Category Archives: The Media

Lawyers, Guns and Cory Bernardi

Cory Bernardi is a funny guy. A very funny guy. He’s likeable in a down-homey kinda way that reminds you of country town museums or Chiko rolls – both things that reflect the Australia that used to be, not the Australia we know today.

While we know what the news tells us about young Cory, he tends to have a few skeletons in the closet he’d rather us not know about. I guess it’s like the nasty secrets in a country town museum or even worse, the secrets inside a Chiko Roll.

Since at least 2012, Bernardi has been the Australian representative to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is funded by big business (corporate members) and consists of politicians (nearly all Republican), business representatives and ‘Task Force’ members who work on special projects. Young Corey is one of these.

The membership, activities and communications of ALEC are secret and closely guarded, yet a couple of US journos have managed to infiltrate the membership base – no doubt to Bernardi’s horror. The public interest group ‘Common Cause’ has also won legal battles to reveal members, yet the activities and plans of ALEC are strictly confidential. Hard to know, easy to guess.

At ALEC we see big business working alongside politicians to help draft laws that will benefit them. The ultra-conservative ‘Lawyers for Civil Justice’ are members and a terrific help here. Corporate members include tobacco, oil and pharmaceutical companies. It also includes the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA uses ALEC to get laws passed that benefit weapon manufacturers and the NRA agenda. Reducing the restrictions on gun ownership and fostering the ability to bear weapons in ‘open carry’ is typical NRA conversation. If the NRA had their way, every high school student would carry a gun. So would every teacher.

This isn’t covert stuff, but widely known in American political circles. Businesses like Glaxo Smith Kline, Exxon Mobil and News Corp all belong to and use ALEC to the max to foster their business aims. Don’t believe me? The full list of all members can be found HERE.

Interestingly, big companies like Amazon, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and McDonald’s and are all ex members who were either barred due to their beliefs or voluntarily withdrew their membership and support. Some ex members like the grain exporting giant Cargill deny ever having been a member. Evidently it’s just bad PR.

Yet young Cory jets off every year to strut his stuff on the ALEC stage, support the NRA killing machine and bring back wonderful ideas on how Australia can be more like America. He’ll jet off in July to the next ALEC AGM and come back with lots of good stuff there’s no doubt. Gun ownership will be high on his list as will conservative civil law reform. It will be the lawyers, guns and Cory Bernardi show! As Warren Zevon said in his 1978 hit ‘Bring lawyers, guns and money’, … “Get me outa here!”

Why both sides of politics has let this human firecracker even get on a plane let alone represent Australia at one of the biggest conservative talk fests in the world is the question we should be asking. What’s worse is that we the taxpayer pay for this jaunt.

So Cory, one of your skeletons is out of the closet and I guess there’s more to come. After the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012 I tried to get some Aussie journos interested in your little hobby and a couple were. I think a few more will be now.

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The new stars of Australian Cricket

MEDIA RELEASE cricket-australia-logo

For immediate release

19th November 2016 – 8am

Debutantes receive Baggy Green Caps in preparation for 3rd Test

The 3rd test team to play South Africa starting on 24th November in Adelaide has been named with some surprises signaling a change in direction for Australian cricket.

The team is Steve Smith (C), David Warner (VC) Usman Khawaja, Buddy Franklin (WK), Tim Cahill,  Mitchell Starc, Israel Filou, Steven Bradbury, Nathan Lyon, Black Caviar, Cooper Cronk and Digger the Staffy x Cattle dog (12th man).brad-with-cap-2

With two non-humans in the squad Cricket Australia expects some raised eyebrows from traditionalists but Chairman James Sutherland states the selection is entirely within the rules.

"I'll be fielding close in at short leg. They won't get past me." said Black Caviar
“I’ll be fielding close in at short leg. They won’t get past me.” said Black Caviar

“There is absolutely nothing in the rules that forbids including non-humans in the squad. There are rules about gender but no mention of species. Both Cavo and Digger are males and are fitting in well with the others. We’re expecting big things from both of them.

