Sticky

Picture Glenda Moore. A 39-year-old mother, she instinctively set out to protect her two small boys as the lights went out when hurricane Sandy struck – and the floods seeped into their Staten Island home.
Nanjing Night Net

Or maybe the 50-something George Dresch, who figured he could sit out the storm with his wife and daughter, at home on the same exposed flank of the island – in New York Harbour and facing the open Atlantic.

Or perhaps their fellow islander, Leonard Montalto, 53, who shooed his daughter to safety as the flood level rose, insisting he must stay back to be sure the basement pump continued to work.

In opting to flee or remain, each wrote a little-people drama which, collectively, are more within human comprehension than is the big-picture destruction of the hurricane’s assault on the north-east corner of the US this week.

Moore’s SUV stalled on a flooded seaside road. Opting to make a run for it, she clutched two-year-old Brandon in one arm; and with the other, she dragged Connor, 4. But she stumbled, losing her grip and both boys disappeared in what, by then, had become a “raging tide”.

The flood dumped her in a flooded marsh, from which she emerged to spend two hours going door to door, pleading with neighbours to help her find the boys – but none would, she told local police.

Dresch and his 13-year-old daughter, Angela, disappeared when a catastrophic wave ripped apart their home in Oakwood. Several kilometres away in Tottenville, but still on the island, Montalto sounded confident as he watched the pump and uttered what would be his last word to his 24-year-old daughter. In a mobile phone conversation, he told her: “The water’s rushing in – it’s a good thing you got out.”

The bodies of the Moore boys were found on Thursday in a swamp. The body of the Dresch girl was found a block away from the splintered wreckage of their home on Tuesday; that of her father was recovered several streets away on Wednesday. A search of Montalto’s flooded basement by police divers failed to turn up his body, but it was recovered after neighbours punched a hole in the wall, which allowed the water to drain away.

These painful stories about the dead are swamped in accounts of the struggle by the living in the days after the hurricane.

New York certainly came to a shrieking halt – its subway system was flooded; all buses were off the roads; the bridges and tunnels that moor Manhattan to the rest of America were closed; power and communications were lost for millions; hospitals were evacuated when back-up power failed; and supermarket shelves were stripped bare. But for all the attention lavished on New York City this week, the real recovery crisis was across the Hudson River where, as late as Thursday, 20,000 people still were stranded in flooded homes and 6000 evacuees hunkered in emergency shelters in major centres such as Hoboken and Jersey City – amid rising fears of a public health crisis.

After making landfall on the New Jersey coast late on Monday, hurricane Sandy ran amok, bringing this prosperous north-east corner of the US to its knees – more than 90 people died, 38 of them in New York, as eight-plus million lost electricity and public transport was strangled in a frenzy of meteorological violence priced at almost $50 billion.

That estimate is huge, but comparatively it represents less than half the cost of the terrorist attacks of September 21, 2001; or Katrina, the hurricane that killed almost 2000 people as it barrelled into New Orleans and the south-east in 2005.

Moody’s Analytics economists attributed about $20 billion of the price tag to business lost by restaurants, casinos and airlines.

The other $30-odd billion would go to repairs on homes and property. Think of it as nature’s economic stimulus, the immediate impact of which was to push up the price of shares in hardware and materials suppliers Home Depot and Lowe’s in Wednesday’s resumption of trading on Wall Street.

Millions of homes in up to a dozen states are still without power and might have to survive another week or more without lifts, lights, heating, mobile phone service, Wi-Fi, refrigeration and hot showers.

In New York, water is in short supply – and being hauled on foot to the old and infirm in city high-rises. Ditto petrol, with long queues forming at service stations, especially in New Jersey. Emergency kitchens were being set up in New York to feed those unable to fend for themselves and sentinel columns of portable toilets adorn the forecourt of some apartment complexes.

By Wednesday, airports had partially reopened. Local public transport in New York in particular, remained affected – prompting authorities to insist on at least three people in cars entering Manhattan.

In a display of the pragmatism for which New Yorkers are renowned, the clientele of Manhattan’s downtown restaurants, still without power and struggling to get supplies, simply moved to unaffected uptown eateries – where ma?tre-d’s report a boom in business.

But if local and federal authorities wanted affirmation that they were seen to be doing the best they could to restore services, then it came late on Thursday when the only bone of contention on the news radar was the wisdom of a decision by organisers of Sunday’s New York City Marathon to go ahead with the event which is expected to draw a field of more than 40,000 and traditionally pulls as many as a million spectators.

Of all the states, New Jersey seemed to suffer most, with its waterside cities and hamlets taking a special hammering.

After losing electricity as Sandy blew through, authorities decided on Thursday that they also must cut the gas supply lines to the barrier islands along the Jersey Shore, because of the risk of fire and explosions in thousands of damaged and destroyed seaside homes.

Atlantic City’s dozen casinos remain closed, pending the restoration of power and potable water supplies. Thousands of utility workers from 12 other states were pouring in to help in the recovery.

Politics is never far from a crisis even when, as happened in the US this week, President Barack Obama and his republican challenger Mitt Romney declared that campaigning for Tuesday’s election had to be put aside. But there were “oohs” among the political chattering classes when the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, a staunch Republican who might have been Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, effectively endorsed the Democrat Obama with his effusive praise for the President’s handling of the emergency response to Sandy.

And on Thursday, there were “ahs”, and even gasps when the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a self-described independent and a vocal critic of both Obama and Romney, declared that he must stand with Obama because in the aftermath of the hurricane, the poll needed to be perceived as who was the better candidate to tackle global climate change.

In the wall-to-wall media discourse on what Americans are learning about themselves and their society this week, a standout voice was that of an émigré Russian driver in New York’s Coney Island. On emerging after the storm, he was horrified to find his livelihood – his limousine – in waist-deep water and facing the opposite direction to that in which he had parked it the previous evening. Scoffing at how coddled Americans were, he chortled that growing up in Russia made him ready for anything. Then he marvelled at something very German, which indicated that his horror had been misplaced – turns out his Mercedes-Benz was floating because its door seals were so perfect, not a drop of water had seeped in. Boris was still in business.

But as New York struggles to get back to business, there is less to marvel at. Behind the high-tech dazzle and glitz of Times Square, the city’s infrastructure – physical and ethereal – was revealed as a carelessly fragile construct.

Some elements indeed may be as clever as the Mercedes-Benz door seals, but as the self-styled capital of the world, the Big Apple failed under pressure.

Radley Horton, a climate scientist and an adviser to New York City, discerns a teachable moment. Amid rising sea levels and temperatures and accelerated melting of the Arctic ice, he argues that Sandy’s ferocity has thrust the city’s ability to cope into unprecedented territory.

Ironically, he argued that New York had been preparing for such a storm – “but the impacts were on an extreme scale, and that’s very challenging to prepare for.”

