Laudable by Libs (Outside of Office) and Skillful Journalism

Former Australian prime ministers, Malcolm Turnbull (left), Tony Abbott (center) and Scott Morrison (right)

For much of my life, I was something of a political animal, tempered by social requirements, but eventually tamed and then driven into apathy by circumstance. However, given a chance this week to watch a series of brilliant documentaries about Australian politics with a Tokyo connection, I felt stirrings of an old flame.

Abbott in his budgie smugglers

Mark Willacy, a journalist for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who was based in Tokyo as its North Asia correspondent from 2008 to 2013, interviewed more than 60 current and former Australian politicians for the three-part documentary series, Nemesis, that aired over the past couple of weeks and told the story of Australia’s three Liberal Party of Australia prime ministers from 2013 to 2022. The multi-winner of Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzers, has done an incredible job in creating a captivating, enthralling series out of the usually bland and colorless world of Australian right-wing politics.

Abbott biting into a raw onion

As a bit of background, Australia is a deeply conservative country and has been ruled by right-leaning governments for most of its 123-year history as an independent nation. Sir Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, formed the Liberal Party in 1944. The party first won government in 1949 and has ruled over Australia for most of the time since, with the exception of the periods from 1983 to 1996, 2007 to 2013 and from 2022 onward.

Turnbull, probably the least repugnant of the three prime ministers, still got people turning up their noses

Although “liberal,” the party is far from being progressive as the term connotes in other English-speaking countries and is more neo-liberal, favoring little government intervention in the economy and traditional, WASP-dominated social values. Ruling in coalition with the right-wing National Party (and its predecessor the Country Party), the Liberals have lurched increasingly further rightward over the past few decades, similarly to most mainstream political parties in the Anglosphere.

Morrison infamously went on a secret holiday to Hawaii as Australia was being ravaged by the Black Summer bushfires

In the 21st century, the Liberal Party, particularly under the leadership of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, the influence of theism has had a noticeably tighter stronghold over the party. As with many right-wing parties, the Liberals are not powerful advocates of addressing climate change, with many joining the majority of the Nationals as outright denialists.

Morrison goes through some primitive ritual devoted to his imaginary friend at a cult run by a man who boasts his father was a “serial pedophile”

As someone with extreme left wing, atheistic political beliefs, I despise Australia’s current opposition party. Nonetheless, I take my hat off to the many politicians who took part in the Nemesis series, the bulk of them coming from the Liberal and National parties. To a person they were frank, bold and open in a manner rarely seen from politicians, and it made for gripping viewing of a story of much of the 2010s, a period notable because the Liberals had never deposed a leader while in government, yet within a few years of a landslide electoral victory in 2014 party maneuvering removed Abbott, then Turnbull and Morrison was staring down internal deposition when he was finally voted out. Interestingly, all three rate among the worst of Australia’s 31 prime ministers.

The then-PM chucks a shaka while having a bevvy with some punters while on his secret trip to Hawaii….just as fires that killed 34 and razed millions of hectares ravaged Australia

Nonetheless, I take my hat off to the Liberals who took part, especially former PMs Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, who spoke with seeming sincerity (you can never be sure with politicians, especially those with backgrounds in marketing, law and journalism) about incidents that must have been insanely painful. It was refreshing and gave me a respect for them that I had not previously held.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Morrison plays the ukulele…(unsurprisingly, not very well)

Abbott refused to take part in the documentaries, which also spoke a lot about his character. Also notably absent among the interviewees was Julie Bishop, the deputy prime minister for Abbott and Turnbull who retired from politics after being defeated in a leadership vote by Morrison. She was one of Australia’s most popular politicians, but seems to have chosen discretion in her approach to the program. Willacy wrote about who and how participants were gathered in another interesting article about the series.

Pretty accurate to say that Morrison governed like he welded

The ABC presented the era superbly and without bias or judgement, which was a magnificent effort considering what a divisive period it had been at times.

Morrison and his climate change denial prop, a lump of coal

Part one of Nemesis focused on the Abbott government from September 2013, when the staunch Catholic monarchist swept into office with a landslide win, until September 2015, when his mates made him the first Liberal prime minister to be deposed while in office.

Turnbull led a government initially viewed in Messianic terms as he took revenge on Abbott removing him from the party leadership in 2009, but the blue-blood who had also spearheaded a disastrous campaign to make Australia a republic, was gone from office by August 2018.

