I need your help. I am applying to the Australia Council for a literary grant and I need a few references to support my application for a handout, or, as we call it in literary circles, ‘funding’. The work I have in mind is a complete re-write of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. As you know, that was a pathetic, vacuous, class-ridden piece of colonial-era nonsense with no LGBTI parts at all and about as relevant to the modern era as whalebone corsets and button-up boots. We propose therefore to re-write this frivolous piece to fit in with the zeitgeist of the modern era, and make it a gritty, edgy, real-life drama that truly reflects the rich multicultural structure and adherence to high standards of ethical fundraising and transparent governance that is the modern Australian Labor Party. The re-written play will be called The Importance of Being Ernest Wong MP or The Mystery of the Aldi Bag.
Briefly, the story revolves around its eponymous character, Ernest Wong, who was found as a baby in an Aldi shopping bag at that company’s Balmain outlet 30 years ago. The bag is then left at the Sussex Street offices of the ALP and subsequently used for collecting bribes and donations from a broad range of colourful racing identities and developers who wish to improve the civic environment of Sydney by demolishing it. Ernest is adopted by the party machine and gradually works his way up the slippery political pole, despite all the obstacles put in his way by evil and jealous opponents, including rigged pre-selections, forged membership lists, drive-by shootings, bashings and acid baths. But the party itself cannot win an election, mainly due to Mr Chris Bowen urging the public not to vote for it, a tactic at which he is stunningly successful. Most of the party’s established donors are in prison and, when the call goes out for donations, the reply is always that people will only donate though Ernest. The party thus turns in its desperation to our hero to raise money for the next campaign, which he does by soliciting thousands of small donations from the cooks, waiters and dishwashers of every Chinese restaurant in Sydney which all miraculously arrive as a job lot of $100,000 brought in by one donor who has to relocate to China to pursue other business opportunities and, here is the spooky part, neatly packed in the same Aldi bag as that in which Ernest had been found, all those years ago. So energetic, unrelenting and enthusiastic at his task is our hero that he is written into ALP folklore as Wong the Earnest. Or, as they say in Labor party circles, the only thing that can save the ALP’s fundraising is to recognise the importance of being Ernest. Beyond being a fascinating story, the new play will be a proud example of meeting the specified 33.3 per cent quota of diverse and minority representation in cast and crew, with the final 0.3 per cent being contributed by a dwarf playing the demanding role of the then Leader of the Opposition. In fact, the play is so diverse and inclusive that our irreverent transgender intern in the office has taken to calling it ‘the MSG project’, which of course I have actively discouraged. It also pays homage to the #MeToo movement, as the General-Secretary of the party is accused of sexual harassment of the tea lady and is compensated by the same major donor with a consultancy worth another $600,000 and a further $35,000 for his legal expenses. It has everything. So far we do not have any LGBTI roles, but a florist in Potts Point who does most of the mafia funerals in Sydney shows promise. Please help.
I don’t like praising politicians as it only encourages them. But I must put in a good word for Scott Morrison. Now that the miracle of the last election has passed, he clearly feels that he can put his own stamp on the sort of government he would like to lead. So far, I like what I see. At long last we have a leader who does not think that the only wisdom worth paying attention to comes out of international bodies like the United Nations. If that offends the Chinese, too bad for them. Peter Dutton was right, even if he was stating the obvious, when he said the other day that the ruthless authoritarianism of the Chinese communist party was incompatible with our Western democratic values. It is also good to see a prime minister who is not afraid to declare himself a Christian and to show pride in his religion and in public. The other pleasant result of Morrison taking this more open and assertive tack and being supported in it by some of his better ministers, is that it sends the Labor party and the Greens into paroxysms of hate and fury which show what they are really like.
Mind you, the Morrison government is not perfect and still falls into the trap of wanting to interfere in running our lives. The Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 is probably fair enough, but there is one provision in it that really irks me. The new law will create yet another tsar at the Human Rights Commission, this one to have the grand Orwellian title of Freedom of Religion Commissioner, as if we did not have enough of them already and as if we had not had enough bitter experience with these power-hungry martinets like Gillian Triggs trying to control our lives. But no, we are to have yet another one, swanning around the world to conferences, pontificating, ‘educating’ and ‘lecturing’ us, issuing ‘guidelines’ on how we should behave, or like Tim Soutphommasane handing out claim forms and encouraging disputes. Surely we can have freedom of religion without the freak show that goes with it.
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