Predicting a time-consuming recovery before there might be any detailed attention to preventive measures, Horton itemises a massive to-do list – pump out subway tunnels before electrical transit equipment can be tested and replaced; fix electrical distribution stations which were inundated; deal with the buildings in which electrical equipment is located in basements; and address the surprising vulnerability of coastal communities to fire.

Did someone say Haiti?

Haiti is not exactly a suburb of New York. But almost twice as many Haitians as New Yorkers died and more than 200,000 of their homes were destroyed or damaged as hurricane Sandy spun her wheels in the Caribbean last week before heading north. The tiny island with a population of just a few more than New York was still reeling from a 2010 earthquake that killed 316,000, injured 300,000 and left one-million-plus homeless.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

Sticky

Nanjing Night Net

Chinese president-in-waiting Xi Jinping meets Sarah Lande’s granddaughter in Iowa.

LATE one afternoon in mid-February, China’s president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, stood on the front verandah of Sarah Lande’s home on a bluff that rises over the little town of Muscatine, Iowa, and looked out over the broad slow flow of the Mississippi River into Indiana.

Over tea, in the rather grand front room of the Landes’ polished Victorian home, Xi told Sarah Lande he had dreamt of the Mississippi since reading Mark Twain as a child.

Being one of the most powerful men on earth, Xi was not the only guest. Lande remembers Muscatine’s mayor, China’s ambassador to the United States and assorted Chinese ministers. There were also 14 men and women to whom Lande refers as the ”group of friends” who Xi had met when he went to the region in 1985 as part of an agricultural exchange.

When we ?visited earlier this month, Lande showed off the group photo taken on her stairs, and standing by the fireplace where Xi had stood, she explained how he had said: ”For me, you are America.”

It is easy to imagine how the pretty rural prosperity of Muscatine might have impressed a Chinese provincial official less than a decade after the end of the Cultural Revolution. ”We treated him what we like to call ‘Iowa nice’,” Lande explains, referring to a form of hospitality that tends to include warm, plain talk, corn and pork.

Xi might not feel so welcome now, at the end of a long and bitterly fought election campaign in which China has sometimes been used as a cipher for American fears of economic, social and political decline.

In ads and speeches, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney has accused President Barack Obama of being too soft on China, and has vowed to label the Chinese as currency manipulators ”on day one”. The Obama campaign has portrayed Romney as a vulture capitalist who has enriched himself by exporting manufacturing jobs to China.

In one anti-Romney ad, a worker explains how the new owners of his company instructed staff to remove the American flag.

Allegedly non-partisan independent groups have been on the attack too. Ten days ago, a group called Citizens Against Government Waste revived a highly controversial ad set in Beijing in the year 2030, in which a professor is lecturing a class on why great nations fail.?”America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession,” the professor explains in subtitled Mandarin. ”Of course, we owned most of their debt. So now they work for us.” The professor titters, the class laughs.

In these dying days of the deadlocked election, both parties have focused on Ohio, where Obama led by just 1.9 points in the Real Clear Politics poll average on Tuesday.

All indications are that yet again this state could decide which party wins the election. There is also evidence that Obama is still enjoying some advantage among the white male demographic as a result of his bailout of the auto industry.

This week Romney’s campaign attacked, releasing an ad claiming that the bailout had led to Chrysler, which had been bought out by Fiat, transferring jobs to China.

The ad is not entirely true, as the plant in China is expanding to increase output to feed demand from the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Jobs are not being transferred from the US to China, they are being created in China. But electoral politics is a killing ground for such nuance, and though the ad has been torn apart by the fact-checkers that have been so much a part of this campaign, the response of Romney’s team has been to ramp up their broadcasting in Ohio. Clearly, strategists believe it is working.

TWO days after the November 6 US election, the Chinese Communist Party will begin its own leadership transition at the Great Hall of the People. The 18th Party Congress, on November 8-14, will be immediately followed by the unveiling of the new general secretary, Xi Jinping, the expected new premier, Li Keqiang and their team, on November 15.?The personalities and positions that are set in Washington and Beijing will shape the world.

The coincidence of a US and China leadership transition is a once-in-40-year event. And it is happening at a historic moment, when China is challenging the US position as the world’s sole superpower.

If Xi can keep the ship on course, the Chinese economy may well overtake the US as the world’s largest economy during his decade-long term. Every country in the region is scrambling to exploit, hedge and otherwise adjust its bearings.

”The weight of the world’s economy is genuinely moving in our direction,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week, unveiling her new white paper on the Asia century. ”When we map the centre of gravity of global consumption, we see it is shifting east by more than 100 miles a year.”

Inevitably, where economic power goes, strategic and military power follows. The global centre of military firepower is shifting towards this region almost as fast as GDP.?Canberra has been at the vanguard of building and reinvigorating a latticework of regional security relationships, anchored in the might of the US. A year ago, Obama chose the Australian Parliament as the venue to announce his foreign policy ”pivot” to Asia.

”The possibility that we could devolve into a much more confrontational relationship is at one of the highest points than at any time since the opening of relations,” says Bates Gill, the newly arrived chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, who is also an expert on China security issues.

The Obama administration and the Gillard government have been at pains to avoid naming China as the reason. But others are not so reticent.

”Australians view themselves as facing a strategic threat — this time from a China that is growing in every way and very fast, and that shows every sign of wanting to expand territorially as well,” writes Pentagon consultant Ed Luttwak in a new book, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy.

Dennis Richardson, the outgoing secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told his new cadets earlier this year that the rivalry between the two powers would last longer than the Cold War, and it would not simply ”evolve so you can tie a ribbon on top”, according to a source in the room.?”The dynamics of the US-China relationship will shape your entire careers,” said Richardson, who has recently moved to run the Department of Defence.

The realignment of diplomatic and military power will be more complex and fluid than the Cold War with the Soviets. Growing US-China rivalry is accompanied by growing interdependency.

It is no coincidence that Richardson sent two of his top China hands to key American posts. Graeme Fletcher, the former deputy head of mission at the Australian embassy in Beijing, is now the deputy in Washington.?The international adviser to the former prime minister Kevin Rudd, Scott Dewar, is consul-general in Honolulu, where his job is to work with the US Pacific Command as it sends its six aircraft carrier groups, 180 ships and 1500 aircraft across half of the globe.

In June, in Singapore, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta flagged a ”rebalancing” that would see 60 per cent of US naval assets positioned in the Pacific. And in a fortnight from now, Panetta and the outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, are scheduled to fly to Perth for the ”Ausmin” strategic dialogue. They are pencilled in to dine with Gillard on November 14, after discussions with Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.?Gill says both countries will likely be ”quietly exploring” ways to increase intelligence co-operation, upgrade co-operation in operating space-related assets from Australian soil, and also enhance the capacity to maintain and resupply American naval vessels.?It is unlikely that they will use the occasion to act on a suggestion in a recent report to the Pentagon that the local deep-water port, HMAS Stirling, will be expanded to accommodate US aircraft carriers.

