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November 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Public Defender
The CPSU's Stephen Jones has confronted the Howard Government's IR agenda at close quarters.

Legal: Craig's Story
An inquest in western NSW is a cautionary tale of the use of AWAs, writes Ian Latham

Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
The WorkChoice legislation sends Australia down the wrong economic road by smashing the instittutions that have made it strong, argues Greg Combet.

Industrial: WhatChoice?
The Howard Government has shown itself to be the master of illusion, writes Dr Anthony Forsyth

Politics: Queue Jumping
The changes to industrial laws, betray a new vision of Australian society, writes James Gallaway.

History: Iron Heel
Conservative governments using laws to take away basic civil rights. It's nothing new, writes Rowan Cahill

Economics: Waging War
When was the last time you heard an Australian politician talk about incomes policy, asks Matt Thistlethwaite

International: Under Pressure
The push for UN intervention in Burma is intensifying, following a report by Vaclav Havel and Bishop Desmond Tutu into slave labour.

Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
More and more people are meeting Billy, the hero of page 15 of the WorkChoices booklet, including our resident bard, David Peetz

Review: A Pertinent Proposition
Nick Cave's "Australian western" touches on some themes still relevant today, Julianne Taverner writes.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Men and Women of Australia
What makes a perfect speech? Michael Fullilove has scoured Australian history to find out.

The Locker Room
The Hungry Years
Phil Doyle gets the feeling we’ve been here before

Culture
From Little Things
Paul Kelly's song about the battle for land rights misses one important character, writes Graham Ring

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a look at Public Private Partnerships, and wonders if we should all just drink rum…

E D I T O R I A L

Terror Laws
It was poetic really, the WorkChoices legislation, all 1,000 plus pages of it, introduced into Federal Parliament this week under the cloak of terror.

N E W S

 D-Day For Political Rights

 Bosses In Sack Race

 “Choice” By Decree

 Howard Barges Into Workplace

 Della Grounds Boeing

 Wal-Mart Sees the Light

 Libs Chicken Out

 Shame Ships Filch Fish

 Multis Line Up to Cheer

 Feds in Dock

 Santoro Waves Red Rag

 Activist's What's On!

L E T T E R S
 We're Next
 Australia, 2005
 Truth in Advertising
 Investment Advice
 What a Woman!
 It's Not Pretty
 Screwed
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Review

A Pertinent Proposition


Nick Cave's "Australian western" touches on some themes still relevant today, Julianne Taverner writes.

A shoot-out amidst a corrugated iron hut in the heat of North Queensland sets the scene for the start of Nick Cave's film touted as the classic Australian western. Set in the 1880s, this is an engaging perspective on rugged life in an emerging colony.

The key character Charlie Burns played by a toned Guy Pearce is set a task - find and kill his menacing elder brother Arthur to ensure the freedom of his younger, simple brother Mikey. Mikey has been taken to the cells for the alleged rape and murder of the Hopkins family, settlers and friends of the local copper Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Captain Stanley does a deal with Charlie to do his brother in, in return for the release of Mikey. Charlie sets out on his hunt to find his elder brother, amid a haunting soundtrack by Nick Cave and the arid, harsh and dusty landscape.

The local constabulary, bored, plod their way through the day, taunting and bullying young Mikey who remains in the cells directly under the heat of the sun. At night, the coppers drink and gossip, reflecting a drinking culture not dissimilar to a Friday night in any public house.

Meanwhile, Mrs Stanley, frets in her house, awaiting the return of her beloved Captain. Her world could have been lifted from English upper class society. In the inhospitable North Queensland environment she tends a rose garden, behind a white picket fence and enjoys all the material comforts the landed English aristocracy would have taken for granted back in the mother country. The white picket fence is an emblematic reminder of John Howard's 1950's version of Australian life. She truly loves her husband, despite his rough edges and all-consuming hangovers. He is a good man, so it seems, but distracted by the job and the trouble of ensuring the townspeople are law-abiding and get justice for the deaths of the Hopkins.

A group of Aboriginal men are caught "up in the hills" and are brought to the station for interrogation, via translation by the tracker, played by David Gulpilil. The scene erupts into farce as it becomes obvious that the "blackfellas" are taking the piss.

Young Mikey suffers terrible deprivations and cruelty under the orders of land-owner Mr Eden Fletcher played by a neatly moustached David Wenham, a long way from Diver Dan or Brett Sprague in The Boys. The lashing scene for my money was worse than some of the violence in Wolf Creek. But at the same time it's a lesson in the punishments and cruelties of colonial life in late 1800s Australia.

In his travels Charlie comes across Jellon Lamb a mercenary and drunken bounty hunter, played by a fabulous John Hurt. Hurt looks very old now but he still adds fantastic texture to the array of local characters. Charlie finally locates his brother and his outlaw gang. The shots of stunning sunsets and the Australian bush are a credit to cinematographer Benoit Delhomme. The colour of the sky changes to reflect Charlie's quiet contemplation and the poignancy of the moment when he reunites with his sibling's gang.

After devising a cunning plan, the tale unfolds in all its misery and violence. No one character seems to be untouched by the climax of the film and its surprising ending.

The Proposition provides a window into a past, perhaps now forgotten, but still so relevant in terms of understanding contemporary themes of class, gender, race and nationality, even city and country. The eternal human experiences of love, betrayal and family loyalty float through the film. Go see it, if nothing else for the music and Mr Cave's excursion into feature film-making.


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