A column about coups

Thailand is one of Australia’s favourite countries. It supplies us with wonderful holidays, delicious stirfried noodles, and Red Bull. So, like many Australians, I followed news of last week’s coup with great interest. While Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was addressing the United Nations, the Royal Thai Army rolled tanks into Bangkok and sacked him. In one of those classic developing country scenes, they promised to restore democracy ‘real soon now’, and accused the incumbent of forcing their hands through the sheer extent of his nefarious corruption. Same old story.

I’m not entirely sure how culpable Thaksin is – although you’d have to say that any country where the PM owns much of the media has a problem. (Imagine if John Howard owned TV stations here – it’d just be Bradman 24/7 on every network.) What I do know is that it’s pretty unlikely that something like that could happen here. Coups simply aren’t an option in developed Western countries – in fact, they’re unprecedented.

And more’s the pity. Because I can’t think of anything better for the Inner West right now that a bloodless coup d’état. It’s the most stridently left-wing area in the country, so after a decade of John Howard and the Labor Right in Macquarie St, a takeover by a socialist junta would be warmly welcome.

Plotting a coup is simple – they always follow the same formula. We’d just roll a bunch of tanks up outside the major political bodies, and hey presto, instant coup. It’d be so easy. Sydney Town Hall isn’t even in the area, and Clover Moore’s got so much on her plate that she probably wouldn’t even notice. While anyone who’s seen Rats In The Ranks knows Leichhardt Council’s a pushover, and you can’t tell me Marrickville’s Green mayor would put up any resistance.

Then we have to seize the region’s media outlets. Too easy. With the greatest respect to my colleagues at The Glebe, we wouldn’t need more than one tank to take it over, while a faintly aggressive look is probably all you’d need to take over Radio FBi. Whereas the ABC, which is on the edge of the Inner West, is already controlled by socialists. And that’s about it.

The first thing we would need is some kind of catchy name. Thailand’s junta has styled itself the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy. I would suggest that in order to win over the support of residents, the ideal name for our new junta would be the Inner West Democratic Reform Collective And Book Club.

‘Collective’ should get the hippies and ferals onside. And as anyone who’s ever been involved in student or community politics know, a collective is where decisions are made by the most loud and self-righteous person in the group.

And those who aren’t into the Collective, we’ll suck in with the Book Club. First up for discussion is the new Noam Chomsky. Mmm, should be thought-provoking. The chai’s on me.

Next we would need to appoint an interim leader. Ideally, we would need someone popular and charismatic who is widely respected throughout both the Inner West and the wider world. Obviously the mind turns immediately to the columnists within The Glebe. And while I’m sure Rebecca Le Tourneau would do a fine job, it seems clear to me that the ideal option would be myself.

Hey, it was my idea.

Then we need to seek retrospective permission from the head of state, as the coup plotters did with Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol. Actually, on second thoughts, it probably doesn’t matter – no-one even knows who the current Governor-General is.

Like all glorious coup leaders, I will gladly promise to restore democracy, but as with Burma, though, it might just take a few decades, during which time prominent opposition figures will be placed under house arrest. That’s okay – Paddy McGuinness doesn’t like to leave Balmain much anyway.

There’s only one problem I can detect with my glorious plan. King St and Parramatta Rd are so congested already that if we brought in a fleet of tanks to block them off, no-one would actually notice.

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