catherine o'brien

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kiss the earth description

STOIC

‘STOIC’ came about after a lawyer accused me of being "too stoic".

He said that if I’d "bludged around for a few years", he could have gotten me a better damages result (from an injury).

I was disgusted with his attitude. He’d ‘bludged around’ enough for both of us, as I recall, but then, I got to thinking that perhaps in some ways I am a bit stoic,

( aren’t we all ?) singing in the street, weathering the storm etc. Then I gave it a romantic twist, and it developed from there....

 

KISS THE EARTH

’KISS THE EARTH’ is about my love of the bush.

The first two verses were written from my flat in Sydney, musing over the way our lives can be fashioned by the need for social order and the various compromises involved. The last verse was written from my very secret hideaway in the country where I house-sit for some friends when they take their annual holiday - a mud-brick cottage by a river against a mountain backdrop in my favourite part of the bush. It is absolutely beautiful - with a piano!. How could I not be inspired?

 

ABC

Pollies, god bless ‘em , always trying to control the media. Some got a bit too close to messing up our ABC, so I wrote this song. It was directed at the pollies but it was designed to appeal to everyone, including children.

‘ABC’ was written at the suggestion of someone who heard one of my ‘polly’ songs.

I had been horrified to watch what appeared to be the successful and virtually unchallenged efforts of our government to systematically destroy our national broadcaster in structure and in spirit

It was the old ‘divide and conquer’ approach. Remove the leaders. Isolate, and then use fear and intimidation on the rest. Pitt colleagues against each other. Eliminate outside scrutiny. Alienate the audience/support-base. Slash program spending. Increase repeat programs and promotional ads more irritating than commercial networks. Select someone with an unstable pathology to implement the plan. Establish supervision by a group of people carefully selected for their affiliations.

However, they underestimated the resistance of Aussies to such changes to
‘our ABC’.

The song was designed to communicate the fundamental issues at stake in such a

way as to be easily understood and sung by all, including children, and hopefully to be heard ( and understood) by politicians.

I originally decided to record the song after meeting a long time employee of the ABC who was dying from an inoperable brain tumour. He had heard the song, had enjoyed it and endorsed the sentiment. I was to be doing a radio interview in Hobart a couple of weeks later, and so I decided to try to record it then, the idea being to give him a copy when I returned. (He was clearly delighted when I gave it to him.)

Shortly before he passed away, I asked him whether he knew anyone ‘upstairs’ (meaning within the ABC who might play the song on air ). He chuckled and said "You mean up there?" pointing to ‘heaven’! It is worth noting, that the day after the song was played on air, the managing director was told that his services were no longer required. This decision was probably politically motivated in an attempt to regain votes from disenchanted ABC listeners before the upcoming election, but I like to also think it came from ‘up there’ ..Thanks Roger.

 

Tasmania

I had had a workplace injury. It could have been sorted out with a simple apology, an offer of help, and by helping me to make an injury claim, should that have been necessary. Instead, I was ostracised, the staff discount on my meals was removed and thereby I was forced to leave my job. I engaged a "reputable" Tasmanian legal firm who were very keen to act for me. They did a conflict of interest check when I instructed them. It was the first thing I asked them to do. Six months later, unbeknown to me the same legal firm accepted a retainer to act for all of their litigation business of the very venue against whom they were acting in my claim, (without telling me - they were presumably very keen to act for them too!) Then eighteen months later, when I told them to serve the writ,(they seemed to be taking their time) they told me they were acting for the venue who had declared a conflict of interest. The venue apparently insisted that the legal firm drop my claim, which they did. After 12 years, my claim was settled, my new legal firm telling me if it went to court, the venue had the resources to lodge endless appeals and send them broke. The final insult occurred when the Tasmanian Law Society telling me I should lodge a complaint about the first firm’s conflict of interest then refused to investigate the conduct of the first firm.

