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May 27th 2017 print

Michael Connor

Coming to Dinner, Comrade?

On the evening of April 8, 1971, some 24 Labor opposition parliamentarians enjoyed a politically seasoned meal in the Soviet embassy. Some 21 months later, when those guests were the government, Attorney-General Lionel Murphy told ASIO to drop its interception of the Soviet embassy’s phones

lionel murphy IIThe night the KGB cooked dinner for the ALP, ASIO was there.[1] The event took place in April 1971—less than three years after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In the National Archives, spies in the files aren’t easy to spot. It is a shushingly quiet and antiseptic place in which to follow paper trails through ASIO’s declassified and heavily redacted wastepaper in search of traitors and deceit. The spy-catchers themselves, their agency possibly corrupted from within, had little chance of tracking quarry their Soviet opponents unsportingly protected beneath heavy layers of tradecraft. What the files do hold is the private family history of the Australian Left in the twentieth century. Tapped phones, intercepted mail, reports of untrustworthy friends and snoops tell incomplete stories of the agents of influence and political activists, the eager friends of the Soviet Union who dreamed of power and hurting us with boot-in-the-face socialism. Across the years ASIO observed the fellow travellers of one generation, the “mavericks, activists, movers and shakers” of another.[2]

Modern progressives observe their predecessors, and the memories of their own youth, with self-indulgence. Unscarred by a reality he never knew, and replaying youthful fantasies, Professor Stuart Macintyre teaches that communism was:

a popular phenomenon [!!] that people in all countries grasped as a spar of hope against other forms of oppression; that it gave meaning and purpose to idealists in a wide range of circumstances; and it was not a simple divination of evil but a complex body of thought that altered over its life-course.[3]

The idealised view the western Left holds of itself was not shared by its Soviet friends, who were themselves imprisoned by Macintyre’s “complex body of thought”. In 1984 defector and ex-GRU (Soviet military intelligence) officer Viktor Suvorov delineated the fellow travellers from his viewpoint as an experienced recruiter:

In examining different kinds of agents, people from the free world who have sold themselves to the GRU, one cannot avoid touching on yet another category, perhaps the least appealing of all. Officially one is not allowed to call them agents, and they are not agents in the full sense of being recruited agents. We are talking about the numerous members of overseas societies of friendship with the Soviet Union. Officially, all Soviet representatives regard these parasites with touching feelings of friendship, but privately they call them “shit-eaters” (“govnoed”). It is difficult to say where this expression originated, but it is truly the only name they deserve. The use of this word has become so firmly entrenched in Soviet embassies that it is impossible to imagine any other name for these people. A conversation might run as follows: “Today we’re having some shit-eaters to dinner. Prepare a suitable menu.”

On the evening of Thursday, April 8, 1971, in the residence of the Soviet ambassador behind high embassy walls, twenty-four federal Labor opposition parliamentarians

… hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat.[4]

Receiving the guests who ALP parliamentarian Albert “Bert” James had rounded up were eighteen Russians. Our view of what took place that evening is through the anonymous eyes of a watching ASIO informer. In twenty months the guests would be our government.

In the partial list of the Russians present, KGB officer Adolph Gorev is named first. The supposed host, ambassador Nikolai Mesyatsev, was third. The list order may be an assumption of the real power ranking inside the embassy. The second man named is an interesting problem: Vladimir Georgievich Aleksandrov. Less than two months earlier, on February 13, a Soviet embassy official in Rome, Vladimir Aleksandrov, was accused of military espionage and expelled from Italy.[5] He may have been a GRU (Soviet military intelligence) operative. If this was the same person, how was it possible that a known Soviet intelligence officer was allowed into Australia? He is not mentioned in ASIO’s official history.

The food that night, not from the Lubyanka cookbook, was politically seasoned. Assisting the Russian cook was embassy superintendent and KGB officer Vladimir Khodnev.

Five of the Australian guests are specified in the document: Senator Lionel Murphy and his wife; June Walters, his secretary; Bert James, MP, and Senator Albion Hendrickson. ASIO had earlier been listening when James told his KGB hosts that opposition leader Gough Whitlam would be out of Canberra on the night but his deputy, Lance Barnard, would be present.

Identifying only three out of the twenty-four Labor parliamentarians present, while knowing that a woman with Murphy was his secretary, suggests the ASIO informer was not familiar with the parliamentary guests, many of whom would have been familiar faces to Australian political observers. At the same time the source was able to distinguish both “an unidentified Russian from Sydney” among the Soviets, and name the presumably unseen Russian chef working in the kitchen. It is possible ASIO was operating a source inside the embassy.