“Black Caviar is extremely intimidating in the field – especially when fielding at short leg. Digger is very fast in the outfield and returns the ball with tremendous enthusiasm.” Sutherland said.

The squad will commence training at Rosehill Racecourse before flying out in two shipping containers on Wednesday.

Perhaps Steven Bradbury, the Gold Medal winning Aussie Speed skater from the  2002 Winter Olympics was the biggest surprise of all. He has been chosen for his ability to come back from last to win at all costs.

I know I'm in for my fielding but I plan to score runs too." said Digger
I know I’m in for my fielding but I plan to score runs too.” said Digger

“I’m delighted to be chosen and am going out today to buy a bat. I’m taking big Davey Warner with me to help choose and we’re looking forward to shopping together.” Bradbury said.

Other newcomers like Cahill, Cronk, Folau and Franklin have been watching footage of games from the 1970’s involving stars like Doug Walters, Max Walker and Greg Chappell in order to learn the game quickly and properly. Israel Folau has been particularly taken with the skills and demeanor of Doug Walters who he is trying to emulate in every way.c14c0533d3153f19e8a071cae91067c7-2

“I never thought I’d take up smoking and drinking but I’ll do anything for Australian Cricket. Dougy was doing 40 cigs a day when he scored a century in both innings against the Windies. If that’s what it takes I’ll do it.” Folau said.

Tickets to the game go on sale on Monday wth CA adding a new ‘pet friendly’ seating zone for fans of Digger and Caviar to watch their debut.

ENDS

Media Contact: Phil Dye 0412 678 179

 

 

Where politicians went wrong in 2016!

What lessons can politicians (or aspiring ones) take from the 2016 Australian election schmozzle? As someone who helps organisations get their message across in the media, I’ve put together 10 points that leaders should take note of. Those wanting any ghost of a chance in 2019  should ignore these points at their peril.
  1. Don’t say something you don’t believe in. Us voters see through it even if your media advisors don’t. Malcolm had to alter his stance on many things to appease the party yet he never believed any of it. Taking responsibility for the dismal campaign performance was his latest piece of rubbish. He knows it wasn’t completely his fault yet is taking the rap. It’s like he’s drugged.
  2. Never look at the camera in a TV interview. Scott Morrpoliticiansfluroison take note. It makes us think you’re lying.  Are you?
  3. Don’t wear a hi-vis fluro vest. Sorry but we’re over it. Why you need to wear a hi-vis vest when you’re in the car park is a mystery to us all. Will cars fall? Take responsibility for your own wardrobe. Don’t listen to the media advisors.
  4. Don’t have lots of people behind you nodding at everything you say. It looks stupid and like something from a Monty Python film. Be strong on your own.nodders
  5. Don’t talk about the economy all the time. It’s boring. As a matter of fact, don’t talk about it at all. Talk about human stuff; stuff like kids education, aging, Aboriginal recognition, jobs for young people and voluntary euthanasia.
  6. Don’t mention immigration. We instantly turn off. DO talk about safe suburbs, the crime rate and the great communities that people from different cultures create. Acknowledge there’s a problem in some areas of the country. Be real about it and know you can’t please everyone all of the time.
  7. Say “I don’t know”. This would be sooooo refreshing. It’s OK to say this as we’ll all then think you’re normal. Are you?
  8. Don’t hang around with other politicians. That’s right – you can’t trust them and their very presence next to you could bring you down. Get a group of besties who are normal people who wear normal clothes (no hi-vis) and actually drive a car. You might like it!
  9. Don’t be perfect. There is a shift to REAL people making REAL mistakes but trying their butts off. Swear occasionally and do the shopping.
  10. Ignore your media advisors and PR people. You can’t trust them coceand they all take too much marching powder. Their world is of big data and big image. Your world is of real people with real human nature who can shift with the wind.  No big data here – just be the mammal you are.

Hopefully these 10 points will help. If you want to ignore them, that’s OK. You’ll just continue to get what you’ve already got.

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Phil Dye is an educator at the University of NSW, a media trainer for social causes or not for profit and a social commentator. He has written three books and made more than 300 mistakes.

