NT Libs slammed for vicious tactics

ALP candidate Des Rogers.FIRST Nations’ candidate and popular singer-songwriter Warren H. Williams has blasted the Country Liberals for using ”cruel in-your-face tactics” to win votes for the bush seat of Namatjira in today’s Northern Territory election.
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Mr Williams told The Saturday Age it’s ”enough to put you off politics for life, I don’t think I would have stood if I had known how bad and ugly the campaign was going to be”.

He said he had witnessed ”vicious personal” attacks made on the reputation of ALP candidate Des Rogers at Santa Teresa community outside Alice Springs.

The ”verballing of voters” was in Aboriginal language so polling officials had no idea what was taking place, he said.

Mr Williams declined to identify who had made the attacks or repeat the defamatory comments he overheard, but said it had been part of a systematic campaign. The Country Liberals are fighting to retain Namatjira in today’s closely fought territory election, which politicians and analysts say could go either way.

In Namatjira the contest is particularly hard fought between Mr Rogers, Country Liberal candidate Alison Anderson, who defected from the Labor ministry to the opposition after the last election, and Mr Williams, who is the only First Nations candidate to preference Labor.

Labor has been in power in the territory for more than 10 years and, unlike New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, seems to have resisted the ”It’s time” factor. It narrowly avoided defeat in 2008 and holds office with the support of independent Gerry Wood.

Mr Rogers and Ms Anderson weren’t available for comment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The Dismissal’s ‘third man’ drawn from the shades of history

SIR John Kerr had been governor-general for just eight months when, in March 1975, he approached the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University with a confidential request. Kerr put forward an unusual proposition – the formation of a group within the university to meet with him, in confidence and without the knowledge of the prime minister, and to advise him on the nature and extent of his powers as governor-general.
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Kerr did not tell prime minister Gough Whitlam he had sought advice from this hand-picked advisory group – or indeed that he harboured any doubts about his role and powers – and Kerr never revealed the role played in the formation of this group by its most senior judicial figure, Sir Anthony Mason.

Mason was at that time a sitting judge of the High Court of Australia and a pro-chancellor of the ANU. He and Kerr had been close friends since Mason first appeared as a junior counsel to Kerr in the 1950s, and it was Mason who drove the discussions with Kerr on the establishment of this advisory group, conferring directly and confidentially with the governor-general about ”constitutional problems”.

Kerr’s request for confidential advice posed ”some difficulty” for Mason, since the matters that the group was likely to consider were the same controversial political and legal points that were the subject of intense political debate and were also likely to go before the High Court.

Mason acknowledged his dilemma to Kerr: ”I have felt some difficulty as to my own participation in the discussions, for it may appear to some that we are engaged in the consideration of important questions which may sooner or later come before the High Court for decision,” he wrote.

”No doubt the questions which you have in mind are presently hypothetical. Unfortunately the hypothetical questions of today have a distressing habit of becoming the actual questions of tomorrow. I therefore doubt whether it would be proper for me to become a member of the group on a continuing basis.”

While expressing some doubt over his own involvement, Mason told Kerr he would attend the initial meeting and ”refrain from expressing my opinion on questions which might become controversial”.

The group, variously described as a ”seminar” or a ”tutorial” for the governor-general, met twice at the ANU during September 1975. Sir John Kerr attended with his official secretary, David Smith.

By October, with the opposition senators refusing to vote on the government’s appropriation bills in a bid to force a general election, it was clear the ANU was involving itself in matters of partisan political controversy of the highest dimension with the governor-general – a fact that was creating unease among some members of this curious group. Kerr was told that their ”tutorials” would have to cease. Professor Geoffrey Sawer, ANU’s first law professor, recalled: ”My thumbs pricked a warning that the university shouldn’t get actively involved in a situation involving actual rather than academic problems, and Sir John gracefully agreed to ceasing our tutorials.”

The end of his private tutorials did not signal the end of Kerr’s solicitations to Mason. Before the opposition had taken action in the Senate against the government’s budget, Kerr had initiated, according to his records, what he termed a ”running conversation” with Mason to discuss ”probable future events and discretionary alternatives open to me”.

