Note: Breaking news at the end, for those who can’t wait.
If Barry O’Farrell really DID bung on green lights for Julia Gillard all the way from Kirribilli to Parramatta, they turned red at the University Of Western Sydney, and stayed that way.
The Lady got caught in the traffic jam, just like the rest of the plebs. Had to wait her turn to swing left onto Victoria Road, same as we all did.
I wonder what the drivers on the main road thought as they saw the number plate “C*1” on the white limo suddenly in front of them? This wasn’t like the Daily Telegraph said it would be.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The traffic jam was at the end of the evening. There was plenty before that to whet the appetite.
The day itself?
It was a celebration.
No Ray Hadley whingers.
A thousand of them: happy, cheering, positive to a fault. And all of, them pissed off at the treatment The Lady has been copping. No exceptions. It was good to be finally among friends.
They were all there: Asians, aborigines, Afros, Muslims, old fogeys, young fogeys, party hacks, ministers of the crown, St. Pat’s old boys.
After some afternoon dramas at Hornsby Railway station, where I nearly missed picking up C@tmomma (thanks Fiona for trying to hook us up), we headed down the Pennant Hills Road in the old Subaru jalopy towards what the journos would floridly call “Julia’s Western Sydney Destiny.”
Also with us (and the provider of my ticket) was Vote1Julia. We PUBketeers sat together like a gaggle of schoolkids. Excited. Feeling the power.
While the crowd was milling and filling, Vote1Julia and I decided to meet and greet some VIPs, and so went up and introduced ourselves first to Tony Burke and then Emmo, styling ourselves as “The St. Pat’s Contingent”. We were greeted with cries of “Rick, rack, rickety-rack…” (the old St. Pat’s war cry) from Emmo who was pleased to meet “You’re Bushfire!” at last, and Tony Burke was just as “thrilled” to see us (I’m sure), except he had to break the news he was 17 and 14 years behind myself and V1-Julia respectively. Oh well, “Age shall not weary them…” His hair’s greyer than mine anyway.
Garrett was there, looking craggy and lined. As were Albo (at his Billy Bunter best), Bob Carr, and Hollywood Jason Clare (C@tmomma swooned). All the Western Sydney MHRs were there too. It became clear to me that, despite what the pundits and the millionaire shock jocks say, Western Sydney is Labor’s patch… ours to lose and to win.
These weren’t people on TV, flickering images on a flatscreen or objects of mockery by Alan Jones. This was the government of Australia, charged with heavy responsibility, dealing in the big issues and doing a demonstrably damn good job of it too. The gravitas and the majesty oozed. This was what being in charge looked like. You could feel the weight of it.
After a stirring, challenging and heartfelt indigenous Welcome To Country, Sam Distyari came on stage to get things going.
And get things going he did.
In his boyish voice the stirred more than a few hearts and souls. No cynical, scheming Labor Right apparatchik was Sam – at least tonight. His speech was full of brimstone and fire and by the time he was finished, he had us cheering.
A young school girl from Western Sydney sang the National Anthem, unaccompanied. Her voice was so powerful, so thrilling, I expected light bulbs to shatter. A wonderful rendition, soaring to the heavens, inspirational… and joined in by all. This young lady will go far if she wants to.
Come to think of it… that was Julia’s message to come:
“Be as good as you want to be.”
Next in front of the warm-up microphone was Jason Clare who showed why some think he’s
(a) drop dead gorgeous and
(b) a future Prime Minister.
This guy has Got It (“With dimples, too,” purred C@tmomma).
He went through the Australian “Greats” that Western Sydney has produced – the Waugh brothers, Michael Clarke, Ray Hadley (nah, just kidding about Ray Hadley) – reminded us that Western Sydney has the third largest economy in the country and after a few more Rah-Rahs, introduced “the Prime Minister Of Australia, Julia Gillard.”
What can I say except “Rock Star Reception”?
She’s small, almost tiny, but the by the ranga hair you could see her progress. And by the cheers and screams, too, of course.