 

Schapelle Corby Headline predictions 2014

My three Schapelle Corby headline predictions for 2014 follow. With big TV and Magazine dollars floating around, you can be sure the ‘exclusive’ is not limited to one single media event, but a ‘calendar of sensations’.Schapelle

All headlines and lead sentences will also be on my ‘Musings’ Facebook page. Please share the this post with friends. If anyone is willing to place a bet that NONE of these will occur please let me know.  Here goes…

Headline 1: (June 2014?)

CORBY: “I HAD SEX WITH JAILER”

In an amazing disclosure, paroled drug smuggler Schapelle Corby admitted to having sex with one of her jailers twice during the first 12 months of her internment. The prison officer, who left the prison shortly after, initially told Corby he could help her in future appeals and parole hearings.

Headline 2: (December 2014?)

CORBY FAMILY IN BATTLE
OVER MILLIONS

The family of convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby have begun legal proceedings in a claim for over half of the supposed $7 million paid to her last March for media exclusives. Yet the family matter, led by sister Mercedes, is likely to lead to a bitter court battle over the millions that are widely known to exist, but can’t be formally accounted for.

Headline 3:(April 2015?)186898-a717eea8-2c89-11e3-9e23-6fef8332cdf9

(I reserve the right to swap ‘SISTER’S EX-HUSBAND’ with ‘JAILER’ as I believe there’s chance of either happening.)

CORBY TO MARRY SISTER’S EX HUSBAND

Ten months after her ‘marriage’ split with Ben Panangian, paroled drug-smuggler Schapelle Corby has wed her sister’s ex-husband Wayan Widyartha in a traditional Balinese ceremony in Kuta.  The ceremony was followed by a small gathering of friends in the ‘Envy’ local nightclub in Jalan Pantai. No family were present.

Advertising placement: No longer an even bet

Television began just under 57 years ago in Australia. During those years, what we see on the small (ish) screen had changed dramatically. From the content made especially for TV to the presenting style of personalities to the actual quality of the image, what we see on our TV screens has largely kept up with our changing expectations and standards. bob hope

Except for one very important area, and if the TV networks don’t take note, they’ll soon be without advertisers. We all know what that means.

Since television began, the buying and placement of advertising has been based on various criteria. The demographics and psycho-graphics of the viewer are of prime importance. It would be stupid to advertise the Holden Ute in a daytime chat-show for women. It would be wise to advertise consumer products targeting the family shopper. A no-brainer.

Geographic targeting is also obvious. Why advertise membership to the Sydney Swans in Perth?

A large criterion for advertisers is price. I single spot (30 second ad) in the State of Origin or AFL Final will clearly be beyond the budget of most small advertisers. Large viewer numbers + correct target = high price. It’s the way it’s always been and the single reason the NRL and the AFL achieved the billion dollars plus figure in their most recent TV broadcast contracts.

Yet advertisers are now considering one extra criterion, and this is a biggy! While advertisers in the past were content to place their ad anywhere in the program that matched their target and price, the new breed of marketing executive is beginning to look at what products are also being advertised within the same advertising break.

Put simply, it’s not just the program association that’s important, but the advertising association that can colour a viewer’s perception of the product. If a ‘family based product or service is placed beside a ‘non-family’ based product or service, there is a certain ‘guilt by association’ or conflict of interest. Perhaps there’s even implied consent.

In news circles, Julia Gillard does not want her photo taken when she’s standing alongside Chopper Reed. Tony Abbott does not want a happy snap taken when Kim Jong-un leaps up from backstage and pats him on the back.

In the advertising past, most ad associations were either positive or neutral. A negative association was unusual as products or services rarely attracted large consumer anger. That however has changed.