The Australian ambassador to Beijing, Frances Adamson, said this week that Smith would not be making any surprise announcements about deepening military ties. His press releases, she said, ”are not necessarily the sorts of things that make you swing into print and write front-page stories”.?Not, at least, on the eve of Xi Jinping’s rise to power.

Until the start of this year, the consensus among political analysts was that China would have a smooth leadership change with any differences safely locked away behind closed doors. This transition, however, is the first in the history of the People’s Republic that has not been orchestrated by the founding fathers of the 1949 revolution.

It is shaping up as an epic contest at a moment of growing social, economic and political tension and uncertainty. And whereas America’s presidential candidates slog it out in public, with clear and independently enforced rules, China’s political adversaries face off inside the same tent and without enforceable ground rules.

The scale of the Chinese political scandals that have leaked out from the black box this year make Romney’s tax problems look trivial.?They include the highest level attempted defection in 40 years; a murder of an English businessman (by the wife of a Politburo member); a top party official covering up his son’s death in an exploding Ferrari (reportedly with two semi-clad women) and foreign media exposes that separately found that the families of two of the top leaders controlled billion-dollar fortunes. And then Xi Jinping failed to emerge in public for a fortnight.

”The poor guy — it’s like Obama four years ago — facing a completely impossible array of challenges,” says Professor Geremie Barme, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for China in the World. ”That’s probably why he took a sickie a few weeks ago,” he said, referring to Xi’s two-week disappearance from the public stage, which remains entirely unexplained.

”It is a state of extreme chaos,” said one Beijing political watcher, LiWeidong. ”There is nobody in absolute control.”

While the American contestants are sometimes reacting crudely to China’s rapidly accumulating power, those in China seem more preoccupied with their own fragility.?Chinese leaders have responded by bolstering their personal and collective defences with the strongest, crudest and most dangerous display of nationalism in decades.

Japan has been the target of shrill propaganda and state-sponsored protests, over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, but the spectre of America has been hovering in the background.?Chinese politicians and regional security analysts see regional affairs almost entirely through the prism of what they see as the US defending its hegemony against the rising power of China.

That is why many observers see the dispute ”as a time bomb planted by the US” between China and Japan, a retired senior Chinese official told foreign reporters in Hong Kong this week. ”That time bomb is now exploding, or about to explode.”

If China has emerged as a feature in American politics, then the US is China’s obsession, the measure of the country’s achievement and also the imagined ”enemy” by which it?defines itself. ”It has been a constant and strong belief that the US has sinister designs to sabotage the Communist leadership and turn China into its vassal state,” as Wang Jisi, foreign policy adviser to a former Chinese president, explained in a candid report for the Brookings Institution earlier this year.

And while the children of the party elite travel in droves to study in the US, the party itself sees the very existence of the US as a challenge to its monopoly on power. Party leaders seem to have even made a pact with each other – like a gang, or a cult – that they would not succumb to American ideas.

”We have made a solemn declaration,” said China’s low-profile second-ranked leader, Wu Bangguo, last year, ”that we will not employ a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation; diversify our guiding thought; separate executive, legislative and judicial powers; use a bicameral or federal system; or carry out privatisation.”

Later in 2011, Obama responded with his ”pivot” speech in Canberra, which outlined all the things that China’s leaders insist they will resist. ”Certain rights are universal; among them, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the freedom of citizens to choose their own leaders,” Obama said. Within months, the first US marines arrived in Darwin.

If the 2008 US election was about hope and change, this year’s ambitions are far more modest. Obama is fighting a rearguard action to protect what change he managed to grind through the recalcitrant Congress he was left with after 2010.

Romney, ignoring his own bold record on health reform as governor of Massachusetts, argues that his business experience qualifies him to cut unemployment, deficit and debt. His broad approach to China seems unlikely to diverge much from Obama’s, despite some occasional rhetorical excursions.

In his book No Apology – effectively a job application published two years ago – he describes how in 2006 the former ambassador to China, Clark Randt jnr, told him that many Chinese believed their nation contained an energy, much as an individual does, and that when that energy is blocked, the nation becomes ill.

”When foreigners cut off Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the theory holds this weakened China and prevented it from regaining its past greatness,” Romney writes. Mostly, however, Romney is rephrasing the Obama policy.

”It is in our best interests to draw China into the circle of responsible nations and, at the same time, to strengthen our capacity to intervene in Asia, if necessary, to prevent China from imposing its will on independent nations,” he writes.

One of Romney’s advisers is Aaron Friedberg, who served as a national security adviser to then vice-president Dick Cheney between 2003 and 2005.

In September, Friedberg, now a Princeton professor of public and international affairs, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs that the ”responsible stakeholder” policy of integrating China was not working.

He said China’s at once ”arrogant and insecure” leadership was prompting increased tension in the Pacific and had failed to help America solve its key diplomatic problems, particularly North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs.

Friedberg says China’s leadership is determined to overtake America as the dominant regional power – a situation he says America could not and should not abide.

He suggests America should adopt a policy of standing its ground, continuing its engagement with China while increasing its force in the region, specifically by increasing its military investment and deepening its alliances in the region, and by supporting arms purchases by those allies.

This sounds like Obama’s ”pivot” in the Australian Parliament, which Friedberg dismisses as a largely symbolic transfer of existing forces. It is perhaps a pivot, but with more teeth.

The heavily contested American election may not change the world. By contrast, in the ”selection” in China, where there is only one party, the possibilities seem wide open. Xi’s treatment of the US will, to a large extent, define the China that he rules for the coming decade. The relationship will shape the world.

On the banks of the Mississippi they reckon that Xi is not a man who pits himself against America.

After his recent visit to Muscatine, The New York Times noted dryly that it constituted something of a propaganda coup, a ”tightly choreographed moment” intended to deepen his connection with the American heartland.

Well, perhaps. But Sarah Lande does not doubt Xi’s sincerity. ”When he walked in the door, the smile, the greeting, the handshake, it was so warm,” she said.

”We could see he was so happy to see us. It jumped out of him.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

Sticky

Bumboras Bay.Louise Southerden joins the flying visitors writing a new chapter in Norfolk Island’s colourful history.
Nanjing Night Net

Flying in over green hills, listening to Air New Zealand’s Kiwi flight attendants, I can’t help but feel I’m arriving on a small piece of the North Island that has broken off and drifted 1000 kilometres north.

Norfolk Island isn’t part of New Zealand, of course. It’s a self-governing territory of Australia. Officially, that is. In reality, it’s a world unto itself, with its own language (Norf’k, a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian) and way of life.

People wave at each other, and at tourists. There are no traffic lights, and cows have right of way on the roads. Remember when shops, cafes and museums in Sydney would close on Saturday afternoons? On Norfolk they still do.

“I’m a bit crazy,” says Les Quintal, who looks and sounds like Geoffrey Rush, as he takes us for an introductory drive around the island. “It’s from the inbreeding,” he cackles. Like 40 per cent of Norfolk’s 1800 residents, Quintal is descended from a Bounty mutineer. You can’t go far on Norfolk without bumping into its history.

