It seems I'm not the only one with Kath and Kim on the mind when pondering the future of federal Labor (please see "New Captain of the Titanic", QP posting 20 Jan 2005). From Margo Kingston's Webdiary:
"Social analyst David Chalke suggests one simple step taken by every Labor MP could begin rebuilding the brand. 'I would stick a large picture of Kath and Kim on every Labor MP's wall and say to them 'that is your audience - don't upset them'."
"They should look at that Kath and Kim poster and ask themselves, 'How would they react to what I am just about to say'," Chalke says. "And then, only if it is going to make them happy, do you say it."
Kingston goes on to lament: That's what the ALP will get with Beazley.
I think this is just a matter of facing reality. The Fountain Lakes 'burbs are the growth areas. Suburban Sydney and Melbourne will only get bigger and uglier, and Labor is obviously on the nose there. There's little point having Rudd or Gillard in charge to appeal to the inner-city lefties and/or try and take the party to somewhere resembling the left wing of the political spectrum as it would just be preaching to the converted and electorally futile. Someone has to take on Howard's undeniable electoral appeal with the Kaths and Kims and I believe Beazley, as a fairly likable but also fairly right-wing, conservative sort of bloke, is currently the only person in the ALP with a fighting chance of doing this.
Leave the lefty stuff to Bob Brown. He does it so much better. That's why the Murdoch media, the Libs and Family Fist see him as such a threat and go to such great lengths to discredit him. The Greens may never win a seat in Fountain Lakes or Kellyville but keep your long-term eye on Grayndler (Newtown/Marrickville-based seat), Sydney, Melbourne, Melbourne Ports and even Denison in Hobart. Between the Greens and Beazley's ALP, there may just be a strong enough coalition (assuming they ever do get into bed together - unlikely but nice to dream) to conquer Darth Howard and the Liberal Death Star.
Beauty and the Beast
...Is my prediction for the ALP leaders who'll take on Howard in 2007: Kim Beastly and Julia Gillard. And I predict that they'll lose. And I predict that Gillard will choose that moment to gun for the top job. And I don't think she'll get it.
Big predictions for quite a long time away, but reading the various mumblings about the "inappropriateness" of a single, childless woman being the Opposition leader or (heaven forbid) Prime Minister makes you realise how, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nearly 40 years after the feminist movement began in earnest to re-define the roles and expectations of women in society, and we still have unnamed Labor MPs saying shit like: "The electorate doesn't want a left-wing sheila". But suckily, perception is reality. If enough people believe that a single childless woman should not be leader of a large political party for those very reasons alone, then as wrong and fucked-up as those beliefs are, they will stop people voting Labor and consign us to another decade or so of Howard (another prediction: Howard will continue leading the party until he dies. I'm sure he has Menzies record in his sights now. Poor P.C. looks so forlorn in his bridesmaid outfit...)
Interestingly, Julia has an unexpected ally in the Herald's Divine Miranda (http://www.smh.com.au/news/Miranda-Devine/Single-childless-Its-the-perfect-mix-for-leadership/2005/01/26/1106415665621.html
). For once, she's written a column praising rather than bashing a maligned subculture and (gasp) shown some feminist solidarity. My guess is that the Divine Miss M is herself childless and/or single and therefore in this situation it's in her own self-interest not to espouse her usual rightie propaganda, but if nothing else it was quite a refreshing column to read.
So for now I think all this puts Gillard in good step to shaft Jenny Macklin and take her rightful place as Deputy Opposition Leader at some point in 2005. But as I've said, I think in 2007 it won't come to much. Even if Labor wins that election (very unlikely), it will be a long time before the Beast is prepared to step aside for the beauty. If they lose, it's obvious we still have a long way to go - longer than 3 years - before Gillard will be accepted even as the humble Opposition Leader.
In many ways, Australians suck.
I've been pondering how to begin with my condemnation of the rise of extremist Christian fundamentalism in Australia, fundamentalism that has been gently soothed and appeased by Liberal and Labor in recent years.
