HENRY BATEMAN. What Malnutrition Looks Like.

Feb 21, 2020

As the ABC incorporates round the clock disaster warnings into its scheduling, other programming is showing the consequence of resource deprivation.

A few days ago, the first Friday in February to be precise, I was banged up in a building dedicated to my survival. The day had barely begun, and I was already feeling the fickle fingers of boredom flit lightly across my mind. The previous afternoon had been spent in painless slumber, awaking long enough for a bite of dinner before dozing through the evening’s entertainment. It was the bewitching hour, and much to the dismay of the night nurse, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed.

After having waded to page 166, my growing indifference with the book I had brought with me to while away the hours reached a critical mass that saw Mr Brand abandoned to the “who cares” pile. I’d had enough fairy floss, I needed some meat and potatoes. That, and our three-ring circus of the absurd was also back in town. Could Aunty, as she had done on past occasions, come riding to my rescue?

I ponied up my 13 bucks and got the telly turned on. The Royal Perth is a venerable teaching hospital and patient internet is a mostly un-needed luxury. With my phone reduced to on-board games, I ruefully contemplated last century’s technology. I scrolled through the 1300 infomercials and product placements of early morning network scheduling in search of the facts that can and often do trump fiction.

I was eventually rewarded with a reference to the put down of the week, politics is, after all, a blood sport. A rambunctious general turned politician had been put in his box a couple of days before by a scientist who had had a gut full. And as the repetition of the 24-hour news channel began to pall, ABC Breakfast, from another stall in the informed Aunt’s stable, arrived with a little bit more variety in her saddle bags.

Not being a regular viewer, the comfort of a studio just ten paces from a coffee machine voiced several times by the live cross reporter in the wind and rain was an irony that almost matched General George Custer’s speed fetish at Little Big Horn. A running jest that only became apparent during the closing credits.

For, you see, the aforementioned coffee machine is located in the foyer of our sometimes-cavalier Aunt’s Southbank home. The studio coach was just those 10 referenced paces from the machine now basking in its 15 minutes. And when the symphony of reversing trucks and passing trams reached a crescendo, pre-recorded packages were dispatched post-haste forcing mine hosts to play catch-up on live TV. A game they had been playing for two months as they awaited a purpose-built facility.

It is to the presenters’ credit that their skills in dancing to this improvised melody were such that they could serenely maintain a professional façade.

For it is those who can perform under duress, be it a bushfire, a dissembling politician or just turning over rocks, some of which often require serious digging, that Aunty respects and nurtures. It is little wonder that some of the industry’s most talented are joining the regiment. And those who have successfully ridden with her for some time can easily find a ride at other stations, should they so choose.

It is these skills that make Aunty not only a national treasure but an essential service. Aunty is there when your phone is not. She can fight on foot as well as on horseback, which she so ably displayed during the east coast’s recent conflagration. When the environment punches back, it is good to know we have her in our corner.

That we allow our politicians ignore this evidence, is at our own peril. Be it through the blindness, the pettiness or the avarice of these elected leaders, we will be the losers if we allow it to continue. It is the ABC who should be gold plated not the poles and wires. Not only do we need our best people in the saddle, we need the best horses to carry them into battle. Be it television, radio, or the internet, the infrastructure they require must be given to them in a timely manner.

This lack of resources became apparent at the close of that Friday morning broadcast. A panoramic view of the make-shift studio was followed by a shot of the six-member cast wandering down a corridor leading into the bowels of the building, one hoped to their dressing rooms. Michael Rowland’s wave goodbye underscored the poignancy of the moment. It was a powerful piece of television that the old girl does so well.

We cannot afford to repeat General Custer’s mistake and leave the artillery in a field far away. Nor should we underestimate the ruthless determination of our current foe.

Henry Bateman is an artist and writer whose work has been published and exhibited in Australia, Asia and America. He has been living an increasingly carbon free(ish) lifestyle since 2005.

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