Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Hi, it’s Sandy, and I’m here with Leo, my brother and Alene’s other boy, waiting for the coroner. Her Blogger page was still open so I thought I’d use it to let friends know what happened, probably on Monday night, and why we’re here. After that, well I don’t know Alene’s password, so when I sign off on this it will be, so to speak, the last post for Alene. After that, no way of getting back into the blog again.

We found her, well, the Emergency boys actually found her, about two hours ago. Alarm goes off, neighbours report it, neighbours report it again, door gets kicked in, and there she is, stretched out on the floor, quite dead, with her head in the oven. She must have been a bit glum when she did it. It’s an all electric house.

Paint is ruined from the smoke ($4000) and the house smells like Sunday roast. New stove ($1000)?  Nah, buyers don’t really need to know what’s been cooking and we all  don’t hear the timer every now and again. Alene’s proved that the oven works a treat, though. And for the replacement door, maybe a leadlight kookaburra, or some Federation-faux gum leaves and boomerangs ($800-$2500). Presentation, that’s what moves a house at top dollar ($750K to $900K). Sorry seagrass, Bali puppets, Krishna and the cow maidens on the wall, it’s time to go! Polished wood and sconces, that’s the shot. Take out the Rheem and put in a woodchip donkey heater. Burns renewables, and your Seddon sorts like that, and it will cut the number of baths, too, because the water takes so long to heat. They will like that as well. No Dams! Wild Rivers Say No Salinity etc!. Yes indeed, maybe it will make a million with any luck.

Leo’s just come back from taking care of Sparkles. The cat was a bit weird when we got here. Probably the three days of overcooking did it. Sorry Mum, but if your little friend had a nibble on the roasted bits I can’t tell. But
you two were very close so I know you wouldn’t mind. Nice Mr Lee, the bloke across the road who owns the restaurant in Footscray, has taken her. Said he didn’t need the cat bed or the John Howard litter tray, so he left without them. Seemed quite happy. Well, happier than Sparkles anyway    

LOOK, it’s Leo here now, and I’ve taken the keyboard away from my brother because he makes this all sound flippant. It’s not. It’s horrible finding Mum like this. And she was a vegetarian too. But Sandy is like that and means no disrespect. It’s the way we were brought up, as she explained in one of her last contributions to the SMH. You may have seen it.

As a "first wave" feminist and single mother, I raised my boys in a way that transgressed the gender norms and stereotypes that dominated the sixties. No toy guns or access to violence-themed superhero figures, limited "play exposure" to recreational aids that encouraged unthinking acceptance of the proposition that only the "hard" sciences and macho occupations -- firemen, cowboy, policemen etc -- were fit goals. Instead, the emphasis was on nurturing, empathetic and consensus-driven goals. At the beach, for example, we didn't make sand castles and then destroy them. Instead, we would have fun laying out sand gardens and making them bloom with "flowers" made out of icy pole sticks and rubbish we collected. This also helped introduce them to environmental principles.
Well that was decades ago and, even if I say so myself, the sandpit policy has worked. When each was an adolescent, both were felt free to be entirely open about their sexuality. There was no anguish about coming out of the closet for either Sandy or Leo because they were never in the closet to begin with.
Today the eldest is a happy, well adjusted figure in the art world and the youngest, who has just adopted a Congolese orphan with his partner, has made me a grandma.
We can change the world, us mothers. One person, one attitude, one generation at a time.
Alene Composta | Seddon - March 13, 2011, 9:42AM 

She was a beautiful person, Alene, always there with a smile and never a harsh word. Opinionated, but then aren’t we all? And who is to decide if one idea is more sensible than any other? Don’t discriminiate. Do not judge, that was her creed. We’ll play “Imagine” at the funeral. It is a beautiful hymn and she always said it gave her such pride in believing in not believing in so many different things. No wonder the kiddies still love it in their music classes.

As far as we can tell, it was Media Watch and Jonathan Holmes that set the thermostat, so to speak. She was calling both Sandy and myself all day, saying we should come over, watch the show and try a new snack, something fishy with tahini and lemon that she was whipping up. There was going to be something very big, something Holmes was going to do for her, some injustice he was going to expose. Who knows what it was this time? Mum was always crusading for something.

