Attila the Pun
Friday, June 24, 2005
The elephant in the room

Here is the News Ltd's report of the recent counter terrorism raids in Melbourne:

COUNTER terrorism agencies believe they have foiled an attack on the Melbourne Stock Exchange by a radical Islamic network linked to a covert group which has carried out surveillance on key Sydney sites.

It has been revealed Islamic extremists with cells in Melbourne and Sydney carried out reconnaissance missions on the Harbour Bridge and two Sydney oil refineries.

Now lets run the same facts through the Age-o-fia and see what we come up with:

ASIO and Federal Police officers have conducted secret raids on homes across Melbourne in the past week as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to conduct terrorist attacks on city buildings.


The Melbourne group was alleged to have loose ties with a radical Sydney-based group, which was said to have been watching possible targets including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

Read the whole report to satisfy yourself that I am not selectively quoting - notice any words missing?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Softly softly now - we don't want to appear that we are actually disappointed that Douglas Wood was released, so instead we can just snipe at the outskirts of the issue.

Tracee Hutchinson (who kindly informs us at the end that she used to work for Channels 7 & 9) suggests that Channel 10 secured the Wood story because 7 & 9 figured that the story is "dead in the water".

She shows her charm by comparing his capture and possible execution to a Big Brother nomination process:

The promos started rolling through Big Brother's live nominations on Monday night, which was unnervingly apt given we had all become bit players in this bloke's life, tuning in day after day to find out whether it was time for Douglas to go or not. And what form his eviction would actually take.

Then suggests that 10 prevailed because Wood was a fan of Sandra Sully:

Was it at the behest of our newest beer-drinking celebrity that Sandra won the day? Did she fit somewhere in the Freed Iraq Hostage's expatriate views of Australia, alongside the Geelong Football Club and Waltzing Matilda?

Oooh - good collection of sneers - the man drinks beer, likes football, and even sang waltzing matilda - what a yob! Not to mention the swipe at him being an ex-pat.

Or was it more likely the hostage would receive kid-glove treatment from a charming woman, whom I count among my favourites when it comes to reading news but whose mettle is yet to be tested when it comes to asking the tough questions?

He has been held by terrorists for 47 days, you don't think a bit of kid-glove treatment might be appropriate? Any anyway, what are the "tough questions" that need to be asked? He was kidnapped, locked up, beaten, shaved, videotaped, then released through sheer luck. Even if there were tough questions for him to answer, why would Channel 10 be less approriate than 60 Minutes - who gave Habib an armchair ride through his paid interview?

But now Wood has turned out to be a supporter of Bush and Howard, not to mention described the terrorists as "arseholes", its okay to pile on:

Or was it simply that the story was dead in the water the minute the hostage revealed himself to have none of the grace or dignity dished out to his brothers and looked like a blustering buffoon at his airport news conference when responding with a "definite maybe" to the question of going back to Iraq.

The nerve of the guy, after being kidnapped and threatened with execution, he didn't have th grace to empathise with his kidnappers after his release. What a buffoon.

It was enough that his words "God bless America" had been played over and over on his release, but the 20 years Douglas Wood has spent as an expat Australian in America were played out in all their cringe-worthy ingloriousness when he decided to meet our media singing a song about a sheep thief who would rather die than be caught for his crimes . . . oh dear!

Oh no - he is an ex-pat, lets not listen to a word he says. I hope this policy is more rigidly enforced next time Germaine Greer comes calling. Worse than being an ex-pat, he is living in America!

Sure, the story kept its pace thanks to the media, but it was absolutely, and categorically, power-driven from the front seat by John Howard and Alexander Downer. That made it different from the get-go. It became a national priority to "get our man home".

Isn't it terrible that the PM and foreign minister took any sort of leading role in freeing an Australian citizen? It is also instructive that Tracee suggests that the wider public didn't care that much about Wood, and the story only had legs because the Government "power drove" it.

I can't say for sure, of course, but I fancy I was not alone when I slunk away from the telly muttering unkind things under my breath about the hostage and his "business opportunities" in Iraq.

His line about going back to Iraq (since retracted) was silly, but this was a recently released hostage speaking off the cuff, not a carefully stage managed and scripted press conference. Why would you possibly be muttering unkind things about him?

And I bear him no ill will.

Thats big of you, really.