Somehow, probably as a comprise candidate to avoid putting the borderline fascist (and current Liberal leader) Peter Dutton into The Lodge, the Liberals made a leader of Morrison, whose record until then was notable for the disastrously incomprehensible So, Where the Bloody Hell Are Ya? tourism campaign and a cruel policy that confined asylum seekers in offshore concentration camps. The Morrison government is probably one of the worst in Australia’s history, the only doubts being raised by his colleagues and other 21st century prime ministerships.
















Barking Mad at a Dog Marathon

In a move I’m pretty sure I’ll end up regretting later this week, I spent nearly all day helping out at a dog marathon and having the time of my life!

I was supposed to help clean our village this morning, which is one of the requirements for living here.

But rain intervened. A friend had previously asked me to help out in the cleaning and operation of his mate’s dog marathon event, the first of its kind in Tokyo, apparently. The mate expected maybe a couple of dozens entries….almost 600 dogs applied (each paying a pretty hefty 4,000 yen to take part!) My mate’s mate needed help, so a group of us got together and volunteered to give them a hand.

I’m not too far from the event site at Showa Kinen Park and promised I’d go over once my chores were done.

Freed by the rain, I rode over earlier than expected and had a magnificent day despite bleak, icy weather, hunger and tiredness! How could I not have a magnificent day surrounded by literally hundreds of good doggos?

There were six races: 1.5 km and 3-km races, each categorized into small-, medium- or large-sized dogs. The pooches raced with their owners while attached to a leash.

There were also dog dancing exhibitions, dog chiropractors, stalls selling all sorts of dog-related accessories and even a vet on-site in case something happened (and they were also available to provide care to humans if need be).

My mates already had the place set up by the time I got there, so we just had fun watching the doggos and their owners. I even got to be the official starter for one of the races.

It took a while to get through the cleanup, and the park shut around the same time we finally finished.

I’ve got a couple of interviews lined up this week, on top of a grueling work schedule. I read the pamphlet for one of the companies I will test for, and completely lost confidence. They were keen after seeing my resume, as is often the case, but I wasn’t after seeing how much they want people to take a keen role in demonstrating leadership. Not really my forte. The drawing board is looking good. Even better now after having spent a day playing with the pups!

The First Class First Nations Film Festival

For a measly 1,000 yen I got to get a totally unexpected and delightfully amazing full day’s entertainment, a couple of souvenirs and an all-round wonderful time at the 2024 First Nations Film Festival held by the Australian Embassy in Tokyo at EUROSPACE.

I’ve always been sympathetic to the cause of Indigenous Australians as I’ve understood it, but in recent years I’ve developed a bit of empathy fatigue, or even borderline antipathy, as the blame for society’s shortcomings are increasingly laid at the feet of all white men.

So when Mrs. Kangaeroo expressed an interest in going to the festival after seeing an ad on Facebook, I wasn’t overly keen, expecting to cop a few hours of being lectured at for being a misogynistic racist, neither of which I believe I am (my track record perhaps suggests it’s a fair label).

But, we rarely get to spend time together, so I was up for a date with a gorgeous woman and decided to go along. Well, wasn’t I lucky?

We were presented with gifts of a koala and a teabag and settled in to hear a lecture from Waseda University Prof. Kenji Sawada on The Magic of Australian First Nation Films. I hadn’t looked at the program before entering and cringed when I heard a university professor would give a talk. My experience with Japanese academics has largely been that they are bland and boring. But then came the first surprise of the day as Sawada gave a wonderful talk (an exquisitely concise and animated) that truly described the magical side of Indigenous Australian filmmaking. Sawada clearly has a love for his topic and imparted that in the 30 minutes he spoke, going through a history of First Nations Aussies’ involvement in films, from Jedda through to today, and outlining the program.

The day was divided into two sessions: Program A, which featured the documentary Finke: There and Back, followed by the short films, Green Bush, My Bed Your Bed and Nulla Nulla (the final flick being the best of a day filled with highlights for me). Program B was the acclaimed feature, The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, which was followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s writer and lead actor, Leah Purcell, and producer, Bain Stewart.

Well, the films ran the whole gamut of emotions, making me laugh, cry, cheer, anger, frustrate, spite, love, hate, but most of all yearn to know more about a sadly neglected part of my native country. The selection of films was magnificent, particularly in Program A.

There’s no doubt The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a wonderful film with a powerful performance by Purcell, on and off the screen, but I found myself getting a little repulsed by preachiness as the movie inspired by Henry Lawson‘s much-loved short story, The Drover’s Wife moved more toward pushing a modern-day message.

