Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.
''We're back to the Gestapo days,'' protested the raddled old crook as he was hustled from his home and into a waiting police car. "I'm 73 years old."
Three hundred of his closest friends from the media jostled to capture the thrilling moment. Roger Rogerson – the very name – still exerts a magnetic pull. Talk about life imitating art: it was like an episode of Rake. Watching the television coverage, I half expected Cleaver Greene to appear at any minute, hung over and wig askew, protesting volubly on behalf of m'client.
Instead we got Roger's solicitor, Paul Kenny, an ex-copper himself and often the brief of choice for police officers in reduced circumstances. I vaguely recall Kenny threatening to sue me on behalf of one of his more nefarious customers.
In this case, he was horrified at the indignity of Roger's very public collaring. "An absolute disgrace; he was treated like a dog," he huffed to the hacks. "I been in shoot-outs, I been bashed, I've had everything under the sun done to me. But I've never seen conduct like just occurred here, ever." There would be complaints to the Commissioner, the Police Minister, the Premier.
It was hard to see what the fuss was about. Treated like a dog? A murder suspect was arrested at his home, surely not an uncommon occurrence in this line of work. Apparently Kenny had hoped to negotiate a private handover of his man, with conditions; the powers-that-be weren't interested.
But, oh, the exquisite irony of Roger Rogerson complaining about police misconduct. The ghoulish cackle of laughter you can hear in the background is the shade of Warren Lanfranchi, the heroin dealer he famously shot and killed in a laneway in Chippendale in 1981. Self defence, of course, even though Lanfranchi was carrying no weapon of any sort.
That killing laid the foundations for the Rogerson mystique. Here was a no-nonsense copper, hard as nails; bending the rules of course, but always in the noble cause of keeping the streets safe for decent folks. Utter codswallop. But it is extraordinary how many people believed this nonsense, not least among them your friend and mine, the famous broadcaster Alan Jones, who seems to have worshipped Rogerson.
In 1998, while urging police to get tough on picketing workers during the Maritime Union strike, Jones squawked that NSW needed "a hundred Roger Rogersons". More recently, in 2009 he launched Rogerson's fanciful memoirs, The Dark Side, and accorded him the honour of a radio interview to plug it, which he introduced thus:
"I’m not one of those politically correct people and it mightn’t be politically correct to say it but if we had – you talk to people at the grass roots – if we had a few more of the man I’m about to speak to, then we’d have fewer problems in society, confronting society at the moment. A bit of old-style policing wouldn’t do any harm.”
I never thought Dr Dennis Jensen and I would agree on anything. He is a federal Liberal backbencher, the member for the federal seat of Tangney in Western Australia. On your big picture social issues – abortion, gay marriage, indigenous rights, etc – he is out there to the right of Genghis Khan.
But Jensen is also a scientist of no small achievement, having a PhD from Monash University in materials science and physics. Before entering Parliament in 2004, he worked at the CSIRO and as a researcher and analyst at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.
And he is furious at the slipshod way the Abbott government has trashed the status of science in Australia. He went for it in Parliament on Tuesday night, slamming the budget for ripping $111 million in funding and 500 jobs out of the CSIRO over the next four years.
"There appears to be a lack of understanding of how science works,'' he said. ''Where is the coherent, co-ordinated approach to science policy?''
Answer: there isn't one. For the first time since 1931, Australia does not have a minister for science, the only country in the G8 group of economies that doesn't. This at a time when we are constantly being told that we have to be a smarter, more clever country if we are to make our way in the world.
True, the budget did throw up the idea of a $20 billion medical research fund, to come from the new $7 doctor tax. Do the simple maths on that: it would require nearly three billion visits to the doctor. I wouldn't hang by the thumbs waiting.
Livid at Vivid
Sydney's Vivid extravaganza and the Writers' Festival were both fabulous last weekend. But first up, hearty congratulations for whoever decided to dig up large sections of the pavement beneath Circular Quay railway station.
Well done. You did it brilliantly, a bureaucratic triumph perfectly timed to create as much inconvenience as possible to the crowds who gathered there on Saturday night to see the lights. Ugly barriers stuck up all over the place had created pedestrian bottlenecks, jamming the crowds together, forcing people onto the road and hindering access to the public toilets.
I don't know who was behind this idiocy. Perhaps it was CityRail, or whatever they call it this week. Perhaps it was the Sydney City Council. Either way it was a flaming nuisance.
With that off the chest, I urge you to have a look at Vivid. The lighting effects are jaw dropping, not only on the sails of the Opera House but on the tallest buildings nearby. The western side of the Quay, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, is probably the best place to see it.
You're too late for the Writers' Festival but it, too, was a thundering success, with record audiences and long queues for the more popular events.
The crowds were different for both shows, but they shared one important characteristic: a calm friendliness. People behaved themselves. It is nice to live in such a civilised city.
Contrast this with the US which, as we have seen yet again, cannot keep its people safe from any deranged adolescent with an assault rifle.