Michael Madigan

  • Secrets are out, all oldies, some goodies

    BRISBANE -- We had a haircut known as the mullet -- long at the back short at the sides -- and we smoked on airlines, didn't have Facebook profiles and believed phones should be tethered by cords. AIDS was a strange new disease that brought out the worst of our prejudices, and $177 a week was a reasonable wage to survive on.
  • Hijinks underscore tribal holiday cheer

    BRISBANE -- Christmas Day, 11:30 a.m., and four men, two boys and several cans of beer are gathered in a backyard pool on a broiling Australian morning. The four adults -- who range from a miner to public servant to talented linguist working in the nation's capital -- are chatting happily, pausing only to place one hand on the head of one of the boys, pushing the child down into the watery depths.
  • Horrors of Aussie inquiry

    BRISBANE -- That the whimsical, sweet-natured, self-defeating comic creation Charlie Brown could be used by a pedophile to lure his victims is not the worst piece of evidence to come out of Australia's Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse. A predator priest's creation of his own little "Brown family'' has provided one of the more poignant parables for a crime that so ruthlessly sabotages childhoods.
  • GM puts brake on producing Oz mobiles

    BRISBANE -- Australia no longer makes tires or electric motors, and soon, after an explosive announcement Wednesday night, motor cars. The news that Australia will close down its Holden factory was a bombshell that exploded far beyond the business pages, penetrating deep into a national consciousness that views the Holden as a national emblem, like Vegemite and a Hills Hoist clothesline.
  • Crikey! That's not cricket

    BRISBANE -- "It's just not cricket'' is such a deliciously quaint British phrase that it has survived the rough and tumble world of the colonies and become part of the Australian vernacular. But that high-minded call for fair play, traditionally spoken in a clipped accent by polished gentlemen in white linen suits, is often delivered Down Under with an ironic sneer.
  • Australia grapples with the cost of aging

    MACKAY -- You're on the front line of Australia's greatest demographic dilemmas when you're helping your mum move out of the family residence and into an old people's home. "It's not an old people's home,'' mum chides me as we wrap the artifacts of her 80 years in newspaper and place them in cardboard boxes.
  • Espionage takes off the fake nose, glasses

    CANBERRA -- A spy scandal has erupted across the Asia Pacific with Australia accused of tapping Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's phone in 2009. And if there is a lesson to emerge from the most recent intelligence debacle it's this -- espionage has lost its mojo.
  • Aussies bid farewell to Rudd

    A "bastard" with the soul of Niccolo Machiavelli and the face of parish priest left the Australian political stage Wednesday night, and you could almost hear Macbeth's witches cackling around their cauldrons. Kevin Rudd, son of a poor share farmer, Mandarin-speaking diplomat, political pop star and twice Australian prime minister, gave a tearful valedictory speech to federal Parliament Wednesday night.
  • Ford brave to tie it on

    Brisbane -- Frankly, it's none of our business but Australia was transfixed this week by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and the question on all lips Down Under is this: How, in the name of all that is holy, can the mayor of a major municipality front a news conference wearing a tie suggesting the Rio de Janeiro Carnival is underway across his shirt front. How can an elected figure in a liberal democracy mirroring our own in so many ways adopt an article of clothing giving the impression a drunken Jackson Pollock has been doodling on him?
  • Aussies scramble as 'bikies' get sophisticated

    BRISBANE -- Bikers have dominated public discourse in Australia as governments declare war on a tiny minority rapidly becoming, as that wonderfully theatrical crime fighter J. Edgar Hoover may have once declared, "Public Enemy No. 1.'' The latest round of breast-beating over outlaw motorcycle gangs began in late September when a massive brawl erupted outside a restaurant on the Gold Coast, a Queensland tourist mecca, involving up to 60 people.
  • Firefighting PM taking heat for warming

    BRISBANE -- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has always exuded such an aura of macho mystique that his out-of-office-hours role as a firefighter is a seamless fit. Like Ronald Regan in the saddle on his Californian ranch, like Gen. Douglas MacArthur sucking on that corn cob pipe, like Liberace draped in sequined cape and ostrich feathers -- some men just have a knack for giving a clear physical expression to the spirit burning within.
  • U.S. shutdown over public health care! Really?

