Bagging Adelaide

(My 3AW interview with Tom Elliott about this article can be heard here. The article was published by The Big Smoke under the title, ‘Interstate ribaldry: Why is Adelaide the national punching bag?‘)

It’s been a bumper season for bagging Adelaide. The running ‘joke’ in Sydney and Melbourne that South Australia is the pits has made its way into the national discourse, with a growing number of journalists and other identities making derisory comments about Adelaide whilst on national platforms, having forgotten that they are being heard or read in South Australia as well. It is a peculiar thing, and seemingly uniquely Australian, that otherwise respected national voices should dump on one particular state. No doubt they would argue the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ defence. I myself prefer the diagnosis offered by Adelaide writer Andrew P. Street, who says there is a ‘national blind spot’ blanketing everything south-west from about Broken Hill.

Continued on The Big Smoke.

The South Adelaide Football Club, 1876-1900

A short history of the early decades of the South Adelaide Football Club, 1876-1900


Moves to establish a South Adelaide Football Club began in 1875 and were formalised in April the following year. The club is not to be confused with the ‘South Adelaide’ team that is referenced in newspapers from earlier years. This was a division of the Adelaide Football Cub which had been formed in 1860. This Adelaide entity arranged intra-club matches between different groupings of its players, and some of these matches, as reported at the time, were between its players that lived north of the Torrens, ‘North Adelaide’, and south of it, ‘South Adelaide’.

Continue reading “The South Adelaide Football Club, 1876-1900”

Jonathan Swift – evidence that he was involved in a murder in 1724

Jonathan Swift, privy to a murder? Could the author of Gulliver’s Travels, the champion of the Irish people and the man widely considered the greatest ever prose writer in the English language, have been party to the purposeful killing of another human being, his own printer? This is what I am asserting in an aspect of my research which has grown from my 2015 thesis, which was concerned with Swift’s dealings with the Dublin print industry in the 1720’s. It seems a preposterous notion. Evidence that has never been seen in almost three hundred years? Of a murder that implicates a writer who has been universally revered from before his death in 1745 through to and including today? This evidence, in my view, has been on the face of the record all this time.

Continued on Tinteán: a magazine for Irish Australia.

Ode to a patch of MCG turf

Farewell, we bid thee, piece of turf three metres by one,
As thou travelleth up the Hume, the truck that transports thee, we cannot outrun.
For as long as the sun has risen in the east, thou hast glistened with morning dew,
Now, as thou truckest, may thou receive the care that is thy due.
May thou be tended with waters and fertilisers, to ease thy weary load,
And heaven help the driver should he fail to avoid any bump in the road.
Oh turf, oh turf, our Melbourne soil, thou art so good, so great!
The more for having tolerated imposter feet from interstate.
And though the quest thou now pursueth be imbued with virtue and grace,
Forsooth, to remind the northern people of their rightful place,
Knowest as thou leavest, your departure is a killer,
With holes in Melbourne hearts that cannot be fixed with poly filler,
And though your holy house be made only of bricks and mortar,
We worship thee, and it, forever as we oughta.


The revolution is being televised

In his 1971 cult classic, ‘The Revolution will not be televised’, Gil Scott-Heron envisions the African-American uprising in a song that oozes power, rhythm and classic African-American cool. ‘You will not be able to stay home, brother,’ he sings in the call-to-arms refrain, ‘because the revolution will not be televised.’ Fifty years on, the revolution is being televised and it is being conducted almost entirely by progressive whites. People of colour may as well stay home and watch on tv.

It is a revolution that has been usurped by the progressive white left for whom it is an opportunity to showcase their virtue, their piety, their sanctimony and self-perceived superiority on a world stage. Motivated less by humility and contrition for the past than the status of their new secular sainthood, their activism patronises the African-Americans and only reaffirms white hegemony. The revolution has been inverted. The revolution has been appropriated.

If Gil Scott-Heron were alive today to see it, watching on tv or streaming it on an i-pad, he would have seen his revolution sapped. White faces trying to look angry. Clenched white fists trying to look intimidating. The power and humour he projects into his song, all absent. It’s a revolution he might not even have recognised. White people screaming into the faces of black police officers calling for their jobs to be defunded.

Long may his song be celebrated in African-American musical heritage despite the movement it advocates having been colonised by the progressive white left. Given that it glorifies burglary, endorses drug-taking and beer-drinking and perpetuates a negative African-American stereotype, the left should by rights be calling for the song’s cancellation, but maybe that would be the pot calling the kettle white, or the kettle calling the pot black, or some such.

The clear sky of these football-free days

How good is this break from football? I say that as someone who has followed the game since the age of three and who still thinks it is one of the best spectator sports in the world. But of all the incidental benefits that have stemmed from the coronavirus, is there any more valuable than this hiatus from football? Not for mine. I hope common sense prevails at the AFL and it lasts the whole year, although I know there is as much chance of that as there is of the Adelaide Crows being given an earnt home grand final at Adelaide Oval.

