On Love Actually, Scomo, The Silver Bodgie And miracles

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Invoking John Farnham’s evocative hit last weekend, Scott Morrison reminded us of his pledge that he was going to burn for Australians. So he did. So he has, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.

 CREDIT WHERE it is due.

“I said that I was going to burn for you and so I am…”

~ Scott Morrison

Like the evangelist he is, our recycled carbon discredited Prime Minister defied earlier odds and, on the home strait of the federal election campaign, came up on the outside, pulled the revival lever to the max, set the compass towards Victory and with a winx and a nod charged past his opponents leaving them and many political soothsayers in his wake, looking like stunned mullets. It was a miracle. Lazarus on Narcan.

What happened ?  Love, actually. I reckon.

In between slagging off about contender Bill Shorten, the Labor Party and its apparent malintent towards fellow Australians, Morrison reached out to the electorate, and talked of love, love of country and the Australian people and wanting to serve both. He was earnest and believable.


He zig-zagged around the continent, delivering his sermons on various mounts, promising an abundance of loaves and fishes if he and the Liberal National Party were re-elected. In the meantime the tucker would be warehoused and tightly packed in pork barrels.

‘Burn for you’ is a compelling song about surrendering to the emotional enslavement of love and longing, and the wretched angst of unwanted separation; its theme but one of the reasons it was on that other Coalition’s carefully curated military playlist broadcast during the turbulent times and aftermath of the never ending ‘first’ Gulf War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the consequences of Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

Farnham’s voice was as a clarion call embedded in my psyche, along with the Muezzin’s call to prayer. Farnham, in my mind, a latter day antipodean version of Vera Lynn whence on this mighty mythic and mystical Great Southern Land, there will indeed be not bluebirds but kookaburras over the white pointers of Bondi, just youse wait and see.

 For some military and support personnel, including non-Australians, it triggered memories of home and what they’d left behind. I remember other songs, like Oleta Adams’ poignant and urgent ‘Get here‘, with its pertinent line  ‘ ...cross the desert like an Arab man...’  She didn’t care how the subject of her desire got to her, or by what means, just to get to her “... if you can”. A metaphor, surely, for the coalition of allies that also included Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.


We know that through millennia, music has the power to stiffen resolve in conflict situations, to arouse rather than soothe the savage beast; urging combatants to march and fight to the many drumbeats of war and a warped iambic pentameter. Music to die for. Literally. What is good for the goosestep is not always good for the gander.

Bahraini women, like Kuwaiti women, have driven cars for years, but I know how galling and offensive it was for their Saudi sisters to witness in their own country, women in the uniforms of the allied forces driving huge trucks and frontline support convoys, let alone be a commanding officer, as was Darlene M. Iskra of the USS Opportune ARS-41, despatched to the Persian Gulf just days after she took charge.

For many Saudi women, this collective slap in the face exposed the abject hypocrisy of the then King Fahd of the autocratic House of Saud, and indeed the religious elite, that they would subjugate themselves to the will of their western allies and their louche gender mores for the sake of military and political expediency. 

Against the backdrop of spectacular false sunsets in those Arabian smoke-blackened skies, ignited by arsonists of war, manmade molten hellfire and boiling oil wells, flames clawed their way to the canopies of the very heavens. Those mischievous twins, foresight and hindsight proving the past is extricably linked not only to this very day, but also to Scott Morrison and his promise to burn for us.

Remember that Morrison is the Coalman who, when treasurer in 2017, brought a lump of coal into Parliament, holding it aloft as if it were a crucifix to exorcise from the Lower House, those demons who denounce coal as a fossil fuel unfit for purpose for our world and we earthlings, already dying from consumption and carbon poisoning.

It's so hard to explain to you
Please understand what I do

But I burn for you...burn for you

...Burn for you

~from Farnham’s ‘Burn for you’ 

In his energetic and zealous home sprint towards victory, action man ScoMo powered past the lacklustre figure of his opponent, Bill Shorten, a self proclaimed everyman who soon morphed into going nowhere man, who remained wanting in the eyes of the electorate. His public persona simply did not pasMinister he replaced, Morrison spoke of love. In the dying days of the campaign, more so, imploring the electorate and repeating his unequivocal declarations of love for Australia, albeit sandwiched between other key messages denigrating his nemesis, the Labor Party and its policies.   

And let us not forget the widespread political gang banging on, of hatespeak and vilification, of muslims, of gays, of women, of refugees and "the other".


Shorten, whose political undies are soiled by his devious scheming of the notorious Rudd, Gillard, Rudd prime ministerial debacle, could never wash away the stains and sins of these gross and expensive missteps. Think of the stationery costs alone.