And so I'm back to the chequebooks and Channel Ten. Winners or losers? Like 'em or loathe 'em, chequebooks have become an integral part of commercial media, but perhaps what we are seeing is the first example of a discerning call by the veterans of the game. Have they let the story of the year slip from their grasp, or have they sniffed the breeze and decided that by Sunday we won't care?

Why? Because Wood didn't act the way you wanted him to? Does anyone believe that things would not have been different if Wood have have criticised Bush and Howard, denounced the Government's handling of his situation, and called for the removal of all troops?

The worm turns

Did anybody think that these comments wouldn't get a reaction?:

Frankly, I'd like to apologise to President Bush and Prime Minister Howard for things I said under duress. I actually believe that I am proof positive that the current policy of training the Iraqi army, of recruiting, training them worked because it was the Iraqis that got me out. I am proof positive that the current policies of the Americans and the Australian governments is the right one.

As if on cue, here are the Greens:

Greens leader Bob Brown said Mr Wood was wrong in his analysis of Australian policy and it was unfair that he profit from his experience.

"I think Mr Wood is fortunately home, but there's 850 Australians who aren't," Senator Brown said, referring to Australian troops in Iraq. "Rather than just saying God bless America I would just say God bless those Australian troops and let's get them home."

Because Brown really cares about Australian troops you understand.

He said Mr Wood should donate the money he made in his deal with Ten to humanitarian causes in Iraq, such as children who had lost their parents in the conflict.

Selling your story always comes across as tacky, but I don't begrudge a man who has was held in captivity for 47 days by the headhackers from turning a quick buck. Hell, I am happy for him to take Channel 10's $250,000 purely for calling his kidnappers "arseholes".

Its funny, I don't remember the Greens criticising Mamdouh Habib for taking the (estimated) $100,000 from 60 Minutes. Shouldn't he have donated it to the orphans of Afghanistan?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Off the deep end

If anymore proof was required that Michael Gawenda is completely unfit to be the American correspondent for a supposedly serious newspaper, his latest article should do the trick.

There is no need to feel bad about this, but Americans love Australia, though they know next to nothing about the place.

Awesome start Mike - an implicit suggestion that we should feel bad about Americans loving Australia, backed up by a complete generalisation that all Americans are completely ignorant about the place.

Even Americans who have visited Australia and just love the time they had there know virtually nothing about the place, which just goes to show that travel confirms rather than shatters stereotypes.

Travel around America obviously hasn't shattered his stereotypes about Americans - that they are all ignorant dumbasses. I would never suggest than an overseas correspondent should have an unabashed love for a country and its people, but why send someone with such ingrained prejudices?

When Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was in Washington recently, he delivered the annual Anzac lecture at a think tank. The audience was made up mainly of conservative think-tank types, Bush Administration officials and several American journalists who had come, it seemed, for a free lunch.

The attendance list at that lecture is not readily available, but are we supposed to take Gawenda's word for it that the entire audience was full of think tank types, Republican flacks and scabby journalists? I am not sure where Ambassador Ghazzati of Malaysia fits into those categories, but I am sure that Gawenda wouldn't generalise too broadly about the audience.

They all loved Downer's speech, and why wouldn't they? As one Bush Administration official said, he could think of no other country's foreign minister who would make such a speech, which was essentially a love letter to the United States.

Too bad for Michael - the text of the speech *is* readily available online, which allows us to see that his sneer about a "love letter" is pretty much a lie. I won't quote large extracts, but check out the subheadings (with my summaries):

The spirit of ANZAC - Talks about Gallipoli

Foundation of the alliance - Talks about Australia and America's record of fighting together in all major conflicts, the first co-engagement occuring under the leadership of the legendary Australian General - Sir John Monash

Operation Anaconda - Recounts the rescue of American forces by Australian special forces

Today’s alliance in Asia - ANZUZ, tsunami, Iraq

Building on our alliance - the US alliance is valuable to Australia

Conclusion - thanks the Australian ambassador, Michael Thawley, for his service.

So it is pretty obvious that the speech was closer to a love letter to Australia than the US. Of course you don't have to take my word for it - you can read the speech and decide for yourself, something Gawenda would probably rather you didn't do.

Clouds of nostalgia filled the room as the Americans recalled the time, in their age of innocence, when John Wayne and Gary Cooper vanquished the bad guys and then quietly rode off into the sunset.

Again, no photos are available to verify these clouds, but I am happy to call bullshit on that one. Oh, but points for the meaningless cowboy reference though - good to see that the Age style guide is the same as the SMH.

