Getting a grip on slime

eel glovesThe human brain’s filing cabinet really is a remarkable thing, a wonder for the way random items of news prompt seemingly unrelated thoughts and associations. Take Sam Dastyari, for example, whose recent misadventures brought to mind not images of oleaginous sleaze but of an afternoon’s fishing long, long ago.

As a child I was taken by two slightly older and distant cousins to the banks of the Yarra near Dights Falls, a geological fault that sits on the divide between what was then the ungentrified slum of Collingwood and the higher ground of well-heeled Kew on the river’s eastern bank. Mum and Gran were kibitzing over tea and fruit cake, chin-wagging to the point of mortal boredom by the reckoning of a seven-year-old with little interest in long dead uncles and the couple who succumbed so heavily to the Irish Disease that they burned their side fence to stay warm. Perhaps there was one yawn too many; whatever the prompt, it was decided that a fidgety lad should be given something more interesting to occupy his mind than dusty family gossip. Thus to the riverbank, cousins toting fishing rods and their little guest proud to be entrusted with creel and its tackle.

That memory came back suddenly and sharp as day when Dastyari’s mug popped up on last night’s ABC’s news shows. The Prime Minister had branded him “a traitor”, the voiceover announced. In subsequent updates and bulletins there were re-cappings of how a Chinese patron intimately close to Beijing’s masters paid $16,000 worth of bills the senator didn’t fancy footing himself. The latest news was that he had advised the very same deep-pocketed businessman he might be under ASIO surveillance and they should therefore step into the garden for a chat to which none but they would be privy.

Then it came to me – the genesis of memory’s dredging of the seemingly unrelated past.

That tackle box: atop the hooks and floats and sinkers the last items to go in were a pair of heavy leather gloves studded on the palm side with the points of pushed-through drawing pins.

They were for landing eels, one of my cousins explained, so you could get a grip on the slimy creatures, hold them down securely while slicing off their heads. They would wriggle away otherwise, slip through your fingers and vanish back into the Yarra’s brown murk with nary a chance of stopping the escape.

We didn’t catch an eel that day — and neither did Tony Jones two months ago on Q&A, where Dastyari was a brazen apologist for his own slime and sleaze. Follow the link at the foot of this post for the transcript, the relevant bit coming 19 minutes and 52 seconds into the broadcast. No eel has ever wriggled off the hook with greater aplomb. For those who prefer to read the transcript, do a “CNTRL” + “F” on the word “China” and the segment will be found in an instant.

Immune to shame and imbued with a true con man’s faith in his own lies, if this appalling man is ever to be removed from public life, as he has already removed himself from the public trust, it will need a firmer grip than the ABC, the Prime Minister and even Bill Shorten can manage.

Someone, please, break out the drawing pins, get a grip and decapitate this creature’s political career. That he is beyond shame should by now be obvious to all. That the Senate, his party leader and, indeed, Australian voters might tolerate his ongoing presence in the parliament suggests there are others who don’t know the meaning of disgrace.

— roger franklin


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