Monthly Archives: March 2010

Gladstone LNG Project – A local perspective


Here in Gladstone we’ve been waiting for the approval of the much announced news of the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) project:

Curtis Island LNG Site

Some groups are absolutely certain that the green light has been given for the building of several gas processing plants on Curtis Island, located just across the harbour from our city, while others are pointing to the fact that the Environmental Impact Statement has not yet been approved by Govt.

Those ‘for’ the project are keen for the  boost to our local economy that hordes of workers and investors will bring.  The LNG project will double Gladstones’ population in a very short time, and not only will this impact on our resources, water, accomodation, and standard of living, it may even be enough to get our city put on one of the television weather maps of a night. 

Those ‘against’ the project ( ) are convinced that the devastation caused by building of new wharfs, bunded areas, and reclaimed harbour walls, will destroy what is left of the sea grasses needed by the local dugong population.  Also they have some reasonable concerns regarding the safety of the product, and the potential for a disaster on our doorstep.

Added to the calls for the project to either be stopped, moved, or more heavily monitored by an independent umpire, are the folk out west where the gas is being sourced.  The noise, smells, and chemical pollutants are causing concerns for residents whose homes are on, or near the wells and a movement has sprung up to air those concerns:

Meanwhile, the owners of Keppel Island, want to replace an existing resort but their plan was cancelled by the Hon. Pete Garrett himself.  But Pete was strangely quiet about LNG’s plans to backfill Gladstone Harbour.  Perhaps he was too busy putting out fires closer to home? 

It will be interesting to see which way the coin falls, but from what I’ve personally seen so far, there has already been a lot of development occurring on the island, regardless of what the result the EIS may have to say.

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Mondays’ Column – Aussiemated

“Dad, is immigration a good thing?”      

I gave it some thought, imagining what might have been had an Aboriginal elder bailed up Governor Phil metres from the beach in 1788 and declared, “Hey Pom!  We decide who comes into this country, and the manner in which they arrive, so you, and your boatloads of crims, rack off!”  Then organised his fiercest warriors to tow the astonished members of the First Fleet back out to sea, nudging them in the direction of New Zealand. 

As the vision faded, I returned to reality, “Well, what about Ping?” I asked. 

“Who’s Ping?” 

“You know, Pete, Daddy’s Asian mate, would you send him back?” 

“No, he’s okay, he’s been Aussiemated.”

I laughed, “I think you mean assimilated!  But on second thought…” 

Ping arrived here in the late 80’s, clutching a bag of clothes and a “How to Speak English” book.  He was at once welcomed by a taxi driver who happily drove him into the city via Cooktown. 

Pings’ English was perfect, but his Australian needed a lot of work.  The day we met I asked him, “So, what are you doing this arvo?”  He spent hours trawling through his book trying to work out what ‘arvo’ meant.  Later, when I told him, he said, “What I need is a ‘How to Speak Aussie’ guide.”  I gave him an old John O’Grady classic, ‘Aussie English’.  I knew he’d read it, because he next time we met he yelled, “G’day you old b#@*&%^d!  Pull up a pew and wet your whistle!”  Which gave the vicar quite a turn at the time.          

Ping enrolled at uni, got a couple of part time jobs, and spent his spare time seeing more of Australia than a spy satellite.  “There are no crowds!  The beaches!  The mountains!  It is truly bonza!” he would often mutter.  He enquired about staying, but the political landscape had changed and the bar had been raised significantly.  There were some dodgy options available, but he was determined to do things by the book.  I tried to explain that this was very un-Australian, but he wouldn’t listen. 

Eventually he cracked it, then changed his name, met a girl, and bought a house.  Occasionally his parents make the trip out, and while they are very happy for him, they are appalled at how poor his English is nowadays, and apparently that’s my fault!  Fair dinkum, I was just doing my bit to help someone become Aussiemated.


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Music Madness

When it comes to music I can pretty much sum up my tastes by quoting the character Tim, from a skit on the TV show, “Australia You’re Standing In It” : 

Debbie:  Tim, I hear you’re in a band?

