The Good Die Young

I grew up in a haze of rock and roll. The eighties were my time to kick butt and if I am honest, part of me is still trapped in that decade. My gaudy fashion sense and big hair still linger much to the consternation of my adult sons. I never really got 'grunge' or the boy band thing that pumped and pounced through the nineties and since then I don't know what's going on. Bieber and One Direction? I fear we've done a back-flip and landed in the late seventies of Leif Garrett and Sean Cassidy! God help us!

Ageing happens to us all and we all hear from the elderly that they really begin to feel their age when their peers start dropping like flies. Well, having spent my most formative adult years in the Australian pub rock scene, I am beginning to feel that tap on the shoulder that says.....closer, nearer....sooner.

Yesterday we said good-bye to Chrissy Amphlett, a rock goddess who sprang up in the eighties and shone right till the end. She was only fifty-three and was felled by breast cancer and ravaged by MS. To be honest, like the words of her band's iconic song - 'The Good Die Young,' it's a rock and roll curse to leave this world prematurely. Just like professional boxers tend to become punch drunk and check out early, musicians and those living the rock life-style tend to live faster than others and run out of time sooner. Same amount of life but packed into a smaller span of years.

If I'd been sensible and become a school teacher, I doubt I would have buried so many of my peers by the age of forty-seven. Over the years I've seen some roadie friends killed on the road, casualties of touring, fareweled Guy McDonough and Brad Robinson from Australian Crawl. Twenty-nine and thirty-eight years respectively; Steve Gilpin from Mi-Sex, aged forty-two; Marc Hunter, Dragon, forty-four; Shirley Straughn, Skyhooks, forty-nine; Michael Hutchence, INXS, thirty-seven; Harvey James, Sherbert,  fifty-eight, Paul Hester, Crowded House, forty-six; James Freud, The Models, fifty-one; Steve Prestwich, Cold Chisel, fifty-six. Chris Bailey, The Angels, sixty-two.

Then there were those whose paths I never crossed - Elvis Presley, forty-two, Bon Scott, AC/DC, thirty-four; Jeff Buckley, thirty and all those in the 27 Club, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and many more.

A rock and roll life is a life of power and passion, pleasure and pain. It's glows incandescently but burns so bright all too briefly.

See you later, Chrissy Amphlett. You were a hell of a girl and I was honoured to have stomped beside you, ever so briefly.

Kill the Fat-Cats

On April 15th, new contributor to the Menzies House beat, Toby Ralph, penned a satirical piece entitled ‘Kill the Poor.’ It was an ironic response to the Labour government’s push to tax the superannuation of the ‘fabulously rich.’

 As someone who has been not-so-fabulously poor, I’d like to level the playing field with a little bit of good-humoured sparring and poke Toby in the eye with a little satirical slap-stick myself.

Mind you, I wasn’t offended by his hilarious idea that we ‘cull’ the most marginalised of our society. You see, doing time in the trenches might not pay the bills but it imbues one with a very thick skin.

Mr Ralph’s inspiration came from an essay written in 1729 by Jonathon Swift who suggested (with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek) that the poor Irish should improve their condition by selling their children to the rich for food.

So as the ‘fabulously rich’ are singing ‘Let them eat cake,’ while plotting ways to do away with us, we, the riff-raff, the plods, who drain the system and put nothing back (except hard labour and our chimney-sweep swathes of children)  are chanting ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity,’ while we sharpen the blades on our guillotines.

Toby Ralph described those who would be taxed in the superannuation sting as being ‘mugged.’ Hello? When was the last time a fat-cat got mugged? They swan about in chauffeur driven cars and don’t make a habit of walking down dim alley-ways (unless they’re on their way to a brothel with the company credit card).

When Ralph talks of the meagre contribution by the working and under classes, he trivializes the unpaid labour and ground roots work that goes in to running this country. We may not fill the coffers with huge political party bribes, I mean donations, but we hand over our hard-earned cash to charity whenever our communities are hit by floods and fires and we donate of ‘ourselves’. Priceless.

