THE HAPPY LAND: Part 8
Was John Howard's Australia the place admirers like Tony Abbott promote? 'The Happy Land' is Graham Jackson's satirical alternative reality. This challenging work, illustrated by Gee, consists of thirteen Papers written by the major players in a dark period in Australia's short history. In this part, John Winston Coward addresses the nation with the shocking news illegal immigrants have been found within — surprisingly, at Finley, NSW.
The Life and Times of John Winston Coward
1: ‘His Scottish Ancestors’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
2: ‘His Love of Cricket’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
3:‘My Mum and Dad’ – John Winston Coward
4: ‘The Happy Land’ – Extracts from an Interview with ‘Opening Batsman’
5: ‘The Coming of the Iraqis, Afghans and Fins’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
6: ‘The Martyrdom of Minister Reith’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
7: ‘My Dream’ – a Transcript of ‘Sea Captain’s’ Evidence before a Select Committee
8: ‘An Address to the Australian People’ – John Winston Coward
9: ‘Ruddock Replaces Reith’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
10: ‘His Favourite Sayings’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
11: ‘The Unveiling of the Scottish Thistle’ – John Winston Coward
12: ‘The Death of a Conservative Leader’ – Emeritus Professor P. Costello
13: ‘Postscript’ – ‘Wicketkeeper’
Paper 8:‘An Address to the Australian People’ - John Winston CowardI address you, my People, in this time of crisis. It gives me no pleasure to inform you that illegal immigrants have been found within. Yes, within. Not without, or over there, or somewhere remote, like Afghanistan — which has recently been located; or Iraq — which I’m informed is in the same general area. Our great friends and allies, the Americans, have undertaken the task to search out and destroy illegal human beings, wherever they may be, and we mustn’t weaken in our resolve to support their military campaigns or to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers in this worthy cause. Similarly, we must continue to reject anyone turning up on our shores claiming to be refugees from these conflicts. They may be genuine, or they may not. They may be asylum-seekers, or they may be illegal immigrants disguised as human refuse, or however these people and their agents in the United Nations like to think of themselves. Increasingly, the government is inclined to believe they hold falsified passports, especially since they have, as I say, been found within. In Finley, New South Wales.
Many of you, I know, will find this incredible. Finley is in the heartland of conservatism; an unpretentious town, always a delight to visit, situated in the middle of the Riverina and nowhere near the dangerous banks of a river. There is water of some sort there, I recall, including the Mulwala Canal and a kind of pond, or lake, upon the shores of which I once sat with my daughter to take morning tea from my thermos. It was a long time ago, before I became Prime Minister, when I crisscrossed the country as an unknown backbencher seeking to learn from you, my People.
There was a wooden jetty, or boardwalk, on the edge of the lake, which even then I foresaw might be a landing place for illegal immigrants, or terrorists. Once these people get their feet on solid ground there is simply no sending them back. That much was certain, even then. One has only to consult with Indigenous oral historians for the briefest period, as I believe one or two of my advisers might have done, to realise the truth of this view of immigrants of any colour, creed or generation. I petitioned the Finley council for the immediate demolition of this jetty, this foothold on Australia, but to what effect I’m not certain. No immediate information is to hand to explain how the Fins initially established their beach-head, or lakeside attraction, or whatever the correct term might be. One has to be so careful about accepting advice from the Services in these dangerous times. Even highly respected Sea Captains have been found wanting. In fact, one of them – even now as I speak, it is my unhappy duty to inform you – has gone over to the enemy, become an agent of the terrorists and is currently living in Finley. And I have received credible evidence that other, more senior officers, might try to join him there.
I would urge all my fellow Australians to remain calm in this crisis. The government has moved swiftly to cordon off Finley, to quarantine it, and a razor wire fence is being constructed around the township in the usual manner. The difficulty in the present situation is that the Fins look like everyone else, if anything, even more Australian than the rest of us, given their average height and colour — although their alien tendencies are apparent in their behaviour. It gives me no pleasure, my People, to inform you of the following salutary fact: that these Fins throw their young children into their township’s lake, or pond, and not, as my critics might mistakenly inform you, for the purpose of teaching them to swim. No, my fellow Australians, these children are thrown overboard to satisfy some desperate craving, the source of which must remain unintelligible to normal folk like you and me. Do I need say more to convince you of the necessity to keep these people under constant supervision and restraint?
