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Whinging in Innisfail

G'day. This is the first piece blogger Darryl Mason has submitted to Webdiary, though he has been an occasional commentor here. A shorter version of this article appeared on Crikey. Darryl blogs at Your New Reality and Cyclone Larry: the Aftermath. Welcome Darryl.

by Darryl Mason

It had to happen eventually, and now it has. The cyclone hammered people of Innisfail have been mightily slagged by Sydney columnist Miranda Devine, safely tucked up in her warm PJs as she delivers her scathing, bitter verdict on mothers with children in tow who spent two days or more standing in the rain in the Innisfail town square last week.

All they wanted was dry clothes, food, water, nappies and some emergency cash.

But they're just a pack of bloody whingers, she reckons.

"We in Sydney are very sorry for the people in northern Queensland who have lost their homes to Cyclone Larry." Miranda wrote yesterday in the Sydney Sun Herald. "But, much as we will miss their avocados and bananas on our supermarket shelves, we can live without their whingeing."

I don't know who told Miranda she could speak for the people of Sydney, but she's dead wrong. People in Sydney who actually bothered to watch the news, and take it all in, saw only a handful of people complain about their extreme misfortune. Maybe Miranda was watching her own special channel where her view of the world is carefully filtered for anything that might infect her pre-formed opinions?

"This is hardly Hurricane Katrina," she writes. Yeah, it was Cyclone Larry, and it was actually more powerful than Katrina, despite the fact no-one was killed.

"Five minutes after the cyclone hit, locals were whingeing that 'they' haven't come and fixed it for them. Do they not have their own arms and legs?"

Miranda is being sarcastic here, of course, unless she really has no idea at all. And from reading the rest of her column, perhaps she really doesn't.

Five minutes after the cyclone hit, nearly all the people of Innisfail were still holed up, trying to protect themselves and their families from the 280kmh winds that roared through the town and tore apart and damaged more than a thousand buildings.

Miranda quotes the widely seen footage of local Shiralee Hazel, who aired her frustrations at a TV camera, as being indicative of the rest of the townsfolk.

"Effing do something now," Shiralee said. "That is my message for them. Get off their fat arses and do something."

Fair call? Sure. It's hard to imagine any of us could stand in queues for two days, in the rain, holding traumatised, hungry, wet, bored children and not demand everything move faster. You'd have to be mad, or heavily medicated, not to get worked up if you found yourself in Shiralee's sodden shoes. Premier Beattie understood this, so did Opposition Leader Beazley, so did Prime Minister Howard. But not Miranda. In her fantasy world, all the common folk should just shut up and stand dutifully, silently, in line.

And where exactly were all these other people Miranda claims were 'whingeing'? Virtually non-existent perhaps?

There were a few who were pissed off enough to vent their frustrations publicly, but they were hardly in the majority.

Miranda had the opportunity, to an audience of many hundreds of thousands of readers, to point out how the North Queenslanders looked after themselves and each other at a time when it must have seemed like the world was coming to an end. For the many who are now trying to live amidst the destruction and deprivation forced upon them by the most powerful cyclone to hit Australia in a hundred years, their world has literally come to an end, but they're getting on with it. Not that Miranda can tell the difference.

"Australians, especially outside the big cities, used to pride themselves on their self-reliance and resilience, forged in a hard, unforgiving land. Now, according to images beamed back to Sydney, they have become helpless victims. A category five cyclone comes to town and its all the fault of Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Prime Minister John Howard."

She is simply baiting her readership here, and pandering to those who think anyone who needs to rely on their government for help at any point in their life must be lower than pond scum. Miranda will go weeks without writing something outrageous, obviously drawn deep from her own well of misinformation and prejudice, then suddenly there it is on her column page, dripping with bile.

Sometimes it seems like she only writes columns like this to get the expected reaction of furious outrage from readers, and the hundreds of letters that will prove to her bosses that yes, she is relevant and controversial, and that's why they should keep paying her six figures a year to bust her arse turning out a few thousand words a week.

"No doubt there are plenty of admirable people quietly getting on with rebuilding their communities," Miranda goes on, "but we didn't hear from them."

An absolute lie, flat out. On Channel Nine, Seven, Ten, Two and SBS, there was dozens of stories aired showing people rebuilding, clearing debris, cooking up food for the hungry, checking in on elderly neighbours, donating clothes and food and nappies and furniture and blankets, and we heard from them all right. We heard them say stuff like, "Well, this is what you do, isn't it? When people need help, when your neighbours need help, you help them."

Next she completely distorts the truth about all those locals who not only helped the SES and soldiers get the tarps onto the rooftops, but she claims people only complained the SES didn't hang around to get them fixed into place.

No, they didn't do that for every house. How could they? Last week there were only 80 or 90 SES workers on duty at any one time, and they had a priority list of 1000 or so homes to tarp, while the rains kept on falling.

"God forbid that people might have to do some work themselves," Miranda writes.