The rise of sports betting and the 2011 law change relating to the broadcast of live odds during sporting events has changed the way viewers perceive a block of TV commercials. Advertisers can no longer assume that every ad will be promoting a product that is either positive or neutral. A very large slice of the Australian population has a negative view of live-odds sports betting. To sit beside the face of Tom Waterhouse in an advertising block colours your brand in a particular way, and to most viewers, that colour is very dark indeed. No advertiser paying thousands of dollars for air-time wants that. A6-LW8GCEAAhPGn

The Australian viewing public is no longer the public of 1956. They are more educated, more selective and more closely linked through social media. An annoyed individual can become an annoyed and active group in a matter of hours. An active group can achieve wonderful things. They can also severely damage a brand and bring it to its knees.

The Facebook page ‘Ban Sports TV Betting’ with over 500 followers recently undertook a campaign against Bunnings Warehouse for placing their advertisement adjacent to a live-odds sports betting ad. The Bunnings defense according to their Marketing Director James Todd was that they had no choice as to who their ad was placed next to. They were correct, yet that is exactly the problem and the problem is growing. Society has changed, yet the TV network’s approach to advertising placement has not.

For TV networks to offer honest advertising value, the concept of ‘guilt by association’ must be recognised. Advertisers must be told who their co-advertisers are before any contact is signed so that marketing executives know their products won’t be sullied by other products, services or personalities bringing a negative perception to the space. It’s a concept the TV networks, already struggling in a highly developed and competitive advertising landscape, cannot and should not ignore.

Shedding the facebook facade

New Year’s Day in my family has traditionally been about chucking out old clothes. We stuff old T-shirts, shorts, dresses and business shirts into bags to take to the nearest charity bin. It’s a sign of renewal and growth – that by shedding our old skins we’ve moved on from who we were. It’s also an understanding of aging, and that with the progression of years come different tastes and different waistlines.

This year, I gave away a pair of slim-fit jeans I’d never worn. The tag was still on. Bought as an incentive to lose weight, they failed miserably. I remain fat. The jeans remain slim. It was a good idea at the time.

Yet this year we added a new angle to the clothes disposal routine. This year, amid prodding from computer-less octogenarians, we embarked on a ‘Facebook friends cleanse’.  More specifically, we decided to research just what ‘friends’ were really friends and if we were actually as popular as we thought.

With many of the family spread across the world, us ‘cleansers’ were mostly over 40 years old. My 17 year old daughter, with over 500 friends would probably have refused to participate anyway. I was proud of my 96 friends and looked forward to reaching my century. I’m a cricket fan and remain largely competitive.

The ‘cleanse’ involved asking three simple questions about our friend’s photos. Question 1. Could we name them? Question 2. Had we ever met them? Question 3. Would we go to their funeral?

What eventuated was not surprising to the octogenarians and disappointing to us young ones. On average, we could positively answer all questions for 30% of our ‘friends’.  We smugly knew around 80% of their names and we’d met a staggering 93% of them. The major stumbling block was the dreaded ‘funeral’ question. If 70% of our ‘friends’ died, we wouldn’t attend their funeral.

Now this finding wasn’t so harsh until one of the octogenarians, one who is known for their blunt comments about weight gain and baldness, reminded us that should the research be valid, 70% of our friends wouldn’t attend our funeral either. As one of us had only 12 friends, this left a funeral procession of three people. She optimistically observed that at least the wake would be cheap.

As Facebook starts its eighth year as the world’s most popular social networking site, it’s time to put the concept of friendship and what it means under scrutiny. If attendance at a funeral is at all associated with care and even respect, our New Year’s Day research indicates that we don’t really ‘care’ about 70% of our ‘friends’.

The normally vocal defence to this by those with friends to burn is that many Facebook friends aren’t ‘real’ friends and everyone knows it. ‘Friendship’ is just a term used to help boost our numbers, a term not indicative of real life. Equally not representative is the seemingly endless ‘amazing’ life adventures ‘friends’ seem to have every day – a life where even doing the washing requires a Facebook post; a life where every holiday snap is excitedly posted. For a while I had friend-envy. I thought I was the only one not excited about doing the washing or walking the dog. Now I know better. If they knew that 70% of their friends really couldn’t give a damn perhaps their posts would be less ‘amazing’.

