Toxic Custard Workshop FilesGuide to Australia

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What REALLY happened to Harold Holt? - Wacky, Australia

National Archives of Australia: Harold Holt

National Museum: Harold Holt bio

Stonnington swim centres (including Harold Holt)

NineMSN: Harold Holt investigation


Harold Holt had been Prime Minister of Australia for about three years when he disappeared swimming off Portsea in 1967. A public swimming pool - yes, a swimming pool - was named in his memory.

But what really happened to Harold Holt? Well, rather than launch an extensive investigation into the facts, which sounds far too much like hard work for my liking (all that checking of facts and gathering evidence...), we decided to get readers to vote on it. Yeah. That's far more accurate.

The results? The conspiracy theorists had the most votes...

  • He drowned in the rough waves - 11%
  • He was taken by aliens to the planet Mothball 6 - 10%
  • He was picked up by a Russian submarine and whisked away to spend the rest of his days working for the KGB - 7%
  • He was picked up by a Chinese submarine and whisked away to spend the rest of his days working for the Chinese - 3%
  • He was assassinated by the CIA because they didn't like that he wanted to pull the troops out of Vietnam - 25%
  • He swam all the way to Tasmania where he went feral, hunting for Tasmanian tigers - 18%
  • A passing Japanese trawler thought he was a whale, so they harpooned him so they could "experiment" on him (but of course they actually ate him) - 7%
  • He was shot by a curiously resurrected Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, nobody knew this, but Harold was actually a long lost member of the Kennedy family - 10%
  • He was picked up, whisked away in a government car, and went and lived in France - 10%

A number of other suggestions were submitted, including:

  • he's hanging with Elvis in a 7-11 in Stockholm
  • he faked his own disappearance and is now living in disguise in the suburbs of Melbourne writing a hugely funny and popular website called Toxic Custard (I could deny it, but then... I would say that, wouldn't I)
  • it was a dingo with scuba gear - "A dingo took my Prime Minister"
  • he swam on to Antarctica where he was adopted by a family of rather short-sighted penguins

Thanks to all who participated!

What were Bush and Howard saying to each other?

Picture from Mike Bowers / The Age 22/10/2001.

The Age: Leaders unite against terror

This picture of Australian PM John Garrison err, Howard and George Bush embracing at the APEC summit appeared recently in the newspaper. Visitors to this page were asked: What are they saying to each other? Here are the results:
[Howard and Bush at APEC]

"Nice pyjamas!" - 5%

"Keep your hands where I can see them!" - 9%

"Oh Georgie!" "Oh Johnny!" "Oh Georgie, I could make such a fool of myself over you..." - 23%

"Room 432. The key's under the mat." - 26%

"Who are you again?" - 8%

"You know, you look just like Mr Garrison from South Park." - 17%

"Fancy a snog?" - 4%

"Pssst. Who's the tall chick in the red jacket who talks funny?" - 7%

"Man, your breath stinks!" - 2%

Other suggestions included:

  • Bush: "I'm trying John, but the bastards who stitched us up only left my right hand free enough to scratch your groin"
  • "Man! You got stuck in the 'King and I' production, too?"
  • "Slip me some tongue Sheila errr..Johnny, and Canada is yours!"
  • "God I feel stupid in this jacket"
  • "Hmmm.... I'm guessing you're a close talker?!"
  • "hold tight...we'll pick up the gay vote!"
  • "Are you thinking what I'm thinking B1?"
  • "You just HAD to wear the same outfit as me didn't you - you bitch!"
  • "Your predecessor knew me as... 'Monica'!"
  • "We should stop meeting like this"
  • "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn..."
  • "Please don't touch my ass again."
  • "Okay, but just once, and no tongue."
  • "That darn Chinese ambassador. He said only his favourite trading partner got to wear the monkey suit!"

Me and my pals would like to holiday in Australia. Problem is, my folks won't let me as they tell me that if I am found, I will be locked up in a detention center and used as a slave. Why do you lock up your visitors? - Rudie Zarsoff, location unknown

Immigration web site 

Well, that would depend on how you come on holiday. If you apply for a holiday visa, and enter Australia by conventional means, for example on an aeroplane, and you don't try and do anything silly like bring illicit drugs in with you, then you are unlikely to be locked up.

Because believe it or not, as a rule, the Australian government doesn't lock up tourists. Not unless they've done something really bad. No, we'd much prefer you were free to roam around, spending your money on doing touristy things.

