August 4, 2012
Now it’s just getting plain weird.
In the wake of Bob Hawke’s serenade of the ACTU Congress and Craig Emerson’s unprecedented public Skyhooks eruption, a roomful of painfully embarrassed people will witness Australia’s clown prince of economics and unreconstructed distributivist Wayne Swan engage in death-defying feats of Dad-trying-to-be-cool.
a) get down and funky?
b) reconnect with the working class?
c) win sympathy from kind-hearted people who hate to see a grown man humiliate himself in public?
d) all of the above?
In order to find out, you’ll have to be attending the John Button Memorial Lecture, where - according to Swan’s own pre-gig publicity, complete with excruciating video - you will get to hear Swan talk about his love for Cold Chisel and Bruce Springsteen, in between getting stuck into the usual suspects (people who earn more money than he does).
Apparently, when he needs to arc up - possibly before launching another spitting fury attack on mining magnates - Swan listens to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’. So it behooves us to examine more closely this text which clearly plays such a key role in our Acting Prime Minister’s policy formation. Using techniques honed by years of postmodernist discourse analysis (and a quick perusal of The Da Vinci Code), we can uncover aspects of our political leaders’ inner life that we never previously suspected.
For example: I don’t know what they get up to in Parliament House at those late-night sittings, but I didn’t know it involved the following.
At night we ride through mansions of glory
in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on Highway 9
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected
And steppin' out over the line
I suppose the question on everyone’s lips is: was Peter Slipper ever invited to any of this? And if so, is there anything on YouTube? Then we get some insight into Swan’s thoughts on Canberra:
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
He also shares publicly for the first time the surprising force of his romantic feelings for Mrs Rupert Murdoch:
Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Swan has the audacity to argue - or so ABC journalist Sabra Lane tells us - “that Springsteen wrote and sang about structural change in the American economy well before economists detected seismic shifts and warned of the dangers of social dislocation. Lessons he argues that are relevant here and now.” Yep. That would be this bit, below:
Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims
And strap your hands 'cross my engines
Together we could break this trap
We'll run till we drop, baby we'll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
'Cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta know how it feels
I wanna know if your love is wild
Girl I want to know if love is real
I’m with Joe Hockey on this one: the nation’s financial policy is currently being dictated by a man who thinks Bruce Springsteen is an economist. Mind you, Springsteen’s estimated net worth is around US$200 million, and Forbes has estimated his annual income at around US$70 million, so he’s clearly doing something right - but how strange that Swan offers absolutely no criticism of Springsteen’s ‘selfish greed’ in accumulating such huge piles of pelf.
Still, you have to feel sorry for the man. Swan clearly finds that life in the union-funded fast lane has not delivered its promised rewards, and this leads him to wax cynical about the recent Labor Party conference:
Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones
scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
And then after the lead break - and who can resist the thought of Swan playing frantic air guitar while leaping on the couches in his Parliament House office? - comes the song’s climax:
The highway's jammed with broken heroes
On a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight
And there's no place left to hide
Oh yes indeed; I think the latest Newspoll results make that abundantly clear. But till then, tramps like you, Wayne - and Julia and Peter and Albo and Craig and all your other mates - you were born to run. Which is why you must be looking forward to the 2013 election with such relish.
But if I were you, I’d start running now.
The Quadrant Book of Poetry: 2001 - 2010
edited by Les Murray