These records describe a series of strategic and undisclosed exchanges that continued throughout the period of mounting political crisis, marked by the extraordinarily close involvement of both Mason and the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, in Kerr’s final actions, and which ended only with the end of the Whitlam government itself.

Kerr later set out a detailed archival record of what had transpired between himself and Mason, without which ”his part in my thinking in October-November 1975 will not … be known to history”.

He wrote: ”In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role.

”I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known.”

The scenario depicted in Kerr’s record dramatically recasts our understanding of these events and of the role of key individuals within them. This remarkable document presents a hidden history, now left for archival posterity, as much for personal vindication as public illumination.

Kerr records that at every stage in the painstaking, strategically fraught, politically acute and apparently confidential discussions between the governor-general and the prime minister during the critical month from October 12 to November 11, 1975, he was confiding every meeting and recounting every detail to Mason, ”to fortify myself for the action I was to take”.

Mason has steadfastly refused to speak on these matters, despite repeated requests to do so.

Whitlam meanwhile, was oblivious to it all.

The precise nature of Mason’s role in Kerr’s deliberations has never been revealed, either by Kerr or by Mason. In his memoirs, Kerr referred cryptically to ”conversation with one person only other than the Chief Justice”.

Although speculation soon emerged that Mason was this unidentified ”third man” in conversation with Kerr, it would be another 20 years before he was identified as such and as having spoken to Kerr during that time.

But Kerr’s records suggest Mason was not merely the third man: he was, in many ways, the man. From their earliest discussions, months before there was even any supply crisis in the Senate, Kerr records that it was Mason who met, talked with, planned for and counselled him, guiding him through his deliberations and advising him on the action he should take.

Of equal significance from Kerr’s detailed record is his depiction of Mason as providing a necessary bridge between Kerr and Chief Justice Barwick.

In the years to follow, the more his own actions were questioned, the more eager Kerr became that Mason’s opinions and advice to him should be revealed. ”From my point of view it is unfortunate that they are unknown,” Kerr wrote.

Five years after these events, Kerr noted in his journal that he had renewed his plea to Mason to make his involvement public, and that Mason had again refused. Mason’s view, as he still maintained when pressed on these matters nearly 40 years later was, ”I owe history nothing”.

What is clear from Kerr’s detailed archival record of these discussions is that, even before supply had been blocked, he had already reached a decision on the critical element fundamental to the resolution of the political crisis that would engulf Parliament and occupy much of his negotiations with both the leader of the opposition and the prime minister in the coming weeks.

Kerr accepted without question the existence of ”the reserve powers” – powers that, although unspecified in the constitution and subject to intense debate, would, if presumed to exist, enable the governor-general to act independently, even against the advice of ministers.

But the question of the existence of the reserve powers was not only the subject of intense legal debate, it lay at the heart of the political differences over the role of the governor-general. The advice proffered by opposition shadow attorney-general Robert Ellicott, which Kerr had dismissed to Whitlam as ”bullshit”, was that the reserve powers not only existed but that Kerr should act on them immediately and remove Whitlam from office from the moment supply was blocked.

The government’s chief law officers and formal legal advisers to the governor-general – the solicitor-general, Maurice Byers, and the attorney-general, Kep Enderby – firmly rejected Ellicott’s approach. ”Mr Ellicott’s expressed views are wrong,” they advised the governor-general.

But from his own record of their conversations over this time, Kerr had not even received the advice of his legal advisers when he declared to Mason that he would ignore it anyway, in favour of the advice of the shadow attorney-general.

Kerr had already decided that he could act against Whitlam and his government as early as October 12, 1975, at the time of the very first of his discussions with Mason when, Kerr’s archival record states, they considered ”probabilities, options and timing”.

On that day, when there was no crisis, no block in the Senate and, as Kerr himself noted, ”no conceivable ground for action on my part, supply not having been blocked”, Kerr resolved that he should not act yet, but that he should ”await further developments”.