If, on the other hand, you decide to come and visit us without applying for a visa, without bringing a passport, and entering the country by, for example, landing somewhere on the deserted part of the coastline where you hope nobody will notice you in a rickety old boat, with the general aim dodging immigration officials and getting into the country without authorisation ... and you happen to get caught, then yes, you might be locked up in a detention centre, while the immigration authorities work out who you are and whether or not you have a right to be there. You won't be used as a slave as such, though.

I may have had the blinkers on when I wrote the above response. It's been pointed out by readers that the name is probably made up and it's just a wind-up. Fair call.

Is it true that voting is compulsory in Australia? - David

Australian Electoral Commission

Election '96 - Toxic Custard Political Circus

Yes, it is. Registering to vote, and actually voting are both compulsory. If you don't go and vote on the day, they come around to your house with a little cardboard booth and a pencil, they stick you in there with a ballot paper, and make you fill it in, then put the paper into one of their cardboard ballot boxes.

No, actually, they don't. They give you several different methods by which to vote, and if you don't, then they fine you. It has been known for people who have been pigheaded enough not to vote, and refuse to pay the fine, and argue it out in court and lose, to go to jail for short periods of time.

The Electoral Commission says that typically 95-96% of voters participate in elections, which pretty much eclipses figures for democratic countries where voting isn't compulsory.

When it comes right down to it, although voting is compulsory, if you really object to all the candidates, there are ways and means of getting around to it. An "informal" vote (writing nothing, or crap all over your voting paper, so it is invalid) is possible, even if not officially encourages.

It's been this way for more than seventy years, so I think we're all pretty much used to it now.

1.) Is Bill Bryson pulling my leg, or did you really lose a prime minister who went for a stroll down the beach?   2.) If so, can you invite the winner of our Presidential election, whether Gore or Bush, for a walk on the same beach? - Rich, California

National Archives of Australia: Harold Holt's disappearance

Harold Holt Memorial Swim Centre (Melway map)

Almost right: he didn't just go for a stroll, he went for a swim. Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim at Cheviot Beach, near Portsea on 17 December 1967, and was never seen again. To commemorate this tragic event, we named a swimming centre after him. No, really!

Any politician from anywhere at all is invited to throw him or herself into the surf at Portsea and get lost.

is it true that "oz" is much safer now that the gov. has taken the guns of the public. because I have been told that since 96 there has been numerious shootings of police and stations, people and drive by's. I have also been told that their minister has "lost the plot". will it be safe to come to the olimpics.. - Paul, probably USA

Australian Institute of Criminology: Homicide in 1998 

FBI: Uniform Crime Reports

Daryl Williams, Australian Federal Attorney General

Sadly, in most societies, there are numerous shootings - the question is, how numerous?

In the past few months, the US National Rifle Association, using statistics which are out of context at best and outright lies at worst, has shown Australia as an example of how tighter gun laws lead to increased crime. This is apparently what gun lobbyists do when they're not actually out and about blowing the crap out of things: they don't just argue against the idea that there should be less guns; instead they argue that there should be more guns.

So basically, the NRA claims that because we have so few guns, us Australians are living in fear. Could've fooled me. But if it means less NRA members come to visit Australia, then I suppose it's no bad thing.

Research by the Australian Institute of Criminology suggests that since the laws were tightened in 1996, no definite overall trend is yet discernable from the crime statistics.

However, this much is clear: Australian homicide rates (1.8 per 100,000 population) remain at around a quarter of those of the United States (6.3 per 100,000). 

As for whether or not Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams has lost the plot - well, I don't know, but from his picture it does look like he's losing his hair. If that's relevant.

Is the Austrailian govnerment under authoritarian rule or representitive democracy?? If you are wondering why this is such a stupid and utterly worthless question, blame Marroned social studies programs!! - Claudia, somewhere where you can use Hotmail from

Australian Electoral Commission

Australia is run by a fascist authoritarian government that hunts down and arrests anybody caught using bad spelling on a public web site.

No, actually, Australia is a democracy, although of course there's always that small number of lunatic fringe dwellers who would cite numerous conspiracy theories to claim otherwise.

In fact, Australia is one of few countries in the world which have a compulsory electoral roll and compulsory voting for most citizens. None of your 30% attendances over here, close to 100% of voters turn up on polling day.

If you can't stand any of the politicians, you can always "vote informal", eg. mess up your ballot paper so it can't be counted. Just think - writing "You're all arseholes" across a ballot paper would be much more satisfying that just not turning up.

