On the upside, in the future dystopia Australia, everyone gets a paper shredder in their kitchen. On the downside, those same kitchens are under constant surveillance by government-installed closed-circuit television. But on the upside again, everyone gets free sausages.
How did all these things – the good, the bad and the fatty – come about? Because we changed the date of Australia Day from January 26, to something else.
So says Mark Latham, one time Labor Opposition leader, turned right-wing conspiracy nutter.
Latham’s public descent into madness has been, generally speaking, quite satisfying to watch. Like when your racist old uncle falls over at a family barbecue, or when Bill Leak died.
While Latham’s latest venture has been a bit unsettling, like any car crash, it’s impossible to look away. So let’s look more closely.
Outraged at the growing movement to ‘Change the Date’, Latham has been campaigning to ‘save the date’, or in his words, ‘Save Australia Day’. If you take the initials from that three-word Abbott-esque slogan it spells SAD. Brilliant!
The ad opens with the question, “What if the Greens and Labor Left get their way and abolish Australia Day on 26 January?”
On screen runs a small, excited child who proudly shows her mum a picture she drew celebrating Australia Day. The mum shreds the drawing while looking suspiciously over her shoulder, observed by CCTV.
It then cuts to a woman in a butcher shop who orders a shit-tonne of sausages. She realizes she might be suspected of hosting an Australia Day event. She panics and leaves. Without paying.
Then it cuts to two old men – both of whom bear an unsettling resemblance to everything I imagine a paedophile might look like – sitting in a nursing home with lamingtons being castigated by a nurse for reminiscing about the ‘good old days’.
The only thing the ad was missing was a drunk kangaroo with a Southern Cross tattoo draped in an Australian flag and scoffing down a meat pie with sauce.
Personally, I’m torn. One the one hand, it’s highly entertaining if for no other reason than it is spectacularly ridiculous. It’s almost as if, confident the creators had written the worst script based on the worst idea imaginable, they set out to find the worst actors in the country to perform it.
On the other hand, it’s possibly one of the worst ads ever produced. Think ‘Stoner Sloth’ bad, the exceptional NSW Government ad about the dangers of smoking weed.
Think also ‘Tax Office game changers recruitment ad’ bad, a campaign that could only have been conceived by a bureaucracy or a two-humped camel.
Of course, both those ads were government-made, and thus ‘government quality’. What makes this cinematic adventure even more inexplicable is that it was produced by the private sector. Although, when you think about it, it’s likely that it was actually financed largely by the Australian taxpayer, because even though Latham publicly fundraised to make it, surely the only people stupid enough to throw money at it would be people stuck permanently on Centrelink benefits because they’re too stupid to hold down a job. (Ed’s note: That’s not to suggest ALL people on Centrelink benefits are too stupid to hold down a job… just the ones simultaneously silly enough to be unemployed AND contribute to a Latham fundraiser).
Which leads us to discussing, briefly, who would be silly enough to appear in it as themselves and not an actor. Latham wasn’t – his mug is nowhere near the ad. Alice Springs Councillor Jacinta Price does appear in it. I like to believe that she pre-recorded her bit before the rest of the ad was made, and is now apoplectic with rage having discovered what she’s been linked to.
In any event, we’re left in the uncomfortable position of being unable to determine whether this ad is the worst ever made, or possibly the greatest piece of art ever created. And so we must instead turn to the motivation for the campaign to see if it sheds more light.
Part of me believes that Latham must just be taking the piss, because trying to understand the creative process that led to this clusterfuck is, frankly, inconceivable. It’s so ridiculous that I’m almost certain One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts must have been involved somehow (Roberts, in case you forgot, argued in the High Court last year that he believed he was Australian because his father never took the piss out of him for being a Pom. Immediately following that, the expert witness he’d flown at considerable expense from the United Kingdom to testify on his behalf, testified against him).
Thus I think the ad must have been conceived by Roberts, then directed by Jeannie Little, produced by Molly Meldrum, and cast by the guy from the 1980s Carpet Warehouse Ads (‘tell em the price son!’).
Another part of me suspects maybe Latham is just desperate for attention. Which is confusing, because there would be so many cheaper ways of getting it. He could have, for example, just released a home video of him smearing himself in poo and then smiling, like two-year-olds sometimes do. Or he could have self-immolated. Both would have gone viral and got him more attention.
But to be honest, the biggest part of me thinks maybe Latham – at one time poised to win the prime ministership from John Howard – is just a SAD old man, bitter at the derailing of his own political career (courtesy of his spectacular stupidity), and now reduced to (metaphorically) shouting at clouds alone from a park bench.
Whatever the truth, two things are now clear.
Australian cinema will never be the same and as bad as PM Howard was, we clearly dodged a bullet in 2004.
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