Be on the lookout; be cautious at all times. Already it’s been brought to my attention that the Fins have been able to pass themselves off as fence-builders and been awarded lucrative government contracts to fence themselves in. Of course, the department responsible has been reprimanded, and its executive officer will be required to fall on his sword after the manner prescribed by Mishima… But there is no need to panic. Again, I urge you all to remain calm. My government has the situation well in hand. Indeed, we might eventually find that Finley isn’t the stronghold of illegal immigration it appears. Our current understanding of these quickly unfolding events might be shown to need revision. To that end – the need, that is, for a measured response – I’d like to share with you my recollections of Finley in earlier, happier times, to illustrate how it was once a normal conservative town.
My wife was indisposed on the occasion of my first Riverina tour. We’d been able to place our son in boarding school, but hadn’t been able to do the same with our daughter, who was younger — but not, I should have thought, so young she couldn’t cope with the rigours of monastic life. My wife’s high church affiliations are well known, but not even the Bishop’s intercession was of any assistance. So, my five year old daughter travelled with me and did me no political harm, as she innocently flirted with constituents. She even allowed herself to be thrown into the town pond as a sporting gesture. She already knew how to swim.
Earlier, as I’ve mentioned, we had our morning tea on the shore of the lake. It was summer, but not as hot as it might have been, and the breeze off the water was bracing.
“Did we bring my windcheater, John Winston?” my daughter asked.
Our children never called us Dad and Mum.
“In the boot,” I replied.
“Get it for me, would you?”
My wife and I always expected our children to be seen and not heard, in the classic tradition, but it’s an unfortunate fact that alien forces were at work even then, not only in Finley. Everyone, children included, had begun to demand rights to this and to that — to education, health and warm clothing. In this context, my People, it’s possible to see the coming of the Iraqis, Afghans and Fins as our chickens coming home to roost. There were chickens aplenty in Finley.
It was an agricultural area then, as it is now. The businesses of seed merchants, farm machinery franchises and various cooperatives lined Murray Street, which was also the Newell Highway. Welcome to Friendly Finley, the sign announced on the edge of town, the Jewel of the Newell. Where is that jewel now, my friends? It has lost its lustre and is set in razor wire fencing — where it was once set in the gold of the harvest. I believe they grow rice there now and perhaps they did then. Perhaps the jewel was set in the white gold, or silver, of a rice crop.
It was a prosperous region. Silos rose above the railway line, as they do in so many of our country towns. The line was parallel to the highway, across which the guests of the Tuppal and Albion Hotels walked in earlier times to hear politicians make whistle-stop speeches about the issues of the day. They would have been saddened indeed had they been given forewarning of the issue that confronts us now — now the worm has turned and the jewel become a cruel kind of joke, an imitation of the real thing, of real Australia where real people go obediently about their business without questioning the legitimate concerns of government. Such as protecting our shores from invading Iraqis and anxious Afghans, not to mention fanatic Fins — who even as I speak might be gathering in the bars of the Tuppal and Albion Hotels to conspire.
How has it come to this?
On the morning I poured tea from the thermos prepared by my wife, there was no indication of future strife. My daughter and I sat on a clean park bench and watched ducks – if I’m not mistaken –paddling over the surface of the placid pond, or lake. They were some type of water-bird, at any rate. Neither my daughter nor I could make any complaint about the neatness of Finley as we saw it on that first visit. No doubt it’s less presentable now, but for that one moment in its hundred year history – it has since celebrated a centenary, I believe – as seen through the eyes of a future Prime Minister, it was deserving of a Tidy Town nomination.
In Murray Street, as well as the hotels, there was a Chinese restaurant, a bakery, haberdashery, butcher’s shop, newsagency, several banks — all the necessary businesses of a rural community. The banks were in their heyday, whereas now – following the reorganisation of the world’s banking institutions, and with the Australian dollar floating about like an illegal immigrant – today, the banks are nowhere in sight, at least not on the ground. It’s an unfortunate situation, for which the present government is neither responsible nor accountable. Indeed, if it’s in reaction to unavoidable circumstances like these that the citizens of Finley have proclaimed their immigrant background, I’d advise them that their response is ill-advised. The township has been placed on notice. If, following a period of internment, it hasn’t surrendered up renegade Sea Captains and any other terrorists nominated by my government, something more drastic will have to be done. Ceding the town’s territory to Christmas Island, or New Zealand, or to one of our other small Pacific neighbours, hasn’t been ruled out.