Toby, you speak of the dispensable ‘indolent students, hapless single mothers, lower order drug dealers, social workers, performance artists, Greenpeace supporters and those employed in the heavily subsidised manufacturing industries.’ But in the real world outside of fat-cat Disneyland, things would get mightily messed up if you nuked this lot.

Fat-cats listen up! Your nannies and housekeepers would be gone and you’d have to figure out how to change a diaper and plug the vacuum in. The kindergartens would all be shut because the workers who wipe your kid’s butts and teach them how to play nicely would all be gone.

The environment would go to hell because you’d have no Greenies to regulate and monitor your frenzied bingeing on natural resources.

Your social workers would be gone? Really? And all those nasty drug dealers? Where would all the Dapper Dan’s get their weekend fix of cocaine? You’re just as likely to find a hopeless drunk or drug addict on a board of directors as you are in the Rooty Hill RSL. Only the quality differs.

Indolent students? If you wipe out the lazy students or those borrowing against the government financial loan scheme, you’ll have to shut the universities.

The hapless single mothers? One of ‘them’ raised Barrack Obama. Maybe you’ve also heard of J.K Rowling?

 And without performance artists, you big dill, Canberra would be empty!

The benefits of wiping out the plebs as you suggest, include - traffic moving faster due to lack of windscreen cleaners and grand opportunities to turn homeless shelters into inner city wine bars. Sounds like a plan! But who’d serve you?

Hospital waiting lists would plunge, you say. Unlikely because all those underpaid shift-working nurses would be gone and frankly, they do most of the work in the hospital system. You’d be cleaning your own bed-pans and dressing your own wounds while getting your jowls cosmetically tightened.

With such arrogant wit you suggest the ‘remains’ of your dead poor-folk could be recycled into premium dog food or blood and bone to fertilize the new National Parks which will flourish over abandoned housing estates.

As someone who has wiped the tears from my son’s eyes after he was bullied by a barrister’s son at the local skate-park for being a ‘houso’, I’m not offended. No, not at all. That barrister has been struck off the register now and his son’s in jail for murder and frankly, I wouldn’t eat a biscuit made out of either of them if I was starving on the street.

Our kids, at least, are free-range, while yours are brought up in the unnatural light of privilege and short-sighted elitism.

Here’s the rub. Don’t worry about your big fat nest egg. You don’t live any longer than the rest of us and you’ll rot in the ground beside us.

You’ll just be leaving it to your kids who probably see you as little more than an easy inheritance (which they’ll indubitably squander). Bear in mind that while you’re fantasizing about eliminating poor people, you’re kids are probably dreaming of eliminating you.

So, as an alternative, I suggest we kill you facetious fat-cats. The dreaded superannuation tax might mean you’ve got to sell the second beach house or cut back to only one overseas trips a year. The horror. So let us put you out of your misery. We’ll use our hammers and sickles to take you down.

Your limousines will then be employed to deliver groceries to the house-bound elderly. We’ll transform your mansions into rehabilitation centres and comfortable shelters for the homeless. Your trust accounts and super can provide extra support for single parents and their children and set up more facilities for those challenged by mental illness and disabilities.

And without all you pompous elite, we’ll be able to welcome more battlers to our shores. Instead of setting them up in barbed wire prisons we can treat them to your holiday resorts in the Whitsundays and put your juicy shrimps on the barbie for them, with crates of VB to wash them down.  

So take heed. Apparently it is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

 I’d really enjoy seeing a fat-cat try to squeeze through a needle.

Oh, but that’s clearly just daft.

Nikki McWatters has at various times been an indolent student, a hapless single mother, a Greenpeace supporter, a social worker, a performance artist, a lower order drug dealer and she has worked in ground-floor manufacturing. She has not to date, killed anyone, rich or poor.

Full of piss and bad manners.....

I am sick to the stomach this morning and the causative agent is not a meal of spoiled seafood or badly cooked chicken, but the unfolding daily horror that I am reading in the newspapers about the Coronial Inquest into the brutal murders of Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans that occurred nearly forty years ago. The two young  nurses went missing after setting off, hitch-hiking, from Camp Hill in Brisbane en route to Goondiwindi. Their remains were found, two years later, and showed that they had been violently battered and bound, in a lonely paddock in Murphy’s Creek at the bottom of the Dividing Range below Toowoomba.

