Wamboin Community Association

Mahogany Ridge

Larry King's Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

(with apologies to Jerome K. Jerome)

(Click on heading to expand article.)

April 2021

On the Future of Parliamentary Democracy

People often seek my views on the future of parliamentary democracy. I don’t know why. Still, it’s nice to be asked so, when I am, I strike a declamatory pose, clutch the lapels of my jacket and unburden myself as follows.

Let us consider the main purpose of government. It is to stop us from solving intractable problems by fighting in the streets—in other words, to keep the peace. Autocracies and dictatorships do so by shooting the combatants. Problem solved. Parliamentary democracies do so by solving our intractable problems for us. They do this by taking the temperature of the public mood then doing what they hope will get them re-elected. You can see the advantage the autocrats have: no matter how the public mood changes the solution is always the same. Democrats have continually to play catch up and sometimes get it wrong. The public mood may be woefully fractured or beyond the powers of government to resolve sensibly e.g. when the soft underbelly of socialism (such as the ABC and the ALP and its well-funded gangs of trade unions) demand things that the hard carapace of capitalism (such as the Coalition, the 500 firms that constitute the All Ordinaries index and the well-funded gangs of industry associations they hide behind) just can’t abide.

Governments are clumsily assisted by a Constitution or Magna Carta or Common Law (in our case all three). Only democrats are obliged to take them seriously. Autocrats wear them as accoutrements or fashion items. The principal powers of a constitution are: 1. the defence of the realm (otherwise there wouldn’t be a realm); 2. the protection of the revenue (otherwise there wouldn’t be a realm worth protecting); 3. the administration of justice (otherwise the realm would disintegrate); 4. the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure (otherwise the realm would be drowned in its own waste). There never is a unanimous opinion on how and on what those powers should be used. Sadly, there appears to be waning consensus on the primacy of the so-called “eternal verities”—basic moral principles such as truth, right and wrong, hope and compassion, e.g. ‘thou shalt not steal’ (tell the finance industry), ‘do unto others etc’ (ask any woman). Our expanding knowledge has debunked some of the crazier things many of our ancestors held dear. Science has shown that LGBTIQ people are not obdurate sinners but part of the natural world. “White Australia” has progressed to a multicultural society. There are new issues to deal with thanks to technological changes in mobility (travel) and communication. Social theories and developments have created a raft of new “isms” and causes, which, in turn, have brought with them a multitude of protagonists, lobbyists, community groups, activists and urgers. All these may be successfully ignored by the autocrat. The Democrat does their best but now a ravening, competitive, advocatory, misleading media in all its forms can, and does, give any malcontent a pulpit to berate the civil authority. The honourable exception is, of course, the Whisper.

Thus the civil authority’s message is obscured or lost in the many counter messages, most of little or no worth, broadcast in the guise of “balance”. Social media spread myth and confusion. When we add in the propensity of the traditional media – daily newspapers (hard copy and online), radio and television—to shy away from the detail and dissection of what governments are doing in our name, favouring the easier and cheaper superficiality of the “politics”, it is little wonder that public discourse is overloaded with slogan, spin and good, old-fashion bullshit. In the constant search for supporting fact and evidence your correspondent has trawled ministerial, departmental and opposition websites in vain for documents in understandable language specifying and justifying what governments and alternative governments are, or intend, doing on heavy issues like climate (the defence of the realm), the economy (the protection of the revenue), domestic violence (the administration of justice), and Sutton Road (infrastructure). There’s not much beyond the froth and bubble of media statements made up of eye-glazing “metrics”, “outcomes-based” thingummies and everyone “moving forward”. Rarely an unequivocal statement backed up by a solid piece of analysis (that I can understand, anyway).

The upshot of all this is that because the civil authority cannot represent an ever widening range of disparate views, it no longer tries to do any more than what its financial and ideological backers ask of it, relying on “packaging” to sell its attractions to the masses. Interestingly, this resembles the original ancient Greek democracy: voting (i.e. power) was restricted to those who met the property (i.e. wealth) qualifications. Democracy did not have the unalloyed support of all ancient Greeks. Plato, in particular, was curly-lipped about it. His view was that the people, being the government, would empty the treasury by voting themselves luxuries, thus starving items 1 to 4 above with obvious consequences. Sound familiar? His preferred form of governance was an autocrat he described as the “philosopher prince”, a kind of benign, educated dictator. He is unlikely to have approved of modern “philosopher princes” such as Mao, Stalin and Hitler and the new crop of megalomaniacs popping up around the world who make our bumbling democrats look good.

