Love Me Tender


Tender is the night lying by your side
Tender is the touch of someone that you love too much

When Damon Albarn of Blur sang those words all those years ago, is it possible he was singing about the Federal Government’s tender process for the Australia Network? Almost certainly not. And yet, there is a definite romantic appeal to the idea — after all, the government does seem to love the Australia Network too much.

There has been much commentary of late on the subject of the Australia Network, and specifically the government’s decision to terminate the tender process. The Opposition called the decision a "disgrace". Julie Bishops was particularly strident. Even Dennis Shanahan has weighed in with an opinion, although I’m not sure what it is because of the paywall.

But what is the debate all about? Well, essentially it’s all about the Australia Network, which is the Australian TV channel broadcast overseas, and who will get the contract to operate it — the left-wing crypto-Stalinist ABC or the right-wing goose-steppers of Sky News, who take their orders directly from the powerful robot into which Rupert Murdoch’s brain was implanted in the late 90s.

Both organisations bid for the contract, and there was going to be an announcement, but then there wasn’t, and they gave responsibility to the Minister for Communications instead of Foreign Affairs, and they had to bid again, and apparently Sky won, but there were leaks, and so Stephen Conroy shut the whole thing down. That’s what happened as far as I can tell.

Of course, I’m no expert on the matter — I’m only going on what I read in the newspapers and newspaper-affiliated opinion websites. And I don’t read all of that, usually only the first couple of paragraphs, and maybe the last few words. So my knowledge of the issue may be a little sketchy. Luckily, this is not a huge problem, since it is an issue that absolutely nobody cares about.

Yes. You heard me. Nobody cares. You got that, Canberra? You got that, mainstream media? NOBODY.

Nobody cares if someone leaked the details. Nobody cares who’s in charge of making the decision. Nobody cares which network gets to re-transmit Home and Away to Laos. It literally does not matter to anybody on this planet. It is of no consequence. Just flip a frigging coin and get it over with.

I may sound intemperate here, but I swear to God I cannot take any more of this. The number one problem preventing Australia from developing into a strong, confident, sexually mature nation is the proliferation of irrelevant, unimportant, totally crap issues clogging up our public discourse. And the Australia Network is the gold medallist on this particular podium.

I mean, what good does the Australia Network do us anyway? We spend all this money broadcasting Australia to the Asia Pacific, and what do we get in return? They arrest our kids and drive around on motorbikes harassing sensitive journalists. It’s like they weren’t even watching last week’s Q&A! Clearly the Australia Network is not giving us any bang for our buck. It’s barely giving us pfft for our buck. So who cares who wins the tender? Give it to Channel 31 for all I care, let the world watch fish-cam 18 hours a day and let’s move on.

Why do our politicians waste our time with this rubbish? Why does the media report their time-wasting activities? Why are we forced to endure politicians that could contribute more to the national interest than they do now if they spent every day prancing up and down Anzac Parade waggling their genitals at Japanese tourists? Why, why, why?

I would like to imagine that one day, Australia could grow out of this need to obsess over pointless minutiae. That one day, we can break out of our irrelevancy-chrysalis and become a significance-moth, dealing only with things that really matter. Like cracking down on children’s choirs, and subsidising Portuguese chicken. Like outlawing the Spring Carnival, and giving me a better haircut. Serious issues.

But instead, what do we get? Our leaders boring us witless with sissy debates about which channel gets to be ignored by our neighbours. A prime minister who swans about with queens and G20s instead of getting down to the important business of accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. Days and days of deadly dull discussion about a so-called "carbon tax" that won’t even shut down the coal industry.

I’m mad as hell. Mad at the politicians who refuse to address the issues that matter to ordinary Australians like me and David Koch, mad at the media who refuse to hold them to account for it, and most of all mad at my fellow Australians who seem incapable of getting appropriately mad about it all. By rights we should see millions marching on Parliament House, lining the streets, shouting blood and defiance to the heavens, screaming at the tyrants within, "WE DON’T CARE!" Alas, we never do see this, due to this country’s pathological fear of irony.

What can be done? How can we force our politicians to concentrate on the things that matter, and stop muddying our brains with all this Australia Networkesque detritus? Is violence, as usual, the answer? Do we need to make convincing threats to our local members? Should we confine Warren Truss in a small plastic box until he promises to behave? Should we just walk out into the street and start hurling axes at random passers-by just to liven things up a bit?

These are all good questions, and there are lots of very easy answers to them. But now is not the time for talk. It’s talking that got us into this mess. It’s time for action. It’s time to launch the Convoy of Nothing Better to Do.

Join me, fellow citizens, and let us stand up for a democracy that stands up for us. Let us demand an end to boring, unimportant things, and a return to a time when we really cared about politics. No more Australia Networks. No more G20s. No more freaking points of order, under pain of death. We can be a better Australia, Australia. Let’s just stop wasting our time, yeah?

If we don’t do something now, we may stop paying attention to politics altogether. And that would be … well, yeah, fair point.

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.