In 1974 I was eight years old and making regular trips with my parents past that spot to the Darling Downs to visit my grandparents.  I now live in Camp Hill, the last place the girls were seen, officially alive. The scenery, if not the tale,  is all too familiar to me.

The unfolding horror-story tells of a violent misogynist culture operating as a dirty undercurrent in the region of Toowoomba in the seventies. The appalling lack of intelligence-gathering and follow-up of significant evidence during the initial investigation by the police appears to have been so shoddy that it was little more than useless.

There was a well-known group of men around Toowoomba at the time who were infamous for their weekly hunts when they would cruise about Ruthven Street looking for girls to tumble into the car or boot and then they’d drive to a paddock to give them a good ‘hiding’.  Many locals knew of this. One younger brother of the gang recalled in the Coroner’s Court, that he had sat on a log witnessing about ten blokes ‘making love’ to two women until his brother knocked him senseless during a brawl for asking what he was doing.  The younger brother was ten at the time and his own parents were present.


The 1970’s were a bad time to be a woman in rural Australia. Unless you are a woman, you cannot begin to understand how horrifying it feels to know that  you might be considered fair game or ‘prey’. I recently watched a documentary on the endemic rape and abduction of Indigenous women by the Tasmanian sealers during the nineteenth century and was appalled at the primal, animalistic attitude those men had toward the native women and their families and culture. I am further sickened to read that men were still doing this for sport in the seventies in my own back-yard, four years after the world welcomed Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch.

Witnesses collectively saw two women ‘gang-banged’, beaten, strangled, dragged screaming into cars, begging for help and actually having their wrists bound. Some came forward with their information a day or so later, some not until the missing girls made the headlines, some not for many, many years. A few reported being too scared and others ‘didn’t want to get involved’. One witness explained that she and her husband had dismissed it as ‘a domestic’ (as if that somehow lessened the crime). There were so many witnesses it makes me hyperventilate with disbelief.

Those terrified girls were seen alive by so many in the hours before they had their skulls hammered to pieces. At someone’s back door, on a roadside, in a paddock. With raw and visceral fear, they begged for assistance. Not one person came to their aid. It seems the menace of the men and the stench of their blood-lust was too much of a threat to their own safety for the witnesses to come to the rescue or summon immediate police reinforcement.  That was forty years ago and justice delayed is justice denied.
Marauding men hunting women for sport sounds so foreign and archaic to me, an educated woman who has been brought up to believe in gender equality and mutual respect for my brothers and sisters in society, that it makes me wonder how far we have really evolved since the flesh-tearing sports of the Colosseum and the town-square entertainment of witch-burning. The idea of monsters in the dark is not just a Gothic fairytale.

The hunters are still out there, some on those same dark country roads, others at home with their families. Some dead. Some still alive.

The most telling and tragic thing that struck me from this latest, belated and long overdue inquest into the murder of the eighteen and twenty year old girls, was that the ‘persons of interest’,  were known to drive their Holdens up and down the streets of Toowoomba and the surrounds picking off girls to give a ‘hiding to.’  Everyone knew -  that’s just what those men did. Regularly. Routinely. One has already admitted this behaviour during the inquest, while strenuously denying any guilt in the double murder. Where were the police in this lawless Wild West nightmare? Really! Where were they?

When Wayne Hilton (now deceased)  allegedly confessed his part in the murders to his boss decades ago, his only excuse had been that they’d just been lads ‘too full of piss and bad manners.’ He boasted so often of his involvement while downing beer at the pub that it had become local folklore. Just piss and bad manners.

Not saying please and thank-you is bad manners. Slobbering down the phone to an old friend is being too full of piss. Hunting women, bashing women, tying women to trees and raping women, strangling women, abducting women, torturing women, slaughtering women. These are the actions of vile animals not blokes with too much beer in their bellies who ain’t been taught proper manners like….

If you’d stumbled across those horrific scenes on the side a dark road in 1974 or now– what would you have done? Is fear for our own safety or the discomfort of involvement actually a form of complacency which makes us morally complicit?

The inquest continues.

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