OPINION

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The race that flops for the nation
That iconic Australian event, the Melbourne Cup, ‘the race that stops a nation’, has become just another international takeover. Only two of the 24 starters this year were Australian horses.
What’s the point of the whole nation going ta-ta for the day, when the beloved Melbourne Cup is overrun by blow-ins and fly-ins?
The aura surrounding the Melbourne Cup is related to the Australian interest in gambling. As a public holiday in Victoria, the event puts gambling in the public eye. The Australian larrikin stereotype involves having fun, taking a risk and thumbing your nose at proper society. Gambling is considered almost a birthright.
The Melbourne Cup ritual has a set pattern: get to the track (or the bookies, TAB or a social venue), place a bet or several, get drunk, and get instantly rich – or poor – on the strength of a few nags chasing each other around a green paddock for
a few short minutes. More losers than winners, right?
My father used to say gambling was a mug’s game. Money is too hard to come by to waste it on lining someone else’s pockets.
Before you call me a killjoy, think about those people who don’t have fun but do lose money, regularly, on the many forms of gambling that have evolved. Gambling addiction is a huge problem in Australia. It is behind many broken homes, hearts
and lives.
And what about the horses?
They are adored while they are winning, but discarded or mistreated when they are not turning a profit for their owners, trainers or conglomerates.
The recent exposure of cruelty and slaughter of ex racehorses at abattoirs has apparently been a shock to the public and many in the racing industry.
I don’t see why it’s a surprise. Look at the odds. So many horses are bred and trained for a short-term career. Only a few can be winners. The costs of feed, care and training continue to rise, and the competition for the gambling dollar is being spread further afield. It’s obvious the horses will not be the big winners.
A pointless protest
I’ve long been amused by the fuss around the Melbourne Cup, preferring not to be involved, although that desire has been sorely tested.
Many years ago, I was getting fed up with the pressure to join in an office sweep, so I panicked and protested in my own small way.
I couldn’t choose a winner or even any of the various combination bets, so I put 50 cents on every horse. Due to the vagaries of outsiders and odds, which
I did not bother to learn or understand, I came out almost even. Don’t ask! I can’t explain.
We all had a bit of a laugh at my unsophisticated gambling, and declared the Melbourne Cup, according to Merlene’s system, a waste of time. At least I didn’t get bothered the following year to join in the office sweep.
Fashion farce
Attempts to glamorise the Melbourne Cup are in vain. Look at the crowd at Flemington, where tastelessly dressed drunk people fall about, make idiots of themselves and inevitably lose lots
of money.
The brief moments of adrenalin and excitement probably dissipate quickly when the costs are counted.
I have made only one foray into fashions on the field. A trainer friend persuaded me to go to the Ascot Cup in Western Australia, where I paraded in Fashions on the Field in a fabulously brightly coloured patchwork leather coat, proving that hippiedom does not a fashionista make. Suffice to say all fascinators will be forever safe from this non-gambler.
I hope you all had fun and didn’t lose too much money, folks.
Merlene Abbott

Anarchy: last resort of the frustrated
Anarchists? Or concerned and frustrated citizens? Scott Morrison has come down heavily on climate change protestor group Extinction Rebellion, which blocked entry to a Minerals Council of Australia meeting in  Melbourne where police used horses and capsicum spray against protestors.
Morrison called the protestors anarchists; he had nothing to say about the brutality of using police horses to move protestors out of the way, nor on the reported use of capsicum spray. One young woman had both legs broken when she was trampled by a police horse.
Anarchy occurs in a policy vacuum, and its older sister, revolution, merely replaces one set of problems for one group of people with another set of problems for
a different group.
A statesman would sit down with the protestors. The prime minister stopped just short of telling his audience they could get out their baseball bats, but they would have drawn that conclusion anyway.
The protestors were not blame free. Spitting on those attempting to gain entry to a legitimate meeting isn’t on, in my book, nor is abusing others because of
their dress.
There is always a risk, in any confrontation, that extremists, whom
I would call anarchists, will intervene and push the boundaries, provoking unexpected consequences.
But first, let’s define our terms: my dictionary has two definitions of anarchy: “a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems”, and “the substitution of individual ‘freedom’ to the nth degree”.
‘Anarchy’ is a word from the mid 16th century which comes to us via medieval Latin from the Greek anarkhia, from anarkhos (without) and arkhos (chief, ruler).
It is commonly believed today that democracy is failing, but a more considered opinion might be that the individuals putting themselves up for election are not up to scratch. Beijing would argue that the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong are anarchists; they see themselves as freedom fighters. That situation can only end in tears.
Failure is all around us: royal commissions are revealing, almost on a weekly basis, how institutions and corporations are letting the community down, and that politicians seem unable to rectify obvious shortcomings in such seminal zones as aged care and climate change.
A kind of anarchy seems to rule in homes for the aged because the focus has been on profits and shareholders rather than on empathy for the older members of society. When ministers themselves are careless with behavioural norms, misbehaviour by private individuals is hardly surprising.
Considered policies are rare in government today, and much is done opportunistically, on the run and for point-scoring.
Angus Taylor’s attack on City of Sydney councillors and staff is indicative, and faintly anarchistic, in that he is attacking an arm of government. His comments relied on an apparently forged City of Sydney Council document which he subsequently conveyed to the Telegraph newspaper. His words were mean-spirited.
They were aimed at the person, Clover Moore, not the issue, and just plain wrong.
It seems Taylor was relying on
a forged document, but forged by whom, where and when, is not clear, and New South Wales Police have been asked to look at the implications. The source could be a miscreant staffer, as in the case of the media being alerted to planned AFP raids on union offices. Or there could be something really dastardly going on. Was the minister aware, or, worse, instrumental in the changes made to the document?
The protestors have a point, but their methods of making it are counterproductive and distracting from the point they are trying to make. Inconveniencing fellow citizens attempting to go about their normal daily business does not help. It gains column inches and TV footage but more is needed to sustain the argument. It doesn’t help that neither government nor opposition is offering a credible reaction to the issue of climate change.
There is only one party taking the issue seriously and offering a viable policy, and it is in a minority. I once went to jail for protesting. The road into the forests I was blockading is now a tourist route. I don’t think I achieved anything, but some fights you have to have even if you know you’re going to lose. Perhaps the extinction rebels are thinking the same thing.
John Fleming II


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