Friday 26 May 2017

Olympic Memories

An edited version appeared as ‘The day a nation pooled its anger’, Geelong Advertiser, Monday 27 November 2006, p. 15.

Yet more journalism archives

Easy Victory keeps slender finals hopes alive

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 12 January 2008, p. 95.

By Roy Hay

Melbourne Victory defeated Wellington Phoenix by three goals to nil in its last game at Telstra Dome for this A-League season, watched by 25,498 fans.

Victory had to win and hope that Newcastle Jets fails to get a point from its last two matches to qualify for the finals this year.

Last year’s defending champion’s main focus is preparation for the Asian Champions’ league but it was still keen to get a result last night.

Both teams were below full strength with Phoenix skipper Ross Aloisi suspended and Victory’s striker Daniel Allsopp sidelined with injury.

Nick Ward and skipper Kevin Muscat passed late fitness tests to take their places in the Melbourne starting line-up.

The Phoenix began with a flurry of passing movements, but within a few minutes Victory started testing the away team’s notoriously porous defence.

Carlos Hernandez rounded his man and hit the cross bar with a thunderous shot which bounced down and up over Archie Thompson’s despairing leap.

Three minutes later Hernandez tried an audacious chip from out on the left which beat keeper Glenn Moss and landed on top of the cross-bar.

In 31 minutes Victory gained the lead with a fine goal.

Thompson and Nick Ward worked the ball across the edge of the penalty area and Hernandez drove it back across Moss into the bottom corner.

Four minutes more of Victory pressure culminated in a run by Adrian Caceres which took him to the bye-line from where he cut the ball back to Nick Ward who side-footed it in off the goalpost.

Victory was well worth its two-goal lead at the interval.

The second half was more tightly contested as Victory controlled the midfield and the visitor found it hard to get shots on target.

The closest Phoenix came to scoring was a powerful header by defender Steven O’Dor which struck the crossbar with Michael Theoklitos beaten.

Late in the game Victory had two four-man breaks, one of which was spurned by Thompson but the second saw the ball spin wide to young substitute Kaz Patafta who finished well from a difficult angle.

Three wins on the trot keeps Victory’s hopes alive a little longer.

Victory finals hopes dashed

Geelong Advertiser, Monday, 17 December 2007, p. 42.

By Roy Hay

Melbourne Victory effectively surrendered its chance of playing in this year’s final series when it lost by three goals to one to Newcastle Jets in the A-League at Telstra Dome last night.

Victory fielded the same team in two successive matches for the first time this season, and Daniel Allsopp recovered sufficiently from his hamstring strain to take his place on the bench.

New signing Nick Ward from Queens Park Rangers made his debut as a substitute.

The Jets have been Victory’s bogey team recently with two wins and a draw in the last three meetings.

Newly appointed Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek watched the game, his third this week-end, as he ran his eye over potential players for the first World Cup qualifying match against Qatar at Telstra Dome in February.

After an opening flurry by the Jets, Victory got into its stride and took the lead after 12 minutes.

Adrian Caceres found himself clear on the right wing and his low cross was turned in by Carlos Hernandez who nipped in ahead of Jets keeper Ante Covic.

For the Jets, Joel Griffiths got on to the end of a magnificent through ball but youngster Sebastian Ryall robbed him with a well-executed tackle.

Victory was having much more of the play showing neat close quarter skills particularly from another youngster Kaz Patafta, but he, like his team-mates could not find the strikers with accurate passes.

When the ball did get through Archie Thompson and Caceres often turned back away from goal, when it seemed more profitable to keep going forward.

Full back Daniel Vasilevski joined in the attack only to drive his shot into the side net.

The Jets continued to threaten on the break and Matt Thompson got away down the left in 41 minutes.

His cross was knocked back to Brazilian Denni who gave Michael Theoklitos no chance to save his blistering shot.

Victory went in at the break level at one-all and Nick Ward replaced Patafta at half-time.

Nine minutes later the Jets were given a soft free kick about ten metres outside the penalty box and Socceroo Joel Griffiths curled a David Beckham-like free kick into the top corner.

Victory tried to strike back and Hernandez released Thompson who rounded the keeper but Jets’ skipper Jade North cleared on the goal line.

In 76 minutes Griffiths sealed the match when he got clear on the edge of the area, dummied his way round his man and finished clinically.

Verbeek would have noticed this effort by the striker.

The crowd now turned on coach Ernie Merrick as the Victory slumped to its sixth defeat of the season.

Though Victory will represent Australia in the Asian Champions League later this year, only a totally favourable set of results in the remaining four rounds would let it squeak into the A-League finals.

Ernie Merrick said afterwards that Victory had let themselves and the fans down and defender Rodrigo Vargas also apologised to the support for the poor season.

Neither Merrick nor his opposite number Gary van Egmond could quite pin down why the Jets have the wood on the Victory, though van Egmond noted that each time they have played recently there has been a lot riding on this particular result.

Late drama as Melbourne Victory fights back against Adelaide United

By Roy Hay

Melbourne Victory came back from the dead to snatch a two-all draw with Adelaide United at Telstra Dome on Saturday night before 22,466 spectators to keep its faint hopes of a finals berth alive.

Down two-nil to goals by Socceroo Paul Agostino with 70 minutes played, Victory won a penalty kick converted by skipper, Kevin Muscat and then Adelaide’s Richie Alagich headed a Carlos Hernandez free-kick into his own goal to hand the home team one point.

Once again Victory had to reshuffle its line-up thanks to injury and suspension. Striker Danny Allsopp was unable to take his place and Grant Brebner was on the bench. But skipper Kevin Muscat returned as sweeper behind Rodrigo Vargas with young Socceroo Sebastian Ryall and former Adelaide United defender Matthew Kemp at full back.

Daniel Vasilevski, Leigh Broxham, Adrian Caceres and exciting youngster Kaz Patafta were in midfield.

Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez partnered Thompson up front.

Victory almost scored in its first attack as Thompson set up Caceres whose shot was deflected for a corner kick, which came back to Thompson and his effort on the turn just missed the post.

Adelaide had several sharp attacking moves and took the lead with a strange and controversial goal in the 17th minute.

Lucas Pantelis found Dez Giraldi who looped a shot towards the top corner with keeper Theoklitos stranded.

When the ball came back off the woodwork, skipper and former Socceroo Paul Agostino, who was in an offside position, tapped it into the empty net.

But the goal stood because Agostino had been level with the last defender Kevin Muscat when the Giraldi shot looped up off Matt Kemp.

From then till half-time Victory took the game to Adelaide.

A series of sweeping attacks resulted a number of near things but no goal, the closest being Thompson’s shot which former Victory keeper Eugene Galekovic just managed to parry in the 40th minute.

Vasilevski and Caceres also had shots saved or blocked.

Adelaide went further ahead only four minutes after half-time when Nathan Burns headed the ball against the bar and Agostino buried the rebound.

Coach Ernie Merrick withdrew Patafta after an hour because the youngster was tiring, but the fans were not impressed chanting ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’.

Leandro took his place.

In 70 minutes, Tom Milardovic and Robert Cornthwaite combined to bring Archie Thompson down on the edge of the box resulting in a penalty.

Kevin Muscat thumped it into the roof of the net.

Though Victory kept pressing it seemed to have run out of time when Hernandez’s free kick was headed past Galekovic by the unfortunate Richie Alagich.

After the match Ernie Merrick said that the performance was good ‘but the result wasn’t what we were after’. ‘We have to get all three points from the Newcastle game.’

Aurelio Vidmar, the Adelaide coach, was inevitably disappointed. ‘We got into a great position, 2-0. We were really cruising in that second half. It only takes a couple of seconds for the game to change. Both goals came from silly mistakes’, he said.

Kevin, we are the ones who should be seeing red.

Age, Sport, Monday 3 December 2007, p. 12.

Dear Kevin

No, I haven’t played the game at professional level, so I don’t know first hand the situations you face every week in the A-League or the top leagues in England and Scotland, but I have watched your career since you were an Under-9 at Green Gully and later at Sunshine George Cross. You have marvellous talents and you can play a bit, but when you were young I thought you were a thug and a very bad influence on a youngster from Geelong who also could play the game, when you were in under-age representative sides in Victoria. Your skill and commitment and strength of mind led good coaches to select you for the Young Socceroos and the Olyroos when you were younger than all the other players. They could see in you something they needed for their teams, for they were not romantics but hard-headed winners like yourself.

It was a similar story at Milwall, Glasgow Rangers and for the Socceroos. Talent and refusal to accept defeat was written on your face and your body in every game you played. Yet when you try to explain and excuse your conduct in your column in the sports section of the Sunday Age, you show that you have never been able to distinguish commitment and sacrifice on behalf of the team from violent conduct as defined by the Laws of the Game.

Soccer has always had its hard men who could play, like Roy Keane, Denis Wise, Billy Bremner, Tommy Smith, Norman Hunter and Dave Mackay. Coaches and managers have  always been delighted to have these players in their sides and at the end of their careers their exploits have been glossed over or romanticised. But they did awful damage to other players along the way, sometimes they would claim, as you do, accidentally but on other occasions with malice or at least recklessness of the consequences.

Some of the work you have done for the Melbourne Victory under Ernie Merrick deserves the highest praise. You have been the very public face of the game in Victoria, have put in countless hours in promotion of the game at all levels and are now engaged in training yourself as a coach. In games, other A-League teams know that they are never safely in control of a match while you are on the field. Yet like many of those who follow this code in Australia and want desperately for it to succeed, not in toppling Australian Rules or anything like that, but just to become a normal part of the sporting scene in this country, I fear that your behaviour is dangerously counter-productive in one key respect.

It is not only your propensity to launch the most violent tackles on opponents, often from behind, but the snarling refusal to accept decisions which go against you and the browbeating of officials and opponents which sets an appalling example. Others believe if Muscat can get away with it, so can I. If that conduct is allowed to persist the skilful players will be driven out of the game. Juninho, the little Brazilian magician playing for Sydney FC, has already made clear his fears about the way the game is played in this country by a few players like yourself.

I am not in the slightest concerned about your kicking an advertising hoarding. It is fascinating, and symptomatic of the modern game, that your immediate apology was to the sponsor for the off-field incident and not to the thousands of others you have let down for the on-field behaviour.