By October 17, with supply blocked for barely two days, Kerr was even more certain in his decision to act against the government. It was just a question of when. ”The real question at this time is whether I should act before the money runs out and whilst the Senate is still only deferring,” he noted.

The next week, as Kerr’s archival record presents it, he again met with Mason, and on October 20 resolved to ”still follow the same line” and do nothing for the moment. According to Kerr’s records, it was at this meeting and again by phone the following day that he and Mason discussed for the first time ”the desirability … of seeking Barwick’s formal advice”.

The notion of the governor-general seeking ”formal advice” from the chief justice, against the advice of the prime minister, was an exercise of unilateral vice-regal power, since the governor-general’s formal adviser is the prime minister and his formal legal advisers are the solicitor-general and the attorney-general.

At this point, as Kerr recorded it, Mason advised that he should approach Barwick only when he knew ”what he would be likely to advise”. Barwick believed, as Ellicott did also, that Kerr should move immediately against Whitlam. ”Barwick … would advise immediate radical action – dismissal,” Kerr noted. Barwick therefore should be approached only once Kerr was ready to act.

The timing of this exercise was crucial and, according to Kerr’s record of their conversation, Mason cautioned that ”such advice [immediate dismissal] would be disastrous at this time”. Kerr would continue to ”follow the same line” as previously determined upon, Barwick’s advice could wait.

The next day Whitlam reminded Kerr that he was not entitled to seek outside advice, that ”I could get advice only through him”. Kerr ignored the directive and, according to his records, told Mason of it and continued to seek outside guidance.

Kerr’s actions represented a dramatic subversion of the role of the governor-general in a parliamentary democracy, as an appointed official who acted on the advice of ministers. In seeking external advice without the knowledge, much less the approval, of the prime minister, Kerr had stepped away from the office of the governor-general defined in terms of its relationship with elected government.

Through this circular, self-referential process, Kerr was constructing an entirely new notion of an independent, unelected governor-general with literal and extensive powers, a view that was at odds with the democratic understanding of the role and certainly at odds with Whitlam’s unstinting trust and belief in him – personally and as governor-general.

Like Kerr’s dealings with Mason, the interaction between Kerr and Barwick on this political struggle stretched back several weeks, to September 20 when Kerr was guest of honour at the annual dinner in Sydney of the Order of St Michael and St George, a British order conferred for distinguished service overseas or in foreign affairs.

Kerr was seated next to Barwick, and they discussed the possible role of the governor-general should the opposition senators refuse to vote on the government’s appropriation bills. Kerr asked Barwick whether he would be prepared to advise him on his own position and actions. The chief justice agreed.

The fear of his own dismissal, which Kerr repeatedly expressed with alarm and indiscretion, had been raised with him by Sir Geoffrey Yeend, deputy head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and former principal private secretary to Sir Robert Menzies.

Kerr later recorded in his journal that Yeend had asked him in September whether, in the event of supply being denied, he had given any thought ”to what could happen if you were to consider taking action yourself? Your own position could be in doubt”, and suggested, ”It could be a race to the Palace”.

Kerr disagreed, telling Yeend that if he decided to act, there would be no race to the Palace because ”I do not have to go to the Palace”.

Kerr’s consistent and repeated concern was for his own security, that the prime minister might advise the Queen to dismiss him as governor-general if he knew that his own dismissal was being contemplated.

Kerr was presented with an unexpected opportunity to canvass his concerns directly with ”the Palace” in the unlikely setting of Port Moresby in September. The occasion was the achievement of one of the Whitlam government’s earliest foreign affairs commitments, the transition to an independent Papua New Guinea.

During Prince Charles’ 1974 visit to Australia, Kerr had discussed with him the possibility of Charles’ own future appointment as governor-general, a proposal seriously considered in light of the lengthy time the prince was likely to wait before becoming king.

Kerr took this previous interaction to suggest a personal connection to the Prince of Wales and now, as the two met again in Port Moresby, the governor-general took the extreme step of raising with the prince the possible dismissal of the Whitlam government and his grave fears that he would himself be dismissed by Whitlam should he do so.

