Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gurgle, Gurgle, 'round The Plughole

ANYONE who has followed the decline of Fairfax Media over the past few years will have been waiting for the day when the slow, inexorable decline goes into free fall. That moment may today be closer, with the stock at one point this morning descending to 69.5 cents, just a cent-and-a-half above its all-time low. As of 2.30pm it had clawed its way back to 70.5 cents, which still left it down almost 3% on the day so far. What makes this interesting is the volume, with some 20.5 million shares changing hands. That is roughly twice the average daily tally and it suggests AFX is being dumped.

What happens when the stock drops through that 69 cent barrier? Only time will tell, but one strong possibility will be that Gina Reinhart’s bid for one or two board seats is going to get a rocket-powered boost. How can Greg Hywood & Co look their largest stockholder in the eye and tell her to get lost, especially when their own tenure has seen a downhill run all the way?

The luvvie left imagines Reinhart wishes to call the editorial shots -- no doubt an example of projection, as that is what it does when given half a chance. But perhaps Reinhart sees things with a greater clarity, realising that it is the nonsense Fairfax publishes which has done so much to limit its market, sales and stock price. Fix the product and she might just turn the business side around.

Readers sometimes write to the Billabong to ask after the Professor’s peculiar interest in Fairfax. The answer is simple, and it is two words: Rupert Murdoch.

Several months ago, News Limited made Glen Milne disappear. Phhhtt! and he was gone – and all because, or so it would seem, those who run the company perceived it a better policy to avoid further aggravating our for-the-moment Prime Minister and her rabble. Murdoch, of whom many good things can be said, insisted in London last night that he neither bows to nor intimidates politicians, but Milne’s banishment puts the lie to his words. So, too, does the Herald & Weekly Times’ shameful decision not to appeal Andrew Bolt’s conviction for hurting the feelings of a few sensitive and well-connected souls.

A second media organisation, even an imperfect one, would go some way toward to boosting the cause of freedom of speech. That is why a healthier Fairfax is worth the effort of desiring.

UPDATE: Daily volume is now at 26 million and the stock has dropped again, down to 70 cents.
Gina, start making a fuss. Given that you bought into Fairfax at 81 cents, these jokers have already cost you around $20 million.

The Academic Mind In Action

WE HAVE all heard of the village idiot who, when asked why an illiterate man would write a letter his dog, replied that everything was OK because, while he could not write, the dog could not read. This morning in the Age, the old saw is given something of a modern twist, the opinion page being supplied with a pair of writers who dispense ignorance to readers via editors who know no better. The star attraction is Stephan Loondowsky who, as usual, serves up a litany of falsehoods, not least of which is the assertion that former Senator Nick Minchin and his sceptical kind deny the link between tobacco and poor health. There is nothing terribly new about Loondowsky’s latest seepage, which should not come as a surprise. The only thing more given to stupidity and repetition than Age contributors are the editors who publish them. Just in case you have forgotten Loondowsky’s urgent need for treatment, here is everything in today’s op-ed but delivered in spoken form: 

Now Loondowsky takes some topping -- although not, thankfully, in any sense that might get Peter Slipper excited -- but the Age manages it all the same by deploying the Parkville Asylum’s Don Edgar, who goes on at great length about society’s obligation to provide for all. To support this view, Edgar quotes Alfred Dolittle from Shaw’s Pygmalion. And remember, Edgar is aprominent academic, someone you might imagine to enjoy more than a nodding familiarity with one of the last century’s most notable plays. Here is his version of Dolittle:
George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion character Alfred Doolittle laments his lot as one of the ''undeserving poor'': "Think what it means to a man … he's up against middle-class morality all the time … 'You're undeserving, so you can't have it' … I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more …'' Doolittle was right. Evidence suggests it is rich, well-educated, higher-status people who feel entitled, not the poor.
Here is Dolittle’s original speech. As readers will note, Shaw is ridiculing both Dolittle’s selfish, grasping sense of entitlement and his eagerness to “sell” daughter Eliza for a quick fiver. 
What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor: that's what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he's up agen middle class morality all the time. If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: 'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.'