Yet as the younger generation and a battalion of middle-aged wannabees increasingly view Facebook as the necessary life platform, it begs the question as to what these generations are doing on a platform that’s largely not real or representative. As Australia’s magazine sales plummet, perhaps Facebook is replacing them as the place for ‘amazing’ gossip or ‘incredible’ adventures. I’m half expecting a friend to post a fad diet soon or perhaps a guide to better orgasm?

This week we gave four clothing bags to charity. This year, we’ve resolved to shed friends. Not the real ones, yet the ones who like the old clothes or slim jeans, just don’t fit any more or perhaps have never been worn. Perhaps facebook could introduce a special section for newly shed friends, where like our clothes; they could be adopted by others and reused. Now that would be ‘amazing’.

A 7.30 Affair

On the ABC TV news recently, the newly bespectacled Juanita Phillips promoted the following ‘7.30’ program by stating that the program would cover four issues concerning Australians. Asylum seekers, the carbon price, the leadership debate and the sort of sex that women really want.

At 7.30, Leigh Sales flagged the program’s bonus segment which was the growing food allergy problem among Australian children. Political Editor Chris Uhlmann then spent seven minutes giving the history of the asylum seeker, carbon price and leadership debates using past footage and interviews. As riveting as it was to see interview grabs from 2007, nothing new was offered.

Five minutes was then spent covering the children’s allergy issue. While a short piece, reporter Nikki Wilson-Smith at least didn’t rely on footage from 2007.  The longest segment of the program, a hefty eight plus minutes, was spent with Leigh Sales interviewing novelist Nikki Gemmell about what 7.30 described as “the long awaited follow-up to The Bride Stripped Bare”. Strangely enough Nikki Gemmell is an ex ABC journalist. If the novel becomes a best seller and Ms Gemmell pays off her mortgage, some thanks must go to the 7.30 team. Well done. Copies of the extended interview are also available on the 7.30 program’s website and on Ms Gemmell’s facebook page.

Now I fully realise that Australia is a big place and that many may well see these issues as pivotal in their lives. 7.30 and its predecessor ‘The 7.30 Report’ have a history of quality journalism and they really shouldn’t be questioned.

Yet I will.

If the asylum seeker issue is on the tip of everyone’s tongue I’m prepared to eat my cat. While the issue may be interesting (to a point) and while it does revolve around bigger issues of justice and human rights, it is not a large issue driving everyday Australians. As a matter of fact, it probably isn’t even in the top 40. The leadership debate on the other hand is quite different. The asylum seeker debate at least exists. The leadership debate may not.

Several stakeholders drive the current affairs agenda. On commercial TV, the agenda is driven by owners and shareholders needing to attract viewers who will buy the products advertised in the program. This translates to more advertisers, higher add rates and greater profit. As women are the ones who are often the ‘family shoppers’ and therefore more susceptible to advertising, it’s no shock that issues of family, cosmetic surgery, weight loss, and grocery prices are commercial current affairs favourites. The ratings say so.

On tax-payer funded TV like the ABC, TV not dependent upon ratings to sell airtime, current affairs content is more determined by actual news and public interest. The stakeholders here are often political parties, special interest groups, big business PR consultancies and anyone savvy enough to spin an issue into one of significant news value.

There’s no doubt that Asylum seeker advocacy groups and the opposition have a real interest in escalating the border security debate. A barrage of media releases and media-trained talking heads chatting smartly on an emotional issue offer easy pickings for current affairs producers.

Any leadership debate is nearly always driven by the opposition, a disgruntled government back-bencher or business interests feeling threatened by impending government policy. Issue of National interest? Probably not. Issue of special interest? Most certainly.

While what women want in bed may be a saucy dinner party topic, it’s not a topic of national interest worthy of the ABC’s flagship current affairs program. Ms Gemmell would definitely fit the content profile of ‘Today Tonight’ or ‘A Current Affair’, but not tax-payer funded television. The Gemmell-ABC connection, while probably innocent, is also troublesome. Relevance aside, an eight-minute book promo on prime-time TV by an ex ABC staffer is worth investigation. It’s not the actuality of the relationship that matters, but the perception. We could easily be forgiven for assuming an incestuous connection.

