Category: Strine Strife

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.
















Paws and Reflect

Possibly the most meaningful part of my Australian seeds experiment arose today when I transplanted my kangaroo paw seedlings.

The great experiment, which I expected would result in me proving to have a green thumb and presenting all my gardening mates with exotic plants has proven only that I am all thumbs.

I’ve killed nearly everything I planted, even the everlasting daises and golden everlastings that appeared to be growing so well.

I bumped them off by putting them in a hothouse on a boiling hot day, then giving too much fertilizer to the plants that survived.

A desert pea also looked promising, but I over-fertilized that, too.

I have a tray full of dwarf wattle ready for transplanting, a single honeysuckle banksia that can probably be nurtured under growth lights a little longer and a heath banksia that appears doom after being affected by mold.

Given the nature of my blog persona and the role of kangaroo decorations in the garden, though, it was the kangaroo paw that I most wanted to succeed.

It’s a pretty ominous role to be assigned, actually, because every plant in Kangaeroo Corner that I have most wanted to thrive–tree fern, jacaranda and mature versions of kangaroo paw planted when the garden was started–have all died or struggled.

Anyway, I started today by placing a layer of stones at the bottom of a pot, covering it with a layer or nutrient-rich potting mix bended with peat moss and then covering that with soil especially for Australian native plants.

I then gently removed the kangaroo paw seedlings from the growth pods where they had thrived over the past few weeks.

With customary clumsiness, I managed to kill off a couple of seedlings along the way, but eventually planted them all in the same pot.

I then gave the pot a good dose of water and left it in the sun with lots of prayers for success.

Last year, I killed the kangaroo paw in the garden through over-watering amid the summer humidity, only learning later that my treatment was almost the guaranteed method for ensuring the lovely flowers from Australia’s arid regions would wither and die. Oh, well. Live and learn and sorry to the adorable plants.

Potting the kangaroo paws topped off an absolutely outstanding day that would have been perfect had I been able to spend it with Mrs. Kangaeroo, but it still came bloody close to perfection anyway.

I woke early, cleaned and oiled my bike and headed off at a fierce pace, backed by a gentle tailwind.

I made it to Tokyo Tower where I met many old friends for the first time in years and had a wonderful surprise of having a packet of Iced VoVos waiting for me: a gift from a Melbourne friend who has since headed off to a separate part of the country.

Later, a group of us went off to the nearby ANA Intercontinental Hotel and had an enormous buffet breakky, where the interesting and enjoyable conversation continued.

We spent a couple of hours reminiscing, but then had to go our separate ways.

I wanted to get home quick as the dinosaur was in her cage and was probably itching to get out and about, and I was still a couple of hours away.

I rode back in the delightful spring sunshine.

Fortunately, there was almost no wind, which was a blessing as we have had strong winds daily for weeks now.

As I rode along Koshu Kaido, headed for home, I realized I was looking at a record unique for me.

My average speed for the ride was exceeding 30 km/h.

It’s not unheard of for me over short distances, but I was still over the 30 km/h mark with more than 50 km ridden.

I only had 20 km to go on terrain I knew well and felt confident I could maintain the speed.

I’ve never maintained such speed over such a distance, my most notable record of sustained pace being a 180 km-ride at about 28 km/h a few years ago.

But that was when my cycling was thriving.

The past couple of years, my cycling ability has declined thanks to injuries, illness, aging, priorities, weight gain and opportunities, to name a few factors.

So I felt chuffed to be presented with this chance.

And the glorious sunshine was making it even more appealing.

An amazing, unseasonably clear view of Mount Fuji threatened to thwart my attempt at this record, though.

As I hit the Tamagawa Cycling Road for what I regarded as the home stretch, I stopped to take a photo.

There will be other chances to create cycling records.

Seeing Mount Fuji with the opportunity to take a photo is a rare blessing that demands addressing.

So, I stopped and took some shots.

It was totally worth it.

And when I got back on the bike, I got to maintain the speed I’d been looking for.

It was a delightful reward when I got home.

But not as delightful as the pleasure-filled greeting the dinosaur gave me when I got back and let her loose.

We spent the next few hours playing together, vegging out and eating.

