By Mike Welsh I had no say what so ever in my conception and birth, nor in that of our nation but I’ve always felt special to have been born on January 26. A birthday I proudly share with the late actors Paul Newman and Eartha Kitt, WW 11 hero, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and a bunch of Australian Test cricketers including ex skipper, Kim Hughes, with whom I share the same birth date, Jan 26 1954. Traditionally not a red-letter date such as Dec 25 or New Year’s Eve, but Jan 26 is still a momentous day, and one which would be difficult to forget, especially if it was your birthday. Yet back in the day I actually spent most of one birthday, blissfully unaware of its importance. The penny dropped when our GG came on the radio to deliver his Australia Day address. But it was too late. Fifteen hours of my birthday had already disappeared. How could I forget my birthday? How could I forget Australia Day? These days I would have been primed for the big event weeks in advance thanks to Australian flags fluttering from all points of all manner of vehicles in traffic and the ubiquitous TV commercials warning of a tsunami of beer, BBQs and backyard cricket bashes. My birthday has not only been comprehensively commercialized by “slammin” Sam Kekovich but it has morphed into a dangerously jingoistic mentality of… “If you don’t eat lamb or drape the flag you are unAustralian”. A surprisingly articulate, fat, former full forward succinctly “taking the piss” out of vegans has, sadly become as familiar in January as the flag flogging racists who first poked their ignorant and shockjock tutored heads over our backyard fences on Australia Day 2005 at Cronulla. The day the fuse for the December 11 2005 explosion was lit which gave birth to the “Cronulla Cape” (a term coined for mindless drunken Bogans who drape their naked upper bodies in the Australian flag). An Australian stand-up comedian described Australia Day to a group of international tourists thus… “the day Aussies get drunk and racist” and academics decided to drill into the causes and consequences of Cronulla. A “loose” University of W.A. study on Flag Waving V Non Flag Waving, found racism embedded in the Flag wavers. The team discovered that most of the 513 people surveyed from several hundred thousand gathered to watch a fireworks display, were fearful of losing their identity. One in five said they had attached flags to their cars. While the study results were neither conclusive nor solid, the basic inference was, “those who are flying flags on their cars do express more racist opinions with 43 per cent convinced that the now defunct White Australia Policy had saved Australia from problems that other countries had experienced”. I love Australia Day and most of what goes with it. I don’t have a problem with a brewery promotion of an Aussie flag for your car when you buy a “slab” of beer, but the “FUCK OFF WE’RE FULL” stickers I find highly offensive. Australia Day is my birthday but I don’t have to swim between the racist flags fluttering at Cronulla.
By Mike Welsh
On Monday, sandwiched skilfully and diplomatically between a leisurely lycra clad 30k post G 20 bike ride and “inking” a big fat, billion dollar free trade deal with our new bestie, the Chinese, Prime Minister Tony Abbott answered the summons. The order had come down from on high, the headmaster’s office, and was laced with a “please explain” to and “take instruction” from the man who thinks he runs the joint, Alan Jones.
How many Prime Ministers in the afterglow of a highly successful hosting of World leaders, and with a Oxford Blue in boxing, would not only make time for an hysterical radio announcer but meekly cop the frenzied on air “dressing down” Alan Jones delivered..
Why does tough-guy Tony, prepared to shirtfront even tougher tough-guy Putin, become a girl’s blouse in the presence of Alan Jones?
Jones’ seething interrogation of a democratically elected Prime Minister not only contained very clear directives but supplied the PM’s responses for him.
“Could Tony Abbott buy a farm in China, no he could not”
The tub thumping talkback host accused the PM “failing the pub test” on the free trade agreement with China.
Jones accused Abbott of selling the impoverished family’s cow for a handful of magic beans.
Jones can mince all the words he wants but this spat was sparked by his own intense insecurity. A self-doubt which has driven him to lofty heights and laughable lows.