Anyway, it was all  such a mix-up! I thought Sandy was going over here and he thought I was going, so neither of us went over and Alene was here all alone. I can’t tell you how often that happened. We were a pair of slack sausages when it came time to see a little of Mum. And now she has gone. Forever. But I think she was happy until right at the end, whenever whatever it was on Media Watch tipped her over the edge.

She could change like that, did it all the time in fact. I remember when we were kids how she agreed with Gough about keeping out those “slit-eyed Balts”. And then, when Howard was in, she howled about the desert concentration camps and would have gone to Woomera and torn down  the wire if only she could have left the house. Same with Timor and the carbon tax and the US alliance and how she loved Kevin one day and adored Julia the next. Always changing, always evolving in what Mum used to say was “the appropriate way”. Just like Julia, actually, when you think about it.

What did it for Mum neither Sandy nor I can really know, despite page after page of the notes she made about what was on the ABC that night. Can anyone make heads or tails out of it? I don’t think the first line is sexual or has anything to do with the warts (who knew!!!), but I really can’t be sure.

ABC building up to Media Watch climax for me in grand style as Four Corners covers Japanese nuclear catastrophe. Fighting words from Friends of Earth, Nautilus Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation, and maybe the Seahorse Society too, or was that another item about Helen Caldicott’s brother? I get confused. Not a pro-nuker or a denier on the show though. How good! Keep swinging, Aunty. We have a carbon tax to pass.

Finally, it’s on! Media Watch – and there’s Jonathan H. Had earthquake in NZ and they’re still screwed, apparently. What losers, putting sheep dip ads or whatever on our national broadcaster.

My item must be next.


Climate change..climate change … climate..change … Jonathan just won’t shut up. Yes, the climate modelers ARE heroes, Jonathan, we know that. But PLEEEZE go get a room after the show. My item next, surely?



 And here is where the notes go very, very strange.

Now its Q&A and the ABC is pulling out all the stops. Nothing but Greens and Youth Climate Kids in the audience. Beautifully, beautifully stacked. ABC at its best.

Hear those cheers? Every syllable from Christine gets applause. And Pyne? Bring on that libidinous dog. More cheers for wind and tidal. That will scare the protesty old men who hate our planet! This tax is going to be so popular we’re going to gain many, many seats. Big girls like Julia need two, just for herself. Ad campaign to obliterate Libs. Millions well spent.

Won’t be here to see it, I’m afraid.

ABC stacked against me. I AM NOT CHRISTOPHER PYNE!!!! Please listen, please.

TEARS. Ink runs like life force down the page.

Every show tonight a wonderful, example of appropriate, responsible journalism, but not a word about the Drum’s injustice to me. Or how the editor broke his word and destroyed an article that would have turned NSW voters against the Liberals, as we agreed. Not a word.

If even Jonathan is against me, what’s the point?

That is where it ends. Where Mum ended too.

Oh well, that’s it. House goes on the market and we better get the fixes done before the carbon tax starts to figure in the tradies bills’. Frankly it would have been much more considerate if Mum had done this last year.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Tomorrow Belongs To Us

IT IS now becoming undeniably obvious that, while the “Embargo Alene” movement is spreading, so too is support in some very august quarters. First the bad news.

Of my last two comments on Fairfax opinion threads, the first was published but given the Drum treatment within the hour -- taken down and ground by SMH censors into nothingness. A subsequent comment this morning hailing columnist Warwick Macfadyen’s dad for realising that a nuclear reactor is exactly the same as a nuclear bomb did not even get that brief exposure.

Now the good news, which arrived via email from Dr Stephan Lewandowsky, serial Drum contributor, ferocious climate activist and professor of psychology at the University of Western Australian. His note of support is just lovely in its warmth and good fellowship. And while I will not be restored to the Drum’s roster of great minds until Jonathan Holmes busts open the door tonight, Stephan’s eager willingness to inform me of the deniers’ dirtiest little secret makes me realize that, even without the Drum, I am now a trusted and leading light on the Left.

There are only a pitiful few deniers, Stephan tells me, adding that they use multiple aliases to mount their anti-Gaia barrages. And most chilling of all, they are paid, presumably by Big Carbon, to work this dreadful mischief! “Bear in mind that a proportion of those comments is orchestrated,” he writes, “and for all we know there are only a handful of people with multiple electronic ‘personas’ each, who are paid to create disproportionate noise.”