Yeah, all those mums comforting freaked out infants should have been up on the ladders fixing the tarps into place. Miranda fails to mention that in many cases SES workers told locals to not risk injury by climbing around damaged roofs in the rain, and that it was better to wait for more help to arrive.

But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a classic Miranda Devine Distortion Central splurge?

She also found it quite distasteful that local residents dared give Howard a serve when he breezed into town. And here I was thinking that slagging off a pollie was about as Australian as you can get. Not in Miranda's world. Jeering or daring to boo your Prime Minister is just plain rude and nasty and not on anymore.

Even Howard laughed off the abuse. Miranda, however, appears offended to her very core.

She then complains about the already infamous headline of the Gold Coast Bulletin, 'You're Too Damn Late!' in reference to the politicians who flooded in to see the damage for themselves and make with the photo ops, while "thousands of tonnes of aid sits stranded beside a highway they failed to fix".

Somehow Miranda finds this information innacurate, but again, she doesn't know what she's talking about. The Bruce Highway's long delayed improvements, a failure of successive State and Federal Governments, allowed the road to flood too deep for more than a dozen big trucks chock full of supplies to get through.

Had the Bruce Highway been fixed years before, raised above the flood plains, and earth-banked on both sides, as the locals and the local papers have been demanding for years, then obviously the aid would have gotten through much faster. Even Premier Beattie admitted the Bruce Highway neglect was wrong, and has promised the highway will be fixed within two years.

Miranda also writes, "The fact is that authorities gave plenty of notice of the cyclone and evacuated 1000 people from vulnerable coastal areas on Sunday, the day before Larry hit, presumably saving lives."

Yes, exactly. But the locals who decided to stay needed somewhere to evacuate to, didn't they? And they needed vehicles to get out of town. And if they were taking their young children, they needed supplies and clothes and toys and food. This stuff just doesn't fall from the sky when you get a few days notice of a cyclone coming. Yes, they should have had cyclone supplies, but what about when you work a full week picking bananas and you don't have enough money left over to build up that cyclone emergency stockpile? What then?

Miranda Devine has adopted the US Extreme Right's viewpoint of the Hurricane Katrina victims here. Hey, you were told to get out, if you decided to stay, you deserve what you got.

And then Miranda finishes her heartless rant with this : "The endless whingeing is a reflection on an affluent consumer culture in which people have come to expect that everything they want can be delivered in 30 seconds piping hot and preferably free if they only scream loud enough. "

"No inconvenience is tolerable, not even for an instant, and the consumer is always right."

So cyclone survivors are impatient consumers, are they? Instead of being Australians in need of help? Most of whom didn't complain at all, but understood exactly why those who did complain had to get out their anger and frustration. And if she thinks communities of banana pickers and farm workers are members of "an affluent consumer culture" then she's really got her head in the clouds. What many of these people earned for a forty or fifty hour week, Miranda picks up for typing a few dozen words.

Miranda's attitude to those far less than fortunate than herself (she could well afford to charter a helicopter to evacuate herself and her family from a danger zone, if necessary) is part of what has been called 'The New Meanness of Australia'.

It is an attitude where people in unfortunate circumstances are no longer tolerated, where Aussies who need help are not worthy of it simply because they had to ask for help in the first place. The Australia she describes is one where you are supposed to never expect your governments to be there to help you, even if you have spent your whole life working bloody hard and paying your taxes.

And it is a 'Mean Australia' few outside of Sydney's kill-or-be-killed super-speed corporate-minded culture would understand, or would even want to comprehend. This mindset is as foreign to most Australians as the cyclone that tore away the livelihoods of thousands of North Queenslanders.

Miranda Devine seems to live in some alternate reality world where people who have been deprived of their homes, dry clothes, food, water and their dignity are supposed to stand quietly in lines for two or three days and when asked for the tenth time by yet another media crew, "How do you feel?" should only reply:

"I ... am ... good ... I ... have ... no ... complaints ... I ... will ... queue ... for ... a ... week ... and ... never ... get ... angry ... or ... upset."

Sounds like a cyclone swept through Miranda's heart and her heart, carrying away her sense of compassion and her comprehension of the word 'empathy'.

And I doubt many Australians were surprised or offended, as Miranda appears to be, when a handful of hard done by mums, standing for more than eight hours a day, had a "whinge" about the queues and the rain and the time it was taking to get food, supplies and emergency cash sorted out.

Even John Howard understood why he copped some abuse when he entered the town. Some of it was angry, some of it was joking, but all of it was pretty much an Australian reaction. Howard obviously knows the people of Australia, and the people of North Queensland, a lot better than Miranda Devine does.

Australians watched the people of the town of Innisfail coping extremely well, under the circumstances, and felt proud that they complained as little as they did.

We were deeply moved by their shocking stories of survival and loss.

We were heartbroken by the terrible plight faced by so many mums and their terrified kids.

And we laughed, too, with the good-hearted farmers and local blokes who could still crack a joke when their lives were at their lowest.

How much more Australian than that can you possibly bloody get?