It’s almost impossible to conceive how the seeds of discontent were sown in this, our Heartland — or Devondale Country, as we know it, the home of milk and cream; or Sun Rice Country, which needs no further explanation; or the East Berrigan Irrigation District. Perhaps the growing of rice, which isn’t a natural Australian crop like wheat, but Asian, has grown an alien way of thinking. As you’re aware, it’s almost impossible to have a conversation with people from traditional rice-growing areas. On numerous occasions I’ve imagined how it might be appropriate, in other circumstances, to hold talks with their leaders, but have never got anywhere, although several of my ministers have flown over the region.
It isn’t an insignificant region. Unlike the East Berrigan Irrigation District, it contains great geographical contrasts, from deserts and plains to great mountain ranges. Afghanistan and Iraq lie within the region. So does Indonesia, which is only a stone’s throw from the Australian coast. So does Persia, I believe, where some of our armed forces have been stationed with the Americans. Or perhaps I’m thinking of Iraq… At any rate I’m pleased to inform you, my People, that following the government’s restructuring of its intelligence agencies, more reliable reports are coming in from the field. Their most stunning achievement to date has been tracing the Fins to Finley, New South Wales.
When my young daughter told me she wanted to go to the toilet out on that wind-swept plain, I warned her public toilets weren’t always clean.
“I have full confidence in Finley,” she said.
Recently, I asked her to explain what she meant.
“But I was only five years old!” she exclaimed.
“I always trusted your judgment.”
“You reminded me so much of myself…”
As it happened, the Finley public toilets were clean, although the wind had blown a paddy field under the doors and onto the floor, which was noticeably gritty. Dust had also settled on cobwebs clinging to the iron roof.
I mention the toilets only because I have reports in front of me, my fellow Australians, noting that the Fins have complained about a lack of amenities in their camp. A camp of their own making! What right have they to complain? The media is having a party, as usual, and has set up its own camp at the Wait A While Road Block east of the township. I’ve authorised the use of military forces in this area, my People, if the situation gets out of hand. And I’d define that as any set, or subset, of circumstances which might indicate to me the possibility that the Fins are attracting public sympathy.
There have been disturbing reports recently, for example, of self-styled Indigenous leaders expressing solidarity with the Fins. I should have thought these people were already in sufficient trouble not to be giving my government any further reason to notice them.
But the Fins are a present menace, an illegal presence in our heartland. Their poisons are seeping into our native soil, raising the level of our capacity to soak up foreign influences and retain our Australianness. Their unusual way of thinking has been responsible for the recent dramatic increase in the carnage on the roads. Why do country people die on country roads? Because the Fins are in Finley. If it could be demonstrated that a generation of Indigenous people was once stolen, then the Fins were responsible. You can be certain of that, my People. They have even caused some of my ministers to make, not mistakes, but understandable errors of judgment. With their minds distracted by illegal immigrants, they have said things they couldn’t substantiate. They have acted on false reports. In a nutshell, things have been done which have later given cause for regret, for one reason or another. Already Minister Reith has fallen on his sword and, while I confidently expect no one else will follow his lead, at least from our senior ranks, some of their advisers might have to pay the ultimate price or have their lips stitched with fencing wire.
I don’t wish to enter into this debate again, now there are more pressing matters on the national agenda. But like Finley and its Fins, perhaps, Minister Reith might have been caught up in a web of circumstance beyond our near–sighted view of things — and I’m not referring to the cobwebs in the Finley public toilets, situated on the edge of its pond. No, I mean so-called asylum-seekers, my People, illegal immigrants, terrorists — anyone who looks different to me or you. In these uncertain times I ask you not to listen to the doubting Thomases, who would question the government’s motives in fencing off Finley, New South Wales. We should all fear Finley, my People, and not hesitate in believing whatever I, your Prime Minister, in consultation with the President of the United States of America, have to say on the matter.
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