Russian diplomats, including KGB and GRU officers, were commonly entertained by ALP parliamentarians in Parliament House. This dinner, however, offered by the Soviets, was in the assumed privacy and security of their embassy. The evening began with drinks and speeches. The observer described the speeches as simply formal in nature. The only speech from the Labor men present which was found noteworthy was by Senator Hendrickson. He praised the communist Soviet regime over India, a democracy and member of the Commonwealth: “having observed both he was convinced that the only form of government was a socialist one”. The comments are surprising coming from a politician whose biography on the Senate website claims that he “was genuinely anti-communist”.[6]

Hendrickson exhibited the sort of free-world stupidity criticised by Viktor Suvorov:

the behaviour of the numerous friends of the Soviet Union is utterly incomprehensible to Soviet people. In the Soviet Union everybody without exception wishes to be abroad, to go absolutely anywhere, even if only with one eye to look at Mongolia or Cambodia … the contempt felt for them does not prevent the GRU and KGB from using them whenever they can. They do everything free, and they will even come to meetings in secure places like the Soviet Embassy.[7]

Alcohol created conviviality. Ambassador Mesyatsev “made a great display of good will towards his guests and drank numerous toasts with them”. Then he made a speech, translated for the Australians.

Mesyatsev is not mentioned in ASIO’s official history. Earlier this century he published an autobiography which seems to have aroused no interest in Australia. Immediately before being sent to Canberra he had been head of Brezhnev’s state radio and television until falling out of favour. Briefly referred to in the memoirs of Pavel Sudoplatov, the KGB officer who organised Trotsky’s murder, he was involved in the Stalinist investigation of the anti-Semitic Doctors’ Plot in the period shortly before Stalin’s death. According to Sudoplatov the friendly ambassador had tortured the falsely accused Jewish doctors. He was one of three men “in charge of the criminal interrogation and beating of the doctors” and was then promoted for obeying orders.[8] He was, said Sudoplatov, “totally incompetent” and he “beat prisoners almost to death”.[9] Happily, as Stuart Macintyre claims, communism “gave meaning and purpose to idealists in a wide range of circumstances”.

Mesyatsev addressed Murphy: “I would like to speak frankly and hope you will not take offence at what I have to say.”

Murphy responded, “That’s the way we like it, please talk frankly.”

He did:

Do you realise why you are sitting at this table? Isn’t it because we have helped you, isn’t it because we have helped your Party, and isn’t it because we have helped your trade unions? You should bear in mind that you must not listen to your national leaders, even if they are coming back to earth, the people you must listen to are your own Party leaders and your own trade union leaders. You must never forget that your ultimate objective and ours is precisely the same.

Post-Petrov Affair, post-ALP Split, post-Czechoslovakia, this boasting of Soviet interference within the ALP and trade unions would have created headlines if it had been made public, and might have prevented Labor’s victory in the 1972 election—the Sydney journalist Alan Reid would have seen to that. If hidden somewhere in the unwritten pages of our political history Moscow gold or help had been given to the ALP, that may explain the casualness with which Gough Whitlam authorised and was personally involved in an improper request for money from Iraqi government thugs in November 1975. Almost exactly a year after this dinner ASIO observed Mesyatsev further interfering in internal Australian politics when he was seen discreetly advising officials from the Communist Party of Australia and their rivals in the Socialist Party of Australia.[10]

Instead of criticism, according to the secret observer, the explosive words were met with approval and even boredom by the politicians. Some of them, including Senator Hendrickson, responded with comments along the lines of “What’s he talking about? He doesn’t have to justify himself to us.”

Though Gough Whitlam wasn’t present to hear the ambassador urging ALP parliamentarians to support his leadership he could easily have dropped over if he had been home. He lived almost next door to the embassy in Stuart Flats—a public housing project. Among other tenants of the flats were public servants, politicians, and the Soviet embassy. Inside the KGB their GRU rivals are referred to as “the neighbours”. Gough Whitlam’s flat was immediately above one leased to the Soviet embassy; his neighbours may have been neighbours.