Of course, the civil authority needs to watch its own behavior to retain respect and confidence. The current goings-on in federal parliament are symptomatic of the failure of the polity, from left to right, to solve the problem of the age—no, not climate but the subjugation of women. Women of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances are losing tolerance in the long wait for equality. Autocrats don’t care. Democrats scramble to be seen to be doing something. Respected institutions are missing in action. The churches, once in the vanguard of the fight against slavery, have done little. The legislature, the executive, and the judiciary have done their miserable best but to little avail when measured by financial disparity and physical abuse. If we don’t fix this how can we claim to be protecting the realm and administering justice?

So the answer to the question is this: parliamentary democracy has a future if we accept Plato’s advice and don’t expect too much of it. Our public people must lift their game and concentrate on matters of substance, avoiding the trivial and ephemeral. In the words of John D Rockefeller, the organization with too many priorities has no priorities. The Fourth Estate—the traditional media—have to do the same and refrain from berating the civil authority on all but ethical and constitutional failings. Their job is to report and analyze, not to advocate. Unless a public figure can justify by evidence a public assertion it should not be reported. Otherwise we, the people, will be less able to sift the truth from the chaff of rumour and prejudice. Respect for the civil authority will accordingly remain low. If we want something done our first recourse should be to our local members. If that fails, vote the bastards out.

You may say I’m a dreamer, as many did of my old pal, the late John Lennon. Maybe I’m not the only one.

May 2017

Wamboin Golf Club Tribute to the late John Clarke

For those who read the May golf report and wondered about the form of the tribute paid by Ted Evans and his straight man to the late John Clarke and the early Pete Harrison, wonder no more….

Ted & Larry

Dawe: Good evening and thanks for your time.
Clarke:Good evening, Brian. It’s good to be here.
Dawe: Now you are Pete Harrison, former Mayor of Palerang council?
Clarke:No Brian. I am Pete Harrison, Mayor-in-perpetuity of the former Palerang Council.
Dawe: In perpetuity?
Clarke:It means forever, Brian. Try to catch up.
Dawe: But how can that be? Palerang no longer exists.
Clarke:Precisely Brian. I wasn’t voted out. I wasn’t sacked. I didn’t resign. It was just whisked away from me in the middle of the night.
Dawe: Thanks for clearing that up. Now what do you regard as your most important achievement?
Clarke:Being the Mayor-in-perpetuity of the former Palerang Council.
Dawe: No, I mean what you accomplished in local government.
Clarke:I see what you mean, Brian. Well there’s the realignment and repair of Macs Reef Road and Norton Road, getting rid of the tips and creating waste treatment centres.
Dawe: What are you most proud of?
Clarke:Clearly that would be knocking down the heritage-listed building in Malbon Street so we could create the heritage of tomorrow by building a bigger IGA.
Dawe: A bigger IGA? (Ed: To fully appreciate the alliteration in the following repartee, it helps to pronounce "IGA" not as discrete letters "I-G-A" but as the word "igga")
Clarke:Correct, Brian. An IGA bigger than the former IGA or, indeed, any other IGA.
Dawe: Except the one in Bigga.
Clarke:You’re losing me, Brian.
Dawe: A little town just north east of Crookwell.
Clarke:Yes, I see where you’re going, Brian. Well that would make the bigger IGA in Bigga bigger than the bigger Bungendore bigger IGA.
Dawe: Which would make the bigger IGA in Bigga the biggest IGA or, for that matter, the biggest IGEST, would it not?
Clarke:I think we’ve taken this as far as we can, Brian.
Dawe: Correct. Now, this new QPRC thingummy – who’s the Mayor of that?
Clarke:No Mayor Brian. Just an Administrator.
Dawe: An Administrator?
Clarke:That’s what I said Brian. A kind of one-man-band. Like John Coates, Sepp Blatter and Idi Amin. This one’s named Mr Working Trousers. And let me add: “Well may we say God save the Queen because nothing will save the Administrator”.
Dawe: Well said. But the whole process doesn’t sound very democratic. Will there be elections for a new council?
Clarke:I believe so Brian. In September.
Dawe: And what’s your position on this.
Clarke:My position, Brian? My position is by the door where I can make a quick exit unobserved.
Dawe: Thanks again for your time Mr Harrison.
Clarke:Call me Mayor, Brian. It was a pleasure.

Larry King & Ted Evans

December 2016

On Trout Fishing

The first thing you need to know about trout is that there aren’t any. At least not in Australia. I haven’t seen any and I went fishing for them for three whole days in the lakes and streams of the Snowy Mountains. There were five of us from Wamboin and my catch was equal to the sum of the other four. If trout exist they come in from overseas already smoked. The second thing you need to know is that it takes about ten years to learn how to cast a fly. And another ten years to learn how to tie infinitesimal knots in invisible fishing line. Fly casting line isn’t one simple filament. It’s four: the backing, the fly line, the leader and the tippet. I know this because the Castmeister made me recite them 47 times before I could remember the correct order. And they get thinner and thinner. You can’t see the tippet at all. Then there’s the fly itself – kind of like navel lint on a bent pin.

