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Australia Latham's Law

Latham’s law

28 April 2012

12:00 PM

28 April 2012

12:00 PM

Each year with the commemoration of Anzac Day, there are some fascinating reflections on our national culture. I think the English satirist William Rushton got it right when he described Australians as ‘a stocky, brownish people with craggy features, their eyes screwed up against the constant glare of the TV sets.’ The Internet may be killing off newspapers, but in the suburbs, television is as indestructible as Barrie Cassidy’s suntan.

Who cares if delegates to the UN still refer to us as Austria or if G20 statuettes of Julia Gillard make her look like a milk-maiden? As long as we have a thriving film and television industry our cultural integrity is secure. We can brazenly echo the words of the American advertisement promoting the movie Gallipoli in 1981: ‘From a country you’ve never heard of – a story you’ll never forget.’

Two days ago we remembered them, which is just as well, given our ANZUS partner’s propensity to forget. In a Newsweek survey last year, 73 per cent of Americans could not correctly say why their country fought the Cold War. In a question on Afghanistan, 42 per cent could not correctly identify the Taliban.  If for no other reason, this justifies Gillard’s decision to exit the war in Afghanistan. Why should our boys die on the parched killing fields of Central Asia, fighting a war for a North American country in which nearly half of its citizens do not even know the enemy’s name?


In his Fellow Earthians speech last month, the outgoing Greens leader Bob Brown foreshadowed his
post-parliamentary career: as a stand-up comedian. He wondered ‘why no one from elsewhere in the Cosmos [has] contacted us’, suggesting that:

Life has often evolved to intelligence on other planets with biospheres and every time that intelligence, when it became able to alter its environment, did so with catastrophic consequences. Maybe we have had many predecessors in the Cosmos but all have brought about their own downfall. That’s why they are not communicating with Earth.

And then the punchline:

Recently, when I got back to bed, after ruminating under the stars for hours on this question, [my partner] Paul enquired, ‘Did you see a comet?’ ‘Yes’, I replied, ‘and it is called Global Democracy’. A molten rock from space destroyed most life on our planet 65 million years ago. Let us have the comet of Global Democracy save life on Earth this time.

Rest easy, Earthian Bob. It will not be long before the Little Green Men visit our planet. When the sea levels recede and our cities again become inhabitable, they will sift through the sodden remains of Australian culture. The brighter ones among them will decipher the business plan for the NBN, its half-finished
roll-out pock-marking the continent. The scheme had to be abandoned in 2013 when the Shorten Government ran out of money.

NBN cables in the seat of Lindsay lead them to a McMansonite media-room and a gargantuan TV screen (purchased with carbon tax compensation payments). Examining the home’s six bedrooms, triple garage and galaxy of electronic gadgets, they at last understand why the polar ice-caps melted. One of them asks, ‘Is this where Al Gore used to live?’

The Little Green Men tinker with the TV and recover its most-watched program. This is their Pompeian moment, but instead of discovering phallic symbols on bordello walls, they unearth episodes of Masterchef. At first, it looks like a rerun of The Addams Family, with Lurch, Uncle Fester and Pugsley lined up in the kitchen. It is, in fact, a telling summary of Earthian democracy: the worst cook on the show, the dumpy housewife who forgets her recipes and burns her meals, always wins the votes of the independent judges. ‘No wonder Bob Brown’s Earthians could never organise a Global Democracy’, our cosmic visitors conclude, ‘they modelled everything on the 2010 parliament, even their cooking shows.’


Twenty years ago, chefs were the guys who worked out the back of the local Chinese, whipping up wontons and fried rice. Today they carry the prefix ‘celebrity’ and stroll down the red carpet on opening nights. They are our most successful social climbers – a sure sign of how, in a postmodern world, celebrity status and social usefulness are inversely related.

Readers with time on their hands, and a very big pantry, should try the following recipe from Matt Preston
of Masterchef. Mix together and cook in a large pan:

1 cup tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
4 tablespoons treacle
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
½ teaspoon of liquid smoke

This concoction makes two cups of… barbecue sauce. Forget about paying $2.80 for a bottle at Woolworths.
You too can have the ultimate aspirational lifestyle, impressing your peers with the delights of sauce cuisine.

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