But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don't eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I'm a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving.
What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I'm playing straight with you. I ain't pretending to be deserving. I'm undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that's the truth. Will you take advantage of a man's nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he's brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she's growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.
As all but Prof Edgar knows, Shaw was a socialist and keen to improve the lot of the downtrodden by, amongst other things, keeping the lucre of largesse away from graspers like Dolittle. Somehow, by the end of his column, Edgar has arrived at precisely the opposite conclusion, writing:We should not pit the ‘deserving’ against the ‘undeserving poor’, or we will all be poorer in every way.”

If you are inclined to spare a kind thought for the poor, focus first on Fairfax shareholders, who grow poorer by the day. Do you think the piffle their newspapers publish might have something to do with it?

Apologies for Bad Manners

THERE WAS some trouble with the computer, that was to start with, or more correctly, that was the second of the day’s trials, because the round of golf, which had not gone well at all, concluded on a worse note with a fit of sweating and coughing.  The machine required $100 and two days to fix, and good manners really should have obliged a little post by way of explanation. Apologies for its non-appearance, but there were family matters in need of attention.

Young Master Bunyip has been moving house and the opportunity to drive a biggish truck and bark orders at young people carrying furniture was too tempting. By the time he was settled, several days had passed since the last post, but then author David Foster intervened. He is not everyone’s tastes -- the fascination with castration makes you wonder – but there is so much fun in his books, you forgive Foster for the many moments when you cannot be sure if he is engaging in satire or succumbing to one of the impulses that upset this ABC reviewer. Six books later, the Professor still isn’t sure.

The obstacle now blocking a return to full-strength posting is a promise of assistance given long ago to a friend. It has now come due, so the next month or so will see much time away from the Billabong. There will be a few posts over the weeks to come, but they will not be regular, and their appearance will be governed more by the rural availability of a sound computer connection than a desire to hold forth. By June things should be back to normal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Speech Permitted

THE ABC has now published some comments on Big Ideas' webpage. Many are critical. How long will the thread last? Sportingbet should open a book.

ADVISORY: A beautiful day in Melbourne and the first tee beckons. Back tonight.

Random Good Fortune

THE PUBLISHER Random House, which is no small business, recently issued Anita Heiss' Am I Black Enough For You? As readers will know, the book has been the subject of much comment, but not lately on Random House's web site, where hundreds of critical, but by no means racist, remarks were erased not once but twice. The same thing happened at the ABC, where a comment thread vanished without trace. There were no calls to burn crosses, distribute blankets contaminated with smallpox or remove dusky moppets from their parents' care. The comments were critical of Heiss and that was enough to see them obliterated. This is the sad state of free speech in Australia, and we can only hope that the soon-to-be Abbott government will do something about it.

With this in mind, there is one other thing the next government might wish to examine. Indeed, given the wreck our current PM has made of the nation's finances, one would think it has an obligation to do so without delay.When she sat down to pen her book, Ms Heiss was in receipt of some $90,000 in government grants reserved for Indigenous writers. Had she lacked the requisite melanin to qualify for such support, Heiss would have gone to Random House, pitched her idea and, if it had been accepted, pocketed an advance against future royalties. When the book came on the market, she would not have received another penny until the publisher had recouped its initial investment.

Instead, she and Random House would appear to be making out like bandits. Paid by the taxpayer to write a book about which taxpayers are not allowed to comment, she is now free to pocket royalties from the very first sale. And executives at Random House must be smiling as well. Very little of the company's own cash went into the book's preparation, as its only expenses were printing and distribution. It, too, will be in the black (so to speak) very soon after the release date, regardless of how well or poorly Heiss' book is received.

If this in an inaccurate summation of the way the grants system works, the Professor would like to know. But that is the way it seems from a quick reading of Australia Council charters and wotnots.

So here is a nifty idea for PM Abbott, one that might save the taxpayer just a little bit of cash and improve both the quality and breadth of Australian writing: Instead of simply handing out money in the form of grants, why not underwrite advances to authors? This would mean favoured authors could not double dip -- once on the grant and again on the sales -- and it would also oblige publishers to invest a little more thought to the commercial and literary appeal of projects they take up.

Or think of it this way: You are an acquiring editor and two proposals land on your desk. One is supported by the Australia Council and guarantees a return, regardless of the merit you might see in it. The other is an unsubsidised pitch, one that may well be the worthier of the pair.

