Two days ago, Ian wrote to me:

I wonder if this may be suitable for a filler. It seems as though we need a break from raw politics for a couple of hours.

As always, when Ian offers a thread-starter, I was over the (full) moon.

As always, I delighted in his exquisite insights into the human condition – not to mention his starkly lovely prose.

However, for once I have to question him – is this post really a break from raw politics? – especially given the sheer nastiness of the “Reclaim Australia” rallies yesterday?

On the contrary, my dear Ian, yours is a deeply political post.

Yes, we must do all we can to nurture and encourage those in their teens, their 20s, their 30s, to recognise, fight, and defeat the evil that (as it always will) tries to subjugate us.

Thank you, my dear friend, from the bottom of my heart.

(Image Credit: Australian Traveller)

One of the first things I sensed from Mick – not his real name – was his open honesty. That, and the green cabbage leaf strapped around a cracked left kneecap. Apparently a tried, tested, and true bush cure for such ailments.

I came across Mick some years ago on a destocked cattle station off the Gibb River Road. He eked out his pension as caretaker and windmill man. There wasn’t much money in it but it eased the strain, was 30 miles from where he was born and bred, in country where he had spent all his life and, importantly, kept him out of town, the pubs, and trouble. Though every so often he would head over to resort and use the atm, have a couple of beers at the bar, and then come down to the staff quarters, warm his backside by the fire and, to the astonishment of all of us, recite his “poetries”.

Perhaps his contentment fueled his honesty. Perhaps it was because Mick couldn’t read or write. Something I ponder in quiet times.

The cattle station had developed a small tourist operation, and was owned by a wildlife conservation enterprise, with a contingent of scientists and lab techs. All staff, I must note, were early to late twenties. It turned out that three staff and Mick all had a birthday in the same week. A party was organised.

The party rolled along as these things do. Camp oven roast beef, old-fashioned sweet curry and rice, with sultanas and dried apple, with Clive of India starring in the main role, hot damper with currants and golden syrup. A nice feed . . .

A lull followed dinner. Most content to let various burbles, quiet belches, and the odd sneaky cloud of flatulence do the talking. But it was time for presents. An apron here, a big box of chocolates there, and other little trinkets, either found in the bush or made into something that could only come from open and loving hearts. Then it was time for Mick’s presents.

He was presented with two picture frames. They didn’t contain pictures: they contained words. I think Mick, not being able to read or write, was pretty confused, until one the young girls explained to him,

“These are your poetrees, Mick. Now everyone can read them.”

The look on Mick’s face told the story better than any other could. There were tears – not crying – just tears. We saw a man realise, no matter how humble his life, what he says thinks and does accounts for something. Of the cadences of prose he knew nothing. He just timed the rhythms of his land to his heart. He could now see it in written word. His heart and soul there for all.

I often think of those young people, of their generosity, their clear-eyed view of their life purpose. And how they could sense the quiet integrity and honesty of a man they may never have met in suburban environs.
Perhaps as we on the left travel our diverse paths we could ponder whether we may have lost a generation of young people. Those who choose to look for, find, and accept the essential beauty and strength in mankind.

We must find them, guide them and be their strength as they fight to ensure such an abomination as Abbott can never rise to power again.

(Image Credit: Travel Around Australia)

510 thoughts on “Poetrees

  1. Fiona, Speaking as an Old Andrewsman ( well two years was all I could take really before renting in the Palm Beach end of Newtown) I have a dim view of Paulines so Jones is already buggered ( in more ways than one, I might add) but it was an unseemly show of gleeful self-satisfaction. Totaly ruined the effect set up by the very fine “Redfern Now” telemovie.

  2. Lord of the Fridge,

    The thing that seriously put me off applying for Wesley – as, or just after, they went co-ed – was seeing these fatal words on a door close to the office where I was interviewed:

    Vice Master

    I chose not to attend The University of Sydney, after all.

  3. Oh ignoring human rights lawyers might be easy, might be harder ignoring international human rights charter prosecutors at The Hague. But keep going, Abbott, in the long run it might be nice to test the system set up after WW2 to stop people like you.

  4. Leone,

    6 out of 6 would have been brilliant.

    2 out of 3 would have been excellent.

    Even 1 out of 3 is pretty good.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    And so, goodnight.

