Whatever happened to 2020, the Year of the Rat? Which, in this time of identity consciousness, is perhaps better termed the Year of the Rat, the Mouse and other Small Rodents.
Alas, what was destined to be a time of plenty fuelled by optimism became an occasion of drought, fire, flood and pandemic-initiated (toilet roll) famine – leading to stress-induced abuse, hyperbole, snobbery and pessimism of an apocalyptical kind along with a lack of self-awareness and a touch of nothingness. Especially among those in our midst who regard themselves as progressives. Month after month.
January: On New Year’s Day, the Guardian’s David Marr declares that the world is looking on Australia “with a mix of pity and scorn”. He evokes memories of the film On the Beach, in which the world was about to end in Melbourne, and opines that we are all starring in “the remake” in place of actors Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire. Social commentator Jane Caro reflects that we are being governed by “fascists”. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly maintains that “the world” is “asking how long Australia will be habitable”.
February: In The Monthly, writer Don Watson fangs Scott Morrison claiming that “at some point in any interview with the Prime Minister one is liable to be reminded of a dung beetle”. Watson compares Morrison unfavourably with the recently deceased former Victorian Labor premier John Cain – “a man of stern integrity and self-restraint”. No mention is made of the fact that Cain presided over the collapse of the State Bank of Victoria which thrust Victoria into years of economic decline.
March: Sydney scribbler Mike Carlton attributes pandemic-panic buying on a prime minister who departed the Lodge over a decade previously: “It was John Howard who seeded a culture of individual greed and selfishness in Australia”. Short on toilet-rolls? – it’s Howard’s fault. In Crikey, lawyer Michael Bradley looks at Morrison and sees “the central features of fascism”. Nine Newspapers’ columnist Peter FitzSimons predicts that “mainstream religion” will take a major hit from COVID-19 since old believers will die and others will blame God for not intervening. He seems unaware of the surge in belief which occurred after the Black Death.
April: Professor Greg Craven is interviewed on ABC TV by Karina Carvalho in the wake of the High Court’s unanimous decision to acquit Cardinal George Pell. Craven says the case should never have been prosecuted and criticises the ABC for being part of the anti-Pell cheer squad. Carvalho retorts that “ABC management would vigorously reject those accusations”. Quelle surprise! ANU academic Mark Kenny tells Insiders’ viewers that it was right-wing “terrorists” who voted in the Liberal Party room to replace Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in 2018. No arrests were made – which makes you wonder how politics is taught in the ANU.
May: ABC TV runs the documentary Almost Australian by the British/Australian actor Miriam Margolyes. Looking back on the 1980s, she refers to the “American missile base of Pine Gap”. No such missile base ever existed. In an interview with Adam Hills, the leftist Margolyes states that she “wanted” Boris Johnson “to die” of COVID-19 but changed her mind because such a view reflected badly on her. Really. Age journalist Wendy Tuohy reckons that life under lockdown in Daniel Andrews’ Victoria is “by absolutely no means all bad”. She lives in a house (not a small flat) with her family (not alone).
June: ABC chair Ita Buttrose proclaims that “without the ABC we would have a balkanised and parochial bunch of broadcasters … more intent on dividing than unifying”. Unlike the conservative-free-zone over which Buttrose presides, apparently. ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry criticises his employer for a lack of on-air diversity. Forgetting, apparently, that all Media Watch presenters have been both white and left-of-centre. Australian Financial Review cartoonist David Rowe maintains that depicting Josh Frydenberg with a hook nose wearing what seemed to be a Jewish yarmulke was all a misunderstanding. He draws many caricatures with hook noses, you see.
July: One-time medical practitioner and long-time ABC presenter Norman Swan advises 7.30 viewers that, at a time of pandemic, “masks work”. This is the very same expert who had opined on 7.30 in March that “masks are pointless”. Emeritus Professor Judith Brett, of Melbourne, informs us all not to “get so over excited about jobs in coal mining” and sneers that “there’s a sort of masculinism about these jobs”. Forgetting that contemporary mining companies employ women and that the industry pays company tax which benefits retired academics on taxpayer subsidised pensions.
August: On ABC Radio National Breakfast, Melbourne Law School’s Kristen Rundle foretells that the special inquiry into the bungled hotel quarantine system, that contributed to the deaths of some 800 Victorians, will not come to a conclusion about who made the decision to engage private security guards and not to use police or defence personnel. According to Rundle, “there wasn’t a who and there wasn’t really a decision”. See December. On Network Ten’s The Project, Waleed Aly interviews Lebanon-based photographer Joao Sousa who blames Israel for the explosion in Beirut that killed over a hundred. His evidence? Zip. The Project withdraws the segment from online but declines to apologise.
September: Asked about how the Greens Party will fund its hugely expensive transition to renewable energy, Adam Bandt responds that “the savings are that we stop our cities from going underwater”. The Greens leader’s warning has not stopped such eco-catastrophists as Mike Cannon-Brookes from purchasing waterside mansions. Sunshine Coast businesswoman Kirstin Ferguson presents herself as a Gen X type who tends to sit out the war between millennials and baby boomers: “We like to pretend we’re in Switzerland; we just sit back and stay in the middle and make friends with everyone”. Forgetting that Switzerland helped to finance Nazi Germany’s war machine from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s.
October: 7.30 political editor Laura Tingle tweets late in the night that Morrison is a “smug” leader who is into “ideological bastardry”. ABC management absolves her of any indiscretion since it was just “a mistake”. While on the topic of mistakes, how about ABC TV political editor Andrew Probyn’s comment that “the politics of climate change have been awful for the Coalition for the past decade”? He seems to have forgotten that Tony Abbott forced Labor into minority government in 2010 and won the 2013 election on Australia’s response on climate. Morrison was similarly successful in May 2019.
November: Hobart-based novelist Robert Dessaix downloads to Sunday Life that his birth mother was “a bit common” who “just didn’t measure up” and “came from some ghastly suburb in Sydney”. Alas, if only this leftist intellectual had been conceived in conservative Point Piper or Toorak. Matt Bevan comes up with a scoop on ABC RN Breakfast. His “massive news story” is that the previously anonymous author of the New York Times anti-President Trump 2019 op-ed titled “A Warning” is none other than Department of Homeland Security official Miles Taylor. Miles who? How “massive” can news get?
December: And so it was done to validate the Kristen Rundle prophecy. The COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry report, headed by former judge Jennifer Coate, finds that the Victorian Labor government spent millions of dollars and employed thousands of private security guards to supervise quarantine. However, the scheme had neither a responsible minister nor a transparent rationale. It was “an orphan” with no person or department claiming responsibility. In other words, government by nothingness. An appropriate end to what turned out to be the Year of the Anti-Rat.