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Never been a cyclone

I've never been in a cyclone but I remember the floods on the Clarence. We lived on a ridge and became an island of refuge. I reckon that a good disaster brings out the best in most as they stop their petty bickering and usually just knuckle in. I even saw traces of that after the hail storm that hit Sydney.

When the proverbial hits the fan you should be allowed to curse and blaspheme and it shouldn't be recorded for posterity out of context.

'Moet' Miranda Sort Of Apologises To The People Of Innisfail

From the Cyclone Larry: The Aftermath blog:

'Moet' Miranda Devine, the right wing columnist who referred to the suffering people of Innisfail as 'whingers' on the Sunday following the cyclone, and stirred up a hornet's nest of outrage, has apologised... well, she's sort of apologised in her latest column in the Sydney Sun Herald.

She quoted extensively from a few of the dozens of letters sent by angry and distressed people to the Townsville Bulletin, and included one or two of the hundreds of responses that landed in her e-mail inbox with a heavy thud.

She also quoted one of the funniest lines of all from the Townsville Bulletin editorial the day after her original column appeared: "(Hardship in Sydney is) when the local bottle-o runs out of Moet or when the maid calls in sick and madam has to do the washing herself".

That's only true for a tiny slice of Sydneysiders, but it still cracks me up every time I read it.

'Moet' Miranda also managed to slip in a roundabout slur by claiming "Even as Sydney native General Peter Cosgrove heads the reconstruction of the cyclone-ravaged area, the story mined a rich streak of anti-Sydney sentiment in the tropics, judging by the emails.

As far as I could tell, the only anti-Sydney sentiment 'mined' was in response to Miranda's sickening slash at the cyclone survivors. Few of the responses were directed at Sydneysiders in general, they were almost all directed directly at 'Moet' Miranda herself. But she's not going to tell you that.

And apparently because 'Sydney native' General Peter Cosgrove was on his way to help out, everyone up North was immediately supposed to forget Miranda's outrageous slander.

She didn't just cop funny and slightly abusive e-mails, she also got the facts on the ground from volunteer fighters like Warren, who wrote: "What you were not privy to was the absolute selflessness of the residents of East Palmerston when our volunteers delivered tarps, ration packs, fresh fruit and water. Many refused aid because in this part of the country you don't accept charity.

"[They] would often scratch together the ingredients to supply home-made lamingtons... [or] appear from the darkness with all the beer they had and, somehow, a bag of ice."

And this from Shane, "I, like many other locals, have simply knuckled down, cleaned up, gotten back to work and used the experience as a character builder... Generally the spirit of co-operation and generosity has been exceptional."

"Glad to hear it" Miranda writes at the end of her column.

But the point will not be lost on the people of North Queensland, and the residents of Innisfail in particular.

People were scratching together lamingtons and sharing food and helping each other string up tarps and checking on elderly neighbours and delivering water and minding each other's kids and holding spots in the days long queues while the needy took a break from standing in the rain, and they did these things all the week long before Miranda wrote her despicable column.

The trouble is Miranda didn't bother to find out that all these good and kind and wonderful things were happening in the cyclone zone. She just glanced at the television, saw and heard what she wanted to see and hear and then slandered thousands of shocked and traumatised people with the misinformed catch-all of 'whingers'.

But the people of North Queensland will have to take what they can get from Miranda. They shouldn't expect a much needed Correction to any of the lies she spouted in her original column and they certainly should not be expecting any kind of proper apology.

It doesn't work like that in Sydney.

You can read the rest of this story at Cyclone Larry: The Aftermath blog and find the links to the various columns and stories.

You can also read Miranda's demand for a correction from the editor of the Townsville Bulletin, for an editorial that referred to her as living in Cremorne, drinking Moet and using a maid. She claims none of them of these things are true.

Media watch

Re DP Mason's comprehensive post. Media Watch just had a crack at her (Devine) and SMH also, for much the same reasons. Pull your finger out, SMH!!

Touched by Larry and Tracy.

To those of you who have never experienced a cyclone, or a life threatening sustained period of fear. I can only hope that you never will. My wife and I survived cyclone Tracy in 1974 and have had a couple of near misses since, including a typhoon in Hong Kong. We moved to Edmonton south of Cairns about three years ago. When we heard the warning Larry was approaching we took all the usual precautions. We had spare batteries for the radio, plenty of bottled water and we filled the gas bottle on the BBQ. This time with the aid of the internet we could track Larry’s approach both by satellite and radar.

We felt fairly safe, we had made sure our house was built to cyclone code and we were above the tidal surge areas. As Larry drew closer I was on the net checking the hourly update through the night. There would be no sleep for us. At about 6am the wind started to pick up from the south. A few minutes later we lost power, the internet and telephone. We tuned into the local ABC who were doing an excellent job informing the Far North of the cyclone’s position and encouraging people effected by Larry to phone in their stories, horrifying stories came in on mobile phones telling of families sheltering in cars as their homes were being smashed.

