Sunday, November 22, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that Malcolm Turnbll has more in common with the Labor party than with the conservative party that he ostensibly leads

A remarkable example of Jewish drive

For fellow lovers of onomastics: Edelsten is a slight modification of Edelstein, which means "noble stone" or gemstone -- a typical Ashkenazi surname

LUNCH is over at Bondi's Icebergs Dining Room and Bar and she's American and blonde, teetering on patent-leather heels and wearing a diaphanous dress, short and plunging. He wears black hair, black shoes, a white mattress-ticking cotton linen suit and the thousand-yard stare of hardened celebrity.

Icebergs is the stylish and expensive watering hole where being seen is part of the fare, but surely none of the clientele had seen anything like Geoffrey Edelsten starring in the latest instalment of his life as a movie. In eight days he will marry Oklahoma-born Brynne Mariah Gordon, 26. At 66, it may be his last picture show.

Edelsten has swum in the fountain of youth for years. He wants to be forever young. His first wife, Leanne, was fresh out of Alice Springs and 19, two decades younger than he.

Brynne Gordon burst on to the Australian scene and nearly out of her dress in September at the Brownlow Medal count, when she walked down the blue carpet on Edelsten's arm. Journalists scurried to fill in her background, finding her MySpace entry oddly compelling: "You are only as strong as the tables you dance on, the drinks you mix and the friends you roll with."

With the media treating her words as a life philosophy, Edelsten says they were removed from the website but he has sent a DVD invitation to his second wedding at Melbourne's Crown Casino to hundreds of friends, including Jeanne Pratt, Malcolm Turnbull, Karl Stefanovic, Lisa Wilkinson, that certainly enhances a table-dancing attitude to life.

Not only did Edelsten pay Seinfeld's Jason Alexander and The Nanny's Fran Drescher to narrate their love story but the couple re-enacted their meeting, proposal and courtship.

They were filmed staying at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel and shopping in Rodeo Drive – two locations, along with Alexander's presence, that prompted memories of the film, Pretty Woman, the heart-warming story of a rich, work-obsessed and lonely man falling for a younger woman.

The Iceberg lunchers watched agog as Edelsten's party left the restaurant. Some might have recognised the GP who introduced corporate medicine to Australia. Others might have remembered him as the face of the Sydney Swans, or the high-flyer who went to jail and was barred from working as a doctor. All were clearly astounded by his bride-to-be. "I hate all the attention," Edelsten says before obligingly going down to the Bondi sand to be photographed with his fiancee.

Once he was the king of the world. The eldest of two sons of financially comfortable Melbourne ragtraders, Edelsten was born in Carlton but grew up in Toorak.

He had been a prefect at Mount Scopus Memorial College, captain of the school Australian rules and cricket teams and shared the 1963 third-year anatomy exhibition at the University of Melbourne with the present vice-chancellor of Monash University, Richard Larkins.

After graduating, he worked as a GP in Sydney and the bush and after some time in the US in the 1970s returned brimming with ideas. He sponsored Carlton's scantily clad cheerleaders and started a chain of medical clinics that offered not only attention-seeking white pianos and chandeliers but bulk-billing of patients. Edelsten earned the ire of the Australian Medical Association, which was upset that mass-produced medicine stopped patient choice and the doctor's handy gap fee.

Having made millions in Sydney, Edelsten was a natural fit to personify a new image of the flagging Swans. He seemed to possess the money, the woman, the cars, the helicopter, the pizazz. The Swans drew crowds of 40,000-plus, got into the finals, somebody won the Brownlow, Swans au go-go.

Then it stopped. There were telephone threats, tricked-up pornographic photographs distributed, resignation, marriage breakdown, bankruptcy, a sensational trial and jail. After being released from Long Bay [jail], he was barred from practising medicine but free to run a medical corporation. He started doing university courses and in four years took masters degrees in law, business administration, sports medicine, occupational medicine, science, family medicine and health-care management and a doctorate in health from New England, Wollongong, Edith Cowan and Charles Sturt. "An achievement believed unequalled in Australia by one individual . . . No, I don't think I'm obsessive," Edelsten says.