I thought a Rancid Religious Right phrasebook - putting into plain English commonly-used phrases of christian right pollies, religious figureheads and "family" spokespeople - might be helpful. I hope this may clarify the strange hypocrisy and bridge the giant chasm between what these people say and what they actually mean.
: the sudden strength and power heterosexual marriage attained when the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 first appeared, despite a 40% divorce rate. Also a misleading implication that marriage throughout history has been a single, constant and unchanged rite of passage. Also interchangeable with "fundamental
" and "building block
"children's right to a mum and dad"
: again, a value that isn't espoused much when single mums in marginal electorates are raising kids on their own. And apparently this right does not extend to the bastard child to which Tony Abbott refuses to be a dad. Definitions of the linguistically-similar but completely different phrases "children's right to parents who love and value them", "children's right to financial stability" and "children's right not to be villified in the schoolyard by thugs raised by hate-filled evangelical parents and church groups" can be found in the upcoming Queer Penguin's Guide to the Fucking Obvious.
People with none of the love in their hearts that Jesus preached about, but who are versed in quoting Old Testament passages to validate their hatred and equally skilled in quoting the phrases that are convenient while overlooking the ones that aren't (for example, that slavery is ok or that people who work on the Sabbath are required to be put to death).
"defence of marriage"
: a psychological condition not unlike paranoia, where the person who rants about having to defend their marriage is so insecure they genuinely believe that two people of the same sex choosing to marry will somehow bring about the end of their own. (Seriously, even my old man, a Liberal voter for thirty years, looked at my mum, his wife of 35 years and asked: "how could the two blokes over the fence there wanting to get hitched affect our marriage in any way?" Out of the mouths of babes...)
: a place of unbalanced, delusional people unwilling to accept reality.
: the perception by the christian right that being gay or lesbian is a choice we make one morning, sometime between the choice of having Weet-Bix for breakfast and wearing Revlon lippy to work. Apparently "ex-gays
" - confused men and women desperate to seek approval of their church who allow themselves to be broken down, brainwashed and re-constructed as "straight" - demonstrate perfectly why queer is a lifestyle choice.
: a dying "institution
" (see above) whose continual decrease in subscribers is indicative of the slow death of organised religion. Interestingly, the church refuses aid from gays and lesbians who are more than prepared to strengthen its numbers by subscribing themselves.
a figure that logically is at least 75% but conveniently becomes 45%-50% when discussing how many Australians oppose same-sex marriages.
: a phenomenon whereby oppressed and victimised minority groups ask to be treated like human beings and for the rights to which they as law-abiding, tay-paying residents are entitled, and/or to be treated the same way residents in other similar democracies are being treated. History demonstrates that the phenomenon is often met with great resistance from enemies of civil liberties and individual freedom, but such resistance is often worn down by reality, common sense and a desire not to return to the days of witchburning, the Spanish Inquisition and other historical blights caused by "Christianity
" (see above).
More phrases to come...
In some ways, the condemnation of same-sex couples adopting children
by the Young Liberals at their national conference is a bit surprising. In other ways, it's not. Some may be shocked to learn that some of my best friends are...yup...Liberal. In fact one of my closest long-term friends is a Liberal homo, which by definition would seem like a paradox that would cause implosions trying to resolve, but this friend is my reminder that not all Libs are inherently evil...Just the Howard supporters (he's a Costello man, you see).
And this is why the motion is no big surprise. It was put forward by the newly-elected national President who is from the NSW branch. My understanding of Young Lib politics (and trust me, it's very minimal, I generally avoid them like herpes if I can) is that the NSW YL branch was always the more progressive branch - a John Brogden fan club - but has recently been infiltrated and re-zoned by (Rancid Religious Right) RRR babies, under the guidance of new rabid hatemonger in the NSW Legislative Council, David Clarke.
If we go by the amendment Victorian delegate Amy Keenan-Dunn tried to move to condemn single parents - for her it's "far more harmful for a child to grow up with a single parent than it is to grow up with homosexual parents" (which is crap - both can be fine models of family, often a lot healthier than two hetero parents who no longer love each other but who stay together for the sake of their kids) - then it looks like Victoria is a cross somewhere between SA and NSW. PS - Don't you just love how YL kids always have those hyphenated surnames? The pretentious old-money traditions of keeping the names of both upstanding families will always be maintained so long as the YL continue to caucus, it seems.
