Monthly Archives: October 2019

Sunday, December 28

Gore galore: World Without End. Photo: SuppliedFREE TO AIR
Shanghai night field

Save Your Life Tonight, ABC, 6.30pm

While ’80s heart-throb Cameron Daddo is soothing listeners of Melbourne nostalgia radio station, Smooth 91.5FM on the evening shift, one of his famous brothers, Andrew, is scaring viewers of this medical expert panel show with the opener, “I don’t want to be alarmist, but we’re all going to die – eventually”. Like American show, The Doctors, which screens on Ten right after Dr Phil has finished thrashing out worrisome family scenarios, Save Your Life Tonight examines, with the help of audience participation, health issues such as smoking, obesity, and tonight, mental health.

World Without End – final, ABC, 8.40pm

So this is why children should be in bed by 7pm. The elaborate television adaptation of Ken Follett’s epic tales from the cusp of British history just before the Renaissance is full of entirely appropriate bloody violence. If you’re unable or unwilling to suspend your disbelief and enter a world of barbarism, Shakespearean tragedy and romance, and graphic cruelty and despair, look away. Among the cast of big English names, which includes Ben Chaplin (The Truth about Cats and Dogs), and Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders), are some excellent performances by actors from across the Atlantic. Cynthia Nixon kicks off her Sex and the City shackles as villainess Petranilla; and Canadian Megan Follows as Maud is no more the sweet Anne of Green Gables. Bridget McManus

Coastwatch Oz, Seven, 8pm

Ever since the NZ reality series which followed fisheries police around as they faced off against illegal anglers – and were more often than not told to go jump by offenders who knew the officers were in no way capable of taking them on – I’ve been an addict of this type of show. And while the Australian version lacks those beautiful moments where someone screams: “You want these pippies? Take the damn pippies! There! Now they’re your pippies, give yourself a fine!”, its still fascinating to watch the situations people get themselves into when they head out for a day on the water. This week the spotlight falls on an abalone fisherman who doesn’t seem to care he has way too many of the precious shellfish and two women cruising Sydney Harbour in a leaky boat who can’t see how that might be a problem. They’re hardly murder cases, but utterly rivetting. If only there were some pippies in there somewhere.

Scott EllisMOVIES

The Maltese Falcon (1941), Gem, 1.30pm

For his first film as a director, and undoubtedly one of his finest, John Huston adapted Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 crime novel with perceptive thoroughness, right down to storyboarding every shot required. It is a movie after Huston’s heart: nothing gets in the way of a good conversation, and most everything – including who will take a murder rap – is open to negotiation. Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade, the San Francisco private eye whose business partner is killed in a long-running contest between various parties pursuing a priceless mediaeval artefact, in a film that coolly celebrates the power of greed to bend people to its will. Lean and tight in the plotting but crafted with an eye for unexpected interior shots, the film lets Bogart’s Spade memorably exchange theories with Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet). He’s bitter about what has transpired, they accept it with knowing pleasure.

Nebraska (2013), Masterpiece Movies (pay TV), 8.30pm

Alexander Payne converted his wry but low-key comic drama into black and white during post-production, a decision that added to the feeling that Nebraska is a film where the past – uncomfortable and misunderstood – hangs over everything, leading to dissatisfaction and stasis. Claiming that a marketing scam letter promising him $1 million is real, the ailing Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) keeps trying to cross Nebraska to collect, with his son David (Will Forte) eventually taking him despite knowing the truth. Like The Descendantsand About Schmidt, this is another Payne film about the changes experienced on a journey, although cemeteries housing forebears and ramshackle former houses make for a poignant progression. There are moments where the idea that Payne is mocking his subjects resurface, but the picture is better seen as a reflection on male stagnation, with Woody’s wife and David’s mother, Kate (June Squibb) the one person able to deliver the truth.