The Australian conversation is about health, education and youth alcohol culture. It’s about our struggling retail sector and the exorbitant wages paid to senior executives. It’s about transport systems, childcare and identity. It’s increasingly about the elephant in the room – our aging population and the potential for 70% of us to live our last years in a nursing home we didn’t choose and don’t like. It’s not about what Kevin Rudd said in 2007 and we’re not all awaiting a new novel.

Perhaps ABC current affairs’ staff should get out more. Perhaps they could be reminded that what interests them may not always constitute the national conversation. Whatever the case, ‘7.30’ should be wary of becoming a ratings driven showpiece. We can tolerate ‘A Current Affair’, but ‘A 7.30 Affair’ will not be an affair to remember.

Postscript: On lodging a formal compaint to the ABC, they replied that “It is a mystery to the ABC what you base your claim on, that this interview does not fall within the content parameters” of the program. This broadcast contained no unduly frequent or unduly prominent commercial references.”

You be the judge.

Fluoro vest? Just say NO!

This piece was first published in The Australian Media Section on 1/8/2011

Last week on the TV news, Tony Abbott, wearing a fluoro-green safety vest, lifted a fish above his head and criticised the carbon tax. Ten seconds later, he lifted another fish and criticised the carbon tax again. New words, same message, different fish.

In the same bulletin, Julia Gillard, dressed in a fluoro-orange safety vest, hard hat and safety glasses, praised her carbon tax and tried to cut a small piece of timber with a bandsaw. After her attempt she removed her safety glasses and again praised the tax. Different words, same message, new look. It was riveting television.

Many things are deeply troubling about the two pieces of footage. One is that the fluoro safety vest has now become de rigueur among politicians from all sides and looks like being THE fashion must-have of 2011. Sources tell me David Jones is looking to Christmas sales of fluoro vests to revive their flagging share price. Another concern is the welfare of Abbott’s fish. Were they harmed in any way? Was a vet on hand to oversee the event? If dead, were they humanely put down?

Yet the most troubling aspect of the footage is that the news editor thought these two obviously constructed photo opportunities newsworthy enough to broadcast in the first place. Neither contained anything ‘new’ that would alter the political landscape or impact our daily lives. Indeed, neither was newsworthy at all. Visually interesting – perhaps. Newsworthy – no.

As a past practitioner of the dark art of Public Relations, I know exactly how the newsroom was contacted and why journalists were assigned to cover the fluoro fish and timber shows. TV news editors, desperate for colourful footage, and having no budget or time for investigative journalism, have become the PR practitioner’s lap-dogs.  It’s estimated that 60% of our news comes from media releases written by PR people pushing ‘a particular truth’, not necessarily ‘the’ truth. The ever thirsty TV news beast can be full of real news, or constructed stunts, real colour or fake fluoro, one truth or THE truth … as long as the bulletin is full, the job’s done.

Having our news broadcasts largely at the mercy of political spin doctors creates a formulaic news cycle that’s predictable and sanitised. Our news audio becomes tit-for-tat argument while our visuals become stage-managed theatre. The TV news package becomes soap opera entertainment – ‘Days of our Lives’ in a different time slot.

Love them or hate them, Barnaby Joyce will at least say something unscripted by media advisers just as Bob Katter doesn’t need a fluoro vest to be interesting. These two don’t have advisors flapping around trying to maintain positive public opinion and constructing photo opportunities. Feeding the TV news beast is clearly not a priority. They are at least ‘real’.

In these days of potential media regulation, TV newsrooms must become what their name implies – not merely passive camera crews rushing to creatively orchestrated photo stunts. News editors could begin to cover stories that are not so easy and not so cheap. While the stage-managed easy, cheap and fast story may provide palatable, entertaining viewing while we eat our TV dinner, it is not usually newsworthy.

Above all, we the news-hungry public could begin to not only question the media, but question our own passive digestion of daily news. Our society, at risk of becoming physically obese on fast food, is becoming mentally flabby on a diet of fast TV news we rarely analyse.  We seldom ask where it’s come from. Just as our food is a choice to be considered, so is our news. It’s time to shed some flab. Questioning our news content, and especially its source, is a great place to start.