It is possible that even an Australian breast or two swelled a little with pride as Downer explained how we had "punched above our weight" in all the wars in which we had been involved.

Hmm, quotation marks suggest a quote. Lets go to the transcript:

We have fought together since then in every other major conflict: the Second World War; Korea; Vietnam; the first Gulf War; Afghanistan; and now Iraq.

I think that’s a proud record – a record of shared sacrifice in defence of the values both our countries hold dear.

It’s a record of standing up for the right of Australians and Americans – and of other peoples – to go about their own lives without fear.

It’s about their right to elect the government of their choice – and to throw them out if they do a bad job.

It’s about their right to worship freely, or not worship at all.

I challenge anybody to find a quote, even a horribly paraphrased one, which in anyway resembles Gawenda's.

Thing is though, a love based on what amounts to bulldust is infatuation, and we all know how quickly infatuation can be followed by disappointment and resentment.

Take shared values. When Americans talk shared values they mean Australians are like Americans, only nicer, more innocent. Not true. We may share a commitment to liberal democracy, but the fact is there are many fundamental values that we do not share.

Considering your record Michael, I am going to have to ask for proof before I believe any assertion by you about what Americans mean in any context. Just because we don't share every value does not mean that any American empathy felt with Australia is based on "bulldust".

The majority of Americans are regular church-goers and, according to polls, more than 80 per cent of Americans are believers. The majority of Americans believe in creationism rather than evolution. And many Americans believe that God loves America best of all.

You don't share those values Michael (and incidentally, neither do I), but you may find that quite a few people in Australia do. Lets ask the Australian Bureau of Statistics shall we?

In response to the 2001 Census of Population and Housing question, Australians' stated religious affiliations were: 27% Catholic, 21% Anglican, 21% other Christian denominations and 5% non-Christian religions.

Hmm, I make that 69% who believe in a Christian God. Looks like a shared value to me.

And the great American dream is not an egalitarian one: it is that every American, no matter how humble their origins, can aspire to be president, and if not president, then at least wealthy and successful.

Everybody has the opportunity, no matter how poor they are, or what race or gender they are, to be wealthy and sucessful? Sounds like the egalitarian dream to me.

Americans in the main do not resent or excoriate the wealthy: they hope that one day they, or at least their children, will join the ranks of the rich. There is no tall-poppy syndrome in America. Americans love rags-to-riches stories. They love success.

Is he suggesting that Australia doesn't share these values? That we excoriate the rich, we don't hope our children will become rich, we hate rags to riches stories and we hate success? Does he even read what he writes?

They don't even seem to mind that the super-wealthy, the top 0.1 per cent of the population, people who earn more than $10 million a year, are the major winners from the Bush Administration tax cuts.

As defined how? That they will receive the largest tax cut? Memo to Michael - if you cut a percentage tax rate, then the people earning more money will receive a larger tax cut.

It doesn't seem to matter that the gap between rich and poor in America is growing and becoming entrenched, that the chances of those born poor becoming even moderately wealthy are slim, that the American dream more and more is a fantasy.

Again Micheal, without any sort of support for that contention, we are going to have to wash those claims down with a Murray River's worth of salt.

The dream lives in the culture and in the American psyche and in the hearts of the millions of illegal migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico into America - "the Golden Land" as the Jewish immigrants of the early 20th century called it - with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.

Aah, smarty pants Micheal knows that this dream is just a fantasy, but these ignorant migrants just haven't caught on yet.

This is no different from Australian egalitarianism, which Prime Minister John Howard says is a defining feature of Australia's national character, even as Australia grows ever more unequal. Clearly, it takes more than reality to destroy national myths and dreams.

Egalitarianism does not mean that we are all exactly the same - living in the same houses, driving the same cars and earning the same amount of money. It means that we all have the same rights and opportunites, irrespective of our race, gender and economic circumstances. What we do with those opportunities is a whole different story. The fact that America is more willing to praise those that make the best of their lot is something to be admired, not sneered at.

Of course, the Australia Americans love, the Australia of vast empty spaces still to be settled and conquered, fabulous beaches, perennial sunshine, gorgeous women, incredibly friendly, uncomplicated people and unlimited opportunity, doesn't exist.

Again - is he suggesting that Australia does not have vast empty spaces, fabulous beaches, sunshine, gorgeous women and friendly people? I don't know which part of Australia he has been hanging out in, but that certainly doesn't sound like an Australia I would recognise.

