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Newsletter 356

Published September 14, 2020
Welcome to Ballarat, have a nice day

As the COVID-19 restrictions drag on and on it seems as if state and federal governments have lost the plot – presuming there was ever a plot to lose. The draconian border restrictions have become laughable, as they are causing a lot of grief and stress to perfectly healthy people. We obviously need to be cautious but that shouldn’t preclude the exercise of common sense. When health care workers can’t cross a state border to get to work we’ve entered the realm of the absurd.

Bunkered down for a long stay in my lounge room I was unaware of the ordeals of travellers who have not been allowed to come home or leave the country. This was the subect of the ABC’s Q + A program, this week. I didn’t intend to watch but found myself sucked in by the tales of ordinary Australians being treated like pariahs by their own government, lodging application after application to repatriate, only to be rejected by some anonymous dimwit in Border Force. Meanwhile there’s no impediment if Tony Abbott wants to head off for a job with the UK government.

With applications from Australians abroad it seems there is no coherent policy, no clear set of rules, and not even the semblance of fairness. Submissions are processed in a haphazard way by Border Force (an Abbott invention!), which rejects pleas on an arbitrary basis, even if the applicant has a pressing case for compassionate consideration and a clean bill of health. The confusion was mirrored by the dithering, hopeless performance of Deputy PM, Michael McCormack, who kept telling us the government was working towards something, or looking into something… The problem is that Scummo’s mob are not actually doing anything.

Well, I have to be fair and admit that Scummo himself was doing something. He built a cubby house with his daughter and filmed proceedings for YouTube. “What a great dad!” we gasp. He said “Bunnings” so often it sounded like a paid product placement, but he probably only wanted us to know he was a real Aussie bloke who loved buying his home handyman gear from Bunnings – and presumably partaking of the weekend sausage sizzle, if there’s a TV camera around.

Mr. McCormack, for whom the adjective, “blithering” might to have been invented, tried the opposite tactic. Instead of wanting to impersonate a good bloke he thought he’d try a bit of “law and order” bumpf from the Donald Trump playbook. Weirdly, he claimed that the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria was due to the Black Lives Matter protests, suggesting that a little vigorous policing would have solved the state government’s problems. For this he was jumped on by everyone – quite rightly, because it was a fib. Or perhaps a piece of wishful thinking.

The surprise packet on Q + A was Kristina Keneally, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, who was incredibly sharp and articulate. She made mincement of the blitherer, now look out Albo!

Speaking of Tony Abbott, it’s probably a very good idea to send him out of the country. Where the government needs to take much stricter line is when he wants to come back.

For all the Federal government’s dedicated inertia they have been no match for Dan Andrews when it comes to creating a truly appalling spectacle. This week the world was treated to a video clip of the Victorian police, dressed like the SS, head to toe in black, arresting a pregnant woman in pyjamas for “incitement”. Her crime was a Facebook post they didn’t like. To prevent her reaching for the AK-47 that may have been hidden under the kitchen sink, she was handcuffed with her hands behind her back.

This clip has now gone viral. It makes Victoria look like a fascist state and has awarded a free kick to all of Dan’s enemies. No politician can pretend that incidents like this are even remotely justified. It’s a career-killer.

After so much political claptrap I turn with some relief to this week’s art column, which looks at Koo Bohnchang’s Light Shadow at the Korean Cultural Centre Australia. Koo is a unique photographic artist, and this show, which consists of images of Joseon Dynasty pottery, is breathtaking. Stupendous. Perhaps I’m raving, but in this case it’s entirely justified.

Politics returns for the film column, in the form of Hillary, a four-part series on SBS On Demand, dealing with the life and times of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Like most people I’ve never found Hillary to be especially sympathetic, but this series puts her in a new light – at once formidable and tragic. Director, Nanette Burstein, gives us a panoramic view of the tempestuous times in which the Clintons left their mark on history. Compared to the proto-fascists and advertising men who rule the roost today, they look like desperate romantics.