Four months into his reign as Australian of the Year, it is clear David Morrison should resign the crowning office of the helium-light career that has seen him float relentlessly upward. He is neither female, of precious hue, nor born into the wrong body. For all those deficiencies he must apologise and transfer the title by way of penance to the Western Bulldogs’ Stewart Crameri (left), who would make a far better representative of what the real Australia is all about these days.
Not to worry about the centre-half-forward’s qualifications: he’s a victim, which recent tradition has ordained an AOTY prerequisite. More than that, he deserves to be hailed as the quintessential Australian because his current ordeal is the direct handiwork of the sort of people who nominated Morrison, selected this khaki’d bureaucrat for none but the most trite reasons, and thought him best to represent Australia’s values – by which, of course, they meant their values. As our betters believe the populace can always use a good hectoring, a martinet in command of the right sound bytes must have struck them as just the shot.
Those who don’t follow Australian Rules might not have heard of Crameri, the epitome on his day of the game itself. He is a bull-chested brute with the torso of scrum forward and the agile speed of a hurdler. He kicks goals while tossing opponents about like nine pins. He is magnificent to watch. But this year, thanks to the our New Establishment, AFL aficionados have been denied the pleasure of seeing Crameri play his part in lifting the Doggies to an MCG appearance on the last Saturday in September.
Crameri, you see, played for Essendon before being recruited to the Bulldogs. He wore the red sash of Windy Hill during the days of mystery injections and a thousand lurid stories that began in early 2013 with yet another of those Gillard Era exercises in the grotesque. You will recall the routine and how she polished distraction to a fine art, well this was more of the same. In trouble because the Speaker you recruited from the other side is dangerous in taxis, inclined to midnight rambles about Taylor Square and memorably averse to mussels and their doppelgangers? No problem. Just shriek ‘Misogyny!’ and the hand-fed creatures of the bought-and-paid-for press gallery, the toadies and sycophants and sonorous stroppers of outrage on demand, they will do your slurring and sliming for you. What, that wretch Abbott looked at his watch and wore a blue tie! How grossly offensive, not to mention the all-purpose “inappropriate”.
It was under similar and stage-managed circumstances that Crameri’s victimhood began. At a surprise press conference in early February, 2013, there on the telly was a slather of cabinet ministers and public officials decrying “the blackest day in Australian sport”. Had a member of the Opposition uttered such a claim, the Gillardians might well have summoned an Indigenous flying squad to stage a riot at the racism implicit in that adjective of colour. Oh, hang on, they had tried that once already — on another Australia Day, as it happens — and that stunt backfired badly, so probably not. As usual, when it became apparent that the trail of incitement led straight to a Labor PM’s office, the press corps’ enthusiasm rapidly waned and it was back to decrying the sexist significance of the then-Opposition leader’s muscular blokeiness. In modern journalism, if a race riot is prompted by the left and for base political purpose, it is nothing to write about.
In any case, this time there was no need to bring in the Indigenous Auxiliary, as it was the chieftains of all the major sporting codes who were conscripted as spear carriers in this first act of Gillard’s exercise in political theatre. A submissive semi-circle of grown men (left), they stood upon the dais and wore the penitent expressions of shamed choir boys. Quite a spectacle it was, and handy timing to boot, as the curtain on this burlesque went up just as Ms Gillard was once again fielding questions about her pro bono work for a swindling swain.
It would be superfluous to recap the Bombers “drug scandal” and the casualties it has claimed, most of them innocent, as The Australian’s Chip LeGrand has done a decent job of chronicling the saga, if not entirely untangling it, in his book, The Straight Dope.
What is worth noting is Big Sport’s complicity in its own duping. Do you think, just maybe, all that government money for the construction of new stadia might have been a factor in participants’ rapid acquiesence that they report immediately to Canberra? Or is it that masochism is a required qualification for sporting code executives these days? You know, a dose of ritual humiliation followed by the customary reward.
The humiliation of the country at large by those who presume to wield the whip is a good deal less satisfying. There are no “safe words” for those the New Establishment presumes to instruct, order and direct; no agreed-upon signals that the battering is too much, that it has gone too far, that genuine damage is being done. Indeed, the more and louder are the complaints of those beneath the whip, the more vigorously determined is the ruling caste to apply an even harder taste of the lash. The sort of people deciding who will be honoured as Australian of the Year represent the nominated essence of those who have spent decades infiltrating, colonising and co-opting the country’s institutions – its universities, newsrooms, arts bodies, police forces, right down to humble sports clubs. Two of the overlooked candidates, you might have thought, were perfect choices to represent what is good and brave and selfless about this country. One, a surgeon, saves burns victims from lifetimes of pain and disfigurement, the other is a nurse who ministered to Ebola victims at considerable risk to herself.
Instead, the AOTY panel opted for a brass hat atop a stuffed khaki shirt. As an agent of advocacy, Morrison boasts the substance of a scarecrow – nothing but straw and mouse droppings dressed in the tired rags of others’ re-cycled rhetoric. Bring comfort and hope to wretched of the world, as the pair of spurned AOTY candidates mentioned above have spent their careers doing? No, not Morrison, who has most recently mounted his charger to attack the easier target of words and their common usage. The use of the term “guys”, he tells us with all the moral and linguistic authority of a bargain-basement pedant, is just plain wrong and offensive. Apparently it is sexist and, no doubt, leads to women being punched, or an extra layer of impenetrability in that infamous glass ceiling. That’s the thing about being Brigadier-General Blowhard: no matter how asinine your pronouncements, the New Establishment’s claque will cheer lustily and with nary a trace of restraint or shame.