Where does that leave the great American love of Australia? One thing is true: on any reckoning, we have been good and faithful allies, even if most Americans would be surprised to learn that for a significant number of Australians that is no cause for celebration.

Aaah - another claim regarding the views of a "significant" number of Australians, again without any kind of support. Actually Michael, the fact that we have been faithful allies with one of the world's greatest democracies, a country that helped liberate Europe, defended Australia, defeated the Taliban and removed Saddam, may be a cause of quite pride for a surprising (to Gawenda at least) number of Aussies.

Tunnel Vision

I realise that it may come across as somewhat of an odd thing to bang on about, but tech writers' love in with Apple continues apace:

Rivalry, intrigue, passion and not a little espionage have coloured Silicon Valley since it was founded by Hewlett and Packard in their Palo Alto garage just after World War II.


But nothing is hotter than the rivalry between Microsoft and Apple, between Windows and Macintosh.

Say it together kids - Apple has 3% of the home PC market. Microsoft has close to the other 97%.

Thus, the Valley and the computing world were shocked when Apple's charismatic and egotistical co-founder/chief executive and "visioneer", Steve Jobs, announced that, after a 14-year association, he was dumping IBM as his microprocessor supplier and moving to Intel, on whose chips the hated Windows runs.

Any one that "hates" an operating system really needs to have a good hard look at themselves.

As John Markoff of The New York Times observed this week, "Jobs is a legend in no small part because he defied the monster combination that is Wintel - as the digerati call the Windows and Intel alliance - and lived to talk about it."

Did he just say "digerati"?

More than that, Jobs and Apple have led personal computer innovation and design. In those increasingly important areas, the Microsoft Goliath has always walked in David's shadow and if Apple plays the move to Intel as the industry expects, the shadow could get a lot larger.

Want to provide an example there bub? Apple makes an OS which will work on a select group of proprietary components. If Windows was as restricted as the Mac OS then the problems that people ascribe to Windows would disappear. So would the huge growth in IT, as the continual decrease in prices would slow considerably. I find it endlessly amusing that Macs, so beloved of the latte set, attempt to create a monopoly over software and hardware - something the "hated" Windows have never been accused of.

Don't believe me? Lets look at the 20 inch cinema display sold by Apple compared to the Dell 2005. Exactly the same Samsung panel, though the Apple is technologically inferior as it lacks built in USB ports. Apple's price - $1250. Dell's price - $949, delivered. They will throw you a 24 inch monster for $1600 if you like, unless you prefer to pay $2249 for a 23 inch Apple?

But the notebook issue probably was not at the top of Jobs' mind when he talked with IBM. More likely he was thinking about his new battlefield, consumer electronics and, specifically, Microsoft's new Xbox 360 and Sony's even more powerful PlayStation 3. They are as much internet-enabled home media and entertainment centres as they are games consoles, and that puts them right in Apple's ballpark.

In what way? Apple have the mac mini and the err, umm? Their game software is also 12 months behind the PC as a minimum, and will be even more behind the next generation consoles.

Apple intends to challenge them both directly, right in the world's living rooms.

With what exactly? Its going to take more than a one button mouse and a great advertising campaign.

With Microsoft and Sony moved to IBM, Intel is keen to keep its place in the enormous home entertainment market and Apple, boosted by the runaway success of the iPod, is a good bet in a tough game.

The runaway sucess of the iPod provides a good bet against Microsoft and Sony, moving to their second and third generation consoles respectively?

If the Xbox and PlayStation turn out to be serious contenders as broad-based home entertainment centres, bringing video-on-demand over broadband and offering online services of many kinds, then an inexpensive but powerful Mac alternative, probably more broadly capable, flexible and powerful than the other two, would be very attractive.

bwahahaha. Ignoring the fact that he has absolutely no basis for suggesting that any Intel based Mac will be any of those things, he has also ignored the large elephant in the room - a windows based media centre PC. You know the one - the cheaper, more powerful and continually upgradeable one?

I am sorry, but watching any organisation receiving endless free advertising and uncritical analysis bugs me, and Apple sums up perfectly many of the smug, condescending types out there. Don't believe me? Check out the final paragraph, man:

"He is still committed to the idea of an Apple culture," said Peter Schwartz, the co-founder and chairman of the Global Business Network, a Californian consulting firm. "It is the counterculture to the dominant Windows culture."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Intel inside

Hey Apple fanboys - suck it up.