My wife and I moved to the bathroom as the wind began to screech as only cyclonic winds can, it was day light this time unlike in Cyclone Tracy which has been at night. Suddenly the wind changed and blew much more strongly from the north. We heard the noise of metal being blown across the street. Our neighbour had lost his shed it was blown into our driveway. The noise and the wind continued to grow. I held my wife as she started to cry memories of cyclone Tracy came flooding back. We saw trees being ripped from our garden and taken off with the wind. Then there was a tremendous noise as our garage roller door popped out of its runners and was flapping in the wind like a cotton sheet. It smashed into the garage roof smashing the ceiling and then smashed down onto my car it did this continuously for a minute or so. I used the lee of my house wall to get as near to my car as I could. The noise was unbelievable. When a lull came I jumped into my car to prevent further damage I drove the car into the protection of the house. A minute or so latter the roller door was torn free from its mounting and was blown into my backyard.

We had experienced only the tail end of cyclone Larry. In the fortnight afterwards I have only praise for the emergency service workers, the men from Ergon Energy who replaced the power as quickly as humanly possible (our power was restored after about 48 hours). The Governments both Federal and State have responded well. Local government has been out in the streets cleaning up the mess which will take weeks to clear. The community is pulling together and soon Cairns will be a picturesque as usual.

Our insurance company has been great, I have already received cheques for the garage door, a new TV antenna and my car has been approved for repair.

For the people who felt the full brunt of the cyclone I understand how they must feel. Many have lost their homes and their livelihoods. This cannot be fixed with a cheque and will be very life changing for many of them. Just as cyclone Tracy was for many of its survivors.

How commentators thousands of kilometres away, sitting in their safe environments can criticise the behaviour of people who have just been traumatised by a catastrophic event is beyond me. Media organisations that employ such people are beyond contempt.

It's obvious

Hamish: "I welcome anyone to compare this with Beth's comment and tell me if they think my suspicion is as unreasonable as CP is whining."

I have to admit. They're pretty close.

So then, why did you not publish mine when you did publish Beth's? I don't understand?

Hamish: yes you do, because I've explained clearly that there was other content in your post. No I won't be baited into publishing it. CP, this will ruin my day as it has before, but you are banned for seven days, while I discuss it with the Webdiary team.

Perish the thought

Hamish: "CP, I have several circumstancial but pretty compelling reasons to believe that you are Beth Maimonides."

Why would I bother having to publish anything under the name 'Beth Maimonides' when I could as easily publish under my own name, and have done so many, many times?

Hamish: you have also not been published many times, variously for abuse, gratuitous baiting and gross diversion from the thread.

Why? Would a different name alter the outcome?

Hamish: no guarantee CP (I'm a flawed creature, as are other moderators), but I hope not. If you had made precisely Beth's comment though, without other material, it would have been published under your name. That is, this would have been published, and I quote the DNPed comment directly:

Bryan Law: "The figures you misquote come from statistics collected by ATSIC according to its regional divisions - so what you claim for Innisfail is a regional aggregate from 120,000 square Kilometres of land ..."

I quoted percentage figures, Bryan. Not a regional aggregate.

And as you point out, these dreadful social statistics exposing substandard Aboriginal housing and depression-level unemployment among Aborigines are not merely typical of Innisfail, but of the entire 120,000 square kilometre region.

That's good news, isn't it.

I welcome anyone to compare this with Beth's comment and tell me if they think my suspicion is as unreasonable as CP is whining.

Surely I am not the only person reading who could spot the obvious logical flaw in Bryan's confusing aggregate with percentage data.

So, thanks to Beth for pointing that out. I would have done so myself had I the opportunity under my own name. Why wouldn't I?

Hamish: I'm taking this very seriously CP, because you are so obviously lying now. Webdiarists, what should I do?

CP answers 'Beth"

Beth Maimonides: "And as you point out, these dreadful social statistics exposing substandard Aboriginal housing and depression-level unemployment among Aborigines are not merely typical of Innisfail, but of the entire 120,000 square kilometre region."

Thanks Beth. I don't think there could be any doubt whatsoever about the poor standard of Aboriginal housing nor the high levels of unemployment in and around Innisfail.

Bryan Law: "Far from suggesting that there is no problem with indigenous conditions in Far North Queensland, I'm saying that accuracy in discussion - as distinct from hyperbole in making ideological points - is the best way to address those issues."

Thanks Bryan. That's why I specifically cited the data provided.

Hamish: CP, I have several circumstancial but pretty compelling reasons to believe that you are Beth Maimonides. a) she uses virtually the same wording as you to make a point that was within a post of yours not published (for other reasons), b) it is a pretty stretched point otherwise unusual, c) she registered almost immediately before making the comment, and it is a very unusual first post, d) her email address - a gmail address - is a very spam-looking one. Where do you want to go with this CP?

Bryan Law:.......The figures

Bryan Law:.The figures you misquote come from statistics collected by ATSIC according to its regional divisions - so what you claim for Innisfail is a regional aggregate from 120,000 square kilometres of land ....

Actually, I couldn't help but notice that C Parsons quoted percentage figures, Bryan. Not a regional aggregate.

