Monthly Archives: June 2007

No Action on Worker Suicides at Telstra

‘Tonight (18 June 2007) on Four Corners, in an economy demanding constant change in the workplace, the anger and distress of those who have experienced the cultural shift taking place in one of our biggest and most powerful companies — Telstra.’ — Tough Calls telecast on the ABCs 4 Corners program, 18 June 2007. Continue reading

Pine Gap: Crime and Punishment

*warning – this article contains information that has been withheld from the jury in the trial of the Pine Gap Four in Alice Springs in June 2007.

The government, the attorney general, the minister for defence, commonwealth lawyers, the prosecution and the judge in this has have used the law to hide from the jury the facts of this case.

If you are a member of the jury you are prohibited by the Justice system from reading the article below!*

Where is Pine Gap, what is it?

Pine Gap is in the central desert of Australia near Alice Springs. It is one of the largest satellite ground stations in the world, covering an area of 4398 acres and 20 perches. Pine Gap consists of ‘radomes’ [pictured below] that that have satellite dishes inside the outer dust proof shield.

Pine Gap was gazetted in 1967 as a restricted area by the then Defence Minister, Allen Fairhall and the Australian people were told that it was a space research station. This was a lie. This official cover-up lasted for the next 25 years.

The truth is the US military run Pine Gap to locate its nuclear targets throughout former Soviet Union but also China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq.

The U.S.-Australian Alliance

Head of the School of Strategic Studies at ANU, Prof Des Ball, stated in 1999 that Pine Gap gives:

“a good picture of missile developments in, over the years, not just the former Soviet Union but also China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere in an area that stretches from the Middle East across to the western Pacific.”

from JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON TREATIES Reference: Pine Gap MONDAY, 9 AUGUST 1999 CANBERRA. (This is an uncorrected proof of evidence taken before the committee.)

Pine Gap is an important part of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s world-wide intelligence setup.

“The CIA and National Security Agency are in control of Pine Gap today” comment by former CIA Agent on Channel Nine program “Inside Pine Gap” 1986 by Bob Plastowe.

Journalist Bob Plastowe asked US Senator Cohen from the committee into Intelligence : “Do you trust the CIA?” His answer was “90% to 95% of the time they (the CIA) live within the rules“. Many CIA employees are stationed at Pine Gap. Prof. Ball says that since the 1991 Gulf War started:

“The number of personnel there (Pine Gap) has now reached nearly 900 and the number of satellite ground dishes is now 26 which is about double what it was in the mid-1990s. It’s really been a very remarkable increase.”

Prof. Ball says that Pine Gap is used in advanced weapons development, such as ballistic missiles, used for arms control verification; signals from anti-missile and anti-aircraft radars; transmissions intended for communications satellites; and microwave emissions, such as long distance telephone calls.

The three major bases on Australian soil, Pine Gap, Nurrungar and North-West Cape were all of high importance to the US during the 1960’s and 70’s. Since the Gulf Wars in Iraq, Pine Gap has become more important. In 1999 the following Defence submission was made to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Agreement to extend the period of operation of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap :

The systems supported by Pine Gap will evolve to meet the demands of the post Cold War era, and it is expected that Pine Gap will remain a central element in our cooperation with the United States well into the next century.

Protest

In the 1980s people concerned with the military use of the US bases in Australia began a series of protests at the bases. In 1989, protestors went to Nurrungar (whose function was later transferred to Pine Gap).

The defence minister at the time, Beazley, called out the army against the protestors:

In early October 1989 the Minister for Defence (Beazley) called in the troops to back-up the South Australian police officers in charge of enforcing the law against demonstrators at the Nurrungar joint defence facility. As events transpired, ADF personnel did not come into contact with the protesters who, it seems, were unaware of the presence of the troops [not true].
If the troops had been needed to help control the protesters, as must have been anticipated when they were rushed to the base, then it seems most likely that the use of force would have been involved.
Four-hundred-and-ninety-two people were arrested during the course of the five-day protest…” (Report by Senate Estimates Committee concerning the use of force against protestors @ http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rp/1997-98/98rp08.htm#GENERAL

The Case of the Pine Gap Four

The Pine Gap Four are four people who walked onto the base at Pine Gap on 9 December 2005.

It was a non-violent protest on a minor scale.

But Government Ministers Hill and Ruddock have blown it all out of proportion because the government do not want Pine Gap exposed for what it is.

The Australian government wants Pine Gap closed off from review by the Australian people.

So the Commonwealth has dragged the PG4 into a lengthy trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, here wasting everyone’s time and tax-payers money; not to get at justice, but to try to create precedents for hiding the facts about Pine Gap from the Australian people.

 

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The Pine Gap case has been going on since December 2005 after four people entered the base on foot.

The Pine Gap Four (PG4) are charged with intentionally damaging property, namely outer and inner man proof fences situated on the northern perimeter of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap, belonging to the Commonwealth. The Pine Gap base is situated on the lands of the Arrente people. They are the traditional custodians of the land.

The PG4 are also charged under the Defence Special Undertaking Act 1952 [DSU Act] which prohibits entering the base and taking photos.

The jury trial in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is entering its third week.

The players, the evidence

Judge Sally Thomas is the star of the trial. She is being courteous to the PG4 and letting them testify as to their beliefs to prevent any possible grounds for appeal. So far Judge Sally Thomas has ruled against the PG4 on every major legal issue.

The judge ruled supporting the use by the Attorney General and Minister of Defence of out-of-date cold war legislation, the DSU Act, against the PG4.

She ruled in favour of the crown when it claimed Parliamentary Privilege to prevent important information about the use of the base in war. Here is how the barrister for the commonwealth prevented the jury from hearing the evidence given by Prof Des Ball to an Australian Senate committee on treaties (to permit the CIA running the US base here at Pine Gap).

