With the sad passing of Rex ‘the Moose’ Mossop, it is at least comforting to know that his long lost son in the Labor party, Paul Howes, is keeping the family tradition alive.
With the sad passing of Rex ‘the Moose’ Mossop, it is at least comforting to know that his long lost son in the Labor party, Paul Howes, is keeping the family tradition alive. In one of his memorable football calls, the Moose declared, ‘If I keep getting Boyd and O’Grady mixed up, it’s because they look alike, especially around the head.’ That’s how I feel about Mossop and Howes: they look alike and talk alike.
Rex had an endearing habit of picking a multi-syllable word out of the dictionary each day and working it into his league commentary. Young Paul delights in dropping obscure economic statistics and complex political terminology into his interviews, draping a veil over his lack of formal education.
Where father and son depart, however, is in their attitude to loyalty. Mossop was the ultimate loyalist, with a lifelong love of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, often carrying his bias into the commentary box. While this infuriated the supporters of other clubs, Rex could not help himself. Genetically, he was part-man, part-Sea Eagle.
In his brief political career, Howes has been part-Trotskyist, part-Labor trade union official. The Trots hate him for it. Unfortunately, in their Bohemian, Left-obsessed lifestyle they lack cultural understanding of rugby league football. If they did, young Moose’s defection to the NSW Right of the Labor party would be seen as the equivalent of barracking for the Western Suburbs Fibros one season and the Manly Silvertails the next. In following the pathway of ALP careerism, Howes has gone from the beer-swilling, working-class grunt of John ‘Dallas’ Donnelly to the bourgeois high-jinks of Bobby Fulton.
Nonetheless, Rex would have welcomed this transition. In his eyes, there were way too many left-wing homos. Towards the end of his career, Mossop was closely identified with male chauvinism, appearing as the beastly part of Channel Seven’s Beauty and the Beast. Seeing himself as a man’s man, he disliked ‘poofters’. The peak of his homophobia was on Tonight Live with Steve Vizard, when Rex was asked to appear with the effete British entertainer Julian Clary. In sifting through the archives, I cannot do justice to the moment. Best to quote from the transcript verbatim:
(Mossop strides on stage, refusing to shake hands with Clary and taking a seat between Vizard and Clary. Introductions follow.)
Vizard: What do you think of it when cricketers kiss each other on the cricket ground?
Mossop: I think it’s a pain in the arse. (turning to Clary) You’d know a bit about that.
Vizard: Do you find men attractive?
Mossop: No I don’t find men attractive. I find men masculine, OK.
Vizard: What particular thing about homosexuals don’t you like, Rex?
Mossop: I just don’t think about them. They don’t exist as far as I’m concerned.
Vizard: Would you ever go in the Gay Mardi Gras?
Mossop: (spitting out the contents of his coffee cup and standing up): Are we going to have an interview or are we going to f*** about?
Moose senior lived in Tony Abbott’s electorate, so naturally he was a man of direct action. He won fame for conducting a citizen’s arrest near Sydney’s nudist Reef Beach, apprehending one of the male naturalists who had wandered onto the streets. As Rex saw it, ‘I don’t think the male genitals or the female genitals should be rammed down people’s throats — to use a colloquialism.’
Mossop was shattered 16 months ago when Howes publicly declared his ‘love’ for Kevin Rudd. Imagine his relief to see them fall out during last year’s Labor leadership coup. Today, the young Moose maintains a Rex-like rage against his former love interest.
When Rudd supported John Faulkner’s proposals for reforming the Labor party and diminishing the power of factional thugs, Howes denounced the Foreign Minister as a hypocrite. In particular, he cited Rudd’s denial of democracy at the 2009 ALP National Conference, suppressing debates and voting on the conference floor.
Tellingly, young Moose started his column in the Sunday Telegraph on 19 June by noting, ‘Almost every day a journo will ring me and ask, “What’s the goss?”’ The next day in the Australian, Glenn Milne had the goss, recording ‘the leaking of key details of a Kirribilli House dinner convened by Rudd on the eve of Labor’s last national conference’. The guest list included ‘Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Paul Howes’.
Milne then cited an anonymous ‘account of the night’s proceedings from one of the guests’. The guest in question, having readily chowed down Kev’s food and refreshments, proceeded to bag the tripe out of him, pointing to his so-called ‘tyrannical’ and ‘bizarre’ behaviour. His chief beef: Rudd’s refusal to allow debates and voting on the conference floor.
Moose senior never backed away from a heated exchange. As a man of conviction he was also upfront and honest in his views. Real men do not hide behind the convenience of journalistic anonymity. They put their name to their words. Paul Howes take note.
When Rex clashed with Julian Clary thousands of voices rang out in condemnation, and rightly so. But has the pendulum of political correctness now swung to the other extreme? Reading The Spectator Australia two weeks ago I was struck by Ian Smith’s account of his son’s Spanish Day at school. He wrote of how his wife, the former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja, dressed the young fella as Zorro but refused to buy him a plastic sword. Zorro without his sabre, of course, is like Batman without a cowl or Superman without a cape.
The whole point of being Zorro is to flourish the sword, making Z shapes against imaginary foes. According to Smith, Natasha ‘is not a fan of weapons, toys or otherwise, in the house’. While I knew Stott Despoja was a politically correct public figure, I never imagined she would carry this nonsense into her home.
Giving the lad a plastic sword won’t turn him into Abdul the Butcher. Most likely, it would make his day, avoiding the stigma of having to stride around school as the only Zorro without a foil. As Rex would have said, ‘I don’t want to sound incredulous, but I can’t believe it.’ Where are the voices standing up for the rights of little Zorro?
Research has shown the folly of suppressing the natural play of boys, thereby denying them expressions of their masculinity. For instance, Penny Holland, a senior researcher at London Metropolitan University, has found that rousing on boys who want to play with toy guns and swords can retard their social development. In her study:
We noticed an impact on the half a dozen boys who were persistently interested in weapons and superhero play. We started to notice the effects of our constant negative attention. They became more withdrawn and dispirited. [In the playgroup] the boys who were constantly told they were doing a bad thing lost their sense of belonging, or never found it in the first place. Other children saw them as the bad kids.
Once the toys were included in the boys’ playtime, the research team noticed ‘positive effects: they became far more socially integrated, they interacted better with adults, their construction skills developed and imaginative play improved’.
With the rise of political correctness in society, boys are at risk of losing touch with the positive experiences of masculinity. Instead of allowing children to be children, the PC template tries to shape them according to an abstract, utopian mould —
adults imposing their ideological hang-ups on the lives of unformed youth. I say let little Zorro have his plastic sword and live up to the expectations of his imaginary super-heroes, not the politics of his parents.