From Garth Clarke
I enjoyed Les Murray’s poem ‘Brown Suits’, but found myself wondering if the irony of the piece might escape some British readers (LRB, 23 October). Would they be aware that ‘bastard’ is frequently a term of endearment in Australia? It is likely that our former prime minister Malcolm Fraser took as much pride in being referred to as ‘the big bastard’ (he was well over six feet tall) as his predecessor John Gorton did in publicly declaring that he had been born on the wrong side of the blanket. Murray himself revelled in the role of ‘Bastard from the Bush’ long after the political demise of both Gorton and Fraser, and even appeared in a television documentary with that title in 1988. So much for his claim that Gorton’s declaration had driven ‘a last stake through that lousiest distinction’.