The judge stated:

HER HONOUR: Thank you. Well, I propose to make a ruling on the arguments that have been put forward on this issue of the Parliamentary Privileges Act. I have had the opportunity to read and consider the submissions of Mr Begbie on behalf of the Commonwealth, both written and oral. I have also had obviously an opportunity to hear from the defendants as to what they want to say on this issue of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

In considering the arguments that have been put to the court, I rule that the … (the Joint Finance Committee documents) … are not admissible in accordance with s 16 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act in the proceedings before this court. The transcript of a program on SBS Dateline dated 17 May 2000 which was exhibit M11 is not admissible so far as it makes reference to a Parliamentary Committee.”

The PG4 (clearly opposed to Pine Gap) wish to call evidence from Prof Ball. This is an indication how open the PG4 defence has been. Des Ball’s evidence to the JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON TREATIES concerning Pine Gap has not yet been heard by the jury. It was Des Ball who on MONDAY, 9 AUGUST 1999 came out in favour of Pine Gap with the following words:

“The one which I have had to force myself to come out in support of is Pine Gap, simply because I regard the intelligence which is collected there as critically important and collectable in no other way. I do not see any alternative other than to have Pine Gap here. That is whether one is concerned about monitoring, proliferation of ballistic missiles, nuclear proliferation or other advanced weapon systems in our region.”

According to Prof. Ball, Pine Gap is supposed to be a prime nuclear target. During the cold war Prof Ball said it was targeted by the Soviet Union, it is not clear who he means now. However Prof. Ball is opposed to the secrecy surrounding Pine Gap, particularly the refusal by the Americans to say what they are doing in there.

Governments play on the fear of ‘foreign attack’ and it gets them votes (regardless of political colour). Otherwise why would Howard and Beazley have been known to play the national security card. Remember it was Beazley who called out the army against the protestors at Nurrungur in 1989.

The judge also ruled that the public interest is to be served by preventing the defence making the link between Pine Gap and the Iraq war. The law calls this ‘public interest immunity’.

There was no defence barrister to argue the law of parliamentary privilege with the crown. Parliamentary Privilege is not the closed book that the argument in court would have us believe. In the High Court case Sankey v Whitlam it was ruled that a trial judge alone must weigh up whether justice will served by the examination of documents held by the parliament. Cabinet papers have been scrutinised by the courts.

The judge may however allow some evidence about Pine Gap to convince the appeal court that she acted fairly toward the PG4. For example she said that “Certain statements in the transcript which are exhibit M11 made by Professor Des Ball in the course of an interview which make no reference to the Parliamentary Committee are not excluded under the provisions of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.” However the prosecution may seek to exclude them under the rules of evidence.

When the judge sums up to the jury at the end of the trial, the judge may direct the jury there is no evidence there is a link between Pine Gap and the bombing of Iraq. The judge may tell the jury that the political or moral motivations of the PG4 are irrelevant.

The judge has asked the PG4 to look closely at the Criminal Code over the Queens Birthday Weekend and to consider the argument of the prosecution that the implementation of Government policy is not for a jury to decide but for “a matter for the representatives of the Australia community elected in accordance with our constitution”

The judge said they should look closely at the prosecution argument:

“To allow a jury to deliberate on such a matter would undermine and threaten our system of Government, making it a matter for the accused rather than the elected representatives of the people to decide which laws they will obey” If the judge rules this way on Tuesday 5 June 2007 there will not be much of a legal defence left to the PG4.”

Unfortunately jurors tend to follow judge’s instructions in criminal cases.

A penalty of seven years imprisonment is provided as a maximum penalty under the DSU Act. The defence contractor, Raytheon, claim that there is $12,000 worth of damage to the fences and alarm system. Jim Dowling has evidence that this is not correct. Yet he has been told by the prosecution that this is not relevant. The judge has ruled against him questioning the amount of the damage. The court has not seemed perturbed by the useless alarm system provided by one of the worlds largest arms suppliers at great expense to the taxpayer. While the Australian Defence force loses 8 rocket launchers in Sydney, while the Australian Wheat Board gives $300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein the PG4 have to wear a $12,000 bill for damage to an alarm system that they did not actuate.

If the jury finds the PG4 guilty the judge will likely use the quantum of damage claimed by the unscrupulous contractor, Raytheon, against the accused. The judge may misinterpret the principled stand of the PG4 and call it lack of remorse for their actions. Thereby the judge may increase the penalty against them.

Crown Prosecutor, Hilton Dembo, is the Commonwealth’s leading man. The PG4, Donna Mulhearn, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie and Jimmy Dowling have been assigned minor roles in the court as the accused.

In the Alice Springs courtroom the local working class jury look on. We have no idea what they are thinking. A couple of women in the jury appear to be sneering at the accused. Like Lindy Chamberlain in the Alice Springs supreme court of 1980, the accused are all confessed Christians. A jury found Chamberlain guilty of the murder of her first daughter, Azaria, on October 29, 1982 and she was sentenced to life imprisonment. Her conviction was later overturned.

Back to the PG4 trial in Alice Springs June 2007. Hilton Dembo, prosecutor, has cut his teeth in the law making sentencing submissions against 51-year-old Indonesians pleading guilty to importing ecstasy and ice into Australia. This may be his chance to enter a new area of law apart from the prosecutor’s lot — the mire of drugs and social decay.

Lawyers representing the Commonwealth Government have competed with Mr Dembo to claim the prize scalps of the accused Pine Gap Four.

