Chewin' the Gristle


Hello Gristlers! and welcome to Chewin’ the Gristle, the week’s political bits that we found hard to swallow.

As one of our New Year’s resolutions, The Gristle has decided to get back in touch with our disco side. This week’s Gristle starts with a song (no mean feat in a written article but we’re always happiest out on a limb). So, we all need to close our eyes and imagine Amanda Vanstone in a sequined jumpsuit singing to Sheik Taj el-din al Hilaly to the tune of La Freak.


Ready ..

The Sheik’s a Freak

The Sheik’s a Freak,

That was Amanda’s response to the latest round of whacky comments from the Mufti. Okay, admittedly we did paraphrase her actual words were:

Australians can be forgiven for questioning how seriously Sheik al Hilaly takes his citizenship pledge to Australia and its people a pledge that he shared Australia’s democratic beliefs and he respected our rights and liberties … I remind Sheik al Hilaly that if he doesn’t like Australia, our heritage or our way of life, he doesn’t have to come back.

Coming from an Immigration Minister, this sort of commentary may seem a little ill-judged, but she was surely not alone. Morris ‘Yemina’ Iemma, Mark ‘Mean Mother on a Motorcycle’ Vaile, and NSW Community Relations Commission chairman Stepan Kerkyasharian all chimed in with ‘shut up and don’t come back’ style comments. People may bag the mad Sheik but he sure seems to be able to unite us.

Well most of us, anyway. The obvious exception is Alexander ‘too freaky’ Downer. Alex doesn’t want to be associated with the Sheik, but he certainly doesn’t want to be associated with the rest of us either hence this little gem:

In my particular case, I’m a South Australian, so we didn’t ever have convicts in South Australia, it was never a penal settlement, in fact the only state of Australia that was never a penal settlement. So we South Australians can look at this Hilaly-led debate with a degree of indifference, I suspect.

The Adelaide Club never looked so exclusive.

For those of you who didn’t catch the mad Sheik’s latest round: tired of doing interviews in a country where most people can’t understand him, he jetted off to Egypt to talk about Australia. And his talk was fascinating. Amid his gibbering (according to a translator), he noted that Muslims are second class citizens, that the Skaf boys were just being a little frisky and that Muslims have more right to be here than ‘Anglo Saxons’:

Anglo-Saxons came to Australia in chains, while we paid our way and came in freedom. We are more Australian than them. Australia is not an Anglo-Saxon country Islam has deep roots in Australian soil that were there before the English arrived.

Thanks to Sean Leahy

Now, up to this point, The Gristle was ready jump on the band-wagon and start slinging around the phrase ‘un-Australian’. But then it occurred to us: ‘Islam has deep roots in Australian soil’ sounded strangely familiar. Suddenly it hit us. The Sheik wasn’t being un-Australian at all he was joining the History Wars! Re-inventing history is a great tradition in this country. It earned Keith Windschuttle a seat on the ABC board and  gets Gerard Henderson’s smug mug in the Sydney Morning Herald twice a week. The Sheik is just trying to fit in.

Mad Sheik, The Gristle loves your work stay looney!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, another unstable, religious zealot has been making headlines. After a bi-partisan report on Iraq (led by ex-Bush senior staffer James Baker) suggested winding down combat troops and working with Iran and Syria to help broker a solution, George W Bush carefully considered the results and decided on a ‘troop surge’, accompanied by a good solid poke in the chest for Iran and Syria.

Now, if it was only the Iraq Study Group’s report that this strategy contradicted, it might not seem so strange, but it also goes against the Congress, the military leaders on the ground, public opinion and, it seems, the Iraqis themselves. The Gristle is waiting for Dubya to come out with a statement that will make sense of it all. Something like:

Iraqis came to Iraq in chains, while we paid our way and came bringing freedom. We are more Iraqi than them. Iraq is not an Iraqi country America has deep roots in Iraqi soil that were there before the Iraqis arrived.

Ahhh, looney religious leaders, where would we be without them?

To finish this week, it’s time to finally say farewell to NSW Minister for Botched Portfolios, Carl ‘The Walking Genius’ Scully. Mr Sparkle, as he is otherwise known, decided this week to quit politics for good (and it is definitely for the good)   and he is leaving us with some choice words: ‘I’ve done all this and I’m not even 50, so I don’t have many complaints.’

The Gristle isn’t sure what he’s done with all the complaints he has received over the last decade, but we’ll take his word for it.

This week’s Gristle began with a song, and we are going to let Carl finish it with a song:

‘Regrets? I’ve had a few, but as they say Steve I did it my way.’

Yes you did, Carl, which pretty much explains why you’re done in politics at age 49.

You can catch the Gristle on Radio 2SER 107.3 in Sydney or on the web at every Friday evening from 6:00 to 6:30.

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.