The Red and the Black – more than being in the red or the black


Like many younger siblings, I never really had a choice about which footy club to support. My older brother told me that we were the Bombers and from the age of three that’s what I was; a Bomber. Choice and footy clubs aren’t concepts that usually meet – you have a tribe, you are told you are part of the tribe and it remains that way until you die through career changes and relationship break-ups. My tribe is Essendon FC. I’ve never been one to hate. I don’t hate other clubs or tribes. For me hatred is a foreign country I’ve never felt comfortable in – whenever I’ve accidentially wandered there I’ve always wanted to get out quickly. When I encounter the emotion in others, pending their relationship to me and what their hate is directed towards, it’s either likely to make me feel confused and hurt, diminish my respect for someone or sense a weakness in an opponent.

I had an isolated childhood. I grew up in Melbourne but I was always geographically isolated from most of my family. At school I was never great at sport – the type of little kid who would stay home and read. I was an outsider in my own family. I was an outsider in my own community. I was also the type of kid with a single parent where I could easily get away with not going to school. From this I learned there is nothing more embarassing than charity, especially when you see the pity in someone’s eyes. Footy provided an escape from the shame.

Essendon FC in the early 90s was a tribe coached by a plumber and captained by a sparkie. It played with fluidity and power. There was a certain unpredictability that could frustrate and excite – often in the same game or even passage of play. The team could play flat for one, two or three quarters and then suddenly spark into life to clinch a game. In 1992-3, the whole identity of the club had taken human form and his name was Derek Kickett, which is why Sheedy’s decision to drop him for the 1993 Grand Final to this day remains contentious. I remember, however, unlike Kickett being lucky enough to go the 1993 Grand Final and watch Michael Long burn across the turf taking four bounces and kick one of the all time great goals – the flag was won at the moment in the first quarter. Long may’ve almost run too far without bouncing the ball and whether Silvagni touched it on the line probably depended on whether he had cut his nails that morning but that’s what made the Dons so great – spectacular failure was always milimetres away.

This was 1993 – the UN year of indigenous people and Essendon had an Aboriginal flag in the cheer squad. Kevin Sheedy, the genius plumber, ended up helping to lay the groundwork for showcasing Aboriginal achievement (in sport at least) probably because it was the most direct route to building a successful team. We won because we didn’t let racism get in the way of success. Reconciliation became the first social issue I really cared about – the club allowed me to start on a journey of justice and equality. Social justice values enabled Essendon success in the long 90s.

But somewhere that was lost. For me the news that Paddy Ryder is going to Port Adelaide represents the low point. Here is a decent young man and a genius of a player who needs to find a new home because he feels that the club has endangered the long-term welfare of his family. We were a success when we were the club that treated our players with dignity and believed in them even when they were “babies” and now we are lost because we treat our players as commodities – to be tested, sliced and spliced for the utlimate winning formula. I can’t tell you exactly when Essendon went from being a club to a corporation, however, I think 2007 should’ve provided a large warning. When the Essendon board were deciding between Damien Hardwick and Matthew Knights as the next senior coach, it was reportedly unimpressed with Hardwick’s assessment of the club’s position and strength relative to the rest of the league. A favourite son came back to us, told us some hard truths and we rejected him.

Now we have to face those hard truths. Essendon FC can no longer be run like Toll Logistics. A club is a community not a corporation. A footy club build values in the community. A corporation sucks value out of the community. Success isn’t about wringing the most profit you can out of your people. Success comes from building a community that people want to be a part of. A top-down approach does not allow a whole team to take enough responsiblity and initiative to win. Success in the private sector today largely comes from being able to avoid responsbility. If a club, however, does not take responsbility then neither can its players. We injected our players with some strange shit that has uncertain long-term medical implications. We consciously endangered their health and safety. It pains me to even have to write this but Essendon FC has to stop fighting ASADA – we owe it to the players to assist them as much as possible from taking the full consequences of what was a failure of leadership but inevitably suspensions will come and we’ll have to cop them. Paul Little and James Hird have to go.