Yet the PG4 have already admitted entering the Pine Gap base on 9 December 2005 to inspect that integral part of the US war machine. Before they went the PG4 told the minister, the federal police, the local police, and the security officers at Pine Gap, in fact anyone who would listen that they were going to walk into Pine Gap and inspect the base.

Who owns Pine Gap?

The PG4 took the important step of asking permission from the traditional owners of the land at Pine Gap, the Arrente people. In late 2005, a tribal spokesperson, Pat Hayes gave them permission to enter the land. Of course the crown opposed this evidence being presented. Here is the argument in court:

THE ACCUSED, DOWLING: When was the Base opened at Pine Gap?

MR BURGESS (deputy chief of Pine Gap Base) —When was it opened?

DOWLING: Yes?

BURGESS —They started work at the facility in 1967.

DOWLING: Are you aware of any contract or agreement with the eastern Arrente people who were there for the previous 40,000 years before that?-

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BURGESS –Am I aware of any agreement with them?

DOWLING: To take over that land?

BURGESS —I don’t believe there was any agreement with them.

DOWLING: Right, so the land was just taken?

BURGESS —The land was acquired by the Commonwealth.

DOWLING: So you would understand if some people would think that it was still owned by the Arrernte people if there was never a new agreement to take – – –

HER HONOUR: Mr Dowling, that is not relevant and Mr Burgess cannot give evidence about how some other people may feel.

DOWLING: My contention is that it belongs to Eastern Arrente people and we were given permission by the traditional caretaker of that land to be there that night and we’re going to produce more evidence in regard to that.

The Politicians and Public Servants

The commonwealth lawyers are not alone in the hunting down of these warriors of faith and justice. The cast of commonwealth officers involved in the case runs into hundreds, Attorney General Ruddock, former Defence Minister Hill, Australian Federal police, public servants, an ASIO agent, even a person employed in the commonwealth map shop in Alice Springs. And this is not to mention the local Northern Territory police, the local hardware shop assistant, a joy flight pilot at Alice Springs (PG4 members took a flight in an attempt to see the base from the air), the list goes on.

Arrayed against the PG4 in December 2005 was the most sophisticated alarm system joint US and Australian ‘defence’ contractor, Raytheon, had to offer. Only one problem. There are kangaroos and snakes out there in the desert at Pine Gap. There are stray cows from nearby farms. These animals constantly set off the alarm signals that are fed back by the latest telecommunications technology to Florida USA. The security guards response? They turn off the alarms when it all gets too much. They ignore them when they feel like it. Yet at 4.07 am on 9 December 2005 an alarm went off that the officer David Derricks said he did not ignore. The guard immediately looked at the video camera that locked onto the point in the outer man-proof fence when the alarm was actuated. Nothing there. He rang for assistance. A car was sent to investigate. Still nothing there. It was not for another 12 minutes that Dowling and Goldie went through the bottom of the wire fences to climb a building called the CMAP building (pictured in foreground). Click to download the report showing the Faulty Alarms at Pine Gap that misled officer David Derricks.

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It was on the roof of the CMAP building that Adele Goldie and Jim Dowling were apprehended by security at the base. Dowling was handcuffed and his face was shoved down into the tin roof of the building by security.

Hilton Dembo for the Crown has come up with a cunning repost to the PG4, they can say what they did, they can even say that successive Australian governments (both Liberal and Labor governments) took the law into their own hands by prosecuting illegal wars against the Iraqi people, that these governments used space research as a front for use of Pine Gap in pre-emptive strikes against a harmless people.

But the court cannot hear any evidence that demonstrates what the PG4 are saying is true. But more than that, the prosecution is permitted to repeat time and again that all their motives are unreasonable. The star judge has already ruled that the prosecutions case is true and valid. The judge has already ruled that the jury cannot hear what Professor Des Ball of the Strategic Studies Centre, ANU has to say about Pine Gap since the 1991 Gulf War started.

Even the testimony given by Prof Des Ball to the Joint Senate Committee about Pine Gap providing signals, communications and intelligence to assist US ballistic missiles bomb targets in Iraq and Afghanistan has been excluded by the judge.

How has this been allowed to happen?

Judge Sally Thomas, an officer of the Citizens Military Forces (the Australian army reserve), has queried the relevance of anything that goes to the heart of the case against the accused, witness this exchange:

When Mr Burgess (yet another lawyer acting for the commonwealth) claimed that Pine Gap was used as a joint space research defence facility – one of the accused Jim Dowling said “are you serious” – what planets were they researching? When the Judge queried why this might be relevant, Jim stated that it was because everyone had lied about the base.

Of this we can be certain. As early as 1967 the then Minister or Defence Allen Fairhall declared under the Defence Special Undertaking Act 1952 that Pine Gap is a Space Research Defence facility[1]. This untruthful declaration was finally replaced by a new equally untruthful declaration by the Labor Defence Minister Robert Ray in the early 1990s. The new declaration claimed that Pine Gap was needed for the defence of Australia.

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Picture shows US Military plane landing at Alice Springs to deliver and pick up materials for Pine Gap.

Statements by the defence

Contrast this with the unique perspective of Donna Mulhearn who went to Iraq to witness first-hand the bombing of Fallujah. How the missiles are guided to their target by signals intelligence that is fed through Pine Gap. Now the judge says this is mere assertion by the accused. Yet Sally Thomas has not allowed the defence to prove the truth of their claims by skilfully saying she will permit cross-examination of the crown witnesses only to the extent that it may show what was in the mind of the accused at the time of their entering Pine Gap.

Jim Dowling gave evidence about his reasons for going to Pine Gap:

So, in – after the war started in 2003, I had a computer for the first time in my life, and I would read stuff about what was happening in Iraq every night, or a lot of nights, after you put the kids to bed, you turn on the computer and overall I don’t follow sport or anything else much, haven’t got many hobbies, don’t go out much with lots of kids, and so I read lots of horror stories about what was happening over there.

