Walkleys for nothing and the chicks for free


The piece I have put together the other day about the 200 or so people who have been arrested – and most charged – with setting a significant amount of the fires that have devastated large swaths of Australia in recent months seems to have gone viral, with over 2,600 Facebook likes so far (thank you all). The purpose of the post was not to argue about the climatic conditions and their interplay with bushfires but to remind everyone of a large human element to the story: however dry and however hot, forests don’t spontaneously combust.

So it amused me tonight to discover I have been dragged into an exchange between two very fine individuals on Twitter:


Caleb Cluff, according to his brief Twitter bio, is a journalist at my local “Courier Mail”, “Walkley and Quill finalist 2019”, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (“the largest and most established union and industry advocate for Australia’s creative professionals” – perhaps I should join) board member, and “not a centrist” (in case you had any doubts). Kay Schubach (with the obligatory drip) is “Head Philanthropy NBCF; AFR 100 Women of Influence 2018; NSW Woman of the Year finalist 2018, DV law reform; Author:Perfect Stranger; Stg4 cancer survivor”.

As Caleb and Key were busy discussing the Murdoch media’s conspiracy theories about arsonists (presumably fiendishly designed to distract from the real culprit, CO2), one of my Twitter followers, Kamila, pointed out to them that there have been just a few more than one arrest so far:


This drew this – my favourite – response from Caleb:


Caleb, being a Walkley finalist (for my non-Australian readers, the Walkleys are the Down Under equivalent of Pulitzers for journalism), seems to have researched me thoroughly. Unfortunately this does not seem to have extended to actually reading the blog post in question.


You see Caleb, when you move your mouse around the pad an arrow moves on your computer screen. You point that arrow at the link and right-click it. This will take you to my article. The roller on your mouse will allow you to scroll down and you will discover links to further 17 news stories from sources as diverse as ABC, BBC, The Guardian, The Australian, 9 News and others listing the instances of arson and people being charged by the police. That’s where the “Arrests” are. Can I have my Walkley now?

Being rather contrary bots, both Kamila and I felt obliged to reply.


Stay tuned, as the hilarity will no doubt continue.

P.S. These are the stories I mention in my tweet, as subsequent to my original blog post:

January 4:

Horrific fires which threatened to destroy 100 homes in Sydney’s west were started deliberately by cruel arsonists, locals said.

A police manhunt is underway to find the culprits who allegedly started two blazes in Georges Hall and Badgerys Creek.

January 4:

Authorities are hunting for those responsible for lighting a fire that destroyed 21 properties in northern New South Wales. The bushfires at Busby’s Flat and Long Gully…

January 4:

Thirty fires are still burning in Tasmania as police charge a 35-year old man accused of lighting a fire at Fingal.

The fire in Fingal destroyed one home, and another has been destroyed in the Elderslie blazes.

Tasmania experienced 406 lightning strikes which caused 193 fires to flare up, only 30 of which are still burning.

January 5:

A 79-year-old South Australian man has been charged with intentionally lighting four grass and scrub fires in the state’s southeast in recent days.

Police will allege the man lit fires on December 30 and January 2, and then two on Saturday, all in the Kingston area.

Caleb can also contact NSW police for comment (hat tip Tim Blair):