Once you’ve mastered all that it’s time to go fishing. Firstly, you must have the right clothing. Your correspondent stuck out in a red flannie, jeans, hiking boots and a Nepalese beanie. But the real fly casters wore rubber overalls with integral boots, and multi-pocketed vests from which hung extra line and flies, clippers, scissors, pliers, pipes, tobacco and hand grenades. Secondly, there’s a big difference between “fishing” and “catching”. Catching is in inverse proportion to fishing. For the record your correspondent fished for a total of 12 hours and caught a stick, a wet rock, a dry tree (the famous Wattle Fish) and his right ear. And yet…

And yet it was a most enjoyable three days and I will willingly do it again. You can stand alone by a river with your hands in your pockets and be bored spitless in about ten minutes. But with a fishing rod in your hand and hope in your heart you’ll never walk alone. It’s the difference between the journey and getting there. As my old mate T S Eliot has been known to mutter: ”between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow“. With a fishing rod in your grasp the shadow can fall for a long, long time. It’s an almost spiritual thing and afterwards there’s the company of fellow fishers. That is until they dig out their phones and insist on showing you the snaps of the fish they or others have caught. I dragged out my phone and showed them Dave’s colostomy bag. That shut them up. Oh, yeah. Because as John H Bradley so wisely put it ”…the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish”.

My grateful thanks to our leader and Castmeister, Colin Prest, and fellow travellers Steve Lambert, Chris Reynolds and Paul Taylor.

Gratuitous Contribution 2015

Minutes of the Meeting of the 39th Club
1pm Friday 39 April 2015 at
Filthy McGee’s, Queanbeyan, NSW.

[Author’s note: The 39th Club really exists. It meets on the 39th of the month for reasons known only to its members—all Wamboinians—who describe it as a “gentlemen’s luncheon club”. These “minutes” are my informant’s best memory of proceedings after a firkin of ale and three courses, each of which featured meat.]


Brothers [Redacted pursuant to relevant provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 and the Freedom of Information Act 1989].

Derogation of the Absent

In his absence the character and morals of Brother [redacted] were traduced. It was generally agreed that it was a pity he was not present to hear such trenchant criticism. It would raise blisters on his soul. If he had one. Following further discussion the chairman, Bother [redacted], moved that Brother [redacted] be expelled. This was carried on the voices. Brother [redacted] then noted that the expulsion of Brother [redacted] would prevent him from hearing the many well-drawn and colourful insults directed at him. He moved that Brother [redacted] be readmitted so that they could be repeated at the next meeting. Carried.

Confirmation of the Minutes

The chairman then sought confirmation of the minutes of the previous meeting. The secretary, Brother [redacted] grovelling in a frenzy of self-abasement, admitted that he had not written them. It was moved that he be expelled. Carried unanimously. The chairman then called for nominations to fill the casual vacancy caused by the secretary’s expulsion. No nominations were received. Brother [redacted] moved that the secretary be reinstated. He argued that since no one wanted the job the club could continue to expel and reinstate the secretary at each meeting the minutes were missing, thus obviating the need to keep minutes at all. This excellent motion was carried by acclamation.

Treasurer's Report

The chairman read a letter from the Treasurer who is currently residing at the Silverwater Correctional Centre in Sydney. The Treasurer apologised for the absence of club funds and promised to make good upon his release assuming a certain horse was still running. Brother [redacted] moved that the Treasurer be expelled. Carried. It was generally agreed to hold the position vacant pending the former Treasurer’s parole.

Consumption of the Viandes

[Author’s note: the less said about this the better; it was not a pretty sight and could upset the squeamish.]

General Business

The following matters were discussed:

  • Politics and the economy   It was generally agreed that the current crop of politicians were a lazy, self-serving lot; it was a matter of amazement how they were ever elected; any member of the 39th Club or their teenage children could do a better job if they weren’t already too busy. A motion of general condemnation was carried. It was then moved that the Chairman write to the Prime Minister demanding that the budget deficit be fixed immediately. Carried. A suggestion by Brother [redacted] that the letter recommend how that be done was rejected on the grounds that this was a mere detail which any competent government should be able to address.
  • Norton Road   The motion that a letter of appreciation of the excellent remediation project be sent to the Council was carried unanimously. It was agreed that the letter should also express members’ disappointment at the rejection of their suggestions for street lighting, an East-bound overtaking lane, a roundabout at Campbell Place and a rest area with a water tank and a composting toilet.
  • Community Hall   It was agreed to write to the President of the WCA complimenting the work of the project team responsible for the upgrade of the shower and toilets. It was a pity that the recommended bidets, hot tub and heated towel racks had not been included, probably for budgetary reasons.
  • Bungendore Mudchooks   Members expressed the fervent prayer that the team could go the distance in season 2016. No particular fault could be identified other than the absence of players as accomplished as 39th Club members. It was agreed that members would offer to “pull on the boots” if needed.
  • Angklung   In view of the outbreak reported by our very own Wamboin Muse (see July 2015) it was agreed to press Palerang’s public health officer for immediate chest X-ray screening of residents.
Next Meeting

