Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hate-filled and dishonest Leftist film about Australia accepted uncritically as truth overseas

Baz Luhrmann's first big mistake was to get so full of himself that he called his movie "Australia". Worse, he then added titles to the beginning and end of his $180 million spectacular to tell viewers his take on our history was historically accurate. And so a movie that is a huge grab-bag of cliches - a collation of gaudy images pecked from deserted movie sets by an insatiable bowerbird - isn't just bad storytelling. It's also an exercise in bad faith - a movie allegedly about Australia, defining Australia, that's shot by a man who actually doesn't understand the country, and doesn't like it, either.

And that lazy contempt is precisely what American critics, for instance, have picked up on. What's more, fooled by Luhrmann into thinking they really are seeing Australia as we are, they've assumed as true that we're as heart-rotten as he shows. Hear it from the New York Observer: "Wow, who knew Australia was so racist?" Or from Cleveland's Plain Dealer: "Luhrmann . . . examines the rampant racism of his then-segregated country . . ." Or from Variety: "(T)o a significant extent, the film is also a mea culpa, in a vast popular-entertainment format, for the cruel racial policies once imposed by the Australian government . . ." Or from Entertainment Weekly: "Australia incorporates real history into its fiction. For decades, mixed-race children were forcibly taken from their families and trained in church- and government-sanctioned schools to become servants in white households . . ."

If Luhrmann had simply stuck to making the camp songless musical fantasy that parts of this film clearly are - a kind of Priscilla-Queen-Of-The-Desert-Goes-Droving mock epic - he might have given us the next great Australian film we've prayed for. But discipline is precisely what he lacks most. He's filmed instead parts of several movies-united stylistically only by his manic urge to grab the shiniest cliches and polish them to a cheap brilliance.

Australia starts with a story of a cliched young English aristocrat, played by Nicole Kidman, who flies to the Northern Territory on the eve of World War II to rescue the cattle station left by her dead husband. She finds she can save her Faraway Downs only if she droves her herd to Darwin with a ragtag bunch of helpers to break an evil cattle king's monopoly on supplying meat to the army. It's a nice, if familiar, premise which offers lots of scope for comic turns by Hugh Jackman as the cliched rough-nut Drover who falls for the English rose; Jack Thompson as the cliched educated drunk who smashes his last bottle of booze to come good; Bryan Brown as the cliched villain complete with six-gun; Yuen Wah as the cliched jabbering Chinese cook driving the chuck wagon; and David Ngoombujarra as the cliched black Tonto to Jackman's Lone Ranger. And, naturally, all the Aborigines are nice, and some are even magic.

Indeed, nothing at all is too cliched for Luhrmann - whether it's the old cattle-stampede-towards-a-cliff, or the embarrassingly awkward death scene poor Thompson must perform of the trampled alkie, a hero at last, blood trickling from his mouth as he tries to stammer his last, broken words.

Some cliches are too shiny for Luhrmann to use once, so Jackman emerges not just from swirls of dust, but from swirls of smoke and mist, too. The cliche of the English stuffed blouse is just as irresistible, so Kidman not only says "shoo" to cows she's trying to herd, but "my condolences" to a grieving Aboriginal boy. We even see dusty drovers spilling out of their Darwin pub to dance for joy at seeing rain. As drovers do. Ahem, Baz. I grew up in Darwin, which is in fact a tropical city. If we'd danced every time it rained in the wet season, we'd never sit down.

All this could yet have been pulled together into a highly stylised comedy-drama, not just exploiting cliches but positively romping in them. But there's a big snag: when the heroes' great drove to Darwin finally ends amid cheering crowds and blaring orchestra, the film is still not even half-way through its nearly three hours. And it's around this point that Luhrmann and his three co-writers must have looked at each other and said, "Oops, what do we do next?" Good question - and for the next hour and a half, it's clear they never really agreed on an answer.

Drama or comedy? Do we kill off Drover? Do we have him making happy families with his English love? Should we leave in the bit where Kidman's character is reported dead, for reasons we've forgotten? Or shall we just make it up as we go along? Which they did. The soundtrack is one giveaway of this confusion, veering wildly from Bach to Rolf Harris and his wobble board; from sturdy stockman singing Waltzing Matilda (as they also do) to sobbing violins suddenly announcing it's crying time. Indeed, it's reported that Luhrmann even changed the ending in the editing suite at the last minute, which surprises me. I wouldn't have thought it possible he had one even worse.