Just after taking office, Prime Minister Whitlam met Peter Barbour, ASIO Director-General. Barbour wrote that when the strange nature of Whitlam’s living conditions were pointed out it “caused him some amusement”.[11] It was shortly before he moved into The Lodge but an offer to have his home given a security check was rejected. In ASIO’s official history Barbour’s report of his meeting with the Prime Minister is discussed, but the section dealing with these matters is ignored. Surely, in the time he was living there Soviet security agents would have profited from the opportunity to place the opposition leader under electronic or physical observation—that is why they are here, this is what they do. And it would have been ASIO’s duty to watch the watchers. Whitlam asked Barbour how many of the Soviet embassy staff were assumed to be intelligence officers and was told approximately one-third.

By 11.30 p.m. dinner ended. No doubt some interesting conversations had taken place in nooks and crannies around the residence and, hopefully, Moscow Centre was satisfied with the reports they would have received. As the guests departed Murphy and his wife and Senator Hendrickson settled down to welcome Good Friday, drinking with the ambassador and his wife and the Gorovs.

A final detail in the document suggests information either from a phone tap or from an informant inside the embassy. The report notes that on the following day Vladimir Khodnev said the guests left at about 3 a.m. Readers of Molly Sasson’s memoir More Cloak than Dagger may be forgiven for surmising that if ASIO was running an agent inside the embassy he or she was probably a double agent being run for Soviet amusement.

In the not very distant future Labor took government. Lionel Murphy was appointed Attorney-General. His refusal then to authorise ASIO’s continued interception of the Soviet embassy’s phones protected the Soviets and the history of the Whitlam government. Without the phone taps production of a regular ASIO report called “Contact with Members of Federal Parliament” was halted.

[1] The following account is based on “Reception held at U.S.S.R. Ambassador, Nikolai Nikolaevich Mesyatsev’s Residence” in James Albert William James: Volume 1, NAA: A6119, 5934

[2] See the back cover blurb of Meredith Burgmann (ed.), Dirty Secrets, our ASIO files (Sydney, 2014)

[3] Stuart Macintyre, The Reds, the Communist Party of Australia from origins to illegality (St Leonards, 1998), Introduction

[4] Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and The Carpenter”

[5] “Expulsion of Soviet Representatives from Foreign Countries, 1970-81” in Foreign Affairs Notes, US Department of State, February 1982

[6] See Albion Hendrickson (1897 – 1977), The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate: Online Edition

[7] Viktor Suvorov, Inside Soviet Military Intelligence (New York, 1984), p. 105

[8] Pavel Sudoplatov, Special Tasks (London, 1994), p. 306.

[9] Pavel Sudoplatov, Special Tasks (London, 1994), p302

[10] Mark Aarons, The Family File (Melbourne, 2010) p. 249

[11] “Note for Record: Discussion between the Prime Minister, The Hon. E.G. Whitlam, Q.C., and the Director General, Mr P. Barbour, in Canberra on 14 December 1972”, dated 19 December 1972. A copy of the 4 page document is available on the “Persons of Interest – The ASIO Files” Facebook page.

Comments [31]

  1. Salome says:

    In keeping with the intellectual quality and gravity of this journal, I’d have thought that ‘coprophages’ would have been a better choice than ‘shit-eaters’. (LOL)

    • Michael Galak says:

      as a fluent Russian-speaker I can testify to the appropriateness of the translation. The Russian equivalent of the word is loaded with contempt and disdain to such a degree, that any civilised alternative would not convey the insulting nature of it.

  2. [email protected] says:

    Thank you for the article. Although interesting, it unfortunately tells me nothing really new or surprising.
    I say this because my in laws escaped from the communists after WW2 [from Latvia] before managing to get to Australia in 1949. They told me, in detail, of how oppressive and essentially evil the communist system was. They originally wanted to go to the USA. My wife was conceived overseas but was actually born in Australia. My in laws were genuine refugees, not free-loaders like a great many who have come to Australia over the past few decades are.
    My father in law was highly educated, an engineer, and a very nice bloke. I disagreed with him on only one topic, he still believed that it was possible for socialism to be viable economic system and that the communism failed mainly because the socialist bureaucrats in the USSR had ‘perverted’ socialism. He even regarded the ALP as being able to better oppose communism than the LNP. I had difficulty in convincing him that communism is merely another toxic variation of socialism [like - Nazism and environmentalism etc. etc.] and that the ‘theory’ of socialism sounded good but communism was what happened when it was put into ‘practice’. I had even more difficulty in getting him to accept that it was an immoral and essentially evil, corrupt and failed philosophy. He even liked Kevin Rudd, who to me was the typical Soviet style of communist bureaucrat; too cowardly to ever pull the trigger, but who would have no compunction in signing a memo condemning multitudes to death.