Regardless, since this was a motion carried at a national conference, it would appear the same thing is happening in young politics as with grown-up politics: it's Howard's Way or the highway, with the few remaining Lib moderates squeezed out of caucus contention. It all makes for a rather bleak future. This idea that antiquated prejudice and ignorance dies out with the older pre-baby boomer generations can be readily dismissed when we see these kiddies demonstrating the same fear and hatred as their dads and granddads. The only difference is that they should know better.
Learning on the job: OK I've reset my settings so now anybody can post comments on queerpenguin (I was just beginning to think I had no friends. Well actually that's probably true.) Yay.
Since I can't seem to find a link to put up my email address I thought I'd do it manually again.
If anyone has any feedback, suggestions, complaints, criticisms, anxieties, nervousness, post-traumatic stress disorder or access to large Swiss bank accounts, and would like to email me, it's
queerpenguin at hotmail dot com (gotta spell out to avoid spam, spam, spam, spam)
Accidentally Was Released
Went to see Frente at the Annandale pub Friday night. Hopefully people reading this are at least 20 and remember Frente as a unique Australian band who peaked in the early 90s with their hits "Ordinary Angels", "Accidentally Kelly Street" and the beautiful acoustic version of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle". The story goes that they struggled to maintain commercial success and credibility by the mid 90s because even though they were still writing some great songs, people would only associate them with AKS, which was a particularly hyper-happy, upbeat cutesty tune, complete with a film clip that was drench in bold fluoro colours - far more than what was fashionable even in that colourful period. In fact, The Late Show (or The Panel as they're now known) came up with the spoof "Accidentally Was Released", making easy fun of the film clip and their strange jumpings about and how all their props were really big.
Regardless, this was a good concert and Angie Hart still has a beautiful, angelic voice. Frente didn't do a great deal on stage other than sing and play but it was worth the twenty bucks. One very interesting omission in their repertoire however was - yup, you guessed it - Accidentally Kelly Street. This was even after several crowd members screamed to hear this song. Apparently this was a one-off reunion night and Frente members will go their own separate ways again, with Hart to continue fronting her new band Splendid and appear in Joss Whedon shows like Buffy and Firefly.
The omission does lead me to believe that that song Accidentally Was Released after all...
Bit over politics today so am randomly and quite self-indulgently listing my top 10 fave TV shows.
10. Melrose Place
Aaron Spelling's soap formula has always been simple: If it gets boring, make everybody irredeemably evil and get some hot chicks to start beating up on each other. MP was no exception (although if memory serves, even mortal enemies Alison and Amanda never went beyond the slap). With the mass exodus of the cast around '97 it really should not have continued for 2 more seasons, but everything up until then - the MP bomb, Kimberly abducting Jo's baby, Jane and Sydney burying Richard alive and of course Jake boning Amanda on her corporate desk - was lots of fun.
Again with Aaron. Like MP, when it was getting boring, he culls the dull characters and brings in a has-been to revive her career. In MP it was Heather Locklear (who was delightful trailer trash Sammi-Jo in this show), in Dynasty it was the High Goddess of Camp, Joan Collins. Apparently the Spellmeister originally wanted Sophia Loren for the role of Blake's vengeful ex-wife Alexis but Sophia turned it down, allegedly claiming she was "too good" for the role. Joan, however, had no such hang-ups, and for a woman who's never won an Oscar, a Tony, a Golden Globe or even a Logie, she singlehandedly saved Dynasty and became its star (much to the fury of John Forsythe) with her hammy histrionics, ridiculously big hair and shoulder pads and choice quips for eternal victim and wife #2, Krystle. The catfight in the lily pond was truly champagne television.