Craig Mathieson

Sharks in Sydney Harbour: the sobering reality

A great white shark near Pulbah Island in Lake Macquarie. Photo: Rod Collins
Shanghai night field

A great white shark near Pulbah Island in Lake Macquarie. Photo: Rod Collins

A great white shark near Pulbah Island in Lake Macquarie. Photo: Rod Collins

A great white shark near Pulbah Island in Lake Macquarie. Photo: Rod Collins

A swimmer in Sydney Harbour passes over a shark. Photo: Sydney Institute of Marine Science

“Here?” It Is 7.30 on a cool early summer’s morning, and we’re aboard Myer Berg’s fishing boat, heading down Middle Harbour towards the Heads from a ramp near Roseville bridge. Dark olive-coloured water flows between banks of flowering gums, narrowing to less than 150 metres across in places, perhaps the width of 2½ Olympic swimming pools.

We’re discussing what it would take to persuade him to swim across the harbour without a shark cage. Nothing, as it turns out.

“No way in the world. If I was standing there,”  he says, pointing to the tree-lined bank   “You couldn’t give me a briefcase of money big enough to swim to the other side. I grew up fishing in places like this – and we have always seen fins.”

The 54-year-old, a knockabout character with an engaging grin (made more so by a couple of missing lower front teeth) learnt to fish as a toddler at his father’s knee, and now runs  Foreshore Fishing Tours around Sydney’s waterways.

He’s seen all the harbour’s splendours, and has glimpsed its dangers: the three-metre bronze whaler that ripped a client’s kingfish out of the net as he bent over the side of the boat to bring it on board; two large tiger sharks  (one longer, he claims, than his six-metre boat)  lounging  beneath his craft  one day as he fished off Balmoral beach; the mako that took his line and led him a chase across to Manly before it leapt from the water and broke free.

The channel takes a gentle turn and we’re heading  towards Sugarloaf Bay, a pretty name, forever tainted  by tragedy. The bush-lined cove must have seemed an idyllic setting for 32-year-old actress, Marcia Hathaway, and her journalist fiance, Fred Knight,  as they anchored here for a lunchtime boating party with friends on January 28, 1963.

Wading in 75 centimetres of -water, they would have had no hint of danger. Yet soon after they entered the water, a large shark attacked, leaving Hathaway’s right leg almost severed. Within 20 minutes her massive wounds had proved fatal.

Newspapers of the day reported the incident in graphic detail: Knight’s heroic struggle to wrench her from the jaws of the creature; his swim to a nearby house to call an ambulance; the mighty effort the party made to push  the vehicle up the slope when it broke down on the steep bush track. Her dying words and the shockingly candid photos of  her, open-mouthed, being stretchered through the bush – these  words and images burnt themselves so deep into my brain as a young child living in Sydney that I had nightmares for months afterwards, and the seeds of a life-long phobia were sown.

Strangely, the episode helped me become a champion swimmer in primary school. Early each weekday morning I would arrive at the harbourside Redleaf pool ( now re-named the Murray Rose pool) in Double Bay, and swim at top speed between its two  pontoons,  imagining what could be pushing through a hole in the shark-proof fence. These days, I’m still a pretty good swimmer,  but despite the teasing of friends, I can rarely be coaxed much past neck-depth at the beach. Every year, I vow to  join one of those ocean or round-the -harbour swims, and fail to find the nerve.

Berg refers to such events as “smorgasbords” – for the sharks, that is. The day grows overcast as Berg motors towards the mangroves at the far end of Sugarloaf bay. It is difficult working out where the attack might have taken place, though sand is just visible underwater next to the bank in some places. Berg’s depth sounder tells us the drop-off is steep: 11 metres very close to shore.

Middle Harbour is a drowned river valley with some of the deepest holes in the harbour  – up to 45 metres –  providing an environment ideally suited to large fish and their predators.

The day after Hathaway died, a hunting party hooked a large bronze whaler very close to where she was attacked.   Berg believes it was the same shark, and that he may even have seen the culprit the night before the attack.

He and his father were fishing from a sea wall near the Spit Bridge when a woman next to them, using a hand-line and dangling her lower legs in the channel, felt a disturbance below  the surface. She shone a torch in the water to get the shock of her life.

