Paul has published hundreds of articles across the years; here’s just five.
1: Election Night Special – September 2013
2: The Silk Freeway – June 2013 / July 2012
3: My Boss Was An Alien … And So Was His Wife – April 2008.
4: Salsa Restaurant Review – August 2007.
5: Interview with a North Queensland sex worker – Dec 2006.
IT’S MY PARTY (and I’ll vote if I want to)
Published in The Music – September 2013
There was a time, at least in folklore, when democracy offered the promise of progress; but let’s face it Don’s Party is over and the light on the hill is now an illuminated billboard advertising Big Brother. No wonder the electors have turned their attention to voting Britney, Pixie or Popsy off the show and praying that Matt Skinner really will deliver on his promise to help us ‘drink better’ on election night.
But hey, before we sink into jaded, alcoholic despair let’s remember that Australian democracy has one last silver bullet left in its holster: election analyst Antony Green. When Green drills down into the numbers it’s the vote count equivalent of uncorking a vintage red. You can get drunk on his booth-by-booth breakdowns and end up believing that it really did matter who you voted for earlier in the day. In fact, let it be said here and now: if you’re having an election night party you’ll definitely need some Green.
Beyond that though, election night parties are trickier than usual affairs. Politics is a renowned firestarter. Those wanting to turn back the boats are unlikely to make party pals with those who voted to get the NBN over to their place sooner rather later. And then there’s the very real possibility that a smug and smirking Christopher Pyne will result in half eaten canapés being hurled at the television. (Hosts beware.)
However, the obvious problem with ‘Australia Votes’ shindigs is that they are half likely to become wakes, because losing the election is worse than dipping out in the Grand Final. Democracy, unlike footy, makes you wait three years for another crack. The apocalyptic gloom of Opposition is sure to end your bash with crash.
Of course, all of this assumes that you care. Why would you hold an election soiree if you didn’t? Excuse for a piss-up? Got a thing for earnest undergrads? Or maybe you just don’t believe the hype and this is the best chance you’re gonna get to feel superior to all those fools who think it matters.
Ah yes, let’s invite the local, cut/copy conspiracy nutjob to the party. That’ll liven things up. We’ll get to learn about how the royal family are really lizards in disguise and how the evil Rothschilds have already rigged not only the election but the next thousand years of history. On a personal note, I’m certainly inviting my new chum Ra’a’a to my doo because his inevitable rant about how the “five hundred thousand elect” are shortly to retire underground while the rest of us are churned up and replaced with cyborgs by the year 2025 is sure to lift the mood. Phew, that means there’s only three or four more election campaigns left to endure. Now you’re talkin’.
If partisan passion and cyborg takeovers aren’t enough to get the party started though, there’s always the post-result playlist to fight over. Do we hark back to the bearded 60s, the shaven headed 70s, the Red Wedge 80s or even the rage rock 90s? Or do we get our irony out and shake it all about? Either way, we should be suitably sozzled by then because democracy and drinking are excellent marriage equality bedfellows.
For the so-called progressives out there, knocking back one shot for every seat lost may well dull the pain of a conservative victory. Meanwhile, down at the Rowing Club, north shore sorts should try snorting one line of caviar for every gloom faced ABC journo they spy on the coverage. Sure it’s expensive but the high is really something.
After the counting and carousing however, it’s time for the post-election shag; and this year everyone’s a winner. Paid parental leave means a potential seventy five grand for you and yours. That’s a looooot of flat screen TV. By jingo, you could refurb your entire house in time for election night party 2016. Maybe you could even build a bunker to hide from the cyborgs.
Apart from Harvey Norman and child care centres the big winner on Saturday night will surely be my surprise party guests. That’s right, kids, I’m inviting Julia and Tim over. Either way, they’re gonna have a fine time. I’m looking forward to Julia’s concession speech jubilation and quite possibly a free haircut to replace the dreadful one I currently sport. Change of government, change of style. Who said we don’t take democracy seriously enough these days?
Besides which, one thing is abundantly clear: elections are all about the parties.
THE SILK FREEWAY: Exploring the Chinese/Australian relationship
Published in China Daily News – June 2013
Published in Melbourne Review – July 2012
In the forty years since diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing were formally established, the ‘China/Australia relationship’ has been carefully nurtured in the twin stratospheres of regional diplomacy and international finance. As the closest quarry to China, Australia has found itself in a unique and profitable geographic and cultural position as supplier of raw materials and potential East/West cultural matchmaker.
However, beneath the lurid glare of mining booms and Mandarin speaking PMs, the strands of connection between Australia and China are being tended to by the many thousands of people living, working and studying in the middle of the cross cultural Ven diagram.
