Sunday, July 17, 2005

Why Did I Bother?

I didn't actually watch Channel Nine's This Is Your Life on Thursday; I video taped it while I watched something else. Now that I've taken a look at the tape, I'm glad that I had the sense to give myself the option of fast forwarding through the boring bits or most of the boring bits. Essentially This Is Your Life (TIYL) is an hour long boring bit, based on an inherently boring concept. It's a sort of premature funeral service, with Mike Munro as celebrant presenting a highly sanitised pre-mortem eulogy with the help of friends, family and sundry associates of the dearly undeparted.

Munro surprised Hanson on-stage at the Star City Showroom where she was appearing as a guest star in the show Todd McKenney Live a cabaret performance starring, of all people, Todd McKenney. Hanson was wearing a sequined evening gown in Margaret Thatcher blue. It was something of an eyesore but I must admit that it did complement her looks.

Back in the studio, Mike started in on her birth and early life. In the lounge room I hit the fast forward button to get to the part where, as Channel Nine's promos for the show had it, she "turned Australian politics on its head". This came a good fifteen minutes into the show. Munro described how, faced with the problem of caring for four young children, Pauline had bought a fish and chip shop in Ipswich and:

... working twelve hour days, seven days a week you begin to gain a real insight into the feelings and everyday gripes of the locals and its now that your outlook not only broadens but dramatically changes. And coming up Pauline Hanson becomes the most talked about politician in the country. But first this message:

"This message" was from Alan Jones:

Well hello Pauline, I hope you have a wonderful night and I'm sure many Australians remember you as someone who just tried to tell the truth and you saw things as you'd experienced them and that stirred one or two people in the world of politics up a little, after all a housewife and a woman working in a fish shop wasn't meant to have all of these views. You didn't conform with the traditional mode of things but Australians warmed to you because I think, and I found you, and listeners found you, always willing to say it as you saw it.

As this warm encomium was delivered to camera, rather than as an on-air read, I think it's safe to assume that it came from Jones' heart. Not that it really matters and, when you think about it, it probably doesn't.

Once the ads were over, the program got down to Hanson's entry into Australian politics and the way she turned it on its head. First there was her letter to the Queensland Times on the subject of Aboriginal deaths in custody and Robert Tickner's misplaced sympathy for aboriginal prisoners. This was perhaps the first occasion on which she demonstrated her newly broadened and dramatically changed outlook. This appears to be the web's favourite bit:

I don't feel responsible for the treatment of Aboriginal people in the past because I had no say, but my concern is for now and the future. How can we expect this race to help themselves when government shower them with money, facilities and opportunities that only these people can obtain no matter how minute the indigenous blood is that flow through their veins, and this is what is causing racism.

This was followed by some excerpts of Hanson's maiden speech, where she articulated to the whole nationsome of those feelings and gripes she had picked up working in her fish and chip shop:

I am fed up with being told, `This is our land.' Well, where the hell do I go? I was born here, and so were my parents and children.

I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.

Immigration must be halted in the short term so that our dole queues are not added to by, in many cases, unskilled migrants not fluent in the English language. This would be one positive step to rescue many young and older Australians from a predicament which has become a national disgrace and crisis.

The thing that struck me most as I was re-reading this tirade was not so much the racism of the piece, but its self-absorption: it's all me, me, me! I'm fed up with this, I want that, I believe the other. I guess that's what it means to "say it as you see it".

We also got footage of Pauline being honest and forthright in a conversation with three young aboriginals, Pauline vs Charles Perkins on daytime TV and that "Please Explain" moment before Munro launched into a potted history of the decline of One Nation, brought down by a combination of collusion between the Liberal Party and the ALP on preferences, internal division and the nastiness of Tony Abbott. Pauline goes to prison, she gets a supportive letter from Nellie Dargan, a ten year old aboriginal girl, she gets out of prison again. She goes on Dancing With The Stars and, despite having two left feet, she gets all the way to the finals on the votes of the viewing audience. Now she's working on her autobiography, a showbiz career and a new relationship that you may have read about in one of Kerry Packer's magazines for women.

Once the "where is she now" stuff was out of the way, they wheeled in Nellie Dargan and she and Pauline sang a duet; one chorus of that "We are one but we are many" song. Then it was time for Mike to sum up the career of this remarkable woman:

Pauline, it is impossible to overestimate the extent to which you personally shook the political establishment. There's no doubt about it and there's no doubt that you are an honest and forthright woman and no matter what political persuasion people might have, they have to admit that you've always had the courage of your convictions. You certainly led the Liberal Party and the Labor Party on a merry old dance.

The show finished with Pauline and Todd McKenney performing Fever. Neither made a convincing show of singing the song. There was a bit of a dance interlude (allegedly the rhumba) during the bridge. The dancing was every bit as convincing as the singing; the whole performance appeared to be pitched at the vicarious embarassment buffs in the audience. Hanson's performance didn't demonstrate any surprising talent that we'd never seen before and McKenney's had me wondering how, exactly, he had managed to score the lead part in The Boy From Oz. Apparently he's since lost it to Hugh Jackman, for the next Australian production, but, I've read, he's glad for Hugh and not the tiniest bit miffed about it. Really. According to the Sydney Star Observer the show is, or was, supposed to tour the Gold Coast and then come down to Melbourne. With the best will in the world I can't help hoping that the comprehensive bucketing it's had from the critics will have put paid to that notion.

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