Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Governing the Corporates
An Honourable Wally
Ted Emery's The Honourable Wally Norman dishes the dirt on the corruption rife in the small town and vital electoral seat of Gibbon's Head and exposes how far its pollies will go for cash and power.
All hell breaks loose when just weeks before the federal election the local meatworks closes down and the conservative member's main competition goes on a bender.
Goodtime guy come hopeless alcoholic Willy Norman (Alan Cassell) is the best bet to usurp the conservatives and get the meatworkers back their jobs, but his love for the bottle undermines his ability to think, read, see and write, leading to an embarrassing mistake.
When filling out his nomination form to participate in the election he accidentally misspells his own name and nominates Wally Norman (Kevin Harrington) instead.
Wally meanwhile is the town's most unlikely candidate. Cursed with the propensity for fainting during public speaking engagements, he is more surprised than anyone when asked to run for local member.
But when he realises this might just be the ticket to save the local meatworkers' jobs he accepts the challenge and asks his mentor Willy to give him whatever coaching he requires.
However, like learning to drive Wally soon learns that no matter how he works on his own form it's the other buggers on the road he's got to look out for.
While Wally tries to follow Willy's appalling advice it soon becomes clear the main problem is his blind spot for bullshit artists. Being a good bloke himself he expects the same of others, so when his ally and mentor turns bad Wally is the last to know.
Will Wally ever see the meat for the trotters and is being a nice person enough to get him elected? Will he save the meatworkers' jobs or entitlements or will he destroy himself trying? And why would anyone vote for the puppet of a crooked pollie anyway?
Any worker suspecting they could do a better job than Australia's politicians may also suspect they'd do a better job than Wally Norman. Just as any unionist might wonder where the unions are in this story.
Wally is a union member seemingly without representation. When the meatworks shuts down he and his beleaguered colleagues are left to their own devices and the words 'labour movement' become conspicuously absent.
If audience members are able to get past this omittance they may be able to enjoy the film on its other merits. Its cast of characters are engaging and there are some nice subplots involving the relationships between Wally and his camp, goat racing son, between Wally and his long suffering mates and between Wally's daughter and his own political adviser.
The concept of the average Joe getting a chance to run for parliament is also a good one for those frustrated with the country's political system and promises a story worth telling.
But at times the movie's clunky handling of Wally's ways can come across as patronising and painful to watch. The cast's Australianness is stretched beyond belief - in the spirit of many films of this genre - and it does not always measure up to the best of them.
Be that as it may, The Honourable Wally Norman offers light relief and is a pleasant watch for anyone dreaming of a day when workers really get to rule the country. It also provides a couple of warnings for those in with a chance: if in doubt, do not picture your audience naked.
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