Snigger all you like, this is the show I've literally grown up with. I can still remember Charlene and Scott exchanging their vows over Angry Anderson's "Suddenly", with Madge, Helen and possibly even Mrs Mangel all dabbing away the tears from their eyes as they witnessed the union that would ultimately settle the feud between the Robinsons and the Ramsays. It's getting quite saucy these days what with bombs, murders, lesbian teenagers, police corruption, teenage party drug addiction etc, but still generally seems to maintain a sense of humour about itself and still include the less dramatic subplots about neighbours waring over a fence or fallen tree, the sort of stuff that makes this show unique.
7. Queer as Folk
(Don't worry, non-soaps are coming) I really liked the original English version of this show. It was what they would call "gritty", but really it was just very realistic and a welcome change for homos like myself who wanted a better portrayal of queers on screen that Matt on Melrose Place, whose snogging of Billy's best man they couldn't even show. QAF showed kisses and a lot more - oral, anal, threesomes - so much action that it does at time border on soft core porn. The American show replicated the British for a few episodes then went on its own path, becoming a lot more stylised and fleshing out characters who were otherwise secondary in the pom version. I am consistently impressed with the writing especially, and the very talented (and fairly sexy) cast who make the most of their 3-dimensional characters. When I heard straight people at my work all asking each other if they'd seen QAF last night and speaking about it with enthusiasm usually reserved for Sex and the City, I realised this show was a first in its cross-appeal between men and women, gay and straight, SBS and non SBS regulars.
6. Dr Who
Fans of this show - I mean hardcore fans, the convention attenders and the Tom Baker stalkers - are a bit weird. But I guess that makes me weird too, because at the height of my obsession I could actually list in order every one of the 150+ stories that went across 8 doctors. And like true fans everywhere I want to bomb the BBC for all but destroying most of the Patrick Troughton era. Dumb c&*ts. Anyway, I'm very excited about the new series coming with Christopher Eccelston as Doc. Not so excited about ex Britney clone Billie Piper as the companion (although as someone pointed out to me, good acting skills haven't always been synonymous with many of the female companions) or the first story, which sounds like a rip-off of Jon Pertwee's first appearance (the autons making Madame Tussaud's wax figures coming to life and going on a murderous rampage), but as it's written by Russell T Davies, QAF creator, I'm sure it will still be fab.
5. The Simpsons
To me this modern masterpiece has passed its peak, but when a prime-time TV show is still being produced and rating well 15 years after it began - not to mention the thousands of repeats on commercial TV and various Simpsons fests on Foxtel - you know there is a magic that will probably never be replicated in any other show. Perhaps the original American post-modern TV sitcom, self-aware like Buffy (see below) and able to make fun of itself as easily as it does of celebrities, subcultures and television, its success is impossible to identify. In fact let's not think too much about it. As Malibu Stacey wisely points out, "Thinking too much gives you wrinkles! Let's bake some cookies for the boys!"
4. The League of Gentlemen
Are you local? If not, there's nothing for you here, don't read on and don't touch the things!! This is the only show I've found simultaneously deeply amusing and horrifying. In fact sometimes the characters - multiply played by 3 actors - can be so gruesome and awful that they start becoming grating (Pop springs to mind), but for every Pop there's Pauline the Jobseeker lady, Tubbs and Edward the local shop proprietors, Uncle Harvey the toad breeder and Barbara the pre-op transgender woman/cab driver with nipples like bullets. Actually, the show is pretty queer really. No self-respecting homo TV nerd can afford to live his life without TLOG in it.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
There is no logical reason why such an average movie should have spawned such an incredibly high-quality TV show, but I guess Joss Whedon writing both of them would have something to do with it. And re-casting Sarah Michelle Gellar instead of Kirsty Swanson as the eponymous heroine. Like The Simpsons, Buffy is big on the postmodernism and can at times wallow in its own cleverness (like in the final season), but like TLOG, this show is funny as it is scary. The season 4 finale - Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles visited by the first slayer in their dreams - still rates as my favourite, and the episode with the gentlemen callers - where all the characters are mute - is probably the scariest thing I've seen in a television show. Other than Daryl Somers' Hey Hey woollen knits.
