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Kirsty Madigan

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Biosecurity Thriller Bombs

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s performance in the Australian biosecurity thriller titled “War On Terrier”, has opened to mixed reviews. The Sydney Morning Herald said it was, “A cinematic icon for a modern age”. Comedian, Ricky Gervais labelled it a “Hostage Video,” and The Guardian, who said, “Their delivery is ugly and monotone,” gave it 3 stars.

I’m giving it a generous 1 out of 5 with the tagline – “Still a better movie than The Tourist.”

Amber Heard has pleaded guilty to a charge of falsifying documents. Two other charges relating to the illegal importation of animals have been dismissed. She was fined $1000 and received a one-month good behavior bond.

My previous thoughts on the subject can be found here: The Problem With Depp’s Dogs

When I posted the article above, I almost (almost) felt sorry for Depp and Heard due to the lack of press training some of Australia’s politicians seem to receive. Now, any sympathy I might have harboured for the pair was euthanized with the couple’s performance.

It doesn’t seem to be enough that Heard put our entire country at risk by admittedly falsifying her travel documents upon entry into Australia – a move that put Australia’s entire export industry, our wildlife and our farming stock at risk, but what I keep forgetting is that their egos were hurt too and obviously, we should all see that as a bigger problem than rabies. They do.

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Many are calling Depp and Heard’s performance in the video, poor, but I think it’s exactly what they wanted it to be. Insincere.  Their pouting faces recalling their childhood years, plastered with I-don’t-want-to-do-this expressions. I’m only surprised neither of them crossed their arms and stamped their feet.

Even if the performance was believable, Depp has been doing his best in the months since the infringement occurred to make Australia’s biosecurity into a joke on the US talk show circuit. Thanks for that Johnny. You guys did the wrong thing and the implications of your actions were HUGE. But it’s OK, Australia and its residents deserve to be trashed and made fools of for our own laws…that you broke. You’re famous, you shouldn’t have to follow laws or do things you don’t want to do. And just in case you misunderstood that last comment. No. It was not sincere.

Barnaby Joyce may well feel smug today, but he shouldn’t. “I want it (the video) to be as widely viewed as we can possibly get it,” he said. “The more widely viewed it is the more we have people who might be unaware of our biosecurity requirements informed.”

Mr. Joyce, as agriculture minister when this incident occurred, it was YOUR job to inform people of the importance of our biosecurity laws. And if you had done your job in the first place, the world wouldn’t be watching two insincere actors saying words that mean nothing to them.

 

The Genius of Alan Rickman

Today, as a writer, I feel like the victim of an Expelliarmus spell. I’ve been disarmed. My words are gone. The ones that I still possess are jumbled in a fashion which makes sorting them seemingly impossible, but I will do my best. Alan Rickman has died today. A man of flesh and blood, like the rest of us, but a man of immeasurable talent, the likes of which the rest of us can only dream.

Today is the first day I’ve ever shed actual real tears for a famous person’s passing, but it seems my love for this man, who I never met, was real. And so, I find myself wondering – What was it about him that affected me?

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Alan Rickman was a genius. His roles were many and varied, from U.S Presidents, to Irish Politicians, French kings and Russian Monks. He was a Shakespearean villain, a German villain, an English folklore villain and a villain, who wasn’t a villain at all. He was a robot, a caterpillar, a painter, a ghost, a hairdresser and he was the voice of God. He was a singing judge, a Colonel, a general, a lieutenant and a lord. He was a painter, but above all, he was an artist, just like me.

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I would say he played all those roles, but he didn’t. He WAS all those roles, and many more. He possessed the magic somewhere inside him that allowed him to become those characters, and he had the courage to let it bring them to life.

We were not watching Alan Rickman play a part. We watched the Sherriff of Nottingham fail to defeat Robin Hood.

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We saw Marvin, the paranoid android, help Arthur Dent save his planet, the corrupt judge Turpin relentlessly pursuing Sweeney Todd’s love, Joanna. We watched Rasputin’s madness, the gentle colonel Brandon waiting patiently for Marianne to see his love for her, the tired king Louis XIV and the heartbroken wizard, Severus Snape protecting Harry Potter under the guise of enemy.

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To witness his brilliance gave me hope. Many of these characters emerged from the pages of fiction like mine and his care and respect for them gave me inspiration. It gave me the knowledge that the characters I create through my fiction can become real too, and that is a gift for which I will be forever grateful.

