The Courier-Mail


It’s pretty tough cheddar, tovarish


Australia is likely to start bombing in the very near future – at the moment that could mean many years in residency limbo.

In the midst of this outbreak of broad support for an expanded response inevitably there will be disagreeme­nt about what arbitrary figure constitute­s the “right” contributi­on from Australia and what form of protection we should extend.

Certainly it would be hoped Dutton’s visit to Geneva will see an expanded overall intake – even if only temporary – and one that does not ignore the plight of so many others on the planet.

The problem at the moment is the exceptiona­lly polarised nature of the refugee and asylum seeker debate, fuelled in no small part by the cynical politics of recent years and some of the pejorative rhetoric surroundin­g “illegals” and so forth.

On one end of the spectrum you have the “F--- off we’re full brigade” who like to drape themselves in flags and rage about the evils of halal.

On the other are the open-door proponents whose idealism may be laudable if impractica­ble and whose arguments can at times be undermined by anger almost as ugly as that of their opponents on the other extreme.

In the middle are those who believe in a fair go and helping those in need; who recognise Australia is a nation of migrants and see new Australian­s not as a burden or cost but as a human resource who will add to our economy and culture. Right now that fair go means doing a lot more. PICTURE the scene. You enter a Russian prison facing a long stretch and the toughest guy in the quad comes up and demands to know: what are you in for?

“I’m a cheese gangster,” you say, trying to sound tough. “Wanna blue?”

When one embarks on a life of crime, you might think becoming a cheese gangster is simply a result of mistaking the path for getting a slice of the action.

Cheese gangster sounds like an episode of Minder, with the charming, roguish Arthur Daley on one of his get-rich quick schemes. “I tell you Terry, we want none of that foreign stuff,” he might say as he firms up his curd with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s grew ’ere, me lad. Grew ’ere.”

My brief foray into 1980s British TV fan fiction is a result of a recent headline that made me do a double take: “Russian police bust criminal cheese ring.” At first glance, I misconstru­ed. How does a packet of Cheese Rings break the law, I wondered, and how many Russian police officers does it take to bust a packet.

But if this story has a twist, I was one of the twisties. It’s not the cheese rings that are criminals, it’s the criminals that have formed a ring of cheese.

It turns out the Russian Government takes a firm stand on the imported and exported divide when it comes to certain food types. This is because the European Union has taken an understand­able stand against Russia in recent years for its action in the Ukraine. In response, the Russian Government has stopped the boats when those boats (or trains and trucks) contain cheese.

The idea of the Russian Government was to hit the cheesemake­rs where it hurts, right in the wrong whey. But the plan backfired and there is a black market of cheese in Russia, with gangsters adding cheese making to their portfolio of drugs, violence and general mayhem.

It’s not just cheese, it’s other foreign foods too.

The story explained Russian officials have carried out high-profile acts of destructio­n of Polish apples, Danish pork and three frozen geese that were taken from a shop and run over with a bulldozer. Let’s pause while we consider the unknown bulldozer driver down the local pub saying “you won’t believe my day”.

Then again, let’s pause to consider the day the geese had.

This latest crime spree involved $42.4 million of dodgy cheese. The criminals were clever enough not to import $42.4 million worth of foreign cheese because, let’s face it, someone is going to notice that in your suitcase as you cross the border.

Instead, they imported cheap rennet and made their own, attaching counterfei­t labels.

What does it all mean? It means that now my daydreams are filled with fantasies of Robin Hood meets JFK. In my mind I’m as gangster as the next cheese lord and taking a hard stand on a soft brie.

Kennedy claimed to be from Berlin. I am from Brisbane, and where I come from our cheese is legitimate­ly mature so we don’t have to be.

 ??  ?? DESPERATE: A Syrian child is lifted over the wire near the Turkish border crossing at Akcakale. Picture: AFP
DESPERATE: A Syrian child is lifted over the wire near the Turkish border crossing at Akcakale. Picture: AFP
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