for bugger all in a feudal system, than fall prey to the variation in the cattle station industry (Northern Territory) award of 1951, which thanks to the Sir Richard Kirby archives you can find here in pdf form or here at Fair Work Australia (and while there considering such weighty matters, why not drop in on Mrs Beeton's cookbook - All About Cookery).

Of course if you look at it another way, the discrimination and the abuse led to one of the most seminal moments in twentieth century Aboriginal history with the Wave Hill walk-off and the activism of the Gurindji people (and these days the National Archive seems intent on revealing online a little more of the data it holds on such matters).

Hang on, the pond is getting as dry as sawdust or Mr. Henderson, when after all, what's wrong with a little feudalism in the north. Sure feudalism isn't utopia, and it might be a tad difficult for the serfs, but it worked really well for Vestey. (Labour relations on northern cattle stations in pdf form)

Never mind, a little background of this kind is handy if you've been forced to contemplate today's offering from our prattling Prufrock, which is titled No vote at all is better than a win for the No.

It's a long and tedious summary of Australian referendum history and the difficulty in achieving any changes to the text, and the need for opposition and government to agree in trying to persuade the punters to vote for any referendum, and the likelihood that the current proposals for recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution might well fall foul of Dr. No, assuming that Tony Abbott decides that a win for No is yet another win for his brand of nattering negativity.

It leads to one of the most arcane arguments by Henderson for doing nothing that's ever graced an opening par:

It is always a good time to remove racially discriminatory provisions from the constitution. Except when such a sensible act might be defeated at a referendum for failing to obtain an overall majority and a majority of votes in a majority of states and there are unintended consequences.

So if it's likely to be No, then do nothing, have no discussion, have no debate, waiter bring me a closet, I feel the need to hide.

Funnily enough the pond had just been reading about how Ezra Pound's daughter takes on right-wing movement over name, and stumbled across this Poundian quote:

If a man is not prepared to give his life for an ideal, either the man is worth nothing, or the ideal.

Oh well, Pound was a right wing ratbag of the worst Hitler/Mussolini Admiration Society kind, and thank the absent lord he didn't mention anything about women being prepared to give their lives for an ideal, but do we have to follow our prattling Polonius down the path of doing and saying absolutely nothing for fear that a No vote might erupt?

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair -
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin -
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

Indeed. Which gets us to this line of argument:

In his decision in Eatock v Bolt last year, Federal Court Justice Mordy Bromberg felt the need to address Aboriginal identity when discussing a group he referred to as ''fair-skinned Aboriginal people''. Justice Bromberg accepted that the term Aboriginal Australian applied to ''a person of mixed heritage but with some Aboriginal descent, who identifies as an Aboriginal person and has communal recognition as such''. However, he did not rule out the possibility ''that a person with less than the three attributes of the three-part test should not be recognised as an Aboriginal person''. This is the kind of debate that Australia does not need right now.

This is the kind of debate Australia doesn't need right now? Will it ever need it? Will there ever be a right time? Can Andrew Bolt just type what he likes, without debate?

Why that's the worst sort of attitude, the kind you'd expect from inner city urban elites, and their sanctimonious cluck clucking and tut tutting. Hush now children, the last thing we need is a debate about anything, even if Andrew Bolt initiated the debate, and so children bring me a broom and a carpet for thereto sweeping under so sweet silence can litter the land ...

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

Well actually it's always worthwhile presuming, as it was in the matter of fair treatment of aboriginal stockmen, and as it is in the discussion of the current constitutional amendment proposals.

Already some Aborigines, whose priorities do not focus on constitutional change, are being criticised for not going along with the panel's proposals. For example, on the ABC TV program The Drum last Thursday, leftist activist Antony Loewenstein attacked Warren Mundine as a ''Murdoch pet who hates everything about mainstream society''. This is mere abuse posing as analysis.

Uh huh, but it's good to see Antony Loewenstein calling Mundine a Murdoch pet because it's better to have mere abuse posing as analysis, than Henderson's mere hand-wringing, do-nothing impotence posing as analysis.

Not least because it seriously undercuts Loewenstein's credibility, and because it draws attention to Mundine's legitimate concerns - even if he did make his points to The Australian, and eek, here's a link to Warren Mundine to fight new race power in Constitution.

Yep it's a Patrick Dodson v. Warren Mundine smackdown, and the pond intends to stand well clear.

And while we're at it, it's a pity there's not some more hearty 'abuse posing as analysis' debate in relation to the Northern Territory intervention, and the effectiveness of said intervention.

Somehow it seems change will come about if everyone gets about on tiptoe, and is relatively silent and all will be well, or at least so Henderson thinks:

This sort of line of attack against critics, or any allegations labelling Australians as racist if the proposal is rejected for being too complex, would be counter-productive. The 1967 referendum on Aborigines worked because the political timing was correct, the proposal was straightforward and the extremes of left and right were relatively silent.

But hang on, Mundine can give as good as he gets, and maybe it's not a simple-minded matter of left and right, and maybe it's up to the proponents of the case for change to convince the punters that they have a modest set of workable proposals which won't deliver unintended consequences - of the kind Henderson moaned about in relation to aboriginal stockmen way back when, even if there were changes to the working practices of the industry that would have resulted in similar changes to the feudal employment of aborigines then fashionable amongst station owners, with or without the change to the award.

Change and debate, debate and change. Isn't that always the way?

By this kind of logic of the power of silence, Henderson should at once fall silent, and stop publishing his carping columns full of caveats and distortions.

Or at least relatively silent ... perhaps a column once a year at Christmas time reminding the world how hideous Xmas office parties are, and how drunk Australians get and what a terrible time Xmas is.

Or is that too the kind of debate that Australia doesn't need right now ...

And now, with another apology for suffering through yet another column by our prattling Polonius, with the pond proposing that debate on everything and anything might be needful and useful - even a debate about why Gerard Henderson exists - how about a debate on the Australian film industry, which managed to score a mere 3.9% of the box office in 2011? (here)

The next time you see an advertisement proposing that piracy is destroying the local industry, laugh in its face.

The industry is already destroyed, the American combine dominant and rampant, its tawdry and pathetic lies given free reign, its imperialistic twaddle routinely peddled to the punters.

It turns out that one feel good doggie show, Red Dog, with a box office take over the 20 mill mark, did almost fifty per cent of the unboffo Oz box office biz, and the other 43 films - count 'em, 43 - did the other fifty per cent of the business. On average that's like 500k or so a show, but actually it's just a few shows doing okay business, and the rest far away and out of sight ... (yes Griff the Invisible, we're talking about you, the invisible).

Screen Australia is an abysmal failure, but lordy, do they do a pretty graph or what:

Here's the pond's idea of a graph in relation to the film industry - click on to enlarge:

Ah well it's funnier than reading Gerard Henderson.


  1. Based on the graph I'd be a film editor. Bit of a worry if I have to work with the Continuity people if the description in the graph is based on fact! And is the resident Blogger a budding Screenwriter, or more inclined to be a DP?
    Love your work. Call me. We'll do lunch.

  2. Oh Jim, Jim, haven't you heard? They swore I'd never be able to eat lunch in this town again ...


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