Nor am I convinced by you and your coach pointing to the disciplinary record of other clubs as if it was their propensity to commit fouls which determined their places on the A-League ladder. I found your attempt on television to defend some of the crude tackling by some of Juninho’s team-mates in the exhibition match against LA Galaxy hard to take as well. I know this is a contact sport and if it becomes basketball we will all be the poorer. But the kind of tackling which injures others in the name of winning matches is something we can do without, particularly if we want to succeed in Asian competition. I want to see Australian teams which match others for skill, not physicality, and I just wish you could curb your occasional but violent assaults on your fellow players for the greater good of the game.

Yours in sorrow more than anger

Roy Hay

Victory’s victory

Geelong Advertiser , Monday 22 October 2007, p. 33.

By Roy Hay

Putting its off-field problems with star recruit Ljubo Milicevic behind it, Melbourne Victory pulled off a narrow two-one win against Perth Glory at Telstra Dome last night.

Skipper Kevin Muscat did not recover from his knee injury, so the midfield consisted of Grant Brebner, Carlos Hernandez, Leigh Broxham and Joe Keenan.

Young Sebastian Ryall took over from the injured Daniel Piorkowski in central defence.

Daniel Allsopp, playing his 50th game for the club in the A-League, was captain for the day.

Glory was very unlucky to lose a couple of late goals to Sydney in a three-all draw in the last round, but came out full of fire led by former Victorian and Socceroo Simon Colosimo.

Archie Thompson was denied a penalty in the 12th minute when a long ball forward by Grant Brebner enabled him to run in on goal only to be brought down by Jamie Coyne.

Referee Simon Przydacz was on the wrong angle to decide correctly unfortunately.

Victory took the lead in 26 minutes when Thompson and Hernandez exchanged passes down the right and the Costa Rican international Hernandez finished with the thunderous shot for his first A-League goal.

Thompson was taken out in the move but resumed after treatment.

Hernandez then set up Daniel Allsopp but the striker drove over the top.

Victory added to its tally from a Matthew Kemp corner in 33 minutes.

Rodrigo Vargas headed towards goal and Thompson got the final touch as the ball was entering the net, but the referee credited Vargas with the goal, which was justice done.

Two minutes before the interval Victory allowed Perth back into the game, when Nikolai Topor-Stanley easily beat Kemp and Perth’s Jamie Harnwell was unmarked in the goal area to head home.

In the second half, Perth took control of the game for long periods, forcing a sluggish Victory side to chase all over the field.

Allsopp had one shot deflected for a corner, while Jamie Harnwell, substitute Nick Rizzo and Jimmy Downie all tested Michael Theoklitos.

Both sides used their substitutes, with Victory having to replace another central defender when Ryall went down in his own penalty area. The youngster had to be stretchered away and things do not look good for him.

Somehow Victory clung on to its narrow lead, but the second half performance was not convincing, though the heat and humidity played its part.

The Perth Glory fans in the crowd of 25,598 made much of the noise as the visitor fought hard but ultimately unsuccessfully.

I’ve seen the future and I’m worried

Australian and British Soccer Weekly, Tuesday 9 October 2007, p. 14.

By Roy Hay

Last month I was at the 25th annual conference of the British sports historians in Stirling and after lunch on the Saturday a few of us watched the last half-hour of a Scottish Premier League match between Rangers and Kilmarnock. It was played at high speed with lots of one-touch football and very late in the game, substitute Jean-Claude D’Archeville scored the winner for Rangers after a typical move reached the edge of the Kilmarnock penalty area, and a couple of defensive mistakes allowed him to slot the ball past the keeper.

Afterwards before returning to the conference we watched the last stages of a series of Under-12 games taking place outside the sports centre on a beautifully level grassed area. The pitches were about half of full size, the goals were smaller and there were seven players, not eleven in each team. Kitted out in the colours of the leading Scottish clubs these boys, and they were all boys, are members of the Pro-Youth system, which identifies and promotes football talent.

They were well organised, coached and disciplined and played the same one-touch high-speed football we had seen on the television inside. Running off the ball, tactically aware, keeping their formation, they were doing just the same as their seniors we had seen a little earlier. Some parents were watching quietly from the sidelines but there was little vocal comment on the game. The referees were male and professional, athletic and efficient. We saw almost a carbon copy of the Rangers’ goal, when one team sliced through another to penalty area but the finish owed a lot to a defensive blunder.

I doubt if the equivalent Australian game would have been similar and I wondered if our youngsters would have accepted the regimentation which lay behind this style of play. Not once did we see a youngster take the ball and run at an opponent and try to dribble past him, he would always look for the pass or the shot, and only occasionally would an attacker knock the ball past a defender and try to turn him and regain the ball through outrunning him. It was all very disciplined but almost soulless and lacking the sort of individual play which used to characterise the game, at least among children.

It would be completely wrong to condemn this approach on the basis of fifteen minutes viewing and there are so many good things about the support that young players are getting in this and similar programs. But I confess to being a little worried about the future of the game if this is how our best coaches and planners are moulding our youngsters. There will be no return to the incoherence of playground football where the aim was to keep the ball under control and dribble with it for as long as you could resist the attempts by a mob of others to rob you by fair means or foul. The passing game began with Scots professionals at the end of the nineteenth century, so what we saw at Stirling was not really new, but still I wonder if we have got the balance right in what we are encouraging our youngsters to do.

And I am not alone. Carlos Bilardo, coach of Argentina when it won the World Cup in 1986 and still a keen observer of the game has been in England recently. This is what he said to Marcela Mora y Araujo in the Guardian.

‘If you watch English football, what they do well is delivery from the defence to the midfield. But the tendency is always to return to the area. And no stopping, no one stops the ball. It’s all shoot, shoot, shoot.’ He is gesturing with his hands in perpetual motion, fast, as he adds: ‘From here to there, from the first minute to the 90th, all running, running, running. One touch, gone. A touch, gone. It’s like tennis.’

A man of world football, Bilardo is a believer in the growth of Africa. ‘Wherever you go there, they’re all playing football all the time. Everywhere.’ He thinks Africa will undoubtedly become the next big thing, and they will surpass South America in time. Of English football, he concludes: ‘These people have tactics. And strength. Their weakness is technique. In Africa they have technique, but they lack tactics. In Argentina, we still have a fairly good mix.’

Melbourne Victory v Queensland Roar

by Roy Hay

After five drawn games, Melbourne Victory finally got its first win of the season by two goals to nil against Queensland Roar at Telstra Dome last night in front of 25,622 fans.

In a dire first half punctuated by mistakes from both sides, with Victory particularly unable to keep possession of the ball, neither team could score.

Most of Victory’s forward moves were high lobs pumped towards Socceroo defender Craig Moore, probably the best header of a ball in the League, so he and fellow defender Josh McCloughlan strolled through the game.

Queensland had more possession and threatened from free kicks by Matt McKay and Brazilian Marchinho, yet the Victory came closest to scoring.

It was half an hour before the Victory mounted a serious attack when a diagonal ball was hammered back across goal by Brazilian Leandro Love and Daniel Allsopp drove narrowly past the post.

Just before the interval Archie Thompson got away from the chasing defenders and set up Love whose shot flew across the face of goal.

Meanwhile former Socceroo Danny Tiatto had brought down Thompson and was very lucky to escape with only a yellow card.

The second half improved marginally but gradually the home team began to see more of the ball.

Archie Thompson hit the bar with a fierce drive and Leandro Love was tripped by Sasa Ognenovski as he prepared to drive home the rebound.

Skipper Kevin Muscat did his usual immaculate job with the penalty kick in the 68th minute.

At the other end in a similar situation substitute Michael Zullo hit the foot of Michael Theoklitos’s post but put the rebound wide.

In 86 minutes Thompson made the win secure when Love lifted the ball over Craig Moore and the Socceroo striker beat Liam Reddy at his near post.

Queensland had chances to win the game, notably when Craig Moore headed past the keeper but Rodrigo Vargas cleared from right under the cross-bar and in a couple of late scrambles, Victory just managed to prevent the visitor from getting some reward for its efforts.

At the press conference afterwards I asked about the plethora of long high balls to the Queensland defence, but coach Ernie Merrick said I must have been watching a different game.

Craig Moore raised the issue of players thinking quicker about what they intended to do with the ball, as the area in which Australians must improve in international comparison.

I argued that the fast one-touch game favoured by British teams required this, but that there was a lack of players who could put their foot on the ball and/or take men on, but he said good players like Kevin Muscat always had time to do what they planned.

Danny Tiatto was not seen as malicious by either team-mates or by opponents, but he still was a lucky boy on the day.

Michael Theoklitos, played and did very well, though his mother died the day before the game.

Like Allsopp, Muscat and Piorkowski, whose shoulder was dislocated during the game and had to be put back in by the physio, he showed a particular brand of courage in this game.

Social capital and our society

published as ‘Ethnics rule’

Geelong Advertiser, Monday 20 August 2007, p. 15.

By Roy Hay

The American social psychologist and political analyst Robert Putnam has had a huge influence overseas with his ideas about social capital and its importance for the kind of society we live in today, but he is hardly known in Australia.

Social capital—the trust and networks of friendship, neighbourhood and organisations on which so much of our lives depends—is the glue which keeps society going, he argues.

His book Bowling Alone examined how school performance, public health, crime rates, clinical depression, tax compliance, philanthropy, race relations, community development, census returns, teen suicide, economic productivity, campaign finance, even simple human happiness are all demonstrably affected by how (and whether) we connect with our family and friends and neighbours and co-workers.

Now he has followed this up with a study which shows that in the United States there is a negative correlation between ethnic diversity and social capital. The more ethnically diverse the society, the less trustful people are. Moreover, this applies within ethnic groups as well as between them.

But before we jump to conclusions about the negative implications of this research, we need to appreciate that ethnic diversity is increasing in all modern societies, and societies which are ethnically diverse also tend to be the ones which have the greatest creativity and economic growth.

Not only that, but the history of countries which have faced large-scale inward migration in the past, like the United States and Australia, shows that they have gone through phases in which there was huge concern about the impact of these strange new people, but very soon these same people became part of the fabric of a changed and more dynamic society.

The first generation of migrants tends to maintain a strong migrant identity, often reinforced by religious difference, which helps maintain self-confidence and reinforce the desire to succeed in the new country.