It’s on the road signs (Pitcairn Place, Fletcher Christian Road, Baunti Centre) and at landmarks (such as Captain Cook lookout, where a stone cairn commemorates Cook naming the island after the Duchess of Norfolk in 1774). It’s all over Kingston, a former penal settlement, where graves of convicts and soldiers, children and murderers lie side by side. Then there’s Cyclorama – a 360-degree mural conceived by Marie Bailey, a descendant of Fletcher Christian – where you can walk right into Norfolk’s past.

Closing the door behind me, I’m suddenly standing on the dock at Portsmouth, listening to gulls and the rain as the Bounty departs for the tropics, then following it to Tahiti where it’s commandeered by Christian and sails on to Pitcairn Island. It’s affecting and helps make sense of the island’s convoluted history.

A country-town vibe, a colourful history – no surprises there. But the winds of change have been blowing across this volcanic isle, particularly since Air New Zealand won an Australian government tender in March to provide five flights a week to the island – two from Sydney, two from Brisbane and one from Auckland.

After decades of seven-night packages, Norfolk is fast becoming a short-break destination for time-poor urbanites. There’s plenty of accommodation – about 1400 visitor beds, most in self-contained cottages or apartments. It helps that the flying time from the east coast of Australia is about two hours and flights to and from Sydney run on Fridays and Mondays.

“It’s a big advantage having a high-profile airline such as Air New Zealand, and its schedule has even allowed us to offer weekend trips to Norfolk Island, which wasn’t possible before,” says the general manager of the Norfolk Island Tourism Bureau, Glen Buffett.

Plans to integrate the island with Australia could allow local tour operators to join the Tourism Australia family, too. In the meantime, Norfolk is updating itself.

There’s still plenty of island charm, from knitwear shops to quilting retreats, but there are now wearable-arts shows, holistic-living festivals, three music festivals (opera in February, country music in May, jazz in December) and an annual golf pro-am.

There are self-guided iPod tours of the island’s national park, secret spots and historical sites, and iPod commentary on a new photography exhibition, The World of Norfolk. Norfolk Island Museum recently launched its new website (norfolkislandmuseum南京夜网.au); and Parks Australia’s new interpretative centre has live feeds from Phillip Island, a seabird sanctuary six kilometres off the south coast.

Norfolk is becoming more active, too – from snorkelling and reef-walking tours, to walking tracks and beach yoga classes. Want to go surfing, kayak around the island, try rock fishing? Ask a local or drop by the tourist information office (which amounts to the same thing); anything’s possible on a small island.

Who knew Norfolk had its own winery? The Two Chimneys boutique vineyard opened its doors in 2006 and offers tastings of its New England wines and is expecting its first harvest next year. It’s just one of the foodie attractions on an island that lives and breathes sustainability and self-sufficiency, by necessity. “By law we can’t import a lot of produce, so most of what you eat here is grown or made here,” Buffett says.

Coffee is grown among the Norfolk pines in Anson Bay; Anson Coffee opened a cafe in July, has a mobile coffee van and runs plantation tours. Next month, local surfer Emily Ryves will open her new venture, Hilli Goat Farm, also at Anson Bay; she plans to sell goat’s cheese at a small cafe on the property.

Norfolk Blue beef cattle homestead and restaurant offers a true “paddock to plate” experience, while Hilli’s (another restaurant) has a new Mastering Tastes tour where guests gather and prepare local produce with its head chef. Then there’s Dino’s, which grows its own herbs and vegetables; its 19th-century Norfolk-pine bungalow wouldn’t look out of place in Newtown, with its eclectic artworks, old photographs and crystal chandeliers.

But the island isn’t too fashionable, not yet, thank goodness. It might want to shake off its quaintness, but it’s the oddities that make it special. Where else can you play golf on a World Heritage site for just $70 a week? The phone book famously lists locals by their nicknames, such as Binky, Crowbar, Lettuce Leaf and Gumboots. God Save the Queen is the island’s anthem and Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday (a legacy of American whalers). On Norfolk Island, it all makes perfect sense.

As the world gets faster and busier, who doesn’t long for a simpler, slower way of life? On this little island you can have it, if only for a long weekend.

FAST FACTS

Getting there Air New Zealand flies to Norfolk Island from Sydney (2hr 30min) on Mondays and Fridays from $572, and from Brisbane (2hr 10min) on Tuesdays and Saturdays from $535 return, including taxes. Fares from Melbourne, including a domestic connection, start at $960. See airnewzealand南京夜网.au.

Staying there Jacaranda Park Cottages has five self-contained, one-bedroom cabins from $255 a night, including car hire, mobile phone use, airport transfers and half-day island tour. See www.jacarandapark.nlk.nf. Islander Lodge’s self-contained apartments have the best views on the island from $225 a night, phone +6723 22114 or email [email protected]

More information See theworldofnorfolk南京夜网.au.

Louise Southerden travelled courtesy of Air New Zealand and Norfolk Island Tourism Bureau.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

THE leader of an Islamic group at the centre of anti-terror raids has returned from overseas to resume his hardline preaching in Melbourne.
Nanjing Night Net

Harun Mehicevic, also known as Abu Talha, returned from Bosnia late last month and is again extolling the virtues of jihad at the Al-Furqan Islamic Information Centre in Springvale South.

The Australian Federal Police raided the centre and Mr Mehicevic’s home in September during an operation that focused on 12 properties, most of them in Melbourne’s south-east. Mr Mehicevic was in Bosnia at the time.

As a result of the raids, Adnan Karabegovic, 23, was charged with four counts of collecting documents in connection with the preparation of a terrorist act. The maximum penalty for the offence is 15 years’ jail.

The raids led to the seizure of items including a computer memory stick containing ”violent extremist materials”, as well as imitation firearms and registered guns.

Speaking from the driveway of a flat in Springvale South, Mr Mehicevic said he had been silent since the raids because he felt nothing could be gained from speaking while the Al-Furqan centre was being criticised.

”With all the hype of raids and everything, you get no benefit of talking,” he said. ”You wait for everything to settle down.”

Mr Mehicevic said he was angry that he had been described as the leader of a religious cult, but would wait until after the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which was held on the last weekend in October, before deciding whether to discuss the raids in detail. He wrote in an email that the centre had ”decided to keep identical line related to media. Without engagement at all.”

Mr Mehicevic is a controversial figure within the Muslim community. The imam of the nearby Bosnian mosque in Noble Park, Ibrahim Omerdic, said Mehicevic had led a group of ”radical followers” away from the Noble Park mosque about 10 years ago.

Another community source who also spoke of Mr Mehicevic soon after the raids said he was not well respected in Melbourne’s Islamic community.

Mr Mehicevic said reports about his past and a protest outside the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne had made him wary of the media. He said some aspects of his history had been reported accurately, but he would not elaborate. Fairfax reported after the raids that sources said he had come to Australia from Bosnia as a young adult in the mid-1990s, and that he had a Pakistani-born wife and six children. Mr Mehicevic studied arts at Deakin University and possibly gained a diploma in teaching.

