Nathan Rees vs Prince Harry

Episode #4 of my Fitzsimons substitute column from summer 08/09.

Rees in pieces

How’s this for some profoundly unsurprising news? The NSW ALP is already considering dumping Nathan Rees, the supposed cleanskin who has utterly failed to revive the party’s dim electoral prospects in his four months as Premier. John Della Bosca has released a statement expressing his support for Rees, which veterans of previous leadership struggles will recognise as a near-certain sign that the axe is being sharpened. And little wonder when even Kevin Rudd has expressed concerns about the State Government’s performance.

It might seem a little cruel to plot against the Premier just after he’s taken a few days off for his honeymoon, but his honeymoon with voters was even shorter, so if Labor wants a shot at avoiding a landslide loss in 2011, they really need to find someone vaguely competent pronto. If indeed there is anyone meeting that description in Macquarie St – the rumours about Frank Sartor and John Robertson doesn’t exactly signal a dramatic break with past failings.

Of course, the most popular politician in this city belongs to neither party. Clover Moore has disproven the ALP’s perennial argument that she cannot serve effectively as Lord Mayor and an MP. Perhaps she could find the time to be Premier as well?

When Harry met Sooty

Prince Harry’s latest gaffe is just more evidence that the Windsors are well past their use-by date. Calling a fellow-soldier a “Paki” may seem an innocuous abbreviation to Australian ears, but the baggage associated with the term was very evident when I spent two years in a London school as a child, when the term was constantly slung around the playground despite our Muslim students being Bangladeshi. Even I was constantly called a Paki on account of being Australian, which is amusing in hindsight but was both hurtful and etymologically confusing when I was nine.

Now we learn that Prince Charles and his children call a polo buddy “Sooty”, which is fairly insulting if based on his Indian background, and extremely insulting if based on the children’s television teddy bear. Of course, that Sooty never speaks, which is an idea Prince Harry might explore.

Nevertheless, this latest controversy has surely laid to rest those lingering rumours about Harry’s parentage. With such a gift for racial gaffes, he must carry the genes of Prince Philip, who once warned a group of British students in China that if they stayed much longer, they’d “all be slitty-eyed”.

The Pacific shark solution

What’s even more damaging to our tourism industry than ads starring Lara Bingle? Three shark attacks in two days which have made headlines the world over, with more than 600 articles on Google News as at the time of writing. Patrolling has increased, and no-one’s better at keeping unwanted arrivals away from our coastline than John Howard and Phillip Ruddock. They should be sent out on jetskis to divert sharks without appropriate documentation to Christmas Island.

It’ll be all white on the night

Here’s a little game for Where’s Wally fans. Take a copy of the Sydney Festival programme, leaf through the sixty pages of events, and see if you can spot one East or South-East Asian face. In the official guide to the biggest annual cultural event in our supposedly multicultural city, I couldn’t spot a single one. Okay, so they’re screening Enter The Dragon, but good luck finding a living Asian performer in the programme.

Fergus Linehan should attend the Film Festival to see how successfully an arts event can engage with the vibrant artistic output of our own region. By contrast, his Eurocentric choices seem a return to the cultural cringe.

To be fair, the musical programme achieved a degree of diversity. But while I love Sharon Jones, surely Linehan could have found a better headliner to follow Brian Wilson than Grace Jones, who is remembered by most people only for a bad Bond movie and a worse haircut. I listened her biggest hit, ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, to make sure I wasn’t merely betraying my quasi-youth. I can assure you that it should never have been exhumed from 1985.

The Decider departs

This week, we finally bid farewell to George Bush, the man history will remember for his twin wars on terror and the English language. But in the general air of celebration, spare a thought for Jacob Weisberg, the Slate editor who has tirelessly collected Bushisms for the past eight years and whose lucrative side business of compilation books now comes to an end.

But while classics like “They misunderestimated me” and “Rarely is the questioned (sic) asked: Is our children learning?” will no doubt outlast the man, it seems fitting to farewell the 43rd President with the quotation that best summarises his time in the Oval Office: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” As an ill-judged sign once said, mission accomplished.

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