Friday, 25 November 2011

Speaking as a Sog*

Sometimes there is an attempt to argue that Canberra is no longer a public service town but actually a vibrant artistic hub or a centre of enterprise (or even of excellence - but not a multi-function polis, that much beloved chimera of the late 1980s).

I don't believe such nonsense, nor will I - not while it is still possible to turn on the local radio, as I did just now, and hear exchanges like this one:

"Interviewer: 'Do you think there's a need for more APS* 4 and 5 positions?'
Person being interviewed, after a gasp and a pause: 'Gosh, that's a big meaning of life sort of question.'"

As long as anyone exists in this city who regards that as a 'big, meaning of life sort of question', Canberra will continue to be, warp and weft, a public service town.

*A SOG is an acronym for some kind of public service position - as you walk the streets of Canberra (provided you don't get certified - it is a town where you are allowed to jog or drive [or drive somewhere to jog {or even, if your car has a bike carrier, to drive somewhere to bicycle while wearing lots of lycra, an activity that always puzzles me - surely it would be better simply to bicycle somewhere, without first transporting your transport in another dirtier, noisier bit of transport?}], but strolling is regarded as evidence of mental instability) you will often hear snatches of conversation that go something like this, 'He's a SOG B, but he's only acting up,' or 'She's hoping to get a SOG C position in Defence' or 'They're both SOGs in PM&C', et cetera et cetera. I haven't actually ever been a SOG, perish the thort. I think I was once a Clerk Class 4, which sounds quite Dickensian, but, disappointingly, lacked any of the grotesque semi-Gothic splendour that I associate with the great man's writing. In fact, I would have to admit that from what I can remember it was uninterruptedly dull. Perhaps that's why the designation was deleted - it was probably deemed misleading under the Trade Practices Act, or maybe it caused problems with recruitment, attracting all sorts of wild-eyed fans of Bleak House and Nicholas Nickleby et cetera, eager to scratch out their livings perched on high stools in dimly lit offices or hoping to emulate Melville's Bartleby Scrivener, literature's most enigmatically heroic clerk.

*Australian Public Service


  1. I am in awe of your Dickensian parentheses, a combination of adjective and noun (third person, plural) that I can safely use without offence to your feminine sensitivities, you being a married woman. It was bordering on a Trollopian encounter, only inside a sentence and not an entire novel. Anti-novel then. I remain very fond of Tristram Shandy.

    A well, you jolted me into a quarter-century timewarp when you mentioned the term multi-function polis. These days it would be assumed that would be the constabulary in riot gear.

    I also think you might have mentioned the SOB grading in Canberra, but then that covers a multitude of sinners, not all of them civil servants.

    You have passed your performance review admirably. I'm not sure what ranking that gives you, but I am only on your Peer Assessment Panel because they're paying me time and a half, and the rest of them have no idea I am the janitor.

  2. Could you take the charitable view and interpret "meaning of life" as referring to Monty Python? Did they go on to discuss machines that go "ping"?

  3. George - If you want the tenor of their 'ongoing' discussion, see Denis above in Performance Review mode
    Denis - I don't move in SOB circles, which may demonstrate that I'm a bogan or a snob, I'm not sure, as I didn't know they existed, poor lambs.