Smoko time, people! Down tools, get the cards out
and put on the kettle. Time again to be a fly on the wall as the world’s
problems are solved by those most qualified to do so – the blue-collar
As with the rest of the country, Bali has been the leading topic of
conversation here at Concrete Warranty Motors over the past month.
Primarily, discussion involved what Australia’s response should be.
While our working-class heroes were previously vacillating on Iraq, the
Dirty Dozen are now unanimous in their opposition to Australian
involvement there. But it might disappoint the Left that this is not
because they link the Bali bombing to our role in the War on Terror.
Redheaded Vietnam veteran Elvis raged against the prospect of
Australian soldiers leaving our shores again: "We have more important
problems closer to home. Indonesia is a powder keg about to let go, and we
are virtually defenceless. We don’t want to get caught out as we did in
1942!" He favours the ‘win the hearts and minds’ style of
campaign that defeated the communists in the Malayan Emergency.
The Snowman put forward a practical solution with a wry smirk:
"These terrorists are Muslim, right? Just bomb their training camps
with pork fat, and watch them starve to death."
As licensed Sporting Shooters, Elvis and the Snowman were both outraged
by John Howard’s proposed handgun restrictions in the wake of the Monash
University shooting. Sounding like the NRA’s Charlton Heston with an
Aussie drawl, Elvis was quick to link gun ownership to national security:
"An armed population is our best defence. If the government takes our
guns, we will be sitting ducks for any attack!" I can just imagine
him leading a contemporary Eureka Stockade.
The Snowman advocated conscription and a Swiss-style armed populace,
and again pointed to the inevitability of a war with Indonesia, something
on which the Dirty Dozen all agree. The rest of the guys chose not to
participate in the conversation, clearly feeling a little uncomfortable
with the forceful pro-gun rant. (One of them later quietly told me that he
actually supported Howard’s position on handguns.)
Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley came under attack for his Airtrain
scandal. This time it was the turn of Saltbush Bill, JP, to go on the
attack. "It is just jobs for the boys," he proclaimed. "He’s
just feathering his own nest. Anyway, who can trust a failed priest?"
Taff chimed in: "These politicians spend too much time setting up
their cosy little deals. They forget that their job is to represent
people. Instead, they can be rewarded with a lifetime pension for doing
nothing. Just look at Bill O’Chee."
Soorley comes in for regular attack at smoko for some of his
questionable ideas and his perceived arrogance. Yet, much to my surprise,
it turns out not one of the Dirty Dozen lives within Brisbane. As they all
reside in surrounding shires, they feel powerless to do anything about the
City Council, whose decisions impact upon their ability to travel, shop
and work within Brisbane.
Sadly, downsizing at Concrete Warranty Motors has led to several of the
Dirty Dozen, as well as your correspondent, losing their jobs after weeks
of uncertainty. Such is the nature of labour hire contracting. Some of the
guys had worked here for up to 13 years, and were very put out by the
abrupt end of their employment. Naturally, shop steward Taff was the most
vocal, exploding with language so vile it is normally reserved for Holden
Camira water pumps or bent dozer-track pins.
Our boss, Broccoli (smarter than the average cabbage), was taken aback:
"Doesn’t your agency still keep paying you?" he said, once
again proving his lack of understanding of the real world.
Taff’s tantrum aside, most of the guys took it in good humour. They
surprised themselves when they kept running into each other while seeking
alternate employment. Sanjeev, the hardest worker there, was philosophical
about the break: "The sad thing about it is that we are forced to
compete against each other for work, when we all used to work so well
together." He thought it would be particularly difficult to find work
at this time of year. "No one wants to hire before Christmas."