    Please excuse the length of this post, but like others on posts on other topics I would also like to express my disappointment at Quadrant for making an apology for Roger Franklin’s comments concerning the ABC. Regardless of what even some sensible commentators have said, what Roger wrote was quite harmless in comparison to a great many obnoxious statements and actions coming from ABC and Fairfax commentators in Australia, and from others overseas.
    I would NOT have objected if Quadrant had qualified their apology by stating that when the ABC unreservedly apologises to civilised and well mannered people for their statements and actions, like say to Chris Kenny for their really abhorrent ‘comedy skit’ about him, or when leftists anywhere, including those in Australia, apologise for their truly inflammatory comments, say for example those coming from Hollywood ‘celebrities’ who have wet dreams about killing Donald trump and blowing up the White House, that only then in those circumstances Quadrant would ever consider apologising.
    I greatly resent the fact that bad mannered leftists anywhere and everywhere are NEVER called on to apologise for any statement, no matter how crass or inflammatory it is, and that they wouldn’t apologise even if they were asked to, but conversely good mannered sensible people, often without even being to, DO apologise. This has got to stop, apologising merely demoralises sensible people everywhere, especially so when it is UNWARRANTED and un-necessary

  3. Ian MacDougall says:

    Never mind the shit-eaters or whatyoumaycallems.


    The important article It’s Time to Bury the Ned Kelly Myth by Doug Morrissey has not been taken down Repeat: it has not been taken down.
    This is no repeat of that unfortunate Manchester Bombing/Let’s bomb the ABC in Ultimo business. No such thing. Repeat no such thing.
    KEEP LOOKING FOR THE ELUSIVE https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2017/05/time-bury-ned-kelly-myth/
    I think Groucho Marx said that. Or was it that other Marx fellow?

  4. Keith Kennelly says:

    Socialist/communist aim: world domination

    Hitler, national socialist: aim world domination

    Islam: aim world domination

    Hitler, ‘It would have better suited us to have been aligned with Mohammadism rather than Christianity’.

    Today, the left wing and Islam are aligned and both are infesting and undermining the west.

    The enemy is now within.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      An unfortunate reality is that any philosophy, belief system or religion which claims to have the answers to all the problems that matter, to be consistent unto itself has to have the aim of proselytising and converting the whole world to itself. Christianity did this (but not Judaism, which was a communal religion). But Islam definitely; Marxism definitely; Nazism definitely: they are all religions. But not Shinto, Buddhism, or Confucianism, or Chinese animism, or the other animist religions.

      BA Santamaria in his younger years wanted Australia to become 100% Catholic, and as that, to be the base for the conversion of Asia. (See Tom Truman, Catholic Action and Politics.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:


    I don’t know the passages of the New Testament which state Christianity must be spread without, love, peacefulness and forgiveness. Ie tolerance. Can you refer me to them please?

    I do know passages of the Hadith and the Quran which prescribe the spread of Islam with the use of coercion, force and violence.

    We agree on socialism. Nazism … you mean national SOCIALISM.

    Can you explain David and Goliath? And indeed the WestBank and the settlements etc?
    Explain how the Jews lay claim to all the real estate in the Mid East?

    Is what BA Santamaria wanted relevant?
    I mean Bill Shorten wants us all to become dumb ars… labor voters.
    The greens want us to return to … well … prehistory … so long as they can keep their inner city lifestyles.

    I don’t think I wrote in such individualist terms. I wrote about general movements and ideologies.

    • Ian MacDougall says:


      Mark 16:15-16King James Version (KJV)
      15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
      16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

      Being damned meant burning in the fires of Hell for all eternity. Hardly love, peace, forgiveness etc
      The important thing for salvation was belief. Believe, and you will be OK. If you refuse to believe… forget it. Into the eternal BBQ.

      I used to regard myself as a Christian. But that was a long time ago, before my crap detector was properly run in. If you want to supercharge your crap detector, read a few good books on Philosophy. Or take a good solid course in it. But don’t touch anything offered by the Jesuits or any other religious outfit.

      National Socialism was a con from Day 1. The ‘socialism’ part was a sales pitch to the German Left. Unfortunately, socialism had flaws one could drive a truck through, and J. Stalin soon enough did.

      • Jimbob says:

        But Ian isn’t the point of the verse you quote that each individual has their eternal destiny IN THEIR OWN hands! And if “sin” is the curse which ruins life here on this planet as well as the hereafter (which it most certainly does generation after generation since human consciousness began) isn’t it best to take the only real medicine available?

