December 19, 2009

Special gifts in giving

There is a joke in our house about Janthima and her big feet. She’s a young Thai girl we sponsor through World Vision. And she’s constantly running out of footwear. Every time we get another of those pleading letters for an extra donation, we pay-up because we figure Janthima needs new shoes. We put it down to fast growing feet in the tropics.
December 14, 2009

US feminists championing botox are betraying the cause

Every time I use the “f” word in public I get walloped. Feminism is a funny thing. Just when you think you've got the old dear worked out, she throws off the knee rug, leaps up from the rocker and pulls your hair. Nasty. It's usually the result of some profound disagreement. And if we've learnt nothing else during feminism's third wave, we've certainly learnt that hell hath no fury like a feminist scorned. So I tread with trepidation.
December 5, 2009

The new face of politics

Picture this. And it's worth it, because it says something about what's happening to Australian politics.
November 28, 2009

Land of withering hopes

She's pint sized, but she goes like a rocket and talks like a threshing machine. And for the past month Malalai Joya - dubbed by western media as “the bravest woman in Afghanistan' - has been raising her voice across North America to send a strong and unambiguous message to Barack Obama, ahead of his decision next week on Afghanistan.
November 21, 2009

Mad dog’s Muslim rant exposes hidden pain

So the mad dog of the Middle East is after Berlusconi’s beauties. And not just one or two high paid hookers. Colonel Gaddafi wants them in their hundreds and he’s happy to pay around 50 Euro’s a piece. Which sounds cheap, if it’s sex he’s after; but he’s not. He’s after the soul of their sex.
November 14, 2009

Washed out in limp-sync

Last night I was wishing I was Britney Spears. If only I could lip-synch. Sometimes when I read the evening news on television, the words tumble out incorrectly. Take Wednesday night. Actually, I'd rather you didn't. It's best forgotten. But on some rare occasions, despite all the best intentions in the world, and the sturdy efforts of a sharp team of news journalists, producers and directors, things still go wrong. That night was a case in point.
November 7, 2009

Why forgive a bad friend?

It is impossible to look at close up footage of Dennis Ferguson without feeling a toxic mixture of emotions. All of them painful: anger, shock, hate. And yet, at the same time, it's hard to take our eyes off him. The face of evil — in its human manifestation — is both grotesque and fascinating.
October 31, 2009

Models blur image issue

Supermodel Linda Evangelista once told Ray Martin that I was a "witch". I'd apparently upset her during a television interview for A Current Affair, in which I asked about her "use-by-date". Evangelista was 28 then - ancient in supermodel years. This was back in the unimaginable dark ages, before digital "enhancement" of models existed. Back when what you saw in print was pretty much what you got for real. But in the cold light of day, without airbrushing and soft filters, the feline Evangelista was even more magnificent than I had expected.
October 24, 2009

The fight of their lives

Despite it being a long- distance call and a bad line, I can detect the frustration in her voice. "Women? No one listens to women." Hamida Hussan* is a young Afghan woman from Kabul who has just spent four whirlwind days in Washington, DC speaking to congressmen and women, addressing conferences and lobbying whoever she can corner. She's exhausted and sounds like she's about to cry.
September 12, 2009

Word war on sex front

It's a great shame that the Department of Defence has a media team that ducks for cover and hides in the bunker when it's most needed. It's as if the media strategy is "slam down the hatches men", or even "quick, go hide in an all-day meeting, chaps".
September 5, 2009

The daddy of all fools

There is just one thing I want to know about John Della Bosca and his young lover. Did the 26-year-old call the ageing MP "Daddy"? Given the 30-year age difference and the fact that she's young enough to be his daughter, it's not out of the question. And given Della Bosca allegedly told the girl to say she was his "niece" if anyone in Parliament asked, it's fair to say there is a hint of a "daddy" complex going on.
August 29, 2009