After much discussion it was agreed to hold the next meeting on a date to be determined at the Golden Staf in Queanbeyan (opposite the hospital).

There being no further business the chairman declared the meeting closed.

October 2014

A Zen Moment

I don’t know about you but when I get The Whisper I go straight to the back page to read Wamboin Muse. I do so for two reasons: it gives me new ammunition to bait “townies” who don’t know what they’re missing; and it confirms that fate has dumped me in the right place. Indeed, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else (if the author will forgive me for putting it like that). In August, Ms Gregory wrote of an aerial battle between a “squadron” of sulphur-crested cockatoos and the bigger (but slower) black and yellow cockies which, in the last few years, have been coming in from the South each day to feed on pine nuts and anything else they can crack open – including our hakeas.

Many years ago we planted a row of hakeas against our Northern boundary fence. We planted ten, digging the holes by hand in Wamboin’s wonderful deep brown alluvial loam (so you can guess how long it took). Miraculously, they have all survived and prospered. Until the black and yellow cockies discovered them. And started to attack them with the efficiency of mechanical grape pickers. They’d snap off the seeds and high branches, scoring the lower branches looking for grubs. Under their onslaught the trees never amounted to much, remaining at under three metres with an unsatisfactory, subversive, rounded shape. Whenever I’d hear a squadron of the little bar stewards approach I’d rush to the veranda shouting words of a colourful nature. My irritation did not abate with the passage of time - until my epiphany in 2013.

One morning several flights of Calyptorhynchus funereus (that’s the yellow-tailed black cockatoo to you and me), flew in for breakfast. I was about to mumble a few phrases I picked up from Tarantino movies when, in a Zen moment, I perceived a new reality: the much-despised birds were not attacking the valuable trees; the trees were attracting for my appreciation the beautiful birds. It all became clear. I had been assigning the wrong value to each entity. Now I look forward to their coming in the morning and I watch, fascinated, as they return South in the evening.

I now find the size and shape of the hakeas aesthetically pleasing and I thank the birds for pruning the trees, thereby protecting our view to the North.

Now, if only I could get the crimson rosellas out of the bleedin’ wisteria.

July 2014

On Turning 60

A Wamboin friend recently turned 60. It conjured up my own feelings and experiences when I turned 60.


I paused there, waiting for you to say: “but Larry, you don’t look 60!”. But I suspect you did not say it. And that is the first melancholy truth which those of us well-stricken in years must confront: the face of that 18 year old stunner which you are shaving or to whose lips you are applying lipstick or, indeed, both of those things, exists in your imagination; it is not necessarily how others see you. But if that’s how you see yourself that’s good. You haven’t given way to feeling old (whatever that means). Or your powers of self-deception are improving and that can’t bad can it?

When I turned 60 (I won’t bother pausing again) I experienced a strange elation. I felt as though a mantle of wisdom had settled upon my shoulders. I saw things in a much clearer light—especially the failings and foibles of others, particularly the younger generations. And I was compelled to speak my thoughts, giving to others the benefits of my newly-acquired wisdom. It is difficult to describe the joy and gratitude with which my sage advice was received. That’s the second lesson of the ageing process: the gratis advice of the elders is always appreciated.

The most amazing thing about my new mantle of wisdom—you’ll find this hard to believe—was that for the first time I understood with a crystalline clarity the answers to Humankind’s great questions: where did we come from; why are we here; and where are we going. I’d love to tell you the answers. But I can’t. I’ve forgotten them. And that’s the third lesson: while some powers improve over time (like self-deception and the unerring ability to see fault in others), some powers decline. But as ICAC has established, a good memory is grossly overrated.

I have noticed in others a tendency to become curmudgeonly with the passage of time. We should remember that there are many upsides to venerable old age. Younger people offer you their seat on the bus; you are ushered to the front of the queue at the supermarket; you are given the best seats at the cinema or stadium; P-platers keep a respectable distance behind you on the road; the banks, IT and telecommunications companies provide a premium, same day service by a real person; and anything you don’t understand will be explained by a child of 12. So stop whingeing.

I trust these observations will be accepted in the spirit with which I pass them on.