Tim:  That’s right Deb, it’s hard rock, swing fifties, punk, country, electronica, classical, heavy metal, jazz, prog rock, folk outfit.

Or, words to that effect 🙂 

But it tidily sums up my own musical tastes… which is a bit of a worry.  I love Heavy Metal, but quite enjoy Country, Folk, Classical, Swing Big Bands, Acoustic, Live, Jazz, Blues, etc.  The only types of music I’ve never been real big on is most Pop, nearly all of Hip Hop, Polka, and that Mexican ‘Ayayayayeeraba’ style of singing.

Daft Punk in action

Apart from that, everything else is pretty much ok with me.  So it is with some delight that I notice that ABC tele is featuring a Daft Punk show tonight.  I don’t own any of their albums, know only a couple of their songs, and haven’t got a clue where they’re from or what they look like.  But what I do know is that the first time I saw them on Rage years ago I thought, ‘Cool!’  and have kept an eye (ear?!) out ever since.  For those of you who have never seen or heard of them, check out the attached snap. 

Maybe I like them because I’ve got that whole leather, motorbike, Mad Max thing happening somewhere in my subconscious.  Maybe I should get some help…  
Anyway, what I do know is, that if they come to Oz then it better be in Winter.  Those helmets are going to fog up fast in the heat otherwise.    

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Mondays’ Column – Ului, Ului, Oh Boy, The Way to Blow

By today one of two things will have happened, either Cyclone Ului has hit town, and this column won’t have appeared because there won’t be a paper today, and you’ll be frantically waving at the news choppers from the remains of your lounge room.  Or, Ului will have passed us by and you’ll be reading this (and hopefully having a little chuckle) while your family wonders what to do with the four thousand tins of tomato soup you panic purchased last Thursday.

It’s Wednesday evening as I sit here tapping away, and outside it looks quite pleasant, but an impending nightmare is spinning towards us from out of the Coral Sea like an out of control ceiling fan.  Just like the same time last year when Cyclone Hamish appeared and the North disappeared under a deluge of Biblical proportions.  We smacked our lips in anticipation as the drought busting rains approached, but Hamish cruelly swung out to sea, and while the rest of the state floundered, we ended up copping a lousy four millimetres of liquid gold.

Still, you may be surprised to learn that Hamish caused several casualties as it approached Gladstone.  Nearly all of them were sustained in supermarket aisles as shoppers lunged at the rapidly emptying shelves, vying for bottles of water, tinned food, batteries, cigarettes and flat screen tele’s.  Several were almost killed when caught trying to raid other shoppers’ trolleys.  I saw little old ladies tossing small children over their shoulders as they charged towards the checkouts with their booty.  And I came close to being critically injured whilst crash tackling my way through a bottle shop.

But this year things are different.  We’ve had so much rain that to my astonishment, people are actually complaining about it, and for once we genuinely don’t need anymore downpours, which is why I’m absolutely certain Ului is going to hit us.  This is the way nature works, and explains why she is called a Mother.   

Anyway, just in case things go horribly wrong and someone salvages my laptop with this column in it, then please tell Long Suffering Wife that it actually was me who taped over our wedding video, and not Auntie May, and perhaps they should get over the name calling and start talking to each other again.  But if you happen to be reading this in the paper today, then get my address from the editor because I can do you a great deal on several thousand tins of tomato soup.

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American Journeys by Don Watson

I bought Don’s book in Maleny last year, and slotted it into the pile in the drawers next to my bed.  On impulse I picked it up last week and started to read where Don began his journey around America, by train, car, and train, starting off at New Orleans. 