        If you want forgiveness you have to ask don’t you? If you’ve ever had to say sorry to your partner, you’ll know what I mean. It helps when you “believe” that your partner is capable of forgiving.

        Belief (wether in a “god” or in “man”)is a personal choice one makes. As with any choice we make, the “consequences” whatever they might be follow unavoidably. If God gives you a way out of the chaos and destruction of the inner disease which plagues all mankind and you choose to reject it, you can hardly blame God for what might follow.

        Jesus had an “alternative” gospel to the gospel of man; “trust in the philosophy of man to build some kind of Utopia”…Utopia my eye! The kingdom of Beelzebub is more like it as you have very wisely reminded us in your last sentence.

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          I have had done with the Christian doctrine of Sin and Redemption for a long time now. It never did much for me, even in my years as a Christian. BUT whatever floats your boat…
          I would suggest that in looking for an answer to the question you ask, you might do better to begin by asking ‘What exactly was the ‘Original Sin’?’
          From Genesis 2 (KJV):
          [15] And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
          [16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
          [17] But of the tree of the , thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

          What, we might ask, would ‘knowledge of good and evil’ involve? Clearly, the Book of Genesis says ‘do not make enquiries about the nature of good and evil: do not seek knowledge in that forbidden area.’
          One way to find out what is right or wrong, good or evil, is to ask a member of the clergy. But the book of Genesis was written by the early Jewish clerics, who themselves claimed that in so doing they were working under divine inspiration. Another way is to consider as much evidence as possible, think it all over, and reach your own conclusion. If you do that, then you are working as a philosopher or scientist, using reason in place of (inevitably ancient) scripture. And in so doing, you become a philosopher or scientist: whether you like the idea or not. Amateur; not yet turned pro.

          In scripture classes as a boy, I was taught that the original sin was eating a forbidden fruit. Eve took a bite out of a forbidden apple and urged Adam to do likewise. And from this one hardly noteworthy act, all the wars, famines, diseases and other disasters have followed, as effects following their cause. Believe that if you wish.
          Thus the ‘original sin’ has to be thinking for oneself about good and evil. In other words the original sin was philosophy, a branch of which is science. Scientists, who are guided by the workings of Nature have always had an uneasy relationship with clerics of every kind. Galileo and his telescope created no end of a mess for the One True Church.
          And who wrote the Book of Genesis? It was Moses and/or a committee of the Jewish elders using the authoritative title of ‘Moses’. They developed a monotheistic religion: a very powerful social glue in the difficult circumstances they found themselves in. They were people without a land of their own; a minority within the larger kingdom of Pharaonic Egypt.
          Meanwhile, over in the islands of the Ionian Sea, part of the wider Mediterranean, the early polytheistic Greeks were developing philosophy and science.
          The monotheists and polytheists had probably heard of one another, but the former had a far more powerful set of united clerics. Under Roman rule philosophy and science fared better than they did under the rule of the later ‘barbarians’ who forced Rome to move its HQ to Constantinople. But when Christianity, and later the invading clerics of The Prophet (pbuh) took over, the first great age of philosophy (which includes science) was over.

  6. Warty says:

    It is now two days since this vaguely interesting article was published, and the Quadrant editorial board seems to have gone into a tail spin. For those familiar with the expression, it’s an aviation term, and it usually relates to the ritual a plane undergoes before crashing.
    There are times when there is a communication problem and a plane ventures out into conditions it really ought not to (having ignored all warnings that a storm was on its way and that having a few drinks with ones mates might have been a better option). Or, more likely, the pilot ventured out into tricky conditions and simply lost his nerve. In either case communication with one’s base is always advisable: that’s what the base is for (to be communicated with).
    The last I heard, conditions had improved significantly, with fewer storm conditions coming from the left.
    Rumours had it that the co-pilot had been ejected without a parachute, but authorities have been a little more than tight-lipped about his welfare. Further rumours are that some passengers have even gone over to the opposition.
    Just this morning I read a report by one such passenger, by the name of Helen, who’d been a Quadrant client for many years, and had gone over to Callaxy Files, admittedly a more popular airline,but with reduced leg-room in its economy class. My feeling is that this same Helen may have been Quadrant’s well-known Jodie, from whom we haven’t heard since the 22nd May: that’s a full week. Rumours have it that she witnessed the ejection of the co pilot and hasn’t recovered from the sheer horror of it all, particularly seeing there was no call for the arguably deranged pilot to have pulled the jettison lever in the first place.
    By now I am thoroughly fed up with the overuse of the noun ‘rumour’, I only wish I could replace it with the more elevated alternative: ‘fact’. As they say: ‘dream on’.

