The party to celebrate my 70th birthday on Friday was, among other things, a kind of talent show: people sang, recited poetry, did classroom activities, sketched, knitted socks and conducted a blindfold taste test. (I make no bones about hating eggplant, baba ghanouj excepted, and one of my sons blindfolded me and offered me five variants of the loathsome stuff: I’m glad to report I hated them all, sight unseen.)
Most of the splendid creations were very much of the moment, but I have Tristan White’s permission to share this, which his mother read in his absence.
From Chifley to Turnbull – 70 Years of PMs
In seventy years you’ve seen many a prime minister,
the great and the average and the downright sinister.
You probably remember them but if you’re out of the loop,
let me flash back so that you can recoup.
Then began a Liberal fraternity,
twenty-three years was about an eternity.
For sixteen Robert Menzies took up the rein,
winning eight elections in his own name.
‘British to the bootstraps! English to the eye!’
And he’d love the Queen till the day he’d die.
Sir Bob finally stood down to give Harold Holt way,
to follow the lead of LBJ.
He added a new set of coins to the mix
on the fourteenth of February sixty-six.
But just as his second anniversary neared,
he went for a dip and then disappeared.
We looked for him all across the seas,
and theorised some conspiracies,
but we knew before long that his prospects were grim,
so we instead had a swimming pool named after him.
The Liberals then voted in Senator Gorton,
but just three years later they chose to deport him.
Free healthcare and uni; conscription was off!
For all this and more, we can warmly thank Gough.
But things then began to go downhill from there:
the block of supply; the Loans Affair,
and on November eleventh, well may we say,
that Australia had its craziest day.
The Governor-General had Whitlam dismissed,
Kerr’s cur came in being booed, scoffed and hissed.
Yet he nonetheless won the coming election
giving Gough and his crowd a wholehearted rejection.
Despite being unloved, we kept Fraser empowered
for two more terms, with his Treasurer Howard.
‘Life is delightful, but not meant to be easy!‘
he said, making us all feel a little bit queasy.
But in eighty-three when Labor’s hope was but fadin’
they drafted in Hawke to replace Bill Hayden.
He carried the party up out of the fog
though it could have been won by a drover’s dog.
‘I take total responsibility,‘ wept Fraser,
as though his toughness had been cut with a razor.
Hawky, who was branded the Messiah by some,
claimed a ‘boss who sacks someone today is a bum!‘
The dollar was floated, we’d be reconciled,
And ‘a life in poverty would be had by no child!‘
He gave Labor four wins in rapid succession
but we then had to have, of course, the recession.
Bob had forged a great partnership with his Treasurer Keating,
though leadership tensions had now started heating.
After challenging once Keating said, ‘Let me be plain:
I had one shot in the locker. I won’t fire again!’
But just six months later, our leader was Paul,
whose ninety-three victory was the sweetest of all.
His ‘big picture’ vision went to the front of the screen:
‘Get a new flag! Get rid of the queen!’
He had a caustic tongue and declared, ‘Holy moley!
I’m going to do John Hewson slowly!
Mr. Mediocrity will never get us;
it’s like being flogged with a warm piece of lettuce!
He’s like a lizard on a rock – alive but looking dead.
Scumbags! Corporate crooks! Rust buckets!‘ he said.
But Redfern and the speech to the unknown soldier,
and Mabo and APEC and super were much bolder.
‘We excluded and murdered without asking,’ said he,
‘how would I feel were this done to me?’
He may have seemed arrogant but he wasn’t a coward,
though was hit out with baseball bats for Honest John Howard.
‘I won’t say sorry! No way will there be,
never ever!‘ he said, to a GST.
‘We’ve been welcoming to all who have travelled our way,
but we will decide who’s invited to stay.’
He followed George W. Bush into war
and acknowledged that some of his promises were non-core.
In twenty-oh-seven things eventually soured
with the WorkChoices bill, and it tore apart Howard.
We loudly responded when he did not retreat;
we threw out his party and he lost his own seat!
When Gillard took over we didn’t know what to say,
being told that a ‘Good government was losing its way,
but we’re going to move forward with all that we’ve got:
our seventy-two, Greens, Windsor, Oakeshott.’
She got through plenty that was a success,
BN, Gonski, the NDIS.
But there was one pledge that did not succeed:
‘There will be no carbon tax under my lead!‘
The press was hostile and tried to defame:
‘Ju-liar!’ ‘Ditch the witch!’ ‘Her dad died of shame!‘
But enough was enough and her attack unfurled
with a blistering speech that went ‘round the world.
‘Misogyny and sexism, I’m not a fan!
But I will not be lectured on it by this man!
If he wants to see it, he needs a mirror!’
For a long fifteen minutes Abbott seemed to fear her.
An easy three years and three days it was not,
but as the first lady up there she gave her best shot.
‘We’ll do what we say! These are the facts!
We’ll stop the boats! End the waste! Get rid of the tax!
No cuts to health or your uni degree!
No cuts to the SBS or ABC!
Polling day is soon! We need more supporters!
Remember, I’m the guy with the not-bad looking daughters!‘
But it wasn’t long before we saw his team drift,
because the ‘gospel truth’ statements were only those on a script.
‘I’ll shirtfront Vlad Putin! You bet you are!‘
But that infamous threat was little more than a spar.
‘Housewives do the ironing!’ The onion. The wink.
‘The suppository of wisdom!’ Did he even think?
‘Canadia!’ ‘Those visually awful wind farms!’
And the ‘nothing but bush‘ remark that had natives in arms.
But it wasn’t just Abbott who seemed way too cocky;
it ran through his cabinet to Treasurer Hockey,
the man being caught out chomping cigars.
‘Entitlement’s over! The poor don’t have cars!
Get a good job that pays you good money!’
If it weren’t so sad, it would just be plain funny.
We woke up on Aus Day to a terrible fright
to hear that Prince Philip had been made a knight –
a ‘friendless decision‘, a captain’s call,
the beginning of Abbott’s dramatic downfall.
His ‘near death experience’ was survived, he would say,
On the pledge that ‘good government will now start today.’
But the Speaker, we then found out, chartered a chopper.
After three weeks of agony he was then forced to drop her.
A week short of the poll to be held in Canning
we found out what Mal and his allies were planning.
‘We’re not like Labor!’ Tone was heard griping,
‘But I’ll give Turnbull no undermining, wrecking or sniping!’
Mal swore that Bill Shorten would be easy to beat,
yet his Jobs and Growth mantra held him just by one seat.
It’s been hard to be PM for innovation
with scandals and Trump and a resurgent One Nation.
He claims to be strong, but it’s not the same story
as the failed plebiscite or the deflection of Cory.
Mr. Harbourside Mansion then went on a rant,
Calling Shorten a ‘parasite and sycophant‘.
How is renewable energy on a roll
when his treasurer comes in with a big lump of coal?
So now with a party divided and split
and Abbott looking for a big direct hit,
will Malcolm make it past twenty nineteen?
The jury’s still out and that’s yet to be seen.
But for now that’s the end of my little rhyme,
so let’s just enjoy this most exciting time.