You heard it from a professor, so don’t doubt that revelation for a second. Here is what I wrote to Stephan:

Dear Prof Lewandowsky,
We have never met, although we do share a background in the field of psychology, so I feel emboldened to ask for your professional advice. You see we have something in common: a passionate concern for averting the looming catastrophe of runaway climate change.

I recently began blogging, especially about climate change, and after a month my site was noticed. Noticed by the wrong people, sadly. Readers of Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt have swamped my site with genuinely abusive comments, many relating to my disability, which I find very hurtful.

So my question to you is this: How do you deal with monsters like this?

I have read and savoured every column you have published at Unleashed, and I have read the hateful comments that, even with an ABC moderator to vet them, still make it up on the site. The worst charge is that they simply do not take me seriously, which diminishes me in my humanity. I must confess that, after the latest round of abuse, I hugged my little cat and cried for an hour.

You have not only shrugged off that abuse, you have also survived the scorn and ridicule of your fellow West Australian Joanne Nova (I found that while googling your email address). It is a species of bravery I do not know if I can tap.

I'm a fragile woman and I thought my blog, Verdant Hopes, might be a force for good in the world. Instead it has made me a victim once again.

Any advice you could share would be appreciated.

Alene Composta

And here is what Stephan wrote in response:

Hi Alene, thanks for getting in touch. Yes, I know all about those abusive comments and it is brave for you to reveal as much personal detail as you do on your blog. Alas, for some people that is an invitation to rip into you and get a laugh out of that—they are like the school bullies whom no one really liked and who didn’t really have close friends, only followers.

I deal with those comments and actions largely by ignoring them. Wherever possible, I insert some of them into my talks to point out to the audience what sort of people are engaging in this assault on science and by what means they operate. Unfortunately, there presently is not much else that can be done about those comments.

As far as your blog is concerned, bear in mind that it is yours and that you can shut down any comment and run any moderation policy that you want. That still doesn’t make it easier to receive those hateful utterances in the first place, but at least it gives you some sense of control to shut them down. Bear in mind that a proportion of those comments is orchestrated and for all we know there are only a handful of people with multiple electronic “personas” each, who are paid to create disproportionate noise.

All the best, Stephan

Stephan Lewandowsky
Australian Professorial Fellow
School of Psychology
University of Western Australia
Crawley, W.A. 6009   AUSTRALIA

And that was not all the support Stephan has provided. In a follow-up email he writes:

Hi Alene, further to my earlier email, here are some more recommendations from a friend, John Cook of, to whom I mentioned your distress:

One is that saying by Gandhi, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". The fact that deniers are going to the trouble to attack her means she's making a difference. That may be scant comfort but there will always be people vehemently opposing action on climate change and the greater the perceived threat, the more intensely they attack. The other saying that comes to mind is "for evil to triumph, it only requires good people do nothing" - it's inevitable we invite attack if we campaign for climate change and try to make a difference. … deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world. In fact, the level of attack that the climate scientists receive are the greatest - death threats, dead rats left on their door, legal harassment from conservative lawyers and ad hominem attack after ad hominem attack. No one is worthy of more respect than climate scientists who are the preeminent experts in the world, spending decades researching this stuff, and yet their name is mud to deniers. As all the science and evidence points to climate action, the only recourse deniers have is to attack the messenger.

On a practical level, I would recommend if possible that she changes the settings of her blog so registration is mandatory before people can post comments. Nothing cleans up a person's behaviour like the removal of anonymity. It also makes it easier to ban poorly behaved commenters and to enforce a strict moderation policy. Perhaps direct her to an example of a comments policy like - our level of discussion is of a fairly high quality thanks to plenty of moderation and compulsory registration.

Thanks, hope that helps,


Now I am worried. I have been finding dead rats on my doorstep for some time, even before I started blogging. I had believed (in my innocence) that they were Sparkles’ handiwork, but now I fear Big Carbon has been instructing its operatives to monitor my opinions and engage in pre-emptive intimidation.

I am going to scoop up Sparkles, crawl into the cupboard under the stairs and keep a low profile until Jonathan Holmes sets everything right tonight, comforting myself in the meantime with Stephan’s use of a single, beautiful and inspirational word, the one I have underlined:

“Unfortunately, there presently is not much else that can be done about those comments.”

But soon, Stephan, soon. We are at the very brink of gaining the undisputed upper hand, not to mention the might, moral authority and legal sanctions to make sure holders of the wrong opinions are silenced and, if we are genuinely caring, marked for re-eduction. Can any educated person doubt that those who espouse such views are suitable cases for treatment in the appropriate institutions?