But that mild sense of discomfort was completely dispelled in the final panel discussion with Purcell and Stewart as they unrolled the story behind the film and gave some insight into their lives and the indigenous film community in Australia. They completely won me over by the time they had finished and I was filled with admiration at their achievement. I hadn’t known Purcell before the day and read about her on the train ride home that night, learning what an incredible person she is and how she has dragged herself up through life. Her tale is certainly an inspirational one, and the titular character of her movie shows almost superhuman grit and determination that I got the impression derived from her creator.

All in all, the day was unimaginably superb! I was left with a lingering desire to learn more about indigenous Australia, a deep respect for the cultures of our First Nations peoples and admiration for the deep love that some Japanese people have for Australia. And I got a hot date to go with that, too!

‘Bitch-face’ Lovebird

I’m the ‘proud'(?) parent of a rosy-faced lovebird, who I must admit brings an immense amount of joy into my life, but I also learned a new Japanese phrase over the weekend that perfectly sums up these tiny avian pterrors!

Kozamesu, a contraction of the term kozakura inko mesu, literally a female rosy-faced lovebird, is a term used to describe the feisty nature of the birds.

A loose translation of the word kozamesu could be something like bitch-face lovebird. And my experience suggests the term is spot-on!

From the almost constant and often painful biting, aggressive defense of anything perceived as territory, our Dino is certainly short-tempered.

From the first day she joined us almost three years ago, Dino has been a fierce little bundle. Just about everybody who has come into contact with her at our home has been bitten. I currently have a huge sore on my bottom lip after receiving one of her “kisses.”

But Dino is also a source of great comfort and joy. She is clearly delighted by our presence and her love for Mrs. Kangaeroo and I is undoubted, even if she sometimes has some funny ways of showing it.

Gazing at Japanese Tits

Having put in the most demanding week of work I’ve done in years, then been woken early after a mostly sleepless night, I’ve kicked off this long-awaited weekend by sitting at the living room window and gazing for hours at Japanese tits.

In a life increasingly marked by failure, it’s fair to say that one area in which I’ve excelled is in having a good eye for the birds.

With a constant companion twittering away while nibbling on my ear, it’s hard to keep my mind of things like boobies and other types of tits, and before I come across like some fluffy-backed tit-babbler or horned screamer, I should note that this often gets me thinking about a good shag, European, rough-faced or otherwise, which can sometimes make me feel like some kind of common loon or even a spangled drongo.

But, I have to admit that I am utterly delightful it is to just sit around and watch the avian life enjoy itself in Kangaeroo Corner.

We get all sorts of bird life coming to enjoy our garden.

Unbelievably, this brings me immense joy.

Watching the birds has become enthralling for me, I guess because of the close bond I have with Dino and realizing how these gorgeous little creatures probably all have their own vibrant personalitie.

I’d never really given much thought to things like flora and fauna, but the pandemic has given me a chance to get closer to both and I am better off for it, hopefully becoming more empathetic toward people at the same time.

Pictured in today’s post are some of the little birds that have been coming to enjoy Kangaeroo Corner.

Banking On Banksia

Having caught the propagating bug last year, I’ve decided to try my hand at growing my own plants again in 2024, this time turning to the difficult proposition of raising banksias, the flower that most symbolizes Australian flora in my eyes.

So far, my luck with banksias hasn’t been great, mainly thanks to ignorance and ill preparation to be fair. And impatience, perhaps?

Kangaeroo Corner has a banksia that has grown well since it’s initial planting almost two years ago, but it has yet to flower for us. I expect it will do so one day.

But I still want to see the banksia flowers in the garden. We bought a hairpin banksia last year. It made it through the harsh summer, then got root rot when I planted it in the ground. It’s probably dead, but I put it back in a pot and keep looking after it for the time being in the hope that it may spring into life in the spring growing season, when I will make the final decision on its fate.

The wilted banksia was replaced by a seedling planted in autumn and a a lucky pick-up at year end by a huge, potted hairpin banksia destined for planting where the eucalypt had been before I removed it over the new year as it threatened other plants. And some banksia birthday candles, too, which should grow well closer to the ground.

In the meantime, I found a place in Japan selling Australian native plant seeds. I hadn’t planned on trying to propagate anything this winter, but I enjoyed the process last year even if the results weren’t great. I was satisfied because the most successful experiment came with kangaroo paw, which basically thrived, and most of the other dozen or so plants I tried didn’t work even though I got nearly all of them to germinate, including some heath banksia.

Banksia are fickle and difficult to raise, apparently.

Seeds arrived yesterday. Soil arrives today. I’ll study more, draw on what I learned last year, and give it a try again in another month or so, preparing in the meantime, and keeping the seeds away from the prying eyes (and belly) of our dinosaur.