Which is likely to get the nod, do you think? 

It's A Norwegian Thing

AS The Age would have captioned it:

Athletes display the symbol of right-wing hate at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Big Ideas, Big Gag

UPDATE: As of this morning, 22 comments have been permitted.

ON RADIO NATIONAL's Big Ideas this evening, straight man Paul Barclay interrupted his flow of hit-em-for-six slow balls to Anita Heiss midway through the show. It was both the standard pause for station identification and a moment for Barclay to solicit listener comments for his show's ABC web page. Here are his exact words:
To express your views head to our website ... we welcome your views on all Big Ideas programmes, but a reminder: please be civil and refrain from offensive comments. Difference of opinion is fine. Abuse is not.
So far, some three hours after the broadcast's conclusion, not one comment has been posted. From this absence we can conclude one of two things.

1/ Radio National listeners are ordure-flinging trolls, none of whose comments are deemed worthy of seeing the light of day.


2/ Anita Heiss is a protected species who must be kept safe from exposure to criticism of all kinds, even if this means suppressing remarks by even her most ardent admirers.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The New Quislings

WITH THE trial of Anders Breivik now begun, we can expect a revival of the opportunism which initially marked the New Establishment's reaction to the massacre. Indeed, it is a short-odds bet that we will be reminded by Fairfax and the ABC that the Norwegian nutcase was an admirer of John Howard. So, just by way of preparation, it is well worth spending a (very) few bucks on the Kindle edition of Bruce Bawer's The New Quislings.

It is the best coverage of Breivik you will find, and Bawer's account of the delight with which the sneering, smearing left took a madman unto its corrupt and cynical heart will sound very much like what we will see once again in Australia over the months to come. Read it.

The Silence Of A Luvvie Lamb

THE internet must be broken. Last week, just as the Professor was about to share his sweaty bed with a wog, an email went out to Silly reporterette Saffron Howden, who had all but accused Andrew Bolt of racism for the crime of referring his readers to an Amazon thread dealing with Anita Heiss' $90,000 worth of taxpayer-funded triumphalism. Bolt did so, you will recall, because Heiss was being shielded by the ABC and her publisher from voices other than those she finds congenial, which is to say everyone outside the tight little circle of luvvies, grant snafflers, pigmental patronisers and other elders of the Mordy-Litijus tribe.

The question to Ms Howden was simplicity itself: Could she provide one example, just one, of racism on that thread?

So far, no response, which can only be because of technical problems. Surely a respectable broadsheet scribe would answer a fair question? Surely!

But so far it has not arrived. Readers less charitable than a resurgent Bunyip might care to put the question to her once again, but do hurry. With Fairfax stock dropping through the floor, it can only be a matter of time before the power company disconnects the entire company. Ms Howden can be reached at For readers who are down with the youth and all a'twitter, why not put the question to her here?

And if there is still nought but silence from the Silly, this link might elicit a response.

UPDATE: Their ABC will tonight give Ms Heiss yet another dollop of free publicity. There is a comments thread as well. How long will this one last, do you reckon?

The Drum's Next Leading Hand

THE NEWS in Melbourne this morning is that Toyota has laid off 350 workers, management’s efforts to get a little more co-operation from its workforce having been foiled by the Gillard government’s indulgence of bolshie antics on the shop floor. PM Julia Prawn’s solution was bailouts and subsidies, which is what you would expect from a leader with the meat in her tail and nothing but crap in her head. First cruel a business, then tap the taxpayer for the money to keep it afloat. In circles where the brothel creeper Craig Thomson continues to be presented as a dedicated, upright and decent representative of the people, such logic finds little difficulty carrying the day.

What to do with 300 unemployed production line workers? Well here is an opportunity that might help one of them: The Drum needs a new editor, and who better to know something of the real world than a worker now wondering where the cash for mortgage, school fees, car costs, energy bills and grocery bills is going to come from. Seriously, how difficult can journalism be? Not too hard if the Drum’s current offerings are any indication. True, there are a few identifiable kernels in the current screenload of effluent, but one gets the impression they owe their place to a little box-ticking on the part of the acting editor. 'We had better have a conservative or two', you can imagine the Drum’s brain trust saying, 'and then we can fill the rest of the site with exposes of rich people’s ruination of soccer, why irrigators are the spawn of Satan and whether the Greens under Old Mother Milne will be able to extend the magnificence of Bob Brown’s many towering achievements.'

