Sydney’s journalists established their first club in Phillip St in 1939, on the upper floors of Federation House. It was a late-night dive, which should surprise no one, and my parents, who worked for Packer’s ‘Telegraph’ at the time, said there’d always be a frantic drunken scramble, shirt-tails flying & shoes clattering along the empty street, to catch the last Eastern Suburbs tram as it rattled up from Circular Quay around one AM. Mum swore this was the origin of the phrase ‘to shoot through like a Bondi tram’; then again, Mum swore at lots of things.
From 1958-97 the club had its own premises in Chalmers St, along a narrow lane that ran between Elizabeth St & Central station. The new Journos’ Club had all the raffish elegance of a waterfront early opener, the sort of sleazy dump where half the customers are trying to forget and the other half are trying to remember. The main bar featured lots of memorabilia, among them a yellowed original poster from 1900 announcing the Relief of Mafeking, and a highly-polished ship’s bell. A small plaque warned the unwary that anyone indulging in random tintinnabulation (i.e. without there being a genuine emergency) had to shout around for the entire bar. A persistent legend suggested that the last man to ring that bell was none other than Prime Minister Menzies.
And thus it was that early one morning in 1974 I asked club president (and later historian) Don Angel whether this had happened. He’d been running the club for decades, along with being boss of 2UE News & one of the old-time characters that our media used to spawn. (He also happened to be my uncle, but the two branches of the family had never been close, so I can’t say I’d ever really known him.)
“Remember it like it was yesterday, Danny,” he beamed. “Ming had just had a press conference & was all smiles. He came through that door, read the warning, gave the rope two brisk tugs, and announced in that plummy voice of his ‘It’s always a pleasure to stand around for the gentlemen of the Press.’
“There were only two people in the bar. And yeah, he counted them very carefully.”
The moral of the story is that there is no such thing as a generous Liberal, and there never has been. Scott Morrison: you rang that bloody bell every day for three years, and nothing ever came of it. Eventually, even the faithful realized that your promises didn’t amount to a hill of beans. At times, much as it pains me to have to say it, it seemed you had 90% of Australia’s journalists on your payroll, and it STILL wasn’t enough to save your saggy arse. Now the bell has tolled for thee. So yeah, sunshine, you can shoot through any time you like. Like a Bronte tram, if you insist.
The Wolf and the Lamb Once, a little lamb was grazing on a meadow, along with a flock of sheep.
Being very mischievous, the little lamb wandered some distance away from the sheep.
It began to enjoy the fresh and delicious grass that it found there.
It had come a long way from its group, but was unaware of that.
The lamb was also unaware of another fact: a wolf was closely following it!
When the lamb realized that it had lost its way and was far away from the flock, it decided to return and join them.
However, the lamb was stunned to see a hungry and cunning wolf standing behind it.
The lamb realized that there was no option except to surrender itself to the wolf.
The lamb asked the wolf, “Are you going to eat me?” The wolf said, “Yes, at any cost!” The lamb said again, “But can you please wait for some more time?
I have eaten a lot of grass now and my stomach is filled with grass. If you eat me now, you will feel as though you are eating grass! So please wait until the grass is digested.”
The wolf agreed, “Oh yes, I will wait. You are here before me and I can wait for some more time!” The lamb thanked the wolf.
After some time, the wolf got ready to kill lamb, but the lamb stopped him again. “Dear wolf, please wait for some more time. The grass is yet to be digested. If you eat me now, you will see a lot of grass in my stomach!
Let me dance and then it will be digested easily.” The wolf agreed. The little lamb danced crazily for a while, and then suddenly stopped.
The wolf enquired what had happened. The lamb said, “I cannot dance properly because there is no music.
Do you see this bell around my neck?
Can you untie this bell and ring it loudly?
Then I can dance fast and the grass in my stomach also will get digested fast.”
The wolf, overcome with the desire to eat the lamb, was ready to do anything.
He removed the bell tied to the lamb’s neck and rang it with all his might.