Apparently oblivious to constitutional expectations, Charles replied, according to Kerr’s notes of their exchange, ”But surely, Sir John, the Queen should not have to accept advice that you should be recalled at the very time, should this happen when you were considering having to dismiss the government”.

On his return to England, Charles took up Kerr’s concern with the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris. Unknown to Whitlam, who considered Charteris a friend, Charteris then wrote to the governor-general just one week before the supply crisis began, with equally remarkable advice.

Charteris told Kerr that, should what he euphemistically termed ”the contingency to which you refer” arise, the Queen would ”try to delay things”, although, Charteris acknowledged, in the end the Queen would have to take the advice of the prime minister.

Neither Kerr nor the Palace ever revealed that, weeks before any action in the Senate had been taken, the governor-general had already conferred with the Palace on the possibility of the future dismissal of the prime minister, securing in advance the response of the Palace to it.

Kerr’s letter dismissing Whitlam would be accompanied by a statement ostensibly from the governor-general, setting out the reasons for his decision. According to Kerr’s archival record, Justice Anthony Mason’s role in the dismissal of the Whitlam government was complete with his authorship of this statement.

Kerr states that at their final meeting in Sydney on November 10, Mason handed him ”a document … in his own handwriting”, to which Kerr added some material but otherwise used as his own words: ”that sheet as added to by me became incorporated in my final public statement”.

Thirty-five years later, when asked specifically about his authorship of one of these key dismissal documents, Mason refused to comment.

Kerr’s archival notes record that after warning his wife, Anne, of his intentions on November 9, he called Mason and arranged to have another ”private talk” with him later that day. ”I began the conversation by saying that I had decided to dismiss the government, commission Fraser as a caretaker prime minister and get Parliament dissolved on Tuesday the 11th if the crisis was not resolved by then,” Kerr wrote.

According to Kerr, Mason replied spontaneously and with genuine relief, saying: ”I am glad of that. I thought that I might this afternoon have to urge that course upon you.”

This is an edited extract from Gough Whitlam: His Time by Jenny Hocking (The Miegunyah Press), RRP $49.99, available September 28.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Gillard proves a tough nut to crack in rough week

Prime Minister Julia Gillard impressed even those in the most unlikely of quarters with her 50-minute retort to accusations about an event 17 years earlier.”SHE’S a tough bastard,” said one Labor man who’s not the greatest fan of Julia Gillard, after Thursday’s marathon news conference about her rather complicated professional and personal life before she entered parliamentary politics.
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That message would resonate with several audiences. Everybody from voters (pro and anti) to the Coalition to Kevin Rudd’s forces must realise by now that, as Tony Abbott so succinctly put recently, the Prime Minister isn’t going to ”lie down and die”.

Gillard and her backers think she has had a good few weeks. They genuinely believe the atmospherics of politics have changed. And so do her internal critics – who are depressed by what they see. They fear a somewhat stronger Gillard reinforces the reluctance of caucus to change to a leader who, they are convinced, could save more seats. The Liberals know that if Gillard lifts her game even marginally, they have to improve theirs too; instead, Tony Abbott has been making some unforced errors.

But the political mood swings from poll to poll. This week’s Newspoll had Labor’s primary vote on 35 per cent. If the next major poll is around that, the government’s positive mood will continue. If, however, it is significantly lower, fresh gloom is likely to descend. And, while it is only tangentially related, Labor’s vote today in the Northern Territory election will also feed into the mood.

The Gillard camp ticks off the past month’s achievements. First, the PM stared down the states over the trials for the National Disability Insurance Scheme – an initiative that has almost unanimous political support.

Then, with the carbon tax finally operating, Gillard (in a counter-intuitive tactic) elevated electricity pricing, blaming the states for gouging revenue, thus seeking to inoculate Labor against getting all the blame for higher bills. Abbott slipped up when he tried to confine the electricity debate to the carbon tax, with senior Liberals such as Ian Macfarlane admitting wider issues of over-investment and ”gold plating” were involved.