There is nothing, in other words, someone with competence in spot welding or auto upholstery installation could not do at less cost and for a more uplifting result.

So, ex-Toyota workers, why not give former editor Jonathan Green’s mentor, Bruce Belsham, a call? His number is (02) 8333 4303 and he is very keen to hear from potential applicants. If you tell him you know nothing of grammar, fact-checking or what might constitute editorial balance, that would be a big plus. The Drum has standards to maintain, after all.

UPDATE: Another, and perhaps more likely, pool of potential Drum masters might be found on Spencer Street. According to this morning's Media Diary in The Australian, the baffled broadsheet's daily sales are now down to 163,000. Fairfax stock, by the way, has sagged to 73 cents, just 5 cents better than its all-time low. The end cannot be far off.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Green Aesthetics

IT IS all a matter of personal preference and you probably cannot read too much into a politician's taste in art, but there is something about this particular picture which makes you wonder what sort of a person would hang it on their lounge wall.

Could the appeal lie in all that dripping blood?

Out Of The Fever Swamp

THERE is a lot to be said for heavy drinking. Unlike the misery perpetrated by microbes or some nasty little virus, when you wake up feeling like death you will know why. Kingsley Amis nailed the healthy, life-affirming variety of malady in Lucky Jim:
Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth has been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by a secret police. He felt bad.
When crook, however, it is a karmic mystery. Payback for depriving the cat of its latest mouse? Punishment for not caring all that much about whales?  There is no ready explanation except that life isn't fair.

Anyway, posting will be a little irregular over the next few days, as quite a few responsibilities had to be put off while the lurgy rampaged.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Still Crook...

... so posting will be light to non-existent for the remainder of the day. It is hard to type when you are asleep. Comments will probably be processed tonight

An Open Letter To Saffron Howden

Dear Ms Howden,
I read with interest your report in today's Age of, as the headline put it, Andrew Bolt's "link to racist reviews" of Anita Heiss' book. I have visited the Amazon site, read the reviews and comments, and I must say I am puzzled in the extreme. While many comments are acerbic, there is not one I can find that even the most dour appraisal of race relations could cast as racist.

As I am not a quality journalist, I fear I may have overlooked the posted comment(s) that inspired your headline (which I appreciate you did not write) and your first paragraph (which you almost certainly did write). Just to refresh your memory, here it is:
"RACIST comments published on US book retailer website Amazon about an Aboriginal author have reignited debate surrounding News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt's writings on indigenous people and drawn fire from Aboriginal groups."
So, could you:

1/ Provide me with one example of a racist comment from the Amazon thread. If your sensitivities preclude transcribing it, the name of the poster will do. I will take it from there.

2/ Explain why any comment you nominate is racist, at least as you define the word.

3/ According to your twitter feed of Wednesday*, you were keen to have a quick word with Ms. Heiss. Did you make a similar effort to contact Andrew Bolt? He is being accused in your story of fostering racism online. Surely his comments and observations on the charge of racism were worth the trouble of soliciting?

Many thanks for your attention to this matter. I will be blogging on the subject of your coverage and intend to post this note as an open letter.

In lieu of an example of racism from the Amazon thread, I intend to begin a campaign via my blog to have the matter taken before the Press Council.

Stanley Gudgeon

* the twitter request for a quick word with Heiss has now disappeared

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter At The Silly

PERHAPS it is all this talk about the Titanic and brave gentlemen awaiting their fate upon a tilting deck. Or maybe it is the GWS Giants and Gold Coast Suns resolutely taking the field week after week, fortified only by Andrew Demetriou’s cash, to be thrashed, humiliated and reduced to parodies of proper football teams.  Whatever the reason, courage has been a topic pondered long and hard these past few days at the Billabong, where an autumn lurgy has reddened the nose and seriously reduced posting.