A devil of a partnership

Funny isn’t it, how we can fixate on silly, minor things, in the face of a crisis. For me it was the salad sitting on Grace Coddington’s desk. I just knew she wasn’t going to eat it. Coddington, the creative director of Vogue magazine, had been working ridiculously long hours, under enormous pressure, and she needed food. But that salad was staying untouched. I wanted to urge, “Go on Gracie – eat it!” But I know how she feels. I can’t eat when I’m shattered either.
August 22, 2009

Afghan women lose again

There is little that separates the joy and the pain. Within one short moment, that energetic life force that makes the people of Afghanistan so passionate and so engaging can suddenly give way to a flood of tears. It's impossible not to cry with them.
August 15, 2009

Bowled by art’s beauty

You may have heard of tree huggers. But what about art huggers? I think the head of Australian Art at the National Gallery, Dr Anne Grey, might just be one. And she's not alone. Grey is curator of Last Impressions, a retrospective of the work of Australian artist Frederick McCubbin, drawn from the last decade of his life, 1907-1917. It opened at the gallery yesterday. And in a word, this exhibition is simply - sublime.
August 8, 2009

Scourge of oppression

Every woman in Australia wearing trousers right now is violating Article 152 of Sudan’s criminal code. Thankfully, unlike our Sudanese sisters, we don’t get whipped for it. If we did, I wonder how many of us would have the guts to seize the whip and thrash back?
August 1, 2009

Censors sweeten the fruit

Censorship of art inevitably backfires. It's a pity Chinese Government officials here in Australia haven't worked that out yet. Their attempts to silence a Melbourne film-maker, along with considerable efforts this week to intimidate the director of the Melbourne International Film Festival, MIFF, have backfired beautifully.
July 24, 2009

Education’s ray of hope

For a moment I wasn't sure if Europa was about to cry. Her huge brown eyes were fixed on the Australian soldier towering over her. He was handing her a little toy. She looked at it, then back at him. Both he and I held our breath. Finally, slowly, Europa's face softened into a beautiful smile. She took the toy.
July 14, 2009

Cloak of silence over us

Picture this: the place is Cairo, and two Egyptian women are eyeballing each other on the subway. One is dressed from head to toe in a burka, and the other is wearing a hijab. The black-clad woman asks the other why she is not wearing a burka. The young woman points to her headscarf and says, "Is this not enough?" The woman in the burka responds, "If you wanted a piece of candy, would you choose an unwrapped piece or one that came in a wrapper?" "I am not candy", the younger woman replies. "Women are not candy."
July 4, 2009

Headline acts, vocal spin

I have voices in my head. Lots of them. I’ve had them for years and I’m rather used to it. But this week two new voices popped in, and they’re different from the others. One is called Kylie and the other is Bruce. Odd names for voices in one’s head, I know. But I didn’t name them. My broadcast colleagues did.
July 2, 2009

Mahboba’s Promise

After almost three decades of bloody conflict, Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of widowhood in the world, and more than one and half million orphans. It takes a brave woman to roll up her sleeves and dedicate her life to fixing the problem. Sydney woman Mahboba Rawi travelled Australia raising money to feed, house and support the orphans and widows of Afghanistan. Last month she returned to her homeland after a two year absence, only to find life on the streets is tougher than ever. (Video)
June 27, 2009

Ban unAustralian burka

I've seen it elsewhere around the world, but I didn't expect to see it here. Certainly not on a hot summer's afternoon at the Canberra Centre. But there it was. A ghostly figure walking towards me, clad from head to toe in a heavy black niqab, black gloves and dark shoes. She was trailing along behind her husband and four little children.
June 20, 2009

Dress code for refugees

I will never know, or understand, why I won the passport lottery and Sedique, or Meena, or Obaidullah, or any other would-be refugee lost out. I just happened to be born into one of the safest, cleanest and wealthiest countries on earth - Australia. Those three happened to be born into one of the most dangerous and deadliest countries in the world - Afghanistan.
June 13, 2009