“Right under her feet was this massive shark,” Berg says, insisting he remembers the encounter “clear as a bell” despite being so young. “It was heading up this way and Hathaway got bitten the next morning; I think the chances are pretty strong it was the same one.”

There have been at least 16 fatal attacks in Sydney Harbour since the late 1880s, all in the summer months of December, January, and February. Hathaway was the last to die. But Paul de Gelder came very close in  February 2009. The navy diver was on a dawn assignment at Garden Island, helping to test sonar gear  and swimming along the surface on his back when he felt “an almighty whack on the leg”.

He turned to see what he described in his book, No Time for Fear, as “the huge grey head of a bull shark … [ with] the upper row of its teeth across my leg”. Twice it pulled him under, shaking him like a rag doll as he tried to punch free. De Gelder lost a hand and a leg and only immediate access to first-class medical treatment saved his life.

Berg is taking us around Middle Head now and over to Watsons Bay, where we rendezvous with a boat run by Berg’s fellow guide and  great mate, Craig McGill. McGill says neither he nor Berg  were surprised when the attack on de Gelder happened. The harbour was  “full of sharks” that year because of the huge quantities of kingfish in its waters. Indeed the pair had been laying bets on where – not when – an attack would occur.

A few days after de Gelder was hit, Balmain resident Louise Keats reported seeing a large shark leap from the water at Mort Bay, near her home. It’s a place where I’ve often seen children jumping from ferry wharves in the hottest days of summer.

I’m horrified to find in the Fairfax archives two newspaper reports, one from 1895 and one from 1929, detailing the grisly deaths of two young teen boys in Balmain and Rozelle, both taken by sharks, one after he leapt from a jetty just as local kids do today. Berg says he often sees children swing into the water from a Tarzan rope near Beauty Point in Middle Harbour, near a deep channel where he catches large fish.

The day after our harbour tour, he texts me to ask whether I’ve seen that day’s news: a 2.5 metre Great White  caught in nets off Bondi beach. Outside the heads, admittedly, but still, a little too close for comfort.

I ask Professor Emma Johnston, head of the Sydney Institute  of Marine Science, what she feels about the risk of harbour swimming. She says bull sharks in particular are a presence in the harbour in the summer months, travelling large distances – one tagged specimen lingered in the harbour for 14 days, swimming more than 230 kilometres at night and 65 kilometres during the day. The tagging program run by the NSW Department of Fisheries shows they can sometimes be in close proximity to swimmers, divers, kayakers and boaties.

“We know they are there,”Johnston says. “We know they are moving in and out and not eating people who swim. But I think that points to a couple of things. There  are ways of minimising interactions with sharks which don’t remove all risk, but do reduce it. Not swimming at dawn and dusk, and not in highly turbid water. Bull sharks are tying to target fish. But if  it’s murky and there’s thrashing about and they are  undecided, and it’s feeding time, then mistakes” – as she delicately puts it –  “can happen”.

She says  she is far more worried about  gastro bugs in the harbour after heavy rain  than sharks, and swims regularly in open harbour waters around Chowder Bay . After all, there are probably tens of thousands of Sydney-siders paddle-boarding, dive-bombing, swimming, kayaking and climbing out of boats into the harbour every year.

But the fishos aren’t persuaded, though they do agree with her on the riskiest times to be in open water: at dawn and dusk in the warmer months, and when bait fish are abundant.

“Sharks are not actively feeding during the day and I think that’s why we get away with so much swimming in the harbour,” McGill says.  “If there were  that many people in the water at dusk, dawn or at night, I reckon it would be carnage.”

So if it’s a bright sunny day, the water is clear, no one is chucking fish guts off the pier and kids are doing a few water-bombs into the sparkling depths, I’ll stifle my misgivings.   But you’ll only catch me in the harbour on the landward side of a shark-proof fence.

Department of Fisheries – Tips to reduce risk of shark attack:

– Don’t swim too far from shore.

– Swim in groups.

– Avoid being in the water when it’s dark or during twilight.

– Avoid murky water, waters with known effluents or sewage.