Interest in Edelsten waned after his fall from grace. Occasionally there were reports – unsuccessful attempts at re-registration on the NSW and Victoria medical boards, a $200 speeding fine.

Edelsten devotes much energy to challenging media coverage. He has gone to the Press Council, conducts long exchanges with editors, pays Google to alert him when his name appears. A website,, appeared this week naming 10 journalists – including the Herald's Andrew Hornery and Kate McClymont, the investigative reporter Paul Barry and A Current Affair's Adam Shand. Eight of them have one thing in common – they reported on Edelsten.

Edelsten brought a public relations man to the Icebergs lunch. The waitress had run through the Italian-style menu, lingering on the selection of seasonal fish, when the PR man said Australian journalism liked to tear down tall poppies, and noted that Michael Jackson had been attacked during life but lauded after death. Gordon ordered steak. Edelsten's PR man went for the baby snapper, Edelsten too. When the fish arrived, Gordon said she did not like the eye staring at her.

Edelsten seems to have suffered much illness and injury. The late Fred Hollows removed his right eye in 1985. The next year a car crash broke his legs. He reportedly suffered a heart attack the day after he was struck off the medical roll in Victoria in 1992.

Earlier that year he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Vinko Dolenc, a neurosurgeon, removed it in July 1995. Edelsten says he feels fine, apart from the fact that when he scratches his nose, he feels it on his left forehead.

Edelsten says he would not do everything again. He worries about the impact of his fame on his family. His father, who died two years ago, loathed the publicity. They did not speak for four years.

But it was not all sadness. "I was driving through east Los Angeles, a poor black area, in a Rolls-Royce, and there are some poor blacks kids, obviously out of work, and they see this car and they get up and they clap. You can see their thoughts: 'one day, maybe me', " Edelsten says.


Injustice at the hands of the crooked Australian Federal Police

Yet more hot water for an arrogant, incompetent and poorly-led body

A PILOT who spent almost 1000 days in jail for a crime he did not commit is planning to sue the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for compensation.

Frederick Martens, 60, was sentenced to five years' jail after being accused of a 2001 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea. But last week in Queensland's Court of Appeal, Justice Richard Chesterman quashed the conviction on federal child sex tourism charges in 2006 and set aside the jail sentence, finding there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.

And now Mr Martens is demanding a change in the law that left him unable to defend himself against the false accusations. "Because of the nature of the accusations nobody wanted to know me or have anything to do with me," Mr Martens said. "This has totally ruined my life. It has cost my businesses in Papua New Guinea millions in lost earnings. "But more importantly it has cost me the life of my daughter Stephanie, who died at six months old from malaria because I was unable to travel and secure her paperwork to bring her back to Australia for treatment."

The case against Mr Martens, who ran PNG's equivalent of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, hinged on the timing of the assault allegation and the claim he was flying at the time. He requested the official flight records but was told they did not exist.

Justice Chesterman said: "After his arrest the petitioner was released on bail, a condition of which was that he not leave Australia. It was therefore impossible for him to travel to PNG to conduct his own inquiries ... It was, in any event, eminently reasonable for him to rely upon the resources of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the AFP to obtain the records. They undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist. "The records have always existed and have now been produced. It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other objected to their use in the reference on the ground that the petitioner should have obtained them earlier."

Mr Martens said it was only when his wife, Rose, went to PNG and made a request over the counter at a government agency that the flight records were discovered. "They were there all along," he said.

Mr Martens' solicitor Chris Rose said it was unjust that "anybody can accuse anybody of having sex with somebody overseas and the AFP can take away your passport".