"Do not cast your pearls before swine or they may trample on them and then turn on you." ( Old Testament )

Tasmania is very beautiful. I definitely recommend it as a place worth checking out. The people are equally beautiful - a fantastic mix of individuals - like ‘northern exposure’ in the south. Unfortunately for me, I also feel a certain sadness ...

‘Tasmania’ was written after years of frustration with Tasmania’s legal system.

I had had a workplace injury. It could have been sorted out with a simple apology, an offer of help, and by helping me to make an injury claim, should that have been necessary. Instead, I was ostracised, the staff discount on my meals was removed and thereby I was forced to leave my job. I engaged a reputable Tasmanian legal firm. Six months later, the venue gave my legal firm their business, and after a further eighteen months the venue declared a conflict of interest. The venue then insisted that the firm drop my claim, which they did. After 12 years, my claim was settled due to my new legal firm believing they could go broke or worse if it went to court. The final insult occurred when the Tasmanian Law Society refused to investigate the behaviour of the first firm.

Why ???

I call it the pathology of GREED. Some people can’t bring themselves to do the right thing. It simply goes against their grain. They ally with like-minded people and do whatever it takes to build a power-base of CONTROL. They then become addicted to this control and react viciously when challenged.

Thus - "...they will trample on them and then turn on you."

Not exactly democratic.

If you’re interested in all the sordid detail, read on.

I was a resident musician at an entertainment complex in Hobart. Other musicians had also been injured due to the same hazardous stage area, one of them twice. Nothing had been done by the venue to correct the problem. After the accident, the management response was completely unexpected. They refused to provide me with even the basic courtesies. They even removed my staff meal discounts. I was then charged guest rates for meals - such that it was costing me to perform for them!

I had to return to the mainland as I could no longer support myself, and the injuries were in need of medical attention. After two years of correspondence, including with my doctors and union, the legal firm I had engaged in Hobart told me that they were now acting for the venue and had in fact been acting for them for over eighteen months. Now that I was asking the firm to issue the writ , their other client (surprise! surprise!) was declaring a conflict of interest. In other words, the firm had in effect swapped sides six months after I had engaged them but they didn’t inform me of this for a further eighteen months. The firm went with the bigger client.

Thus - "my lawyers were theirs"

I also later discovered that about the same time that my firm had begun to act for the ‘other side’, my union had in fact instructed them to commence proceedings on my behalf. ‘My’ lawyers had then told the union that they "found it hard to believe that my injuries were that bad", and they then told the union that they believed I was capable of "bunging it on". The union dropped its’ support some time later.

After advising me of the conflict, the solicitor who was handling my matter suddenly left the first firm and my file was given to the senior litigation partner who, unbeknown to me, was the very partner representing the venue!. So he had both files!! Nobody told me. I wonder why? This partner then advised me that the firm would no longer represent me. He, as senior litigation partner, had had access to my entire file, all correspondence, all medical reports, names of witnesses, an opinion done on my claim, and continued to enjoy that access for a further twelve months while he had had carriage of my file and the venues’ file, until I found a firm who assured me that there would be no such "conflict of interest".

I hoped they were right, having heard it all before.

After twelve years, I reluctantly accepted an out-of-court offer although it didn’t cover the time, cost and aggravation let alone the injuries. I wanted to take it to court. My lawyers were concerned about the enormous resources of the venue and did not want to go to court. They told me that the venue had the resources to appeal indefinitely against any award. They reduced their fees in order to try to make the offer more palatable. After seeking further opinion from people who were in a position to know, I was told that, in Tasmania, "Might is Right." (Furthermore, Tasmanian Law only awards for "delays" in corporate matters. )

The Law society had told me to make a formal complaint regarding the conduct of the first firm. When I did this, without any investigation, they said that no impropriety had occurred. I then went to the Dept. of Justice, then to the Legal Ombudsman (who is funded for one half day per fortnight ). She suggested that the Law Society investigate. The Law Society sought a response from the law firm, again found no impropriety and would not give me the law firms’ response.