I’ve even managed to save a couple of Iced VoVos for Mrs. Kangaeroo (but probably only because I managed to pick up some Choco-Chip GariGarikun, which I hope might be the seasonal flavor for the early summer).

She should be home any minute now and I am looking forward to seeing her.

Where’s the Whist Amid the Wisteria?

Being greeted by the sublimely serene sight of fully blooming wisteria in the outer suburban wonderland of Yakushiike Park only to have the calmness crushed by the piercing squeal of a little prick abusing and haranguing me for riding a bicycle in the park wasn’t really what I had been expecting at 5 a.m.

As the angry man hurled invective at me, I felt my blood boil and the urge to smash him in the face was becoming almost uncontrollable.

He screamed loudly, fiercely and incessantly as I tried to take photos of La Cangura amid the flowers.

I envisaged punching him and using my mountain bike shoes to kick him in the face while he lay on the ground. I was utterly infuriated and the prospect of clobbering this bloke was made even juicier by the fact that he was only about half my size and at least close to my age, so he was not immediately apparent physical threat, attracting the bully boy in me. Add in the self-righteousness of having done nothing to this person other than strenuously avoided coming into close contact.

Thankfully, my life is enough of a mess at the moment to not need to add charges or jail time, let alone endure starting over again from scratch and, most importantly, having to live with having severely hurt someone, so I took my bicycle and walked away.

Honestly, though, rather than those quixotic ideals, the little prick’s saving grace was that he appeared to be carrying what I thought was a small dachshund unable to walk for itself, and I didn’t want to do anything that might lead to harming the pooch.

Anyway, I strolled around the park, trying not to get too mad and focusing on getting some good shots in the rain before I would have to rush home in time for a 7 a.m. meeting.

As the gallery shows, my efforts were resoundingly successful and I was blessed. The spitting rain that stopped me going on a real ride was proving a blessing as it accentuated the greenery of the park.

And it was as I came to this realization that I made another discovery: the bloody dachshund the angry little prick was carrying wasn’t a dog; it was a bloody telephoto lens. He had been screaming at me because the bike had given me the speed I needed to get to the best photo spots ahead of him. For some reason, that made his anger a little understandable and I soothed significantly. Knowing I had a camera full of good shots also helped.

Today promises to have some more wonderful moments. I’ll meet my brother and sister-in-law for the first time in several years, albeit briefly as they are flying out. And get to be joined by my youngest daughter! It has already been a magical day and will get better, too.

The Times, They Are A Changed

Imagine this today? No way!

Japan will finally re-open its doors to unrestricted travelers in October 2022, over 2 1/2 years since imposing strict entry requirements (especially on foreigners) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the yen at its weakest against most major currencies since the early 1990s (and effectively even weaker still in real terms as the yen of the early 1990s carried far greater purchasing power than the yen of the 2020s), tourists are predicted to flock back into Japan.

Japan is one of the world’s great tourist destinations and it is Kangaeroo’s belief that the hospitality of many Japanese people show toward tourists make it this way. Japan has an extremely well-deserved reputation for being hospitable toward visitors, and that was also Kangaeroo’s experience.

People are expected to come to the Japanese wonderland to see such treats as the mix of ancient and modern traditions, the neon-lit cities, the amazing food, incredible trains, anime, manga, J-Pop and all sorts of delights.

Not a tourism ad, but an example of the exoticism and sexualization used to deal with Japan in the olden days when Boomers were still young

Things have kinda changed since Kangaeroo first came here, though. In those days, the selling point was the exoticism of Japan, especially its women, and the marketing was highly sexualized in a manner unthinkable in today’s prissy age of political correctness. Back in the day, Japan was plugged as being the homeland of topless pearl divers and geisha girls.

MSA Airlines, the forerunner of today’s Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines, tried in an October 1968 advertisement to entice tourists to the Land of the Rising Sun by saying, “Imagine yourself…in Tokyo, where extravagant floorshows are staged in lavish nightclubs and the precise rituals of a geisha part can be seen in many restaurants.” Imagine yourself nowadays if you tried to sell travel with a line like that? (Or even worse, what they said about Hong Kong, where you could be: “Wandering ‘the world of Suzie Wong’ with its brilliant neon lights beckoning you to sample the exciting nightlife.” Definitely a case of mixing up what’s Wong and what’s right.)