– Avoid areas used by recreational or commercial fishers.

– Avoid areas where seabirds or diving or there are other signs of baitfish or fish-feeding activity; Sharks may be present between sandbars or near steep drop-offs.

– Avoid swimming in canals, and river/harbour mouths.

– Avoid swimming with pets.

Tony Abbott plays reshuffle card in hope of a happier 2015 – discarding David Johnston

Dumped from cabinet: David Johnston. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Dumped from cabinet: David Johnston. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Shanghai night field

Dumped from cabinet: David Johnston. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Dumped from cabinet: David Johnston. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Who’s who in the Abbott ministry

This is the reshufffle Tony Abbott had to have. Its central aim is to bolster the economic foundations of the government with the inclusion of some extra backbone in the form of Scott Morrison, and some extra charm in the form of cabinet appointee Sussan Ley, and newcomer to the outer-ministry, Josh Frydenberg.

These are the important changes: Morrison, among the the most formidable and apparently most fearless advocates in the current cabinet, who comes in as Social Services Minister; Ley, who has had a big promotion and will steer through a revamped GPpayment among other things; and Frydenberg, an urbane and gifted communicator, who will no doubt buttress the otherwise wooden economic messaging of Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann.

However reluctantly, Abbott has bitten the bullet admitting what has been balefully obvious for months, that doing nothing was a recipe for continued drift towards the electoral abyss.

Abbott’s party-room declaration a few weeks back that 2014 had been a year of delivery and achievement was the final straw for some members of his government.

Aimed at reframing a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of a rambunctious Senate, the claim had the opposite effect, galvanising hitherto unexpressed concerns around the PM’s judgment.

It was a clumsy application of spin over substance, but worse than that, it rendered real for the first time the problem of a government unwilling or unable to break free of its own talking points, even as those same arguments fell flat with voters.

Abbott at least was attuned enough to offer some hope as well, promising to clear the governmental hull of a few drag-causing barnacles before year’s end.

His office scoffed at the suggestion of any personnel changes and swore David Johnston enjoyed the Prime Minister’s absolute confidence and would most certainly be there for a long time to come.

So much for that. Johnston has been dumped – the biggest loser. His crime was political buffoonery rather than administrative failure. Worse ministers have survived under the radar.

The inclusion of Ley in cabinet as Health Minister doubles the female representation – another admission of the political mistakes of the original line-up.

Abbott’s stubbornness in resisting a shake-up had been premised on two judgments: a recognition that reshuffles create new enemies, and, a pathological aversion to handing a win to his liberal critics in the commentariat.

This reshuffle has done both. But it has also improved the team, and offers him the hope of a better 2015 than the year it succeeds.

Lydia Ko returning to Australia to challenge Karrie Webb

Arguably one of the most influential people in sport, rising teenage sensation Lydia Ko, will headline a top-flight field trying to stop hometown hero Karrie Webb from achieving Australian Open history for the second time in her career.
Shanghai night field

Ko, still just 17, has been described as the next star capable of transcending golf – having been named one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people” – and is the talk of the international scene following her incredible 2014 season on the LPGA Tour.

The New Zealand superstar is breaking down the barriers of what young people can achieve in elite sport, having earned $3.5 million this year, including a $1.55 million payday in November described as the biggest single earning in women’s golfing history.

As she aims to win in her first major and perhaps set her sights on becoming world No.1 in 2015, the golfing world is waiting to see Ko’s next step – and it’s a journey that will begin at Royal Melbourne on February 19 next year.

Ko will be the star attraction in the hottest field Australian golf has seen this summer, made up of 15 of the world’s top 30 ranked players, a combined 11 major winners and five former No.1s.

Aside from world No.3 Ko, Chinese dynamo Shanshan Feng (No.5) and Korean fan favourite So Yeon Ryu (No.7) will be the other players to watch in a chasing pack for Webb’s title that bats even deeper, in terms of international stars, than the one that competed for Rory McIlroy’s trophy at this year’s men’s Australian Open.