Feds with bulges under their armpits and coiled wires coming out of their ears looked steadfast and very professionally refused to be distracted, even by an irresistable Bushfire comedy quip (didn’t even get a grunt out of him). One, when C@tmomma identified him as “Hey Look! That’s the guy who rescued Julia!”, mouthed “It wasn’t me” but that’s the most reaction we got out of the Protection Detail. They’re committed to their job, their eyes always wandering and looking.
As for the speech… it was workmanlike and well-rehearsed. Perhaps TOO well-rehearsed. There were hand movements and variations of nuance. I think PMJG was nervous. There were revelations about protecting Western Sydney from guns and bikie gangs, the NDIS starting in July (cheers), the NBN (cheers) and about education. The fact that UWS was started by Neville Wran got hysterical applause.
But a speech is a speech is a speech. It’s the person that counts and Julia was magnetic.
Afterwards, when The Lady had exited the hall, was when the real meat in the sandwich turned up.
V1-Julia and I decided to take on the media hacks. Why not?
They were all there: Rimington, Uhlmann, Melissa Clarke, Jacqui Uhm Maley, Tony Wright, a delightful Andrew Meares (Fairfax Chief Photographer, of Talking Pictures fame), Mark Simkins, and a few others whose faces I recognized, but whose names escaped me. Interestingly, none of the News Ltd. heavies could be seen. Maybe they were there, but I never spotted Dennis Shanahan, or Syd Maher (we could guess what they’d write anyway, can’t we?).
But the journos were on our turf now and we weren’t taking shit from them. This was Parramatta.
Our gal, Julie Owens, is the local member, and a feisty one at that.
The innings started out with a great conversation with Hugh Rimington. I’ve always admired Rimington, and he didn’t disappoint. He tried to be cynical at first, but warmed to the chat. He told us that News was out to get Gillard, plain and simple. We asked if he was concerned by that and he sort-of shrugged. “That’s life in the fast lane” was his attitude. It was a friendly and not at all patronizing performance from Rimington. Nice bloke. Been around. Will play fair, I think.
It’s a wonderful country we have here. I hope the shock jocks don’t wreck it for us.
I tried to buttonhole Melissa Clarke, but she was too busy doing her hair for a piece to camera to pay attention to this old codger doing the Harlem Shake behind her, trying to get her to look his way. I have to say, she was rather luscious in person.
Uhlmann was being well-served by another Old Labor Codger, who was giving it to him with both barrels (and loudly, too). Codger’s anger was palpable. Uhlmann effected studied indifference. He’s smaller than I thought he would be. In every way.
Next, V1-Julia and I shepherded Tony Wright to a standstill. Wright is recognizable by his bio-pic in The Age, but otherwise was nothing like what I expected. He looks like a chook (don’t worry, I like chooks). Very slim and gangly is Mr. Wright. He’s a dead ringer his caricature. Something out of Dad And Dave.
We started out by complimenting him (genuinely) on his recent “Refugee” piece, but then swung into action by asking him why he was so sniggering when it came to Julia. His answer – essentially – was “It’s the way group think works”. It was unsatisfactory, only to be tempered slightly by his assurance that, “Don’t worry, it’s going to get worse for Abbott. I get around to fucking ripping them all up in the end.”
I hope he lives up to his promise. But he ought to give up the ciggies. Especially smoking in the rain.
Mark Simkin was the next victim. Very smooth, well-coiffed and self-assured is Mark. Disclaimer: I don’t like his to-camera pieces. I think they’re too cynical-sounding. But I have to say, he engaged with us unflinchingly.
We baled him up, half-in, half-out of a side doorway. A couple of times I was sure he’d walk away, but he stayed and gave as good as he got. I asked him straight out whether Rudd leaked to him, and he said, “I can’t say that.” It was enough to confirm it in my mind. Let’s face it… if Rudd hadn’t leaked, Simkin would have said, “No.”
I accused him of treating politics like politicians were children in a sandpit. He retorted that if they acted that way, that was the way he was going to cover it. We replied that if he treated them this way, what choice did they have? Around and around it went. We complained about all the time wasted n Ruddstoration He countered by saying that he was in receipt of calls. What could he do? Ignore them, we said. They’re bullshit anyway.
