The Satchel Review - Friday 30 March

The Australian surf lifesaving fraternity and its nippers underling is in mourning after the loss of 14-year-old schoolboy Matthew Barclay in the Kurrawa beach surf. 

Moments of reflection on the boy's short but energetic life were quickly lost beneath the rolling waves of calls for investigations into the annual championships held at the now notorious oceanic rough spot, which have seen the deaths of three lives since 1996.

"We Don't Want It Here" screamed the front page headline on The Manly Daily on Friday. In the paper's localised spin on the issue that cuts to the heart of everything that sections of beachside communities hold dear and true, the father of Saxon Bird, who died aged 19 at the championships in 2010, is calling for a royal commission into the deaths of his son and young Barclay.

He told The Daily that the three main recommendations from the inquest into his son's death had not been implemented, including that helmets should be worn during surf ski events and high-visibility floatation devices should be made compulsory for all competitors.

Should the event have continued? Do SLSA officials have their sights more on sponsorship dollars than safety? Should we expect that freak events will happen (sometimes in short succession) in a competitive field dictated by oft-unpredictable ocean conditions? Whatever the outcome, a father and mother have lost their son and Matt's friends their mate.

While the Fairfax media got stuck into Rupert Murdoch's pay television dealings and Campbell Newman settled into his new job, Peter Costello was handed the task of taking stock of the Queensland government's abysmal accounts.

As head of the government's budget audit committee, the former Howard Government Treasurer, who was disappointed to miss out on overseeing the Future Fund, has been assigned the task of directing the Newman Government and LNP Treasurer Tim Nicholls towards a triple-A credit rating. On a national level, Wayne Swan warned of responsible, not-too-horrible spending cuts to come when he delivers the 2012/13 Federal Budget. No one was shocked.

In a timely marketing move, given Titanic is coming to screens soon in 3D, movie maker James Cameron completed humankind's first solo dive into the deepest spot in the ocean, reporting back from the Mariana Trench, seven miles deep, that he saw no obvious signs of life that might inspire creatures in the next Avatar (a Rupert Murcoch/Fox Films ecological cinematic victory), but was awestruck by the "complete isolation". It was the realisation of a lifelong dream... a titanic mission complete.

In Afghanistan, a reportedly juvenile suicide bomber badly wounded AusAID volunteer David Savage. "'David's career as a member of the AFP, a UN peacekeeper and now a member of the Australian Civilian Corps is an indication of his strong commitment to helping people in need,'' his family said in a statement. ''That he should be injured while trying to help people is a difficult thing for us to understand. We would like to thank everyone for their well wishes."

The number of Afghans entering Australia for asylum dropped by 45 per cent last year, while rising 34 per cent globally, according to a UN report. "The number of asylum-seekers coming to Australia in 2011 declined by nine per cent - from 12,640 in 2010 to 11,510 in 2011 - largely due to a reduction in the number of people coming to Australia by boat," the UNHCR said.

To celebrate or lament these statistics (who gets the credit? who should be ashamed?) has been a matter of furious public debate. Never has Australia, and its oceans, seemed so inhospitable.

Speaking of hospitable, on a much lighter note, GWAS' own Bloke with a Bag (aka Dad) is in recovery from a knee operation, new walking stick in hand and several books to ameliorate the boredom. We spent Thursday at the hospital in a lively discourse with a bloke who works in construction undergoing a knee reconstruction.

Girl With a Satchel