And as you point out, these dreadful social statistics exposing substandard Aboriginal housing and depression-level unemployment among Aborigines are not merely typical of Innisfail, but of the entire 120,000 square kilometre region.

So, C parsons has a fair point there.

The Figures.....the Reality

Hi Beth, I don't want to get bogged down in a debate about statistics, but a percentage based on aggregate figures is like..er..an aggregate percentage.

When you deal with a large area which contains a wide variety of cities, towns, townships, camps and farms you cannot usefully average out a statistic and apply it to all circumstances.  e.g. Kuranda has six outlying "Aboriginal settlements".  Mossman has one.  Innisfail has none.  Cairns "has" Yarrabah, but that's excluded from the study (a little bit of politics).

CP quotes figures for housing stock owned by Aboriginal organisations (housing coops, reserves etc.), which don't include privately owned or rented houses, or Housing Commission stock.

To apply these figures to Innisfail without further clarification or information specific to that town is misleading.  Likewise CP makes the false claim that Innisfail has an Aboriginal reserve.  Could he be putting Aborigines "in a box" for his own convenience?

Far from suggesting that there is no problem with indigenous conditions in Far North Queensland, I'm saying that accuracy in discussion - as distinct from hyperbole in making ideological points - is the best way to address those issues.

Real 'whingeing' or media whingeing?

A related issue that this essay touches on is the way in which the media deals with suffering.

When a disaster strikes, they swoop down with their human-interest suction hoses and then direct it all back to us readers in a soggy blast of grief by media. Whether it’s Princess Di, September 11, Port Arthur, the Asian tsunami - it belts away at us until the public hardly knows where its own compassion begins and the media’s manipulation ends.

If you read Miranda Devine’s article again, you’ll find that it’s not the people’s ‘whingeing’ that she’s whingeing about – it’s the media’s excessive coverage of the people’s ‘whingeing’. Sadly, she doesn’t seem to be able to make the distinction.

Miranda defined

Sorry Jane, I cannot agree that MD was writing more about the media. This statement from her article makes her own view crystal clear:

No one was killed, a few people sustained minor injuries. This is hardly Hurricane Katrina. But watching the news last week, it was clear a lot of people with little imagination were trying to recreate New Orleans in Innisfail. Five minutes after the cyclone hit, locals were whingeing that "they" haven't come and fixed it for them. Do they not have their own arms and legs?

What that statement says to me is she is totally ignorant of the devastation of such an event and is even wrong in her statements. Larry was, in fact, a stronger cyclone than Katrina, not lesser because people didn't get killed, maimed etc.

You are dead right about the media though, including MD. They hover like jackals that fly over any disaster and their interest is in the body count. None dead? What tragedy? That's her attitude.

On most occasions the media are scavengers, trying to find profit for their TV station from other's suffering. At least this time Ray Martin didn't get to host a live tragedy. Perhaps he's burnt out, years ago actually.

What the media did has probably been helpful on this occasion as it has displayed the devastation to such an extent that even people like MD must feel for those that have lost their homes, their incomes, their businesses, their futures. Despite the intrusion and blatant waste of resources looking after themselves.

As to being advised to evacuate MD, people did exactly that. A high proportion did leave and those that stayed did so probably through lack of choice or the simple human need to protect their own. In cyclone warnings peopple tend to believe what they do from past experience. I suspect many did not really believe the cyclone would be as strong as it was.

Devine is clearly an attention seeker with no human vision at all. Perhaps if she looked into a mirror she may see something she despises even more than the so called "whingers".

Poor Miranda

I used to sometimes scan the Telegraph when I had absolutely nothing else to do.

Here, I used to read Miranda Devine's hard hitting journ'o'listic pieces and be astounded.

Didn't she write the page 13, the celebrity gossip page?

Isn't that where she did her training and gain such insight? 

Please tell me this is true?

And if so, why would you let this silly girl bother you. Spare me!.I read her column every week, and if you too can put her in this light, her "opinions" will guarantee a belly laugh, every week.

 Now, what colour undies did Simon Le Bon wear?

Stephen Johnson (the ScaryMan).

separate but equal

Bryan Law: "The Mamu people I've dealt with have been broadly integrated into the general community, living in a full range of housing stock across the region. They maintain their cultural identity."

Well, actually Bryan, I posted some information about the apalling housing conditions and high levels of unemployment among Aborigines in the Innisfail region yesterday and for reasons unknown, it never made it online.

I offer it again to promote greater awareness of the conditions affecting Indigenous people in that region.

5 per cent of houses in the region (excluding Yarrabah) owned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations needed replacement and 52 per cent needed repair.

Only 33 per cent of houses were in satisfactory condition.

Unemployment among Aboriginal people in the region is 36 per cent.

What's that compared with the white population?

Seven times the rate or more?

Spreading Ignorance

Hello once more CP. Do you ever actually read the material you cite?  Or do you believe in the old Aussie maxim "close enough is good enough"?

The figures you misquote come from statistics collected by ATSIC according to its regional divisions - so what you claim for Innisfail is a regional aggregate from 120,000 square Kilometres of land and includes Mossman, Cairns, Mareeba, Atherton, and other small towns as well as Innisfail.  Bad process CP.

