In a shiny new occasional New Matilda series, woman about town Monty Fish brings you an inside look at how Scott Morrison really came up with the idea for a $50 million statue and ‘learning centre’ to commemorate the arrival of Captain Cook.
A tattoo parlour. ScoMo has his pants around his ankles. A hand is touching up a faded ‘Love it or leave it’ tattoo on his arse cheek. He is gritting his teeth in pain.
ScoMo: I bet Dutto doesn’t have a tat. He’s all talk. I do the hard work, he swans in for the glory. Home Affairs Ministry! Pfffft. You know I stopped the boats?
The tattooist looks bored. He’s heard this a million times.
ScoMo: You know he has protestors? People climb buildings to tell him to fuck off! They’re my policies, where’s my protestors? I deserve a fuck off more than he does!
Tattooist: Have you tried pissing people off?
ScoMo: It’s harder than you think. The bar is so low these days, you’ve really gotta graze the gutter for material. I mean, ‘Corporate tax cuts’ sounds elegant next to ‘offshore torture camps’. They give me nothing to work with! You know, I know this sounds paranoid, but it’s almost as though people just expect the Treasurer to be shitty so nothing I do surprises them.
Tattooist: I’m surprised your saggy arse has a tattoo.
ScoMo: Not you, you’re a pleb. I mean the people. You know, the 99% – the people that tweet on Q&A and have publishable opinions.
Tattooist: Whatevs, dude. Dutto is the racist potato right?
ScoMo: He has a caricature?!
Tattooist: If you wanna steal back the limelight, out-racist the racist. Duh.
ScoMo pulls up his pants in a stupor. His eyes dazzling.
ScoMo: That’s brilliant! If you weren’t so poor, I’d suggest you go into politics!
Tattooist: I’d rather stick inky needles in politician’s arses to be honest.
ScoMo: Enjoy it while it lasts. The Robots are coming.
Tattooist: Yes… but robots don’t vote.
But ScoMo has run out of the shop, cash flying out of his pockets in his wake. The tattooist scoops them up.
ScoMo is pacing along his office corridor. The wall is an endless stream of Captain Cook paintings. He stalks the corridor. Suddenly he is stuck by an idea. Gasps, and runs off.
A posse of young, slick guys wielding iPads stand before ScoMo: his PR team. He is ranting with all the passion of a street lunatic who has seen God. The guys’ lustreless faces are dimly lit by the iPad screens.
ScoMo: It’s simple! We’ll build a Captain Cook statue at Kurnell! Not just any statue – a gold encrusted one! With a whole museum and learning centre. If only people knew about this guy Cook. If only kids could come and learn, we might be able to convince them that everything we always told them was true because this time it’s GOLD-ENCRUSTED! What do you think?
One of the guys wheels out a prim woman in her 60s. She wears a Celebrity Heads-style placard on her head marked ‘typical ABC viewer’. ScoMo looks right at her.
ScoMo: The government is committing to a Captain Cook statue and cultural centre at Kurnell.
The woman looks at him with disgust. She is wheeled away. The PR posse nod approvingly and type away on their iPads.
ScoMo: (really on a roll now) And a ferry port! So we can avoid finally providing public transport to Kurnell. We’ll keep the quaint ‘20-minute-one-road-in/one-road-out-past-the-fuming-oil-refinery’ bus ride for nostalgia’s sake. And for the locals. But the rest of Sydney can have the ferries! Coal-powered ferries! So they can relive the Cook experience while supporting coal. Two birds, one big rock.
PR Guy: The Endeavour wasn’t coal-powered.
ScoMo: Yes, but the people don’t know that.
PR Guy: Polls indicate they do.
ScoMo: Get Birmingham on the line.
One of the PR posse hands ScoMo a phone.
ScoMo: Hey Birmo. What are the chances of us getting some tweaks on the Oz history curriculum?
Birmo stands in front of a blazing bonfire. He holds the phone with one hand, and lobs history textbooks into the flames with the other.
Birmo: One step ahead of ya, mate.
Birmo cheers as John Howard, tie loose and his balding tufts flapping, skulls a bottle of straight vodka. Birmo cheers him on. Howard unzips his fly and wees on the fire. The flames surge from the alcoholic stream.
CUT BACK TO:
ScoMo grins to himself. The PR posse look concerned.
ScoMo: “He stopped the boats. Now, he’s starting the ferries!”
ScoMo does his best jazz hands.
ScoMo is wearing a white, sagacious robe. Behind him is a screen projecting the night sky. Someone has circled the Southern Cross constellation with the technical aptitude of a 12yo using Microsoft Paint in 1998. Sad violin music plays.
ScoMo speaks to a camera.
