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Byron Shire
June 15, 2021

All fired up: former magistrate fumes at news of the world

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David Heilpern

Recently retired magistrate David Heilpern. Photo Jeff Dawson

I think I have an anger management problem. Those close to me have suggested none-too-subtly that when I read an article that upsets, I could perhaps focus on taking out my angst on inanimate objects rather than sentient beings. Fair point really. They have tried everything else to calm my raving – the most creative is a ‘swear jar’ of $10 for every time I mention drug law reform. It’s almost up to a Tesla already.

And so I gently sit down to read the papers – deep breaths, slightly longer on the exhale, loving kindness, yoga posture. When reading the Murdoch press (headlines only because I refuse to pay him one red cent), I remember to smile continuously, repeating slowly and calmly that ‘this is not a personal attack on me and mine’. What could go wrong…

First, there were two headlines next to each other blaring ‘Shell expects to pay no tax on gas drawn from massive Gorgon project’ and ‘Victoria to introduce mileage tax on electric cars’. Multinationals to get our gas for free and give nothing back, and meanwhile let’s strangle the electric car industry, getting further behind the rest of the world – just like drug law reform (oops – $10 in the jar). Those two headlines just about sum up everything that is screwed about our energy and climate change policies. The rationale is so irrational. Because fossil fuel cars pay road tax as part of the fuel price, electric vehicle (EV) drivers avoid this tax and so should be taxed. No other jurisdiction in the world has a stand-alone EV tax of this type. And this is from an ALP government! Zero recognition of the comparative environmental impact of the modes of power. Even the coalition in New South Wales has ruled out such a tax for now. Meanwhile in gasland australis, the 50-billion-dollar Gorgon gas project (owned by Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil) will sell billions of dollars of our gas, and pay no tax, because the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax is so ridiculous and legally avoidable. And meanwhile our household gas bills continue to increase.

Are these priorities the right ones?

Next, I read about yet another woman burnt to death by her partner, in her own back yard in front of her children, on the Gold Coast. She sought help from the police almost every day after her first domestic violence (DV) complaint. She was a friend of a friend and the ghastliness of her death, and the rising tally at Destroy the Joint (a page that counts the number of women killed by DV in Australia: 11 women in April, 55 so far in 2020), sent me into a frenzied internal rant of negativity about policing priorities and drug laws (in goes another $10). Perhaps my ire was already heightened by the 1,500 drug driving tests surrounding Nimbin during MardiGrass, (another $10). How many perpetrators of domestic violence went unpoliced that weekend as a result? This is not a facile or academic connection – the police choose to spend their time chasing victimless drug crimes ($10) rather than policing family-based violence.

The recent federal budget papers recognised that one woman is killed by her partner every nine days, and that one in four women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a current or previous intimate partner since the age of 15. The papers also cited research that one in five Australians believe that many actions that constitute domestic violence are normal reactions to day-to-day stress and frustration. Allocating policing resources to match these concerns might just assist – but nothing will help if police are otherwise engaged (chasing victimless crime) or attitudes are entrenched. Try this quick quiz – in Queensland, how many police officers have been accused of domestic violence in the past five years? How many have been sacked? You’d be right if you said 84. And zero.

Then, just as I was calming down, I thought I’d avoid local news and focus on the world news section. No joy there either. Ninety per cent of Egyptian women between 15 and 49 have undergone female genital mutilation. I have no words to respond to that, only tears. And Egypt has the death penalty for cannabis, (yep, another $10).

Students are taking their frustration to the streets. Photo supplied.

How does one react to news of environmental vandalism, rampant domestic violence and mutilation of women without anger or distress? I know the theories and the practices; I muddle through like we all do.

But this time, keeping to my pledge of inanimate reaction, I built a great big pyramid out of all my favourite leftover building materials and ignited it with the help of last month’s [ITAL]Echo (sorry Hans). I could actually see my own image from April’s column burning in the pyre. I had created a masterful symbol both of Egyptian pyramids and my own fruitless blurting written efforts – with no change ever to everything or anything I write about. Drug laws are still mired in stagnation, (another $10), refugee families remain in lock-ups, more black deaths in custody. I watched my lovely teak off-cuts burn to ashes and dust. I felt worse.

I’ve heard shopping helps. Perhaps I’ll try that. In my Tesla.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. David, You are a legend!! You so well articulate the frustration that so many of us feel every day!!!
    Perhaps you should purchase the Tesla soon in the optimistic hope that drug laws might change?! I owe you $10

  2. Hi David, I understand what you say because I know what you mean since my own
    reactions do require some form of control before ‘losing it’ and storming off to
    window-shop. Still can’t get the perks and works of land and government out of
    my head. Women’s causeless attacks plus deaths. Trust a crooked-heartless
    cop? Sure can.

  3. Thank you David for articulating the anger so many of us feel and in helpless frustration every day try to walk a sane path through a morass of stupid Government decisions – all those you mention plus the theft and mismanagement of Murray Darling water, the imprisonment of whistle blowers who should rather have been applauded for their honesty and that anyone is homeless or hungry whilst our Government refuses to initiate appropriate taxes on resources to ensure the assets that belong to all Australians benefit Australia..

  4. Thanks for telling it like it is David, even though it’s depressing. And there is so much corruption everywhere one looks, that it’s inspiring to hear someone tell the truth without fear of consequences. Great respect David, <3

  5. I so resonate with your anger…which we are not allowed to own! Try music David. Make it a ritual. Learn songs and melodies. You enjoy Leonard Cohen eh? Return to the poets and musicians for soul balm. It aids balance for over-burdened brains. Ommmmmm and good luck.

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