At the Silly, the topic of courage also has been in the air, with Readers Editor Judy Prisk today addressing the fearless eagerness of two cartoonist colleagues to offend Christians at their sacred times of the year. Yes, Miss Prisk opines, their scribbles might be deemed offensive, but only “at first glance”. Just for reference, here are the cartoons. Take a look – indeed, take two looks, as Miss Prisk would do – and see if either inspection renders the intention of one or both images other than an insult. Here is Cathy Wilcox’s:

And here is Leunig’s:

Wilcox explains the artist’s obligation to offend “for the sake of a laugh”, rejoicing that “lucky for me, Christianity seems mostly pretty cool with that.'' Leunig, Miss Prisk reports, is mates with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. “We accuse other religions of being too oppressive,'' Leunig told her. ''Christian culture is not so precious as to not be able to bear all sorts of examinations using metaphors.”

Christians aren’t precious, but what about cartoonists? It is a question that might easily be solved by the simple expedient of a little photo-shopping. For example, just say you took Wilcox’s cartoon, obliterated the original caption and substituted these words: “In haste to reach Medina,  Mohammad  left behind his right testicle, which the faithful honoured with a nice tie and a happy little dog.

Same with Leunig’s effort -- turn it into an account of Mohammad’s frustration at finding the young Aisha unavailable for honeymoon hijinx, a tale that culminates in the miserable fellow in the wet and solitary bed of the final frame.

And then, just for a little extra fun, why not send off copies to your favourite firebrand imam or website devoted to head-lopping and videos of suicide bombers’ last words.

Cartoonists are a brave lot, remember. Surely Wilcox and Lerunig would give thanks all the (few remaining) days of their lives for the opportunity to confront superstition with “the whole life-and-death” thing.

That would be sooooo funny, Miss Prisk would not have time for that nuanced “second glance” before evacuating the building.

UPDATE: Going back to bed with lemon juice and a bottle of rum.  Any comments will be published later in the day, after a few hours sleep.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Packing the Hamper...

... and off to a picnic.

Back later, much later, today, and possibly until very late indeed.

Feel free to comment, but they will not be published until the moon is high

These Jokers, Always With The Gags

LET’S JUST recap what the past few days have told us about the state of free speech in Australia.

A much-published author with a life coach, personal trainer and busy travel itinerary receives $90,000 in public money to publish a memoir of her success in having a court affirm that a relatively small drop of Aboriginal blood affords legal protection from hurt feelings.

Her book is titled Am I Black Enough For You?, and when the topic is opened for discussion by the ABC, the answer is made so rapidly and abundantly clear that the thread is allowed to remain open for less than two hours. The following day the national broadcaster makes those comments vanish altogether, while the audio link for the interview that started it all acquires an extra digit in its URL and becomes unplayable.

At her publisher’s website a similar stream of comments suffers an identical fate. None are rude, vulgar or racist, but they are most definitely scathing. As many commenters note, one of just two possible answers to the question posed by the title of the author’s book can be given only at risk of prosecution. This makes the title not a query but a sneering taunt.

Her publisher neglects to close all website pages devoted to the author, and commenters find another avenue to answer the big question. This, too, will vanish very soon, not because the sentiments are contemptible, but because the opinions that are frank, blunt and true. This cannot be allowed.

Meanwhile, the columnist the author took to court cannot respond to her provocations, his employer is too craven to appeal the ruling and a large piece of the broadsheet media will find nothing about the curtailment of its own liberty that is worth the trouble of reporting, If that is not enough, a squad of would-be censors awaits the power to impose contempt penalties, up to and including jail, on writers who fail to report events in the light they prefer. Most worrying of all, the same censors cite the author's legal triumph as a positive development in defining the limits of acceptable discourse.

This is where free speech stands in Australia: under frontal attack by a government frantic to silence its critics and eroded on the flank by a national broadcaster’s insistence on silencing opinions it actually has a charter obligation to echo. Free speech has been betrayed by two publishers, and its full set of shackles is even now being forged by people who believe recalcitrant editors need to be stamping number plates.

And yet, despite all these threats and attempts to intimidate and gag, hundreds of average Australians   immediately spoke up for the right to be heard when given just the briefest chance to do so. The New Establishment will squash and ignore this little eruption, but the last few days proves its grip on debate is nowhere near as secure as it has imagined.