From a flag-bearing perspective, this year’s Open will be the first tournament rising Australian star Minjee Lee will appear in as a professional, fresh off her impressive performance earlier this month at the qualifying tournament for the LPGA Tour, which netted the 18-year-old from Perth a ticket on women’s golf’s richest circuit.

They will all be aiming to dethrone Webb, who is looking to turn the same trick she completed in 2008 – when she successfully retained the Australian Open title she won in 2007 – and also etch her name into the record books by winning her sixth Australian Open crown.

Webb clinched her fifth title at last year’s event at Victoria Golf Club, coming from five shots behind on the final day to pull off a shock win with a vintage display.

Ko finished equal third last year, just two shots behind Webb, and also finished top three the year before, making this year’s event a chance for redemption in a country that holds special significance for her, given she won her first professional event on the ALPG Tour in New South Wales in 2012.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back to play the Melbourne sandbelt,” Ko said. “I have great memories of playing in Australia and it’s always nice to play in front of an audience who shows us such great support,” she said.

The Australian Open is co-sanctioned by the LPGA and Ladies European Tour, which helps organisers attract high-quality fields, and tournament director Trevor Herden said the event had delivered again.

“We have 15 of the top 30 players in the world rankings coming – it’s a great testament to the reputation we’ve built up in recent years,” he said.

“We’ve got so many women who could legitimately lay claim to our title – and that’s including a host of young Australian women.”

All four days of the event will be broadcast live on ABC, with Royal Melbourne’s composite course set to host the event for the second time in four editions.

Minister for major events, tourism and sport, John Eren, believes the elite field reinforces the reputation of Melbourne’s sandbelt as a top destination for golfing tourism.

Crown loses appeal to increase sentence for bowling club shooting

VICTIM: Dick McGuigan was shot as a club was robbed. THE thug who directed a gunman to ‘‘put one in’’ Water Board Bowling Club patron Dick McGuigan will serve his 16-year jail term after the Court of Criminal Appeal declined to increase it.
Shanghai night field

The Crown appealed Ryker Scott Jennar’s sentence, which included a 12-year non-parole period, as being ‘‘manifestly inadequate’’ for one count of attempted murder and four counts of armed robbery.

The court ruled that while the sentence might be described as lenient, it was not manifestly inadequate.

Jennar was part of a small team that robbed the Carrington Post Office on June 11, 2010, the Criterion Hotel at Carrington on May 22, 2011, and the New Lambton branch of the Newcastle Permanent Building Society on July 15, 2011.

However, it was on June 19, 2011, that Jennar and Joel Douglas Barton entered the Water Board Bowling Club while a number of patrons were still inside.

With their faces covered and Barton brandishing an assault rifle, they took money from a safe before Mr McGuigan approached Jennar and said ‘‘I know you, I recognise you. What the bloody hell are you doing this shit for? Wake up to your bloody self’’.

‘‘F… off, idiot,’’ Jennar replied.

Mr McGuigan followed Jennar and Barton as they left the club before Jennar said to Barton: ‘‘Put one in him’’.

Barton shot Mr McGuigan in the stomach from about four metres away.

Mr McGuigan survived, but required multiple operations and treatment for many months.

The three judges who sat on the Court of Criminal Appeal watched the CCTV footage of the robbery because the Crown wanted them to properly appreciate the seriousness of the incident.

Justice Robert Hulme ruled, however, ‘‘I did not glean anything from it about the seriousness or any other aspect of the offence that was not otherwise apparent from the description provided in the statement of agreed facts and the judge’s sentencing remarks.

‘‘Those offences, including the shooting of Mr McGuigan, were clearly offences of very substantial seriousness.’’

Despite the Crown’s attempts, the court dismissed the appeal with Justice Hulme remarking, ‘‘A sentence of 16 years is a stern measure of criminal punishment, but such a measure was called for in all the circumstances.

‘‘I am not persuaded that it can be said to be manifestly inadequate.’’

The Crown also intends to appeal Barton’s sentence, which was the same.

Barton also intends to appeal his convictions for the robberies and attempted murder.

Both men are eligible for parole in 2023.