The lockdown has reminded us of a time when football was in its proper place. Anyone on the wrong side of fifty can remember it well. Life was more about neighbourhood. If you needed bread or milk or wanted to buy the paper you walked or rode to the deli. People worked five-and-a-half days a week to earn an honest keep, most often in a trade or profession that they stayed in for life, and football was a Saturday afternoon entertainment. The game was an important part of the week and was looked forward to, but the players too held Monday-to-Friday jobs, the kind that kept the wheels of the community turning. Continue reading “The clear sky of these football-free days”

High Court sport

We are approaching a period in which four of the seven judges on the High Court will have to retire. Two reach the mandatory retirement age within the next twelve months, another in October 2022, then the Chief Justice herself in January 2024. Not since the latter half of the 1990’s has there been a period of such turnover. At that time it had been anticipated that John Doyle, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, would be appointed. Doyle was widely considered to be one of the best legal minds the country has ever produced and was seen as a future Chief Justice, not simply a puisne, of the Court, but the five vacancies in those years went to three from New South Wales, one from Victoria and one from Queensland.

The High Court has always lacked diversity from a federalism point of view. Of the 53 judges from its inception in 1903 through to today, six have come from Western Australia, eight from Queensland, and of the remainder the scoreboard currently reads Victoria 13, New South Wales 26.

But how will the progressives’ version of diversity affect the Court over the next four years? Will the appointment process withstand the creep of identity politics? According to the Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia the appointment process has been dogged by this issue for years already. “Two enduring controversies concern the proper place of ‘merit’ in deciding on candidates for appointment, and the need for the appointment process to produce a more diverse Court that reflects or represents the society from which it is drawn.” The Court has already ticked two boxes on the diversity checklist. These were with the appointments of five women, including the present Chief Justice Susan Keifel, and Michael Kirby, who served from 1996 to 2009 and whose life partner is Johan von Vloten. But nonetheless, when primary schools around the country take their Grade Six class on a trip to Canberra with the obligatory visit to the High Court, the teacher still no doubt issues a trigger warning before ushering them in to see that the seven faces on the bench are all white anglo.

The Australian legal profession is hypocritical on this front. On the one hand it adheres to ancient British traditions of common law and procedure and revels in the pomp of wigs, gowns and Latin maxims, whilst on the other it has publicly aligned itself with the progressive movement and its crusade for the dismantling of western civilisation. This hypocrisy was seen in 2017 when the Law Council of Australia supported the yes campaign in the marriage plebiscite, as well as in July 2019 when two retired Chief Justices, Gleeson and French, supported the creation of an indigenous chamber in the federal Parliament. It is seen also in this affirmative action with regard to the personnel of the judiciary. Former Justice, Michael McHugh, has said that “when a court is socially and culturally homogenous, it is less likely to command public confidence in the impartiality of the institution.” It could equally be said that, if it is perceived that the appointment process is making concessions to identity politics, the Court will lose public confidence. But, led by people including former Chief Justice Gibbs, the argument persists that the make-up of the Court needs to be, not representative of Australian society at large, but reflective of it. The appointment process needs to ensure, the argument goes, that in balancing the merits of competing candidates, priority is to be given to this requirement of reflecting the broader population.  

Of the four upcoming appointments, one would need to reflect Australia’s indigenous people. Maybe Noel Pearson’s reward is nigh. He did study at the University of Sydney, after all, although competition might come from people such as Tony McAvoy SC, or Bruce Pascoe, provided some legal qualifications can be found in his record. Then, if land ownership is a criterion, we should have a judge of Chinese origin, which would be welcomed by the Asian Australian Lawyers Association whose objectives include “to promote and facilitate Asian cultural diversity in the senior ranks of the legal profession”. Similarly, the Australian Muslim Legal Network, which advocates “a Muslim perspective on law reform and civil liberties issues.” To reflect the trans community a stand-out would be Catherine McGregor, who speaks with more assurance on constitutional matters than most law professors even though she is still currently completing her Juris Doctor at ANU. Then, if the judiciary is to reflect new Australian citizens, we should have a kiwi judge, or a Sudanese judge, or a Lebanese judge, or all of the above, for if we are genuine in proceeding along a path of creating a judiciary that is reflective of society we cannot stop until every identity group in the country considers itself mirrored in at least one judge. Given that there are seven judges on the High Court we would need to decide which seven identity groups are the most deserving of reflection. Alternatively, successive appointments could be tied to a rota of identity groups. Or we could expand the number of judges in order to accommodate them all. One identity group that would need to be excluded is the elderly. This is due to a constitutional amendment in 1977 declaring that judges must retire at 70, the very age when people in a profession such as law are coming into their full powers. But we would otherwise have a potpourri of identities for our children to behold on their school trips to Canberra, with all of these judges administering the law within the time-honoured British traditions that we inherited, although, if this diversity argument is taken to its logical conclusion, those traditions, too, will have to be reconsidered.

Let the High Court games begin. Whichever identity group they belong to, may the best legal minds get the four jobs, but if they are not there already, history suggests they would do well to relocate quickly to New South Wales or, next best bet, Victoria.