Distractions we could do without

posted in: Life and things | 0

The news in Australia is full of two things: the Brittany Higgins rape allegations and who in the parliament knew what when, and the latest outpourings on the up-coming Voice referendum.

For my non-Australian readers, Brittany Higgins accused fellow ministerial staffer Bruce Lehrmann of raping her on a couch in the Defence Minister’s office. The pair went to Parliament House at around 1:30am after partying with colleagues. Higgins took her allegations to the media two years(!) after the event and did not approach the police until after her interview explaining her allegations to media personality Lisa Wilkinson was aired on Channel 10.

This was a matter which should never have involved anyone but the two young people – but it was weaponised to attack the then-government. Now a lot of the dirty laundry is being aired and the public has been shown how thin the case against Lehrmann was/is. In my opinion, Higgins does not come out of it well at all. I’d like to see her having to repay the money paid to her as compensation for the supposed ‘lack of support’ from the minister and her chief of staff.

Then there’s the Voice. That’s about enshrining in the constitution the right of aboriginal people to have a (separate) say in how the country is run. I explained more about that here.

I read all the articles about the Voice, always looking for how it is to be set up, who would be part of the body advising government on behalf of the aboriginal people. How would those people be selected/elected? How long would they serve? What would be their accountability? Who would oversee that accountability? What guarantees do we have that the Voice would perform better than previous groups like ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Commission) which was finally disbanded after years of scandal and corruption? How will the Voice make any more of a difference to the lives of impoverished indigenous people than the hundreds of existing authorities set up to help them? What happens to that $30 billion plus we pay to these groups every year?

The ‘yes’ campaigners haven’t provided any answers to any of these questions. Their case appears to rest on ‘it’s the right thing to do’. Which is a pretty dubious reason to change the country’s constitution.

But really, both these issues don’t matter much to the average wage-earner.

What ordinary people care about is the cost of living. From July, power prices in NSW and Qld are set to rise 20-25%. Mortgage repayments are going up, as is the cost of rent – on the assumption that people can find a place to rent. More and more people are living on the streets and in their cars and the dream of owning their own home is out of reach for many. Food prices are going up. It’s near on impossible for most people to find affordable health care. The hospital system is on its knees. And to top it all off, youth crime is out of control and the government isn’t doing much about it.

Sorry, but I think the Higgins saga and the Voice are distractions we could do without.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading of late, mainly ‘cozy’ crime. I’m one of those people that if I find a good first of series, I’ll buy the other books. I’ve done that with the Evan Evans collection, set in Snowdonia in Wales. They’re good stories, with a cast of village characters that are in each book.

Here’s the review I wrote of the first book. The whole series will set you back $0.99. (I wish I’d known THAT before.)

Another one I’ve just discovered is the Mrs Pargeter books. Mrs Pargeter is a wealthy widow in her late sixties, plump and white-haired. We hear stories about the late Mr Pargeter and the way he provided for his clearly much-loved wife. We are never told exactly what Mr Pargeter did for a living but he was sometimes away for extended periods and he had a collection of friends who could offer various services which may have been considered illegal. Not that Mrs Pargeter had anything to do with that sort of thing, of course.

What’s wonderful about these books is the author’s dry wit. His descriptions of the various characters in the novels are often hilarious. I was reading one when I went to the doctor recently and had to wipe the silly grin off my face before I went into his office.

Here’s a short excerpt from the first book.

The door opened with a flourish, as Miss Naismith ushered in Mrs Pargeter. Though direct staring at the newcomer would of course offend the canons of good behaviour, the other residents did show considerable covert interest in her arrival.

‘Good afternoon. Let me introduce the latest addition to our little family.’ Miss Naismith was prone, in her public utterances, to a rather cloying whimsicality. Turning first, as was correct, to the gentlemen in the bay window, she began the round. ‘Colonel Wicksteed – Mrs Pargeter.’

‘Enchanted.’ He shook her hand and the rigid back bent as though hinged. Miss Wardstone’s reptile eyes flashed a look of what could almost have been jealousy at the newcomer.

‘Mr Dawlish – Mrs Pargeter.’

Dawlish rose from his chair to his full height (which wasn’t very high) and clasped the heavily ringed hand. ‘Delighted to make your acquaintance. I do hope you’ll be very happy here.’

Then he bent down to retrieve his rug from the floor, contriving on his way up to sneak a covert glance at the pleasing roundness of Mrs Pargeter’s calves.

Miss Naismith moved on to the ladies. ‘Lady Ridgleigh . . .’ A bony aristocratic hand was graciously proffered. ‘May I introduce Mrs Pargeter?’

Lady Ridgleigh smiled the sort of smile she had seen the Queen use when greeting Commonwealth leaders. ‘My husband knew a Pargeter in the Guards. Cedric Pargeter, I believe it was. I don’t suppose, by any chance . . . ?’

‘No, shouldn’t think so.’


They’re lots of far-fetched fun. Recommended by me. The first book (A Nice Class of Corpse) is $0.99.

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