Finally, after appealing, unsuccessfully to the Legal Ombudsman and the Attorney General, I applied under the Freedom of Information Act, for my file. The Law Society refused. I then applied to the Tasmanian Ombudsman. The Tasmanian Ombudsman made a Determination that the Law Society comply. The Law Society again refused. The Attorney General told me that he could do nothing about the deadlock and suggested that I seek independent legal advice. I was unable to find independent legal advice in Tasmania, and told him so.

There were conflicts everywhere. Even the firm that had finally acted for me had employed the first solicitor I had seen from the first firm, after he had left that firm. Confused? Tasmania is a small place. It ‘s a jewel. The people are lovely and the scenery is beautiful, but it is isolated by virtue of its being an island. I was told by an Australian national newspaper that the Tasmanian readership wasn’t sufficient to warrant space. So, to make matters worse, or better, depending on where your interests are, there is little outside scrutiny.

In the meantime, I discovered that there were many Tasmanians who were up in arms about the lack of accountability of the Law Society and the lack of action by the various Tasmanian Governments. They had formed a group called LAT - Legally Abused Tasmanians. They said that among them were many people who had lost money invested with solicitors’ mortgage funds - over TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS - a lot to lose for a small population. The Law Society apparently would not investigate their complaints and the Attorney General would not intervene.

SELF REGULATION.

Anyhow, one night , about 3 am, after tossing and turning, I dragged myself out of bed and I wrote the song. I felt better and I went back to bed. It was recorded in a lunchtime session at Hobart ABC studios, after doing an interview with the station.

I was in Hobart doing a gig at a pub called The Republic Bar. Some of he patrons asked to hear the song.The audience response was that the song was ‘spot on’. Even the Mayor was there. They were rolling in mirth at my reference to the "silk suited porkers ". They wanted to hear the story, and then they wanted to hear the song again. Tasmanians are very interesting people. There’s an uncomplicated niceness about them. There’s also a sense of fairness and more than a wee touch of the rebel in them. But this ‘Justice System’ of theirs had developed over many years and, as with any system lacking scrutiny, no doubt had been exploited by some of those in positions of power, who would have had reason to fear exposure. This could explain the reluctance of the ‘powers that be’ to address the situation. As in many small towns, everybody knows each other, many are related in one way or another and, being isolated and wanting to get along, there is a tendency to think the best of people, until it affects them personally.

One Tasmanian who strongly identified with the song, owned a small radio station and played ‘Tasmania ‘ on high rotation, you could say, "airing" quite a few grievances.

Eventually a Senate enquiry was held into the solicitors’ mortgage funds. Recommendations were made to remove the complaints process from the Law Society. I was invited by the Premier of Tasmania to make a submission to the Legal Profession Review Body, and later an act was passed to clearly put the Law Society under FOI. Interestingly however, the public, including myself, were not told of this amendment to the Act. I found out about it by chance several months later. I have reapplied to the Law Society for my file. So far, the excuses have included - lack of staff, lack of resources and that they have applied to the Attorney General for expert ‘assistance’and they are awaiting a response.

Funny !! The Attorney General kept insisting to me that he could not act in an advisory capacity. That was the last I heard from them.

The Show Goes On.

I still cant find anyone to act against the first firm for breach of loyalty, or to get interest for the costs I had to bear during the twelve year delay, or for the ‘constructive dismissal’. The Ombudsman has asked me to make further submissions regarding the very interesting detail which has since come to light from the documentation I have been able to obtain. Just when you think the skeletons are all out , the plot thickens.

As they say - Watch this Space.

I cant help thinking that if it had been Shirley Bassey or Kylie Minogue who had been injured, or the Attorney General for that matter, it would all have been handled quite differently.

For example, I don't imagine that it would have taken twelve years for a "result". (such as it was)

I hope you like the song.

Tasmanians like it, except perhaps the "faceless old farts".

 

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