And then, there’s that voice. I once heard him describe it in an interview as “an accident of  nature and the architecture of his mouth,” but an accident of nature would have been to bestow it on a person who would have no use for it. It was his, and his it will always be.

Thank you, Alan Rickman. May you rest in Peace.

The Problem with Depp’s Dogs

Since May this year, there has been much written, joked and laughed about over Johnny Depp and his wife, Amber Heard allegedly smuggling two Yorkshire Terriers named Pistol and Boo into Australia.

According to a summons issued recently to Ms. Heard, the charges relate to the illegal importation of two animals and knowingly producing a false or misleading incoming passenger card was committed.

Serious charges which carry a maximum penalty of ten years’ jail and/or a fine of $102,000.

So how then has JD come out smelling like roses and wreaking of victim? Why do we want to stand up and chant “Leave Johnny alone!!”

He’s Johnny Depp. Enough said. It’s very easy to take his side, because, well, he’s Johnny freakin Depp. I love him. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I mean just look at him here with his cool scissor hands!

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Or Here with his awesome mad hat!

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And here in just about every other movie he’s made…

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He’s portrayed a myriad of much loved characters and his talent level is through the roof, plus, he’s not that bad to look at, even now he’s 51. But even though I’m tempted to take his side, I just can’t do it.

There’s no denying there’s a problem with some of our politicians. They just don’t know how to express themselves in public (flashbacks of Tony Abbott staring at a camera and nodding for several awkward minutes come to mind), and we end up being embarrassed. Australia is increasingly becoming the butt of international jokes because of it.

Even Johnny himself, on a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, referred to our agriculture minister as, “This sort of weird, sweaty, gut man.” And Kimmel asked, “What kind of maniac is this?” in response to Barnaby Joyce threatening to euthanize Depp and Heard’s tiny little dogs. And on the surface Depp and Kimmel appear to make very valid points. Joyce’s choice of words make the mind boggle. How anyone can become minister of agriculture and make these kind of ridiculous and pointless statements, I’ll never know. He’s made it so easy for anyone to not take him, or our laws, seriously.

When Kimmel pressed him further JD then pointed out the problem, though I’m sure he wasn’t trying to, when he said, “who decided that, you know, two, five or six-inch teacup Yorkshire terriers would harm the country in some way. . . he’s (Joyce) got a point, especially when you consider that Australia has the most poisonous creatures on Earth.”

Yes JD, Australia does have the most poisonous creatures on the planet, and we like it that way. And that fact has nothing whatsoever to do with bringing tiny undeclared dogs to Australia.

Instead of our Agriculture minister taking the golden opportunity to educate JD on exactly why Australia’s quarantine laws are so strict, and so extremely important to us all. Mr. Joyce has just got himself all riled up in a swashbuckling war of words with Jack Sparrow in pirate town and in the process he’s let us all down.

The risk of bringing any animal into the country is, and I can’t say this loud enough, HUGE. Animals need to be declared, and in the case of some, including dogs, quarantined to prevent the introduction of diseases that our island nation is free from.

Australia’s biosecurity laws and procedures have so far protected us, our industries, our export markets and the communities that depend on those markets as well as our pets, crops and livestock.

Foot and mouth disease, Mad Cows disease, Avian influenza are just a few of the problems we’ve seen devastate certain countries in the past ten years and Australia has remained free from them all.

And so, the problem posed by, “Two, five-six inch teacup Yorkshire terriers,” are Rabies, and the lesser known, but just as devastating, screw worm fly.

Rabies is a virus of the central nervous system that kills between 40,000 and 70,000 people every year and countless more animals. A further 10 Million people require treatment for Rabies. Detecting, controlling and preventing Rabies in the US alone costs more than $300 Million every year. A problem Australia doesn’t have thanks to our biosecurity laws.

If Rabies were to reach our shores, through say, Oh I don’t know, a celebrity couple not bothering to declare or quarantine their two tiny dogs, the disease would infect our cats and dogs first and would then run rampant through our native wildlife, wiping out any already endangered species in the process. Goodbye bilby, see ya Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, kiss the Koalas goodbye and wave a last hurrah to the Mountain Pigmy possum.

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One other possible pest two tiny dogs could introduce, is the Screw-Worm Fly. The female Screw-worm fly can lay upwards of 250 eggs on the edge of a scratch or wound. When the eggs hatch into maggots 24 hours later they begin to chew their way through the underlying flesh of the host causing extensive tissue damage and eventually death. The maggots transform into flies and then infect our sheep, cattle, pigs and horses and potentially destroy Australia’s 30 Billion dollar a year export market.