That day is coming, and, for the greater good of our planet, it cannot arrive too soon.

My Turn To Duck

THE EXCITEMENT builds as Media Watch draws near. And so, I am glad to report, does the outpouring of support – with one petty exception. Casting himself as the rude doorman and custodian of the hempen rope that blocks my access to the ranks of the Drum Club’s elite inner circle, Ben Eltham has posted the following remark in comments at a post below.

Maybe Jonathan didn't publish you because your copy wasn't very good? I can't say because I haven't read your work before. But judging by this piece, perhaps he didn't publish you because you play the person and not the ball.

By the way, given that the online media environment in Australia is relatively young and small, is it surprising that some of the same writers pop up in various publications? The mainstream journalists would too, except that they are contracted to Fairfax or News. Besides, I can't see Andrew Bolt, Michelle Grattan or George Megalogenis swapping their six-figure salaries for the princely sums offered by The Drum.

I've got nothing against opinionated blogs, but the argument that all of The Drum's writers are somehow united in a left-wing love in doesn't bear scrutiny. There are more than token numbers of conservative voices, but more to the point, there is considerable diversity of backgrounds and media experience there too.

I think attacking the ABC for paying writers is pretty sad, by the way. $200 is a fraction of what print journalists receive, of what other ABC journalists are paid, and far less than the relevant award rate.

By the way, have you considered that the reason the ABC Drum's published opinion writers tend to the belief that anthropogenic global warming is a real phenomenon is because they share the view of the vast majority of the world's climate scientists?

Intrigued by that missive I consulted the Drum’s archive, where the evidence suggests Eltham is himself no slouch at playing people, not just balls. He was right to say Joe Hockey is an economic ignoramus, but isn’t it playing the man to put it thus:

When you consider that the Coalition's economic team is headed up by Joe Hockey, this is frankly amazing. Hockey seems to get just about every economic fact he mentions dead wrong.

I won’t be too critical because Ben’s article at the Drum ended on the right note, given that last year’s election was but days away:

Let's hope there is a leader's debate on the economy. Australian voters deserve to know what they might be in for if the Coalition wins government.

While I find Ben’s remarks very hurtful, I cannot fault his writing. His pre-election warning of the Coalition’s intent to vandalise the economy was the Drum at its very finest.

She Used Her Head

THE stirring story of an animal rights activist who placed herself between hunter and fowl has summoned my muse.

Duck, ducks!
Geese with guns
Are scoring runs
As peaceful folk
While saving birds
From lethal turds
Whose slaughter
O’er the water
Leaves feather and beaks
On countless creeks
And a vegan crusader,
A marshland blockader,
Peppered with shot
In her hospital cot

Silence Of The Grave

HAVE you noticed how the nuclear catastrophe in Japan is suddenly missing from the front pages?

How bad must it be if this sort of censorship is now deemed essential for the public good, needed to avoid panic and riotous disorder?. Even the SMH and Age have signed on, no longer daring to mention the coming meltdowns so many scientists were warning about only on Friday. Instead, in a transparent effort to distract the public, the Age now writes not about the threat to humanity but the impact on carrots and comquats.

During World War Two, the last time Japan was perceived as being a threat to Australia (thanks to the racist Billy Hughes) a line was drawn at Brisbane, south of which the monochromatic culture of the old Australia was to be preserved, even by force of arms.

Where have our officials drawn the new "Brisbane Line" that marks where the southbound tide of nuclear fallout will stop?

Stock up on that iodised fish offal. You will need it.

UPDATE: On the ABC this morning Jon Faine's broadcast is beset by static. Gamma radiation hitting the aerial?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


YES, it is ego, but can I admit to my excitement at Jonathan Holme’s pending expose of the Drum’s cronyism and betrayal, sure as eggs to be aired on Monday night’s Media Watch? What The Drum did to my expose of the NSW Liberals’ moosegate scandal – taking it down after a pitiful few and paltry objections from hidebound traditionalist Mark Colvin -- was nothing less than discrimination. What did I say that went beyond that to which most established figures on the Left have put their names, especially at The Drum?