But then, in a resilient countries like the United States and Australia, both the host society and the migrants change and compromise and learn to appreciate each other’s virtues, and a new social solidarity can be formed.

At a time when some politicians want to foster fear of foreigners, and specifically Muslims, we need continually to keep in mind that we have been here before.

Each time migration has increased as it did in the 1850s, 1880s, 1920s and after the Second World War the most dire predictions were made about the negative effects on Australia.

The reality, in every case, was that Australia benefited from that inflow, and that the migrants did too, and we are all richer, in economic and social terms, as a result.

Putnam’s latest findings show that social capital can be built up by conscious effort and good policy.

Australia and the United States have long, vibrant traditions of volunteering and what might be called an associational culture.

So it’s good policy to sustain the commitment and capacities already involved in community organizations and enthusiast groups, and encourage those who might become involved.

According to Putnam’s analysis, crime can be reduced, educational achievement enhanced and better health fostered through the strengthening of social capital.

Receiving a poor reception

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 4 August 2007, p. 33.

By Roy Hay

Listening to the radio last night, I heard that Australian motorcyclist Casey Stoner who leads the current MotoGP championship by 44 points half way through the season is back home in Australia at his farm in New South Wales. When asked by Will Hagen if he was listening to a particular program on the radio, he replied, “We don’t get radio or mobile phone reception here”. I was reminded of the problem by a friend in our village the other day who has just upgraded his mobile phone to the 3G network and still finds he can’t get reception. We can, with our older mobile phone. Not in the house, but out in the paddock and then only intermittently.

My friend tried ringing the telco on the landline and after an hour or so was able to establish that the privatised company had no plans to upgrade facilities in this area. Yet it is only a few months since a Federal government scheme, ‘the Towns over 500 program’ was concluded which was to improve mobile phone coverage to 131 towns with populations of 500 or more. In Victoria that delivered facilities to Bruthen, Chiltern, Clunes, Dunolly, Heyfield, Koroit, Maldon, Malmsbury, Mount Macedon, Murtoa, Newstead, Nyah West, Pyramid Hill, Riddells Creek, San Remo, Stratford, Terang, Tongala, Tooradin, Tyabb, Warneet East but not our neck of the woods. In my cynical moments, I wonder how many of these are in marginal constituencies? Our village is a small place but the folks who run the local milk bar and post office told me that there are about 1,300 people in the immediate area.

In case this sounds very selfish I should explain that I am making these points because it is lack of communication or only one way communication which is going to be major determinant of the future of non-metropolitan Australia. Unless rural areas get full access to modern two-way communication then local businesses, farms, and individuals will be hamstrung in any attempt to develop their activities beyond the immediate area, and often not even there. It is not just access of course, but access at comparable prices which is required. I know that raises the question of subsidisation because the costs of supply are higher, but if we really want rural and regional areas to survive and grow, they must have the basic services for the modern world.

But even when communication is available is it of value if it only works in one direction? Have you tried to contact public companies or organizations by phone or email recently? How long on average do you spend going round the mulberry bush pressing buttons to get to the facility you think might be the one you want? When it turns out not to be the case, how long do you wait before a human being replies? On how many occasions do you find that you are simply shuffled from one part of the organization to another without getting to the heart of the problem you are trying to solve? Some organizations are above reproach in that they have built in systems to deal with issues and provide human support from knowledgeable staff. But they are in a minority. Communication is only valuable when it is two-way and effective.

So I’d better head off and see if I can get a few kindred spirits to bombard the telco, or enough prepared to chip in a few dollars to put up a mast to improve reception in our area.

Aussie fair go is far gone

Geelong Advertiser, Monday 23 July 2007, p. 15.

By Roy Hay

What has happened to the land of the fair go? It used to be that we judged people on what they did, not on what they might have done, or what their cousins might have done. Now we, and we are all implicated, have turned our wariness of visitors, migrants and strangers into a terrible xenophobia. As a result a young overseas doctor is caught up in hysteria over a doctors’ plot to kill rather than cure. The fact that he left a SIM card from his mobile phone to a relative so that the latter could use up the unexpired credits becomes recklessly aiding a terrorist organization in the minds of the authorities.

The Brisbane magistrate who subsequently released Dr Haneef on bail could find no evidence in the material laid before her to continue to detain him in jail pending a trial, though she imposed strict conditions on his release. But before Dr Haneef could leave the Brisbane watch-house the Minister for Immigration revoked his Australian visa. Now it may be that the Minister for Immigration has information that leads him to question the character of Dr Haneef but if so that should be a matter to be tested in court.

When Haneef’s lawyer put some of the material into the public domain a little earlier than it would otherwise have appeared, the full weight of the government’s ire was directed against him for doing so. Shoot the messenger and ignore the message.

Two other Australians have been released on bail in Melbourne after being held since May on charges of being members of a terrorist organisation and providing support to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. In releasing them, Justice Bernard Bongiorno said, ‘If that principle (the presumption of innocence) is abandoned or modified for political expediency, we risk the legal foundation of our whole criminal justice system’. Yet immediately he did so, the Attorney General began talking about changing the law to make it more difficult if not impossible for magistrates to grant bail in cases where the authorities suspect terrorism.

The current hysterical climate is not a time when good laws are made. We have seen this already with the headlong rush to create the current raft of anti-terrorism legislation. No one doubts that there are threats to the kind of society we wish we had in Australia but they don’t all emanate from the terrorists. Some come from those whose remit is to keep us safe from terrorism.

It is no coincidence that this hysteria is exacerbated by the fact that it is an election year. Neither major party can appear soft on terrorism, but the Coalition in particular has used latent fears of strangers as a weapon before. It is one of the few areas where it believes it can gain in the polls at the expense of Labor. The Tampa case is just the most notorious from the recent past, but if you take a longer look at history it was a conservative  German chancellor of the late nineteenth century, Otto von Bismarck who was the past-master at whipping up a fear that ‘the fatherland is in danger’ when an election looked like going against him.

When Richard Flanagan wrote his novel The Unknown Terrorist about a young Sydney pole dancer who became inadvertently linked with a person accused of terrorism he must have feared that readers might think his plot somewhat far-fetched. Now he looks like he was accurately portraying the kind of experience anyone could face in today’s Australia.

Socceroos’ new adventure

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 7 July 2007, p. 35.

By Roy Hay

Tomorrow an Australian sports team will embark on a great new adventure. For the first time the Socceroos will take part in the Asian Cup, the championship of all the nations in the Asian Confederation which stretches from Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the west to Japan and Australia in the east. Lacking the prestige and perhaps the quality of its European equivalent, the Asian Cup is based on far larger populations, television audiences and markets. And here lies the significance for Australians, which reaches far beyond the boundaries of the playing fields.

When John Howard gave Frank Lowy, the new head of the Football Federation of Australia and the second richest man in the country, gave some $15 million of public money with no strings attached to pay off the debts of the old soccer organization and set up the new one, it was not because he had suddenly become a soccer nut. No, he realised that if Australia was to have a continuing sporting relationship with Asia to complement the country’s attempts to come to terms with its region, then the only hope was the World Game. The Beijing Olympics represented a superb linkage where some of Sydney’s experience in 2000 could be parlayed into assistance with China’s opening up of its economy and society to the world. But it was a single event in one country, whereas the transition of Australia from the moribund Oceania Confederation to the Asian one represented an ongoing connection and a much wider spread of influence.

It works at the level of the A-League as well where the top Australian clubs now qualify for the Asian Champions League. Just this week Melbourne Victory has been in China, playing the Chinese national side in its final warm-up match for Asian Cup and taking on Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda in Melbourne’s sister city for the Mayors’ Cup presented by John So and his opposite number. Victory chair Ron Lord was stressing before the team left that this was as much a trade mission as a football one.

In the longer run the significance of the Asian connection may be greater than the spectacular qualification for the World Cup in 2006 and the subsequent roller-coaster ride of the Socceroos and their supporters in Germany. It is not so long since Australia looked upon the countries to its north and north west as threatening strangers, a perception based as much as anything on lack of experience and knowledge, and historical enmity in some cases. Now young, and not so young, Australians will have a chance to experience the varied parts of Asia for themselves as players, administrators, fans and those who are alert enough to seize the business opportunities. This particular Asian Cup is being played in four countries, Thailand, where Australia is based for its group matches, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, which will host the final.

Some Melbourne and other Australian clubs pioneered the way in the days of old soccer. A Perth club actually played for a season and won the Singapore League. It would be nice to think that there were people in Geelong who might be examining the prospects for following in the footsteps of this new band of pioneers who will represent their country tomorrow.

The national capital in winter

published as ‘World stage: Aussies unite behind Socceroos’

Geelong Advertiser, Friday 6 July 2007, p. 17.

By Roy Hay

Why would you want to spend time in Canberra in winter people asked me? My answer on this occasion was that the Australian sports historians were gathering for their biennial conference and I wanted to tell them something about the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and its effects on a generation of young and not so young Australians who had been involved in the tournament. The ones I was interested in were the ones who had to wrestle with their own identity. Were they Australians or Croatians or Italians when the national teams of these countries played against each other in the World Cup? That was the reason for driving to Canberra.

The journey itself was much easier than it used to be for the Hume Freeway in Victoria, combined with the Western Ring Road and the Princes Freeway means you can be on dual carriageways from the outskirts of Geelong to the Murray river and beyond. Much of this has a 110 kilometre per hour limit so you soon eat up the distance. Over the border it is less easy going on two-lane roads and through places including Holbrook and Tarcutta which have not yet been bypassed unlike Albury and Yass. Add in a howling gale and driving rain and the last stretch north of Gundagai was pretty hairy as the B-doubles thundered along trailing their showers of spray and mud.

Canberra remains a most un-Australian city. Its circles and circuits are very different from the rectangular layout of central Melbourne or Adelaide and it is still the only city in Australia where I can get completely lost. Nearly everywhere else it seems possible to orientate yourself reasonably well, but Canberra stumps me. My wife then has the laugh, because normally when we travel I go by instinct, while she, as a geographer, follows the maps. In Canberra she is in charge.

She visited the National Museum on the Acton Peninsula and found it hard to find the way in and even harder to find the way out, though the hands on exhibits, especially the Into the Future exercise where you had to be face-scanned, then construct and fly a space ship, a lot of fun. The National Gallery also delighted with its Jackson Pollock Blue Poles and an intriguing mist sculpture in which you walked through a fine mist of water droplets for all the world like a fire as you looked at it from a distance.