But one thing Luhrmann did decide was to pack away that Priscilla-style camp that had made some of the first half bearable and to switch to serious-or as serious as he could without putting a fold in Kidman's forehead. The film now becomes not just a drama somehow involving the 1942 bombing of Darwin by Japan, but a roar against the racism it had only mumbled against before. But, typically, the racism Luhrmann attacks is a racism of cliches, and is illustrated with yet more cliches, each more fact-free than the last.

So Drover complains, for instance, that he lost his first wife to TB because hospitals didn't treat Aborigines-when in fact Darwin hospital did treat them, even if three small nurse-run private bush hospitals had not. Missions also treated Aborigines, and one pregnant nurse, a Mrs Taylor, even died of illness while working with tribes in Groote Eylandt in 1934. But Luhrmann shows no such sympathetic officials. Instead, almost every white character from the NT administrator's wife down, other than our two heroes, is portrayed as a racist.

A recurring injustice Luhrmann keeps harping on is that "boongs" were banned from pubs. In one of Jackman's most emotional scenes, Drover finally forces a bartender to give his Aboriginal friend a drink - his biggest victory against racism. Nowhere is it acknowledged - as anyone can read in the reports then of the Northern Territory administrator - that serving Aborigines was forbidden because the booze and opium were devastating a people only just learning to deal with white society and Asian traders.

Luhrmann, in particular, should know this ban was driven not by racism but deep concern for Aboriginal welfare. After all, Australia stars the great Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, whose career and marriage have almost been ruined by his own drinking. And alcohol is now once again banned in many Aboriginal communities in the NT, and not because we're racist.

These two great flaws of Australia - the cliched images and Luhrmann's cliched history - combine to produce what is undoubtedly the movie's most malevolent scene. Most of the second half of Australia centres on Nullah, a part-Aboriginal boy that Kidman's character "adopts" but who is stolen from her by corrupt police acting under a "stolen generations" law that a mission official smugly explains is used to breed out Aborigines. (So why steal Nullah from a white parent? It's one more bit of the plot that makes no sense, like having soldiers pulling out of bombed Darwin, a city they must actually defend.)

And here's that scene: as Nullah, played by the magnetic and beautiful Brandon Walters, is marched down Darwin's docks with other "stolen" boys to be shipped to the Garden Point home on Melville Island, a sneering white boy holding a kangaroo (yes!) abuses him: "Creamy, didn't your mother want you?" A racist white kid holding a kangaroo in a film called Australia-could there be anything more us? To add to the white crime against Nullah, the Japanese army is sweeping towards Australia and he and the other "stolen" boys are being sent to an island that one character notes "will be the first place the Japs hit". White women and children are being evacuated from Darwin in the background, but here the Aboriginal boys are being sent to their deaths. To grind in his point, Luhrmann has the Japanese bombing not just the children's home at Melville Island (which they didn't) but invading it.

Our shame is complete. This is the racist Australia that reviewers overseas-and even here-have accepted as not just a movie, but the shameful truth of our past. But now note a few historical truths that Luhrmann overwrites to tell his story of white infamy.

First, a Federal Court test case found no evidence children in the NT were ever stolen just because they were black, and no one has yet identified 10 anywhere who were stolen because they were Aboriginal and not because they needed help. Indeed, Colin Macleod, a NT patrol officer and later Victorian magistrate, wrote in his memoirs that the children sent to Garden Point were half-castes who'd often been rejected by full-bloods, and needed protection from "real danger and abject misery". For instance, he wrote, "Brother Pye of the Catholic mission at Garden Point once saw a six-year-old part-coloured boy speared by a full-blooded Aboriginal, almost as a joke, just because the boy was a `yella-fella' . . . "Half-caste kids would now and again turn up at missions with spear marks and signs of horrific beatings. "Babies were occasionally abandoned and young children left to fend for themselves."

