There's Nothing Like A Good Spy Scandal


There comes a time in every Australian’s life when she must take a cool, measured look at this broad brown country and admit an obvious truth: Australia is boring.

Be honest, you’ve noticed this before. You’ve daydreamed about a time when the most interesting thing you can say about your native land won’t be that it has animals with pockets and a lot of white people on TV. You’ve looked overseas and seen countries teeming with revolutions and civil wars and pirates and jungles and filibusters and lions and tigers and bears, and sighed heavily as you’ve realised that Australia is a place where people are so bored out of their skulls they numb the pain by drinking until horse racing looks like a good idea.

But maybe things are changing a little. Maybe we’re not as dull as we thought. Because we may not have adventure or megafauna or Barack Obama, but we’ve got one thing: spies.

The important thing about our spies is that they’re REAL spies. We sort of knew before that we had ASIO and ASIS and whoever those other guys were, but we always kind of knew our spies weren’t proper spies, properly spying on people and embroiling themselves in international intrigue like spies are supposed to. It seemed pretty certain that Australian spies mainly just sat at desks and got faxes from real spies in America and put in requisition forms for pens.

But no! We have proper spies! Real, honest-to-goodness spies that go sneaking around South-East Asia humming sinister music and tilting their hats at rakish angles and tapping Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone.

Sure, tapping a phone may not seem like much, but bear in mind that, even though most Australians think of Indonesia as a small, backward, insignificant country, it is actually home to over a thousand people, and possesses an almost unrivalled ability to affect the mood of Queensland cattle farmers.

And “SBY”, as he is affectionately known to friends and eavesdroppers, is the president of this proud nation – goodness only knows what tantalising secrets could be discovered by listening to his private conversations. His likes, his dislikes, his turn-ons, his turn-offs, where he likes to shop, when the mass invasion of the demon-haunted food bowl to the south will take place – all kinds of fascinating tidbits.

Now Indonesia has caught us out, which is a little bit embarrassing – it’s great having spies, but it would be even more great to have competent spies. But, James Bond gets caught all the time, and it doesn’t seem to affect his street cred, and to be honest, the discovery of our intelligence activities in Indonesia has provided us with an even greater opportunity to put to bed the notion that Australia is boring, once and for all.

Because what we have now is a genuine international incident, which means we are players. We’ve genuinely managed to piss another country off, and there is nothing more important to a nation’s self-esteem than the ability to properly upset foreigners.

Ambassadors recalled, cooperation called off, boat people suddenly frolicking free on the high seas – Australia’s spooks have stirred things UP, and doesn’t that feel good? The sense that you are, at last, having a real effect on the world around you. It’s that wonderful feeling of throwing a rock in a tranquil pond and watching the waves radiate outwards, rippling to the shore and upsetting the ducks. Australians are spectators no longer – we are duck-upsetters, and we can strut the world stage saying that with pride.

Already Mark Textor, the well-known Tory-masseur, has made it clear that he will not tolerate demands from men who resemble porn stars who aren’t even from their own country. Textor, a dinkum bloke if ever there was one, knows that here in Australia we only appease men who resemble porn stars from decent clean-cut nations. No doubt many will follow his lead in condemning the Allah-worshipping, porn-star-resembling, easily-tapped-phone-having brownish hordes eyeing our northern coastline hungrily.

It’s so exciting I hardly dare mention it… but maybe… if we really try hard and keep in mind our mission to make this country exciting… maybe we can have an actual WAR.

Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Not one of those namby-pamby wars we always seem to get into like Iraq or Afghanistan, playing gopher to the yanks. No, this will be a PROPER war, with big battles, massive casualties, dashing heroes and thrilling invasions.

Harking back to the Anzacs – who represent the last time Australia was actually interesting – we can take on those Indonesian bastards who had the temerity to notice that we were spying on them, and we can have a good old-fashioned set-to that will lead to some thrilling TV visuals, some really moving protest songs and probably a number of fantastic movies utilising cutting-edge special effects technology a little way down the track.

Remember, Indonesia is a big country, so it’ll be a big and bitter war. It’ll be the sort of war we can really beat our chests about. To think it would never have happened if our spies had been more careful! Not to mention if we hadn’t had the foresight to elect a prime minister whose struggles to wrap his head around the delicate art of diplomacy. (Who knew — people from other countries can read too!) If we owe a debt to Rudd for tapping the phones, we owe a debt to Abbott for making sure it became as major an issue as possible.

I for one could not be more excited about the technicolour future we’re moving into. We’re not just handmaidens of the US. We’re not just jolly athletic skin-cancer sufferers. Play this right and we won’t have to look wistfully at Mexico or Russia or Somalia ever again. From now on, Australia is a player in this world, and we are causing the mess to prove it.

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.