Meanwhile, many people were not just being soothed for the carbon price with cash and a tax cut, but reminded of the fact. In May, before the government started an advertising campaign, only 17 per cent had known of the household assistance package; by late July, after the advertising, 84 per cent were aware.

Gillard tackled another problem front with her instant acceptance of the Houston panel’s blueprint to break the political deadlock on asylum seekers. Never mind that this meant largely embracing the Coalition’s approach. Or that, her internal critics note, she should have gone down this path a long time ago.

The government is rushing to set up offshore processing and this week announced details of the Houston-recommended program for taking extra refugees. The test will be whether the boats will stop or slow (there’s no sign yet). If they don’t, Gillard will be in a very bad spot. If they do, Abbott will be deprived of one of his most potent issues.

This week Gillard started to swing major attention onto education, although the government has delayed its response to the Gonski report on a new system of school funding. When that comes it will involve controversy, because government schools will be the relative winners, and there is also likely to be a fight with the states. Gillard is trying to minimise the downside by promising all schools will be better off. The government got a bonus when Abbott fluffed by suggesting the present system was unjust to independent schools, allowing Gillard to warn the state school sector that they were looking at ”Jack the Ripper”.

BHP Billiton’s cold storage of its Olympic Dam plans was bad news for the government but the PM was able to exploit Abbott’s admission – later rescinded – that he had not read the company’s statement (he actually had read the press release). Abbott tried to blame the carbon and mining taxes, despite the company not doing so.

It wasn’t just Abbott who tripped this week: after Resources Minister Martin Ferguson declared the resources boom over, there was a good deal of faffing around by the government to soften that line.

Amid some better news, Gillard’s past caught up with her (again). In a front page story in The Weekend Australian, a former partner in Slater & Gordon, the law firm where she had worked, claimed in effect that she had had to leave after a scandal involving her former boyfriend, then Australian Workers’ Union official Bruce Wilson, who allegedly siphoned off funds from an entity into which companies paid money supposedly for training. Gillard gave legal advice when the entity was being set up.

What followed in this resurrection of old allegations was an amazing retrospective public battle between former Slater & Gordon partners about Gillard’s 1995 insistence she had done nothing wrong. One partner leaked the transcript of an interview the firm did with Gillard during its internal inquiry into aspects of the AWU-Wilson affair.

Gillard’s initial tactic this week was to deny the story oxygen by refusing to be drawn on any detail. By late in the week this had become untenable. She decided to carpet bomb. After 50 minutes on the subject at Thursday’s news conference, no journalist present had anything more to ask. Gillard didn’t kid herself the allegations would go away; she lashed out at what she described as the ”misogynists and nut jobs on the internet” who circulate them.

Jacqueline Kent, author of The Making of Julia Gillard, looked into the AWU-Wilson affair during the research for her book. She recalls that discussion of it was ”one of the stickiest bits” when interviewing Gillard (who was deputy PM at the time). Gillard didn’t like to be reminded of it. But Kent believes her account.

”All the investigations I did, including with Slater & Gordon, would lead me to believe what she said [at Thursday’s news conference] was the absolute truth,” Kent told The Saturday Age. ”Her discomfort at having it mentioned was the normal discomfort of being reminded of something unwise she did 17 years ago. I’m quite convinced she did not know anything about what Wilson did.” She believes Gillard chose (rather than being forced) to resign. In her book, Kent writes: ”Gillard said nothing about the episode in the [Slater & Gordon] office except to make a few mordant jokes about her taste in men.”

On The Pulse blog this week Katharine Murphy posted a ”poll of polls”, aggregating the two-party vote from Newspoll, Age/Nielsen, Essential Media, Morgan and Galaxy. The trend is tiny, but from about budget time there has been a slight movement up by Labor, with the corresponding slight move down by the Coalition. There is still a huge gap. But at the moment the Gillard strategists are more cheerful than before. They report that in the focus groups people laugh when Tony Abbott’s name comes up.