It’s an eye-opening read, and by the end of the book I was left with a feeling of unease about our ‘Bigger Brother’.  Americans’ blind faith in religion and the shonky preachers who demand dollars from the faithful, the rise of the right wing nut cases with blanket coverage on TV and radio, the growing number of hate groups, the desperate plight of the working poor battling to literally survive in an unofficial class war.  The brutality of ruthless corporations.  The futility of their government.  Free speech vs. the right to own a gun and shoot anyone who speaks freely.  So open minded yet so restrictive.  The horrors of their rapidly expanding prison system… 

America appears to be a place of wonder, fun, adventure, and hope, but at the same time desperation, terror, futility, ruthlessness and arrogance.  I put the book down and thanked Odin that I live in Oz 🙂  But it was Dons’ words that bought me back to earth: 

When anti-American feelings sneak up on you, when you think the democracy is a bit of a sham, the people are ruled by ignorance and fear and no good can come of the place – think of the music. 

No people on earth make music like the Americans – no one else comes close. 

And he’s right.  In spite of all the things that may concern us about America, they’ve certainly nailed the music!  God bless ’em.

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Monday’s Column – The One Year Anniversary!

This month marks the one year anniversary of The Lighter Side column, so I thought I’d celebrate this auspicious occasion by answering some frequently asked questions:   

Q.  Is all that stuff you write about true? 

A.  Yes.  Unfortunately. 

Q.  Where do you get your ideas from? 

A.  I blatantly steal them from other columnists.  Just kidding.  Thoughts, life experiences, overheard conversations, and ideas are always cropping up, which I immediately jot down in my little notebook.  These days family, friends and workmates tend to clam up when I whip out that notebook, so it’s very handy when I want some peace and quiet. 

Q.  What inspired you to start writing columns?

A.  Years ago on a suburban train in Brisbane I sat next to a bloke who was laughing his head off at something in the paper, and I asked him what was so funny.  “This fella here,” he said pointing at the page, “Mike O’Connor, funniest columnist in the country.  Now get lost!”  Intrigued, I bought a paper and agreed with Mr. Cranky, Mike O’Connor was very funny indeed.  Since then I have discovered other notable columnists; Bill Bryson, Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, and Keith Waterhouse.  All of them are much, much funnier than me.        

Q.  How much do they pay you? 

A.  Let’s just say that the worldwide print industry is going through a rough trot at the moment, and now is a bad time to stake a wage claim.  Why, even Rupert is struggling, if the silver fittings in the toilets of his latest jet are anything to go by.        

Q.  How can I get my own column? 

A.  Columnists are a neurotic, suspicious and overly protective lot, intensely keen on protecting their own patch, in fact, a club was once set up for humorous columnists in America, and after many years, it still only had a membership of six.  Hopeful columnists would send the committee samples of their work, and regardless of how brilliant or funny they were, everyone got the same response:  “You haven’t got it kid.  Get a career in real estate.” 

I’m not that cruel.  If you have a burning desire to be a humorous columnist then study the greats, practice writing until you develop a unique voice and style, and submit a few samples of your work to this paper.  Or you could mail them to me and I will promptly send you my feedback; and some application forms for a real estate licence.

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My Favourite Australian Writers

The follow up to my earlier post, this is the list, by no means comprehensive, of my fave Australian writers / books. 

Norman Lindsay – Age of Consent.  Old Norman was a dirty sod.  But he could paint, and as this book bears out, he was a scribbler of some talent.   

Ion Idriess – most of his scribblings.  The language is getting dated, but he tells a good yarn.

Colin Bowles – Adventures of a flying doctor in north western Australia.  Very enjoyable read.   

Tom Cole – Hell West and Crooked.  Buffalo and crocodile hunting, along with some fascinating insights to Australia’s pioneering days.  His follow up book, The Last Paradise, details his work in Papua New Guinea after the war, tea planting, and shooting some monster crocs.  Very gutsy bloke.  But not as gutsy as the natives who used to leap into the water to catch the shot crocs before they sank! 

John O’Grady –  if there’s a bad J O’G book then I’m yet to read it!

Frank Hardy – I’ve read most of Franks’ stuff, Power Without Glory, Retreat Australia Fair, Billy Borker Yarns, and other selected novels, (Outcasts of Foolgarah) and collections of short stories.

Hugh Lunn – Over the Top with Jim.  Behind the Banana Curtain.