2. Kath and Kim
Now I got one word to say to you...I don't want to show off - oh bugger it, yes I do - but I knew Kath and Kim before they were famous. I mean, not personally or anything, but I knew about and was saying "lork at moiye" years before the show first appeared on the ABC. That's because I remember the characters fondly from the short-lived Fast Forward spin-off, Big Girl's Blouse. In fact, Kath herself even appears very briefly in FF in a one-off sketch. This is the show that introduced us to the new suburban nightmares: they want to be effluent, dress tizzy and live in giant townhouses, preferably in a cool-dee-sack. Whenever I wonder where on earth are all these people who are voting for John Howard, I watch Kath and Kim (particularly the episode where Kel actually admits doing this) and remind myself: they're all shopping at Fountain Gate and smoking Alpine Lights. Noice.
He used to give me roses...Prisoner is everything I'm looking for in a television show: camp, saucy soap opera, excellent writing, characters you love to hate, humour, queer action...And it's Australian. In fact it was the first truly successful Australian TV export, so successful that at its peak it was outrating Charlie's Angels on prime-time US television. I have this idea of a Prisoner: 20 Years Later show involving Chrissie Latham's grown-up daughter as top dog. I guess all I need to do is sleep with a few more programming execs and hopefully we'll see it soon. Perhaps Nicki Webster could be cast as an inmate, preferably one who gets killed quite early on, locked in a dryer or sodomised with a baton or some such. OK, I'm getting off-track. There is a reason why this show has such high cult status and why repeat viewings are drawing in new generations of fans (like me). Again, I don't know what it is. You watch Prisoner and you either love it right away or you don't. And if you don't, that's OK. God will judge you for this lifestyle choice, not me.
Outhouses of tyranny
Interesting to read the vernacular of the new Team Bush. Star forward recruit Condoleezza (ps - what the hell kind of name is Condoleezza??) Rice is telling us all about the "outposts of tyranny". It would seem the "axis of evil" is out, and Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe are now the new outposts. Their speechwriters seem to be getting a little more poetic and metaphorical these days. Perhaps they are ex-writers for Friends
who've found new work.
This theme of remoteness is consistent, as MonkeyFace (aka George Dubya) has been given enough bananas so that he'll say the right thing and do his cute little dance on cue. Apparently he wants to spread liberty and freedom "to to the darkest corners of the world". Darkest corners. Hrm. Sounds a bit like "outposts", doesn't it?
The subtext behind these phrases I can't exactly put my finger on. It sounds like they want the good heartland folk of (for example) Lincoln, Nebraska to know that the threat to the US is in fact not right on their coastline, that people who want to retaliate against the US empire are not (God forbid) lurking within their country or just outside it and able to mobilise, but are too busy being oppressed in strange far-away lands like Myanmar (which to the average American is a province of Canada), and that kindly Uncle Sam will eventually get round to them and bring them Christmas sacks full of liberty, democracy and Christian fundamentalism. I bet Myanmarians (I have no idea if that's a real word) are just holding their breaths and quivering with anticipation that while they're being hung upside down in a dungeon somewhere, Sam is on his way! Just hang around a little longer!! And pray your country has untapped oil reserves too!!
OK so after days of trying to figure out how to link this site to my pic through Hello - and failing - I've decided to do it the old-fashioned way.
If you would like to see what I look like and a bit more about me, please go to
New Captain of the Titanic
Media reporting on Latham's retirement and speculation as to the next ALP leader has been interesting. The Daily Liberal Party Press Release - aka "The Australian" - predictably kicked Latham while he was down in its blinkered editorial. I grant that he's never been a great handler of the media - in fact, people in general seem to be his weakness as both party leader and politician - but the Murdoch media has been nothing short of predatory in helping the Libs to take him down.
Over at Fairfax in the Herald, Margo Kingston (the last of the dreamers, along with Alan Ramsay) would like to see Kevin Rudd at the helm with Julia Gillard his deputy. I think this is very optimistic and hopeful to the point of naive. Rudd, although incredibly intelligent and a strong performer (and someone who I think would shit on Downer as Foreign Affairs minister), does not strike me as a man of the people. But then again neither has Howard. The amount of times Howard looks as though he's concealing nausea behind his nauseating grin whenever he has to touch anybody earning under 200k a year could be in the thousands now. Beazley, for all his shortcomings, is far more affable than Rudd and especially Latham.