How we love a swine

So Gordon Ramsay is a pig. We knew that. He's paid to be. In fact, Ramsay is probably one of the highest-paid pigs on the celebrity circuit right now. And after his most recent piggish act Down Under, he's probably in for a pay rise. He's proven - yet again - that bad behaviour is a ratings-puller.
June 6, 2009

Devoured in dream dash

What is it with Susan Boyle? The come- from-nowhere singing sensation, who took Britain and the world by storm, is in a funk. She's now "resting" in an upmarket psychiatric clinic, after police were called to her hotel room on the night of her last television performance.
May 30, 2009

Brave voice for freedom

What a strange place Australia must seem to Shazia Shakib. She arrived in Adelaide on Wednesday, having flown from war-torn Afghanistan, via Pakistan. She's 25 years old and has never been to "the West" before.
May 23, 2009

Summernats? Get it off

There's a beaut line in the film Annie Hall, when Rob, who's just moved to LA, is taking Alvy and Annie on a car tour of the ritzy Beverly Hills. Rob loves the place and can't stop boasting its charms. "And the women, Max, they're like the women out of Playboy magazine, only they can move their arms and legs."
May 16, 2009

Narcissism and the NRL

Rugby league is the most tactile game on Earth. Men fly through the air to belly flop on top of other men. They hug and grab flesh; fling arms around hips; thrust their face against another man's groin. They grunt, pull and poke at each other's bodies. Then nosedive into their opponents' buttocks.
May 9, 2009

Facing Taliban terror

One of Afghanistan's leading women's rights activists, Sitara Achakzai, was booked to fly out of Kabul last Friday, to visit her ageing mother in Canada. But she didn't make it.
May 2, 2009

Doing it tough, Kabul style

I’d never seen such filthy hands. I know it's rude to stare. But I was trying to work out what on earth this wide-eyed little boy had been doing to blacken his hands like that. Just then he caught me staring, and quickly hid his fingers under the folds of his tatty tunic. It was an embarrassing moment for both of us.
April 24, 2009

Despite all, Afghans think we’re the good guys

The hardest thing about leaving Afghanistan is saying goodbye to friends. I could barely get Obaidullah to look at me. Just a week ago, I stood in the Kabul sunshine, in my filthy jeans and muddy boots, and decided not to try to hug him. A handshake would do. But still he wouldn't look me in the eye.
March 21, 2009

Two wrongs, no rights

I suspect that, like most women, Mukhtar Mai doesn't like it when people tell her she's courageous. Telling a woman she has courage just makes her nervous. Telling her she's brave is even worse. Women just do what they feel needs to be done. Often it's about doing what seems obvious.
March 14, 2009

It’s not sport, it’s business

Mal Meninga has been wrong about a few things. He was wrong to try to bluff his way into politics back in 2001. And he is wrong now to suggest we should all forget about the Brett Stewart story and just move on.
March 7, 2009

Eye for an eye in action

If you pause the video footage, and look very closely, you can just see it. A hole the size of a pinprick. It's there in the middle of the scarred skin that's smeared across Ameneh Bahrami's left eye, sealing it closed.
February 28, 2009

A call to loving arms

When did it become hip and cool to disconnect sex and feeling? Tender feelings of intimacy and exploration; even moments of shared awkwardness. And since when did the art of slow seduction go out of vogue?
February 21, 2009

Smith’s female sacrifice

The fear of women is rife. Nowhere more so than among Islamic extremists. And the most fearful are the Taliban. So deep is that fear that Taliban hatred of women knows no limit.
February 14, 2009

First fire, now brimstone

Okay, Jack Waterford. So you don’t like tears on TV. Nor do I. But that so-called “money shot” – the zoom-in on contorted faces stricken with grief, as tears roll and exhausted bodies roll with emotion – well, it gets me every time.
February 7, 2009

Time to undo the petty deal that’s destroying women’s lives

What woman would shove a dirty stick up her vagina, furiously jab at her insides and try to scrape out the walls of her womb? A promiscuous woman? A bad woman? A lapsed Christian, perhaps?