Jones is in the habit of waxing lyrical over the depression era circumstances under which his farmer father was dragged up. “He had no education no job no parents, a hell of a trifecta”. He speaks misty eyed of drinking from the well his father dug.
But on Monday Jones was mightily miffed. Miffed because the man he manufactured with his own dirt poor hands had spent the weekend swanning clumsily (if that’s possible) around in a spotlight he didn’t belong in.
“It should have been me” Alan silently sang.
Abbott had to be brought down a peg. He had become too big for his boots. This is the Jones’ MO.
Under the flag waving hand on heart guise of not selling the farm to foreigners the boy from humble beginnings was reminding not only Tony Abbott but the rest of the mob just who runs the joint.
“I think he’s worldly and he’s well educated. He’s articulate. He’s decent and he can talk to people………he’s at home in any environment. That’s why I’ve come here to support him. We need, desperately need people like this in public life”. (Alan Jones 1996)
Robert James Murray “Rob” Oakeshott has departed public life but left an indelible mark on Australian politics. Not surprisingly though it would seem there’s a dearth of candidates to replace Robert as the target of cheap shots by Shock Jocks and know-all nothing nongs the country over. Can’t be seen to put the boot into George (Senator Brandis). Can’t mercilessly flog Morrison (Immigration Minister). Can’t cowardly sledge Bishop (speaker Bronnie). No free-kick for shock jocks anymore.
“Oakeshott will be remembered for two things – a mindless, rambling 17 minute speech and deserting a conservative electorate that has been left posted by a bloke with an intellect less than that of Larry, Curly and Moe”. (Ray Hadley 2013)
If there was one topic I was 100% confident about, and always keen to debate in my decade on Talk radio it was Robert Oakeshott. I wholeheartedly agree with Alan Jones’ comments of late 1996. Rob Oakeshott is all those things and much more. The electorate was just as astute. As a National party candidate Rob grabbed almost 47% of the primary vote in the seat of Port Macquarie at the November 1996 NSW election. At the 1999 poll he was further endorsed with a 58% share of the vote. The “decent, well-educated and articulate young man” has blended, albeit slightly, into the background of the electorates (Port Macquarie and Lyne) he comprehensively and brilliantly served for almost 18 years. Although there was recent speculation (quickly doused) around the village that Rob would seek the Hastings Council (Port Macquarie council) Mayoral robes. But back to beginning of the best years. As News Editor of Radio 2MCFM/STARFM based in Port Macquarie, I received a call at home late one Saturday afternoon. It was Rob offering me the exclusive story of his plans to jump ship from the Nats and stand as an Independent at the next state election. Tricky move for most pollies (Port Macquarie was safe National party territory) but no sweat for Oakie. That’s when the “#%^ hit the fan” deluxe. How dare he the “white-shoe brigade” which dominated the local political scene, huffed and puffed. Ungrateful young pup. In the NSW poll of November 2002 the Independent candidate Rob Oakeshott “romped” it in with almost 70% of the primary vote. But the massive mandate (the Nat’s polled just 14%) failed to stop a filthy and personal campaign against him. There wasn’t a week go by when I didn’t receive an “anonymous” tip in the newsroom from some local political parasite (of whom there were many) trying to convince me Rob “was about to pull the pin” or others prepared to share damaging personal details.
It will never cease to amaze me that if Robert Oakeshott had turned his head Right instead of Left on that fateful day in 2010 his “decision” would in2014 still be hailed as one of the greatest individual contributions in recent Australian political life. And equally difficult to fathom is the man Oakeshott replaced in his move to federal politics, his old boss Mark Vaile, didn’t cop anywhere near the local backlash when he “opted out”, creating a by-election just months after being re-elected but in opposition after the Howard rout of September 2007.
While he may have gone Robert Oakeshott will never be forgotten. In fact I predict rational students of the politics of hung parliaments may in the future uphold the contribution of the”OAKESHOTT that was heard around the world”.