We were staying in a hotel in the centre and I don’t know what it is about the pair of us, but just as happened in Adelaide on our last intercity sojourn, the fire alarm went off in the middle of our first night. But it was another false alarm.

Oh and what did I tell the sports historians about hyphenated-Australians? Just that they are like this Scottish-Australian, thoroughly proud to be Australian, keen to preserve links with their heritage and as one of them put it ‘no one in Australia, be it the media, your friends, your work colleagues, your neighbours or even John Howard, should be concerned or up in arms if one, similarly, feels a certain connection to the birthplace of their parents. We keep harping on the fact that we live in a global society and, believe me, never has that statement been more relevant than here at the World Cup in Germany. Hopefully, if any lasting legacy is to eventuate out of this amazing World Cup adventure for the gallant Socceroos, then I certainly hope it is that people in Australia become a lot more tolerant and appreciative of diversity, especially in the cultural sense.’ A fine sentiment.

Battling info brain-battering

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 16 June 2007, p. 41

By Roy Hay

Do you often get the feeling that there is just too much information hitting your brain these days? Television and radio bombard you with news and talk-back and advertisements. Newspapers deluge you with a world of crises, mayhem and violence. Everywhere you turn billboards and advertising signs scream messages about how your life won’t be worth living if you don’t rush out and buy the latest gizmo, skin care product or food supplement. The phone rings and it is someone cold calling to sell you something or to get you to support a cause or charity. Political parties are in your ear and in your face with their campaigns and promises you know will be only half kept, if we are very lucky. Turn on your computer and you have access to a world of sites and blogs and You-Tube and Google where there is more accessible material than any generation in human history has ever had to contemplate. You can watch events unfold in real time on the other side of the world or deep in space because someone somewhere has trained a camera or a mobile phone on something which he or she considers important and worth sharing.

It is all a bit much or alternatively it could be the greatest liberation of the human spirit since the access to all this knowledge is what has been lacking for the mass of the people for most of recorded history. There are still huge disparities of wealth and hence the opportunities to gain from this cornucopia of knowledge. Even when you get a handle on the material, selecting that which is valuable to you requires discrimination and sceptical analysis. I have written before it is like gold mining when sifting the precious metal from the mullock heap is like the needle in the haystack story on a gigantic scale. Even if you don’t have to pay for access directly you can bet you are financing the advertisements and the promotions of the companies and individuals whose symbols appear all over the media and the internet. Most of the Telcos and internet service providers in Australia charge like wounded bulls. Though we like to pretend we are at the frontiers of technology in this country, in truth we often lag behind not just the United States, but Europe and much of Asia in the services to which we have access and the speed of communication.

Popular, built from below, encyclopaedias like Wikipedia might give you a first approximation to accurate information on a vast range of topics, but sometimes can be very misleading. The appearance of references and what looks like the apparatus of scholarship can be a cover for shameless barrow-pushing of a particular interpretation or ideological line. Or the first sites you meet on a search for information might be a front for selling you products you did not know you wanted, or ones you did not know even existed.

So how do we filter or control our intake of knowledge and information so that the brain can still function and we can control this aspect of our environment rather than be swamped by it? One answer, of course, is to attempt to insulate yourself completely. No TV, no radio, no papers and no phone or computer. Many folks try to do this, sometimes successfully, but often by narrowing their opportunities for interaction with others in this modern world. I have to confess that I have developed a species of tunnel vision which works for me. For the range of activities in which I am interested I am happy to have the technology and the media resources which relate to these interests. The rest I filter out pretty effectively. Spam and cold callers get short shrift. There is a price to pay. There may be lots of things just out of my peripheral vision that would be useful to me if I took the trouble to find out. But that can wait for another day, and another column.

Short political, economic memories

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 2 June 2007, p. 37

By Roy Hay

They say a week is a long time in politics, but the events of the last week suggest that inconvenient memories are being forgotten in what used to be called political economy. In business as in life there is always a trade-off between jam today and jam tomorrow. You can either invest money today or consume it. If you invest you hope for a greater return down the track. What follows concentrates on one particular firm which has been in the news for several months, but the issues raised go wider.

According to reports, Qantas directors are planning to return a significant amount of the company’s capital to shareholders. Yet only a couple of years ago they were complaining about the airline’s inability to raise funds to buy new aircraft to compete on international and domestic routes. So it would seem rational that they would be saving every dollar to finance the Airbus and Boeing aircraft they are planning to buy.

It is tempting to assume that the failure of the attempted private equity deal led by the Qantas board indicates that they really have lost the plot. The plan failed but only very narrowly, and involved huge personal gains to be made by members of the board of the company.

Even members of the Federal Liberal government have been saying that payment of directors and executives has got out of control. Incentive schemes linked to share prices encourage short-termism and involve potential conflicts of interest. If there is a long-term gain and a short-term cost versus a short-term gain and a long-term cost then the executives will tend to go for the latter because they stand to make an immediate benefit.

It has taken us some hundreds of years to develop the laws governing business which attempt to strike a balance between the protection of the consumer, the investor and the operators of businesses. These involve a degree of public scrutiny and the provision of information in return for limited liability and various forms of privilege.

Qantas directors can complain that if they had been in charge of a less iconic company no one, apart from a few business analysts, would have complained about what they were doing. They can also respond that this is the way capitalism works. Businesses are set up to generate value for shareholders to the exclusion of all other considerations. Take that away and ask them to become social concerns and you get a slack and inefficient firm and eventually a similar economy.

But there is increasing research which argues that corporate social responsibility is a key element in the long-term health of firms. Increasing awareness of climate change means that longer term planning becomes much more important for not just individual firms but for the national economy. So perhaps we need to look more carefully at ways of ensuring that the rewards to those in charge of these firms and their shareholders are structured in ways which encourage a different type of approach.

Bastard Boys is ABC at its best

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 19 May 2007, p. 33

By Roy Hay

The ABC was at its very best this week when it ran Bastard Boys over two nights on Sunday and Monday. This dramatic story loosely based on the events of the battle on the Australian waterfront in 1998 has been praised by Philip Adams and panned by right-wing media critics, and by named people played by actors in the program, including Chris Corrigan, Bill Kelty (who has threatened to sue the ABC over his portrayal in the film), John Coombs and Josh Bornstein, one of the lawyers involved. The production must have something going for it when it generates that amount of interest and abuse.

Kelty claims he forced the ABC to tell viewers it was fiction. If that claim is true then it is very worrying that the ABC caved in to his demand. It is a bit like the ABC’s refusal to publish Chris Masters’ Jonestown for fear of legal action by the Sydney shock-jock, Alan Jones. The ABC should not have to tell viewers whether a program is history or fiction. The viewers should make that decision for themselves.

Chris Corrigan thought it was boring, stereotyped, left-wing propaganda, which failed to address the impact of the union recalcitrance and rorting by the waterfront workers on the people of Australia. Yet Corrigan’s arguments were all presented and he comes through as a determined character with a clear agenda and he wins the war in the end as the unions are forced to surrender the terms and conditions they had won over many years.

For dramatic effect characters have been simplified, events truncated or invented to make the story zing along. Corrigan is summoned to meet his bankers late on a Sunday evening. Under the threat of foreclosure on his debts he loses the plot completely, cursing and criticising the faceless men whose narrow perspective is undermining their own and Australia’s best interests, according to Corrigan. His minder takes him outside to calm him down and to get him to reconsider. But the defiant Corrigan returns and calls the bankers’ bluff. ‘Do your worst’, he tells them, which means he must settle with Coombs and the Maritime Union of Australia or go under. At the last moment, Greg Combet persuades Coombs that he must tell the truth to his members that the rorts and the security of employment will have to go. So the union survives, but its wings have been clipped and the union movement in Australia has been further weakened.

Now the decline of union membership is not just an Australian trend and the waterfront dispute was just one incident in a long rearguard action, which is not over yet. The forthcoming election is already seeing all the old claims about union power over the Labor Party being trotted out, despite the evidence to the contrary. Bastard Boys is available on DVD and it would repay close watching by anyone interested in the issues at stake when capital and labour collide. Though some of its characterisations may be shallow and some issues are skated over briefly and not all are presented at exactly the same length, there is more balance and more thought-provoking material in this dramatic fiction than in many works of history. And it is a student of history who is saying that.

How safe are we?

published as ‘Fears surrendering our freedoms’

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 5 May 2007, p. 33

By Roy Hay

Watch television, read the news or listen to the shock jocks on the radio and you could be forgiven for thinking we are living in the most violent of times and places?

Yet Australia is one of the safest places on earth, despite our fellow human beings and our magnificent collection of dangerous spiders, snakes and sharks.

And we are living in the safest of times in this part of the world.

Interpersonal violence has declined steadily and consistently over the years, though there are always lurid and spectacular examples of intolerable behaviour by one or more human beings to another to cause us to shudder and be afraid that it could happen to us.

Some politicians play on these fears and invite us to join in a war on terror giving us fridge magnets and inviting us to ring a hotline if we see anything out of the ordinary.

At other times security forces have used socially sanctioned campaigns against demonised groups in our society to introduce new laws and surveillance equipment which otherwise would be anathema to virtually all democrats, not just the most extreme civil libertarians.

Some of the most draconian civil penalties in the United Kingdom and associated control systems were the product of campaigns in the 1980s against football hooliganism and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Luckily the courts in the United Kingdom tempered the worst excesses of these campaigns.

The more recent war on terror has spawned a new set of abridgements of what were previously considered the rights of the citizen.

More people die from preventable disease and road accidents and from incidents (I hesitate to call them accidents) in the home and workplace than from interpersonal violence.

Now my argument is not that no threats to our comfortable existence occur, but rather that we should be very careful not to take at face value the claims of those who argue that our society is in danger and we as individuals are threatened by imminent catastrophe unless we give up some more of the freedoms generations of our ancestors fought to establish and then preserve.

It is that freedom which the vast majority of Australians value and respect which gives us the kind of society we enjoy today.

Having said that, many years ago we agreed to give our government a stable monopoly of force in our society.

So unlike citizens of the United States we do not have a right to bear arms enshrined in our constitution, and the benefits of that are considerable.

Yet we expect our government to protect us at home and when we travel abroad.