Simkin eventually confirmed that News (and lately Fairfax) are out to get Gillard and claimed that the ABC is going much easier on her than the other media organizations.
I wondered how they could work to destroy what she and the government have built up, simply because of lazy groupthink… especially when Abbott is the alternative.
Are they mad?
No, just full of indolence and nihilism. Nothing matters to them. “Nation” is a dirty word in their lexicon.
I have to admire the guy for his grit, though. He was ready and willing to engage with a couple of complete strangers. And to argue his case. I was impressed with him as a person. An intelligent person who’s not afraid to put a point in his own defence. He didn’t convince me, though.
In the middle of all this someone had to pass between us through the doorway. It was Bob Carr. Only in Australia could the Foreign Minister of the nation casually excuse himself and his wife and pass between a couple of shifty-looking Labor types and a journo with ease, grace, and an “Excuse me”, in perfect safety. Albo did the same a minute later.
It’s a wonderful country we have here. I hope the shock jocks and the cynics don’t wreck it for us.
Last, out in the rain, was Andrew Meares, the Fairfax Chief photographer. What a hugely nice person!
We talked techo about photography (I’d noticed him transmitting pix live from his tablet inside the hall) and about the ethics of Photoshop fakery (something I could discuss all day). For the record: he takes and transmits his photos straight, no fiddling. I asked him how many megapixels in his new Canon SLR. He said, “Don’t know for sure… a lot!”.
He informed us he’d only had a couple of years with film and then it was all digital after that, and that work processes – getting the image onto the front page – were better today than he’d ever experienced. That’s his pic at the top (with attribution).
He told us stories about being in a Cessna with Gillard, squeezed up next to her, and she was putting on her makeup. To him it was slightly embarrassing… “Gillard versus The Enemy”, shoulder to shoulder. To her, not a problem at all. Meares likes her as a person. He’s not so sure about her as a politician. “They’re on their own out there” (meaning the media jungle) he said, when it comes to politics.
He also doesn’t believe Abbott uses Botox. C@tmomma asked him upfront about it. He said that for the Press Club luncheon Abbott was overly made up, pancaked with TV plaster. He thought “maybe some of the cracks had been filled in”, but no Botox. It all a TV show, in reality (or not). His job is just to get the pictures. A lovely, engaging man.
Then The Lady came out of her hidey hole, which was a cottage next to the main auditorium. There had been a false alarm as another ranga exited. Jokes about “Julia’s body double!” resounded through the dampened throng. “There she is over there!” cried one wag, pointing at someone about three hundred yards away.
But when the real article appeared, the gaggle outside, about 100 strong, waiting in the (by now) dark and pouring rain, started cheering. TV lights were switched on. I suppose she answered some questions. All that kerfuffle must have been for something. Rousing cheers from the Faithful, stern unblinking looks from the Protective Detail. I asked one “How close can I get to the car?” No answer from The Professional. He’d have let me know when I was too close, I’m sure.
And so now we come to the end of the evening.
Julia, in “C*1”, saying thanks and gidday to all the cheering throng, got caught in one of Barry O’Farrells’ traffic jams, just like the rest of us did. Lined up behind a couple of dozen cars, she had to wait her turn too.
As I said, what a country!
Post Script: Yes, there is some breaking news… Tony Abbott has lunch at News Ltd HQ every week. Incredulous I asked the person to repeat it.
“EVERY week, in private,” to discuss the latest “Get Gillard” strategies. No wonder there’s such a seamless segue between what News writes and what Abbott parrots. He’s dealing with the enemy. They’re writing the script for him.
It’s not a fuck-up. It’s a fucking conspiracy.
But, sources must remain confidential. I’m not going to tell youse just WHO told us that bit of news.
I have it on the very highest authority, however, given without hesitation… in fact, volunteered by someone with no ostensible axe to grind, but should should know it to be true. It’s this person’s job to know Abbott’s movements, in detail.
When they really ARE out to get you, it’s NOT paranoia.