Meanwhile, the shepherd was searching for the little lamb and heard the bell ringing.
He saw the wolf and the lamb.
He ran towards the wolf with a stick.
Seeing the shepherd with a stick, the wolf ran away, and the lamb was saved!
Physical strength is not sufficient.
Sometimes, weaker people with smart minds can overcome the physically strong ones!
A seismic shift has taken place in Finland in the two months since Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops and tanks across the border into Ukraine.
The small Nordic country shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia and has long been wary of provoking its powerful neighbour to the east.
Finland, like Ukraine, is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) despite maintaining close defence cooperation with the organisation.
Instead, the country is officially non-aligned militarily and has steadfastly maintained its independence for decades.
But as Russian troops have besieged cities, bombed hospitals and allegedly committed war crimes against Ukraine, internal support for Finland’s current security position has dramatically changed.
Rather than being cowed by Putin’s aggression, the invasion has driven the Nordic country into the warm embrace of NATO.
Henri Vanhanen, a foreign policy adviser for the national coalition party in Finland, has watched the “rapid change” unfold in his country over the last few months.
He describes Finland’s possible NATO membership as “significant and exceptional”.
“We have reached a now-or-never point in Finland. We see a potentially more isolated and aggressive Russia … and I think, therefore, as the security situation in Europe develops, we also have to evolve our deterrence and also our security,” he told the ABC.
Finland is not alone in considering an extraordinary change to its alliance. Sweden’s ruling party is also debating whether the country should join NATO after the invasion of Ukraine.
If accepted, the addition of both nations into NATO could prove to be one of the biggest strategic consequences of the war in Ukraine.
It could also deliver a significant blow to Putin by potentially bringing the West closer to his doorstep.
“He expected a weak response from both organisations. [What he got] was quite the opposite and [he] clearly did not expect that Finland and Sweden would make the decision that they would be a better fit to join the alliance.”
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin recently announced that her country will decide whether to apply to join NATO “within weeks”.
Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported earlier this month that leader Magdalena Andersson was aiming to apply for membership in time for a NATO summit in late June.Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin could stand up to Vladimir Putin. (Reuters: Paul Wennerholm/TT News Agency)
It’s a rather sharp turnaround from before the war, when there was little possibility of either country joining the western military alliance.
Polling on NATO membership in both countries was stable for decades, with a clear majority opposed to signing on.
Now, surveys show approximately 68 per cent of respondents in Finland are in favour of joining NATO. Support in Sweden is lower but still growing, with 57 per cent of Swedes favouring membership, rising from 51 per cent in March.
If both countries were to join NATO, Mr Morcos says, this would “change the security balance in the region”.
Finland’s membership alone would almost double NATO’s common border with Russia, from 1,233km to 2,533km.
Part of Putin’s reason for invading Ukraine was to prevent the country from signing on to the alliance.
But rather than weakening NATO with a ruthless war, the Russian leader may have only hastened its expansion.
“Clearly, this was a mistake in terms of calculation and expectations coming from Vladimir Putin,” Mr Morcos said.
Finland’s testy relationship with its neighbour
Finland has a long and complicated history with its unpredictable neighbour, which resulted in its current non-aligned status.
After more than a century in the Russian Empire, it officially declared independence in 1917.
But almost 20 years later, as most countries were engrossed in WWII, the Soviets saw an opportunity and invaded. The brutal campaign became known as the Winter War.The Finnish army were outgunned and outmatched by Russian troops in the Winter War.(Wikimedia Commons)
Despite being outgunned, Finland managed to stymie Russia’s attack and prevent a full-scale invasion until a treaty was signed in 1940. Finland ceded some of its borderland to its eastern neighbour as part of the conditions for peace.
In an effort to further placate Russia, the northern European country also adapted its policies to suit the Soviet Union, while remaining officially neutral, during the Cold War.
Western scholars have described this phenomenon with the somewhat derisive term “Finlandisation”. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed, Finland abandoned its neutrality in favour of joining the European Union in 1995.