Mr Martens is now with his family at his farm at Mareeba, west of Cairns."This must never be allowed to happen to anyone again," he said. "It has ruined my life."

The AFP declined to comment.


Conservative politicians are "coming out" over their disbelief in global warming

The Libs' Senate leader is encouraging climate sceptics to speak out. Nick Minchin, the Liberals' Senate leader, is playing a very edgy political game as he tries - in a direct challenge to Malcolm Turnbull - to get the Opposition to vote down the emissions trading scheme. It's high risk for Turnbull, Minchin and the Liberals. Minchin is openly rejecting the science on climate and encouraging other Liberal sceptics to speak out. This is audacious behaviour by the fourth most-senior person in the Opposition, who's in the leadership group.

But it seems likely Minchin, chief of the Liberals' conservative wing, is more in tune than Turnbull with the party's grassroots. Sources report the rank and file has become more critical of the ETS in the past three months, and Minchin's outspoken comments have been getting positive feedback.

The obvious downside for Turnbull is that his pro-ETS view has become increasingly out of sync with the membership (which, of course, should not be equated with the public). However unhelpful Minchin's comments, he's reprising views he expressed in the Howard years. By 2007, the then prime minister, previously himself a sceptic, had shifted, in the desperate hope of getting some ''cred'' on climate, and the government started to look to an ETS.

But Minchin, though government Senate leader, was having none of it. Saying ''scepticism is one of the all-time great Australian attributes'', he told The Age's Katharine Murphy the science of global warming wasn't settled, and ''to have some Mickey Mouse thing in Australia might make some people feel good but will do nothing for emissions and it will hurt the Australian economy''.

If a greater cause demands, he can, however, be flexible on the issue. When in July last year Turnbull and environment spokesman Greg Hunt were trying to stop then Opposition leader Brendan Nelson moving to the right on emissions trading, Minchin backed the Turnbull-Hunt line, presumably fearing that if they were thwarted, the leadership of Nelson, who he supported, would be undermined (it was anyway, even though Nelson gave in).

Minchin is one of the most experienced and savvy Liberal MPs. He is also among the toughest factional warriors, and yesterday was accused by moderate Liberal backbencher Mal Washer of using the climate change issue to pursue the factional war between conservatives and small-l liberals in the party.

In personal style, Minchin is friendly, relaxed and open (perhaps partly because he was always around journalists - his mother was in the federal parliamentary press gallery; his wife worked in The Age's Canberra bureau before their marriage). But in views he's an ideologue, with strong stands on issues ranging well beyond climate. When Howard in 2006 was trying to reassure people he wouldn't bring in even more severe industrial relations changes after WorkChoices, Minchin was caught on tape advocating another wave of reform. He has also championed unfashionable causes such as voluntary voting.

As the emissions trading issue inches towards its dangerous climax, Minchin seems emboldened.

He said last month that even if the Government met all the Opposition's demands, there was no guarantee the party room would approve the legislation (which begged the question of why you'd bother with negotiations).

Then last week came Four Corners, where Minchin said a majority of the Liberal Party wouldn't accept the position that humans were the main cause of global warming; it would be difficult for Coalition members to vote for the scheme, he said.

Addressing the Senate yesterday, Minchin began by congratulating Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce (who won't vote for the scheme in any circumstances) for his ''erudite contribution to this debate''.

In interviews this week, Minchin did not take a backward step. But he insisted it was not about Turnbull's leadership. At one level this might be correct, despite Minchin battling to keep Turnbull out of the leadership after the last election, and later attempting to prop up the failing Nelson. Joe Hockey, the most likely alternative, is a left-winger; his views on climate would be no more acceptable to Minchin than Turnbull's. Minchin would find Tony Abbott's opinions congenial, but knows Abbott lacks one vital attribute - numbers.

Minchin is not, however, going to do Turnbull any favours or worry excessively if his in-your-face campaign against the legislation undermines Turnbull, who has declared that having a credible climate policy is for him a leadership issue.

