More on the Ed’s Rants

My favourite Ed’s rants

Ban Yellowcake

In an earlier post I wrote about the Editor’s impressive style when commenting on a topical issue in his patch. Tom refers to these comment pieces as ‘the Ed’s rants’.

Disappointingly, the Ed is choosy about targets for his thunder. No grand rant about the need to supply breakfast for hungry schoolchildren, nor about the Federal government withholding grant funding from a church providing activities for ‘latchkey kids’. No thunder about the shortage of local housing and how share house university students got the first pick of rental properties , nor of the way Aboriginal house hunters were consistently discriminated against.

Even the children sniffing petrol in the cemetery didn’t raise a rant, although the paper gave the situation thorough coverage.

No, the Ed saves his thunder for the big topics: corruption in the form of gambling mobsters using stand-over tactics to keep local councillors quiet, and the use of firebombing and murder to intimidate other criminals and citizens. Prostitution gets a surprisingly progressive serve. But, in my opinion, the Ed’s best rant is his response to the Yellowcake midnight runs.

So here are my favourite ‘rants’:

An Undercurrent of Corruption

In June 1978 the Ed started discussing rumours flying around of stand-over tactics, bashings, threats of bombings and murder from gambling mobsters (gambling was still illegal) and suggestions that hard drugs were part of the toxic mix. Because of the quite poetic rhythms in his comment piece ‘An Undercurrent of Corruption’, I rewrote it slightly to create a prose poem.

‘An undercurrent of corruption runs through Newtown and occasionally surfaces.

‘Allegations have been made about stand-over tactics, bashings, hard drugs, gambling, bomb threats even.

‘But nobody has come forward with hard evidence.

‘There are believed to be two statutory declarations in existence from people claiming to have been threatened and abused.

‘The Voice has not seen either declaration 

‘When approached to vouch for the story, several people said

‘they wouldn’t touch it with a forty-foot pole’.

‘Allegations have been made that people are afraid of intimidation.

‘We’ve been told if we pursue the story we’ll likely get a bomb through the window. 

‘It’s hard to penetrate Newtown’s wall of silence.’

His next rant went harder.

Root out the Crims

following the paper’s exposé on August 16 of the extent of illegal gambling in the Newtown–Marrickville area and mobsters’ stand-over tactics and violence, the Editor wrote a courageous comment piece.

Subtitled ‘Root out the Crims’, he wrote that the paper’s stories about illegal gambling ‘have caused some rumblings among the gambling fraternity. We have even heard of threats being issued.

‘There are some big operators operating around Newtown-Marrickville. They don’t like their activities being brought to light.

‘If the dogs are barking right, these people won’t stop at bombings and even murder.’

Then he makes the eminently common-sense suggestion that both prostitution and gambling should be legalised.

‘Let’s get one thing clear. The Voice isn’t opposed to gambling, as such, or even brothels.

As far as we’re concerned, it would be a hell of a lot better if both activities were legalised and properly regulated.

‘In fact, that’s the only way to get rid of the corruption that currently pervades the scene.

‘Why should these things be illegal in themselves?

‘Because of the insane nature of Australian gambling laws,

‘decent people are being turned into criminals.’

 

Now we come to my absolute favourite rant:

‘Why the Silence?’

Reportage of the mysterious convoys of trucks carrying yellowcake loads roaring through the streets of Newtown and Marrickville in the dead of night filled most of the July 12 front page, apart from small ads. In the centre column was the Comment, headed ‘Why Silence?’ in block capitals.

‘It reads like a James Bond thriller.

Uranium convoys roaring through the back streets of Newtown in the dead of night, using a series of different routes.

‘It’s all being done in secret, and nobody, but nobody, has been told a thing about it.

‘Except this isn’t fiction, and if things go wrong,
it is we who will pay the price.

‘The Federal Government and the AAEC want to flog off our uranium,
and intend to do it regardless of public opinion.

‘When stories like this come to light, it looks like they intend to do it regardless of public life. So concerned are they to avoid publicity and the resulting demonstrations, that they’re even keeping in the dark people who should know, if our homes are to be protected.

‘The fact is that no provision has been made in the event of an accident. No doubt the authorities will tell us the risks are minimal.

‘But with 250 such smashes in the US since 1971, that seems a pretty poor sort of argument.

‘And we already have our very own radioactive waste disposal problem at Hunters Hill—and that stuff has lain there for more than half a century. Now the residents have to move because of it.

‘Nobody is willing to admit responsibility for the uranium convoys racing through Marrickville streets late at night.

‘Nobody knows what will happen if there is an accident. All three levels of government simply refer enquiries back to each other.

‘It’s like an endless piece of string. What happens when that string breaks? Nobody knows.’

 

You can read more about Newtown Voices, about me, and where to buy the book at newtownvoices

Life wasn’t meant to be easy

PEOPLE KICKED OUT OF HOMES
While people sleep in the streets, government migrant flats have been standing empty

Kicked out of homes

Once again, a screamer headline across the front page of the weekly Guardian, this time on October 25, 1978, teamed with an incongruous photo of a Surf Rescue speedboat breasting the waves at Bondi, (a piece of advertorial)

No houses for the poor

Steep rise in rent cost

“While people sleep in the streets, government migrant flats have been standing empty for up to three years.

 “The Marrickville area has one of the highest percentages of people looking for emergency housing in the State.

 “According to a recent survey, 40 family groups, involving nearly 100 people sought emergency housing within a month.”

The Guardian estimated that “one and a half percent of the Marrickville population —a third more than the State average” was homeless. It quoted the NSW homeless organisation Shelter, that

“people are now sleeping in cars and parks —as in the 1930’s depression. Meanwhile government flats at Annandale and Marrickville are standing vacant.”

This story, and several others about poverty, homelessness and evictions— especially ones related to Sydney University’s expansion beyond its 1860s City Road site —led me to put much of this material in Buzz’s voice, in ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy.’

If you haven’t met Buzz yet, she’s a social justice warrior who lives in an anarchist squat and teaches car maintenance at WEA (Workers Education Association). She’s very outspoken about the injustices she sees around her, and frequently quotes items she‘s read in the Newtown Voice.

“Life wasn’t meant to be easy” was a famous quote in 1971 by Australian Federal Liberal Party leader (later Prime Minister)  Malcolm Fraser. A wealthy grazier and powerful politician, his quote was resented by ordinary Australians  who understood it to mean “stop complaining about your lot.”  Buzz wasn’t going to take that lying down!

Jeez, Harry, when Malcolm Fraser told us

life wasn’t meant to be easy—the smug

patronisin bastard—I didn’t think it was

gunna get this bloody tough.

… Seems like things are almost as

bad as in the Depression, specially in

Newie an Marrickville. Welfare groups say

lotsa people are sleepin in parks an cars.

An guess what? Accordin to The Voice

there’s plenty of places empty that are

owned by the government—blocksa flats

for migrants in Marrickville and Annandale,

But never been used. Jeez, Harry, I dunno,

where’s this country goin? What happened

to the lucky country? To a fair go for every

one? I reckon we need a bloody revolution!

An I mean Bloody!

Sadly, many of the issues that affected people in 1978 have come around again.

Buzz has some strong words to say about Sydney Uni’s relentless expansion beyond City Road into surrounding streets, and the added effect of students sharehousing on the shortage of affordable housing in the area. I’ll cover the Uni effect in later posts.

You can read more about Newtown Voices, about me, and where to buy the book at newtownvoices

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