“It remained militarily non-aligned, in a sense, perhaps [because of its] legacy of trying not to inflame Russia, on its border,” says Katharine AM Wright, a senior lecturer in international politics at Newcastle University.
Even so, Finland has maintained close ties with Europe and intensified joint exercises with NATO after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.A treaty signed by both nations resulted in Finland ceding some of its borderlands.(Wikimedia Commons)
Now the invasion of Ukraine has prompted many to consider taking the next step of joining the alliance.
“I think for both people in Finland and also people in Sweden, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been felt particularly personally, and it’s made it seem more kind of real that something similar could happen to them,” Ms Wright said.
This is a particular concern for locals who live in the country’s border towns.
“I am a bit fearful. I live two, three kilometres from here, in the first apartment buildings that you face when coming from their [Russia’s] direction,” Marja-Liisa Kantokivi, who lives in Finland’s border-crossing town of Imatra, told Reuters.
It is these residents who would be on the front line of any possible conflict.
Russia’s aggression has also forced Sweden to reconsider its position, although its progress has been much slower.Mariupol has been besieged by Russian troops and forces from self-proclaimed separatist areas in eastern Ukraine for more than six weeks.(AP: Alexei Alexandrov)
The ruling Social Democrats party has long been opposed to joining NATO, though there are signs that may soon change.
Sweden’s government is currently reviewing its security policy. The outcome, which is expected at the end of May, could help pave the way for a Swedish bid.
The invasion was a geopolitical shock that saw both Sweden and Finland “change their position and perception dramatically”, according to Mr Morcos.
He says the same could be said of other countries, such as Germany, which committed more than two per cent of GDP to defence spending in response to the war in Ukraine.
“It shows that the invasion has been such a tectonic shift for Europeans that they had to completely revamp their assumptions and to rebuild and reinvent their defence policies,’ he said.
Analysts suggest that Finland could put in a bid before the NATO summit in Madrid in June. It would require the support of a two-thirds majority from Finland’s parliament.Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said if her country joins NATO it will happen “within weeks, not within months”. (Reuters: Ludovic Marin)
Membership would then require approval from all 30 member states and could take up to a year to complete.
But the country’s close relationship with NATO could help streamline the process. Former NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has stated that Finland could join “overnight”, though others are doubtful it will be that quick.
As they await a decision, Finland could be left vulnerable, experts say.
“I think the essential question here is would Russia try to actually prevent Finland’s NATO membership from happening, or just demonstrate a brutal protest against it? Because by nature, these are two very different things,” Mr Vanhanen said.
“I think the answer is pretty much dependent on does Russia believe that can actually prevent a membership? And to be honest, I think, it cannot.”
A recent report, which assessed the ramifications of Finland’s possible membership in NATO, warned the country “should be prepared for extensive efforts to exercise influence and risks that are difficult to anticipate”.
One of those risks, it warned, could be increasing tensions on the border between Finland and Russia.
How will Russia react to NATO on its border?
While Finland risks provoking Russia with its NATO decision, Putin would need to carefully weigh his response once the alliance is on his doorstep.
“Logically, if [Putin] was worried about NATO expanding, he wouldn’t be perhaps acting the way he’s acting in terms of invading and intervening in neighbouring states,” Ms Wright said.
She suggests that it would make more sense for Mr Putin to try to counter NATO in different ways, perhaps through building bridges, but that’s “not what we’ve seen”.
One of Mr Putin’s closest allies has already warned NATO that if Sweden and Finland joined the alliance, then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in the Baltics.Dmitry Medvedev (left) warned NATO that if Sweden and Finland joined, Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles. (Reuters: Alexei Druzhinin)
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that if his neighbour were to join NATO, Russia would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea.
Already local media has reported that a Russian plane was suspected of violating Finnish airspace earlier this month and government websites suffered hacking attacks when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was giving a video address to Finland’s parliament.
Mr Morcos says these are clear signs that Russia is “trying to pressure both countries not to join the alliance”.
