While Europe tries to remember its manners and its debt to others, and decides whether the subjugation of moral principle by political ideal merits such poor behaviour, I have to ask what on earth is going on in Oz, renowned for its incorruptible embracement of moral decency, culture, diversity and fair play?
For almost a century now, we have been taught that to even suggest that the Aussie genetic code is awash with the DNA of the criminal classes, is just plain wrong and historically inaccurate. In fact, in these enlightened Woke times, it is probably a hate crime! Sadly, that view might have taken something of a bashing over the last few weeks.
The Australian government’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, is conducting investigations into a reported $1.8 billion transferred from the Vatican to Australia over a six-year period. The figures might apparently be wrong – although there is no denying money was sent. This has fuelled media speculation that Vatican dollars were used to try and influence the prosecution of Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted and then acquitted of historic sex abuse. Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference spokesman Gavin Abraham said the bishops had no knowledge of the transfers and that none of the money was received by dioceses, charities or other Catholic entities. The report doesn’t mention anyone else who might have received the financial equivalent of a plenary indulgence.
Then Bruce’s coz, Old Bill was seen arresting UNAOIL company executives for paying $78m in Iraqi oil bribes. All connected to Leighton Holdings, apparently this is only the beginning. Almost simultaneously, the already outed, banned and sadly returned cheat and ball tamperer Steve Smith, was seen illicitly scrubbing out Indian batsman Rishabh Pant’s batting guard mark, with his foot, in the third Test at Sydney. This lack of sportsmanship was accompanied by some dreadful on-air language and some awful sledging.
In NSW, State Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted last month, to having a long-term affair with a disgraced former MP who, it turned out, had been getting backhanders for arranging property deals as a backbencher. She refused to quit during the scandal over her relationship with former MP Daryl Maguire saying simply, “I’ve done nothing wrong”. She said this, as she brushed aside revelations of political interference in a A$100 million federal sports grants program, admitting “political” allocation is standard practice. She also failed to adequately explain other state financial irregularities and refused to resign over a A$30m land purchase which benefited a political donor. There is a whiff of skullduggery afoot in NSW, but perhaps Australian politics just appear to be more “forthright” than usual.
However, surely the nadir of the last four weeks questionable behaviour comes from my man in Perth’s report that the National Australia Day Council has referred betting on The Australian of the Year 2021 awards to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Oz’s national crime watchdog. Grace Tame was named 2021 Australian of the Year for her advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, particularly those who were abused in institutional settings. She was groomed and abused from the age of 15 by a 58-year-old maths teacher. The perpetrator was jailed but it took years for Ms Tame and other members of a broad coalition, including journalist Nina Funnell, the founder of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, to overturn Section 194k of Tasmania’s Evidence Act, which prevented survivors from being identified. There is no suggestion Ms Tame had any knowledge of the possible scandal. Ladbroke’s board as of January 18, had Ms Tame at 1/3; former Australian chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy at 5/2; leading mental health researcher Professor Helen Milroy at 4/1, and former NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at 5/1. About 180 people signed non-disclosure agreements for this year’s awards, promising not to reveal the name of the Australian of the Year before it was officially announced. All staff, contractors, and broadcasters involved with the awards have to sign the agreement, which has a specific non-betting clause. The Council says it has been concerned about betting on the awards for several years, and it has spoken to authorities about having betting markets on the awards shut down. The Australian of the Year winners were selected in December. The council would not confirm which names may have been leaked and subsequently impacted betting markets. To have the Australian of the Year Awards tainted in this way is just appalling and Australians everywhere will probably hang their heads in shame. They’ll happily put up with a bit of friendly cricket fiddling; the odd State Premier’s misunderstanding of the word probity, even a bit of brown enveloping for their old mate Mustafa. But Aussie of the Year!
Come on, guys. You’re better than that.
Talking of things that should be better, here are the tips for Saturday’s TV racing.
Sadly we have lost Cheltenham and the Cotswold Chase and Cleeve Hurdle will be run elsewhere, in addition to “a couple of other races”. CotC Simon Claisse said: “It’s currently work in progress so we can expect an announcement from the BHA in the next couple of days.” Fairyhouse is also abandoned on Saturday. Uttoxeter’s Sunday card has been called off.
1:30 DONCASTER Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Lightning Novices’ Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m½f
SHISKIN is way too short, and its hard not to see him getting a seasonal hat-trick. He’s got Timeform 181P and I can’t recall so big a rating, with so much suggested improvement still to come. The only question then is who comes second. Colin Tizzard’s ELDORADO ALLEN is the other G2 winner in the line-up, and despite the tosh about flickers of a return to form, until Colin gets a strike rate of 20%+ in a week, I’ll keep the powder dry. CHEDDLETON won a decisive novice chase at Haydock, after a good Carlisle performance, and 5lbs difference might bring her close enough to see SHISKIN finish. The ground is drying there so that might take the edge off. Instead I’m suggesting FAST BUCK, who used to be with Willie Mullins when hurdling, and he might have won his debut Nicholls race had he not tipped over at Hereford. EST ILLIC beat him a head in reciept of over a stone of weight, over C&D LTO and his price is just too damned tasty.
FAST BUCK e/w – 2nd to SHISKIN in a 1pt SFC.
2:05 DONCASTER Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f
FLORESSA may be the one – although I did think she might have needed another couple of furlongs when I saw her LTO. If she handles the ground, and wins, she’ll head for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham.
2:20 LINGFIELD (AW) Play 4 To Win At Betway Hcap Cl5 (4yo+ 0-70) 6f
2:40 DONCASTER Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m½f
There is a strong case on trends for FERN HILL whose hurdling debut delivered a decent third at Uttoxeter in October behind the decent Third Time Lucki and then won on Wetherby having been stepped up in distance. Another improved RF figure when winning at Wetherby LTO with 2nd and 3rd both winning since. Should improve further for this step up to 3m. Only based on his comments this morning, I’m adding BOBHOPEORNOHOPE a 3m P2P winner on soft, and he has won both his hurdle starts to date. He beat ASK A HONEY BEE at Exeter in November and again over C&D a couple of weeks later. He appears the type that saves a bit for a fight when necessary. He’s a son of Westerner, so the ground should hold no fears.
FERN HILL e/w – BOBHOPEORNOHOPE e/w – ½pt RFC
2:55 LINGFIELD (AW) Betway Hcap Cl3 (4yo+ 0-95) 1m4f
PIRATE KING Win bts JUST THE MAN ¼pt SFC
3:15 DONCASTER Sky Bet Hcap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m
It’s a long-shot, but I’m going to suggest ROCKY’S TREASURE who is closely matched with GIVE ME A COPPER based on their C&D December form, which makes the price differential hard to understand. I know this is a step-up, but he should be 8s and anything else is a bonus. THE BUTCHER SAID is also being backed, despite his dodgy jumping. He is 10W&P/13R in today’s head gear and is 10WP/14R with Adrian Heskin.
ROCKY’S TREASURE e/w – THE BUTCHER SAID e/w
3:30 LINGFIELD (AW) Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Hcap Cl3 (4yo+ 0-95) 1m
Not on TV:
12:33 Doncaster. DORKING BOY and ROLLING IN are both possibilities. Bother e/w