Total weirdness is more of an issue than the c-word
Apologies if you are offended by swearing. If you are offended by swearing, click on another article.
In the early 2000s former prime minister Paul Keating gave a speech at the Sydney Town Hall where he took aim at the city’s growing culture of materialism and spoke of his fear that the next generation of first homebuyers would be priced out of the Sydney property market. It was a thoughtful and sincere speech and one I covered in a straight fashion for my then newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
I got a call that night from one of the sub-editors, a man who to his professional detriment had spent some time on Fleet Street, who said ominously that he had given the copy “a small tickle-up”. The sub thought it should be noted that Keating, as an apparent enemy of materialism, owned an extensive number of antique French clocks. It’s the kind of phone call that usually guarantees another phone call the following day, and sure enough it did, with the phone ringing at 9.01am and a woman’s voice saying “Hello David, I have Mr Keating on the line for you.”
“Now you listen to me son,” he began. “None of the dopey c***s who work at The Daily Telegraph would know an antique French clock if they had one shoved up their f*****g arse.”
I should probably have been offended but frankly I felt like I had won the lottery as here was Paul Keating, whose perfection of profanity is rivalled only by Ben Kingsley’s character in the British crime film Sexy Beast, giving a master class in abuse. Keating is a man who knows his way around a swear word and doesn’t shy away from applying the most offensive swear word of all.
This does not make him particularly special in Australian public life, just better at it.
The use of this term is neither new nor remarkable. The late Sir Winton Turnbull was a dedicated parliamentarian who served for the Country Party in Victoria uninterrupted from 1946 to 1972. During a debate against the Labor Party, in a display of his commitment to the bush, he repeatedly declared “I’m a country member”, to which Gough Whitlam eventually interjected drily, “We remember.”
Again, apologies if you are offended by any of this but I am just attempting to describe things the way they are. Whether you like it or not, a lot of people use this word, including women, and also including the unlamented former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper.
There has been a kind of Methodist fussiness in the debate surrounding Slipper, as if his use of the most taboo swear word was of itself sexist. I’d strongly disagree with that assertion. There was nothing sexist about what Keating said on the phone or what Gough said across the chamber. The problem with Peter Slipper and his little chum, former staffer James Ashby, is that they are both clearly nuts. The texts they exchanged were absolutely sexist, not because of the swear words but the narrative they contained, which was utterly demeaning and jaw-droppingly bizarre. If it’s possible to be both repulsed and obsessed by something at the same time, then that’s the relationship which Slipper and Ashby have to women, with their grotesque back-and-forth banter about female private parts. To declare it schoolboy stuff is an insult to schoolboys.
There are obviously a lot of cranks out there in the community and it is probably only fair that they too are represented in a parliamentary democracy. The problem is they appear to be over-represented. After all it was my homestate of SA which gave us Peter Lewis, who famously spoke against the decriminalisation of prostitution claiming that Adelaide would plunge to the same level of moral turpitude as the Orient, telling Parliament that it was possible in Macau to pay to have sex with a duck which had been placed inside a hollowed-out log. Doffing our cap to Cory Bernardi, we should at least be relieved that it’s not yet legal to get married to the duck. If you really hit it off with the duck that is.
Out of interest, where do they find these people?
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