Tracky Dax and Runners


The ABC TV News on Friday 23 June was interesting and somewhat depressing. The nation trembled in the afterglow of the Socceroos’ draw against Croatia. The Prime Minister could not hide his delight as he congratulated the Socceroos. ‘It was a fantastic fight back and Harry [Kewell], he is King Harry for all of us now it was a fantastic performance.’

John Howard, by the way, was carefully framed for TV. He was wearing track-suit pants and new runners: the embodiment of the enthusiastic, sports-loving man of the people. It was revolting and faintly ridiculous, but part of the McDonald’s suburban myth that is presently gripping Australia.

Then poor, old Kim Beazley had to get his end in, referring to the Socceroos’ ‘fighting spirit and world-skills’. He said ‘[they]have done the nation proud.’ Like Anzac Day, it was a national orgasm.

(With his fluttering hands and pompous ways, Beazley is looking more pathetic as each day passes. I’m afraid Howard was right when he said that Beazley hasn’t got the ticker. And it could be argued that Beazley is a bigger menace than Howard. At least you know where you are with John, but with Kim …)

In the same on-line bulletin, there was a brief report of Justice Terence Higgins’s speech to the Australian Lawyers Alliance in Canberra. Justice Higgins is the Chief Justice of the ACT Supreme Court, and he observed that ‘Australians were dumbfounded that it was easier for a small community to rescue two miners trapped below ground than for the Government to repatriate Private Jake Kovco’s body from Iraq.’ (I am not sure about this I think the only thing that might ‘dumbfound’ Australians is a rise in interest rates. But still.)

More importantly, Justice Higgins said that the Federal Government’s counter-terrorism legislation is ‘draconian’ and that further legislation is needed to protect human rights. He also said that there is a limit to how much courts can do because much of what the Government does cannot be dealt with in the courts. And Higgins went on to say that ‘there is a limit to how activist courts can be, despite the fact that the judiciary is increasingly being called on to protect individual rights against a tide of public opinion.’

The ABC news bulletin made it clear where our national priorities lie not with law, but with sport.

Thanks to Sean Leahy.

The gradual castration of law and the independence of judges by ‘public opinion’ is the hallmark of a dictatorship as is the curtailment of Senate Committees.

And the mind boggles at the abysmal quality of most politicians on either side of the House. If they represent ‘public opinion,’ God help us! Between the Liberal and Labor Parties, there are, perhaps, no more than a dozen people whose opinion is worth taking on anything. (The thought of having, say, Ron Boswell or Martin Ferguson to dinner is not to be entertained.) In Australia, the parliamentary system is characterised by mediocrity or, at best, rat-like cunning. Our salvation lies with the courts, not ‘public opinion’.

‘Public opinion’ is this country is, I suppose, best represented by Alan Jones, or Stan Zemanek, or John Laws, or the Sydney Daily Telegraph prejudice, bigotry, populism and the eternal quest for ratings and circulation, the tabloid media, the lowest common denominator. That’s what John Howard and Kim Beazley are both about except that Howard does it better.

Democratic politics have always been this uneasy mixture of the legal system and public opinion. Now, perhaps, we can mix in religion, the Christian religion, that is. From what I can see, the guitar-strumming, hand-clapping Hillsong people gravitate toward the Liberal Party. But Labor’s Kevin Rudd or is that Harry Potter? works hard to claim some religious ground.

But the last thing I want to be is a party-pooper or killjoy. I was quite pleased that the Socceroos drew with Croatia and got into the second round of the World Cup. It’s just that Howard and Beazley’s use of sport for political ends is remorseless.

It was Graham Freudenberg, I think, who commented on John Howard’s obsession with Don Bradman but, in Australia, cricket and football are public opinion. For both political Parties, it’s bread and circuses that does the trick. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!

I’m afraid there’s no getting away from the fact that John and Janette Howard do reflect majority, public opinion in this country.

I must buy a new track suit and runners.

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.