|Issue No 107||17 August 2001|
Life's a Breach
Canberra's own version of Gomer Pyle, Larry Anthony, stumbles into the tool Shed this week with one of the worst impersonation of a politician in living memory.
For those born after 1970, Gomer Pyle was a 60 s TV icon, the homespun, all-American country boy who went to boot camp to be turned into a man. But no matter how much the Sarge bawled him out, Gomer remained Gomer, someone who believed in the virtues of goodness and niceness, even as the world threatened to blow itself to bits.
A parallel life is the only explanation of how a doofus like Larry could ever become a federal minister. Here is a bloke who honestly thinks the world is a nice place, charged with responsibility for coordinating the Howard Government's response to all the ills that befall society.
And like Gomer, when things go bad, Larry shrugs his shoulders and says 'well Golly!" He was doing it this week, when it was revealed that unemployed people - including those with physical disabilities - were being thrown of social security for minor breaches of their agreement with Centrelink.
The 'crimes' that these people committed including failure to turn up to an interview - even where they had not received their letter of notification. It had all the trappings of a harsh and punitive policy pandering the popular prejudices of 'dole bludgers' - along with finding a nice little way of cutting social security costs. It's mean, it's counter-productive and it reflects a system that has lost sight of its reason for being.
Reader Laura Macfarlane drew our attention to Larry's excrutiating performance debating Cheryl Kernot on the 7.30 Report this week over Centrelink's breaching policy. As Laura observed: Larry proved himself a master of political rhetoric when he said something along the lines of 'at least we have policies...Labor doesn't have any policies'. Brilliant".
What Anthony did was to play the politician. No crime in that. But when an issue of such substance arises its not enough to say - "well, look at what Labor did" as Larry kept trying to do. In such a situation a real politician would actually address the issue - that's what they are there for. The real test of a politician is, when the heat is on, to be able to play sincere - and fake it genuinely. Larry can't because, despite being a third generation Member of Parliament, he lacks the basic skills of a local councillor.
Seasoned Canberra observers say that Larry is constantly vying with Jacqui Kelly and Bronwyn Bishop as the most hopeless member of the Howard front bench. Whenever he approaches the dispatch box in Parliament, even his enemies cringe. The bollocking he received from the PM over his handling of the impact of the GST on caravan parks is legendary - when the pressure of the parkers got too much, Anthony unilaterally announced that it was something the government would need to address. Howard was Red Hot - he's the only one who does the back-flips around here!
And on the campaign trail the following titbits from the Richmond campaign, giving further weight to his nomination for the Shed:
* At a recent 'Friends of the ABC' rally Larry got up and spoke, and in a speech strictly limited to five minutes, spent the first four enthusing about all of the ABC radio programs and personalities that he really liked, while the crowd bayed for blood or at minimum an explanation for the outrageous funding cuts inflicted on the ABC.
* Larry has also been quoted as saying work for the dole is not a training scheme, it was never meant to be a training scheme. (Because in an electorate where there is over 18% unemployment in some areas, people on the dole are obviously just not trying hard enough and need to be punished...)
* Larry's greatest attack on ALP candidate Jenny McAllister is that she is a union organiser. That is all he ever says in the media. This is despite the fact that he has recently advocated a dairy farmer's union. Shit sheets are constantly circling the electorate about Jenny's union communism.
But the final word on Larry must go to the SMH's cranky old Alan Ramsay, who this week gave Anthony such a touch up, that he made the Tool Shed feel like an amateur sledger.
"Larry Jnr has as much feel for politics as a cat. To watch him on 7.30 report ... was to see a minister utterly out of his depth. He simply has no business being in politics, let alone Howard's ministry - or anybody's else.
"Nor would he be if his family name was anything but Anthony. To see him floundering, with his clichés and his political slogans, in a portfolio s sensitive as Community Service was to see a travesty of government every bit as profound as Bronwyn Bishop and that ghastly smile trying to rationalise the disgrace of her aged care regime."
And so it went. As Gomer himself would have said "well Golly!"
Interview: What's The Deal?
Labor's IR spokesman Arch Bevis explains how a Beazley Government will rebuild our broken system.
E-Change: 2.3 The State of the Union
White hope or white elephant? The future of trade unions is by no means guaranteed in the networked society.
Industrial: Into the 21st Century
ACTU President Sharan Burrow looks at the landmark deal delivering workers 12 months paid maternity leave.
Unions: The Black Hole
Jim Marr goes inside Stellar to discover the human cost of a management philosophy that says: you are on your own.
History: The Age of Dissent
The Sydney Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History has organised a Conference on Social Protest Movements and the Labour Movement, 1965-1975.
Media: ABC and the Knowledge Nation
Tony Moore looks at how the national broadcaster's fortunes are closely linked to the Knowledge Nation Agenda
International: Brazil´s C.U.T. - When Big Is Beautiful
The CFMEU´s Phil Davey drops in on Brazil´s equivalent to the ACTU, the Central Unica Dos Trabalhadores (CUT).
Satire: Bracks Disputes Cabramatta tag
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has called for a national council to decide on a location for Australia's drug capital.
Review: Globalisation Is Globalisation
In an extract from his book, Christopher Shiel argues that the official Australian perspective on globalisation is strikingly narrow.
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