  5. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Not so much Big Mac anymore?
    I agree with the application of GST. They should also go after pricing.
    There appears to be no end to this.
    The cold war between Fairfax and News Corp heats up.
    Adele Ferguson previews the Senate inquiry into the financial planning industry.
    Stephen Koukoulas tells us how WA whingeing is without foundation.
    Coalition Senators bow to the gun lobby.
    The Business spectator writes that Macfarlane is all alone in the RET war.
    The Guardian sees right through the energy white paper.
    The ACCC pans Sydney Airport.

  6. Section 2 . . .

    A very good article on taxation policy from Kristina Keneally.
    The Greens have urged the Royal Commission to probe abuse within AS detention centres.
    Bill Heffernan goes rogue and criticises Robb over the TPP. Bill is quite enigmatic.
    Yesterday at the Senate inquiry into international tax avoidance.
    Michael West on why the Senate inquiry has been a success.
    Peter Martin – Jo Hockey gets it wrong. Again!
    Mark Kenny says business mouthpieces should pipe down and roll up their sleeves.
    “View from the Street” – Leader of the nation sits for a performance review by an ageing radio person.
    As I said the other day, policing alone will not tackle the ice epidemic.
    The seven sins of public transport users.

  7. Section 3 . . .

    Alan Moir and a gung-ho Joe.

    John Spooner sorts out ISIL.

    David Pope takes the energy white paper for a spin.

    A thoughtful contribution from Mark Knight.

    David Rowe gives us Joe’s double Irish Dutch Sandwich (refer to the Senate inquiry into international tax avoidance structures.)

    Looks like Christine Milne’s comment to News Corp at the Senate inquiry has got under Bill Leak’s skin.

  8. I assume the woman in the photo is holding up the receipt for Abbott’s travel expenses for the “charity ride”.

  9. No wonder HoJo wants to tax downloads.

    For frack’s sake, why doesn’t he stop faffing around finding more ways to kick the average person to the kerb and just make Gina and the rest of his rich, fat-cat mates pay tax.

  10. Jaeger:

    I assume the woman in the photo is holding up the receipt for Abbott’s travel expenses for the “charity ride”

    Looks like she’s just nipped into the toilet to roll out some of Tony’s policy.

  11. Leone:

    For frack’s sake, why doesn’t he stop faffing around finding more ways to kick the average person to the kerb and just make Gina and the rest of his rich, fat-cat mates pay tax.

    Because it’s class warfare. It’s always class warfare.

    I think this attack on illegal downloading is simply an attempt to make people feel guilty about something. It’ll make them more susceptible to other attacks on their income if they’re preoccupied with guilt over getting ‘something for nothing’.

    There’s no evidence that streaming or bittorrenting has any effect on sales of ‘official’ media releases. In fact the evidence suggests that those who download more also tend to spend more on purchases. I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence to support that as well. A lot of downloading occurs simply because certain shows or movies are hard to find here through official channels. It’s just people looking to expand their viewing experience beyond what’s offered through the usual outlets.

    Some of this latest attack is due to Murdoch and co looking to corner markets. But the rest is just softening us up to accept further government pillaging of our money.

  12. Parliament goes into recess and what does Abbott do? Help HoJo with the budget? Meet with senators to try to negotiate the rest of last year’s budget through the senate? Work on some new policies ahead of a possible early election? Visit Nauru to see if everything those pesky human rights people say is true? Nope. None of that. He hops on a bleeping bike and poses for the cameras in lycra. It’s all he seems capable of doing.

    Abbott has no idea about what a prime minister should do. For him it’s all celebrity bike rides, personal photographers, security guards by the hundred, overseas junkets, visits with world leaders and the rich and powerful, chauffeur driven luxury cars, interstate VIP flights in his own aircraft to parties, opening nights at the ballet, dinner with fat cats, lolling around in the harbourside mansion, and he doesn’t have to pay for any of it. He has everything he always wanted, everything the rich boys at Riverview and St Johns had, and more. He has the defence forces at his beck and call, ready to do whatever he orders. He has power.

    For Abbott becoming PM was never about working for Australia or improving life for us all. It was about pay-back, being able to say ‘Look how important I am now. Look at the toys I have’. But he has stuffed it all, he will be remembered for one thing – being the worst prime minister this country has ever had. It’s a record that no-one will want to beat.

