Australia: The Upside Down Land
It is not for nothing that Australia is called the Land Down Under, because the way we run things here ‒ in politics and media ‒ is always contrary to expectations, done backwards, reversed, or turned upside down and put on its head.
I had a vivid personal demonstration of this recently, when I went to
an interview a senior Queensland politician, Shakin' Ray Stevens,
outside a polling booth, about a potentially serious conflict of interest.
Instead of answering my reasonable questions, he decided to remain mute, yet wave his arms around, make "duck quack hands" in my face and mime slapping me.
It seems he thought he wasn’t being filmed ‒ as if that would be any
excuse ‒ even though I had stood in front of him openly filming
interviews with his fellow candidates for five minutes before I went to
speak to him.
After the video went viral, that afternoon, I was interviewed by the ABC
on live radio. The interviewer said she wasn’t interested in why
Stevens was avoiding my questions, but was concerned about whether I had
"gone too far" as a journalist. The public official has a right to
avoid scrutiny, the interviewer seemed to be suggesting — sitting as he
was on a public street, under a marquee, outside a polling booth,
attempting to seek re-election.
The arrogant, aggressive fool was, of course, re-elected by his masochistic constituents, though with a much reduced margin, which he blamed upon “negligent media coverage”.
The final word went to some fool on Twitter, who suggested he may have
received “sympathy” from his constituents, because people don’t like
The Queensland election as a whole, however, appears to have been won by Stevens’ opposition — to the intense "shock" of everyone in the authorised media commentariat — despite Labor leading in the polls for most of the last year.
And not only shock — but horror. Because these same windup toys now say the result dooms “reform” in the nation — because the party funded by big business who the people kicked out were attempting to sell public power companies to, you guessed it, big business.
Democracy be damned! Paying even more through the nose for electricity to further enrich members of the Business Council of Australia is vital economic reform, according to the haughty lip flappers of the pompous elite and denying it dooms a generation.
Everything as it should not have been.
This disconnect; this reversal; this cognitive dissonance so evident
and recurring in Australian public life, sometimes, however, expresses
itself in artful irony, making it impossible not to experience intense
bursts of Schadenfreude.
Currently, we have a prime minister a man who spent years campaigning on a platform of trust — despite being a self-confessed liar.
The media gave him marks for this confession, because apparently it showed he was "fair dinkum" and “genuine”.
A deep-seated bigot, bully and sexist,
his main claim to worldwide attention as Opposition Leader was for
attempting to censure the female prime minister in Parliament over her
Speaker’s alleged misogyny — and then watching on in apoplexy as she tore him into tiny pieces over his own repeated transgressions against her and other women.
When he wasn’t travelling up hill and down dale on "charity" bike rides for which he claimed expenses from the public purse, he was hounding the PM up hill and dale for three years over an alleged lie that she’d made on the eve of her election in 2010 — which actually wasn’t a lie. On the eve of his own election, in 2013, he made not one, but several, promises — all of which he smashed to pieces within months of gaining office.
He and his treasurer ‒ a literal fat cat, as well as a whining innumerate misanthrope ‒ brought in a budget that attempted to solve a budget emergency that didn’t exist, given Australia had one of the lowest levels of public debt in the world.
The budget ‒ sold of course as “vital economic reform” ‒ shared the
pain of remedying this fictitious crisis by sharing the pain equally
amongst all the most disadvantaged
people in our society — the students, the young, the unemployed, the
homeless, the poor, the sick, the disabled and the elderly.
When the public reacted unfavourably to this, the prime minister didn’t blame the Budget, but said they just needed to work harder selling it — to butter it with more delicious lies until the people could somehow swallow it and force it down.
Lo and behold, this strategy hasn't worked and the polls remained down and sinking. So, to remedy this situation, our English born ‒ perhaps still English ‒ prime minister had a marvellous idea to raise people’s spirits — why not use Australia's national day to knight our British queen’s consort — an English aristocrat who is already a prince.
This went down like a French guillotine and everyone in the ruling born to rule party now wants the prime minister to go and literally anyone else in the Party to replace him. Literally anyone else, because names thrown around initially included a first term MP who has been accused of a criminal conspiracy.
But it all came to nothing because, when the froth and bubble had died down, they remembered that they had also hounded the previous two prime ministers for fomenting chaos and dysfunction after deposing each other outside of an election.
And so they are now stuck with a hated, lying, oath breaking,
allegedly corrupt, lying, monarchist, misogynist, potentially ineligible
prime minister — until the next election, or until they decide the
break the last taboo they said they would never do.
Which they will certainly do. And it shouldn’t be long now. Check your watches.
It is difficult not to laugh.
Australia, you see, is the upside down land ‒ the land behind the
mirror ‒ where everything ‒ at least in politics and public life ‒ is
seen, done and interpreted in precisely the opposite way of how it
actually should be.
It’s impossible to fight, so don’t worry about it, just turn yourself upside down, do a silent chicken dance and enjoy the ride.
Follow David Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.