And I could have a pile of papers bigger than some of our legal friends have had here of those stories, but one story stuck with me, and I’d just like to read out a bit of it if I can, and submit it as something that – has informed my belief ever since. It is an article written for The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom by Robert Fisk who is one of the well, one of the most famous journalists in the world, I suppose.

He spent 20 or 30 years in the Middle East reporting on various wars there, etcetera. And it is dated 2 April 2003, The Independent reports on a bombing that is, I realised at the time, and still realise today that it is quite possible Pine Gap had a role in. Here we go, I’ll give it a try, and the first part of it goes like this: ‘At least 11 civilians, 9 of them children – – –

Jim Dowling could not go on. Donna Mulhearn described what happened:

…then Jim (Dowling) took the stand. He talked about phoning the anti-terror hotline in 2003 to report Pine Gap and shared how the stories coming back from Iraq about civilian deaths were affecting him. He started reading a news report about civilian deaths but broke down in tears when it mentioned that nine children were killed in a bombing.

The judge adjourned the court and every(one) left quietly to the sound of Jim sobbing.

There was not a dry eye in the place, the court attendants, the security guards, everyone was affected. It was a very powerful moment.”

Here is the rest of what Jim Dowling had to say:

‘At least 11 civilians, nine of them children were killed in Iraq – in Central Iraq yesterday according to reporters in the town who said they appeared to be victims of bombing. Razak(?) Kazeem Kajaf(?) grieves over the bodies of his children who are in the southern province of Babylon.

Kajaf lost 15 members including six children of his family, as his car was bombed by coalition helicopters while fleeing Al Haradia(?) towards Babylon. Reported from the Reuters Newsagency said that counted the bodies of 11 civilians and two Iraqi fighters in a Babylon suburb, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Nine of the dead were children. One a baby.

A hospital worker said as many as 33 civilians were killed. Terrifying film of women and children later emerged from the Reuters Newsagency Associated Press were permitted by the Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. The pictures, the first by western newsagency is from the Iraq side of the battlefront showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.

Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies in Baghdad editors felt able to only send only a few minutes of a 21 minute tape that included a baby – holding pieces of his baby and screaming ‘cowards, cowards’ into the camera. Two lorry loads of bodies including women in floral dresses could be seen outside the hospital.’ I’d like to submit that as evidence if I could.’

Conclusions

The American Chief of Pine Gap should be called to give evidence of the real nature of the base to challenge the various ministerial declarations that the base is merely a Space Research Defence Facility.

For that matter the minister for defence and the Attorney General should also be called to explain why they have invoked the Defence Special Undertakings Act to continue the 40 year cover-up of the function of Pine Gap. But that is never going to happen. The justice system would never allow it. The principle of the separation of powers so often touted by the Commonwealth in the case is a ruse to keep from the jury, the Australian people, people everywhere, the sorry role of Pine Gap in war.

There is truth in the adage: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”The executive arm of government has taken control. A weak judiciary succumbs to the wishes of ministers. The US military can use Pine Gap to bomb whoever it likes, while the Australian people either don’t know or are too afraid to ask.


[1] The Pine Gap Four are charged under the DSU Act 1952 for entering the base and taking photos.

See also the following background on this story:

Activist on trial Pine Gap Four find Ground Zero Peace Convergence and Pine Gap

Father Steele – a novel by Bernie Dowling

FATHER STEELE

Father Steele

a novel

by Bernie Dowling

For

Every Aussie comedian who makes me laugh

and

In memory of humorist
John Hepworth
Born spring, 1921

Died summer, 1995
Father Steele

Hugo XX for Women

Purchase any Hugo XX EDT 100ml $113

And receive this bonus Hugo XX towel

As your gift

Australian Myer stores 2007

hope. joy…Christmas catalogue

D.O.R.O.T.H.Y.

(My Favourite Dinosaur)

Children’s song from The Wiggles

about the band’s mute mascot

Book One

Who’s On First?

Chapter 1

Brisbane, winter, 1992

This comedian, see, she kills them and, later that night, someone kills her.

Stacey Jacks, 27, was on her back on the floor of the small dressing room for comedians performing at the Sit Down Comedy Club in Kangaroo Point. The Brisbane suburb was named after rude kangaroos giving the finger to tourists asking to take the marsupials’ picture.

Standing above Stacey Jacks, I was beyond speech while my sometime girlfriend Natalie Applebee was screaming in my ear.

‘Oh God, Steele, what are we going to do? Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck.’

Stacey Jacks was in a bad way.

Compared with her, the T-shirt which declared she loved New York was in good shape, in a lump in front of the dressing table mirror, but otherwise fine.

Slumped on the carpet beside an upturned wooden stool, Jacks wore a bra, sliced apart between the cups, and a pair of black slacks. No shoes, no stockings, no make-up, nothing else. Except for the bruises across her neck and the swelling in her face. And the blood forming a cross with the horizontal arm under her breasts from left ribs to right. The bloody vertical arm began under her windpipe and was cut down between her breasts to her navel.

I thought I heard Stacey Jacks say something. I bent down on one knee and pressed my ear next to her mouth. If I was a priest, I would have looked like Father Steele Hill, hearing her last confession. Which was only one word, repeated twice before she died.

I looked up towards Natalie and at the room beyond her.

A half-eaten meal lay on a round table and a chair was upended beside it.

The food was steak, vegetables and potato chips – traditional club nosh, though the steak would be hard to cut as the knife was missing. Only the fork sat on the plate.

My sometime girlfriend Natalie was a little calmer as her managerial training kicked in.

‘We have to call the manager and an ambulance. Feel her pulse. What did she say, Steele?’