Make of that what you will.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

To love and to submit: a marriage made in 2012

In step … Andrew and Stephanie Judd at their Wahroonga home.BRIDES will be promising to submit to their husbands under a new marriage vow the Anglican diocese of Sydney is expected to approve at its synod in October.
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It requires the minister to ask of the bride: ”Will you honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ?” and for her to pledge ”to love and submit” to her husband.

The service is already being used in some Sydney parishes, under a diocese that opposes the full ordination of women and supports an exclusively male leadership doctrine.

The vows were written by the diocese’s liturgical panel, which has the imprimatur of the Archbishop, Peter Jensen. The panel chairman, the Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, said ”submit” was a deeply biblical word.

”The Bible never said women must obey their husbands but Paul and Peter did say submit, which I think is a much more responsive, nuanced word.”

The bishop said no one would be forced to use the new version, and an alternative would remain available to couples who did not want the woman to obey (which has been optional since 1928) or submit.

Kevin Giles, a New Testament scholar in Melbourne, said the subordination of women was exclusively related to ”the fall” in the Bible and in 2012 made for bad theology.

”Jesus not once mentions the subordination of woman and says much in contradiction to this. Paul’s comments over the subordination of women fit into the patriarchal culture of the day and are not the biblical ideal. The truth is that happy marriages today are fully equal, and unhappy marriages are ones where one or the other party is controlling.”

Muriel Porter, a Melbourne academic and laywoman who writes on Anglican Church issues, said submit was a more derogatory word than obey and had connotations of slavery. ”Frankly I’m horrified,” she said. ”It is a very dangerous concept, especially in terms of society’s propensity for domestic violence.”

But Stephanie and Andrew Judd from Sydney, who used part of the new service when they wed in January, said those who were offended by the word were not placing it in the right context.

”The husband’s love is one of sacrificial love, and to submit to that kind of love is not oppressive, but is actually a joy and a great freedom,” said Mrs Judd, 26, who teaches Christian studies at a private girls’ school.

Mr Judd, 27, who is studying to be a minister, said a Christian marriage was akin to dancing: ”The male always leads, even if he’s not necessarily the best dancer … as long as you take the definition of male leadership that we’re operating on, which is giving yourself up and putting others’ interests ahead of yourself.”

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, declined to comment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Pub’s fight to survive is music to their ears

Legendary live music venue … the Sandringham Hotel faces a battle to survive.WHEN the crowd arrives at Newtown’s Sandringham Hotel tomorrow afternoon they won’t be looking for a beer or a band; instead they’ll be demanding salvation for the hotel itself.
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The drawn-out saga of one of the legendary music venues of Sydney, a pub which launched careers of successful acts such as the Whitlams and Frenzal Rhomb, is nearing its end. But whether that end is a sale to developers looking to build apartments or a continued life as the heart of small and independent music scene is still unclear.

A deal with Bank West has gone sour for the hotel’s owner, Tony Townsend, and the Sandringham has been in the hands of receivers looking to resolve a debt of about $3.7 million. In an attempt to avert a September auction, the Save Our Sando rally and concert – which will begin in Sydney Park in St Peters at midday before marching down King Street to the Sandringham at 4pm – is demanding the bank defers any action until the end of a Senate inquiry into bank practices such as those it claims have entangled Mr Townsend.

The bank’s role in the saga is defended by Morgan Kelly of Ferrier Hodgson, who said the Townsend Group was given extra time and money to restructure its finances, which ”have been in disarray for some time”.

”The circumstances of this receivership have come about not as a result of any dastardly action by the bank, but purely as a matter of commercial reality,” he said.

The Sandringham, which is profitable, will be sold as a trading hotel with a live music offering, if not necessarily a future of live music.

”That buyer will liaise with council and do whatever they choose to do with that hotel,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Townsend said he hoped a lover of live music in the industry would step forward to buy the hotel, if the sale couldn’t be stopped. ”Now is the time for action,” he said.

Roscoe Waraker, a self-described ”second-class keys player” who spends half the year in corporate and strategic management and half playing music, is helping the rally organisers. He argues that saving the hotel is ”intrinsically good for Sydney” because of its role as the breeding ground of live music in the city.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.