Here in Melbourne, where the roots of the local Chinese community extend back to the gold rush days of the 1850s, the presence of China is highly visible, from the dragon heads of Chinatown to the plane loads of young Chinese students arriving every semester. At this level the much vaunted Sino/Oz relationship is realised in smaller and more personal detail.
According to David Willey, a freelance business and investment consultant, things have certainly changed since his days selling local dairy products into the China market. “What I’m seeing now is Australians and Chinese getting comfortable together and saying, ‘okay, we have some different perspectives but there’s also some common ground’.”
Away from the shared interest of commodity deals and geo-political positioning, the so called common ground is perhaps harder to define. For Willey, the big shift in the relationship since the 1980s is personified by the explosion in the numbers of young Chinese studying here. “We shouldn’t just view that as an economic benefit because these are Chinese families looking to Australia because of the historical connections and the way we do things here. They trust Australia.”
If indeed it is China’s three hundred million under thirties who will shape East/West dialogue in the coming years, then young women like 22yo Meng Lin may well be in the vanguard of a monumental, demographic driven attitude shift. Arriving in Melbourne alone at age sixteen, she has grown up straddling two cultures.
However, after six years in Melbourne, she now voices the oft cited truism that China’s young people are increasingly Westward looking. “I think a lot of Chinese like to learn about Western culture because it’s different; and people are curious about something that’s new,” she says simply. “The one thing I really like about Western culture is the personal freedom and in the future it’s what I will be teaching my children.”
Western liberal individualism and its associated material goods are certainly a big lure for people used to more rigid cultural and political structures. American born, St Kilda based visual artist Robert Davis, who lived and taught in China for much of the last decade, agrees. “Freedom of thought, luxury goods, ownership of property, that whole lifestyle that they’ve seen on television, that’s what was given to them when the markets opened.”
For Davis, who was based in Shanghai for ten years, young China will almost certainly challenge the old order, much in the same way Baby Boomers did in the West. “An artist friend of mine over there said, ‘imagine if you got Disneyland, Picasso and 7/11 all at the same time’. That’s what it’s like for Chinese kids these days.”
If this anecdotal evidence plays out more broadly the China/Australia relationship will likely expand beyond the boardrooms of mining monoliths and the tabletops of cheap dumpling joints to encompass much more direct and personal experience.
Graphic designer Eric Huang could well be a poster boy for this shift. He came to Australia ten years ago from Taiwan to study multimedia and has now settled in Melbourne with his wife and four year old, Australian born daughter. “Australia is very accepting, very multicultural. That’s why I didn’t go to America or Europe, because here I am accepted for my skills.”
According to Huang though, our multicultural paradise is not without its black spots. “My impression is that most Australians think all Chinese are the same. In fact some of my Western friends say, ‘we thought you were all the same, all just Asians, cos you all look the same’. But y’know, in a way, I understand that because I used to think that all Western people looked the same.”
Relationships between countries are often abstract; merely political or economic constructions. Down on the ground, entrenched suspicions and stereotypes remain, even if they are papered over by fusion food and friendly progressives. Tabloid frothing about Asian invasions and selling the farm to China keep the yellow peril alive. “When I was in my own country I had the same feeling,” Eric Huang admits. “There were all these Vietnamese coming in and taking all the jobs and, y’know, people thought they were taking over. They weren’t but that’s what we thought. I think in Australia it’s the same thing.”
One of those Vietnamese, Stan Chang, arrived in Australia in 1980 as part of the wave of post-Vietnam War refugees. An ethnic Chinese, he is now President of the Chinese Authors & Poets Society of Victoria and a spokesperson for the Springvale Asian Business Association.
His experience of the Sino/Oz relationship is very much that of the immigrant trying to deal with language and cultural barriers. Although he now regards Australia as very China friendly he still sounds a warning note. “Today it’s happening to the Muslims,” he says of the media tarring his own community once experienced. “It’s all the same old stories, just with a different migrant community.”
As ever, the coalface of international relations is in the suburbs of our apparently global village. For Stan Chang, geo-political chatter and media musing (like this) are perhaps just a symptom of impatience. “When you take in migrants you know you’re going to have problems at first, with language and culture and so on but the real benefit is in the future. It’s the second generation, the kids and grandkids that really make it work. And that’s what’s happening in our community. For our kids, Australia is their motherland.”
Eric Huang is quick to reflect this experience. “My mum always tells me I should come home and I tell her I already am. Plus, my daughter was born in Australia. She’s an Aussie,” he states.
However, for all the talk of China moving west, the onus is surely on the West to embrace China at a level deeper than dim sims and dragon parades. As business consultant David Willey notes, “The mark of any relationship is the comfort to confide in the other; and I’m not sure that we in Australia, at least at the political level, are comfortable enough to confide in China. If you measure the relationship in dollars and cents you have to ask how it will fare when China finds cheaper sources of coal.”
My Boss Was An Alien … And So Was His Wife.