`Nothing,’ I lied.

`You go for the manager while I feel her pulse, Nat.’

Natalie closed the door behind her as I felt no sign of life throbbing from the comedian’s thin wrist. Looking over her corpse, I decided Stacey Jacks died from strangulation. The cut marks forming the cross on her upper body were not deep while the swelling on her face and bruises on her neck suggested someone had a good go at choking her before applying the blade.

I looked around the room as Jacks had asked me to. Her dying word repeated twice was ‘farther’.

When I heard it for the second time, I knew a clue was somewhere in the room and Jacks wanted me to find it by looking farther.

Like a starving man, I kept coming back to the half-eaten meal with the steak knife missing. In case that was not the clue, I looked around some more but the only other thing to stand out was a narrow free-standing wardrobe.
In the robe were another pair of black slacks, a gold polo shirt and a pair of white runners with black stripes. A pair of sports socks lay on the floor. Those four items had been the work clothes the comedian wore for her gig earlier that night.

Natalie once told me comedians have to be careful what they wear. Nat tells me this sort of stuff because she knows a lot more fascinating arty tidbits than I do. Most times, I am interested.

Comedians have to be cool, Nat says. But they cannot embarrass their audience by dressing better than the stiffs do. The rule is to dress down, but not as far as the pits, where even the stiffs won’t go. Stacey Jacks was following the rule by dressing casually cool in gold T-shirt, black slacks and the rest of it.

Stacey Jacks was a lesbian. Natalie also told me this, not to excite me, but because the comedian used her sexuality in her act. Why not? Hetero funny people have been using sex as hooks for their strings of four-letter words since Adam and Eve set up the first nightclub under the tree of carnal knowledge. Why the fuck not, I ask, in this fucking age of equal fucking opporfuckingtunity?

I was looking at Stacey Jack’s gear in the dressing room cupboard in preference to looking at her dead body. My spirit was only casually engaged with trying to solve her murder. A little guiltily, I was hoping the real detectives would front before I find the farther object the dying funny woman had put me onto. My becoming involved in a murder investigation had no percentage for me.

Sergeant ‘Bull’ Mooney once told me he worked homicide to avenge murder victims. I could see he regretted saying it once he saw the dubious, if not sneering, look on my face. I knew it had to be bullshit, something he read in a book.

I do believe Mooney’s house was turned over once. Among other things, they stole his entire library. He never did get to find out what happened at the end of that James Patterson crime novel. He never would unless they made it into a movie and Hollywood didn’t change the ending.

Footsteps scurrying outside advised me to shut the cupboard door.

Chapter 2

Natalie came in with a short solid bloke, mid-twenties, wearing grey jeans, black T-shirt and black jacket. Kinda cool he was, except for the sweat dripping from his forehead and upper lip. Steady Teddy Theodore owned the Sit Down Comedy Club.

‘Jesus,’ he said, turning around to lock the door.

‘Nat’s already done the blasphemy bit,’ I said, looking at him, rather than the corpse.

Natalie had recovered well. She has always been my rock.

‘The cops are coming and an ambulance. Is she alright, Steele?’

‘Apart from being dead, she’s pretty good,’ I said and wished I hadn’t.

Trading in cheap laughs was the only connection I had to stand-up comedy. Natalie punched me in the arm to tell me she knew her former hero was deceased and she just wanted to calm us all down. I looked at her for inspiration of what to say, as club owner Ted Theodore lost it before our eyes in a spray of disbelieving profanities.

‘Tough night,’ I mumbled.

`She only did it as a favour,’ Theodore said.

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`She told me six weeks ago she was taking at least 18 months off.’

Natalie nodded sadly.

`I’d heard that,’ she said.

`She was taking time off to write and travel with Laura.’

‘Writing and travel be buggered,’ Theodore sniffed.

`Stacey was pregnant.’

I tried looking at the ceiling, so my eyes would not be attracted perversely to the dead woman. I couldn’t invent any solution to the awkward silence.

Theodore shut up immediately after divulging a secret best kept. Natalie was dumbfounded by the revelation. Me, I was confused. Natalie might be wrong about the writing and travel but she would have known Laura was Stacey’s girlfriend or a relationship term more polite in circles of alternative sexuality.

This murder was complicated, not like a stand-up riddle to be solved by half-pissed comedy consumers. Those poor sots unlucky enough to remember the routines the next day would be disappointed the jokes did not go over near as well in the work lunch-room. It’s all in the timing and your average stiff rarely gets that right.

The two Homicide detectives arrived bang on time. For them. For me, it was just as I was leaning towards Natalie to suggest we split and wait for the coppers to track us down the next day or so.

One copper was resolutely heterosexual though years on the grog might have dipped his sexual potency. I believe Shakespeare said something like that. But this police bloke had seen more death and mayhem resulting from the twisted pastimes of humanity than punters at a weekend festival of the Bard’s tragedies. The senior dee was never a bit player in any of the hurly burly. He was in boots, fists, nightstick and all.

The other copper’s sexuality was ambivalent or so he told me, one day. No, I don’t know what it means either. I never asked.


Chapter 3

Stand up comedy – what’s that’s that all about? It makes me need to sit down.

It was my birthday. 28, that’s old. Fuckin’ old. In two years, I’m fucked. To cheer me up, Natalie bought us tickets to the Sit Down Comedy Club in Kangaroo Point. I hate stand-up comedy.

Well, maybe I don’t hate stand-up comedy. I just don’t get it. We’re all paying $19 a pop to listen to some shit this comedian should be telling to their psychiatrist. In fact, this comedian is probably collecting all our donations of 19 bucks a head so they can rework the same material for their shrink. I just don’t get it. But Natalie does.