  7. Keith Kennelly says:

    Mark did not preach violence. It’s just silly to suggest otherwise.

    National socialism was always socialism. Just like international socialism it only ever existed with socialist dictators, gulags and secret police.

    You couldn’t possibly understand my belief system. It has no God. And I don’t judge others
    It is you who really needs to read both history and philosophy. Now I understand why you are committed to the crazy religion of climate warming.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Now I understand why you are committed to the crazy religion of climate warming.

      There are actually TWO ideologies competing here at Quadrant Online, just as they do in the wider world.
      1. Rationalism: ie the proposition that reason is paramount, wherever it takes us, and
      2. What we might call Qualified Rationalism: ie reason is OK, as long as it does not create problems for business-as-usual, and particularly for the coal business. (Which is arguably why AGW denialists are so commonly down on renewables as energy sources).
      Reason (which is everything within the compass of Philosophy) is the foundation of science. That is why for a piece of original scientific research deemed significant enough, an academic institution might see fit to award you the degree PhD: which is Doctor of Philosophy.
      The ‘the crazy religion of climate warming’ is based on just such reason, or Reason with a capital ‘R’ as it is more commonly set out.
      This ‘crazy religion’ is endorsed by the major scientific organisations of the world, including the CSIRO, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Society. Full list at the link below.


      • Jimbob says:

        Is “reason” infallible?

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Is “reason” infallible?

          A very interesting question, Jimbob.
          The mental processes of any one of us certainly are. (I make mistakes all the time – just ask my wife.)
          But two heads are better than one, as the old saying has it. Another thought concerns the definition of a camel, as ‘the horse that was designed by a committee’.
          But while some theologians would laugh, I suggest that the more thoughtful of them would say ‘Hang on! Did God get it wrong? Did He set out to design a nag which could take out any race at Flemington, and come up with one fit only for the Todd River Handicap at Alice Springs?’
          But for the purpose of walking long and far over desert sand, a ‘ship of the desert’ is made to order.
          The ‘committee’ responsible for that one is random genetic variation followed by non-random selection.
          Science itself is the product of just such a selection process. From the Ionian Greeks onwards, ideas have been put forward and tested, not against pre-conceived notions so much as against observable reality.
          And science works. That is why it is still around and going.
          It is why the idea of a flat Earth is a standard joke today. But plenty in the ancient world believed it.

          • Jimbob says:

            “it is why the idea of a flat earth is a standard joke today. But plenty in the ancient world believed it”

            Here’s the thing Ian, plenty in the ancient world didn’t believe it! Certainly not Pythagoras and his school nor Parmenides and certainly not Aristotle and his school. These along with Plato are by far the most influential teachers of the pre-Christian western world and their ideas spread well beyond Greece and Sicily as any high school student of ancient history knows. Erastothenes, that clever, clever man even measured the circumference of the earth using some pretty simple mathematics (circa 200 BC).

            All the early Christian teachers accepted that the earth was round based on the very simple belief that “science” and all “true” knowledge was a divine gift to understand the workings of creation. This was in addition to the witness of the scriptures which they understood to refer to a world suspended in the vastness of space..

            My point is this; there is always a variety of “opinion” based on either what is understood at the time as being “reasonable” and “scientific” or in the alternative, “superstition” until some incontrovertible evidence confirms the “opinion”. As it was in the ancient world, so it is today. “Reason” is fallible and indeed can be a seductive whore!

            It will be an incontrovertible fact that “global warming” will cause large tracts of land to sink underwater if the worlds’ average temperature rises by two degrees WHEN the worlds’ average temperature has actually risen by two degrees and large tracts of land are concurrently submerged. Until that happens, it is “belief” based on limited knowledge….

            Who knows….current climate “science” may in the end go the way of the “flat earth”……

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            I agree with you about Eratosthenes and the other classical Greek mathematicians and scientists.
            When I was a young student in Sydney a few years ago now, one of the few entertainments I indulged in was to go down to the Sydney Domain and listen to the numerous worthies giving public orations there. I well remember an old bloke by the name of George Fowler. He believed that the Earth was flat, because the Bible told him so. As well, he converted the father of a friend of mine, who was a devout Christian, in fact a Christian so devout he was a fundamentalist’s fundamentalist.
            (A suite of biblical references is to be found at the website below.)

