Australian Arts

Victorian burglars

1 August 2020

9:00 AM

1 August 2020

9:00 AM

Spare a thought for Victorian burglars. Just when they thought they could go back to ransacking South Yarra mansions while their owners are driving to Portsea weekenders, the Andrews government goes and spoils it all by reviving the ban on unnecessary inter-post code travel. Then again, given the willingness of many Victorians to flout Covid restrictions and the reluctance of the same government to discourage such flouting during BLM protests, perhaps the chances of having your collar felt in Melbourne are no higher today than they were this time last year. Indeed, if Victorian shoplifters, muggers and drug dealers comply with the new face mask regulations as they go about their business, it might even loosen Melbourne’s long-sustained grip at the top of nation’s crime stat ladder. After all, if CCTV security footage of assaults only show ears and hair from now on it will be hard enough for journos to describe assailants as being of, say, East African appearance, let alone for prosecutors to get a conviction.

But it’s an ill wind, and like other sole proprietors who failed to qualify for JobKeeper, some more enterprising crims will have seen pandemic containment measures as a spur to diversification. The closure of state borders, for example, could prompt some to try their hand at people smuggling. The federal Coalition’s uncompromising stance on illegal immigration may have rendered the maritime version dangerous and unprofitable, but in these drought-stricken times any rusty old Halvorsen could make it safely across the Murray, and despite the media’s depiction of Albury-Wodonga as Australia’s answers to the Korean DMZ, there’s a limit to what police can do about the countless unmarked road crossings. Weather-envy and the resumption of all national footy code comps will no doubt tempt many Victorians to give it a red hot go, with or without professional assistance, and those who make it all the way to Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide could apply for Recreational Refugee Status. But given their Australian passports they could hardly be put in detention centres, so with CBD hotels already straining to meet quarantine demands it’s inevitable that some intercepted vehicles will be escorted back across the border. You can’t please everybody, and this ‘turn back the utes’ policy will at least give angry students and academics something to protest about once the BLM movement gets old.


As it happens, I am currently in the market for a flat-mate and would be happy to provide cut-price temporary accommodation for an itinerant Melburnian or two on condition that they promise not to dress like pall bearers and fill the kitchen with garlic. Once they’ve had a taste of democracy, of course, some may not want to return to life in a sino-satellite socialist dictatorship, in which case perhaps one of Melbourne’s five official sibling cities could step up to the plate as a resettlement option. For obvious reasons Tianjan might not be quite the break from the past most would be looking for, but Milan and St Petersburg are every bit as stylish as Melbourne and Osaka and Thessaloniki both have better weather.

But if I was a Victorian the foreign city I’d want to visit right now would be Dundee in Scotland. Not because it’s where Drambuie and marmalade were invented, but because, as every Pom knows, it’s also the home of D. C. Thomson, the publisher of Britain’s two most popular children’s comics, the Beano and the Dandy. Thanks to cyber-bullying and online porn few British children bother with either of these iconic weeklies today but at one time they both outsold the Sunday Times. As far as I know neither ever made it to Australian news-stands, though, so you might wonder what attraction the town which produced them might have for Australians of any age today. The answer is easy enough to Google. Dominating the main square in Dundee’s elegant Georgian centre is a bronze statue of one of these comic’s longest-running and best-loved characters. Physically he bears no resemblance to his Australian namesake, not least because he exudes authority and is far from chinless. But the name on the plinth should be enough to have any avenging Victorian reaching for his axe. For both Desperate Dans it can only be a matter of time, now.

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