Pubished in Jobmap – April 2008
“It’s not about the money,” they said. “We’re trying to do something real here.”
Perhaps the saddest part is that I believed them. I mean, they seemed so genuine; this earnest but sensibly dressed hippie couple operating a new age monthly from their loungeroom. Yeah, they had the crystal thing going on and they scrupulously avoided red meat, rock’n’roll and anything less than 70% tofu, but it really did seem like a step up from selling ads for a music mag.
When you’re travelling you expect to have shit jobs, especially if you end up in hospitality, (which by some strange twist, turns out to be one of the most inhospitable industries). I still had fresh memories of London pubs, of guv’nors that liked my girl but hated my earrings, of fellow workers with medieval bathroom standards and music taste mercilessly confined to Cat Stevens; and of relentless 15 hour days and beer rash.
Then there was the gig as glass boy in a gay bar. Nice folks, the owners; they sure liked me but were less keen on the girl, who they referred to as ‘the fish’. Anyway, after getting my buttocks massaged for three weeks by the ever friendly punters, I was unceremoniously replaced by a younger, prettier boy who had agreed to take part in the nightly strip act. “But he’s underage,” I protested.
“Hey, we’re running a business here, not a charity, and hot young meat sells drinks.” And that was that. Money talks, looks cute and gets nude. Oh well.
Back home in Adelaide, the eastern suburbs hippies and their ‘spiritually evolved’ magazine seemed like a much better deal. At the time I was working for a denim clad collective of tiring rock hacks. The hippies headhunted me. “We want you to be our Assistant Editor,” they declared.
So I decamped from rock to reiki, from mere employee to valued team member, from low pay to even lower pay. We were going to make the new age respectable, to liberate it from tie dye outfits and charge by the second charlatans. But not, as it happened, from the alien channelling, intergalactic messengers of light.
My new bosses were in the thrall of Janice and Will, a non-descript looking unit with an irritating nine year old son and a wardrobe consisting entirely of Community Aid Abroad gear. You could stand behind these guys in the check out line and never guess they were higher beings.
When I met them they immediately set their sensors on me, doubtless trying to work out if I was suitable. Turns out I wasn’t. I ate meat, liked electronica and was being controlled from afar by an evil alien mofo with designs on the magazine. (Why is it that super intelligent cosmic beings spend so much time obsessing about shit here on Earth? Haven’t they got better things to do?)
I was despatched forthwith to Will’s clinic to be de-programmed. “You have a lot of light in you, Paul, and I’m going to release it for you.” Well, that sounds nice.
After strapping me to a creaking massage table and attaching what looked like standard issue KGB electrodes to my head, Will proceeded to consult his mixing desk of dials and little red globes and commune with the universal guardians of light.
I’m not entirely sure what the guardians had to say but Will began to emit low, rhythmic, bovine sounds. “Mmmooo … mmmooo.” Meanwhile, his contraption started bleeping and burping and Will was soon rocking autistically while I lay there wondering whether the demonic entities that had taken over my soul were being frightened off. At any rate, I was certainly having second thoughts.
The boss couple were less than impressed that I was less than impressed – and suddenly it was “oh, I don’t suppose you could get here a bit earlier in the mornings.”
Then my pay started not to appear on time and when it did arrive it came with frowns and penny pinching angst. Even though I was writng and/or copy editing the entire mag by that stage things had started to switch from something real to something less expensive, thank you.
In the end saving the galaxy turned out to be less important than saving a couple of hundred bucks and the eco friendly, macrobiotic beings of love started to look more like trust fund tossers who had worked out that chakra balancing the whole world was costing them the earth.
“We just can’t afford to pay you,” they said, after I’d put the latest issue together. “It’s not personal, man, it’s just a money thing.”
Time to get real, it seemed. If only I’d listened to my girl. She never trusted them, they never warmed to her and I never got that final pay packet. That sure gave me something to meditate on.
SALSA (RESTAURANT REVIEW)
Published in port:table (Port Douglas Restaurant Guide) – August 2007.
There aren’t many restaurants that make their own cheeses. To find one that does is nothing short of miraculous. That such a place exists in the far north is even more remarkable. With its slatted windows, white walled Havana-esque aesthetic and balmy ambience, Salsa is iconic Port Douglas.
The Salsa style is full on modern, a fusion of Mediterranean, Asian and contemporary Australian styles. From the homemade dips, creative FNQ seafood, to the exotic Cointreau chocolate soufflé, the menu offers a cosmopolitan taste excursion.
Being a cheese nut, though, I was drawn magnetically to the prospect of their ‘made on site’ cheese platter. Forget everything you’ve ever bought in a supermarket because this is the real deal. This platter comes with a foursome of astonishingly sensuous cheeses.