ScoMo: They travelled for months across the ocean, leaving their families behind. Never knowing if they would be reunited. Many died on the ocean crossing, never able to say goodbye to their loved ones. For those lucky enough to survive, there was no knowing what awaited them if they made it to the elusive Terra Australis. Their lives were lived from one uncertainty to the next. When they arrived, the boat people were terrified to learn that they were unwelcome. One wild local hurled a spear at the innocent men offering gifts.
Cut! – a voice yells. The dramatic music stops. A PR Guy steps onto the makeshift set.
PR Guy: We have to cut that. It contravenes our historical account. As you know, there was no Aboriginal resistance.
ScoMo: Not even one for dramatic antagonism?
PR Guy: Sorry.
A moan comes from behind the camera. A man steps into the light – Geoffrey Blainey, wearing a French beret and an Australian flag-print cravat.
Geoffrey Blainey: My masterpiece is destroyed!
He faints on the floor. The PR team drag him to a curtain. They pull it aside to reveal a giant microwave. They shove Blainey’s body inside and close the door. Someone types in 1,9,8,6, Microwave Cook. A loud POP! And his body is gone. They open the door and remove his clothes – still sizzling.
PR Guy: We can’t afford another ‘moon landing’. He’s happier back in 1986, I promise.
ScoMo is furious – in full Diva mode. He rips off his toupee and stomps on it.
ScoMo: Why does everyone underestimate my dramatic range?!
ScoMo is seated in lotus, meditating. He repeats the mantra ‘Jobs and Growth’ over and over to calm himself. Around him the PR posse are frantically doing calculations on a whiteboard. They are afraid to interrupt him.
PR Guy: Sir? We think we have an estimation.
ScoMo answers calmy, eyes still closed.
PR Guy: Well, the gold crusting in the statue is going to set us back a bit. But even with more humble materials for the rest, we’re looking at roughly, ahem, $50 million.
ScoMo comes flying out of lotus.
ScoMo: $50 million?! It’s a cultural project not an arms deal! People are going to think we’re doing deals with the bloody Greens!
PR Guy: Well, it’s mostly the land cost. It’s prime Sydney real estate. Coastal, ocean views, mostly north-facing.
ScoMo: I thought we owned the land! Now we have to pay for it?!
PR Guy: It’s not uninhabited. Some people do live there. But they’re barely human. Lack of public transport has kept them isolated from civilisation for generations. They may not even have the dexterity for touch screen devices yet.
ScoMo: Maybe we could just have them removed. Nobody will know they were ever there.
PR Guy: We tried that in the past. With little success.
ScoMo: You’re right. It was a while ago, but they might remember.
An awkward moment as the PR posse share looks. The others nudge PR Guy forward to make his point.
PR Guy: There’s also the political cost to consider. Our sample studies are indicating that an… inclusive approach to the Museum should be considered. For fear of appearing too provocative.
ScoMo: Inclusive? Of whom?
PR Guy: You know. They-who-shall-not-be-named.
ScoMo: The corporate donors?
PR Guy: The Aboriginal people.
Sco Mo: Ah, shit. What if… what if… a ha! We’ll use a work-for-the-dole program to include them in the building process. That’s better than inclusive… it’s exclusive! Aboriginal labour only. Lefties can’t argue with that.
They all stand stunned. A geeky PR consultant punches in numbers on his iPad.
Consultant: That will push your scandal quota beyond the annual allowance. And budget is this week.
ScoMo: I thought I’d accumulated my scandal allowance?!
Consultant: Everyone’s got wiped after Barnaby.
ScoMo: That show-pony motherfucker.
ScoMo starts pacing. He takes a $50 bill from his pocket, rolls it up and starts smoking it. Stressed. He stares down the Captain Cook portraits on the wall.
ScoMo: You know what? Fuck it. Let’s do a Dutton. Just come out and say it. No shame. No blinking. Firm. Authoritative… kind of. No bumbling. Not like… this. More… firm.
He stands upright. Looks at his reflection in the glass of the Cook portrait, their faces blending.
ScoMo: I represent the seat of Cook. Home of the Cronulla riots goddamit. If white Australia can trust anyone, it’s me!
The sound of applause breaks out behind him. ScoMo puffs out his chest in pride. He turns around to receive the adoration…and realises the PR posse are all crowded around one iPad. The cheering is coming from the device. Then a newsreader voice speaks.
Newsreader Voice: Peter Dutton is being heralded as ‘the guardian of the white race’ after ordering a fleet of coal-powered ferries to the West Coast of Australia. The boats are loaded with persecuted white South African farmers.
ScoMo: That show-pony motherfucker!
PR Guy: Should we slip the statue proposal in the budget announcement, then?
ScoMo: I guess… You know, I was the one who stopped the boats?
The PR Guy looks at him like a pathetic toddler. Pats his shoulder condescendingly.
PR Guy: I know.
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