The Satchel Review - Saturday 16 June, 2012

Dinner table discourse took on a sombre tone this week, at least in Brisbane homes, with police arresting Gerard Baden-Clay on charges of his wife Allison's murder. 

The case has piqued particular interest because of the status of the family involved: she, the mother-of-three with the impressive CV (quiet, caring, accomplished ballerina, national HR manager) who went missing, allegedly after a late-night walk, and he the real estate agent and great-grandson of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement.

Thoughts were spared for the three little girls left in the wake who must now contend with the idea that their family, and the two most important people in their lives, has been torn apart by a series of events too awful for young minds to consider. Their mother is gone, their father, innocent until proven guilty, has been taken away and their grandparents, Geoff and Priscilla Dickie, are left to pick up the pieces. They need our prayers.

In this context, it was timely to see Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton vindicated after a 32-year trial-by-media, four coronial inquests a criminal trial and a Royal Commission. While Lindy – whose Jacqueline Kennedy-style stoicism in the aftermath of her daughter's death worked against her – could hold her head high on A Current Affair, many voices who had been so vocal during the initial stages of the Azaria Chamberlain case have been silenced or else are paying their dues and respects.

Fairfax journalist Malcolm Brown, who covered the case from beginning to end, told ABC radio:

"I suppose the crisis came somewhere in the mid-80s when I realised that all the reporting, that stirring that I was doing down south, combined with the stirrings by politicians and others, was only keeping Lindy locked up... And as I got to know them, during that first inquest, I could not for the life of me imagine that people like that would be capable of the monstrous things that were being suggested about them."

In all, while facilitating discussion around the flaws of the media, law enforcement and judicial systems, as well as ill-informed human perceptions, this week also served as a reminder of the particularly sinister, sceptical, misogynistic and scornful tone that Australian discourse can take on when left to free-wheel (even the school classroom where, in Grade 10 History, I studied the Chamberlain case).

How far have we come since 1982 when Lindy was spat at in the street, called all sorts of unsavoury things? Not very far, might some suggest, pointing to the growing evidence that Tweeting one's immediate thoughts is proving to be the pinnacle of stupidity. Without the passage of time to temper tantrums, to give the opposition the benefit of the doubt, or to check in with our manners, questions are being asked: Do we need a social media buffer?

As Spain's economy takes on more water, it is asking for a buffer of between 40 and 100 billion euros to help prop up its ailing banking system. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, elected last November, finally let go of stoicism and embraced fiscal aid following the release of a stress test on the Spanish financial sector by the International Monetary Fund. IMF leader Christina Lagarde welcomed eurozone assistance as embattled Greece headed into an election.

While former federal treasurer Peter Costello handed down his interim assessment of Queensland's finances, as per the LNP government's request, and electricity prices in Adelaide were set to skyrocket 18 per cent, Julia Gillard championed the nation's bottom line in the presence of business and union leaders in Brisbane. The Prime Minister's Economic Forum honed in on Asian business relations and the need to encourage Australian workers into mining jobs with family-friendly arrangements.

"[W]e've got to crack this nut and it's one of those issues which genuinely demands a range of measures because it reflects a range of factors," she said. "ACTU secretary Dave Oliver says better incentives need to be put in place to encourage more families to move to isolated mining jobs." The Blues from the south cracked their own nut this week, leaping to a 16-12 win in the State of Origin.

Girl With a Satchel