Nat and I are back together for a while. My Cucumber is the love of my life, but recently my career has been getting in the way. I don’t have a career, that’s what’s been getting in the way.

Actually, I do have a career. I am a professional gambler, subsidised by the State, in the interests of private enterprise. Every fortnight, the State pays me unemployment benefit, or dole money, as we in the industry prefer to call it. I invest my below-subsistence wage on backing racehorses. I expect my publicly funded, private enterprise to prosper to the point where I will no longer require State assistance for my firm.

Despite turbulence in our leaky romantic boat, I suspect Natalie still loves me. We don’t discuss it.

I asked Nat to resume her Hendra flat on the floor above mine. She said no. She wanted to move to New Farm, near her supermarket, despite the impossibly high rents in that neo-yuppie suburb.

New Farm was established, a long time ago, as a naturalists’ retreat. I am unsure whether the wowsers or toddlers just learning to speak evolved the name change. Wowser is the lovely Aussie word for Puritan. It could have been the wowsers or the toddlers who created the name change from Nude Farm.

Nat was recently promoted to manager fruit and vegetables which includes nuts and mueslis as well as, much to Nat’s disgust, lollies or sweets or confectionaries, in countries unacquainted with that lovely word, lolly.

In Australia, to do your lolly is either to lose money or to go off your brain.

Nat does her lolly when she ponders how sweets or confectionaries sabotage her fruit, veg, nuts and mueslis section.

‘It’s not right, Steele,’ begins the lolly speech every time.

To Nat’s credit, she does vary the content if not the theme.

‘It’s a con, because when the parents buy fruit and vegetables for the kids, the shrewd youngsters can blackmail their parents that they will eat broccoli if they get chocolate elephants as well.’

‘Do they make chocolate elephants?’ I ask, because this is going to be a fairly long diatribe, so I might as well consume it in pieces.

‘You know what I mean, Steele. Or the parents themselves or non-parents for that matter think it’s all right to treat themselves to lollies because they have brought healthy fruit and vegetables. It’s not right.’

‘I agree,’ I say.

‘It’s bad enough they put chocolate bars in children’s reach at the counter. Why do they have to put lollies in my fruit and veg,’ Natalie continues.

‘It should be illegal,’ I agree.

My best mate, illegal bookmaker, Con ‘Gooroo’ Vitalis is something of a street philosopher and he agrees totally with Natalie. That’s easy for him to say. He’s down in his Tweed Heads unit watching a stupid doco about animals in the wild. He is not hearing the love of my love, fired up in anger.

‘To make it worse, they put the lollies loose so you scoop them up just like you do with nuts and mueslis,’ she continues.

‘Disgraceful,’ I say.

‘You can’t tell me it’s not a subliminal message that somehow lollies are good for you, too.’

I give up and say nothing more and Natalie gives up, too, after another three minutes of spleen venting.

Natalie lives close to the bright lights of the CBD where she can go to rock concerts and find like-minded young people to verbally wage glorious campaigns against lollies and other evils.

I still think she would like me to move in with her or near her. Would like me to ask the question.

It is not fear of rejection which stops me from asking. It’s fear of acceptance.

New Farm is not my scene, as we say in some sub-culture or other, or must have said at some time in the past.

When the working girls, the pimps, the druggies, the gamblers and the grifters owned the streets of New Farm, it had some sleazy charm. But by 1993, the yuppies had all but colonised the place with a bank loan, his and her credit cards, a sander, a few tins of paint, recycled and new-growth timber. I have nothing against yuppies. Well, not much. As a matter of fact, I have lots against them so it’s best I lie rather than bore you with my venom for three days.

Natalie has a nice old wooden flat in New Farm and the rent’s pretty low and I did see a vacancy sign for the same block. That cheap empty flat destroyed my stated argument for not moving to New Farm. Nat was dying to ask me and I was dying to say yes, but we both knew I would say no. She couldn’t come back to Hendra and I couldn’t go to New Farm. Sad, really.

The real reason I was going to stand-up comedy was not that it was on at a place called the Sit Down Comedy Club, but you have to admit the club moniker is funny, probably funnier than most of the acts. I was going because My Cucumber loves stand-up. She loves it and I don’t hate it– I just don’t get it – and we go.

I like to think Natalie came back to Brisbane to be with me, but she assures me it’s all about the job. We’ve gone out together and fucked together a few times, since she’s been back. All is not lost.

Tonight, we are going to see and listen to a hot lesbian comedian called Stacey Jacks.

‘Who’s on first?’ I asked Nat.

I know about these things. You see, Natalie is an observer and astute predictor of an artist who is about to conquer the known universe. I figure if Ms Jacks, lesbian comedian extraordinaire is on first, I won’t have to listen to a plain old boring hetero comedian.

‘I don’t know who’s on first, Steele,’ Natalie said.

‘I just know Stacey’s on.’

Can you believe it? Can you believe it? Nat went to school with Stacey’s cousin who is now a vet. But that’s not why we are going to the show. We are going because Stacey’s a cutting-edge lesbian comedian.

‘Don’t make fun of what she is wearing, Steele. Comedians have to dress down. The lowest member of the audience has to be able to identify with her. The chicks wearing cocktail dresses understand it and do not feel embarrassed.’

Natalie was wearing her black hair long, reaching the back of a black sort of semi cocktail dress and she wasn’t embarrassed at all. I had on a pair of black jeans, only five years old, a white long-sleeved polo and a black jacket, so I had nothing to be embarrassed about. Apart from being there.

Stacey Jacks wasn’t on first but Robbie Booster was. He was about mid-twenties, above average height, thin with shoulder-length black hair, shinier than Nat’s. His face was kinda handsome, I guess, though it had craters and hills, monuments to a teenage acne battleground.

