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Thank goodness for strong women like Halla Mohieddeen in weeks like these

​Halla Mohieddeen, the daughter of a Scottish mother and Lebanese father, is a television journalist living in Paris and working for a French 24-hour news channel.

Australians fortunate enough to have been watching SBS a week ago, when masked gunmen were methodically murdering 129 people and hospitalising 200 others, would have seen her anchoring France24's mesmerising coverage, relayed from a Paris studio, of the carnage wrought on that appalling Friday night, local time, in the centre of the City of Light.

<i>Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.</i>
Illustration: Glen Le Lievre. 

With her striking appearance and commanding presence, Mohieddeen remains as memorable as the detail of the night's events reaching SBS viewers, in a live TV feed from half a world away, were horrific. Only next day would she learn that one of her colleagues, a TV producer, was among the dead.

Later in the week, this time in a Sydney studio, another woman journalist, this time our own much-loved Jenny Brockie, a refugee last century from ABC radio and now a 12-year veteran of SBS' Insight current affairs program, hosted an extraordinary hour-long trek across the lives of some equally extraordinary people and their various robotically-honed senses and body parts, including a colour-blind young man with an implanted antenna protruding from his head that enables him to distinguish colour as music; and a Perth man with a wicked laugh who's grown a battery-driven ear from his arm. Really.

He already has two good ears in the right place but says he's an artist growing the third ear on his left forearm in the name of art.

People can be truly wonderful.

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Thus, with domestic politics hum-drum these past days, with our Prime Minister overseas and the stay-at-homes very ho-hum, with the former PM again rattling his cage and Mr Shortly looking more and more like a hole in the air that continues getting smaller, I felt Mohieddeen and Brockie (together with her good-natured band of jolly "robots'' and supportive surgeons) were streets ahead in what was best, even uplifting, this past week, just as the Paris atrocities were the pits, with the ho-hums nowhere.

The week that was, indeed.

The only domestic interest that stirred was Tony Abbott's cage rattling in his old newspaper, The Australian, on behalf of increased Western military activity in Syria and Iraq. It was typical Abbott fodder.

If it suggested anything it is that our former prime minister isn't going anywhere, thank you. Nor will he be holding his tongue. The Liberals have their own home-grown Kevin Rudd, you can be sure. And not just in working to regain a place in the ministry!

The Turnbulls, meanwhile, return from their 10-day, five-country tripping in the next 48 hours. The Prime Minister will be gone again next weekend, this time to the Big One, the climate change summit.

Two things he should think about before he leaves. When the shooting started in Paris, one of those hit was Emma Parkinson, a 19-year-old tutor from Tasmania. Turnbull rang her in hospital from Berlin, and later told reporters: "She is a brave girl."

Wrong, Prime Minister. She is a "brave young woman". She stopped being a "girl" years earlier. I have a daughter just turned 17 who has her P plates and zips around in her 54-year-old mother's Jazz. Neither of them like being referred to as "girl", I assure you. Young women dislike it in particular, as I'm sure you know when you think about it.

Another thing: the first time I heard a politician use the phrase "stand shoulder to shoulder" in the military sense of close allies, was Lyndon Johnson when he visited Australia in 1966 and spoke about the US and Australia "standing shoulder to shoulder in the paddy fields of Vietnam" at a function in Melbourne.

I doubt there's been an Australian prime minister since who hasn't used the expression, sucking it up thoughtlessly, and here we are, almost 50 years later, and you're still gumming mouldy old clichés that should have been shot years ago. Please, how about something fresh, even something the Americans have not tried on us first?

Whatever, Parliament resumes this coming week, with two weeks left before the political year closes with the North Sydney byelection on Saturday, December 5.

Nobody is holding their breath. In the 114 years since Federation in 2001, only nine MPs, all anti-Labor, have held the seat, and only one of them, the Independent Ted Mack, was not a Liberal or one of its like-minded party predecessors. Mack was there for two terms (six years) and was gone, of his own accord, in 1996, the same year voters rid us of Paul Keating.

Thirteen candidates, of various stripes and inclinations, have nominated to replace Joe Hockey, the treasurer Malcolm Turnbull dumped last month after he comfortably regained the Liberal leadership Abbott had snaffled by a single vote six years earlier.

For its part, the Labor Party has dingoed and won't be standing. Mr Shortly is back in hiding. Campaign funds are short; self-respect and political courage even shorter.

The final word goes to readers and to the extended Wolanski family of Sydney. On October 24, in writing about the Prime Minister's overseas investments, I mistakenly identified the Turnbulls' New York financial adviser, Josephine Linden, as the daughter of the late Mrs Sabina Van Der Linden-Wolanski (1927-2011), whose children, Phillip and Josephine, were offended by my error.

Josephine Linden of New York City is no relation whatever to the Wolanski family of Sydney and my apologies to the Wolanskis and to readers.

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