The question is how much freedom should we give up to allow our government to discharge that obligation.

A well reasoned and challengeable case for change in our laws is one thing, but some of the more recent so-called anti-terrorist provisions seem to me to be beyond reason and actually counter-productive.

It was an American, Wendell Phillips, who said the price of liberty was eternal vigilance.

Labo(u)r and its leaders: Britain and Australia ,

published as ‘UK paves way’

Geelong Advertiser, Monday, 23 April 2007, p. 17

By Roy Hay

Tony Blair is coming to the end of his period as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister of Britain, while Kevin Rudd is just beginning his leadership of the Labor Party and aiming to be the next Prime Minister of Australia.

Blair has been under attack primarily because of his support for George Bush and the war on Iraq, despite the evidence that he tried hard to prevent a unilateral invasion by the United States.

When he realised that Bush was going in anyway, Blair, like John Howard, decided that his country’s national interests required it to stand by its major ally, right or wrong.

Blair has also been criticised regularly for relying too much on smooth speechmaking and spin to disguise policies which would not have been out of place had they been implemented by the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.

Another strike against Blair is his replacement of his party’s dependence on the trade unions by pitching to big business, the wealthy and the middle ground, sometimes with more than a hint of the sleaze in its dealings, of the kind which helped bring down John Major’s previous Conservative administration.

So it is a powerful list of criticisms, but it misses some of the enormous positives from his lengthy period in office, a rarity for Labour Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom.

He won his first election with a visionary statement about New Labour which would be clearly distinct from not only the Conservative opposition, but also from some of the hoary myths of its own past.

Early on he and Chancellor Gordon Brown, still touted as his successor, introduced minimum wage legislation designed to protect the lower ranks of the working class from the exigencies of free-market capitalism.

The British economy has grown steadily in the Blair Labour years without the crises which seemed endemic before and unemployment is relatively low.

At the end of his period in office it looks as if he has finally presided over power sharing and the prospect of peace in Northern Ireland, an intractable issue which had baffled all of his predecessors since the troubles re-erupted in the 1970s.

In between he has kept the United Kingdom together, yet allowed for devolution in Scotland and Wales, reformed the House of Lords, and maintained a generally progressive influence in Europe.

He commissioned the Stern report on climate change and has set targets for structural reforms to implement its recommendations.

So it is a much more mixed record than some of his critics will allow and above all he kept the party in office so it was able to implement its policies.

There is perhaps a lesson here for Australian Labor.

Not that it should be looking for a Blair clone, but Kevin Rudd needs to articulate not just individual new policies but a clearly distinct vision for a Labor alternative.

Labor needs a vision which appeals to a sense of justice and fair play, at home and abroad; a vision which recognises the strength of Labor tradition but is prepared to modernise that in ways which benefit the diverse groups which make up modern Australian society.

The party also needs a leader who will stand up to its major ally when necessary.

Good days and bad days in the world game,

published as ‘Crowd antics not manufactured’

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 7 April 2007, p. 35

By Roy Hay

We saw both sides of the world game this week.

St Kilda president Rod Butters talked about recreating the atmosphere at Melbourne Victory games to brighten up AFL matches.

He thought that the crowd at the Victory helped create the spectacle, while AFL was becoming less dramatic, more tactical, with fewer contests and hence less on-field excitement for the fans.

So more involvement off the field is to be encouraged.

Then in Scotland a group of students from a Catholic, Gaelic football-playing school visited Ibrox Park, the home of Glasgow Rangers, seen for much of the last hundred years as the bastion of militant Protestantism in Scotland.

And finally, on the good side, Roddy Forsyth reported that The Tartan Army of Scottish international supporters consumed the equivalent of 265,000 pints of beer in three days but caused not a skerrick of trouble at the European championship qualifying match with Italy in Bari—despite the fact that Scotland lost.

The Bari Traders’ Association said, ‘our members made more than they would in three months—it was like our best Christmas ever.’

And then on the other side you had the shocking scenes of violence at matches in Rome and Seville, with the fans of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur being caught up in clashes in which the local police wielded their batons as if they were out to maim anyone caught in their path.

Fears that we are getting back into the cycle of violence that occurred in Europe and South America in the 1980s have resurfaced.

Because the game is so popular you can almost guarantee that there will be one incident of mayhem around the globe on any given weekend and if the focus is directed at it, then it will provoke all the old stereotypes about hooliganism and football which used to be trotted out.

The media has a responsibility here because by conveying the impression that football fans are violent, mindless morons, they help to contribute to the demand for ever more punitive measures for dealing with them.

But today’s football supporters are young vibrant people who want to enjoy their games and the Melbourne Victory fans are a great example.

Though they can be foul-mouthed and sometimes intimidating en masse, they are primarily engaged in making the experience something in which the whole crowd can participate and they are independent of the club.

The Blue and White Brigade, which forms the core of the home support, leads the chants, choreographs the displays and produces the majority of the banners on display.

The atmosphere is created despite the public address systems and the ersatz attempts to whip up crowd support.

Indeed the public address often comes in at the most inappropriate moments drowning or disrupting spontaneous chanting, singing and recognition of key moments in the game.

So suggestions that ‘we need to give our supporters and people at the game another or additional experience’, as Rod Butters is quoted as saying, are misconceived.

The fans of the round ball game are creating their own new experiences based on European and South American patterns of crowd participation, but almost entirely without the violence that continues to mar events overseas.

When there are very few away supporters in the crowd, as happens at most Victory games, the home fans colonise both ends of the ground at Telstra Dome and sing and chant to each other across the stadium.

So if you want the atmosphere then you have to give the fans the chance to create it, rather than try to impose it.

That is the real lesson from Melbourne Victory.

Solitaire man: The games people play

Geelong Advertiser, Monday,26 March 2007, p. 17

By Roy Hay

Do people play card games at home any more? It is not so very long ago that card nights were a highly popular form of domestic entertainment and recreation. As children we played rummy, Newmarket, whist and poker for matches or tokens, though never real money. Card games have reappeared as pure gambling in casinos and high stakes or joke poker on television. They have not completely died out elsewhere. In the football (soccer) clubs and pubs you can still find small groups of older people with packs of playing cards of an evening. There are still whist, cribbage and euchre groups and bridge players meet in clubs. The Australian Bridge Federation flourishes with its national and state organisations, its own website and competitions at all levels.

Contract bridge, the most common form, was only invented in 1925. It involves four people, playing as two partnerships who bid for right to play a hand at the highest level possible. To take all thirteen tricks in a grand slam is a great coup, but most contested contracts set the declarer anywhere between seven and twelve tricks as the target. It remains highly popular around the world, with some 60 million players and over 100 countries in the World Bridge Federation.

My parents were keen but very argumentative players, who would have enormous debates over how to play a particular set of cards. It certainly helped you to count, to work out strategies and to remember which cards had been played, which I suppose was one of the reasons why they tried to get me and my siblings to play. Later my future wife and I would sometimes make up a four with my parents, which showed her forbearance, for it could not always have been fun. But it has been years since we last played. I still read the bridge column in the newspapers, marveling at the deviousness and skill of top players.

Zia Mahmood, who took over the Guardian bridge column from the legendary player and writer Rixie Markus, tells a lovely story of playing with the President of Pakistan and two of his generals. By way of introduction, President Pervez Msuharraf told Zia that in the Pakistan army they had a strict system of bidding where each bid had a particular meaning. After losing for much of the night, Zia was dealt a hand of complete rubbish but started with a confident opening bid. Then he declined to support the President’s attempt to raise to game level. Even the security guards wondered at his temerity in turning down the game bid. But Zia had sacrificed to prevent the generals from winning a slam contract easily. When the cards were played, everyone gasped, then burst out laughing and the President said, ‘You see how difficult my job is when my generals are so easily fooled.’

Ron Klinger, the bridge guru, claims that bridge will keep you mentally alert in your latter years and quite probably will therefore help you live longer. There is a negative correlation, he claims, between bridge players and those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Deaf and blind people can play, and you can meet lots of new people at bridge clubs. Or you can play on the internet round the clock. Perhaps not.

Life kicks on in rural Victoria

Geelong Advertiser, Monday,12 March 2007, p. 15

By Roy Hay

In the last few years parts of rural Victoria have had to cope with drought, bush fires and floods, sometimes in quick succession. Daylesford has escaped the worst of these natural phenomena. Over our thirty years in Australia we have travelled many of the back roads and byways of the state of Victoria, but this is one of the places we have only passed through occasionally. We have stopped for a quick cup of coffee and on one occasion we walked down to the lake with our children when they were young, but this last week was the first time we had really got to know the spa town. And what an engaging and surprising place it is!

Finding somewhere to stay these internet days is a cinch. Daylesford must be a model for any small urban centre in rural Victoria with its well-organised tourist industry including accommodation finders with a string of properties at all prices, complete with full descriptions, prices and pictures. We ended up in a miner’s cottage, thoroughly and tastefully refurbished with the addition of all the technology you could wish for to make life comfortable. Within walking distance of the centre of town and the lake, yet hidden away as if deep in the bush, it was an idyllic base for exploring Daylesford.

There is a walking track around the lake and that’s where we had the first surprise coming across a seat with a plaque in memory of my former colleague and friend Laurie Schwab, the soccer writer and editor of Soccer Action. Daylesford was his favourite place in Australia. One reason I have no doubt was the quality of the cuisine. Daylesford has a myriad of restaurants and hotels with some first class food.

Another surprise was the Convent Gallery, redeveloped brilliantly by Tina Banitska from the home of the Presentation Sisters into a series of galleries, a museum of the convent and a stunning garden. Built on the slope of Wombat Hill the gardens benefit from a slow seepage of water from a spring near the top. The Convent is billed as ‘A temple for the arts’ in its publicity and that is true, but it was a bit over the top to claim that the gardens are ‘equal to those of Versailles in France’. Why do people feel the need for that kind of exaggeration? I was not carried away by most of the paintings, sculptures and artefacts though there were one or two excellent pieces, including some glass vases and a few items of furniture. There is a function centre and the restored chapel must be superb venue for weddings.

Then we travelled further up Wombat Hill to the Botanic Gardens, climbed the lookout tower which gave a view over the valley to Mount Franklin, looked at the greenhouse containing a rich variety of Begonias and walked around the avenues of elms, supplemented by sequoias, spruce, Norfolk pines and monkey puzzles. Next we set off north through Hepburn Springs to Lavandula an Italianate lavender and fruit farm, where we had lunch of bread and olives and then walked around the orchard and gardens. Things are very dry, the dam is empty and they are dependent on bore water. Many of the plants were stressed.