His routine was about drugs, alcohol and police and I would say he had passing to intimate relationships with all three.

It must have gone for 20 minutes which seems an awfully long time to be listening to any one person, the Pope, Dalai Lama, US President Clinton and Arnie Schwarzenegger included.

Maybe not Schwarzenegger. You might only get 20 words from him in that time, 25, if you count a grunt as half a word.

Robbie Booster finally said farewell but he promised or threatened to be back another night.

I went to the bar to buy Nat and me a wine each. I’m 28 this year and I’m getting smarter at this caper of intermission dialogue. I sat beside Natalie on a brown two-seater couch and asked what she thought of Robbie Booster before she could trap me with the same question.

‘He was pretty funny but political humour is so 1970s,’ she said.

‘Political humour?’ I asked.

‘All he talked about was getting pissed, stoned and picked up by the police.’

‘The subtext was pretty obvious, too obvious, to my mind,’ Natalie said in the condescending tone which educated while it reminded you someone had raided your brain and taken most of your I.Q.

‘We supposedly live in a free enterprise system but when you choose to use your free will in leisure pursuits, you risk sanction by the State.’

I was hip, babe.

‘Oh, you mean that subtext. Yes, of course, that was bleedin’ obvious; I thought you were talking about the other subtext.’

Natalie punched me on the shoulder but she did laugh and put her right arm in the crook of my left which had my palm resting on her thigh. Natalie sipped her white wine and I cuddled my glass of red. It was a pleasant wait for headliner Stacey Jacks.

Chapter 4

People were laughing. If you pay $19 at the door and fill yourself full of over-priced piss, laughter is more uplifting than tears.

Stacey Jacks received the biggest guffaws when she slyly took the piss out of the heteros and moved her palm across the top of her hair to let the queers and would-be queers in on the joke. Nat looked across at me and I smiled to say I got it. I don’t think I did.

I did a quick count to figure about 150 people in the room; some were in groups of up to 10. Most of the couples were same sex, men with men and women with women.

You could only presume couples such as Nat and me were hetero. I mean, a male and female gay couple – what’s that about?

Jacks neared the end of her first set when she produced this shtick – or maybe it was a stick, I don’t know – for the audience fetch a family tale. Her parents gave her a rag doll when she was a toddler. She grabbed her older brother’s toy gun, stuck him up with it and makes him eat the doll.

The punchline is, to this very day, when her brother’s hungry, he always says he could eat the crutch out of a rag doll. I don’t know. I guess you had to be there. I was, still didn’t get and laughed heartily, in case Natalie glanced across.

It was a Friday night and, while I laughed and clapped and whistled, I was trying to remember who was playing the rugby league game on television that night. Thinking about football was an accurate gauge of how out-or-sorts I was. I am not much interested in rugby league, especially when they have the bad taste to show it on the sacred night of rock music. I wonder if Natalie suspected low testosterone levels when she picked me for a boyfriend.

These thoughts are flying around my head while I am working hard on impressing Nat with my appreciation of alt comedy. That’s the problem with gay comedians – they make you think.

Jacks had enough nous to call a break when we punters came out of our fits of screaming, air punching, crying and thigh slapping with laughter.

I had to quell a surge of pride when Stacey Jacks headed straight to our table, casually waving in the general direction of other people who called her name. I silently berated myself for offending against my egalitarian disposition – chips on both shoulders for balance, Natalie calls it. Jacks made for Natalie, of course, and gave her a sisterly kiss on the cheek.

Nat introduced me and the comedian said hello in a sweet voice. As she did, she gave me a filthy look. At the time, the long-serving expression of filthy was evolving a dual life. Most of my punting mates knew it to mean disgusted while some of my rock music fellow travellers used it as a compliment. The look Stacey Jacks gave me was not complimentary.

No big deal. You don’t have to be gay to take an instant dislike to me. Ask Natalie’s parents who believe first impressions are spot on, at least in my case.

An icy look aside, Stacey – and I did call Ms Jacks Stacey – made a few punters jealous with her show of affection to half of our two-person table. As only my closest friends and well-chosen strangers know, I am the bastard son of John Lennon. I felt the old man taking the piss out of me from the grave because I had been fame-struck.

Buddha, John, I pleaded, again silently, she’s not very famous and she’s gay and she hates me.

I think that placated him.

Stacey dragged Natalie by the arm to the toilet. I watched them enter the cubicle as a voice spoke in my ear.

`Dykes have it easy,’ it said.

I turned to see comedian Robbie Booster in Natalie’s chair. He had brought a glass of yellowish liquid which might have been scotch and ginger ale, a popular drink, in those days, but not with me.

`Compared to who?’ I asked.

`It is `compared to whom’, you know. I have honours in English.’

I do not want to know anyone who immediately tells you he has honours in English.

‘Good for you. I have dishonours in meeting strangers,’ I said.

He wasn’t offended. Even gave an insincere laugh. It made me warm to him a little. Faking sincerity shows an effort.

`Where do you know Stacey from?’

`From a bar of soap,’ I said, still willing to be difficult.

His frown followed by an embarrassed titter told me he did not get it. Ah well, Robbie Booster would not be borrowing my material.

‘I’ve been busting my gut in pubs and clubs longer than Stacey has,’ he said.

‘Ah,’ I said, knowingly.

‘I’m not jealous,’ he said.

We both knew that was a lie but only one of us knew why he was sharing it with me. The one who knew wasn’t me.

‘I mean, I don’t do all that old sexist shit, the staple of the Aussie male comedian for most of the century,’ Booster said.

Staple, I thought. I bet he doesn’t share that word with the punters too often, especially when the blokes in the audience realise he is not referring to a Playboy centrefold.