Hector Holthouse – impeccable research, good yarn spinner.

Robert G. Barrett – The Les Norton books are a favourite, and have proven very popular with workmates who haven’t read a novel since their school days.  Bob’s laconic, humorous, and down to earth writing style appeals to a wide range of readers.  Very popular up here as it’s always good to read about a Queenslander belting the living daylights out of New South Welshmen.

Simon Haynes – Hal Spacejock was the first e-novel I read.  Well written, captivating and rollicking yarn.  It’s available as a free download from here:  

Mike Hayes –  Mike’s Prickle Farm books had me laughing out loud, and I’m very sorry I loaned them to a mate who never returned them.

Kenneth Cook –  Attack of the Killer Koala, Frilled Neck Frenzy and other humorous short stories.  Ken used to write a weekly column for People magazine (back when it wasn’t a porn mag), and I used to quite look forward to his barely believable, but extremely funny yarns.  Again, lent my complete collection to another mate who has disappeared off the face of the earth. 

AB Facey – A Fortunate Life.  Not very fortunate.  Bloody hard going actually.  But still a good read. 

Peter Watt – Cry of the Curlew is the first of several novels that tell a roaring yarn about the early days of the Australia.  Peter has style very similar to Wilbur Smith, and each book is a page turner from start to finish.  Highly recommended. 

Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh – found Looking for Dad in my local library years ago and became an instant fan.  Bill was one of the first authors I emailed many years ago, and I received a very well written, humorous response the next day.  Unfortunately I lost the damned email, because it was great source of motivation for me.  His collection of Australiana yarns are well worth a read. 


Henry Lawson – I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Harry.  I like Banjo’s poetry, but Henry will always top him.  Faces in the Street, Andy’s Gone with Cattle, and selected short stories, some funny, some tragic. 

Banjo Paterson – The Man from Snowy River still brings a chill down the back of my neck.   

Creeve Rowe (Victor Daley) – Ballad of Eureka.  Brings tears to my eyes every time I read it: “… but the river of St. Lawrence he would never see again…”    

Many of the above writings I’ve got stashed away here at home, and I re-read them from time to time.  With a bit of luck, one of my children will get as much enjoyment from them as I have over the years. 

Feel free to contact me with your favourites, because I’m always looking for new authors to add to my list.


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ABC Open Dream Job Position

A quick post: last Thursday I stumbled across this site looking for something else, and on Friday I applied for it:

I’m not sure about my chances, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go 🙂 

At the very least, if I don’t get the position, it would still be an interesting exercise for many of us outside the cities to participate in, and hopefully it will capture some of the more interesting, exotic, and lesser heard voices in regional Oz.  Voices that usually go unheard.



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Popular Australian Books… I don’t like

My earliest memories of enjoying Aussie scribbling would be a collection of works of Henry Lawsons poems which I discovered in Grade 4 as a student in Innisfail State School.  Actually, now that I think about it, what sort of freak kid likes to read poetry?  Me I suppose…

Like most kids I loved short stories, comic books, and tales of adventure, and when the wonderful librarian at my school pointed me towards Oz writers, it was Colin Thiele who stood out.  There is a generation of us who can’t look at a pelican without thinking, “Mr Percival!”  Around this time I can also remember chuckling away at the adventures of Captain Midnite (the outbacks’ worst bushranger) by Randolph Stow. 

But for the most part, my reading was made up mostly of English writers, with a smattering of American titles (Minibike Hero springs to mind).  But it was the story, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson which stood out above the pack.

At 13 I discovered Tolkien.  I think I read The Hobbit twice in one weekend, only taking time out to eat and sleep, sparingly 🙂  Imagine my delight at discovering that our hero’s story continued in The Lord of the Rings

A host of other authors followed, but recently I decided to start adding the works of some of the more popular Australian writers to my list of books conquered.  I grabbed a list from my local library and dug in. 

Let me just say, that I really, really wanted to like these books, but if you haven’t got my attention, piqued my interest, or hooked me by page 150, then I’m not going to make it to the end of the yarn.  So, in no particular order, here are a list of books I won’t be reading again:    

Nick Earls Zig Zag Street.  

