Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Party Machine

Once upon a time, the Australian Labor (there is a reason for the idiot mispelling, but not a very good one) Party produced vivid interesting politicians who possessed all the characteristics normally found in human beings. There was Gough Whitlam, vain but hugely charming, (especially when set beside his grim opponent Malcolm [I'm always right, I hate other people and I have no manners - and absolutely no sense of humour] Fraser). There was Paul Keating, who had the gift of the gab to the power of ten. There was Bob Hawke, who made me squirm but was nonetheless a proper personality. And there it ended. The ALP offered us no more actual people. By then they'd started playing with their new machine.

There are varying opinions about where the machine came from. Some say Graham Richardson picked it up in some dodgy deal - second prize in a meat raffle, possibly. Whatever its provenance, whoever was responsible, the machine's first products rolled off the assembly line and into parliament somewhere in the 1990s, (or possibly a little before [there are those who think Kim Beazley may have been a very early prototype {listen closely to his parliamentary speeches - none of them actually make sense, plus he gives the impression that he does not walk but rolls around on little wheels of the kind they put on the bottom of armchairs (well, he gives that impression to me anyway) }])*

There were quite a few problems to solve to begin with. A fair bit of tinkering had to be done. If you listen to Martin Ferguson, you can get a sense of the difficulties the party had getting the machine to make speech sound right. His brother Laurie enunciated more clearly, but sense was the thing they had to struggle with there (spend ten minutes with any of his sentences and you will realise that they are all utterly devoid of meaning [Hansard editors, {who have a very particular approach to judging politicians, based not on policies or the views they espouse but on whether they speak clearly and slowly} need double their normal allotment of time to inject any kind of coherence into Laurie's speeches on the page]).

At last though, after wrestling with the levers and oiling the cogs, fiddling with the settings and recalibrating the speeds, the ALP felt they had hit the ultimate jackpot. Finally the Ruddbot - brand name courtesy of the brilliant Annabel Crabb - was unveiled. They gave him a trial run in diplomacy and a second outing in the Queensland state government and then he was inserted onto the federal political stage.

All went swimmingly. The Ruddbot could walk and talk and soon (surprisingly?) he enchanted the Australian people. His rise was swift and, before anyone could entirely believe it, he had become the country's latest Prime Minister. For a couple of years, there was nothing but joy at the party's Sussex Street headquarters. But then things started to go wrong.

And, in all honesty, there had been signs from the beginning. Even in the Queensland days, swearing and temper had been causing problems with the Ruddbot. It was a question of overheating, according to the mechanics - but they had no doubt they could sort things out quite soon. As it turned out, sadly, they were wrong. The difficulties escalated - stubbornness and almost constant anger became part of the picture. By last week it was apparent that the project had gone hopelessly awry. Then, once it was realised that spare parts were unavailable, it became clear there was only one thing left to do - scrap the whole project and move on to model G (most distressingly, only too late was it discovered that some mischievous bastard had activated the button [similar to the one the bereaved mother activates on David in the film Artificial Intelligence] that actually made the Ruddbot feel [blub, blub, blub]).

Model G, it turns out, is (to use an archaism dragged back into the light of day by Barnaby Joyce - in whom there is not a hint of artificial intelligence [and no, sorry to disappoint you, I am not going to continue with the too obvious punchline; you can complete the sentence for yourself, if you choose to]) a 'chick'! Well sort of: certainly whoever was in charge of the machine the day she was manufactured must have been an ornithologist or twitcher - her face clearly displays features borrowed from some kind of fierce sharp-beaked bird.

More importantly though, Model G, like the Ruddbot, can walk and talk. Better still, no-one has yet pressed her emotion release button - or the one marked dress sense (and can anyone really consider voting for a Prime Minister who chooses to appear in public in a garment like the one she was wearing yesterday?) Without a qualm, therefore, she stepped over her predecessor's corpse. Displaying total equanimity, she banished him from her frontbench.

And, apart from her gender, Model G comes with one other amazing new feature. It is her ability to laugh at will. I am sure this added extra, once perfected, will contribute a valuable, almost human dimension to our shiny new leader. At present though her mouth makes the movements, her throat makes the noise, but nothing happens to her eyes (part of the problem, of course, is that the designer should have been thinking about teddy bears rather than thrushes or eaglehawks when he conceived them). Gurgle, she goes, smile, open lips, gurgle, gurgle; meanwhile her icy stare remains unchanged. It is definitely a drawback, but is it insurmountable? Can Australia really fall in love with those glittering gimlet eyes?

*To the person who complained that I have too many parentheses here: they represent the layers of flesh on Mr Beazley's portly form.


  1. using the scientific basis that I'll fall in love with any girl who laughs at my jokes (even if she's faking it) then I predict great things for your new ironbark lady

  2. Worm - I think your prediction is right, but I'm not sure about the wisdom of mixing love and politics

  3. I didn't even know about the coup until yesterday - gobsmacking news! Shows how much Australia matters to the rest of the world, I was occasionally turning on a hotel tv whilst travelling but nary a whisper came my way....

  4. Nurse - I think the print media overseas covered it a bit, but it is essentially only interesting to us, don't you think? But, to us, it is very interesting.