Gillard I am a big fan of in principle. She's a woman from the Left and in my more idealistic days I would have equated these characteristics with the future of the ALP. But it seems to me in the current political climate there is no way a woman from the Left will be the one to take on and defeat Howard. Not least would she have many men in her own party destabilising her leadership, but the way I read the electorate, the bulk of voters are not ready for a female PM. But maybe the time is right for her to become deputy. If the Left gets the deputy leader position - and operate on an affirmative action policy - then it's probably a good idea before the election to shaft Jenny Macklin, a fairly ineffectual shadow Education minister, and put in Gillard, who has successfully taken on Pope Tony Abbott III in Health and is a great parliamentary performer.
Kingston's argument that "a return to Beazley would be a return to small target NSW right style" is flawed. Does she actually believe Latham was anything more than the small target NSW right style? And given that she has been quite fawning over Latham since he announced his resignation - "it is a tragedy for Australia as well as for Mark Latham that his health has forced his departure from public life"
(no Margo, a tragedy for Australia is Port Arthur or the Bali bombings. This is just a guy resigning as Opposition leader) - she can't have it both ways. Either she's critical of all "small target NSW right style" men or she argues against Beazley on different grounds. There is the generational concern argument, but let's face it: Latham was the new generation and look how well that went.
I say put Beazley back in, pair him up with Gillard, pray for the Libs to do something particularly horrendous close to the 2007 election (considering what they've got away with so far, it would seem the proverbial pants down in the kindergarten scenario is required, and even then they can probably get away with it by claiming that their public servants didn't correctly inform them that taking down one's pants in a kindergarten is inappropriate), let interest rates raise and hopefully the Kaths and Kims of Fountain Lakes and Kellyville will decide there's more in it for them with Labor.
Which cartoon character am I?
I know this is a burning question many of us ask ourselves repeatedly. Thankfully, I now have the answer thanks to a very scientific test distrubuted today by my boss:
You are Arnold:You have lots of friends and you are also popular, always willing to give advice and help out a person in need. You are very optimistic and you always see the bright side of things. Some good advice: try not to be too much of a dreamer, if not you will have many conflicts with life.
I guess he went...
The Latham resignation is weird. Why would people in his own office be insisting he is sticking around as leader 2 hours before he announces he's resigning not just for the leadership, but from politics all together? Why bother? Perhaps they didn't know about this themselves until he made the announcement?
It makes me wonder how long he's been preparing to do this. If he is really, really sick, and he's known about it for a while, that would be explain his strange quietness during the tsunami. If he was already resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to be in politics from 2005 I guess he just couldn't be bothered with the pretence anymore.
My money is on Beazley assuming the leadership, and while they're sping cleaning they might shaft Jenny Macklin (who was as I understand it a Crean/Latham woman) and install Julia Gillard as deputy. Either way, the ALP is in a lot of shit.
Should he stay or should he go?
The various machinations behind the Labor leadership is not unlike desperately rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Now matter how quickly or dramatically it might be done, the ship is still sinking. It's amazing to think that the man who only a year ago was credited for singlehandedly saving the ALP from political obscurity, helping Labor to surge ahead in the polls and give them a more than realistic chance of winning the year's election, now seems to be over and done with as Labor attempts to emulate the Lazarus effect of John Howard's political resurrection with the big man, 2-time election loser Kim Beazley.
