When did Australia turn into America?

Not having a dig at our American cousins here, but I’ve always felt flag veneration is more their thing what with their national anthem being about it and with every other person you meet prepared to tell you that it’s illegal to set fire to it (which apparently it isn’t). Maybe some of my fellow Brits feel much the same for the Union Jack, especially those who know it’s real name is the Union Flag, but here in Oz most people I’ve come across seem much less attached to the Australian Flag. There are those republican types who dislike the constant reminder of Britain’s influence provided by the Union Flag in the top left quarter, and there are those who say that it doesn’t represent the aborigines and Torres Strait islanders who were here first. There are those who think the Southern Cross bit has been hijacked by bogans anyway. And there are those to whom it’s just the flag and apart from maybe waving one on Australia Day or watching it being lowered to half mast on ANZAC Day they probably don’t think about it often.*

I didn’t realise there were a group that venerated it in a similar fashion to the Americans and ‘Old Glory’ or that this group was more commonly known as opposition MPs, but apparently it’s so because they’re angry about a scene in an ABC satirical comedy called At Home With Julia, featuring Julia Gillard impersonator Amanda Bishop (you’ve seen her on this blog before). In this scene, to be broadcast this evening unless the ABC have chickened out and pulled it, Bishop’s Julia Gillard dances the horizontal tango with the First Bloke, Tim Mathieson, as played by Phil Lloyd. On the floor of the Prime Minister’s office. Under a duvet sized Australian flag. And the Liberal Party and their allies have gone apeshit.

COALITION MPs have attacked a controversial TV satire on Julia Gillard as demeaning and suggested ABC funding should be reviewed.
[…]
Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro also expressed disgust with At Home with Julia, suggesting to the party room that the national broadcaster’s funding should be reviewed.

I’d agree, but not for that reason. Where I’m from many people complain about the TV licence forcing people who don’t watch BBC programmes to pay for the BBC anyway, but since it’s funded out of general taxation people pay for the ABC even if they haven’t got a television. Review away, but review the principle of making people pay for a service they don’t necessarily use rather than use it as a stick to beat them with because you find some of their content objectionable. Once again, this is liberalism in name only – the Australian Liberal Party seems to be as conservative as they come.

… Nationals MP John Forrest [urged] the return of tasteful comedy shows such as the 1970s series Are You Being Served.
Mr Forrest told colleagues the satirical take on Ms Gillard’s private life demeaned the office of prime minister, after learning tomorrow’s episode features on-air prime minister Amanda Bishop and actor Phil Lloyd, playing Tim Mathieson, naked on her office floor under an Australian flag.
“Having sex in the prime minister’s office under the Australian flag is the last straw for me,” Mr Forrest reportedly told MPs.

So, is this sticking up for Julia Gillard or disappointment that you won’t get to see Amanda Bishop’s arse, John? Apparently, neither. It’s the flaaaaag.

“It’s nothing to do with Julia Gillard. I’m not trying to defend her. It’s the office of prime minister and it’s not even funny.
“The old English traditional shows like Are You Being Served – they were funny, but this isn’t.”

John, they weren’t funny. You found them funny. Lots of other people also find them funny. Other people don’t. I’ve been for a look on YouTube to refresh my memory, and I found it to be a repetitive series of jokes mostly involving the ambiguous availability of an unambiguously camp salesman in a menswear department and the pussy of the ancient woman with a blue rinse who works opposite (feline kind, but – oh, my sides – never referred to as a cat). This may have been bleeding edge comedy in the 1970s when it began, and to be honest I did think the I’m free/pussy gags were funny the first time, but it felt like the show really didn’t have much else. Blackadder or Yes Minister it ain’t, but if John Forrest is amused by it then he’s welcome to buy it on DVD. I suspect the ABC, despite all the things for which it could be criticised, has a better grasp of what audiences in 2011 want. In fact if ratings are any guide what they want is actually on Channel 7 (and much of it is shit if you ask me) but the ABC seem to be doing an okay job of treading the middle ground, and if it makes John Forrest feel better they are still buying second hand stuff from Britain.

“And to desecrate the flag dishonours what my dad did.”

I don’t know what your dad did, John, but was it anything to do with fighting to prevent dictatorial types attempting to control other people’s lives? I’m only asking.

Or, bearing in mind the religious nut element of Australian politics, is it just the thought of Julia Gillard having sex that’s upsetting people? Newsflash, prudes: the woman is 50 in a couple of weeks – she’s probably not a virgin, and having had a stable relationship with the same guy for some years she probably enjoys it when he gives her a nice hot fuck as an alternative to a cup of Milo at bedtime. I wouldn’t want to see it on my TV either – in a weird kind of way that has to do with her job and personality it’d be like seeing your parents do it – but I can live with it being referred to on TV. And if not I know what to do about it, as does one Liberal who does actually act up to the name and understands what choice means.

But Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop said if people didn’t like the show they could change channels.
She said former prime minister John Howard had been lampooned for years by comedy shows.

And Julia Gillard herself? To her credit also, she’s calmly said she won’t be watching (fair enough – I can’t even look at myself making a speech on someone else’s wedding video) and other than that has no commented the whole thing. And while I haven’t got a lot of time for her that attitude as raised my opinion of her a smidgeon.

VIDEO: Gillard on that naked flag scene

Americans seem to venerate their flag because they think it stands for freedom, representing as it does the original 13 colonies which gained independence from Britain as well as the 50 states of today. Brits and Aussies not so much because their flags are more hybrids of other flags, and in the case of Australia independence was granted at least as much as it was won. So let’s leave the flag veneration to people that not only understand it but, understand also that what a flag stands for is rather more important than the flag itself. Because I think that if something’s symbolic of being free to do only as you’re told I’m not sure it’s worth venerating in the first place, as illustrated by a couple of my favourite American libertarians.

* Personally I’m happy with whatever flag Australia choose to have and don’t mind what people choose to tattoo on themselves, so I suppose that puts me in the last group.

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Posted on September 21, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on When did Australia turn into America?.

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