A brief and biased social history of Australia since World War Two
So where were we, Tony? Oh right, I’d got up to the 1960s when things began to change for the better in Australia. Well, one of the great things to happen was the introduction of The Pill – sorry Tone, I know that you wouldn’t have been much thrilled by that, being a good Catholic and all, but it’s a fact of life and it changed a lot of things, so I’m going to talk about it anyway.
There were a lot of exciting things happening around that time – especially if you were a youngster. Rock and roll was one of them, and films such as Blackboard Jungle scared the establishment into thinking the world was getting out of its grip and it fought back. I remember going to see the aforementioned film and later another one whose name escapes me at the old Hoyts in Fremantle and there were more cops lining the walls inside the theatre than there were seats for the audience to sit on. Fair dinkum. Talk about an open invitation to a bit of the old authority baiting that the newspapers and the rest of the establishment celebrated in the Anzacs but frowned on in the youth of the day – not much has bloody well changed there, has it Tony?
But I’m getting sidetracked. The Pill had an enormous influence on the young adults of my generation and the then teenagers who now call themselves Baby Boomers and generally speaking seem to have forgotten what it was like to be young.
It didn’t make all of us young blokes any more responsible when it came to sex, but it did give our girlfriends a lot more bargaining power. We wanted it, they did too – and could have it pretty much without fear – but now it came with conditions and so began the long hard struggle to get us blokes to realise that women were people too, the same as us but different. Some of us have never learned this, have we Tony? Have we Tony?
Of course all this free love and long hair on blokes – and before that pink shirts and jeans – put a bit of a strain on the establishment. And to make it worse, the young people started questioning things. Why were we in Vietnam? Why was it our business? (That was one of your worst efforts, the scars are just beginning to heal though there’s still pus under the surface. The establishment got us into it against wiser advice and then threw the blame back onto the naysayers when it all went arse-up.) How about giving the Aboriginals a fair go, mate? And equal pay for the women; what about that? And how dare we play sport against South Africa.
Marches and Moratoriums and Freedom Rides were all the rage and the establishment fought back, hard. ASIO and the Special Branch took pictures and wrote up files, and the coppers were told to wade in to these dangerous bastards challenging the status quo.
I’ll save Bob Menzies for later, Tony. He’s in a category all on his own and isn’t really relevant to this part of my rant.
Then along came Gough Whitlam and things got even worse for your lot. Gough opened the universities and, as a mate of mine once said, “created a generation of educated, working-class radicals”. To this day, the Liberal and National parties haven’t forgiven Gough for making education more egalitarian, which, I reckon, is why you showed what a low bastard you are, Tony, when you made all those vicious attacks on Julia Gillard. Did she, I wonder, represent all the intelligent young women with a social conscience who laughed in your face back in the 60s and 70s? It also hints at why your mob is so keen to once more put tertiary education out of each of our mob.
Back to the time of Gough. Things started to happen really quickly. Oh, yeh, I agree, Gough made mistakes, but he showed people there was another way; a vision for Australia that hasn’t been matched since, and you can’t put a price on that. And we nearly got there – by the livin’ Harry, we nearly got there.
Unfortunately the eighties got in the way, and politicians on both sides of the House saw how easy it was to become rich if you just listened to the economists and the experts on everything from defence to education.
To give Hawkie and Keating their due, they did have enough decency left to throw a few crumbs to the people who elected them, but it wasn’t quite enough. The grey suits were back in force, the population was in debt up to pussy’s bow, and the stage was set for the proverbial two steps backward – and who popped up to lead us boldly forward to a replay of a golden age that never was? Why your mate and mentor, Johnny Howard.
You really like that mealy mouthed little bugger, don’t you Tony? He doesn’t like Australia either, or most of the people in it. He’s also a xenophobe and a bit of a closet racist. Remember how he insulted Sydney’s Chinese business community? Good one that. Someone should’ve told him though that some of those families have been in Australia at least as long as his.
I see now that the Libs are calling Johnny Boy a statesman. Strewth, Tony, pull the other leg; it plays Advance Australia Fair. Want me to tell you who I think was among our greatest statesman ever, Tony? A feller named Quong Tart. Never heard of him? Look him up some time. You won’t find him mentioned much because he was a Chinese Australian.
Anyway, here we are in the 80s and things are going downhill fast. We’re all into the banks big time and the economists have got everyone by the short and curlies. An unhinged purveyor of Shark and Tatties from up Gympie way starts telling us we’re being overrun by Asians and people start believing her and Johnno sees that she’s threatening to take a few votes off the Libs and Nats so he gets you to help set her up to be disgraced then adopts her policies and puts them in the Libs manifesto and bingo – goodbye the Oxleymoron. Pretty soon The Libs and Nats between them have set Australia back 50 years socially, wiping out most of the humanist gains that were made during the 60s and 70s. Green has become the new Red and the stage is set to start winding back meaningful Land Rights for Australia’s indigenous people, reintroduce prayers into Parliament and generally not do anything that might upset the bankers and the newly powerful, faceless global corporates.
This is cutting it really short of course. There’s lots of stuff swirling around at this time – shady deals to facilitate the first woodchip exports from NSW; the rise of Gunns in Tasmania; the Franklin Dam fight; the bastardry that was Noonkanbah; shonky deals all round. There has even been whispers that a conservative political alliance aided and abetted the promotion of Norm Gallagher, Australia’s most corrupt union boss ever, to the head of the BLF in order to rid it of its “red leadership” responsible for the Green Bans that saved much of old Sydney from the wreckers. Then there was Western Mining’s map showing how the mining industry would be ruined if Mabo was implemented. Johnny used that same map while he was PM to show how much of Australia was “locked up” by the selfish blackfellers’ greedy landgrab. He got his revenge on the Aboriginals though, didn’t he?
Johnny copped his just deserts and lost his seat into the bargain, but the ordinary people were betrayed again when, beguiled by the promise of a more people-friendly future, they elected a government led by a simpering god-botherer with heaps of dough. The warning bells should have sounded loud and clear when during an election campaign he fronted up at one of those corrupt, loony right corporate churches; he should have been booted out of the leader’s chair then, but he got away with it, and the rest is history. I was living in the US during the Gillard/ Rudd era, but I saw enough – and have read enough since I’ve been home – to know that you followed to the letter the tactics of the loony right Tea Party sect that now drives the USA’s Republican Party. The irony is, like the Tea Party, and the Pauline Hansons and the Reclaim Australias and all the other hate-filled non-thinkers, you get a heap of funding and encouragement from sources that are pulling the rug out from under the people you profess to stand up for – and the countries they live in – for the benefit of a very, very few. You might want to let the PM-in-Waiting Scott Morrison know that the Rapture isn’t really a lifting up to heaven of the saved, but the day when all the wealth of the world is in the hands of a couple of hundred people and the rest of us feed on the crumbs of a cake first baked for Ronald Reagan and becoming increasingly smaller.
And so, at long last, I get to why I think you don’t love Australia – and very few of the people in it. I’ll start with the people, but that’s for Part Three.