Father John Leary, who also served at Garden Point, said in 2000 of the children he'd helped: "Some few of them, I believe, were `stolen', most were there for some good reason, some sent by parents or parent for education . . ." It's this "white" education, incidentally, that Luhrmann shows Nullah wisely rejecting, returning instead with Gulpilil to his tribe. How did he ever learn English? Thank heavens Brandon Walters, who plays him, didn't do the same, or Luhrmann wouldn't have his star.

But what of Luhrmann's story that Aboriginal children were knowingly sent into danger at Melville Island? Luhrmann needed only to ask some of the Aborigines at the Darwin premiere of his own film to learn that children were not sent to the island as the Japanese drew near, but sent from it. He could have asked, for instance, Ilene Neville, who told AAP she was seven when she was evacuated from Garden Point and brought to Darwin, where she witnessed the bombing.

Magdalen McNamara, an Our Lady of the Sacred Heart nun famous in the NT, recalls picking up 30 Garden Point girls on the day after the bombing of Darwin who'd already been evacuated to Pine Creek, far to the south. She brought them to South Australia, where they spent the war, while other Aboriginal children from the Top End were sent to safety as far away as Sydney, where they went to local state schools.

This is the real history of Australia - there's racism, yes, but more commonly there are people struggling, however imperfectly, to do their best, some bringing care and protection to Aborigines at great personal sacrifice. That's the real Australia, and how sad that Luhrmann has sold the world his Australia instead - a ghastly cliche of the demons we never were.


NSW public hospitals are full, better head to Queensland

And Queensland is pretty bad -- as shown by the fact that it was only a private hospital that could take the patient

A woman critically injured in a car crash had to be flown to Queensland for treatment as not one NSW hospital could treat her. Georgie Batterson endured a 400km helicopter flight to Southport on the Gold Coast for emergency surgery after Saturday's crash on the Pacific Highway near Kempsey. She was refused admission to every hospital in Sydney and Newcastle as the entire NSW hospital system was on "code red", meaning no space could be found for her.

The 56-year-old Kempsey woman's shocking story emerged as her husband Ian, also injured in the accident, finally tracked down where his wife had been taken. Mrs Batterson is now in an induced coma in a private hospital on the Gold Coast - with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, broken pelvis, broken leg and a shattered ankle.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that a trauma doctor with the Westpac Rescue helicopter spent two hours on Saturday night calling hospitals in Sydney as well as Newcastle's John Hunter "begging" them to take her as she lay strapped to a trolley, critically injured and crying in pain. He was told not one of the 400 intensive care beds in NSW was free. It was then that rescue helicopter pilots made the decision to fly Mrs Batterson to Queensland.

Mr Batterson yesterday told The Daily Telegraph he was traumatised by what his wife had to endure. "As far as nurses and emergency staff at Kempsey, they were perfect . . . absolutely 150 per cent," he said. "There is something seriously wrong when you can't get treated in your home state. The pilot was desperately asking them where he was going. The trauma bloke said, 'Bugger it, we'll go to Queensland'."

NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner said the Battersons' story was a "disgrace". "This State Government has become so dysfunctional it can't meet its basic responsibilities," he said.


Muslims say protests over planned school are "hurtful"

Maybe they should stop preaching hate against Israel and the West, then. I think Mr Trad should send his complaint to the Ayalollahs of Iran or the Wahhabist mullahs of Saudi Arabia -- which is where the problem originates

PROTESTERS fighting to stop an Islamic school opening at Carrara on the Gold Coast have been accused of linking young students to terrorism. A board member of the planned school slammed the protesters as "un-Australian". "It's not only upsetting, it's deeply hurtful," school board trustee Keyser Trad said. "To make associations between primary school-aged children and terrorists is just hard to even comprehend. "I've never seen this kind of thing in Australia. It's causing a deep wound in our hearts."

Almost 200 protesters gathered outside the Gold Coast City Council chambers on Monday to demonstrate their objection to the planned Carrara school, with placards, Australian flags, chants and a sound system booming out Aussie rock anthems. Some of the protesters claim the school would foster segregation, or even potential terrorists, comments that angered Mr Trad and disappointed some local councillors.

Mr Trad, who also serves on the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said religion should not be a reason for protesting against the school. "The kids who would go to this school and their parents are normal, everyday people who just happen to be Muslim," he said.