Tim Winton: Cloudstreet & Open Swimmer.  I’d heard nothing but rave reviews for Cloudstreet, and for the writings of Tim Winton.  Radio National announcers love his work, and aren’t afraid of letting you know about it either, but, here in Central Qld, one reader was a tad disappointed to discover that he was bored witless by page 50, and ended up speed reading it to the inevitable dismal conclusion.  I gave Open Swimmer a whirl, and somewhere about a third of the way through the book I put it down with a weary sigh and closed the cover.     

Peter Carey: The Tax Inspector.  I did finish this one, and was sorry I did.  It was disjointed, and the ending seemed tacked on.  The next title The Illywhacker I opened in the aisle of the library, read the first chapter and put it back on the shelf.  My hand hovered over The True History of the Kelly Gang, but I gave it a miss.  My father gave it the thumbs up, so I may make the effort one day.   

I started to read two of Di Morrissey’s books, The Bay and The Reef, but failed to connect with the characters.  Ok, I’m probably not in Di’s target readership, but I prefer the works of other female authors… some of them write for Mills and Boon (don’t ask me how I know this). 

Bryce Courtenay: The Potato Factory and Tommo and Hawk.  Didn’t finish either of them, and wouldn’t even if someone paid me. 

For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke.  The ‘prison misery’ genre is not one I particularly enjoy.  Papillon and The Shawshank Redemption are undoubtedly fine movies, but I’m not going to back up and watch them again either.  I did get to the end of this one, but it was not a particularly enjoyable experience. 

And that is the key.  I like fun, hope, adventure, and escapism.  The books above appeal to many other readers, and they have legions of fans who gush over the titles, unfortunately they just don’t do ‘it’ for me. 

But it’s a good thing that there are others out there who do!  Stay tuned folks to see which Oz writers press my buttons 🙂


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Monday’s Column – Smackdown 8.3.10

To smack or not to smack, that is the question.  Is the parent who smacks their child trying to enforce boundaries for acceptable behaviour, or, as a recent report from a psychologist revealed, are they mindless thugs? 

When I was young I knew a few lucky kids who didn’t get smacked.  One mate lived under the ‘Go to your room!’ regime, which I thought was bit harsh, until I discovered his room was chock full of toys and video games.  The poor sod would spend hours suffering in silence as he conquered galaxies, or watched tele.    

Another mate had to endure the ‘Let’s discuss why you set the cat of fire’ style of parenting.  Those lectures had no effect whatsoever, but they did give the cat some precious time to hide and heal.  I’d often listen in, not because I wanted to hear a sermon, but because food and drinks would always be served afterwards.  Sometimes it was milkshakes!   

Then there was a passing acquaintance who got caught by his mother scribbling graffiti on her kitchen wall with a permanent marker.  He kept writing as his mum counted, “One!  One and a half!  One and five eighths,” while I slowly edged away from ground zero.  Five minutes later, she still hadn’t reached ‘three’, and was using fractions I’d never heard of, when he casually tossed the pen out the window and said to her, “Gimme some money stupid, I’m going to play the pinnies.”  She immediately handed him five dollars and we left.  He doesn’t write on walls anymore; the guards won’t let him.      

But there was one genius who only ever got smacked once in his entire life, and I was there to see it.  I can’t recall his crime, but both of us were shocked when his mother ordered him outside to get a stick.  He returned with a branch the size of a telephone pole and handed it to his surprised mother.  She was barely able to lift it, but eventually managed to tap him on the back of the legs before slumping exhausted into nearby chair.  Imagine her amazement when he dropped to the floor howling his head off.  Ten minutes later, just as she was dialling for an ambulance, he staggered to his feet and wiped his eyes.  “Well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson!” she gasped, between sips of neat gin. 

“Oh, I sure did mum,” he sobbed, and slipped me a sly wink.  We all did.  I think he’s a psychologist now.


Filed under Columns, Writing