He turned to a conservative form of Islam known as Salafism, became a follower of hardline Melbourne cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran, and associated with Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who is serving 15-years’ jail for planning a terrorist attack in Melbourne in 2005. When Benbrika split from Omran, Mr Mehicevic remained loyal to the senior cleric.

He said any interview to be conducted after Eid al-Adha would need to be conducted on his terms. ”Whatever we say to you is to be recorded and made to fit what we have said.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

That’s a big ‘un: Mario Ceniccola (left) and Matt Cini relish the bay’s piscine pleasures. Anglers think the fishery is healthier than ever.
Nanjing Night Net

WITH his fishing rod bending so sharply it resembles a giant fishing hook, Mario Ceniccola grips the handle tightly with one hand, winds up the reel with his other hand and gradually lowers the tip of the rod to the water.

Ten months ago the 62-year-old survived a heart attack; and this morning that organ is getting a workout as the enthusiastic fisherman tries to land his first fish for the day. Clearly it is a big one, undoubtedly a snapper – and certainly the other anglers on the boat wish it was on their line.

With a contest in its early stages and the fish still deep in Port Phillip Bay’s calm waters, Mr Ceniccola urges it to co-operate. ”Slowly come to papa, slowly come to papa,” he says, in a soothing but straining voice.

Mr Ceniccola knows it is best to be patient. After about five minutes his patience is rewarded: the snapper has been brought to within a few centimetres of the surface, its pink and silver colours glistening in the early morning light.

The boat’s skipper, Matt Cini, likes what he sees. ”This is a big fish, this is a very big fish, Mario,” he says, net in hand. He dips it in the water, collects the snapper and lifts it on board. Mr Cini, owner of Reel Time Fishing Charters, estimates it weighs about 6.5 or 7 kilograms. ”Look how fat he is, he’s like a footy,” he says excitedly.

”That’s a barrel, mate, that’s a photo fish – you don’t catch them every day,” he says.

Mr Cini is right, on both counts. The snapper weighs in at 6.5 kilograms, a hefty size a keen angler would not catch in Port Phillip Bay every day, though nowadays it seems anglers chasing snapper have a better chance than just a few years ago.

Fishermen say the bay’s snapper fishery is as healthy as they have ever seen. The unofficial starting date for the snapper season is October 1, but November, says Mr Cini, is the best month. It is also the month for fishing competitions, including the Tea Tree Snapper Fishing competition, held over the past two days.

Mr Cini, who runs charters from Carrum, says Mr Ceniccola’s fish is the biggest caught by one of his customers so far this season. And for Mr Ceniccola it is a personal best. ”I have never caught one that big either, three kilos is my biggest,” he says, after a few back slaps and the odd high-five.

It is a tick past 7am and the golden, pink and mauve colours that stretched over the bay at sunrise have been replaced by bright but gentle sunshine. A few kilometres away residents of Melbourne’s suburbs are into their morning routine: having breakfast, a shower, getting dressed, or travelling to work.

But on Port Phillip Bay it is another world. There are enough people on fishing boats to populate an entire suburb. Mr Cini estimates that more than 300 boats launched at Carrum this morning, and the procession of vehicles towing trailers to the ramps at 4.50am vindicate his estimate.

The snapper fishery has improved markedly over the past two decades, Mr Cini says. In the mid-1990s, when he was learning how to fish with his uncle, snapper fishing trips were not very productive. ”I used to work all weekend to catch two fish, to catch two snapper. And the fishery has just become so healthy now,” he says.

He attributes the improvement to two main things: the cessation of scallop dredging in 1997 and efforts to protect the Yarra and bay from pollution. ”The [snapper] schools that we find now can be up to a couple of hundred metres long and 10 or 20 metres wide. And anywhere from two metres to six metres high, of just solid fish,” he says.

Veteran bay angler Ian Jones, from Beaumaris, says the bay’s snapper fishery is in better health today than he has seen. ”I think that the snapper fishery now is world class, it will continue to be world class and it’s absolutely outstanding compared with what it used to be. It’s much easier to catch fish – I don’t think it’s all [because of] technology – I think it’s a lot to do with the way the fisheries are managed,” he says.

Back on the boat, Mr Ceniccola has hooked another good fish. ”Holy Moses, Abraham, give me a hand,” he says, reeling steadily. It sounds like a plea for help, but it’s clear he’s enjoying himself.

”This leaves sex for dead,” he adds.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

A SURVIVOR of a rail crash that killed one man and injured up to 12 others at a level crossing in Melbourne’s south-east has described his terror when his train collided with a semi-trailer.
Nanjing Night Net

Bill Graham was on the second carriage of a Cranbourne-bound train on Saturday morning when the front carriage took the impact of the smash.

”I heard this really loud bang and I could see this big truck crossing the road and the front carriage just got turned around about 90 degrees,” he said. ”I couldn’t see the driver because of all the dust and smoke, I only saw the back end of the truck. It had almost made it across the crossing but I can’t remember whether the boom gates were down or not.

”The train carriages were rattling all over the place and the train tracks were all bent up. I held on to the rail above my seat pretty tightly until it was all over and just hoped for the best.”

The 64-year-old retiree from Glen Waverley said it took about a minute for the train to come to a complete stop. He estimated about 20 passengers were aboard at the time of the impact, which came shortly after the train left Dandenong station on its way to Lynbrook station.

”After the bang I didn’t hear any people screaming – there was just too much noise from the train itself,” Mr Graham said. ”It just kept going and then it gradually slowed down and I was able to get off through the third carriage with two other guys who were down the back. We managed to get off out the side door. I saw a couple of people in my carriage who had some cuts and grazes but I was lucky, I didn’t have to go to hospital.”

Mr Graham said the incident had shaken him up, particularly when he heard a fellow passenger had died. ”It was a terrible shock,” he said. ”It just makes you value your life.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

Guidelines surrounding speedometers have stopped people from using the best-selling car to try for their licence.AUSTRALIA’S best-selling car cannot be used in the VicRoads licence test – despite being approved for use in other states.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s the latest blow for novice drivers who are already forced to apply for a special exemption to drive the many modern low-power, fuel-efficient, turbocharged cars.

New drivers must tackle some of the strictest rules in the country before they are allowed on the road, as VicRoads guidelines surrounding speedometers have stopped people from using the best-selling Mazda3 to try for their licence.

Mazda owner Owen Shemansky was told this year that his wife could not use their car to take her driving test as its speedometer was not visible from the passenger seat.

”We bought the Mazda before she was even going for her learner’s licence. We were thinking she would take the car and use it when the time comes,” Mr Shemansky said. ”They knocked us back on the day [of the test] … they turned us away on the spot.”

Mr Shemansky said he was frustrated. ”Buying a brand-new car in Victoria, you’d think a consumer could have a reasonable expectation that it could be used in Victoria for a driver’s test.”