Well just recently in the US there's been yet ANOTHER school massacre. God, this thing is almost a normal occurrence by now. But anyway, do things like shooting people for no reason and such happen in Aussie? - Chantelle USA

Australian Bureau of Statistics

United States FBI Crime Statistics

I doubt there's anywhere on the planet inhabited by humans where random shootings and murders don't occur. We're just such a wonderful species up here at the top of the food chain. But they certainly occur less often in Australia (and probably in most western countries) than in the United States.

The grim statistics, from those grim people at the Australian Bureau of Statistics: In 1997, there were 322 murders in Australia, or 1.74 per 100,000 people. Firearms were used in about 23% of these.

Grimmer statistics from those grimmer people at the FBI: In 1997, there were 18,209 murders in the United States, or 6.8 per 100,000 people. Firearms were used in about 68% of these.

Most people would put this difference, particularly in the use of firearms, down to the wide availability of firearms in the United States. The US laws (and in particular the evidently misinterpreted right to bear arms in the constitution - where is this well ordered militia then?) is pretty much out of step with most other western countries.

In Australia, you need to have an actual reason to own a gun. Other than that you're a taxpaying law-abiding citizen who wants a gun, that is. Sure, some criminals will always get guns, but ummm... I wonder who they steal them off?

Of course maybe that's not the problem at all. Perhaps Americans are just angrier because they can't get decent beer?

Does most Australians have beef with GB - the government in particular? (in reference to taking Elizabeth off the currency)? - Edward
  I don’t think many Australians have a problem with Great Britain or the government of Great Britain or the people of Great Britain, no matter how much we might refer to whingeing Poms. A great number of Australians, myself included, have grandparents or other ancestors and relatives from the UK. My sister has a problem with some of the cooking in Great Britain - particular my grandparents', but that’s another issue altogether.

What some Australians do have a problem with is having a foreign queen as head of state. Although it’s largely a ceremonial role, Republicans would like to see this role filled by an Australian. If this happens, then I would think that it’s likely that Queen Elizabeth will disappear off our currency. Maybe we'll get someone cultured and distinguished, like Les Patterson or Mick Dundee instead.

It doesn't mean that the Queen will be beheaded if she visits or anything like that. But perhaps we'll just treat her like any other elderly rich tourist. A few less complimentary perks and a bit more encouragement to inject some of her dosh into the local economy. (I wonder if she carries a credit card that says something like "H M QUEEN OF ENGLAND. MEMBER SINCE 1714.")

Come to think of it, the Royal Family is mostly of German origin, isn’t it. Has Great Britain considered becoming a republic?

I'll be interning in the Victorian Parliament starting in February. What is the bloody Victorian system like? Who are the players? What are their leanings? Are there any big issues coming to a head this summer? - jwatts, USA
  The Liberal/National coalition are currently in power in Victoria, as they have been since 1992. Despite their name, they represent the conservative side of Australian politics. The Labor party are in opposition. Some of the major political issues in Victoria at the moment include:
  • How Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett is such an arrogant bastard (no, really, he comes across as an extremely smug git.)
  • The government's plans to strip the Auditor-General of his powers
  • Possible tax-cuts to the Casino, because it has been losing money. This would explain why they called it Crown Casino - because the crown will be bailing it out. Actually, it makes me wonder how incompetent the management of a casino would have to be to be losing money.
  • Changes to WorkCover, which provides compensation in the case of workplace accidents
  • The continuing corporatisation, privatisation, etc of water, gas, electricity, public transport, you name it, the government is privatising it
I'm helping my friend with a report on Australia and I need to know the current political climate there. - Anonymous
Related TCWF:

Political Circus

You might also want to keep reading the much more sensible answers further down on this page.

Hmmm... Anonymous, eh? I wonder if your friend is allowed to ask for help with the report? And does this count asking Australians? Or perhaps it would earn points for initiative?

Anyway, to your question. The political climate. Well, at the moment it's June, so it's starting to get quite constitutionally cold, especially down here in Melbourne. So far there hasn't been much radical rain, but some country areas are getting socialist snow.

Is there a racial problem in Australia? - Ru
  Yes, her name's Pauline.

But seriously, there is a small but vocal minority (who will probably email complaints to me when they read this) who seem to be of the totally illogical opinion that castigating ethnic minorities is not only fun but for the good of the country.

Perhaps what they need to be reminded is that in the past immigration has done nothing but good for Australia*, as it has for many countries across the globe. A quick look into their own ethnic past would probably show that most of their ancestors immigrated recently too.

*Early colonisation and subsequent effects on native population excluded.

