Tony, the godfather, with the energy of audacity
“I have been bitter with you, my brother,
Remembering that saying of Lenin when the shadow
Was already on his face: ‘The emotions are not skilled workers.’”
— Ern Malley, Colloquy with John Keats
“It’s hard to see Abbott winning from here.”
— Bob Ellis, September 2, 2013
Flash forward: like in Mulholland Drive, all shiny surfaces and not knowing where you are in the diegesis. I’m so pissed I can barely stand up. Two bottles of white at the Five Dock leagues club at the end of the day while we waited to be decanted to a Liberal fundraiser, where there turned out to be a free bar, of which I appeared to have been the only journo to take advantage.
It’s the Lib fundraiser of something something at a resto called Le Montage near Balmain of all places. Everyone’s here — Abbott, Howard, Robb, Bishop, Bishop, Heffernan, etc, etc. And of course that arsehole Roger Corbett, that stooge, yukking it up at a Liberal function. A journo takes a photo of him. He beetles over.
“I didn’t give you permission to take my photo!” Gak. Torn between the gonzo ideal of dumping my free wine over him and the fact that Crikey would never get a press pass again. I restrain. The room — blue ’80s lighting, jellyfish chandeliers, like being inside Julie Bishop’s head, spins as I barrel towards Robb … and he tells me something very interesting …
1. That’s Amore (Flemington Markets, Sydney)
Forklifts everywhere in the mad ramjam of the Sydney markets, dozens of ‘em crossing back and forth between the dozen or so long, low buildings, the enormous sheds and pitches the low hangars of fruit in boxes and boxes and boxes, crates of oranges, of avocados, pallets of green bananas and on and on. In the middle of it, there’s a shit band playing. Rock Around the Clock, Route 66.
Kerbside Attraction. OK they’re not shit, they’re pretty good, bunch of middle-aged guys rocking it out, the lead singer has either a bad rug or hair that looks like it. Not bad at all, but it’s 7am for chrissake, I do not want to hear this music now.
There are stalls and dancing of sorts, there’s a dancing giant banana and a dancing apple and of course what no such gathering is without, a Paedo-Bear, spruiking for cancer, or against it. I think it’s a bear. It might be a chipmunk. With its fat little outstretched cheeks, it might be Craig Laundy, Liberal challenger for Reid.
But oh no, Laundy is here, working the market. So’s Andrew Fraser. Premier Barry O’Farrell in a $9 top with Foster’s badges on it, like an OAP looking for discarded parsnips. John Sidoti, state Lib, Keatingesque, Joejacksonish, rocking out a black-and-pink houndstooth jacket, and anyone who can pull that off gets my vote anytime. And of there’s some joker in a Joe Hockey suit. Oh no, actually it’s Joe Hockey.
We’re all here, tired, shivering press, pollies, and the thousand souls who work here for today’s mango auction, an event in the calendar, when the first box of mangos is auctioned for charity, prostate and other s-x cancers, which are apparently in the tank for Tony.
The Sydney markets are the world everyone is here beneath these dull green shed roofs, Chinese-Australians here a hundred years, Italians speaking dialect, Vietnamese strivers and that mid-range folks you can only describe as wogs, Australian/Mediterranean, not the old SBS crowd, exuberant, and Oz-accented what Miami calls guineas, the Tsiolkas massive.
But man, it’s so Mafia. “This is like The Sopranos,” said someone, which is a solecism since it actually is what The Sopranos is based on, a lot of gold chains a lot of black hair dye and a lotta, lotta cash. Kevin Rudd was here a coupla weeks ago and was both cheered and also roundly booed, which any fool could have told them would happen.
And on Wednesday morning, in a parade of white comm cars that made it looked like he was arriving at a mob wedding, Tony Abbott motored into town to own this place, totally own it, and not only beat out Kevin Rudd and Labor, but make them kiss the whip. And as he got out of the car and strode through the crowd, you saw how easy it was to just give up and go with Tone. There’s an element of sadism here. Rudd was roundly abused when he came here two weeks ago. “Get out of our lives!”
It’s so over. It’s not merely over by the numbers and the issues, it’s over by the energy, the glamour, the style. Tony Abbott, tight and muscular beneath a blue suit, still with the simian look about the face, strides into the market like he owns the joint, which he clearly does. It’s like finding yourself in a Weegee photo, for goddsake.
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