Shrouds around the Mazda3 dashboard limit the view of its speedometer from the passenger seat. A VicRoads spokeswoman said some cars were not suitable for driving exams because the entire speedometer ”must be easily visible to the testing officer from the front and rear passenger seat”. She said a supplementary speedo could be fitted to test cars, but that GPS speed readouts were not allowed and would not be considered in the future ”unless they can be proven to be as accurate as speedometers”.

Provisionary drivers already cannot take the wheel of turbocharged cars such as Volkswagen’s base-model 1.2-litre Golf without applying for special exemption, but can drive Toyota’s 3.5-litre Aurion with double the power.

David Stannus, owner of Australian Design Rules consultancy firm Protech Developments, said VicRoads was out of touch with technology and that GPS units provided a more accurate measurement of speed. He said most dashboard speedometers had a 4 per cent error margin.”GPS will give you an accuracy of 0.5 per cent,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

VICTORIA’S liquor licensing authority is investigating a nightclub promoter who told several schoolgirls via social media to ”kill yourself” after they asked to have provocative images removed from the venue’s Facebook page.
Nanjing Night Net

The young women had attended the Pens Down party at CBD nightclub Roxanne Parlour, where students celebrated the end of year 12 before VCE exams began last week.

Pens Down promoter Christian Serrao posted 262 photographs on the event’s Facebook page, which included about 30 images of schoolgirls posing provocatively and kissing each other.

Some of the girls were embarrassed by the photographs, while others were under 18 and not legally permitted to enter licensed premises.

Other images taken on a river cruise promoted by Mr Serrao showed a young man in school uniform vomiting from the side of a boat.

When several students asked Mr Serrao to delete the images, he posted the following response: ”I just love how these year 12s are happy to get their tits out for photos, then send threatening messages if they’re not deleted off our Facebook page. Kill Yourself.”

Yesterday, Mr Serrao defended the post and said the expression ”kill yourself” was an internet meme that was not meant to be taken literally.

”It’s a comedic thing that’s all over the internet,” Mr Serrao said. ”Some people won’t understand it but you can Google it and see for yourself.”

He said all requests to delete the images had been complied with, after some of the young women expressed concerns that their parents would find them or they were unhappy with their appearance.

The practice of using provocative images of young women to promote functions was widespread across Melbourne’s nightclub industry, Mr Serrao said.

”There’s always girls kissing and doing sexy little things,” he said. ”You get 1 per cent who wake up the next day and aren’t happy and ask us to take them down.”

He said Roxanne Parlour required proof of age and scanned identification before entry but conceded that some under-aged patrons ”fall through the cracks”.

A spokesman for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed it was investigating the Pens Down event held on October 24.

Liberty Victoria chairman Spencer Zifcak said the abuse of Facebook sites reinforced the need for privacy legislation.

”This would seem to be a situation where everyone is behaving badly,” Mr Zifcak said. ”These young women have been foolish, while the promoter’s response is a disgrace. But these students are vulnerable and if they, or their parents, ask for the images to be removed, they should be taken down immediately.”

Last year, The Sunday Age revealed that parents from several prominent private schools had considered suing St Kilda’s Prince of Wales hotel, after images of their daughters, some just 16, had been used to promote the venue. Promoter and music industry figure Frank Cotela was sacked by the owners of Prince of Wales two weeks after the legal threats were made. At the time, St Michael’s Grammar principal Simon Gipson said he was deeply concerned by the exploitation of the students on social media sites.

”We deplore the manner in which young women are commodified and sexualised in this way,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

A BACKLOG of cases prompted Victoria’s ambulance service to activate an emergency response plan normally reserved for mass-casualty accidents on Monday night, for the second time in three months.
Nanjing Night Net

A spokesman for Ambulance Victoria confirmed the service called a ”code-orange” alert for about an hour from 11.30pm to help manage a high caseload.

The code is the second-highest level of alert in the state’s Health Emergency Response Plan and puts doctors on notice that they can be called in to help. It was designed to manage healthcare for disasters such as bushfires and mass-casualty accidents.

A source said the code-orange call came as about 40 patients were waiting for an ambulance, including a code-one emergency case that had been waiting for 45 minutes.

Code-one cases are critical, life-threatening situations that the ambulance service aims to treat within 15 minutes.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said the code-orange call showed the service could not cope with normal demand.

”This is just day-to-day business, it shows they can’t cope because they haven’t got enough resources,” he said.

”You’ve got up to 42 cases waiting at 11.30 at night, they resort to code orange to stop ambulance crews having meal breaks and force them to work after the end of their shifts when they’ve already done 12 or 14 hours. It’s a misuse of code orange.”

The ambulance service also called a code-orange alert on July 18, between midnight and 8.30pm, due to high levels of winter illness.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman Danny McGennisken said the calls were ”part of normal business processes and the emergency response plan was developed to help us manage these circumstances.

”It allows us to manage caseload as required and call in additional resources if they are needed.”

Opposition parliamentary secretary for health Wade Noonan said the ambulance service was in crisis.

”Response times are getting longer, ambulances are being parked up for hours outside emergency departments and now the service is having to implement emergency response plans to cope with normal business operations,” he said.

”There is nothing routine about this. The emergency response plan is reserved for incidents involving mass casualties, such as natural disasters.”

[email protected]南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

With much of Melbourne’s attention focused on Derby day yesterday, auction activity was somewhat subdued. But among the 160 properties up for grabs, some good sales were still made – particularly for period property.
Nanjing Night Net

In Carlton North, a three-bedroom Edwardian at 928 Drummond Street sold under the hammer for $1,064,000. Put on the market by Nelson Alexander at $990,000, it had attracted interest from three bidders.

Four parties competed for an entry-level two-bedroom Victorian property at 1 Richardson Street in Albert Park, quoted by Maher & Co at $700,000-plus, which eventually sold for $775,000.

The lower number of auctions proved to be a trump card for some vendors. Woodards attracted a crowd of about 55 to its auction at 110 Mackie Road in Bentleigh East of a two-bedroom 1950s property. Quoted at $480,000-$520,000, it sold for $570,000 – well above the reserve of $510,000.

In Mitcham, a three-bedroom unit at 2/51 Deep Creek Road, quoted by First National Real Estate Lindellas at above $500,000, sold under the hammer for $580,000 after competition among three bidders.

There were also some post-auction sales. In Northcote, an Edwardian family home at 6 Membrey Street, quoted by Jellis Craig at $1,250,000-$1,350,000, was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.25 million before selling for an undisclosed price after interest from three parties.

A three-bedroom property at 19 Empress Avenue in Kingsville – pitched at first home buyers – sold for $485,000 after it was passed in on a genuine bid of $460,000. Barry Plant had quoted $460,000-$490,000.

Another property that did not see an immediate result was 80 Clarinda Road in Moonee Ponds. While the auction of the renovated four-bedroom home drew a sizeable crowd, the property, quoted by Nelson Alexander at $1.37 million$1.47 million, was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.38 million.