We need more than a change in personnel though. The club needs a change of culture and we should use the long night of the ASADA suspensions for positive change. Let me suggest a few:

  • Let’s drop the poker machines – it’s a blight that this club and so many others rely on poker machine revenue. Surely we are better than one-armed bandits sucking money up. Surely we are smart enough to find better revenue sources than one which ruins the lives of club members and fans.
  • Let’s properly run the club along cooperative lines – one player, one vote and one member, one vote. Reaching the nadir of looking after our players should help us to find a way to once again to see social justice values driving success. For example, the AFL already has a salary cap – we could have a simple pay classification: one level for new players, a regular rate for senior players, and two higher tiers for great players and elite players. The players and coaching staff could come to a determination each season as to which grade a player fits into. Playing for the respect of your peers is inbuilt into the pay structure. Play for the jumper or pay. The only players that we would lose for salary cap reasons are those who want to go elsewhere to earn more money, and the overall coherence of the team would be protected.
  • Let’s start a process that involves meaningfully the whole Essendon FC community about the finances, priorities and culture of the club. The ideas and passion of the supporters is ultimately the fundamental resource of a footy club. In the wreckage of the suspensions a participative process of planning for the next 10 years can heal us and help us find pride once again.

We need to go through a process so we can once again find pride in our tribe, in our club. To all those engaging in schadenfreude about Essendon’s plight I simply say this – true footy fans don’t join other tribes. We wander lost in the wildnerness and fringes of the game. And when one tribe is lost it diminishes the rest of us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Just how stuffed the world is today, The road map to another world

No day is the same peoples, so let’s take the wheel

Every day we act, albeit mostly unconsciously, to recreate the day before. With the same habits, commute, and routine always adding up to something new. No matter how hard we try though, our days are different. In a world striving for repetition, all we can achieve is change. Our realities are messy, complex and above all fragile.

I want you to think back over the last week – concentrate on each day. Were any two really the same? Sure there might have been similarities – shifts at the same time, fixed appointments, tasks and chores you needed to get done. Your life next week will be different compared with this week as it was to last week. It might not be any better but it’s still not the same. Even the process of following our routine produces change over time – whether it’s our choice of diet, an exercise routine or in my case simply the cumulative effects of bad posture. Think of how Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day takes up piano lessons and progresses rather amusingly from complete novice to an apparently first-time virtuoso. It is the semblance of sameness from which change itself can stem.

We take our cues from our highly fallible and selective memories to get us through our days. Our memories and instincts are like an evolutionary rough guide for survival – collapsing our sum total of experiences and differences into a shorthand set of instructions for what we need to do next. In such an environment change is a potential threat and our realities form from a set of falsely secure assumptions so we can get what we need done. It is here we conflate the inevitably (from a human time-scale point of view) of the physical and natural world with the inevitably of the human community we construct and reconstruct each day.

There is a gap between the complexity of our experiences and the memories of those experiences. But there is another gap; between the complexity of reality itself and our ability to experience it. We don’t see reality with our eyes but a simplified translation of it – complete with blind spots and short-term memory to string together a coherent visual experience. We are forever simplifying our experience of reality. There is a difference between what you see and the reality of what is around you. For example, when you order your coffee at the same time at the same place each day you don’t naturally perceive that our solar system has travelled nearly 20 million kilometres around our galaxy from one order to the next.

In order to survive and make do we simplify reality – where change is ignored or a threat. This makes change, even when we want it, appear a much more distant or improbable prospect than it really is. And for those of us who are actively seeking change in the world, it means the arrival of new tools, campaigns, strategies and organisations can be seen as a threat.

No system of control and uniformity lasts forever. There is only change.

Change is inevitable and yet it surprises us when it arrives.

Solidarity to the people of #Ferguson.

Solidarity to the people of #Gaza.

Solidarity to the people of #Scotland.