Here is part of the reason why Crameri deserves the honour of which Morrison’s elevation has made a mockery. How many of Big Sport’s submissive souls, the ones who wore their abashed expressions at that hyped press conference on sport’s “blackest day”, support the idea that Australia should have an Australian as head of state, that we have grown up and should dispense with the British monarch? Probably quite a few, but even the monarchists in that po-faced assembly would no doubt approve of the step taken in 1986, when appeals to the Privy Council were stopped forever. Yet here we are, 30 years later, and Crameri with all others who played for Essendon benched for an entire season because of a ruling by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA). That’s the thing about the New Establishment, it actually takes pride in embodying the cultural cringe most of us thought had long since receded to the odd nervous tic. You think Australia has done a superb job of accepting and assimilating migrants? Then you are clearly a bigot, because the New Establishment knows you are a racist at heart and, more than that, it holds the megaphone to tell you as much. Regard the hijab as a shameful symbol of patriarchal oppression and coercion? Then you are an Islamophobe because it is culturally insensitive to expect that new arrivals respect our Western tradition of female emancipation. Women, you see, need a white knight such as Morrison to safeguard them from innocuous words. But women consigned at puberty or earlier to lives beneath the veil, well their inferior status is to be extolled as evidence of that vibrant-diversity stuff we hear so much about.
As to the cultural cringe redux, never are the New Establishment’s critiques more pointed than when blessed with the endorsement of some junketeering UN corruptocrat. How often have Australians been lectured by globe-trotting FIFO scolds about, well, everything? We’re being beastly to undocumented aliens! We’re not taking care of the Great Barrier Reef! We’re oppressing Aborigines by foiling petrol sniffers and rapists of children! Turtle Bay’s firemen jet in, discern turpitude, then jet off to the next five-star lodging, leaving behind the scat of their reports and condemnations with which the New Establishment pelts all within earshot. There was a time – and perhaps it is only a myth – when Australians were thought to have a cheeky disdain for authority. Those who have seized the public square and built their pulpits there, they are afflicted with no such independence of spirit. Crameri’s ordeal sums it up.
His former club, Essendon, already had been stiffly punished while he still wore its colours. The Bombers had been kicked out of eighth place on the ladder and denied the right to contest the 2013 finals series. We have seen turmoil, plus sackings and lawsuits. The coach has gone and, as usual, many lawyers have grown much richer.
Yet for all this argy-bargy amongst learned friends, not a shred of justice for Crameri. When Essendon players were being dosed with those supplements, he settled down one evening at a computer with his mum, a nurse, and together they researched the compounds he was told were being administered. The conclusion they reached in good faith and on the strength of the information supplied was that the injections were legal and, medically, no big deal: they could be taken, mother and son concluded, without risk to health or legal standing.
Yet none of that due diligence did him any good. Crameri was out for the season, banned with all his former teammates by an international body to which ASADA’s tax-hoovers had appealed after failing to see their desire for stern punishment fulfilled by local edict.
The Western Bulldogs, while missing Crameri’s broad-shouldered presence on the forward line, are nevertheless doing quite well this season and – knock on wood – remain a good bet to vigorously contest September’s finals series. The same cannot be said for poor Essendon. With the backbone of its team banned from competition, leaving the vacant slots to be filled by superannuants and second-tier substitutes, Essendon takes the field every weekend in the near-certain expectation of a thrashing. Only last night, in an exhibition of ineptitude excruciating to witness, the Bombers were beaten like a threadbare carpet (20-6-126 to 9-11-47), their humiliation intensified by the ignominy of a whipping at the hands of lowly Fremantle, which finally managed to chalk its first win of the season. Even those steeped in the tribal lore of Victoria’s footy culture and owing their one-eyed allegiance to other teams can feel the pain of Bombers barrackers, their season doomed before it began.
It could be argued – indeed, has been argued – that Essendon’s banned players should have invested the effort to learn just what strange potions they were being given. That, according to ASADA’s pooh-bahs, might have been some mitigation.
Well that is precisely what Crameri did, yet he is out for the season and Bulldogs supporters must go without the pleasure of watching him hip-and-shoulder lesser mortals aside.
So why not make the best of a bad thing? As we have an Australian of the Year whose only qualification is that he tickles the fancies of a New Establishment selection panel, let him stand down and direct that piss-holes-in-the-snow gaze at other issues more becoming of his intellect and capacities. Having addressed the use of “guys” in common parlance he might wish to consider initiating a dialogue with Australia’s manhole covers about the inherent sexism of their very name. It would be a conversation amongst equals.
In Morrison’s stead, let us see Stewart Crameri dubbed with the AOTY accolade. Like all who must endure the daily sermons of the self-appointed (and mostly tax-funded), he is more than merely one of us. He is, sadly, modern Australia itself.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online. He barracks for the Western Bulldogs and was named in honour of their 1954 premiership-year star Roger Duffy