The Changing of the Guard


Our brave little Commandant, John Howard, has been contemplating change for a number of weeks, it seems. And, as we all know, slipping off the Old Duds for some newer, crisper apparel is always remarkably refreshing.

Thanks to Paul Batey

Already, a few of the old ministerial faces have made their fond farewells and slunk off into the Shadows – some more tearful than others; some, admittedly, kicking and screaming; and some as if they’d never actually been with us at all … for instance, who was that dapper man in charge of fish?

But it’s been a curiously tame and torpid affair. Hardly a Night of the Long Knives. More an Afternoon of the Plastic Teaspoons – with tim tams. Perhaps the fireworks and the garrottings are still to come.

Iron John’s main problem (and what a dilemma to have, a veritable felix culpa as my late mate Milton would say) was clearly the wealth of Talent at his disposal. It makes an old ghost salivate at the prospect.

For example, the sleek and well-coiffed Brendan (Trafalgar) Nelson has been promoted to Lord Protector of the CommonWeal – the post recently vacated by Robert (Hamburger) Hill. This means Brendan can now spend more time in the Bath with his boats and submarines. And it also allows him to send our best and bravest overseas to convince those nasty Mahometans that they’d misunderestimated us all along.

Brendan, of course, thoroughly deserves his promotion for the brilliant way he’s saved a generation of university students from the twin evils of cheap beer and rowing regattas. To say nothing of his masterful defence of the right of schools to teach impressionable young minds that the Universe was created at 2:37 in the afternoon, by a hairy and diminutive watchmaker of fair-to-middling intelligence, living in downtown Lausanne with a cat named Zeek.

I hear tell that Brendan can count, too, which will come as quite a shock to some of the Gnomes who run his new Department. Apparently, the tuck shop at HMAS Banjo is running a deficit of $4.3 billion.

The financial talent available to our picayune but perfectly formed PM at the moment is truly outstanding, and this is clearly why it was steady as she goes hereabouts. But if one could hazard a dainty suggestion: isn’t it time that the number-crunchers over at the Australian Wheat Board got the recognition they deserve? If not the top job at Treasury (we can’t honestly expect Peter to shift unless he’s offered the gig as Pope, UN Secretary-General, or coach of Essendon), then surely Finance is not too much to ask as a reward for that merry gang who navigated the shoals of Iraqi bureaucracy with such breathtaking entrepreneurial spirit – and a sense of humour!

Or, perhaps some of the AWB lads could be spread strategically throughout the Ministry? Foreign Affairs for instance – celebrating the cunning way in which they lulled that impudent puppy Saddam Hussein into a false sense of security by paying him hundreds of millions of our own dollars to buy our own wheat from us. Genius! Or, maybe they could be seconded to Social Security, for the gallant and charitable way they organised the redistribution of some of Australia’s massive surplus to help the starving bankers, accountants, bodyguards, dog-handlers and baklava-chefs of Hussein’s household.

Humanitarianism has a new hue and it is wheaten!

I must say, there are a few other minor oversights in this week’s rearrangement of the deckchairs around the Cabinet card table. The first that comes to mind is the current ober-fuhrer of the Department of Immigration and Holiday Camps, Amanda (Bingo) Vanstone. Surely, she’s a shoo-in for a new Homeland Security Department, or some such. If I remember correctly, last year the luscious Amanda suggested a number of improvements to the AFP’s counter-insurgency training, involving snapping a HB pencil in two and inserting it into someone’s Eye Socket to, as she so slyly put it, ‘grab their attention.’ With the wisdom of hindsight, this was clearly AV putting her hand up and waving frantically, long before the job was even offered or invented. Prescient or what!?

The entire population of Apollo Bay agrees that Philip (Not Haddock But) Ruddock is well overdue for a run in the sandbox over at the Ministry of Sport, Art and Spot-Welding. We’ve got Commonwealth Games and World Cups and the Ashes just over the horizon – it’s surely time to put our best face forward. And what better representation of modern Australia than the luminous pelt of PH? As a bonus, think of what the man could do with those recalcitrants, geeks and misfits at the Australia Council.

Many other over-achievers from the Coalition benches cry out for preferment. The list is seemingly endless. What riches. What depth. What breadth. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the opposition (National Party) which has been decimated this week by the defection of Julian (The Finger) McGauran.

As the Prime Minister contemplates the eager new faces who will soon reflect his incandescent glory back upon his hard, nut-brown Body at the next Cabinet meeting, he must be thinking how truly lucky we all are to have had him for so long. And if his mind wanders for a moment to idly contemplate the forces arrayed against him on the Opposition benches, he must chuckle to himself and realise how lucky he’s been for what will be known, very soon, as ‘Howard’s first ten years in power.’

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.