1 Comment

Filed under The road map to another world

Abbott and Hockey are killing people

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are killing people. Fellow humans and citizens are dying because of the decisions they are making and the deliberate policies they are pursuing. I cannot see into the future. I don’t know what the final death toll we will let them get away with is. I don’t know exactly whose children, whose brother, whose sister or whose parents will die because of their decisions. I only know that there will be a death toll and that each of us knows someone who will die.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Just how stuffed the world is today

We Count! So #whatweneed is to talk about the #shitweneed

Where does hope spring from? A progressive form of hope comes from a belief that things can be different, in contrast to the conservative form of hope, which is a vague trust that the existing institutions of our society will fix our problems. As I wrote in my last post – Australia is experiencing the death of this conservative hope but we are still awaiting the birth of a new hope. What I would like to put forward after a few weeks of discussion with many people is a proposal to nurture the growth of a belief in change in the Australian people.
Continue reading


Filed under The road map to another world

Hope is dead. Long live Hope.

In Australia today, we lack hope. It is the missing ingredient for social change. There is no great love for our institutions of power or the ideas they espouse. The status quo reigns but only for want of a challenger. It reigns in weakness; battered, bruised and beaten. Most people no longer trust the concrete forms the status quo takes nor many of the ideas which inform it. Continue reading


Filed under The road map to another world

Community membership

communitylogoThis week the National Union of Workers (disclaimer: where I work) launched a new form of Union membership – a community membership. From a personal perspective, in this post I would like to outline what I think this means for the union movement in Australia and the prospect of building for progressive change.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under The road map to another world

Calling a General Strike

Each day we wake up to the reality of the past feeding off the future. As each day is ushered into the present, corporate vultures repeatedly feast on the organs of the future. We rip off shreds of our national wealth and feed them to the vultures. Their hunger remains. We push more and more student and housing debt onto the next generation struggling to make its stand in the world. Still the vultures want more. We push the costs of ecological clean up to a future we imagine will never arrive. Still the vultures hunger. They will never be satisfied. The seemingly perpetual present of the Prometheus cannot continue. It is a cycle that dooms us to oblivion. Continue reading


Filed under The road map to another world

6 Reasons why Social Funding can effectively end political corruption

Shit is about to get real...ugly

Shit is about to get real…ugly for the political class.

While ICAC has temporarily suspended its inquiry into the soliciting and concealment of political payments, we have a chance to reflect on the systemic implications of what we we’ve found out. The roll call of resignations, suspensions and those broadly implicated in the last few weeks runs deep – former NSW resources Minister Chris Hartcher, former Federal Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos, Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, former NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher, Central Coast MPs Darren Webber and Chris Spence, and former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. It feels like a George RR Martin novel where the body count is extensive, the web of intrigue intricate and there are thousands of pages of plot still to come where the axe will continue to swing. O’Farrell’s unexpected beheading certainly signals the unfolding of chaos for the political class in the capital and the rest of the seven kingdoms. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Blog is Back

Need before Greed

The Blog of Claims is back people. I’ll resume posting on topics designed to get us to a world which is based on fulfilling the needs of the many as opposed to meeting the greed of the few. I’ve been on extended hiatus between getting married, going on honeymoon and getting in the swing of a new role at work. However, I’m now in a position to begin regular posting again so here’s the rules:

  1. The usual posting cycle will be once per fortnight – every second Sunday.
  2. Topics will generally be a mix of unionism with a hack effort at politics and economics thrown in.
  3. Individual posts will be between 700-1000 words (give or take 10 per cent).
  4. I’ll attempt to throw in a dash of humour where possible.
  5. All of the above may be broken where I judge necessary (for instance it would be pretty boring if I turned this post into 1000 words).

For for some extended reading here’s a dialogue I engaged in with ACTU economists Matt Cowgill on housing policy. Enjoy.

I’m also open to taking suggestions re updating my blog roll, so please let me know what you think I should add or delete.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We’re no longer beholden to Detroit

To lament the death of the Australian car industry is to grieve for something which never existed. Australia has never been anything more than a branch office for the global players of Detroit and Tokyo. An industrial reflection, perhaps, of Australia’s subservient foreign policy. Our political class has never really had the courage or strength to take matters into their own hands. And so it continues with General Motors (GM) announcing the cessation of Australian manufacturing from 2017. The mainstream political debate is stuck between lamenting that this was an inevitable but natural result of market dynamics and that further public subsidies could have kept GM manufacturing in Australia. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under The road map to another world