I'm pretty sure that this is not the solution. I'm not sure what is exactly, but I believe the next Labor PM will be from NSW or Victoria, not WA. Labor - and left-wing politics in general, it seems - is dead in the West, and despite Beazley's personal popularity over there, it won't stop that state's seemingly inevitable shift to the right (2004: Labor loses two seats, came extremely close to losing two more, its safest seat is now only of a margin of less than 8% and one marginal seat alone had a 9% swing to the Libs). Labor, however, still seems to have a fighting chance in NSW. Although once-safe Labor outer suburban seats are gradually going Liberal, which the Murdoch media delighted in pointing out (when they weren't sexing up the Greens as pinko, commo, drugged-up deviants), it was an overlooked fact that there was also a significant swing to Labor not just in safe inner-city Labor seats, but also affluent Liberal north shore ones like Joe Hockey's, Tony Abbott's and Brendan Nelson's. Even Howard's own seat is now technically marginal (Andrew Wilkie's Green campaign no doubt contributing here). Whether or not it was the "doctors' wives" at work, it seems indicative of the social conscience of the upper class. Sure, they might have too much money and/or chemical warfare in their cheekbones, employ slave labour in their homes and infuriate us on the roads with their 4-wheel drives (perfect for the harsh terrain of Chatswood Chase car park), but they're intelligent, educated people who can identify the lies and moral bankruptcy of the Howard administration and, in the face of dinner party social suicide, might not automatically put a "1" in the blue box as they've otherwise done all these years.
This to me seems where the future of Labor lies. It is clear Labor can no longer appeal to the insular, self-serving interests of the "aspirational" residents living in the Kellyville McMansions. They tried - Nicola Roxon's backflip on the gay marriage ban bill to cheers from the Rancid Religious Right (RRR) is but one example - and failed. A counsellor from Hillsong still won the Blacktown-based seat for the Libs and the Baulkham Hills seat remains Liberal by a 20% margin.
The differences between Labor and Liberal can no longer be drawn on economic lines. Latham failed in the 2004 election because he made class an issue. People didn't like his Abbott/North Shore bashing and constant reminders of his struggling existence growing up in Green Valley. Maybe people don't want to proudly identify as working class anymore. It's no longer a fashionable badge. So if we work on the assumption that Labor must now appeal to greed and the "what's in it for me?" mentality as effectively as the Libs do, they can still distinguish themselves as the party that isn't dictated to by the RRR, doesn't confuse resistance to religious indoctrination at schools with "values neutral", won't automatically bend over and spread for the mighty US staff and doesn't believe a little old fashioned electro-shock therapy can cure homosexuality.
A whole party of doctors' wives sounds quite fabulous to me. You know they'll be impeccably tailored in Carla Zampatti, they'll love the homos because they know no-one can make aioli quite like we do and they'll let us sleep off the drugs and alcohol on a Sunday morning rather than drag us off to sing for Jesus. Bring it on.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, I've come across a fabulous new show I predict will be the new Sex and the City for women over 25 and gay men of all ages. It's called Desperate Housewives, which isn't the best title ever conceived for a TV show, but don't let that put you off it. The show is a colourful blend of Melrose Place (including former MP psycho Marcia Cross as another slightly disturbed character, Bree), The Stepford Wives and of course SATC. Teri Hatcher, who I've never rated much as an actress, sparkles as Susan, the most "normal" of the hausfraus, but my favourite is Felicity Huffman as Lynette, the former corporate uberbitch turned burned-out mother of four young brats. As with SATC there is plenty of boy eye-candy and the women could quite easily be gay men were they not married (a virus which Dubya was of course quick to contain before it spread outside Boston). There's a black humour in this show I don't think I've ever seen in any other prime-time US product, and although it can at times revert to mawkish sentimentality (especially with single-mum Susan and her precocious daughter) it is consistently sharp, edgy and unsettling.
Check out http://abc.go.com/primetime/desperate/
And look for it on Channel 7 coming sometime in February.
John Howard has to be the flukiest Prime Minister since Menzies (maybe there were flukier PMs before Pig Iron, but for the sake of argument let's keep our story in the latter half of the 20th century/beginning of the 21st). It wasn't enough that a man judged dead man walking by most of his own party during the Liberal Opposition wilderness and through a series of failed leaders (Peacock, Howard, Hewson and Downer) could be resurrected long enough to become leader of the party, he becomes leader when contempt of the then-current Keating administration - and Keating himself - is so strong and so broad that the Liberals could have appointed an echidna as their leader and so long as it was from Sydney's North Shore, the ALP would have been obliterated.