That's right, Apple are switching from IBM chips to Intel. Why? Hmm, could be because the IBM chips are too slow and expensive?

This means an Apple OS which will run on Intel chips. Which means clones running Mac OS. Which means all Apple will bring to market is very nice industrial design and a higher price tag. Just think of them as the anti-Dell.

Oh, you might want to join the rest of us and get used to a grown up 2 (or 7) button mouse as well.

(On a side note, if they wanted to be truly visionary, they would have gone AMD, but that is by the by)

Fast frogs

I still don't think the new Bugatti Veyron is as good looking as the McLaren F1, but it has now officially knocked the F1 off for the title of worlds fastest production car (1001 horsepower helps in that regard)

But even more impressive (to me at least) is that to reach this speed you need to make the car go into "Top Speed" mode by inserting a special aluminium key.

The words 'Top Speed' then appear on the facia and the car begins a series of safety checks on such things as tyre pressures. Once complete, the chassis squats to just 65mm above the road at the front and 70mm at the rear. From now on, the diffuser flaps remain closed and the angle of incidence of the rear aerofoil is minimised to reduce wind resistance.

Touch the brake however, and you are back to being limited to "only" 375 km/h.

Friday, June 03, 2005
Oh. My. God.

Judith Armstrong has finished her op-ed piece in today's Age with one of the most breathtaking bits of honesty I have ever seen, but we will get to that in a second.

Writing on the recent rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters, she faithfully follows the Fairfax style guide in her opening paragraph:

After the Republican triumph in the last US election, and the feeling that democracy was tumbling downhill towards some lowest common denominator, many began looking towards Europe to provide an alternative to US cultural domination.

Irrational swipe at Bushchimphitler? Check! So after the US held a free and fair election, there was a feeling that democracy was "tumbling downhill"? With a wonderful opening like this, you can just tell that Armstrong is an academic and a Fairfax contributor - the golden combo.

On October 29 last year the convention signed off on a document they believed revolutionary. Its aim was to "dare more democracy", its modus operandi ultra-democratic. Its 105 individuals, basically three delegates representing the heads of state and national parliaments of 28 countries, included the three who are still only applicants: Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Tiny new boy Malta, with fewer than half a million citizens, enjoyed the same representation as France and Germany.

So giving tiny nations which aren't even members of the EU the same representation as much more populous nations is "ultra-democratic"? So if we abolished the House of Representatives, and just had the Senate (where Tasmania gets the same say as New South Wales) that would be a bold step towards "ultra democracy"?

Equally democratic but today somewhat amazing was the fact that the delegates identified "values" as the first and most crucial issue to be put up for discussion.

Not that amazing really. Getting agreement on such abstract concepts as "values" is a hell of a lot easier than agreeing on such boring things like executive powers, procedures etc.

Part one of the constitution is therefore headed human dignity, after which come chapters on freedom, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights, and justice. Not until these elusive concepts had been defined did the delegates turn their minds to part two, the procedures and institutions that would need to be put in place.

I would have thought that adopting the mantra of Bill & Ted ("Be excellent to each other") would have been a lot quicker, and achieved exactly the same result as those six chapters.

It was an enormous achievement that all 28 countries reached agreement. Getting consensus on such a highly sensitive declaration was a triumph given the number of languages involved. The spirit of compromise was expressed in the denial of any "official" language; of 20-odd "working languages".

Anybody here dealt with the Australian Government? The one that speaks the same language as yourself? Remember how much fun that was? Now imagine the Government had *20* languages in which to ignore/delay your question. Let the good times roll!

The bureaucracies were to be diminished but two new leadership slots created: a president, and a European foreign minister undertaking the central diplomatic role the EU needs to play in relation to the rest of the world.

Bwhahaha - the drafting of a constitution in 20 languages, and the creation of two new leadership slots will *reduce* the bureaucracies? bwhahaahaha

The European Parliament, the only directly elected EU body, yet the one most often treated with indifference, would gain new prominence, MEPs being urged under the constitution to strengthen their relationship with national parliaments.

What sort of constitution "urges" people to do anything? Can you imagine the result if the US constitution had "urged" the Congress to allow people the freedom of speech?

Nine countries have already supported the constitutional treaty but the French and the Dutch have famously voted against it, and their rejection is likely to be followed by those of Denmark and the United Kingdom - if either of these countries goes ahead with their referendums.

