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The Sydney Morning Herald


Author: Edited by MIKE SECCOMBE
Date: 02/09/1994
Words: 1086
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 36
THE diminutive Queensland National Party Senator Bill O'Chee is a complex character. His name is testament to his mixed Chinese/Irish heritage, and would seem to indicate an Irish sense of the ridiculous, as would his sporting interest - he is a bobsled competitor from sunny Queensland. But he is actually a very serious young insect. So we wondered what he could have been doing when, in conversation with a member of the press gallery last week, he was seen to start walking sideways while making haka-like movements and facial contortions. We found out. He was imitating the "Yowie" he claimed to have seen some years back, while out camping with some other boys. He even went on ABC Radio to talk about it.

SUBSEQUENTLY some wag of a senator dummied up a notice of motion, threatening to have the whole chamber note (a) that O'Chee claimed to have seen a huge hairy creature at the top of a hill; (b) discovered that "huge shrubs, whole shrubs had been ripped out" in the vicinity of the creature; (c)considering the amount of wilderness destroyed under the previous Queensland National Party Government, there was not enough bush left for such a creature to hide; (d) considering the creature's behaviour it was most likely a National Party colleague gone "feral" after too much Bundaberg Rum; (e) asking if O'Chee had ever inhaled.

ANDREW Parker, well-known republican and John Hewson's media flak, did a bit of a ring- around of the press gallery on Thursday afternoon to see how people thought Alexander Downer had performed in Question Time that day. This caused some in the gallery to begin quoting anew that old cliche about how backbench soldier Hewson "still had a leader's baton in his knapsack". Indeed, one of those called was heard to remark: "The knapsack is open and Parker is polishing Hewson's baton". Would that constitute an offence in Tasmania?

ON the subject of Tasmania, where boys WILL be boys or suffer the consequences, we note some prominent residents are again talking about seceding from Australia. Among them, that man who commits acts against the order of grammar on a regular basis, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Perhaps Joh and his ilk would like to consider affiliating the State with Malaysia instead. Reuters reported last week that Malaysia was banning effeminate men from appearing on television for fear such "weaklings" could jeopardise the country's industrial drive. The story quoted Information Minister Datuk Mohammad Rahmat: "When a man behaves like a woman, we fear he will become non-productive later. When you're a man, show you're a man." Mind you, he later denied homosexuals had been banned; only men found to be "acting like a woman, talking like a woman". So even the Malaysians probably are not tough enough for Tassie. And they're not Lutherans up there, either.

WHEN Alexander Downer was planning his disastrous trip to the Northern Territory earlier this month, he invited some media, including this paper, on the basis that they would find their own way to Alice Springs, and he would lay on a plane to take them out to remote Aboriginal communities. Yesterday, we discovered his office now wants to bill us for the plane's cost. Presumably this is because he considers his hospitality was abused by reports of the mess he'd made of things up there. This is not pettiness; it is what is known in economics as the "abuser pays" system.

THE Federal Arts and Communications Minister, Michael Lee, is one of our more useful politicians, in a practical sense. He is an electrical engineer by training, which obviously suits him to the communications part of his portfolio. But it also can help with the arts, as was seen on Thursday. He was officiating at the opening of the travelling "World Journal" exhibition by Sydney-based artist Peter Atkins at the drill hall of the Australian National University. But the public address system failed, just as some Indian dancers were about to perform to taped music (the Atkins works chronicle his trip to India). The arty types were fluffing about, trying to solve the problem, when the minister came to their aid. He plugged the PA in and turned the tape over

BEFORE the most recent tragedy in Rwanda, there was a long history of conflict and massacres between the Hutus and Tutsis, not just in that country, but also in the neighbouring state of Burundi. In Burundi, 1993, the Tutsis initiated the violence. That was sad. An Australian politician was trapped there for seven days during the violence, which was worrying. But because that politician was the former Minister for Primary Industries, John Kerin, known in his time here as "Jolly John the Joker", and because he kept a diary, there are funny aspects. If only we could use it all, but this week, we'll just give you day one, October 21, on which Kerin awakened at 2.20 am to the sound of the happening coup. Kerin's survival skills took over. He filled the bath and assessed the food situation: "10.30: The espresso machine is being attacked by caffeine freaks. The key to the 'promotional' patisserie is found. Breakfast queue forms. One man buys five pastries - can't eat them all - some people miss out. I observe that hotel mangoes will be ripe in two weeks and that the hotel's pair of crested cranes could feed 20 people." And at 7 pm he recorded: "Dinner. Toast on roll with filling, copious coffee and drinks - spirits good- it has rained - coup-induced?" You can take the man out of the bush but ...

KOOKA has confirmed that during the 1993 election campaign, the Liberal Party Federal secretariat bought John Hewson some suits of clothes. It is confirmed, too, that Hewie did not give the suits back when he lost the election, nor when he lost the leadership. Our original informant suggested they should be handed down to future Liberal leaders, with little nips and tucks to account for different body shapes. But as a Hewson spokesman said, all the knife wounds make them unusable anyway. And blood spots are very hard to remove.

HAWKE Memoirs update. The book was launched on August 15 at $50; on August 31, a copy was spotted in a Canberra second-hand bookshop for $29.

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