  13. Leone…We’ve had ; “The Peoples princess”…: “The Scientists Scientist”..: “The Sportsmens Sportman” , so what’s wrong with ..: “The Foolish Voters Fool” ?

  14. Benaud gets a state funeral for wielding a bat and hitting a ball on the bounce and paid a fortune for “building his own reputation”…..How about I get one for wielding a hammer and hitting a nail on the head and being paid a pittance for “building a nation” ?

  15. If Richie Benaud deserves a state funeral then so did Stuart Wagstaff.

    Bread and circuses – ‘Look over there, not at what we are doing’.

  16. Please excuse my ignorance, I am a total newby at this cricket thing, thanks to young grandsons. Sorry if my last question caused offense.

  17. Gravel,

    Yes he is – of French extraction, if I remember correctly.

    He was a lovely slow (spin) bowler and was the first bowler to take 200 test wickets. He also made > 2000 runs at test level. As Australia’s captain, he never lost a series.

    After retiring from cricket, he became a fine journalist and a brilliant broadcaster. He knew when to shut up, something that few TV commentators these days can do.

  18. Incidentally, he captained Australia in the first tied test – Brisbane – in the 1960-61 series against the West Indies.

    He was also highly critical (and rightly so) of Greg Chappell’s instructing his little brother Trevor to bowl the final ball underarm in a one-dayer against the Kiwis.

  19. Sports people seem to be all Australians when they’re famous, even Indigenous ones – Cathy, Evonne, etc, – all traces of colour disappear. Fame = respect and acceptance.

  20. Fiona

    Thanks for that. The little I have seen or heard of him, I somehow got the impression he was English. He seems to be one non-bogan Australian.

  21. A very interestIng piece from IA. Some interesting history and a totally different slant on Anzac Day and Turkey.

    When you have read it take a look at this, and wonder how Joe Hockey feels about his government’s position. Hockey’s grandfather Joseph, an Armenian, fled Aleppo during the genocide.

  22. Gravel,

    Richie Benaud dominated cricket TV in the UK for many years. So much so, that Mick Jagger ran a successful public campaign to get him reinstated once when the BBC went through an ABC moment of looking for a ‘fresher image’. When he first rose in cricket he trained separately as a journalist, and naturally sought a career in that on retirement. He was not a celebrity personality, albeit his fame in cricket, which he always played in a positive attacking way, undoubtedly helped.

    He and Frank Worrell (West Indies captain) played a major role in reviving the popularity of cricket in the 1960s. He was to do the same with Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket in the late 1970s.

    Fiona mentioned his skills as a legspin bowler, which were not surpassed until Shane Warne 30+ years later.

    We have lost a legend, but I agree with the other sentiment here that it hardly justifies a state funeral.

  23. We should not underestimate the appeal of Sydney Harbor. As Fiona mentioned, Richie Benaud was of French descent. A French sea captain ancestor liked it and settled here. Another bowling great from that era, Ray Lindwall, was descended from a Norwegian sea captain.

    After his retirement, English fast bowling great Harold Larwood migrated to Sydney. That was more to do with the class system then still dominant in England, and at Jack Fingleton’s initiative. A generation later another English fast bowling legend, Frank Tyson, settled here. He was a school teacher and a summer commentator for the ABC.

  24. Gorgeous Dunny,

    I didn’t know about Mick Jagger’s campaign – very nice work.


    The first part of Radio National’s The World Today covered Benaud’s career. There were a couple of really lovely moments: the farewell given to him by the crowd at The Oval on the occasion of his final stint as a broadcaster for the BBC, and parts of his own speech on being inducted into Australia’s Cricket Hall of Fame. Here’s the link – I strongly recommend it:


    By the way, Richie Benaud’s much younger brother was also a cricketer (though only briefly at Test level) and journalist.

    Finally, here’s a lovely quotation about their mother:

    On 29 October 2008, Benaud’s mother Irene died, aged 104. He said of his mother, “She improved my love of vegetables by introducing the phrase, ‘You can’t go out and play cricket until you have eaten all your vegetables.’ “


  25. Anyhow…I’d much rather be awarded the ‘Lenin Medal’ for a good worker than any penny-ante “sport-legend thingo”!

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