Remember too that this discussion started when you implied there was a distinct Aboriginal settlement in Innisfail which had been re-connected to services earlier than the general population. This was nothing more than a figment of your imagination.

I understand that, as a spear-carrier for fascist interests in this country, you're tempted to make things up as you go along - but really, truth and honesty will serve your cause better in the long term than mere hyperbole.

To use a post-disaster situation for making empty ideological points is a disgrace. Shame CP.

Travelling columnists

Miranda Devine is allowed by the SMH editor to express controversial opinions about any subject under the sun. However, she does this without any apparent foot slogging. Paul McGeough risks his life and limb reporting from Iraq, writing for the same paper. How about the SMH financing a journey to Baghdad for Ms Devine? They should also throw in a ticket to North Queensland for their lofty columnist.

Thanks for finally responding to her article

It's interesting to note that there's not a single rebuke in the SMH's online letters webpage to Miranda's article. So either those letters haven't been published online by SMH, or nobody in Sydney gives a damn about Innisfall.

Darryl, thanks for posting your article. It's great to see that someone has finally seen fit to reply to Miranda's vitriolic and distorted diatribe. For a moment there I was afraid that no one would write a reply because a large majority of people actually agreed with her. Thanks for proving me wrong. I'm really glad to see someone standing up to Miranda and her distorted view of the world - it's great to see that people aren't as self-centered, greedy and worthless as Ms Devine thinks they are.

Another attack on Aussie Values

As an Australian working overseas WebDiary is my source of news and current affairs from home.


Growing up in the  North west WA where cyclones are a regular occurrence it was with disgust that I read the article by Miranda Devine, after reading Darryl Mason’s Blog. To not only write an article ridiculing the people of Innisfail, but as she obviously does to believe it, shows her Immaturity and mentality, no one chose to be there while the cyclone was hitting the town, no one chose to be there in the aftermath, And no one deserves to be attacked by a fellow Australian for wanting Government services to get their Arse into gear.   That’s. Downright UN_AUSTRALIAN Fair Go!!  


Sydney Morning Herald :

Send Miranda up there to face these people and explain her article face to face..


Very Revealing

The outer eye wall of Cyclone Larry was 80km in diameter when it crossed the coast. Wind gusts of category 4 and higher were experienced for more than 150km inland as the eye travelled west. The zone of devastation caused by Larry covers at least 12,000 square kilometers. Take a look at a decent map and you will see that dozens of communities were smashed by the storm.

I live in Tully, about 50km south of Innisfail and about 24km in from the coast. The eye wall of the storm passed just 10km to the north of us not long after dawn. We were battered by wind gusts in excess of 200kph for about 2 hours, however, we didn't cop the sustained fury of the very destructive core. We had ringside seats and they were much too close for comfort.

Communities all along the coast from Mission Beach to Babinda endured hours of gut wrenching fear before and during the impact. The Bureau of Meteorology gave remarkably accurate forecasts for Larry, nominating the time and place 24 hours in advance. I am sure that this was a crucial factor in avoiding death and serious injury, however, knowing you are in the path of a severe cyclone is very frightening, I can assure you.

Those who experienced the worst of Larry's fury felt the very real fear of imminent, violent death for hours on end and many will be suffering from post traumatic stress. It is entirely understandable that some people who have had their homes and livelihoods severely disrupted in these circumstances would lash out. Indeed, it would be astonishing if there was no anger to be seen.

Is it too much to ask for a little patience and understanding from those watching from the sidelines?

The remote armchair experts who call these people idiots and whingers reveal plenty about themselves and nothing of substance about their fellow Australians. Miranda Devine and her Webdiary wannabe display a revolting absence of empathy for the victims of this disaster.

Armchair dills

Hey Michael, sorry you and your fellow Tully residents experienced what you did. Although you weren't in the eye it is still terrifying, an experience you cannot really comprehend unless you've been through it. I hope damage where you are wasn't too bad and that you don't experience another such blow in the future.

Having lived in Darwin it is a regular event to be prepared for cyclones/warnings. Sometimes you haven't even heard the warning before all the batteries, masking tape, radios and canned food are cleaned out at the supermarkets. I used to wonder if the authorities had any idea what they were doing up there.

They don't, and neither does any government until they are faced with trying to restore services and help people. The thing I find most frustrating about cyclones and the damage potential is how authorities continue to placate the public by telling them their homes are up to a cyclone. That's not true in Darwin despite Tracy and if one ever hit Brisbane the majority of the inner Brisbane suburbs would lose most of those Queenslander homes. You can't tell them though, they will have to wait for the experience to understand.

People like Devine need to get a life and it is clear the SMH must be desperate for readers if they allow such tripe, highly offensive tripe, to be published.

We Were Lucky This Time

Hi Ross, thanks for the kind thoughts. It really does seem to be impossible to find words that can adequately describe the fury of a category 5 cyclone. We have been on a rollercoaster ride of fear, terror, euphoria and survivors guilt; my partner and I escaped without any significant personal losses.