Tomorrow night, if I might suggest, Holmes needs to drill that carborundum eye deep into Colvin’s intolerance. If the radio presenter cannot name a representative percentage of his AM co-workers who are, like me, victims of genital warts, he stands condemned as the marginliser with a microphone, the enemy of otherness, a self-appointed Commissar of The Pudenda Police. Indeed, in the interests of full disclosure, the ABC must reveal the percentage of its workforce who are members of the genital warts community.

And while he is at it, perhaps he might care to dig deeper into Jonathan Green’s insistence that his site is fair because it has published 4000 articles. But what sort of articles, Jonathan, and who wrote them? According to the Drum’s own manifest of published authors, 1-in-8 articles are the work of just a baker’s dozen of contributors.

Here is how a more replete list of leading lights breaks down:

Bob Ellis  -- 103
Ben Pobje --  58
Helen Razer – 57
Irfan Yusuf – 55
Greg Barns – 43
Kellie Tranter – 37
David Horton – 33
Tim Dunlop --  31
Jeff Sparrow – 29
Lauren Rosewarne – 25
Amin Saikal -- 25
Antsy Lowenstein – 22
Ben Eltham – 19
Scott Bridges – 14
Mark Bahnisch – 13
Melinda Tankard Reist -- 13
Jason Wilson – 12
Marieke Hardy – 10
Catherine Deveny – 8
Ben Sandilands – 8
Mungo MacCallum – 7
Christime Milne – 6

That list makes a total of 628 articles at a cost to the taxpayers of $125,600, allowing that stellar talents like Bob Ellis, Marieke Hardy and Ben Pobje have not negotiated themselves a better screw than the standard $200 a pop.

So why can’t I get just a little piece of that action? Why can’t I be invited to literary festivals, plied with per diems, invited to lecture at journalism schools and given a seat at The Drum’s nightly chat show on ABC-24?

None of the opinionaries listed above differs so much as an atom (sorry to use that word, readers) from the views and insights to be found here, at Verdant Hopes. Not one of those people would disagree that Mr Speedos is a vile creature and that his Catholicism is a big, big problem. There is not one climate denier on that list, nor an opponent of multiculturalism, an admirer of John Howard or a supporter of the ridiculous notion that Australia’s immigration policy be determined by Australia’s elected representatives, rather than undocumented travel agents in Indonesia.

I am one of them, my every opinion in sync with theirs – and even Jonathan Green admits as much, telling Holmes “the  material on her blog was not all that unusual in the online space.” Yet I am banished. Why? Why? Why?

I have tried long and hard to answer that question, to no avail. Jonathan Homes, whose very manner confirms his superior intelligence, might have more luck tomorrow night. What is the common thread that I am missing? Tell me, Jonathan, please tell me.

And if you cannot tell me why I am not allowed to hang with the Drum’s big-bucks whales, surely I could join the swirling tide of port-flowing plankton that surges across the site on a daily basis. Those small fry contribute just an article here and there, vanishing until the next deep thought about, say, why climate denial is a mental illness and those afflicted must be treated. But they are undoubtedly of the left, as am I. I could do that, I really could, take a slap when needed at Abbott or Monckton, or Carter or Murdoch or Pell or Bailleau …  Gaia help me if I seem bitter, but it should be entirely understandable when you consider that, for a few glorious hours, I really was part of the cool kids’ club. No point now in continuing to work on my Tony Abbott piñata, which I was looking forward to presenting Jonathan Green at the next election bash. To attend a party in Jill Singer’s backyard with the cream of Australia’s intelligentsia, well I think I could get myself out of the house for that. And I know Sparkles and Jill would have so much in common.

Could the reason for my exile be that I was never published on Crikey, where the most prolific Drum contributors became so well known to Jonathan Green? It was only natural, of course, that Mark Scott would authorise Green’s hiring, Crikey being such a fair, middle of the road repository for honest, unbiased and accurate reporting. So perhaps Scott told him to bring the entire crew with him and really lift standards at the ABC.

Or could it be that I did not attend that wonderful election night party in 2007, the one that produced an adorable photo of Jonathan Green smashing a John Howard piñata? Sadly, that photo is now vanished from the web.

Or have I been blackballed, as I suspect, for no better reason than my genital warts?

The ABC boasts a billion-dollar annual budget (minus, of course, the $800,000 the Drum has spent on those 4000 examples of fair, straight bat commentary, which Holmes cited), so Holmes should be able to find a little cash to underwrite tomorrow night’s investigation.

I mean, what do we have a national broadcaster for?