We returned ‘touristed out’ but marvelling at the resilience of the locals in face of adversity and impressed by the various ways in which they have responded to the challenges faced by small urban centres in rural Victoria today.

Boom or bust

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday, 3 March 2007, p. 13

By Roy Hay

The Australian stockmarket took a dive earlier this week. A needed correction or the end of the most recent long boom? That is the question, as Hamlet might have said, had he been an economist and living at this hour. Are Australians living in a fool’s paradise, believing that they have found the secret of sustained economic prosperity, or are they teetering on the edge of a precipice? It is equally easy to be Pollyana or the merchant of doom, but the current economic situation is, at the very least, more volatile than it has been for some time.

Australia’s current expansion is underpinned by four elements: the growth in demand for raw material resources primarily emanating from China, the continued health of the United States’ economy, a massive current account deficit produced by large-scale borrowing from overseas to finance current consumption and investment in real estate, and the fiscal and financial policies of the Federal government which have permitted this skewing of domestic investment. You could almost foresee a visit from a modern Sir Otto Niemeyer with the message that Australia should get its house in order, as happened at the onset of the Great Depression in 1930. Mind you he would also have to visit the United States with a similar advice. Alan Greenspan, the recently retired head of the Federal Reserve Board, hinted at a depression on the way if the United States did not cut its own expenditure and its dependence on foreign resources and on the willingness of other countries to finance its own current account deficit.

In the short run the growth of the Chinese economy can be expected to be slower than that which has occurred in recent years. Though fears that it would introduce a capital gains tax have receded, there are indications that government policy in that country will have to be directed more to improving the efficiency of energy use and reducing greenhouse emissions, which will impact on economic growth. It will also reduce demand for Australian mineral exports. The United States goes into an election year with a hugely unpopular civil war in Iraq and a potentially critical situation in Afghanistan costing billions in resources and a significant toll in American lives not to mention the far greater numbers of Iraqis and Afghanis who are dying. Though Al Gore may not be a candidate for president, his message about the effect of the United States on climate change may be gaining some traction in his own country. If both China and the United States experience slower growth there is no way that Australia can be unaffected.

Here in Australia the Federal government has paid off its debts, which is a good thing, but largely as a result of windfall gains in taxation thanks to the boom. Despite pre-election handouts, the combination of bracket creep and the underestimation of revenue growth has enabled the government to generate huge surpluses in most of the last several financial years. The government prides itself on its economic management, but in reality much of this gain has come from export-led growth which owes little to domestic settings. Until very recently little of this extra revenue had been devoted to infrastructure investment, building the capacity for future growth. We have not used the good times well. Even the current plans for the Murray-Darling basin are driven more by political than economic concerns. So investors might want to be cautious about the short-term future, though the paradox is that a decline in overall investment would probably increase the likelihood of a recession.

Timely caution

Geelong Advertiser, Thursday, 22 February 2007, p. 19

By Roy Hay

I know how those people in Britain felt in 1752 when the United Kingdom and its empire finally adopted the Gregorian calendar rather than the Julian one, resulting in the loss of eleven days to bring the calculation of dates back into line with the cycles of the moon. It happens to me much more regularly than that and occurs every time I change some aspect of my technology. A month ago it was a new computer, this last week it was a mobile phone. But invariably it results in at least one day out of my life as I struggle to get the new thing to work. First to work at all, and then to work like the old system, which might have been slow and outdated but always seemed to get me to where I wanted to go or do what I needed to do. My wife always wonders why I bother to change at all, but soon comes to appreciate that the new system has its advantages—eventually.

I should have learned my lesson. One of my colleagues, some years ago, said, ‘I know where you want to be. You want to be at the cutting edge of obsolescence’. In other words I want to have all the bugs worked out of the system before I adopt it, rather than chasing the absolutely latest thing. My aim has always been to find something that enables me to do what I am already doing better, more simply, quicker or just more easily. But now and again I take a punt on the new and usually get stung.

Let me tell you the mobile saga. We have been told that Australia now has this marvellous third-generation mobile phone network with considerably increased coverage and much faster speeds, allowing voice, data and video material to be up and downloaded at warp speed, or just short of it. I have been toying with the idea of upgrading my mobile for some time. It is perfectly effective, a little bigger than the modern ones, but does my jobs pretty well. It enables me, for example, to send my match report from the Melbourne Victory game from my computer via Bluetooth, a wireless link to the phone, to the Geelong Advertiser within seconds of the conclusion of games at Docklands.

Incidentally, this phone replaced an earlier version which was double the size with half the features, an example of Moore’s law in action. In 1965 Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubled every two years. This meant that electronic gizmos using them could get smaller and smaller. Locally, Barry Jones wrote in Sleeper’s Wake about the micro-electronic firm which expanded so fast it had to move into smaller premises. Mind you, my first mobile phone was one of those boxed machines with a handset like a home phone, which was so big and ugly that I knew it was the one thing my son would not be seen dead with. I had to use that until he got a small up-to-date one and then I could upgrade.

Anyway, back to my mobile upgrade of last week. I got a lovely new 3G machine only to find that it was not Mac compatible and I happen to use that kind of computer. After some hours of fiddling, trawling internet chat sites for technical advice (and getting some brilliant help from people who inhabit this world), I finally decided that it was not going to work in the short run. So back to the shop within the cooling-off period to end that contract and get back to my original phone. Of course, you know what is coming next. My old phone would no longer connect with my computer as it had done. So another day spent fiddling with that, getting more and more frustrated, especially after a fruitless hour talking to a series of young Indian people in call-centres who kept telling me it was not their problem.

The deadline for the Grand Final looms. I have a useless brick, not a mobile phone. Panic. Then suddenly this morning, I tried another tack. Replaced the SIM card in the phone and found myself back in communication with the rest of the world. There were supposed to have been riots when the eleven days were pinched in 1752. I nearly started one myself.

The rise and fall of the coal economy

published as

Coal hard facts

Geelong Advertiser, Monday, 12 February 2007, p. 15

By Roy Hay

What should be do about coal? For the last 300 years coal has been the critical mineral of the industrialisation of the world which has underpinned the living standards we enjoy today. It was always the cause of pollution, ‘the monster nuisance of all’ as it was described in the nineteenth century. But now it may the death of us, since the strong consensus of the scientists who produced the latest United Nations report on climate change is that greenhouses gases are almost certainly the major contributor to global warming and coal is the source of a significant proportion of these gases.

For a country like Australia which relies heavily on coal for its domestic energy needs and is one of the world’s largest exporters of the mineral how we tackle the future of coal may determine our own future. The short-term options are not promising. We simply cannot stop using coal to generate electricity since it accounts for about 80 per cent of the base load of national consumption. Clean coal burning technology or carbon sequestration—capturing the carbon burned in the process and burying it underground—as alternatives are a decade or more away. Alternative mineral based energy sources like uranium for nuclear power plants have their own problems. Though widely used overseas and touted for consideration once again in Australia, nuclear power plants raise almost as many greenhouse and other more political problems than they solve.

Renewable energy sources including wind, water, solar and wave power are promoted by the Greens and other environmentalists. Australia is well endowed with most of these resources but has fallen behind in their development, both technologically and in bringing them on stream as practical sources. This is one of major opportunities we have missed in the last couple of decades and it will not be easy to catch up. Even if we seriously go down that road it will be a long time before we can produce enough steady supply of energy to replace a fraction of the current coal-based load.

What has probably not been emphasised enough is the possibility of the more efficient use of energy and the reduction of our energy consumption. Most modern Australian houses are not energy efficient buildings, though we know already how to build them. Building regulations are improving, with the insistence on standards of insulation and passive energy retention, but there is a long way to go.

Looking back to the nineteenth century there is a glimmer of hope. Various forms of pollution had reached life-threatening levels when governments in the advanced countries introduced legislation to curb them. In the twentieth century clean air acts ended the pea-soup fogs that used to envelop British cities where I grew up. I always thought Glasgow had been built with black bricks, but when the coal-fired pollution was ended and the buildings were sand-blasted I found they were actually constructed with warm red sandstone. The original beauty of the tenements was restored. The lesson is that despite the unpromising scenarios outlined above, we can do something if we put our mind to it and have the political will to carry out what we want to do.

It’s time to smarten things up

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 3 February 2007, p. 31.

By Roy Hay

Education looks like it will be one of the big issues at the next election, with both major parties awakening to its importance to the future of this country.

Kevin Rudd has already launched the first parts of what he claims will be an education revolution in this country, while Julie Bishop, the federal minister of education is planning a single Year Twelve assessment system for the country.

Rudd has promised that Labor will reverse the trend towards full-fee courses at Australian universities and outlined plans for investment in teachers and facilities so that four-year-olds can get a start in play-based education.

At state level, Steve Bracks has begun to tackle years of neglect of state school infrastructure and has pumped more resources into teacher training and recruitment.

This may moderate some of the divisions between resource-rich private schools and a state system of secondary education which still provides for the majority of Victorian children in the relevant age groups.

The major parties are responding to a number of polls which have shown that Australians are concerned about education and its place in society.

We have had campaigns in the past with their slogans ‘The clever country’ or ‘Knowledge Nation’ and international comparative studies often show that Australia is fair to middling in comparison with other developed countries.

But for a small population in a large country this may not be enough.

Australia has no hope of competing in world markets as a low labour cost producer of simple manufactured goods.

No amount of forcing down wage costs will bridge the gap to countries like China, so the only strategy must be to find markets where the technical and scientific content of the products or services is significant.

Often this will mean co-operative effort rather than going it alone and that means knowledge of other languages, cultures and economic systems, so it is not just scientific and technological skills which come into play.

Mention of other cultures suggests another reason why a broad-based modern education is not just valuable but essential.

If we are to get beyond the stereotyping of groups in the world and here in Australia we have to understand better the different cultural groups which exist and find the common ground which links them.

There is much talk these days about ‘Australian values’ but much less close analysis of what we share with the rest of the world, and which elements can be claimed to be uniquely Australian.

A greater appreciation of other cultures through education would help reduce some of the fears which the more unscrupulous politicians and media have exploited in recent years.