But after two previous battles with the Soviet Union, Finland is not without its own defences. Reports suggest it can “swiftly mobilise” 280,000 troops, “with a maximum of 900,000”.
“I don’t see any change of position from both countries because of Russian blackmail,” Mr Morcos says.
After failing to secure a quick victory in Ukraine, the extension of Russia’s border with NATO will deliver yet another humiliating blow to Putin.
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Duration: 5 minutes 21 seconds5mZelenskyy warns Moscow wants to invade other countries
💥 The Crystal Ball In the south of Spain, there was a small village whose people were very joyful. The children played under the shades of trees in the gardens of their homes. A shepherd boy named Nasir stayed near the village with his father, mother, and grandmother.
💥Each morning, he took his herd of goats up the hills to find a suitable place for them to graze. In the afternoon he would return with them to the village. Each night his grandmother would tell him a story – the story of stars.
💥This story interested Nasir. On one of those days, as Nasir was watching his herd and playing his flute, he suddenly saw a wonderful light behind a flower bush.
💥 When he approached the bush, he saw a transparent and very beautiful crystal ball. The crystal ball was glittering like a colorful rainbow. Nasir carefully took it in his hand and turned it around. With surprise, suddenly, he heard a weak voice coming from the crystal ball.
💥 It said, “You can make a wish that your heart desires and I will fulfill it.” Nasir could not believe that he had heard a voice
💥 When he made sure that he had indeed heard that voice from the crystal ball, he was very confused. He had so many wishes that he could not decide upon one particular wish.
💥 He said to himself, ‘if I wait till tomorrow I will remember many things. Then I will make my wish.’ He put the crystal ball in a bag and, gathering the herd, happily returned to the village. He decided that he would not tell anyone about the crystal ball. On the following day also, Nasir could not decide what to wish for, because he had everything he needed.
💥The days passed as usual, but Nasir was still unable to make his wish. But he appeared to be very cheerful. The people around him were amazed to see the change in his disposition.
One day, a boy followed Nasir and his herd and hid behind a tree. Nasir, as usual, sat in one corner, took out the crystal ball, and for a few moments looked at it.
💥 The boy waited for the moment when Nasir would go to sleep. When Nasir did fall asleep after a while, the boy took the crystal ball and ran away. When he arrived at the village, he called all the people and showed them the crystal ball.
💥 The citizens of that village took the crystal ball in their hands and turned it around with surprise. Suddenly they heard a voice from inside the crystal ball, which said, “I can fulfill your wish.
” One person took the ball and screamed, “I want one bag full of gold.” Another took the ball and said loudly, “I want two chests full of jewelry.” Some of them wished that they would have their palace with a grand door made from pure gold, instead of their old houses.
💥 Some others wished for bags full of jewelry. All their wishes were fulfilled, but still, the citizens of the village were not happy. They were jealous because the person that had a palace had no gold and the person that had the gold had no palace. For this reason, the citizens of the village were angry with each other and stopped speaking to each other. The gardens in the village where children used to play were no more. There were palaces and gold everywhere. The children became unhappy. Only Nasir and his family were happy and contented.
💥 Every morning and afternoon he would play the flute. One day the children of the village took the crystal ball to Nasir. The children said to Nasir, “When we had a small village, we all were happy and joyful.” The parents also spoke. They said, “In one way or another, all of us are unhappy. The luxurious palaces and jewelry only bring us pain.” When Nasir saw that the people were regretful, he said, “Even though the crystal ball asked me to wish for something, I have not done it so far. But if you want everything to return to its place, then I will wish for it.” Everyone happily agreed.
Nasir took the crystal ball in his hand, turned it around, and wished that the village would become the same as it was before. In a moment, the palaces disappeared, the green gardens appeared, and the same old village full of trees was there.
Once again the people started to live happily and the children played under the shade of trees. Nasir continued his contented life every day, playing his flute at sunset. Its sweet sound was heard throughout the beautiful green village.
We should be happy with whatever we have and not be greedy.