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The reason Australia’s livestock is so sought after on the international market is because of our lack of pests and diseases such as these and the undeclared and unquarantined entry into our country of anyone’s tiny dogs can put it all at risk, regardless if that person was, or has been, Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, J.M Barrie, Ichabod Crane or Captain Jack Sparrow.

So please Johnny and Amber, ignore Australia’s poorly trained political staff and next time obey the laws. They exist, and should be adhered to, for many good reasons even if our ministers seem to have forgotten what those reasons are.

Also, I’m not keen on my tiny black dog turning from a sweet faced Spitz into a Cujo-esque creature of death any time soon.

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Cup Conundrum

Well it’s the end of another iconic Melbourne Cup day. The stilettos have been broken in, the champagne has been popped and the dresses can’t be returned. That’s it. Until next year…

But the sad reality is that it’s also the end for some of the horses. Although there were no actual deaths on cup day this year, there will be horses that ran in races today who will never see a race track again. Some of them will go on to become parents. Some will make teenage girls eternally happy at Pony Club, some may even become Olympic Dressage or Show jumping champions, but for most, the sad reality is when owners and trainers are no longer turning a profit from a racehorse he, or she, will end up at the slaughterhouse. A noisy trip to the abattoir, followed by hours standing in a concrete pen will end with a bolt to head for animals that were just doing what they were trained to do.

For me it’s a conundrum. I was born with horses galloping through my veins. I was a competitive Eventing rider until I was in my twenties. There’s an affinity, an understanding, a never-ending wonder at the beauty of a horse that just lifts my heart from the ordinary to the wondrous. And it doesn’t matter what it is they are doing, I will be glued to it. It’s the same with Horse Racing, and on Cup day each year I get caught up in the beauty of the horses and the excitement of the story. I was so happy with today’s Melbourne Cup result for Michelle Payne, for Stevie Payne and for the trainer, Darren Weir. Theirs is a story that everyone can relate to, and the media can have a field day with. I admit, I teared up with emotion for them all. But then came the news that five time Melbourne Cup runner, Red Cadeaux was injured. A tent was set up just past the finish post on the track to shield the public from his inevitable destruction.

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Happily, Red Cadeaux was saved and his injury is now listed as “Not life threatening,” but it seems he’s the exception that 127 other Racehorses this year in Australia didn’t get to be. One of which I had the unhappy fortune to witness first hand at Mooney Valley. The speed at which they rolled out a van for a horse in the home straight, who had very obviously broken a leg, astounded me. The tarp screen fashioned on wheels for events like this and the SUV with a purpose-built box trailer attached. No windows. When the back of the trailer was opened it revealed a ramp with a winch for removing the bodies of euthanized horses. All of these things were on the track in under a minute. A well-oiled, well-practiced machine that induced death, cleaned up the evidence and left within five minutes so that the next race would not be delayed. I suspect this machine also serves the purpose of minimizing distress for punters. Although, not for their benefit, but for the benefit of the sport. So that we can all go on living in denial, pretending that these animals don’t matter. That they don’t have feelings. But they do.

What disturbed me even more than all of this was two men watching this all unfold next to me. Both craning their necks to get the best view they could of the unfolding tragedy. One of them shouldered the other when the vet emerged from the screen, retrieved a bag and then re-entered the screen. “Here we go. Here we go.” He said with excitement. “He’s gonna get the green dream. He’s gonna get the green dream now.” His mate smiling too, still stretching his neck to get a better view. For those that don’t know, the Green Dream is Lethabarb, a liquid anaesthetic that’s used to euthanize animals, and so named for its bright green colour.

I admit. I did address these men with a string of words more suited to the farm on which I grew up, than the polite society encountered at the races, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement with which he said it, and I will never, ever, understand it. I sincerely hope that the deaths that occur in the sport hasn’t become part of its attraction for some, or the human race really has failed.

I can’t help but love horses. I can’t explain it. I just love them. I do have a problem with the racing industry, but I don’t do anything about it. The difference for me is that when I competed, my horse and I were a team, a partnership, and for some this may be hard to understand, but we were friends, and the money flowed from my pocket, not into it, and therein lies the problem. Horse Racing is a huge revenue stream, for the state, for the country and for the thousands of breeders, jockeys, owners and trainers, and as such, we will never be able to eradicate it.

So for me, the conundrum is best explained as much more bitter than sweet.

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