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Smoko: pre-emptively striking Simon Crean - before the housing crash?

By Ern O'Malley - posted Friday, 20 December 2002


Blondie (The Good) squints in the hot sun as beads of sweat trickle down his forehead. His weathered face makes him appear older than he really is. Clutching a grease gun in his right hand, he chews his nicotine gum as he stares down his younger rival. A few feet away, Angel Eyes (The Bad) fingers the trigger of his rattle gun, his thoughts lost behind a thin veil of cigarette smoke. For a few seconds, the silence between them is punctuated only by the dust and ash of the nearby bushfires blowing across the truck yard. As the tension mounts, it is the devious Tuco (The Ugly) who dives between them, emerging victorious with the last slice of chocolate cake from the nearly empty Smoko truck.

As we sit down to smoko, Angel Eyes draws a link between terrorism and the bushfires.

"Australia is vulnerable to attack. We know there are terrorist cells here. They don't need to use bombs. They just have to wait for the right moment and use a match. The government should round them up."

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The others agree, noting that the government appears particularly impotent in dealing with such a threat.

"All you need is five terrorists running around in cars with a box of matches each, and you could hurt this country far more than Bali did."

Sound familiar? In another workshop, Elvis said almost identical words in October's Smoko column. The government may have a perception problem here. Indeed, that problem may well be the truth behind the recent ASIO raids.

While the three gunslingers wish for a more pro-active security policy, Howard's pre-emptive strike doctrine was met with derision.

"Strike? With what?" roars Blondie, almost falling off his upturned milk crate in laughter, "we would be flat out attacking Tasmania!" The smoko room simply believes that Australia does not have the capacity to conduct independent military operations abroad without strong American support.

If Simon Crean thought he got away with his demand for John Howard to apologise to Asia behind the smokescreen of Carmen Lawrence's resignation, he is very sadly mistaken. For the smoko room, it was the final nail in the coffin of a lacklustre career.

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"Dead man walking," was how Tuco described Crean, arguing in favour of political euthanasia. "Labor needs to put him out of his misery."

To answer that certain scribe, Errol Simper (Media, The Australian, Dec12), yes, the news did show up Crean as a consummate dickhead. Yet these blue-collar conservatives are the constituency that Crean himself has identified that Labor needs to recapture. Memo to Simon: Give it up mate, it's over, let it go while you still have a shred of dignity left.

Carmen Lawrence will no doubt be disappointed at being totally upstaged by the departure of Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil, whom the workforce regard as a far more serious player. That is not to say they support Garrett, they just recognize him as a person of sincerity and conviction, something felt to be sadly lacking in our current crop of politicians. Paul Kelly (The Australian, Dec18) reminded us of former Liberal Party federal director Lynton Crosby's observations about conviction politicians, with particular reference to John Howard and Bob Brown. The crew are interested to see Garrett's next move.

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About the Author

Ern O'Malley works in a mechanical repair shop in NSW. Of course, this is not his real name.

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