Smiling in the gloom

And the Lord said unto the people of the world, “Verily, as the globe warms and the waters rise and the uncontrolled renovation of bathrooms and kitchens continues unabated, I will send a pestilence. This pestilence will be in the form of an Angel, and this Angel will be called the Angel of Financial Turmoil who will drive out the greedy company directors, merchant bankers and uncontrolled mortgage lenders to the land of moderation and frugality.

“And as the supply of credit dries, there will be no more funds for expensive four wheel drives nor the fuel they consume. The people of the world will reduce their consumption of all things, and will begin to walk, ride pushbikes or take public transport. Lo, they will realise that there is little money for regular restaurant meals or a diet of take-away food. They will once again grow vegetables, milk the beast and sustain themselves. The word ‘McDonald’ will once again be a Scottish clan and obesity will be no more. The people will rise and be fruitful and while they will not even think about it, they will be happy.”

When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. Some however found an interesting parallel between financial turmoil and the world’s need to consume less. Some understood the sign and saw that God and Nature had fought back in the way that people would best understand; that if reducing consumption to save the planet wouldn’t force change, reducing consumption because they had no money to do otherwise would have to do.

The financial turmoil of the past month has left many looking at ways to save a few dollars. My conversations with local restaurant owners indicate people are eating out less, and when they do, they’re becoming more price conscious.  Radio gardening shows have begun serious talk-back on growing vegetables and raising chickens.

According to media reports, many are taking to the pushbike to save on fuel and parking costs. The world is certainly a different place, and while many mourn the loss of financial freedom the ‘Angel’ has delivered, others see our sudden consumption consciousness as the first step in solving the world’s climate crisis, perhaps a first step they were unable to take by themselves.

According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, if the demands on our planet continue at the same rate, “by the mid 2030’s, we’d need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.” For the unconscious spender, this simply means two planets to renovate. Great! To others, 2030 is very close indeed.

Yet rather than cry in our double brie about it all, there’s a definite feeling that this change, this new world we’re entering, could be OK. That in delivering the pestilence, the Angel has created a non-negotiable set of rules that we must abide by. Carte Blanch is fine, yet limits created through necessity provide a structure and direction that western society has lacked. Like a tear-away child needing discipline, western consumers ran away with the ball, really wanting someone to give chase and read us the riot act so we could feel safe within fair boundaries.

Capitalism, bless its little heart, has allowed us to do what we want when we want, yet capitalism spinning out of control creates individual greed and community breakdown. The ridiculous salaries paid to some company directors represents capitalism gone mad, especially when these salaries stand alongside declining literacy, underfunded hospital systems and an indigenous problem that we should all be ashamed of.

Yet we’re all responsible. I saw no street protests when the Macquarie Bank chiefs walked away with their zillions. Words of dissent in Australian society have been few and far between, and while we were renovating, many tear-aways ran away with the ball. Indeed, we may have run and hidden the ball ourselves somewhere in our new kitchen!

The structure, direction and limitation imposed through necessity need not spell doom and gloom. Throughout history, it’s the ‘difficult’ periods that create community and a sense of ‘pulling together’. Australian ‘mateship’ wasn’t a product of good times and consumer bliss but the result of hardship and necessary limits. Whatever the advertisers try and spin us, our lasting memories aren’t of lying in the sun sipping margaritas, but of the holiday when we had to overcome something that went drastically wrong. It’s of having something to work for with creativity and flair, not just having something to spend. It’s the memory of crusty bread from an old wood-fired oven, or long seasons without air-conditioning waiting for the southerly buster. It’s of warm bottled milk capped with cream, home without renovation and the romance of old things.

And as the people worked, and as they celebrated the Feast of Weeks with the first fruits of the harvest, they realised what they’d lost in the years between then and now. They laughed and they sung. They ate, drunk and danced and the children danced with them. They made love and made no plans – certainly no renovation plans. And the Lord saw that although the food was plain, and the wine cleanskin, it was all very, very good.