Then shortly into his Prime Ministership, Howard is faced with the unprecedented slaughter of tourists at Port Arthur by a single gunman, Martin Bryant, and in one of the actions in his administration I actually admire, took on the militant gun goons and banned the sort of weapons with which Bryant was able to take out 35+ people.
But come the '98 election and Howard's voter popularity is put to the test. He wins, but the gap between his '96 victory and this one has been so greatly reduced that Labor has in fact a higher two-party preferred vote. It seems hard to fathom today, but Howard was not a votewinner. In 1997/98 people seemed more adept at identifying him as the avaricious, hypocritical, miserly, mean-spirited, intolerant lying ratbag that he was (and still is). Or maybe it's just that these days they know this is what Howard's like, but the perception that he single-handedly battles to save us from Mortgazilla - the evil monster that could cripple Australia with rising interest rates at any moment - ensures that he can be forgiven for a lot more now than he could back then.
Then comes 2001, and not even Nostradamus or Athena Starwoman (rest her soul) could have predicted A/ September 11 and Tampa, and B/ said events happening within two months of one another, so close to the time when Howard is required to announce an election. "Leadership" - ie cynically targetting and exploiting an easy target of "illegal" asylum seekers to gain votes in a hostile and xenophobic (against middle easteners at least) electorate - is required, and who better to fill that role than Howard? Third time lucky, literally. Howard wins three elections not because of any great leadership, but because circumstances beyond his control or influence are kind to him. Fortune apparently favours the weasley as well as the brave, sometimes.
2004 is really the only year that I see Howard "deserving" his win, and I say that because by then he's had eight years to brow-beat the public service into very quiet submission, banish any remotely progressive Liberals into positions of obscurity within his own party such that it is no longer a "liberal" party but a Howard party, and successfully shape public opinion into the perception that he is a great leader, with the help of a shamelessly biased right-wing Murdoch media whose "quality broadsheet", The Australian, could more appropriately be labelled "The Daily Liberal Party Press Release".
My point is that when people feel there is no alternative (don't worry, I have a few choice words on the ALP in an upcoming blog too), when centre-left or even moderate politics has been drained from the public consciousness, when a country substitutes tolerance and idealism with greed, fear and hatred, and when people incorrectly conclude that a single party or person has the monopoly on a healthy economy and low interest rates, of course Howard will seem like The Messiah. In a world with these values, he is a master. To me, he still is and always will be just a very naughty boy.
QueerPenguin's first waddle
Yellow! As a first-time blogger, inspired to create this blogging site less by a desire to see my name and words in lights than by boredom at work, I say hello.
I don't want to labour the introduction too much other than to say my name is Sam, aka QueerPenguin, and I am a twenty-something editor, writer, cult TV freak, cat person, bad cook, procrastinator, clubber, political observer (wank wank) and big fan of penguins. And as the other part of my name suggests, I'm also a big fan of other men. What can I say. They break my heart, annoy me, bore me, frustrate me, shit me to tears...but I still love 'em and still come back for more. And if you're one of those people who weeps over man-on-man (or woman-on-woman) action, lamenting the death of society, the family unit, the "bedrock institution" of marriage, yadda yadda yadda, you might want to stop reading this particular blog. It's not that you're not entitled to your free speech or point of view, it's just that it's more than likely I won't care what your particular POV is.
I am a proud left-leaning, chardonnary-sipping deviant homo living in the inner east Sydney ghetto with the rest of my brethren. I don't spend every weekend having sex with random encounters in nightclub toilets, I don't own every album Madonna has ever released, I'm not into school children and I don't want to have sex with your son (unless perhaps you're the mum of the guy who plays Gabrielle's toyboy in Desperate Housewives, one of my new fave cult TV shows. Woof. And yes, I realise he's a school boy in the show but the actor playing him is older than I am.) I am, however, a godless heathen (or humanist, to be kind) who is concerned with the rise of the Rancid Religious Right (or RRR), pained by our Prime Minister and the direction he has taken my country since 1996 and someone who has not forgotten about the republic, saying sorry, Bill Heffernan, Kyoto and marriage bans.
Anyway, I made a point not to labour the introduction so ciao bello for now. See you again soon.
Jan 17 2005