Monday, December 5, 2011

Flushed With Success

THE FUNNY thing about scary stuff is how soon you get used to it. Freddy Kruger, the severed head in Jaws, Malcolm Fraser and hack-iographer Margaret Simons – they make your skin crawl at first encounter, but after that the reaction seldom goes beyond mild bemusement.

There are exceptions, even for hard-to-shock sorts who, as irregular readers of the Fairfax press, may believe a familiarity with the grotesque has rendered them immune to sudden and involuntary dropping of the jaw. Such was always the case with blogger Dick Gross, whose very name suggests an entire lack of foresight on the part of his parents. That is a good start for a horror movie right there. The short-trousered waif whose youthful torments at the hands of a bullying, uncaring world set him on the course to a life of bloody revenge.
The unfortunately named Dick Gross

That would be the Hollywood version, but in Melbourne we have own special transmogrifications and, just like a bad horror flick, the villain is never entirely driven from the scene. Always there is a sequel and, as Gross continues to demonstrate, the threat to sanity and wallet comes back in another toxic form.

Some will remember Gross’ first public incarnation as councilor and mayor of Port Phillip, about which  Victoria’s ombudsman had some harsh things to say when it emerged the municipality had spent $620,735.50 on the services of a white witch-cum-management consultant, Caroline Shahbaz. This did not go down well with council staffers, who accused her of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment. Nor were ratepayers impressed to learn that Gross & Co had paid $2750 for a council exec to attend a management seminar that, for reasons quite possibly related to eye of newt, toe of frog etc., needed to be convened in India. As Gross was also an ardent supporter of a much-criticised proposal to redevelop a plot of land beside Luna Park, his constituents gave him the flick. Things looked pretty grim for the ousted city father.

"I'm scared. My career is in the toilet. I lose in the election, then I'm also gone from the MAV (Municipal Association of Victoria)," he told the Sunday Phage. As to Ms Shahbaz, who, as the ombudsman was informed, sometimes allowed conference participants to give her a pedicure, Gross remained under her spell:
"We needed to embrace change and she got results … there were massive savings and service improvements … So part of the problem is, she was so good at her job, everyone wanted to use her. And initially she was popular. And then … the rest of it was terrible."

The bullying? "Things that were alleged, yes. Terrible."
So what was a booted councilor to do? What options were available to a fellow whose career and reputation were, as he put it, “in the toilet”?

Fretful as he might have been, the anxious mood did not last long. In Melbourne, where we are all very green and eco-conscious, there are are at least two institutions prepared to reach down, scoop up and enthusiastically recycle material which may reek but has not yet been entirely flushed.

The first of those is the Age, which lifted Gross from the depths of life’s dunny, dried him off and anointed him the resident voice of atheism, which he advocates online under the banner Godless Gross.

And the second of his career saviours? Well that would be the Parkville Asylum, which soon added Gross to its roster of great minds and inspired teachers.

And what wisdom, you may wonder, could a chap with an abiding faith in witches and little to recommend him as an oversee of public funds possibly impart? Let Gross explain, as he does in the opening paragraph of his latest column:
"I have just finished marking climate change essays and then exams for the climate course I teach at Melbourne University.  My head is full of the stuff.  Moreover, with the emissions trading scheme legislation recently behind us, I thought it was a propitious time to look at the issue from the perspective of faith and ethics, the principal concerns of this blog."
Very scary, no? Especially at this time of year, when university acceptances are going out and parents of bright Year 12 students are wondering how much it will cost them to equip their little darlings with the very best tertiary education.

Sadly, if their kids get into Melbourne, they will just have to settle for the likes of Dick Gross.


  1. "Propitious" -- apart from anything else, the man sounds like the most tiresome bore.

  2. Bunyip, you surprise me. Surely you understand that the Left looks after its own. If the Right played by the same rules our side would be looking after Glenn Milne. Instead he has been cut loose and left to starve.

  3. “The scientific consensus on carbon has been established for some time. A study by earth scientist Peter Doran and his assistant Maggie Kendalle Zimmerman showed that by 2008, 97 per cent of scientists publishing on the subject accepted that human caused (anthropogenic) carbon was warming the planet.”

    He can’t even distinguish between carbon and carbon dioxide. As for the infamous 97% of scientists, that’s from a survey which (in order to reach its predetermined outcome) ultimately excluded thousands and considered the views of only seventy-seven researchers, of whom seventy-five responded that humans “contributed” to climate change.

  4. As to your final comment, I suspect that many parents will not bother with the course content so much as the grading patterns. In my experience, a complaint from just one parent that the grading curves in our Faculty' s courses awarded less HDs, more passes, and even the occasional fail, was enough to cause the Dean to chastise those of us responsible for this state of affairs and urge upping the grades.

  5. Gross also writes: “[Gillard] did not lie [about not enacting a “carbon” tax”] unless she knew that there would be a hung parliament (unknowable) and deliberately intended her misstatement. The allegation is absurd.”

    That’s from a teacher of ethics!
    Gillard already lead the Government and knew that she would retain her position of PM unless the coalition won seventy-six seats or more. Even if she knew that there would be a hung parliament (unknowable, but it was quite likely) she clearly deliberately intended her assurance. His analysis is absurd.

  6. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 5, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Shaboom, Shahbam, Shabaz!! The magic is wrought and the science is in. It's alchemical. Heretical little students who have done some proper science will all be carbonised or decarbonised or recarbonised (take your pick) in a trice unless they dance to the magician's magically transfiguring climatic tune.

    How instructively 'intuitive' (the White Witch's very own word for her management successes) the University of Melbourne is in its hiring policies, which so thoroughly endorse the Witch's favorite acolyte. And how very intuitive those students will have to become.

    Won't someone please pull the chain on this piss up?

  7. Good heavens -- is that a tie-dyed t-shirt he's wearing? Where would you even get such a 1970s relic these days? Possibly Brunswick Street or, more likely, Bali.

  8. PhillipGeorge(c)2011December 5, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    Deadman, if someone can just learn to fake integrity the world is their ethical oyster, and Melbourne University but a stage. If Julia were to do her own 2020, Dick would be well up the invitation list.

    Still want to know what the former Mrs Craig Emerson thinks of Jules [full forward for the doggies] Gillard.

    Richard Nixon wishes he had it so well.

  9. His name is even better in alphabetical order: Gross Dick

  10. You couldn't make this stuff up. I got a terrific belly laugh from this piece. Thanks.

  11. What are Dick's qualifications?
    I can't find any reference on the web to him holding ANY qualifications.
    His Linked-In profile lists his skills as "self promotion".
    One would hope that the Powers That Be at the august institution that is Melbun Yunni have not entrusted the education of our impressionable youfs to someone without quals. Particularly as Dick is operating in a field where so many others are told to shuddup if they express a sceptical view as they are unqualified to comment