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Sausages and Legislation

Congratulations are in order to "a certain PhD student" who, apart from just being one of the nicest people on the planet you could ever hope to meet and someone you could only dream of being worthy to be friends with, has had her PhD thesis accepted, after 11 years of work (a lot of it well- spent on bringing up her most exceptionally cute kids and husband)...


The riveting topic is something that was called "Foxes Designing Chicken-Coops" last time I saw it. It is about the attempts at campaign financing reform in New South Wales politics that drifted along from the late 1970's until 1992. It tells an object lesson in how self-interest can overcome idealism, given the appropriate ambiguously worded legislation, even when drafted by allegedly bi-partisan committees. It is just amazing the collusion that went on between the Left, Right and Centre parties, none of whom had any desire to lose the easy run they had had with the unmonitored picking up and pocketing of "campaign" cash, left, right and centre.

I had the ambiguous fortune of volunteering to edit one chapter of the thesis, and let me tell you it took forever - I am such a woefully slow editor (who knows what notice she took of my suggestions, none hopefully) and know knew nothing about politics. I certainly know more now! - you wonder why I am cynical...

The writer, let's call her Amanda, had access to much priveleged and bone-of-contention information, having been an independant observer on some of the later committees involved, infromation she had gathered over many years, but it was obviously originally pasted together from many different documents. That was because she had only had a short time to get it into one free-flowing piece before passing it to her friends to help out. She had taken so much time off for the family that she risked running out of extensions to finally submit all the study and work she had done in those early years.

Editing is Difficult!

For me as a first time editor, it was a struggle to resist putting my own favorite twists of syntactical legerdemain into it, but the essence is that I wanted to bring out the core points of her knowledge and help to make it work, because I really wanted Amanda to succeed... Hell, I wanted her to write a best-seller!

(Truth-time: part of that motivation was the selfish ambition that I wanted people to say "What a great read, how well written it is!"... and I wanted to sit back smuggly and be able to say "I helped edit that," even if only to myself! Mind you all the work, knowledge, intelligence and insight would be hers! Mine contribution would be just that appropriately witty placement of a comma or two!)

But as I said, it was a slow hard slog. I frequently got quite frustrated making head or tail of the drift and a slight mix of styles due to parts having been written at different times. Sometimes she had sentences that were not much more than note form - I called it Powerpoint text - which is how we write when in a hurry, and she was in an almighty hurry! The abuse of commas and apostrophes (like I can criticize!) was more likely to be typos than any wilful attempt to make me tear my hair out at 3 am.

Usually my frustration was my own fault as I just didn't get what she was trying to say, fuck I am thick sometimes, but maybe once or twice (tops) I was right - characters who had already been introduced didn't need re-introductions for example. I gave her a ten page list of changes I suggested - mostly to make sentences flow more smoothly (to my ears - I usually read them out loud to get "a sound" for them.)

I learnt a hell of a lot about writing by helping to getting someone else's stuff ready for other people to read. I learnt for example how bad is my own shit - I really just ramble (like now for example!) - and how much I could do with a good editor. Stay focused!


I also volunteered a quote (again I don't know if she used it) attributed to Bismark - "There are two things the public should not see getting made; sausages and legislation."

When I worked out how she intended the threads to go together (again, my stupidity not her bad planning) there were some very interesting revelations about "Nifty" Neville Wran (one of the relatively good guys) and all the committees that progressively watered down the intent of the original enquiry until the outcome of the process dissipated into various refinements of how to rip-off the system.

Brown-paper bags packed with cash and left anonymously on politicians' desks were considered legitimate "campaign" funds, for example...

There is talk of Sydney University publishing the thesis, so best of luck for that, and again congratulations to one of E@L's favorite human beings, Dr Amanda - currently luxuriating in the thrilling nightlife of Jersey! Makes even Singapore look lively!



Posted by: expat@large on Jul 14, 05 | 10:05 pm | Profile


I just wanted to let you all know of the magical day that today has been for me and, as I write this, the tears are welling up and my hands are shaking.

After writing my first draft, getting knocked back, rewriting, submitting, getting knocked back, flying to Australia from Hong Kong, rewriting, flying back to Australia from the Channel Islands, flying to London to get it bound and finally submitting I have been waiting with bated breath ever since for my results. Waking up at night, panicking, worrying and feeling hugely guilty about the time and effort this has involved.

This morning the results came through on my email. Three independent examiners have agreed to confer the degree – Doctor of Philosophy, Economics Faculty.

I’ll tell you now the feeling when reading those words stopped my heart and made everything still. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t speak and it is the most surreal, intense experience.

Three countries, three children, three drafts, three supervisors, three examiners. Numerous friends have helped during this process offering support, love and friendship and to each of you I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Jacqui Keddie has dusted me off more times than I care to count brushing away tears and offering hugs and wine and laughter. Phil Ramm has offered editorial suggestions as did Paul Belcher and Jennifer Ferris. Others like Sue Land and Virendra Anand have been a source of reassurance and inspiration. Adam has of course been the solid rock, and without his presence beside me I don’t think I would have had the confidence or courage to keep persevering.

Some people skip over the finishing line but for me this has felt like a marathon all the way through. Times when I felt like walking away, like quitting, in utter despair but one of my colleagues wrote these words when I was close to completing earlier on this year, and to me, they really sum up the experience.

<blockquote>“I will always remember the Barcelona Olympics when the women marathon runners came into the stadium for the final lap. There was one runner who entered the arena in the final stages of exhaustion, who staggered around, but wouldn't be denied the finish line. </blockquote>

<blockquote>Run on, you are arriving, the crowds are on their feet, roaring for you.”</blockquote>

And that is exactly what today feels like.

I am roaring and shouting and singing!

Thank you!


Posted by: expat@large on Jul 16, 05 | 12:37 pm


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