As the bumper sticker says, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance’.

Published as ‘Break Point’

Geelong Advertiser, Wednesday 17 January 2007, p. 21.

By Roy Hay

Trouble at tennis.

On Monday there was trouble at the tennis with young men in Croatian and Serbian tops abusing and attacking each other. On Friday night, 190 people were ejected from the MCG, mainly men between 18 and 25. Three were arrested for being drunk, one for assault and one for possessing amphetamines. Then there was organised drag racing on the Princes Highway at Noble Park, followed by the looting of shops. Is this the end of civilisation as we have known it? It is all very un-Australian or is it? Nobody so far has pointed out that almost 30,000 attended the football (soccer) match at Telstra Dome in perfect harmony on Friday night with no problem despite passionate support for Melbourne Victory.

The youngsters at the tennis were Australian-born, bred and educated.  So to describe that incident as racial, as one paper did, is completely inaccurate. A news agency also wanted to include the Greek fans in the story, but soon the focus was entirely on those in Serbian and Croatian colours. The participants, judging by the television footage, were very young, with the majority being teenagers. Until this recent incident the organisers of the Australian Open had tolerated, if not encouraged, fans to turn up in national colours to support overseas players. The Swedes and the Danes have been doing it for years. The Greeks, Croatians and Serbians followed suit with no serious incidents until this year.

Let’s look at things a little more dispassionately. It is high summer, and there are lots of young men out for a good time in fairly large groups, which raises all the issues of group rather than individual behaviour. An incident occurs and you go in for your mates. This is a good Australian tradition. We encourage it in certain contexts, at the footy and when someone is in danger. Only this time behaviour is unacceptable. Each group blames the other for starting the trouble. Things escalate and we then throw the problem on to the police and security organisations to sort it out. The best forms of social control are the ones we adopt voluntarily.

One again we are in danger in demonising another group in Australian society. It is ‘us and them’ as advocated by some Australian politicians and media commentators. We blame others for the behaviour rather than look closely at ourselves and what we are doing as a society. A Muslim cleric in a position of influence makes some inflammatory comments. Immediately some commentators blame all Australian Muslims for the problem and demand that they get rid of the religious leader, otherwise they are condoning what he says. Think for a moment about how we would object to being told that we approve of everything pronounced by the head of, say, the Uniting church in Australia.

There is no doubt that there are people who enjoy causing mayhem. Some want to get their faces on the box for their 5 seconds of fame. Others want to stir up trouble and enjoy the results, while remaining undetected. We have people who enjoy lighting fires. Tracking down and dealing with such people is difficult, time-consuming and thankless, but it is necessary. It is not helped by blanket condemnation of groups.

The people involved are not mindless morons and thugs. They are street-wise kids and many will regard the tactics of the authorities as a challenge to be circumvented. Modern technology, particularly mobile phones and the internet have assisted in organising group activities, so it is no surprise to find them being used to summon people to troublemaking. But we have to be careful we don’t become involved in a cycle of amplification as happened in England over soccer hooliganism which contributed to the appalling incidents at Heysel Stadium and indirectly to the Hillsborough disaster when 96 fans died in 1989. Little or no violence was involved in this awful catastrophe but the fact that fans had been put in pens and fenced in with no means of escape turned what the local authorities saw as a problem of public order into one of public safety.

My Christmas reading

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 6 January 2007, p. 25.

By Roy Hay

One of the joys of the Christmas and New Year holidays is the chance, once the festivities are over, to settle down with a book or three, not for work but for pleasure. This year some of the regular and usually reliable authors I turn to have left me somewhat disappointed.

Ian Rankin’s Naming the Dead, Frederick Forsyth’s The Afghan and Robert Harris’s Imperium, plus an older book by Martin Cruz Smith Tokyo Station, suggest that each of these authors was not at his best. You turn the pages, but the level of engagement seems lower. Rankin’s policeman, John Rebus, is heading for retirement and I got the impression that the author consciously or unconsciously is about ready to pension him off. Perhaps like Shane Warne he will have one last flourish before he goes, or will there be a Conan Doyle moment at the Edinburgh equivalent of the Reichenbach Falls?

Forsyth has a spectacular end to his thriller which is bang up to date in its study of the inside of a terrorist operation. Like Tom Clancy he seems to credit the security organisations of the United States and Britain with capacities and efficiencies which they don’t always demonstrate in the real world. Thoroughly researched, clearly written but somehow just lacking the zing of the Day of the Jackal. Curious. John Le Carre is, however, in top form in The Mission Song. Funnier and even more satirical than his recent works, this tale of a half-caste interpreter of African languages who becomes embroiled in a shady operation involving British security services and warring factions in the Congo shows the master has not lost his touch.

I wonder if Harris is setting up a future work on Julius Caesar, who is a mover and shaker, though mostly off stage, in Imperium. Harris’s book stops just when Cicero becomes Consul of Rome and so does not have to deal with the consequences of his apostasy, though it is foreshadowed in his ‘arrangements’ with his patrician enemies to secure the election result. The former tribune of the people, an efficient governor of Sicily and defender of the exploited, subsequently becomes a catspaw of the establishment. Little of the great rhetoric appears in the book, perhaps wisely since it would not all be attuned to modern tastes, but nevertheless it’s a pity since we don’t really get a sense of his command of language and political ideas. But my wife thought it was very well written and enjoyed it.

I have Les Carlyon on the Great War to start when I finish another blockbuster, David Goldblatt’s The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football. Though it is written by a sociologist, there is no jargon and it zips along like a novel and has a huge range from Argentina to Zambia. So I will have to resist the temptation to be picky about lots of errors of detail and about Goldblatt’s failure to pick up on some recent research, particularly on the early history of the game. Some of what he has missed would strengthen his arguments. Mind you he has lifted some chunks of my own work without attribution, even citing an Australian sporting newspaper as if he had read it, rather than borowing the passage from one of my articles. C’est la vie.

Garrie Hutchinson contributed This Sporting Year, an illustrated selection of some of the best Australian sportswriting for 2006. Peter Wilson on Cadel Evans, the Australian cyclist who took part in last year’s Tour de France, gives some idea of what is involved in this quintessentially European event that has captured more than a cult following thanks in part to being juxtaposed with the Ashes on SBS late at night during the northern summer in 2005. Though you could complain that the content is drawn mainly from the Melbourne and Sydney broadsheets, this means that there is lots of Greg Baum’s writing which is always worth re-reading.

My brother sent me a copy of a Suffolk dialect book which is full of gems, while Australian friends clearing out their parents’ house found a collection of Nino Cullota’s and John O’Grady’s books on Strine and local quirks which had us rolling around once again.

Finally I obtained a copy of Gertrude Dubrovsky, Six from Leipzig. This is the story of the Kindertransport that brought 20,000 Jewish children out of Germany prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The children were rescued from the subsequent Holocaust in which many of their parents died. Others survived but were separated from their children sometimes for a decade, as were Hedwig and Fritz Bettelheim, mother and father of the first Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University, Professor Fred Jevons. Fred was sponsored and looked after by a family in England. Subsequently he moved to the home of his school headmaster from whom he took his new name and was only reunited with his parents, who had escaped to Venezuela, in 1948. It is a harrowing and moving story.

Private capital. A step forward or a step back? Published as

Troubled skies

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 23 December 2006, p. 25.

By Roy Hay

In the last few months there has been a surge of financial manipulation which aims to turn a number of Australian companies into private entities, most recently Qantas. Instead of being publicly listed on the stock exchange with their shares being freely traded, and reporting and other regulations applying, these private companies escape much of this scrutiny. Much of the capital for the aggressive takeover of firms is borrowed, so debt replaces equity (shareholding). In a public company, for example, three-quarters or more of its capital could be in the form of shares and a quarter or less might be borrowed. In some private takeovers the proportions are reversed.

Does it matter if Qantas is bought by a group of private capitalists and ceases to be a publicly listed and traded company on the Australian Stock Exchange?  Since the federal government divested itself of its controlling interest, the only influence it can exert is through the foreign exchange requirement that there be a majority Australian shareholding in the company. In this case a consortium led by the aggressive Macquarie Bank and supported by Allco Equity Partners will get round that condition. Allco Finance, whose principal is David Coe, leases a number of aircraft to Qantas.

One consequence of the deal, if it goes through, is that there will be much less public scrutiny of the airline’s policies which will almost certainly include changes in work practices and various measures to improve efficiency, including reducing the size of the in-house workforce. Another is that the airline will now carry much increased debt, so it has to earn enough money to cover the interest on that borrowing. As long as interest rates are low that may not be a problem, but if they rise …!

Substantial fees will be collected by Macquarie Bank whose aggressive financing is reminiscent of the style of the Pyramid Building Society, the memory of which will not have faded in the minds of people in this city. In the late stages of a property or mining boom those companies which take on what appear to be the most lucrative investments often find that these are the most risky and the first to be jettisoned when the boom breaks. It is all getting eerily like the last crash, despite assurances from the Treasurer that the fundamentals of the Australian economy are sound. Given the size of Australia’s foreign debt and the collapse of manufacturing exports in part because of the ‘high’ value of the Australian dollar, it might be wise to be cautious about accepting Peter Costello’s pronouncement. Remember Rob Jolley!

A turning point or a dead end for Labor?

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 9 December 2006, p. 39.

By Roy Hay

The Australian Labor Party has cast the dice with the appointment of the ‘dream team’ of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard to lead it into the next Federal election. Will this be an echo of the 1983 election when Bob Hawke led Labor to victory over Malcolm Fraser very soon after he replaced Bill Hayden as Labor leader? Or could the new leadership implode, as Mark Latham did in 2004, under the blowtorch which will be directed against it by John Howard and his coalition colleagues? When Bob Hawke succeeded it was not just because, in Hayden’s phrase, ‘the drover’s dog’ could have won the election, but because the public had a clear appreciation that the industrial strife and economic instability of the time was better tackled by conciliation rather than confrontation. Hawke, with his industrial relations background, was seen as someone who could deliver. And he had a powerful team of young policy-orientated politicians to back him.

