September 2013

The Nation Reviewed

The all-purpose election victory speech

By Don Watson

Thank you, thank you, thank you, no, really, please, thank you.

A short time ago, my opponent called me to offer his congratulations. He’s a good bloke, whatever his colleagues might say. I thank him and I thank Australia, and the people of Australia. And I thank my wife and children and God and all the people who helped and everything.

Thank you. Today, the people of Australia have spoken – and spoken decisively. So let me speak decisively in return.

You had a choice between two narcissists with little to recommend them save an unwillingness to sell their fundaments in return for power, and you chose me. I am humbled by the honour you have bestowed. I am so humbled, humble, humbly.

To my opponent I say, well played. But now let us have no more personal abuse, division and pettiness. Let us be better than that. Let us make a new start, and move forward to meet the great challenges we face.

As I have travelled across this country these past three years, that was the message you gave me: you do not work your arses off and exercise your democratic rights so that politicians may bicker and brawl and seek their own or some sectional advantage. You work your arses off for your families, so you can take holidays in Bali and build extensions to your homes and garages, and you hate us bastards and think it’s all a sham.

To all my fellow Australians I say, in the end we are all Australians, and the government I lead will be a government for all Australians.

As we go forward to meet the great challenges we face, I will listen, for listen we must as we all go forward, listening together, as we meet these great challenges. [Pause for applause?]

What are these great challenges? I will come back to this question. For now I pledge that we will go forward to meet those challenges not from tomorrow or next week or next year, but from this moment. Let us repair the budget, end the Gillard carbon tax and stop the boats, together! Let us rise as one to meet these defining challenges of our time, so that future generations, basking in the sunlit uplands of tomorrow, might thank us and say truly this was their finest hour! [Possible tumult.]

I say to all Australians, however you voted today, you sent me a message, and now I have a message for you.

The message is this – I am the message. It is me.

Oh, don’t sound surprised. Surely you knew?

You didn’t think all that posturing was just to get elected? Did you think my wearing hard hats and rubber boots and fluoro vests and riding bicycles and poncing about in sad imitation of a real person was by order of my media managers, image consultants, PR gurus and polling analysts? That as soon as I got elected I would shed this cocoon and something … well real, would crawl out? What? Who? Lady Gaga? Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

Poor fools! Didn’t I tell you that with me what you see is what you get? No? I must have forgotten. Well, what you see is what you elected. Here I am – your own facile galoot.

The swaggering message machine, the cliché with the rictus grin you saw on your screens – it is I. Ah, you say, but a robot can’t be unctuous? Wrong again! Robots have come a long way.

Blame politics or the media for the banalities if you like, but your average sock is less banal than I. Blame them for my equivocation and evasiveness, too: but I know only the slippery ways.

My opponent is the same. You watched the debates: we both looked dodgy – he rather more than me, I thought – and neither of us could cobble together a coherent answer on the economy, much less anything to inspire, or even encourage. You may be assured I will be no more forthright or articulate in office.

Why so surprised? If ever it was my nature to be inspiring or original, I fair dinkum can’t remember when. (See how inept my vernacular is? I ring so hollow I might be from Afghanistan, or outer space. Have you ever thought of that? I have.)

I’ve spent half my life looking for a slogan or something anodyne to say, and now this commodious mouth of mine is good for nothing else. My very teeth grow on platitudinous roots. No longer have I the words necessary for thought. Nor the instinct for it. It’s the saddest thing.

I blame you. You started it with your whingeing. I evolved to meet the demand. If I can say nothing else of a truthful kind, I can say this – what I have done, you did to me.

You reckoned you were hard done by, so I kept saying it. Oh, the people are doing it hard, I said. Oh, the cost of living is squeezing them! Oh, they deserve better! It grew and grew until everyone was a poor wretch, including Gina Rinehart and the Big Four banks.

It was you who didn’t want those reffos here. When you demanded that I order the navy to shell them, I resisted, I admit: as I did when you wanted me to have any who made landfall paraded naked through the streets and then hanged. But you cannot deny that I have taken our policy to planes of depravity not seen in this country since the frontier closed – and I have taken my opponents with me. How much more do you want?

You didn’t want the carbon tax. Faced with the choice between the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that the world is on a path to catastrophe and the inconvenience of doing anything about it, you chose to do something and nothing at the same time. And so did I. And, unless you change your minds again, I solemnly pledge to continue this policy.

Fellow narcissists, take heart. Interest rates are low. The All Ords is back above 5000. The housing market is getting back to the old inflated levels. Your super’s looking good again. The banks are lending. We’re doing better than just about any other country on Earth, and the Americans are still looking after us. The light of the world moves forward with us. There’s plenty to like and plenty to complain about – a perfect Australian quinella, if ever there was one.

Relax and be comfortable again. I’m not going to worry you with any fancy stuff. I have my limitations, but so have you. That’s why I’m here. You have elected yourselves, you see, and you can’t get a more fair dinkum democratic outcome than that.

I will now kiss each member of my (working) family. If your own family is nearby and working, I suggest you do the same.

You can look away now.



*As portrayed by actor Rhys Muldoon

Don Watson

Don Watson is an award-winning author and former speechwriter for Paul Keating. His books include Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PMAmerican JourneysThe Bush, the Quarterly Essay ‘Enemy Within: American Politics in the Time of Trump’ and There It Is Again, a collection of his writing.

September 2013

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A stadium’s last stand

Arrogance. Vandalism. Victory. It’s the NSW disease

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Making the private public: ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

This new history traces how the decade’s redefined politics shaped modern Australia

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

‘Exploded View’ by Carrie Tiffany

This new novel is most striking in how it diverges from its predecessors

In This Issue

Catherine Titasey’s ‘My Island Homicide’

Margaret Atwood's 'MaddAddam'

A cassowary visits Jan Shang’s backyard in Innisfail, Queensland. © Eddie Safarik / Newspix

Jim Sterba’s 'Nature Wars'

Why Australia hates asylum seekers

Our governments and press have demonised boat people for 15 years. Organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre worry they’re fighting a losing battle.

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The search for the Endeavour

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Saving Ningaloo again

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Read on

Image of ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

Making the private public: ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

This new history traces how the decade’s redefined politics shaped modern Australia

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

Image from Hobart’s school strike for climate

The kids are alright

Climate-striking students have every right to protest

Image of Defence Minister Christopher Pyne

The Teflon Kingdom

Saudi Arabia is confident it can buy out the West, and Australia is happy to oblige