The council's planning committee chairman, Cr Ted Shepherd, deplored aspects of Monday's protest. "I was a little bit disappointed with some of the behaviour," he said. "I don't think people should take to that tone of demonstration over what is really a town planning issue."

Some opponents of the school have expressed concerns over issues such as traffic and parking but Mr Trad said the school was following all council recommendations. "Everything that the council has asked, we have done it signed, sealed and delivered."

Today is the last day for residents to make submissions to the council about the proposal. If approved, the school is unlikely to open until at least the middle of next year.


Global warming kills possum?

More Greenie attention-seeking lies. If the possum was on way to extinction anyway, how do we know that warming made any difference? They cite hot weather in 2005 but there was no global warming in 2005. Any extra heat at that time would be due to other, more local, weather influences

SCIENTISTS say a white possum native to Queensland's Daintree forest has become the first mammal to become extinct due to man-made global warming. The Courier-Mail reports the white lemuroid possum, a rare creature found only above 1000m in the mountain forests of far north Queensland, has not been seen for three years. Experts fear climate change is to blame for the disappearance of the highly vulnerable species thanks to a temperature rise of up to 0.8C.

Researchers will mount a last-ditch expedition early next year deep into the untouched "cloud forests" of the Carbine range near Mt Lewis, three hours north of Cairns, in search of the tiny tree-dweller, dubbed the "Dodo of the Daintree".

Scientists believe some frog, bug and insects species have also been killed off by climate change. But this would be the first known loss of a mammal and the most significant since the extinction of the Dodo and the Tasmanian Tiger. "It is not looking good," researcher Steve Williams said. "If they have died out it would be first example of something that has gone extinct purely because of global warming." [Fact-free assertion]

Professor Williams, director of the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University, said the white lemuroid possum had been identified as highly vulnerable five years ago. "It only takes four or five hours of temperatures above 30C to kill this highly vulnerable species," he said. "They live off the moisture in the trees in the cooler, high-altitude cloud forests and, under extreme heat, they are unable to maintain their body temperature." He said record high temperatures in the summer of 2005 could have caused a massive die-off.

"Prior to 2005 we were seeing a lemuroid every 45 minutes of spotlighting at one main site at Mt Lewis," Professor Williams said. "But, in three years, in more than 20 hours of intensive spotlighting, none has been sighted."

Reef and Rainforest Research Centre chief executive Sheridan Morris said the "eyes of the world" would be on next year's the expedition to find the little creature. "If it has died out it will be devastating," Ms Morris said. "It is a big one, and a big one to bang the drum over. "It is equally as shocking as losing an iconic marine species like a whale or the dugong."

Source. And Andrew Bolt gives the lies a detailed debunking.

Victorian police force awash with convicted cops

ONE hundred and sixty-eight serving members of Victoria Police have criminal convictions, it was revealed last night. They have been convicted of offences including serious assaults, trafficking and possession of drugs, theft, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office. Another 42 serving police have been cautioned or entered a diversion program over less serious offences. A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the figures did not include police found guilty of serious traffic offences.

The shock figures were provided to the Herald Sun in response to an inquiry made two months ago. Their release comes as new laws making it easier to sack police are to be debated in Parliament this week. The changes to the Police Regulations Act will strengthen the dismissal process for matters of not only criminal behaviour but misconduct, persistent poor performance and loss of confidence by the Chief Commissioner.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius, head of the force's Ethical Standards Department, said last night the criminal offence figures confirmed the force was getting better at catching and convicting members who did the wrong thing. "The community can take some comfort from the fact that we are getting better at catching our own and holding those who do the wrong thing accountable," he said. "We're also becoming more effective in holding them accountable in court."

Mr Cornelius said that in recent years the conviction rate for police charged with criminal offences had risen from just over 40 per cent to almost 80 per cent. "This is a powerful message to the very small percentage of our members who do the wrong thing - that they will get caught and they will be convicted," he said.

Mr Cornelius said 16 of the 168 police who had either pleaded guilty or been found guilty of criminal offences had committed serious assaults. He said 49 were guilty of theft and the other 103 included drug offences, administration of justice offences, offensive behaviour, soliciting for prostitution and being found in a common gaming house. Mr Cornelius said there had been no incidents of Victorian police drink-driving on duty in a police vehicle in three years.


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