    BRISBANE -- Like the rest of the western world, Australia spent much of the week staring gape-mouthed at America, wondering as we went to bed Wednesday if one of the world's wealthiest nations would welch on its debts. By Thursday morning, we and the Sydney stock market were greatly cheered by the agreement to raise the debt ceiling beyond $16.7 trillion.
  • Death of 'Chopper' Read resonates in nation of convicts

    BRISBANE -- Australia was not quite in mourning Thursday as it marked the passing of Mark Read, but a few prayers might have been sent up in the hope "Chop" won't have to spend all eternity in perdition. Mark "Chopper" Read, who died of liver cancer Wednesday night, was a brutal but inventive criminal -- the type who would (quite literally) serve up a dish of razor blades to an enemy and demand he eat them.
  • Harry's a prince of a guy

    BRISBANE -- Prince Harry arrives in Sydney today and tabloid newspapers have one message to Australian parents -- "lock up your daughters.'' The flame-haired prince who has emerged as perhaps the most popular celebrity in the latest generation of British royals will be in Australia for a brief visit as part of the International Fleet Review.
  • 'Prince' of fraudsters scored $16 million

    BRISBANE -- He's not quite the Talented Mr. Ripley, but in the annals of identity theft Joel Barlow deserves more than just an honourable mention. This audacious fraud who started life in poverty and morphed into a prince needs his own chapter to do justice to his powers of manipulation and deceit.
  • Preferential voting serves up surprises in Oz

    BRISBANE -- Take a motoring enthusiast, a footballer known as "the brick with eyes'' and a billionaire man who wants to rebuild the Titantic and you have the makings of an interesting Australian barbecue. Put them in the national Senate and you might have a problem.
  • As Oz warms up, funeral homes struggle

    Global warming, that great villain of the 21st century, is now prime suspect in a scandal threatening the viability of Australian funeral homes. Australia's warm winter has been blamed for a deficit of dead bodies for undertakers who rely on Aussie winters to liven up business.
  • Aussies choose from bumbling illusionists

    The sham of 21st-century politics is lit up in a neon-light display Down Under as Australia treads wearily toward its 44th parliament. Mere cynicism with the process of governing appears to have given way to aggressive contempt as the public turns savagely on those who would govern us.
  • Bookmakers declare Australian election over and won

    BRISBANE -- The Australian election due in eight days already has a winner according to the most important umpire on Australian political fortunes -- the bookmakers. At Sportsbet, which takes bets on political contests, they are paying out punters who placed bets on a victory by the Coalition -- the banner under which right-of-centre politicians have campaigned since 1922.
  • Political sensation in an Instagram

    BRISBANE -- The prime ministerial selfie, the tweets and the 106,000 likes on his Facebook mark Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as the social-media standout in Australia's 2013 election campaign. But an intriguing question has arisen Down Under about politics in the Internet age.
  • When Weiner jokes wear thin, there's Oz

    BRISBANE -- When the country that brought us Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner turns to Oz for laughs, it can't be good. And it isn't. The Daily Show this week ridiculed a member of parliament who placed his own "member'' in a wine glass and a political candidate who thought Islam was a country.
  • Heady mix of parties in Aussie election

    BRISBANE -- Putting coke in school bubblers is not the inspiring, Lincolnesque pledge voters long to hear from politicians in election mode. But the novel idea goes some way to explaining the cynicism with which many Australians have greeted the 2013 federal election campaign.
  • There's a 12 km/h limit on the future in Oz

    BRISBANE -- To "segue" into our future gives the impression of moving seamlessly into a glorious new age but the vehicle once tipped to transport us into the wonders of the 21st century is, frankly, a little disappointing. The Segway is not quite what the baby boomer kids of the mid-20th century had in mind when they planned their space-age future while watching the Jetsons on TV.
  • Australia to stem rising tide of boat people

    BRISBANE -- The tide of refugees arriving on Australian shores has become so vast the federal opposition this week recommended a military solution. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says if he wins power in the looming federal election he will ask the Australian military to appoint a three-star commander to lead a joint agency task force to deal with people smugglers and border protection.
  • Streaker finds new audience on social media

    BRISBANE -- Streaking made a (hopefully) brief reappearance in Australia on Wednesday night when a nude man invaded the grounds in the last crucial moments of one of the nation's most popular football clashes. In the age of social media, the public reaction was not as uniform as you might expect.

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