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Saturday, 1 March 2008

A few Aussie tales - and truths for you

Before I get going on this subject, if you're interested in marketing and you sometimes wonder why what happens happens, scroll down to December and read something about poltergeists, which I just found in draft and edited.

If it doesn't make you smile, I'll be surprised.

Now to my subject.

The English tend to make stupid jokes about the Australians, as most of the first white settlers were criminals.

The jokes are stupid because hardly any of those people were what we would call criminals now. If you look at the appalling misery most people lived in, you'd have had to be a saint or stupid to stay honest. The choice was simple: steal or starve.

However, the chief criminals here now are often - just like everywhere else - the grimy politicians and their henchmen. I learned this the first time I came , in 1971. I had a beautiful new wife called Anna, was so broke I lived under a false name, and came out to stay with her parents - and to try and make some money.

I failed dismally - and the one thing that would have made me successful I never even tried. I asked people about mail order, and they said there was no future for it. Like the idiot I am I took their word for it. Ha!

Anna had been a world-class dancer with the Katherine Dunham ballet, a top model and was actually a Maori Princess. She was a pretty remarkable woman. She introduced female wrestling in Australia - and her description of that was hilarious.

She had also worked in politics and was engaged before she met me to a powerful politician called Lionel Murphy Q. C., who became Attorney General, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Lionel ended up indicted for taking bribes or something equally shady, and only beat the rap by dying of a heart attack - no surprise because he drank like a fish. During that visit Anna and I had a memorable lunch with him during which he drank wine out of two glasses.

Then he took us up to his office and showed us all the legislation he would put through if they got elected - which he did. "And the person who inspired me to do all this was your wife," he added.

My most memorable day that visit was driving from Sydney to Canberra with Anna and a gay friend called Michael who had worked in stockbroking and politics. He told us all about the crooked stuff that went on - and still does - for which there is a wonderful Aussie word, "shonky".

Judging by the front page of The Australian yesterday, nothing much has changed. The PM of New South Wales seems to have some rather shady friends, there's massive corruption going on in one of the local councils - even Berlusconi would be impressed.

My most memorable afternoon on that long ago visit was spent drinking with one of Anna's ex-boyfriends, Clyde Packer - brother of Kerry. Clyde was actually his father's favoured heir, but they had a row. When Clyde took Anna to meet his father, the legendary Sir Frank Packer, the old rogue tried to put his hand up her skirt.

Don't blame him. God, she was beautiful.

My most memorable sight was a TV show which featured film of a few Sydney detectives taking bribes. You could see the cash, hear the conversations - everything. Then they interviewed the chief of the crime squad, after showing him the film.

"What do have to say about that?"

"What?" was the reply.

"The bribe taking."

"What bribe taking? What are you talking about?"

Talk about nerve.

The only people I've seen that worried me more than that lot were the terrifying security guards in our hotel in Kiev last year, who had obviously got the job because they were too villainous to fit in with the normal criminal community.

But that's another story.

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