It was in 1985 I first read 1984. I became an Orwell fan immediately. In the same year discovered in a friend’s older brother’s record collection a single called ‘Nick The Stripper’ by The Birthday Party, and a week later, on the Channel 0 music show ‘Rock Arena’ discovered the Jesus and Mary Chain. Within weeks I had gone from stretch jeans and V-necks to apprentice goth clutching my Emily Dickinson poems, quoting Orwell and chasing any girl in smudged mascara I could find.
I was in Year 11 at Generic High in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, and, when we had to do our two weeks of work experience, I ended up at Channel 9.
On day 1 I went out with a news crew and interviewed some doctor bloke about this new fangled thing AIDS.
On day 2, I was sent out with a news team to interview a man called Stauder, a former VFL footballer (St. Kilda reserves) and owner of a small confectionary company called Dollar Sweets who were facing union pressure by his employees, and had suffered a protracted series of strikes and pickets.
I didn’t really understand the significance of it at the time, but one of the network bosses, back in the news room, muttered something about how, ‘even Hawkey’s got no time for this union.”
I followed the case for the next few years and it was of course the event that brought two young smarmy knob lawyers to the nation’s attention – Michael Kroger and Peter Costello. The case is still talked about as the one that signalled the end of union-dominated workplaces, and all under the watchful eye of the Hawke Government, lead, obviously, by our most famous and accomplished unionist.
Both my Dad and paternal grandfather were old-school unionist lefties (granddad was in the Communist Party and liked to read Lenin on his lunchbreak in the back of the hardware where he worked all his life, then would go home to his housing commission flat in Ascot Vale and watch sport), and I remember them totally ignoring everything Hawke was doing at the time.
“Dad, Hawkey’s on Rupert Murdoch’s yacht eating caviar!”
“He knows what he’s doing, son. Good old Hawkey. He’ll be ripping into Rupert!”
(He was not)
In hindsight, Hawke and in turn Keating were modernising the country, but in doing so, forever blurred the lines between Liberal and Labor policy. Oh, I know, there’s noted differences, but it’s not like the good old days. Costello himself, as Bob Ellis often makes mention of, was courted by both parties after his Dollar Sweets performance, but just imagine if Costello had woken up and decided, “I’ll go ALP”. I put it to you that ‘Labor fundies’ (as Squib put it) like my dad and Ramon, may, just may have had a different opinion of the man.
As Orwell says: "In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia."
It doesn't matter any more where Costello went.
He's been around a long time this Costellopto fellow. He's part of the nation's furniture. I've never had much time for him. But, now that he's harmless, I don't mind him popping up every now and then and talking shit.
I think I'd like to see him and Keating host their own TV show or something, just for a bit of pre-1985 good old days debate.