What was that about Australia and the Asian Century? The umbilical cords still tie us to the past. John Menadue
From Walter Hamilton:
I had a choice today on the ABC Online News website of reading a story about a galah plague in a Queensland outback town or viewing the ‘first pictures’ (breathless pause) of a certain baby born in London the other night. I chose the galahs. Earlier in the day, sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s surgery, I kept my head down and read my Kindle book as Channel Seven’s breakfast show replayed a clip of London crowd noise at least three times. Shamefully, the television station ignored the galahs – though no less melodious and far more relevant to an Australian audience.
Am I the grouch who stole Christmas for considering Australian media coverage of the so-called ‘royal birth’ (I thought we all came into this world naked of any pretentions) excessive, fawning and puerile? My irritation turned to annoyance – in cockatoo-terms, my yellow crest shot up – when I heard the ABC leading a radio news bulletin the other evening with a story about a certain young lady in London going into labour (I don’t mean Labor – that might be more in keeping). News? The most important news? Escapism as news? No wonder the galahs are massing Hitchcock-like. The noble profession of journalism – so finely represented by reporters embedded at a private hospital and gushing out ‘live crosses’ – has become the playground exercise frame on which the birds are perching. Galahs all.
Now I am told I must join the guessing game about the likely name for this London infant: George or Philip or Bruce or whatever. As if it makes the slightest difference, except to tabloid magazine editors (joined now, it seems, by every other news organisation that, once upon a time, would have shown more editorial discrimination and balance) who glory in selling this cheap pap. I can already imagine the ‘Boom in George [fill in alternative] Baby Name’ stories being prepared for trotting out three months hence.
Yes, I am a republican. I don’t wish Queen Elizabeth and her progeny anything but health and happiness, but they mean nothing to me and I wish they meant much less than they apparently do to my fellow Australians (though our Anglo-Saxon-dominated media may have seriously miscalculated the interest of the majority of Australians who aren’t). But I do not despair. The fact that the Windsors (the ‘royals’) are fodder for the celebrity circuit underscores their irrelevance for the serious business of defining Australian sovereignty and polity. Yes, the goings-on of the rich and would-be famous are a handy place to escape from the complex and trying issues that really command our attention and really shape our lives. No great harm in that. The mistake would be to think that any of this ‘Will he be George’ stuff carries any weight for Australia or its future. Let the British have their monarchy; but, please, let’s not humiliate ourselves by pressing our noses against the shop window, moon-eyed, because it is a closed shop – as anyone who has lived in the UK knows – and we long ago forfeited the price of entry.
Listen to the galahs. They are screaming for us to wake up.
Walter Hamilton is a former ABC correspondent and author of “Children of the Occupation: Japan’s Untold Story.”