For Kevin Rudd it is going to be difficult to walk the fine line between being more open and consultative than Kim Beazley was perceived to be, without giving the coalition a chance to portray him as being indecisive. Yet Rudd must appear to live up to his promise of firm leadership, independence from factions and trade unions, and offering clear, comprehensible and distinctive policies. Any suggestion that he and his deputy are not singing from the same songsheet will be ruthlessly exploited and could prove electoral death. Julia Gillard is a very bright and dynamic politician with leadership ambitions of her own, but then so is Peter Costello and he still serves under John Howard.

One of Kim Beazley’s legacies will be a great deal of hard work which has been done on policy formation by the Labor Party in the last two years, though this has not yet had an impact on the electorate. Indeed it was the sense that the voters were not really listening to what Beazley had to say, sound though it often was despite the occasional gaffe on personalities, which contributed to his demise. Whether this policy development, essential as it is, will gain traction in the middle ground of politics is the key for Labor.

In the United Kingdom in somewhat similar circumstances, Tony Blair, who had only recently taken over the leadership on the death of John Smith, was able to promote ‘New Labour’ as both a clear break with the past and a distinctive alternative to the policies of the Conservative government.  Here it is already evident that Labor has distinguished itself from the coalition on industrial relations, education, the environment and the Iraq war, but turning differences into a coherent alternative and sellable package remains Labor’s major challenge. It may be a sad commentary on all of us as voters but the success or otherwise of Labor at the next election may be determined by the way the message of difference is sold, rather than its intrinsic substance, even though the latter exists. At the moment the opinion polls favour Labor with the Rudd-Gillard ticket, but we are still several months away from an election, and recent experience shows that much can change in that time, even without external events like the Tampa incident and 9/11.

The one certain thing is that the future will not be the same as the past, even though there may be similarities. We do learn and change, and in 2007 we will be faced with choices which will have a significant effect on the future of Australia. That double-edged Chinese wish, ‘May you live in interesting times’, seems certain to be fulfilled for the new Labor leadership.

A weekend in Adelaide

Sav Blanc, SA nudists (Advertiser headline)

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 9 December 2006, p. 56.

By Roy Hay

Some of the best holidays are just on our doorstep here in Australia. We’ve been fairly busy recently so decided we should have a break and the chosen venue was Adelaide and South Australia. We hadn’t bargained on it being the weekend of the Classic Adelaide car rally, so there were petrol-heads everywhere with their vroom-vroom machines thundering around the streets and McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Lots of Porsche drivers with the top halves of their flameproof overalls turned down. A very daggy look. That didn’t spoil Adelaide for me, the one place in Australia I would consider living in, if I were not thoroughly happy with Geelong and its region.

The rally cars went north on Saturday, so we went south to McLaren Vale where we know one of the local vignerons and his wife, who have just opened a restaurant in the old currant shed on their ten-hectare winery. They welcomed us to a shared plate of local delicacies and some sharp Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. We settled on the former and after lunch I ordered some of that and an export red, a batch of which was turned down at the last moment. As we were leaving two camels with tourists on board passed the road end. So I got a shot of them and the handler lady told me the lead camel was the star in the film Kangaroo Jack.

After lunch we decided we would go to the seaside rather than more wineries so we headed for Maslin Beach. There were nudists to the south, so we walked north in perfect sunshine with my wife having her feet in the water all the way. Coming back I had my shoes and trousers off and paddled along with her. Even took off my vest!

Also in McLaren Vale we coincided with the Biennale Exhibition of local art at Tatachilla, where there was one part of the exhibition in the Tinlin’s wine shed at the back of the tasting shop. It was a great setting with the pictures hung in front of the barrels. I voted for Abie Loy’s Bush Hen Dreaming in the people’s choice awards, a lovely piece of synthetic polymer on Belgian linen.

In the evening, we boarded the Glenelg tram and set off for a meal down at the water. When we got to the tram we found the old rattlers had been replaced by the new light rail machines, but the track duplication had not been completed beyond Glengowrie. So at Morphetville racecourse we de-trammed and a bus took us the rest of the way. We walked down past the pub to the pier but the restaurant on the front was fully booked, though virtually empty, so we returned to the main drag and found an Italian restaurant run by a young Greek soccer player and coach, with friends who grow olives. Not a bad combination and the food was excellent. After that we walked back, the bus arrived as we got to the corner and it took us to the tram and we were back in town in no time. A model of public transport in operation as I told the conductor’s mate. And so, as Pepys would say, to bed.

‘To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub.’ But at 12.40 am the hotel alarm went off. We were advised not to panic, to remain where we were, and await further instructions. I went through all my Towering Inferno scenarios. There was some milling about and chatter in the corridor, but eventually after another series of alarms came the message that the cause had been attended to and thanks for our co-operation and there would be no further instructions. Then the alarm beeped briefly again at 1.30 am. My wife slept through it all! Given all the petrol heads in the hotel, one suspected the worst, but the headlines next day would have been of the ‘small emergency, no one injured’ variety.

On Sunday the rally cars went south so after breakfast we headed north-east through Payneham into the Adelaide Hills past Millbrook Reservoir, Williamstown, and into the Barossa Valley at Lyndoch where we stopped for coffee. We also found the discreetly signed Information Centre, after a couple of U-turns, and then visited one of the commercial wineries, where my wife learned more about wine-making than she really wanted to know. Nevertheless it is a well-designed operation, neatly set out with curving Aboriginal-style entrance roads and paths and a wedding party in full swing within. Our next stop was at Tanunda.

I took some pictures of Chateau Tanunda and some youngsters playing a species of croquet on the lawn and then we went via the back roads to the Barossa Bush Gardens project at Nooriootpa. This is a brilliant volunteer effort to conserve and propagate local seeds of plants which are under threat of extinction. It covers several hectares and each species seems to have been adopted by a volunteer or a group and the majority of plants and trees seem to be flourishing despite the drought. This is an idea we could develop locally, I’m sure, for there are plenty of the local species under threat.

Finally on the last morning I took my wife to the Adelaide Town Hall, a superb building in its own right, but housing a picture I wanted her to see. It is the mayoral painting of Jane Lomax-Smith, full-length in evening dress with a strategically placed chain of office, mounted above eye-level at the end of a corridor. The walls of the corridor are occupied by the head and shoulders portraits of her male predecessors, all looking glum and lugubrious as if they knew that eventually they would be looked down upon by a powerful and striking woman.

Adelaide and South Australia turned it on for us once again with a lovely combination of great weather, superb food and wine, and series of surprises to keep us on our toes.

Olympic Memories

An edited version appeared as ‘The day a nation pooled its anger’

Geelong Advertiser, Monday 27 November 2006, p. 15.

by Roy Hay

People remember some iconic moments from the Melbourne Olympic Games of 1956, whose 50th anniversary occurs this month. There was a young Ron Clark almost setting himself on fire as he lit the Olympic Flame. Vladimir Kuts wrote his name into the records with two stunning runs in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres. Dawn Fraser’s 100-metre free style win, and Betty Cuthbert’s sprint double were highlights for Australian fans. The mingling of the athletes in the closing ceremony was the first such occasion. Then there was the ‘red water match’ in the water polo.

Much talked about after the event, this clash between Hungary, the eventual champion, and the Soviet Union came a few weeks after the Hungarian uprising against communist rule in October 1956. It was a rough game in which one of the Hungarians, Erwin Zador had his cheek split open and left the pool with blood streaming down in his face, captured in a picture which was shown around the world. It seemed to symbolise the way that sport had been drawn into the Cold War. The match became a free-for-all and the referee ended it some minutes early as the crowd threatened to become involved. The Hungarians won easily by four goals to nil.

The local Hungarian community in Australia supported the visiting athletes in many ways. One family entertained members of the Hungarian team after the game, but did not attend the match because they had given their ticket money to the team to buy their swimming costumes for the event. Lazlo Fadyas was a member of the Hungarian sabre team and is the only survivor of that six-member team. He remembers changing the communist Hungarian flag in the Olympic Village at Heidelberg for the real Hungarian flag. He says the authorities took no action to change it back. Ferenc Acs, himself a water polo goalkeeper, was at the match and remembers a skirmish in the second half in which a Russian ‘got a blood nose’. ‘Then they fought back and there was a brawl, a melee’. The crowd were not involved. But notice the Hungarians struck the first blow.

Andrew Dettre commentated on the water polo match for Radio Free Europe, Munich and wrote for the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. He was a refugee from Hungary arriving in Australia in 1950 and becoming heavily involved in Australian soccer.

‘I reported on the match. It was not World War Three. There were not many watching, just a few hundred. This was a group match. There was a lot of feeling because of the October Revolution and the match took place in December. Near the end of the game, the Hungarians were winning easily. Two players collided. An elbow hit Zador in the face. Blood was pouring down his face. A few blows were exchanged. There were two or three minutes to go and the referees quite properly terminated the game. Two or three hundred people booed the Russians who were escorted into the dressing room by the police. I’m not trying to defend the Russians. I wrote and spoke of it as I saw it.’ According to Dettre, Zador was hit by an elbow. Other accounts tell us it was deliberately premeditated punch by the Russian Prokopov who swam some distance to deliver it well off the ball.

The official report was very bland, ‘The general standard of play throughout the tournament was clean and fast and the control of play by the referees most satisfactory.’ A souvenir illustrated book on the games only describes the match as ‘hectic’ and neither of the pictures of the game show any violence.

Another contemporary journalist, Ken Knox criticised inconsistent refereeing. ‘I am not trying to excuse yesterday’s incidents but I am certain it was inconsistent refereeing which touched off the displays of temper.’ ‘when you also have—as yesterday—political feelings among the players and a demonstrative crowd, serious trouble is inevitable.’

Smoking at the swimming venue, the Glasshouse, got so bad the patrons overloaded the air conditioning and caused breathing problems for the swimmers. Perhaps the smoke-laden atmosphere at the venue had something to do with the overheated atmosphere for water polo matches?

Though Hungary had a great reputation in water polo, the most notable absence in 1956 was the Hungarian football (soccer) team led by the great Ferenc Puskas, which had demolished England in 1953 and only just missed winning the World Cup in 1954. Why did it not appear in Melbourne? Puskas and his colleagues with Hungarian army team Honved were taking part in the European Cup in October 1954 and Hungary had planned to send a younger team to the Olympic Games. But this team was withdrawn by the Hungarian authorities in September 1956, before the uprising and the Russian invasion.

At the conclusion of the games, more than 200 athletes from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia elected not to return to their homelands and some stayed permanently in Melbourne.

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