Often rightly described as "wooden", Shorten and his spinmeisters were unable to replate his tarnished image. He invariably appeared disingenuous as well as disengaged. He didn’t cut it.

Debit where debit is due.

True, we did see a glimpse of heartfelt passion when Shorten spoke about his mother, defending allegations that he hadn’t been quite fulsome in documenting the degree of his mother’s personal hardships. But hey, it’s a bit much to expect even the Daily Telegraph to sustain a daily attack on Shorten’s mum, just to tease out Bill’s humanity. 

Imagine Rupert Murdoch’s fury if his own beloved mother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (blessed be her name), had her formidable legacy besmirched in any way!


The death of the Silver Bodgie, former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, so close to election eve, elicited an outpouring of hagiography, grief, yarn-telling and momentary relief from the games of verbal campaign dronings.

 A favoured son of not just the Labor Party but also of many in the wider community, much was made of Hawke’s unabashed and oft-expressed love for Australia and Australians. Hawkie’s former Liberal adversary and prime ministerial alumnus, John Howard, delivered the most cogent, eloquent and analytically honest tribute to Hawke and his historical significance.

I’ve already forgotten what Shorten’s response was because it was forgettable, just as some have conveniently forgotten that it was Hawke who consigned Australia to Gulf War 1.

Burn for you. Farnham an unlikely antipodean Ver Lynn.

 Some were expecting Hawke’s death to elicit a sympathy vote for Shorten and Labor. Australians weren’t having a bar of it. Instead, the Silver Bodgie’s epitaph as writ and cradled by the people would not be inclusive of Shorten, whose robotic steerage had run the Labor Party into the ground. And we and they all know it.

If anything, the constancy of yarns pivoting on Hawke’s communication skills, ability to gather people to him rather than dispel them. His ability to express his emotions and love for people as well as Australia, backfired on Shorten.

Hawke’s death unleashed not only an outpouring of affection, but an acute nostalgia for his type of defiance of the status quo and his implementing of progressive politics — both on domestic and foreign fronts. It also reminded us of the now fanciful notion of bipartisan politics for the common good. What is that again?

All this made Shorten look weak and made Morrison look stronger, since it was he and not Shorten who appeared ideologically closer to Hawke. Morrison who was out there, enthusiastic and ebullient, amiably communicating with those he calls “the quiet Australians" deflecting the hits for the dismal performance of the LNP.

Morrison’s victory speech was that of a man high on love. Again, he underscored love of family, those around him, thos who work for him and with him, for the LNP, the people and Australia — and invoked the presence of a higher power. He had prayed for a miracle. His prayer had been answered. At times, the lectern seemed more a pulpit than a podium. But here’s the thing. You felt his joy and his love was real. And that proved a rare moment for Australia.

Now we have to get real real.  The reality is that had Anthony Albanese been Opposition Leader, as voted by Labor membership, Albo would most likely by Prime Minister today and Tanya Plibersek Deputy Prime Minister.

But caucus ignored the wishes of grassroot Laborites in favour of Shorten. Bad Call. For Labor. For Australia.


Albanese comes across as a decent bloke and politician and not just so in election campaigns. He is a natural communicator and, even in parliamentary confrontation, has a warmth and sense of humour.

He’s hardworking and not a ponce and is well liked across political and societal boards. He’s no elitist and he doesn’t appear jealous of wealth-makers simply for ideological reasons. He’s at ease talking with "ordinary" people, as he is the top and lower ends of town.

Does Albo remind you of someone — at least, in these respects? He is not Hawke-lite. But he appears more of his own person than the Member for Maribyrnong. More at ease in his own skin.

He is capable of consensus and giving bipartisan support for good ideas and the common good. Is this a rap for Albo? It is. But in the sense that it is a better contest with Albanese as Opposition Leader. It is critical that the Labor Party learns from the failed Shorten experiment, because it has failed Australia by running with a leader who had no affinity with the people.


Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek would make a hot political team and share many attributes.

They would restore some faith in our decrepit and broken political system. Maybe.

The Morrison Coalition has some ugly plans ahead. Think Adani and turning Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dumpster to name just two horrors to contest. Maybe Labor will take them on in earnest under Albanese, and take the party and people with him.

Lurking in plein sight is the Man with the Crocodile Smile, Peter Dutton. He will at some point again attempt to wrest the prime minister’s crown from Morrison — another reason why we need Albo as Opposition Leader.

Australia has put up with a weak government and a weak opposition leader for too long. Honestly, what did he do in all that time? What is Shorten’s legacy ? 

Oops, sorry, we’re out of time to wait for the answer.

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