In yesterday's Seattle Times, there was an article about Pauline Hanson. I quote:
"Hanson, who owned a fish-and-chips shop near Brisbane before winning election to Parliament last year, set forth her vision in a book, 'Pauline Hanson - The Truth,' cowritten by unnamed authors.... In 50 years, the book predicts, the country will be home to 1.8 billion Asians and will be ruled by a 'cyborg-lesbian-Chinese-Indian.'"
My question is: how large is Australia's Parliament? That is, what percentage of your government does this froot-loop woman constitute?
- Doug in Seattle
Related Toxic Custard:

Toxic Custard Political Circus

Related Web sites:

Australian Electoral Commission site

An earlier Seattle Times article about "The Truth".

Thanks for the excerpt Doug. It's nice to know another Australian export is making it big overseas. (Actually, IS there anywhere we could export her to? Please?)

Pauline Hanson is the member for the seat of Oxley in Queensland, making one of the more favoured nicknames for her "the Oxley Moron". If you're looking for it on the map, the seat of Oxley includes the town of Ipswich.

I won't claim to have read the book, but from the excerpts I've seen published, it would appear that most of it is as credible as the above quote.

Pauline is no longer a member of the Liberal Party, so she is not actually part of the Liberal Party/National Party Coalition Government. She is forming her own party, "One Nation", which is certainly ironic given how divisive she is.

Of course, she'd deny this. Last week she complained that protests at her party meetings had been incited by Prime Minister John Howard (finally) criticising her. HELLO, EARTH TO PAULINE! THERE WERE PROTESTS THE PREVIOUS WEEK TOO, BEFORE HOWARD SAID ANYTHING!

Anyway, if everyone will forgive, I'll go on a brief and probably futile tour through a bunch of numbers in an effort to try and actually answer this question.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission there were 75,751 votes cast in the seat of Oxley at the last election in March 1996. 33,960 of these were for Pauline. After the distribution of preferences, she had 38,129 votes, enough to win her the seat.

In that election there were 11,740,568 registered voters, and of these 11,244,017 voted. So, Pauline got 0.302% of the nation's first preference votes.

There are 148 seats in the House Of Representatives. She holds one of them, which is 0.67% of the seats. Each House Of Reps seat is meant to more or less hold the same number of voters, and Oxley is about right - Pauline represents 75,751 voters of the 11,244,017 in the country, so she represents 0.67% of the voters.

I spent a year on that magnificently big island that is called Australia. My question is why the hell is it so bloody difficult to get permission to go somewhere so bloody big!!!??? (The embassy here really make it difficult to get a visa.) - Paul Ryan from Ireland
Related TCWF:

My interrogation at Canadian Immigration

Related Sites:

Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Australia Post

When Australia was first colonised, they'd let anyone in. In fact, I suspect that most of the convicts who got dragged halfway across the world to be here would have preferred not to have come.

Nowadays the situation is reversed. They won't let anybody in without a certain amount of prerequisite paperwork unless they are (a) planning to spend a lot of dosh, (b) a New Zealander, or, rare as it might be, (c) both.

The other thing to remember is that the people who staff the Immigration Department and most other government departments, before they get to work there, have to pass a thing called the Public Service exam. To pass the exam, they have to prove beyond all doubt that they are the slowest, least accurate jugglers of paperwork in the country. These are the people the post office reject.

And that's why it's so hard to get a visa.

I understand that Aussies are required by law to vote, and fined if they don't. How much is the fine? - Greg, somewhere in the United States
Related TCWF:
Political Circus
Related sites:
Australian Electoral Commisssion
Yes, Australians are required by law to vote, although exceptions are made if you really can't, for instance if you've been stuck two years overseas in a jungle somewhere in deepest South America unable to move because there's one of those huge snakes wrapped completely around your body trying to strangle you, and anyway you didn't even know there was an election, honest Your Honour.

The fine is A$78.50. According to recent newspaper reports, around thirty people decided they hated democracy so much that not only did they not vote, they preferred to spend time in jail rather than pay the fine. I hope they all had a really miserable time.

I can just see the mail coming in now that asks: Who is this Pauline Hanson you keep raving on about?
Related TCWF:
Political Circus
Related sites:
I'm sure there's some out there somewhere.
She's just another loudmouthed racist with a chip on her shoulder, the difference being that she's somehow managed to get herself elected into federal parliament.

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Toxic Custard Workshop Files Toxic Custard Guide to Australia

Copyrightę1996-2001 Daniel Bowen. Questions remain the property of their authors.