CALL AUCTION ACTION with your auction results, tips and comments on 8667 2647 between 1pm and 5pm on Saturday.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

THE state government will revive Victoria’s only remaining sign language diploma course as it moves to stem the damage of Ted Baillieu’s TAFE cuts.
Nanjing Night Net

From the middle of next year, anyone who wants to learn Australian Sign Language will be subsidised by the government in a newly revamped Auslan training program.

The decision to reinstate the course comes after Kangan Institute — which now runs the state’s only sign language diploma — told students in May that it could no longer offer Auslan beyond 2013 as a result of the government’s budget cuts. GippsTAFE also withdrew its Auslan program last year.

Kangan’s decision sparked a backlash against the government, which subsequently commissioned a review into how Auslan is delivered in Victoria. The review’s findings, to be released today, suggest previous courses were not commercially viable, hard to access, and failed to keep pace with the needs of the deaf community.

“There is a general agreement from participants that current Auslan course delivery has, on the whole, not kept pace with the needs and requirements of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community or the learning needs of current and future student cohorts,” says the report.

Skills Minister Peter Hall said that, given the economic and social importance of Auslan, the government would undertake a competitive tender process to ensure a capped number of places could be delivered from mid-2013.

Students would be able to enrol in a certificate or diploma program, and training is expected to cost less than it has in the past (Kangan’s diploma, for instance, cost students up to $2000 in fees under the current funding system).

Labor spokesman Steve Herbert described the tender process as a wasteful “bureaucratic exercise.”

“Clearly there’s a need for this training, and the government should simply fund a TAFE to provide it from the start of next year,” he said.

Other problems identified in the government’s report include:

■ The lack of access to Auslan programs for people living outside of Melbourne.■ The need to improve career pathways for students of Auslan, including for secondary school students.■ The shortage of Auslan teachers, trainers and interpreters, particularly in rural and regional Victoria.■ The need for a new funding model to ensure courses were commercially viable in future.

The decision to reinstate Auslan comes as the government continues to take a hit over its $300 million cuts to TAFE, particularly in regional Victoria.

Australian Education Union TAFE vice president Greg Barclay said he supported the decision to reinstate the course, but questioned how the new program would be funded.

Kangan spokeswoman Yvette Bockisch also welcomed the government’s decision.

“The Auslan course provides a very important course to the deaf community. The majority of our students are hearing students and are learning the language to become interpreters at RMIT,” she said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

Brothers Mark (left) and Scott Eaton are set to run in the City2Sea next Sunday on Remembrance Day, which has a special meaning.NEXT Sunday’s City2Sea fun run falls on Remembrance Day – and for two runners it’s a day that’s especially meaningful.
Nanjing Night Net

Scott Eaton has served in East Timor with the Army Reserve and his brother Mark is the recipient of an RSL scholarship, but it’s their grandfather who will be in their thoughts when there’s a moment’s silence before the start of the race.

Frank Eaton was a Rat of Tobruk, part of the Australian and British forces that successfully defended the Libyan port against the German Afrika Korps in 1941. If that wasn’t enough, he then saw service in Papua New Guinea against the Japanese. He died in 1995.

”It’s a chance to remember the sacrifice that others have made before you,” said Scott, 33. ”For us it’s our grandfather who’s the first one who tends to come to mind. It’s a chance to remember what these guys have actually sacrificed for the freedoms that we have – we have our family and our mates to enjoy because of what they’ve done.”

Running is an appropriate way to honour Remembrance Day because it’s an essential part of army life, said Scott. In his recent nine-month deployment to East Timor, where he drove trucks for the Combat Service Support Troop, he ran frequently to keep in shape and did the Dili Half Marathon.

East Timor was his first overseas deployment in 15 years of Army Reserve service. ”You train for so long. It’s good to go over and actually do the job for real,” said Scott, whose tasks included helping to run an orphanage.

”It was really good. It was a chance to do something that makes you feel like you’re making a difference.”

Running has been the link that has eased his transition back into civilian life.

A communications technician, he runs his owns business but also manages to squeeze in a five-kilometre run every day near his home in Vermont.

Mark’s training routine, thanks to the demands of his job as a partner in a St Kilda Road law firm, is somewhat lighter – 10 to 15 kilometres a week – but it was his idea to do the 14-kilometre City2Sea. ”I did Run for the Kids, and that’s 15 kilometres, so I should be able to do this,” he said.

Mark, 35, has a connection with the armed services as well – he was the recipient of the Norman A. Smith Memorial Scholarship at Glen Waverley RSL, which helped fund his law studies. ”The Anzac spirit really resonates with both of us,” said Mark. ”The concept of friendship and sacrifice and recognising that people have made significant sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy certainly means something to us. I certainly took it far more seriously having a brother who was serving.”

At 7.45am, 15 minutes before the race starts, there will be the RSL’s usual commemoration ritual, featuring The Ode, the Last Post, the silence and reveille.

The full minute’s silence will come at 11am in St Kilda’s Catani Gardens, where the run finishes.

”I just hope I’ve finished the run by 11 o’clock for the minute of silence,” said Mark.

■ For details on The Sunday Age City2Sea presented by Westpac, on November 11, visit thecity2sea南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →

FOR Felice Wainer, her father’s legacy is vivid and his absence a void, even 25 years after his death. She is proud of him and his work, even as she reflects on a Melbourne childhood in which his presence was sometimes sporadic and often too intense for a young child to make sense of him.
Nanjing Night Net

Her father was Bert Wainer, the controversial campaigner who fought a war against backyard abortion in the 1960s and 1970s and became a household name. As he fearlessly took on corrupt police and the conservative establishment in pursuit of the cause that consumed his life, his daughter grew up fearful that she would be harmed, or that her father would be killed.

As a Wainer, she was vilified. She was the daughter of the man they called the ”baby killer”. As she recalls today: ”I was aware of the fact that we were Wainer children … and when I was in high school I knew that he may be killed. I thought he would be assassinated one day.”

Hers was no ordinary childhood. But Bertram Wainer was a man who lived no ordinary life, and a life of no ordinary consequence for those whose destinies were defined by his cause. They are women, in the main: his daughter and two wives among them – as well as countless other women for whom safe and legal abortion is now a right.

The Wainer name will resonate with older Victorians who recall who he was and what he did, even as younger women draw a blank, unaware that his life had consequences for them.

When they learn about him, as they can tonight by watching the ABC movie about Wainer’s war against illegal abortion, Dangerous Remedy, many will surely thank him.

Some may consider him a sinner. In common, though, they are likely to be shocked by the Victoria depicted through his story: the cops are corrupt, the politicians contemptuous. But it is ordinary women who are the criminals as well as the victims – humiliated, harassed, frightened and ever in danger of an even worse fate: death at the hands of an illegal abortionist.

Through this brutal landscape strides Bertram Wainer, a Scottish doctor who had had enough of a system that corrupted the medical profession as readily as it did the police force. He rallied support among sympathetic colleagues; he forced the issue into the media; he launched his own war against the corrupt police.