            The Persian mathematician-poet Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) wrote:
            “And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
            Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
            Lift not thy hands to it for help — for It
            Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.”
            The image here is of a hemispheric chicken coop, resting as they all do on a flat surface. Yet Khayyam was a leading mathematician of his own day.


      • dcburgos says:

        hmmm: argumentum ad verecundiam… surely you’d know better if you believe you are a Rationalist… wouldn’t you?

        • dcburgos says:

          … and please acquaint yourself with some of the Epistemological issues with Mathematical/computer or Statistical Models… it has to do with the limits to what we know and crucially with what we hold as axiomatic — these present massive challenges to the suite of climate models out there. So when you do indeed ignore reason you are in the realm of ‘belief’ which is Religion not Science

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            If all we had to go by was mathematical and computer models it would be all over red rover for AGW and a lay-down misere for the ‘sceptics’. BUT the concrete undeniable reality is that the world’s glaciers are melting, and rapidly in the context of the Earth’s climate history.
            The best data I have found is from satellite altimetry studies of sea level changes carried out by the University of Colorado. (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/)
            This shows that the global sea level is rising by 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/yr. That means 33 mm per decade; 330 mm (33 cm) per century; 330 cm or 3.3 metres per thousand years. And so on…
            Call it a long thaw.
            Global sea level rise cannot have been going on at that rate for very long in human historical terms without it having been noticed by observers on all continents and recorded in the annals thereof. Thus the proposition that it has only been going on in the period of massive fossil carbon combustion (ie since the middle of the 18th C) holds water.
            FACT: the world’s glaciers are steadily melting, and the meltwater is causing the rise in sea-levels worldwide.
            Mainstream science, and particularly climatology is allegedly corrupt. The commonest allegation is that the mainstream climatologists will say anything alarmist in order to secure their next research grant. But strangely in this Alice-in- Wonderland world, the denialists, and particularly the shills from the coal industry, are as pure as the driven snow. (Or should that be the surging slush?) The amounts of money going to the allegedly corrupt scientific researchers operating within the framework of an alleged global climate conspiracy are miniscule compared to the amounts invested by those in the fossil carbon industries.
            Google up and see for yourself. (And please don’t kid me that Google is part of the global climate ‘conspiracy’.)

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Argumentum ad verecundiam????

          No. Thanks all the same. I don’t like that foreign food.
          Make mine a pie and peas.
          Or better still, a floater.

    • Jimbob says:

      Mark did not preach violence and neither did his Master!

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    Helen, Jody whoever was more left than right and usually wrong.

    I think people are entitled to err.

    • ianl says:

      I doubt “Helen” and “Jody” are the same person. From memory, Jody’s prime schtick was a version of finger-wagging Nanny-statism – to which she’s fully entitled, just as other people are entitled to remain unimpressed.

      One hopes the Quadrant board will find its’ schtick again, but the baleful influence of the AFP seems overwhelming. On the few occasions I’ve tried since “meltdown”, the site has been painfully and uncharacteristically slow, which suggests monitoring by said baleful influence. There is sardonic amusement in realising that the PC thugs, especially the squad from Ultimo, have been minutely examining the entrails here – such ado about a site that is constantly characterised as having no audience.

      And as you see, yet again, arguing (?) with the resident trollster is a pointless exercise in piss and wind. Nothing moves. The adage “Don’t feed the trolls” is apt.

      • Warty says:

        Jody is Sue Smith on Spiked (I know, because I’ve had conversations with her), and if you examine the number of women that respond to Quadrant articles, Salome (as very strange name for a straight man) is still with us, so I suspect Helen is indeed Jody. I know she and Keith have had frequent ‘run-ins’ but she is pretty well straight down the centre. She doesn’t like Turnbull, never liked Abbot and is repelled by Trump, so I’m not sure what leader she’d like (but beside the point). The other bit of evidence is that she has been missing in action since the 22nd of this month (as mentioned above) and that’s unusual, unless she has the flu, in which case we’ll all get a blollocking, Keith in particular, for casting aspersions, and I’ll have egg all over my face.
        As for the painfully slow Quadrant server, I suspect it’s only due to the fact that Quadrant has been receiving unprecedented attention, after The Australian, ABC, Cattalaxy Files and a host of swamp inhabiting Green Left publications that simply had to have their primal screams for the week. These and the ABC have indeed been picking over the entrails, taking note of racists like ianl, Jimbob, Keith Kennelly, a Hungarian deportee called Bill Martin, a fluent Russian speaking Michael Galak, a Biblical Salome, the unpronounceable dcburgos, and then left scratching their heads about an Ian McDougall, who doesn’t quite fit the neo Fascist mould at all.
        Now, I’ll leave Ian and Keith to fight it out.