So this constitution, drafted by 105 unlected delegates, was put to voters - who promptly rejected it (Germany "supported" the constitution by ratifying it without a vote). Aint "ultra-democracy grand?

Armstrong is obviously a huge fan of democracy, so what does she think should be done about this rejection by voters. Simple - keep asking them until they give you the right answer!

So, in the acknowledged absence of a plan B, what will happen? The most optimistic case is that the question will be put again, and this time, pass.

Stupid voters. Anyone sense a bit of disdain for the electorate here? Don't worry, she doesn't stay this subtle for long.

Unfortunately there have been a few too many paragraphs without a crack at the US though - the editor won't be too pleased.

If the idealism expressed in the constitution devised by America's founding fathers has failed to stem materialism, imperialism, cultural arrogance and greed for oil, why put naive trust in Europe's democratic aspirations?

Aaaah, much better. Too bad she couldn't fit Gitmo, Abu Ghraib or plastic turkeys in there, but I shouldn't get greedy.

The answer is, because there is good reason to do so. America's belief in democratic values stood itself and the world in good stead for a long time. The invasion of Iraq and the subsequent failure to mend what was broken should not destroy our gratitude for US intervention in World War II, or the magnificent generosity of the Marshall Plan.

Thats big of you, really. Out of curiousity, what did they break and subsequently fail to mend? I know the statues of Saddam have seen better days, and his son's rape rooms have fallen into disrepair, but I see they have knocked up the odd parliament and constitution here and there.

In the event, a clear majority of the supposedly civilised French and Dutch populations have put fear and self-protection ahead of global balance.

Stupid stupid voters. Imagine putting something so stupid as "self-protection" ahead of such a fundamental concept as, err, "global balance".

This article provided such amusement that I really wasn't ready for the last sentence. Here we have somebody hinting at their utter disdain for the democratic process, who then comes right out and says what she is thinking:

If, as the adage goes, education is wasted on the young, it is tempting to wonder whether democracy is not wasted on voters.

Bravo Judith! Leave democracy to delegates I say.

She should be utterly ashamed for penning a sentence like that.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Alexander Downer recently got into Labor's hero, Curtin, so today Alan Ramsey decided to have a crack at Downer's family history.

Under the oh-so subtle headline "A journey into Downer's dark past" we get a quick history lesson in the slaughter of Aborigines by early pastoralists.

Whilst I put little faith in any history told to be my Ramsey, I have no doubt that Aborigines were treated appallingly by early settlers.

We learn more specifically about Constable Willshire, said to have murdered a great number of Aboriginal people. We then get this:

The patriarch of the Downer family was Henry Downer, an immigrant tailor who arrived in Adelaide from England in 1838. Henry had several sons, among them John William, born in 1843, Henry Edward, and George. John William went on to get free secondary schooling by scholarship at Adelaide's Collegiate School of St Peter, "where he proved brilliant", according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

John William was later articled to brother Henry Edward, admitted to the South Australian Bar in 1867, and, with elder brother George, a prominent pastoralist, founded the "leading legal firm, J. and G. Downer". John entered state politics in 1878, became attorney-general in 1881 and was twice premier of his state - 1885-87 and 1892-93. At Federation in 1901 - by then Sir John Downer - he became one of South Australia's six original senators but resigned in December 1903 after missing appointment to the founding High Court.

John Downer died in 1915. He was twice married and survived by a son from each marriage. The son of his second marriage was Alexander Russell Downer, later a cabinet minister in the Menzies government in 1949 and, as Sir Alexander, Australian high commissioner to London in 1964. He, too, sired a son, Alexander John Gosse Downer, briefly Opposition leader in 1994 and John Howard's Foreign Minister for all of the last nine years as his reward for stepping down for Howard.

Quite a distinguished family history I would have said, and one fails to see any connection with the first half of the article. Were some of Downer's ancestors said to have also murdered Aborigines? Nope:

On pages 133 and 134 Roberts recounts how the notorious Constable Willshire, at his Port Augusta acquittal on multiple murder charges in 1891, was defended by the Foreign Minister's grandfather, "Sir John Downer, QC, former attorney-general and premier, with funds contributed by more than 60 supporters from Central Australia".

Thats it. That is the total sum of his connection. Downer's grandfather, a distinguished lawyer, once successfully defended a man charged with murder, who has also been accused of murdering Aborigines.

If Ramsey could draw a longer bow than this he would be recruited by the Olympic archery team.

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