The tough line taken by Minchin is empowering other hardliners. Earlier, it was thought most critics would be inclined to roll over if they didn't have the numbers. Now their behaviour is unpredictable, which means that if Turnbull gets party support for a deal, the number of Liberals crossing the floor in the Senate could be quite large, putting up in lights how split the party has become.

The irony would be that Minchin, bound by shadow cabinet solidary, would be forced into formal lockstep with his leader.


Prominent Australian Greenie dubious about immigration

The former Australian of the Year, environmentalist Tim Flannery, is worried what effects a growing population will have on the environment.

South-east Queensland is a region where population pressures are at their greatest, with 2,000 people moving into the area each week. Some are from interstate, others from overseas. Queensland's population is set to double within 50 years.

Professor Flannery says no-one has any real idea of the environmental effects of population growth and it is time for an independent inquiry to look at the issue. "I'm pretty aware that we live in a fragile country with limited water availability, with a significant biodiversity crisis, a limited capacity to feed ourselves because our agriculture is under increasing stress from climate change," he said. "And what I see is a government-set program for immigration, which really seeks to increase our population very quickly but without any proper analysis of the environmental impacts or indeed the social impacts of that program."

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has weighed into the population debate, saying it is laughable to argue Australia has too many people at this early stage. He says Bangladesh is roughly twice the size of Tasmania but has seven times the population of Australia.

Professor Flannery says that is a meaningless comparison. "Antarctica is bigger than Australia and it hasn't got any people at all, size isn't everything," he said. "Lindsay Tanner may well be right but we need the figures. We need the analysis to understand what we can do in terms of a sustainable population living at this standard of living. "It's all very well to wave your hands in the air and say everything's going to be okay, but show me the data, that's what we actually need. "At the moment ... all of our population-related policies, such as immigration and rebates for children, all that sort of stuff are just happening in a vacuum and that's not good enough."

Premier Anna Bligh says Queensland can handle the projected population growth. "I think this growth is manageable but it does have to be managed, we can't let it happen unchecked and we can't let it happen without a plan," she said. "What's interesting living in a federation and governing at a state level is that some of the levers on population are often beyond your control but the consequences all fall into your basket. "Some of the levers, such as immigration policy, things like the baby bonus, have consequences and state governments end up having to manage some of those consequences. "It does require serious and careful thinking and serious and careful planning and some very serious infrastructure that does I think need partnership from all levels of government."

Ms Bligh says she agrees with the current immigration levels but says there is scope for better planning between state and federal governments about where the new Australian population should be concentrated. And she says more debate is needed on the issue of sustainability, environment and resources. "Over the last five years, as we've put together our south-east Queensland plan which is a statutory plan to manage growth, there has been a wide consensus about the need to restrict growth and not let it go in to big urban sprawls," she said.

"But as the rubber hits the road on making decisions about higher density in people's neighbourhoods, the community I think is becoming less settled about that. "They're very alarmed by the prospect that they'll see a lot of high rises and concerned about the character of their neighbourhoods and their communities changing and changing too rapidly."

Professor Flannery concedes population growth is needed to grow the economy but he says it's vital to get the balance right. "The economy will always need more people, business will always need more customers, government will always need more taxpayers," he said. "That's not a valid argument for eternal growth. We all know there are limits to growth and we need to work out how to grow our population, if that's what's required, at the appropriate level over the appropriate time scale.

"To do that you've just got to really look at proper triple-bottom-line accounting and the Government's always getting onto businesses about doing triple-bottom-line accounting, well it's time the Government did it itself. "Our environment, social and economic outcomes all have to be fed into these very important policies that will change our country in the long term, change it forever. You can't really wind back population once you've built it in."


1 comment:

Paul said...

You can usually pick what a Government REALLY thinks of an issue by the things they choose not to do. "Climate change" is probably the best example of this since "War on Terror" grew stale.