The double cream goat’s blue is plain evil. Its sharp taste and silky texture are a rarity. Next comes the Za’tar feta, another cheese that blends firework tang and a rich, earthy feel. Meanwhile, the straight blue is mild, almost sweet. Then, just to put the seal on your arteries, they wheel out the triple cream brie. Adjectives like luscious, even orgasmic work fine here. Put together with the homemade walnut bread and quince this is cheese lovers’ heaven.
Naturally, it brings wine to the front of your thoughts, and once again Salsa exceeds expectation with a very cluey selection. (Big South Oz reds stand out, of course. I went for a Jim Barry Shiraz from the Clare Valley. Oh yeah.)
All this decadence only got me thinking dessert. My mind couldn’t get past the idea of the sorbet trilogy. This is surely the ideal tropical treat; light, not too sweet and rippling with exotic FNQ fruitiness.
If I wasn’t already close to unconscious with delight, the Affogato coffee with vanilla bean icecream and Frangelico just about put the seal on things. This is a wickedly lavish but simple indulgence. Temptation is not to be resisted in this instance.
Salsa is the locals’ fave, no doubt, and Head Chef Goran Zonai, Sous Chef Timothy Cook, Sous Chef/Owner Bill Conway and the rest of the crew deserve every accolade that comes their way. There is not only super food here but a wonderful spirit that puts pure joy front row centre. No wonder we all love it.
Bree Anymore? (Sex work up north … but not in Port)
Published in re:port – December 2006.
C’mon, we all know who Bree is, don’t we? We’ve seen the discreet ad; maybe been tempted to dial that number? Hey, I was. So I did … but guess what, all we did was talk.
Seriously, though, whatever your moral position on sex work, the ‘oldest profession’ flourishes everywhere, but, according to Bree, (a slim blonde by all accounts), there’s “not a lot” of trade up here in Port Douglas.
Despite the occasional boat trip and hotel visit, Bree insists that Port is not exactly swinging from the chandeliers. “I don’t find that it’s huge,” she says. “Y’know, I might get a group of guys from Sydney and they’re booked into the Mirage, three or four of them, and they’re just up for a dirty weekend … but half the time they’ll come down to Cairns anyway.”
As for the idea of setting up shop in Port, Bree is adamant, “There’s just no way that a girl would set herself up in a hotel up there and sit there and wait for a job. She’d never make any money.”
In addition to poor returns, there is also the small town factor. This, Bree argues, would make any proposed brothel unviable “I mean, who’s going work in it? You’re not going to get girls living up there and working there. No way.”
However, that is not to say that FNQ doesn’t provide a good living for a working girl. Put it this way, Bree’s Christmas present to herself this year is a brand new BMW.
Times weren’t always so lucrative. Indeed, before she entered the sex industry, she was working in the nursery business on the Gold Coast. However, with water restrictions starting to bite, she began to look further afield, and after relocating to Cairns she “just got into this industry.”
She remembers how a friend introduced her to the idea and that, after three weeks of serious deliberation, she jumped in. “I started doing it and it was kind of exciting, y’know. Prior to that I was just going out and having sex with guys anyway, so I just found it was quite easy to do, especially when you get good money.”
As a ‘private girl’, Bree does both ‘in’ and ‘out’ calls, meeting clients day or night at her residence, at rooms she books herself or at the client’s chosen location. Suffice it say, it keeps her busy, and it puts the money in her pocket, rather than the bank account of a brothel owner.
“Brothels are so over regulated,” she claims. “I’ve asked my clients and over eighty percent of them say they would never visit a brothel … and I can’t see girls working in a brothel up here because they can’t do the out calls, and that’s huge. I mean, why would they give half their money to a brothel? Sex workers are not dills, y’know.”
The theory is, of course, that what brothels lack in choice for the girls, they more than make up for in safety. “I can have my own security and claim tax on that,” Bree points out. “The only safety concern I really have is driving; y’know, some idiot’s going to be on the road and wipe me out.”
Meanwhile, the business keeps on calling. With approximately sixty five percent of her client base being locals, Bree will book out $75 rooms and see five or six patrons a day. She also gets a lot of business from visiting ‘reps’ and, every now and then, some bigger fish. Indeed, the night before this interview she saw a well-known (but not A list) Hollywood actor in a presidential suite.
“And then, y’know, on a Friday or Saturday night you get a lot of young guys and they’ve had a few drinks and they just want an empty,” she explains.
With an average of around six clients a day, Bree is working her way towards home ownership and all round financial security. “And I do pay tax,” she adds, noting that it’s quite easy for the ATO catch private girls out by posing as clients.
As to whether she has any ‘issues’ about doing sex work, Bree is blunt. “I see more problems in relationships. Y’know, I weed my garden of idiots, I don’t do drugs, I don’t flaunt what I’ve got and I work hard. I mean, it is easy money, it just depends on your emotional state.”