I know it is officially called the opposition and, by name and by nature, that means an adversarial attitude, but, just occasionally, give us a break.  

How about credit where credit is due? I’m sure the voters would appreciate it, because every single thing a government does cannot be wrong. Can’t be bad for us.

I know, with recent governments of both persuasions, there are some cynics who would disagree with that premise.

But there was a classic case this week that, I believe, proves my point.

In recent months, a lot of people, inside and outside of Canberra, have been really worried by the Turnbull government’s blinkered plan to slash millions of dollars from Community Legal Centres and Legal Aid.

Many senators, including crossbenchers, thought it made a mockery of the government’s so-called commitment to the campaign against domestic violence. It was obvious such cutbacks would add to the already scandalous delays in getting cases before the Family Court and would delay other wife-bashing court cases.

There was genuine lobbying against it by the Law Council of Australia’s Fiona McLeod, and I also talked to embattled reps from women’s refuges.

That was why I joined with Labor, the Greens and some other crossbenchers, to publicly oppose it.

This week, Attorney-General George Brandis announced that the CLC cuts planned for the budget had been cancelled.

I tweeted:

What did Labor do? Their professional sniper, Mark Dreyfus, himself a former attorney-general, couldn’t resist it. He tweeted about the Brandis “embarrassing backflip”.

As I said:  People and politicians hollered and a government heard us.

Talk about damned if you do …


How about the poor voters in South Australia? Heaps of them voted last year for a devout and devoted candidate at the top of the Liberal Party ticket and, after a long, cushy junket at the United Nations, their man decamped — as Cory Bernardi announced his new Australian Conservatives Party.

Others voted for Family First and narrowly re-elected Senator Bob Day. The High Court gave him the flick but then gave the nod to Family First’s second choice, Lucy Gichuhi.

As of this week (what time is it?) Gichuhi is about to be sworn in as a senator but not a Family First senator. Her party has folded into Bernardi’s right-wing rump, but (as I write this) she hasn’t been convinced to join and will sit, at least for now, as an independent.

So, let’s get this straight. Bernardi was elected as a Liberal. He’s now not. Gichuhi was elected (appointed?) as a Family First senator. She’s now not.


And still on South Australia. To save Christopher Pyne’s seat of Sturt, the Turnbull government poured billions into its new submarine project. But while most eyes were under water, some students at the Uni of Adelaide were looking to the heavens.

A story out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, said: A satellite built by students at the University of Adelaide will be launched by NASA on the Atlas V rocket bound for the International Space Station.

Which gives me a slender, pathetic political segue, into a story which might help to put right one of the most quoted misquotes ever. It was from the world of NASA: “Houston, we have a problem.” From the ill-fated Apollo 13, which blew up 47 years ago this month 200,000 miles from home.

I know this sound Forrest Gumpish (well, Tom Hanks did play astronaut Jim Lovell in the Apollo 13 movie), but I was there and can confirm the quote is wrong.

It was late at night and I was in an almost deserted Mission Control Press Room (with my spacecraft-to-Mission Control headphones on) because I was working late filing a story for The Sydney Morning Herald. I was filing for them and The Sun and the Macquarie Radio Network.

Lovell did not say: “Houston, we have a problem.”

He said: “OK, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Mission Control: “This is Houston. Say again, please.”

Lovell: “Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Actually, the problem wasn’t past tense as the world soon found out so the present tense version remains in the vernacular. Like ‘”Play it again, Sam” and “you dirty rat”.

Just fact-checking.


Two days after Anzac Day 2017 let me pass on a yarn from my dear departed Dad, who served in the Solomon Islands in World War II.

After the landing at Guadalcanal, the Aussies and Kiwis saw a banner erected by US Marines. It boasted: “We Won!!”

A laconic Digger added two words: “We Helped!”

Lest We Forget.