‘You don’t say much, do you?’ Booster asked as if he too was sick of hearing his own voice.

`Strong silent type,’ I said.

‘I never refer to my service in the ‘Nam,’ I added.

‘You’re years too young for the Vietnam War,’ he said.

`That’s why I never talk about it.’

He laughed, loudly and sincerely, this time, and I decided he could be my new best friend for a couple of minutes.

`Where’s your fan club?’ I asked.

`I have a reputation for being difficult,’ he said.

After Robbie Booster and I introduced ourselves, I looked him over. Close-up, he could have been younger than the 25 I picked him for, earlier. He had no permanent frown marks and his pale skin was undamaged by sun. If it were not for the acne pock marks, he would have been a pretty boy. Even now, I would imagine some women and/or men found him unusually attractive.

‘How did you get the reputation for being difficult?’ I asked.

He shook his head slightly from side to side as if he might not answer.

‘I gave it to myself,’ he said, eventually.

‘Ah,’ I said, as if I understood, but actually to convey I did not want to hear any more on the subject.

He obliged by reverting to an earlier remark.

`My routine is deceptively simple but in reality it’s pretty out-there,’ he said.

If I was giving my own review, I would be as generous as he was. I would hope I was more charitable to the competition than Booster.

‘Stacey’s stuff appeals to the prejudices of a sub-group and people who feel guilty about their part in the oppression of that sub-group.’ he said.

I nodded knowingly, as I always do when someone speaks in the foreign language of Bullshit.

‘Stacey Jacks has an audience of gays, people who admire gay culture and people who detest gay bashing,’ I translated.

`I guess so,’ he conceded, coming out from the closet of English honours.

`The thing is, Robbie, you have a much larger potential audience than Stacey,’ I said.

`Maybe you are not as good as her. Maybe you haven’t been as lucky. I don’t know. What I do know is when you say dykes have it easy, you remind me of something else other people say.

`What white people on the dole, and rich white people, as well, say.’

Robbie Booster was listening intently even as I tried to control the tone in my voice so he didn’t know he was not going to like the rest of it.

‘They say Aboriginals have it easy,’ I said.

Robbie understood my comparison. He squirmed in his chair and his face took offence.

‘It was not a homophobic remark,’ he protested.

‘I was only talking about getting a break in this business.’

I could have parried his comeback, but life’s too short.

`Forget it,’ I said.

`I now bugger all about your business. Buddha, for all I know, your marketing strategy of being difficult might work a treat.

`Buddha knows, my life strategy of being easily led keeps me winding up ankle deep in blood.’

He tittered again and I reminded myself to stop speaking shit that only makes sense to me.


Chapter 5

I sipped from my glass of Gooroo’s bottled red which he bought at a price I would feel guilty for a month afterwards about paying.

‘Buddha, that’s a nice drop,’ I said.

‘Why do you keep saying Buddha all the time?’

‘I don’t know. I guess I picked it up from someone, a long time ago.

`It annoys me.’

‘You’ve never mentioned it before and I’ve been using it for the six years I’ve known you, Gooroo.

‘Why didn’t you mention it before?’

`Only stiffs point out the shortcomings of friends.’

‘Shortcomings, that’s a bit strong. Everyone uses ejections.’

‘Ejaculations, you mean ejaculations, Steele.’

‘Ejaculation? I thought that’s when you…’

‘Think about it, Steele.’

‘Oh, I get it: ejaculation, that’s funny.’

We both smiled at the two meanings of the word. Gooroo took a mouthful of beer and I had another sip of his expensive wine which made me seek conciliation.

‘If it bothers you, I will use something else. Any suggestions?’

‘It’s your ejaculation,’ the Gooroo said and smiled again.

I thought about it for a couple of minutes, enough time to finish my glass and pour myself another.

Gooroo had moved on.

‘It’s also called an interjection,’ the bookie said.

‘A bit like coitus interruptus,’ he added.

‘Ooo la la, I love it when you talk French.’

`Or even Latin,’ the bookie corrected.

`That too. Aren’t words sexy?’

I took a full mouthful of red.

‘Bother,’ I decided. ‘I like bother.’

‘We know that.’

‘No, instead of Buddha, I like bother.’

‘That’s not bad, Steele.

‘Bother, it has olde-world charm. Yeah, I rather like it,’ the Gooroo said.

‘You can’t have it.’

‘I didn’t say I was going to take it.’

Gooroo saw me frown as if I did not believe him.

He sulked a bit and I thought on.

‘Just one problemo,’ I decided.

‘I knew it. I knew it.’

‘Knew what, Gooroo?’

‘I knew I shouldn’t have agreed with you because now you are going to want other choices and we will be having this conversation for two hours.’

I reassured my illegal bookie mate.

‘It’s not that. It’s just, you know, when you put your car in an underground car park, the concrete roof is always low and, hanging along the roof are these big metal pipes – Buddha knows what’s in them. But when you hit your head on one of these pipes, I’m thinking `bother’ may not be the first word on your lips.’

‘Nothing like that has ever happened to me, Steele, but I could see your doing it.

`There’s ways around it,’ Gooroo said.

`Think about it: `bother’ and `Buddha’ are similar words. Both start with ‘b’ and have two syllables with the accent on the first syllable in each case.’

‘Right, Gooroo, but I don’t get it.’

`If you forget to say `bother’ and say `Buddha’ instead, remind yourself you said an inappropriate word. You will be saying ‘bother’ exclusively in no time.’

‘Excellent strategy, Gooroo.

`But should I say bother forcefully as I would with ‘Buddha’.

`Or should I go with a refined upper-crust Pommy accent for ‘bother’?’

‘No comment. Next topic, please.’

`You know, Gooroo, an interjection should be in the middle of a sentence.’

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