In the process, he became a folk hero to some and the Devil incarnate to others. But as the movie depicts it, and his daughter confirms, Wainer didn’t care what forces opposed him or how hopeless his cause or what dangers he faced.

”He was a very powerful man,” she says of her father, who was a doctor in the Australian Army before starting his private practice, ”a very strong man. When he walked into a room you knew he’d walked in. A huge presence.”

When Felice, a Fitzroy fashion designer, first saw the actor Jeremy Sims in character, she was stunned. ”I went to the movie set and I met him and I just couldn’t really look at him. My father had enormous charisma … this huge persona and big charisma and Jeremy had it.”

Felice herself features in several key scenes in the film, and she admits finding it difficult to watch her family’s life portrayed on screen. ”I had to watch it three or four times actually … we always get surprised that it’s our life,” she says. ”It seems strange when you watch it in a movie because when you’re actually living in it at the time, it’s quite normal. It’s surreal.”

And then there’s the time frame depicted on screen. In reality, the years covered by the film reflect a period of about 12 years, but as compressed for dramatic purposes it seems much shorter. ”Anyone who sees that movie is going to think, ‘She had a pretty full-on year’, but that was all spread over time.”

It would be a harrowing and confronting period to live through, whatever the time span. When Felice Wainer is asked to describe it in her own way, she starts by noting that she, her parents and her three brothers came to Melbourne from Queensland in 1961. Her father and her mother, Barbara, separated soon afterwards. Felice was only three.

”Dad had his clinic in St Kilda,” she says. ”And the rampage started from that point forward, and to be honest we didn’t really see him a lot. We couldn’t. It was too dangerous.”

”The rampage”, as she describes Wainer’s campaign, gathered pace, and his children had to adjust to an extraordinary life in which contact with their father was dictated not only by his hectic schedule, but by the growing danger to his safety.

”We used to have to ring three times and then hang up and then ring back so he’d know it was us and he could pick up the phone. He did make efforts to see us but it was always so clandestine or random, just turning up so that nobody would ever know. I think Barbara, my mother, was terrified. She didn’t let on to us.”

As Felice grew older, the danger intensified rather than eased. As she entered her teens and began spending more time with her dad at his home in Ivanhoe, Felice grew to understand that she and her brothers were also at risk.

”He was acutely aware of security. We had an incredibly secure house. I had an emergency alarm button beside my bed that would go off to a private security company. I’m sure the government thought they were taking on this little GP from Scotland. But he was a highly trained military man, my father. He was not a little suburban doctor, he was a highly trained man and he trained all of us quite well. He taught me never to walk on the side near the gutters. I learnt a lot about security for myself, about watching who’s around.

”When I lived with him it was scary. Lots of things happened. The house was built for security, we had really big dogs. I was a very scared child. I was aware of danger from when I was very young.”

She had also become slowly aware that her father was a figure of public notoriety, and over time he educated her as to the reasons.

”He was always on television. At six or seven I started to realise people knew who my father was, then I started seeing him on TV. I didn’t really get what he was doing, I just knew he was well-known in some way.”

When she went to high school, it became clearer. ”I went to Ivanhoe Girls Grammar … and the parents didn’t like me. I had a boyfriend who was Catholic and I wasn’t allowed to go into their house. I think I took it in my stride. It was just our life.”

In two key scenes in Dangerous Remedy, the young Felice brings the perspective of innocence to the abortion wars raging around her, asking her father if the women have done something wrong. Her father explains that sometimes ”there’s a reason they can’t have the baby and the pregnancy is terminated”. She replies: ”And the police don’t like that?”

And in one of the most confronting scenes, Wainer shows his daughter an aborted foetus in a jar – a moment meant to demonstrate that for all Wainer’s advocacy for legal abortion, he took no pleasure in his work. ”Take a look,” he demands of his daughter. ”Look at it. You tell me how good it is.”

His daughter asks: ”Why did you do that?”

Wainer: ”It’s the lesser of two evils, Felice, but that’s all it is.”

It might sound like a scene invented for a screenwriter’s convenience – a way of letting a lead character make a complex point in the most simple way possible. But this, or something very close to it, did indeed happen.

”He did do the foetus thing,” she says. ”I would have been 14. I’d gone to visit him at the clinic and out the front there were all the Right-to-Lifers and somebody grabbed my belt on my jeans and said, ‘That designer belt was bought with the death of a thousand babies’ or something, and I thought, ‘I worked in a milk bar to buy this belt’. So I went inside and I said to him, ‘What is all this about?’ He said, ‘Come with me’.”

Her father then showed her an aborted foetus – not in a jar, but through a microscope. ”There was all this blood and lumps of tissue … I said to him something like, ‘So they’re right, you are a baby killer?’ And he said, ‘Yes, and you need to think about that’. I was annoyed at him for a short amount of time but I started to reconcile what he’d said to me – that abortion’s a terrible thing, but it’s a necessary thing. I started to understand that.

”He never asked any of us to go along with what he was doing. And that is probably the best legacy he gave me. I don’t follow anyone’s rules but my own. I didn’t have to agree with him. If I’d become a born-again Christian he would have been cool with that.”

And it was in the decade that followed – as Wainer stepped back from the abortion wars, having largely achieved his goals – that Felice was to learn the most important lesson about her father: that as a doctor, he dispensed courage as effectively as he did any medicine.

She’d married young, at just 20, to an Italian model. They’d only been married a year when her husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was a devastating blow, but her father made this his new and, as it turned out, final campaign.

”He was this tower of strength,” his daughter, now 51, recalls. ”He spoke to me every day. Every morning he’d ring me and every night and he’d visit me. He was extraordinary to my husband. I got really close to him. I loved his sense of humour, he was extremely funny, and had a totally mad sense of humour. All the things I knew about him that I guess people who didn’t like him couldn’t imagine. He was very funny. He was very compassionate.”

And then, as Felice faced the loss of her husband, suddenly her other rock was gone. ”He died in the midst of all of that. When he died it was horrific because I just needed him so much. It was not only losing a father, it was this person who was my rock. I was wrecked. A total mess.”

That was in January 1987. Wainer, one-time scourge of politicians and policemen and priests, was gone, farewelled at a funeral in the Melbourne CBD and no longer the enemy of the state of recent memory.

His daughter had last seen him a fortnight before, at a family dinner on New Year’s Eve. Exactly 25 years later, on New Year’s Eve 2011, she had her final words with her mother, Barbara, who died of leukaemia that day.

Her mother’s passing is still fresh; her father’s passing she can summon to mind as if it were yesterday. These, not the abortion debates, are the matters of life and death that Felice Wainer feels most keenly. ”My mother was my best friend. And I was great friends with my father. I was very lucky.”

But she knows why the state and the nation will remember him – and having seen his battles freshly depicted on film, she is happy to embrace that legacy. ”Impressed and proud, really,” she says. ”I’ve always been really proud about what he did.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.Read More →