Everybody here has a different story to tell. Nearly all of the town of Tully escaped serious structural damage, but many residents had their windows blown in and their belongings saturated. Many of my work colleagues live at Mission Beach and they, like so many others, were hit with the wrecking ball.

We have been clearing up the shredded vegetation and fallen trees since the storm. About 7am every day the chainsaw orchestra starts up and plays until dusk. The cleanup has been hampered by about half a metre of rain in the days following and about 300mm of that fell on the day after the storm.

Larry moved to the west at about 25kph, so the most ferocious winds only lasted for a couple of hours. Had the cyclone moved at a more leisurely pace, as Winifred did in 1986, the pummelling would have gone on for many more hours and lives may well have been lost.

The probability that Brisbane will be hit by a severe cyclone increases with the temperature of the planet. Severe cyclones are likely to be more common in the future and communities living at the edge of the sea may not be viable in cyclone territory if the frequency increases too much. Building standards and power distribution will have to change for others in the line of fire to survive in the long term.

Where the k'n hell were you, Moo-Randa?


One did respond, rudely enough, as one does, to Dumbanda and Dumber’s bilious twaddle, almost certainly just what the SMH seeks.

So is it better to cop it sweet? Ya gotta say something in reply to a lying, wart-covered monsters swarming over our landscape. So orf it went... not at all burdened with any kind of ’owardesque Uriah ’eep ’umblenesss:-

“First the North gets the rough end of a pineapple called Larry.

“Then Miranda Devine galumphs in like a giant glowering cane toad (“This is no New Orleans, so enough with the whingeing” Herald 26/3).

[When did this “enough with” creep into our language? Sounds like creepy shopping channel-Newspeak to me]

“She’s pissing and moaning, as she might put it [in her creepy shopping channel-Newspeak], about... whingeing.

“As usual, it’s a cackhanded attempt to help out her beloved antique Marquis of Kirribilli.

“The big problem could be that the pair of them have noticed that far too many people up North are of Mediterranean appearance, evidence of massive pioneering Italian migration to the cane fields since pre-1890.

“Many names on the news are from the length and breadth of Italy, even (gasp!) Sicily.

“Worse, some other names are Sikh! Heavens! How long have they been there?

“And we know what her mob think of that kind of rude shock to their monoculture (except for “dehvine little eateries, dahling”).

“Basta, stupida stronza! Anyway, where the bloody hell were you?

“All Australians whinge, except Devine. It’s a free country, and we have it down to a fine art, from the First Fleet to Gallipoli to Long Tan, floods, bucketing hail, Ash Wednesdays and Black Fridays, Tracy, Joan, Larry and plenty of others.

“All of us, except Devine.”

Of course, The Sydney Morning Herald won’t run that kind of thing these days. Too namby-pamby. Too pissweak. Too frightened.

Ignorant Miranda

I have the link to Miranda's wonderfully insightful item. She has kindly provided an email address at the bottom of her so called article. Hotmail of course.

I have emailed a short message to her, polite of course and have advised her that I have emailed their management as well stating the SMH is now off my list of reading, on or off the web. I have also wished her well in whatever the new job may be.

It's just ridiculous for someone to write such rubbish as she has and must be just the deperate need for readers that has prompted her to write this. Surely, as if this is her real thinking she should be a part of the new bottom of the harbour scheme.

One thing that has been noticeable though is the plethora of politicians and other dignitaries that have flown in comfort to Innisfail, made their grand tour, posed for photos and hopped back into the limo.

Just imagine how the locals feel seeing these people wasting local resources in guiding them around, not to mention the waste of space on aircraft that could have carried volunteers instead of bloody freeloaders. I'm surprised none of the locals has gone for their throats but maybe the media hasn't reported any such events.

Reminds me of Howard in France a few years back shaking hands with rows of veterans. He shook one old fellow's hand and that fellow said, from his wheelchair "I don't even know who you are".

Bye Bye SMH.

Cyclone Larry update

Bryan Law: "Blaming the victim suits the oppressor..."

Good news. The Innisfail Aboriginal population has finally had its plumbing and sewerage re-connected.

Which is odd, really, because they'd been waiting for forty years to get it connected in the first place.

Hamish: do you have a reference CP?

Aboriginal people in Innisfail

Do you know ANYTHING real about Innisfail CP?

I'm not aware of any separate enclave of Aboriginality in Innisfail. The Mamu people I've dealt with have been broadly integrated into the general community, living in a full range of housing stock across the region. They maintain their cultural identity.

It's true they've been very successful in establishing health services and community centres, but these are located adjacent the McDonalds in town.

It's also true there's an ongoing tourism project seeking to establish a canopy walk, with indigenous interpretation of natural history, but this is a regular commercial proposition.

In general the town has a successful record of cultural diversity, with the small-town attributes of friendliness and accessibility.

Id've thought that a sensitive humanitarian like yourself would like to see these people get help to re-build after a natural disaster - and this would mean seeking an efficient and coordinated response from state and Commonwealth governments. Identifying gaps and failures in the post-disaster response is to everyone's benefit.