        • ianl says:

          > ” … the neo Fascist mould”

          And exactly what’s that when it’s at home, please ?

          I prefer small government, lower taxes, individual rights, freedom of speech and corresponding personal aspirations and accountability. Collectivism is precisely the opposite, so it seems. I have no idea what a neo Fascist is or why it’s different to a paleo Fascist. I expect it means nothing much at all.

          Of course I wish the disappearance of suicidal bombers, maniacal truck drivers, pyschotic recruits for mass murder and other assorted slaughterhouse horrors well away from Western civilisation, but that is a Pollyanna wish which has nothing to do with race (Islam is not a race, for those who wish to purloin emotive words to suit an agenda, like Alice Through the Looking Glass). Salman Rushdie’s 1981 Midnight’s Children describes the deep, blood-lust, centuries-long animosity that led to the partition of India, rightly or wrongly, with only ideological/cultural overtones, none racial. Rushdie paid for that with years of living under fatwa … somehow we are to unlearn this ? Much too late now. I did a project in Pakistan about 9 years ago. The Pakistani “minder” was a very well-educated, much-travelled engineer – a delightful, clever man. He produced the expected dislike of the US on cue, but he didn’t really mean it, mostly just semi-pretend protective colouration. But his fierce fire, his genuine hatred of the Hindu Indians – this was not feigned. Quite non-plussing, actually. Then I understood the Mumbai massacre. The point here is that it’s not all “the West”, despite self-described elites constantly using that tar-brush.

          If “Jody” returns with her Nanny forefinger wagging in the air, I’ll find another u-tube to spoof her with. She’s quite suspectible to gentle spoofing, as are most Nanny statists.

          I wonder if the vanity PC’s perusing here for offence are by now pursing lips over their second or third lemon, as Paul Keating once intoned over a high-ranking public servant he didn’t much care for ?

          • Warty says:

            ‘Twas tongue in cheek, dear ianl.
            My ideas vary little from your own, though I have the sense that those Greens and their ABC fellow travellers whom you earlier described as picking through ‘our entrails’ may indeed see us as neo Fascists i.e the supposed ultra nationalists bovva boys, who supposedly like to beat up Pakistanis.
            My understanding of the average Quadrant reader is that he (and they are largely male) has lost the youthful colour in his cheek; is widely read; has enjoyed a varied, interesting and latterly thoughtful life, which has led him to appreciate so much that has been our common heritage. In other words he has become conservative, though he might well have been more radical when he still retained that youthful bloom.
            Much that he sees around him today profoundly disturbs him, so Quadrant has until recently, seemed a bit like a home away from home, in that it has given him the inspiration to fight for what he believes to be true, and where he had found people of like mind to reassure him that there are others out there who share his conviction. None of this has anything to do with neo fascism of course.

        • Jody says:

          Thank you for your interest in my comments or lack thereof. I have been pre-occupied writing about my first love, classical music. And buying new hi-fi to replace the disgusting Unison Research CD player which was only 9 months old and kept failing. In fact, I spent most of the afternoon in Castle Hill with the hi-fi man and we talked politics. When I lamented the Labor lite budget he said, “get used to it; this country is socialist and nothing is ever going to change that. I lived in South Africa for many years so I’m in a position to compare one economy with another. This country is socialist and is going to remain so.” I felt suitably sobered and chastened.
          You’ve read me right, Mr. Warty. But I deeply admire certain outspoken intellectuals like Dr. Jordan Peterson (did you watch the link I posted elsewhere here on Postmodernism and Compassion? Compulsory viewing for an intelligent man like yourself!). I think we’d be lost without our public intellectuals who dare to speak; of course, there was Hitchens (what was NOT to love!!?) and Niall Ferguson/Ayaan Hirsi Aly – the ‘power couple’ – and now Professor Peterson. The man has a brain the size of a planet and he’s unafraid and will not be cowed by anybody.

          So, you taught English? Yes, “Reading/Writing/Listening/Viewing”…la de da!!

  9. Ian MacDougall says:

    Or, if you can’t beat ‘em, then ignore ‘em.

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    You’d be used to that Ian.

    That is exactly what catastropharians do with facts that don’t conform to their claims and predictions.