Free speech is in trouble, but only if we do not continue to speak up for it.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Big Ted Gets One Right

THREE TARDY but absolutely sincere cheers for Ted Baillieu, of whom this blog previously has found precious little good to say. What has prompted this change of heart? An article in this morning’s Phage which details the Victorian government’s plans to cut funding for the green bureaucracy that, ever since the election, has white-anted the government with lies and leaks while simultaneously pushing policies and theories that do nothing but degrade the bush. Defunding the left is long overdue and this announcement may indicate that the awaited day is finally at hand.

We can expect lots of whining, and five-star ventriloquism, over the weeks to come, which will see those with empires under threat turn to reporters whose understanding of environmental matters extends no further than believing whatever it is the Victoria National Parks Association and sister organisations choose to tell them. The Phage’s Tom Arup – the nitwit-lite version of Adam Morton – has already received the first call, as today’s report makes clear,

Budget cuts and layoffs, Arup reports, mean that professional organisers will no longer be available to summon volunteers to beaches, where they do the worthy work of picking up rubbish. It seems the environmentally aware are absolutely unaware that a discarded can, paper plate or item of washed-up flotsam needs to be picked up unless and until an expert on the government payroll issues that instruction. This deficiency must come as a surprise to Lions clubs and Rotary, which have been doing good works for quite some time without benefit of official instruction.

That is one cheerful aspect of the cutbacks, but it is a relatively minor one. Of greater note is this splendid news: 
Six scientists at the state's biodiversity research agency - the Arthur Rylah Institute - working on vegetation mapping, threatened species and the health of the Murray-Darling, were also told this week their contracts would not be renewed. 
One of the many green lights burning bright at the Rylah Institute is Melbourne University researcher Libby Rumpff, who is memorable for more than her euphonious patronym. Over the course of the past 18 months or so, the Baillieu government has sought to initiate the experimental introduction of 400 cows and steers into the Alpine National Park. Those beasts, whose movements were to be restricted by fences to just a few small plots, were to have been allowed to graze within the test areas’ boundaries as taste and inclination took them, the object being to determine if animals that eat grass and other fire-prone materials might reduce the fuel load and, thus, the risk of catastrophic “hot” bushfires.

The reaction to that modest proposal was screaming outrage, and Ms Rumpff’s green shriek could often be heard above the choir. In April of last year she addressed a nakedly political public meeting in Box Hill Town Hall, where hundreds of city-dwelling bush buffs howled for Baillieu’s head. She also co-authored a strident denunciation of the cattle trial for Andrew Jaspan’s six-million dollar blog, and has been a frequent source of the deep green orthodoxy espoused to the exclusion of any other viewpoint in the pages of The Age. So active has Rumpff been in voicing a distaste for cows one can only wonder if Adam Morton and colleague Melissa Fyfe have her telephone number tattooed on their arms.

What to make of the official wisdom Ms Rumpff represents? Or, of greater practical relevance, what to make of the projects that emanate from it? Let one example serve:

The Victorian National Parks Association is very keen to get rid of willow trees, which are buggers of things and do a good deal of harm to High Country bogs. This crusade is backed by Ms Rumpff’s Rylah Institute which, remember, is also opposed to cattle.

This where everything gets tangled and topsy turvy, because one of the more effective ways of reducing willow growth is to point hungry cows at their shoots, as at least one study in the US has demonstrated beyond doubt. In the US, where willows are quite normal and natural, this is a bad thing. In the High Country, where willows are one of the many invasive species wreaking havoc, it would be a lot more efficient than rounding up a mob of urban volunteers every so often. Mind you, the volunteers’ self-esteem will soar after their current long weekend in the mountains, and this cannot be said of hungry cows.

As for the willows, they will be happier still. The most effective way of tackling them has been ruled out for nothing but reasons of ideology and doctrine, so they will be flinging their windborne seeds next summer and draining with their thirsty roots more alpine bogs.

Laying off half a dozen peddlers of ecological abstractions is a good start. There are, however, legions more who need to be nudged into other lines of work.

A NOTE: To get a glimpse of how complicated modern science has made the business of uprooting weeds, those with a particular interest might find the full versions of this and this enlightening – or scary, depending on how much the reader accepts that man has long been a major influence on the bush, that it can never, ever be returned to some arcadian ideal, and that the paramount goal of professional ecologists should be to stablise the human-bush relationship. If that accord cannot be struck, the High Country will be a very sad and different place 50 years from now.