On the other hand, when Sydney goes down to bird flu, perhaps you'd prefer to cope alone.

Cyclone Skanky

I doubt Miranda has ever been to Innisfail. Port Douglas would be more her style.

Darryl is quite right to say she writes this kind of crap to outrage and provoke. She also does it to reinforce that "hot button" thread of public discourse which rails against welfare recipients, people of colour, and the unfortunate as the cause of social unrest. There are plenty among the ignorant who agree with her.

Blaming the victim suits the oppressor.

The Army has been great, as have the SES, Ambulance, tradesfolk, and neighbours. Centrelink and the Queensland bureaucrats responsible for emergency recovery have been uncoordinated, unprepared and unprofessional. Telstra's network failed in the days after the cyclone because no-one maintained the generators and batteries at local exchanges (there's not enough staff left to do the full job any more).

So Miranda blames the victim. She richly deserves to remain unread.

How ironic

Darryl Mason: "Even John Howard understood why he copped some abuse when he entered the town. Some of it was angry, some of it was joking, but all of it was pretty much an Australian reaction. Howard obviously knows the people of Australia, and the people of North Queensland, a lot better than Miranda Devine does..."

Innisfail has a population of, what? 8,400?

Shiralee Hazel probably figures if the City of New Orleans, FEMA, the State of Louisiana and Geroge Bush were fair game after Hurricane Katrina, then surely the Government of Queensland and the State Emergency Services deserve abuse after Larry.

I mean, Larry was a baby by contrast.

New Orleans? A population of 1,200,000.

Two hurricanes in a couple of weeks. The city under metres of water.

Now might be a really good time to to revisit some of the comments in the Hurricane Katrina thread, mightn't it?

And perhaps Miranda figures if that if all the "commentary" about Katrina on blogs like this was a pack of lies and grotesque distortion, then maybe things aren't so bad in Innisfail, either?

Hamish: is that a defence or criticism of Miranda's journalism?

In fact, given the excoriating ridicule and derision joyfully heaped upon the rescue and recovery effort in Louisiana and other Katrina affected states in the USA, shouldn't we all be sneering at the Queensland Government and the SES?

I mean, a week has gone by and they still don't have electricity on in 90 per cebt of the town. Tiny Innisfail.

Idiots. Whingers.

I wonder why Cuba didn't offer Australia "assistance" with Larry?

I wonder why Hugo Chavez didn't call a media conference to tell the world how stupid we are because we haven't cleaned up Innsfail yet?

Do you think civil war will break out in Innisfail?

8,400 people in a few dozen square miles.

Were any babies eaten by crocodiles?


Hamish: "is that a defence or criticism of Miranda's journalism?"

Well, here's a thought. 1,200 of the 8,400 people living in the sprawling metropolis of Innisfail are Indigenous Australians.

I wonder what their living condition were like before Larry? I mean, this is Queensland we're talking about here.

Is it true they were piling up bodies in the Innisfail Masonic Hall?

And that gunfights broke out around the CWA Op Shop as people started looting Lamingtons to survive?

I hear there were enough buses waiting outside Innisfail caravan park to take the entire population to Houston if George Dubbya had only given the word.

Now this bit's true: a full four days after the cyclone, General Cosgrove toured the scene from the air.

Hey? Doesn't that sound familiar? 

give her no oxygen

She must have perceived a drop in readers to go on this ridiculous verbal rampage against the innocent folk up North.

Ignore her I say. Or apply my golden rule for the Ackerman/Devine/Bolt/Albrechtsen diatribes. You only need to skim their headlines to get an idea of who they are attacking that day - every six months you can read a column which will confirm what these formula right wing apologists are whinging about. They are so predicable I could fill in for any one of them if they go off sick.

It's the bad language

Devine's reactionary diatribe may have been incited by a few letters, similar in tone, published in The Australian.

But there may be trails of dots leading out in a couple of other directions.

One is given support by the response of UK broadcasting authoritys to the "bloody hell" advertisement. That is, a fairly solid conservative sentiment expects sane people to contain their public rage or disappointment so they do not express it with foul language. The PM followed this line in parliament when he used the 'hell' but omitted the 'bloody'. On the other hand, for people whose thought processes come out as "yeah, well, like, really special", or "I wuz devastated", the odd bit of Anglo-Saxon would be an improvement.

However, Miranda's thoughts may be occupied by the future of the ABC. If, as suggested, she is offended by puerility and gratuitous filth, she will be on the bandwagon against 'The Glass House', and I wish her well. My tip is that Dave and his pals will be unable to satisfy the needs of the ABC, and the sooner the better.

Miranda may have, also, sniffed the blood in the air between the Libs and the Nats. The 'agrarian socialists' and their hardnosed brethren in the Coalition are certain to come to blows before the next election. Again, I wish Miranda well in her little job of pot-stirring, and she should use any pathetic excuse to tell rural Aussies how much they are despised by us city folks.

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