Most of you will remember Tony Barber as the host of Sale of the Century but he’s also quite a social and political thinker as this little piece on Australia’s political culture demonstrates.

The real electoral pie is here all the time though, and it has a brittle crust of conservatism, that the ambitious representative must chew and swallow with enthusiasm, if he/she is to get and stay in the cafe51.

It’s an old crust; an amalgam of the so called “baby boomers” and their parents, demographically doomed to the sweet remembrances of the 50s and 60s, pre-Vietnam when Australia was an easier place in which to live, and the rest of the world was where it should be; a long way away. When Frank Sedgeman was the quintessential quiet achiever (in SS Volley, home made tennis shoes), and after you came back from your Women’s Weekly World Discovery Tour, you’d seen it all, and weren’t you bloody glad you lived here anyway.

As it happens the crust is thick. Metaphorically, and otherwise. There are millions of them. It’s the main reason we have One Nation, commercial talk-back radio, and no Australian Head of State. The crust hates saying “I’m sorry”, at least to the aborigines. It has a pathological and fear-based loathing of Lleyton Hewitt, (who wears Nike, carries a big racket and attitude). And don’t even talk about the refugees.

Gough and Paul, just for short periods of time managed to chew on this crust by sprinkling it with a dust of genuine ideology and vision, converting it into an edible cake, such as you might find in an international bakery. But you can’t have your cake and eat your electoral pie too. Not for too many meals anyway.

Now we now have the small perfectly formed baker who knows exactly how to cope with the crispy part of the pie, versus the big bloke who wants to get into the kitchen. So far the ALP response to the issues dominating the political pot pouri since the refugee crisis, and the events of September 11 have been decidedly crusty, but the fact is that part of the pie is spoken for.

The people who believe Johnny would make a better war-time Prime Minister, aren’t about to change their minds either so really, what’s Kim got to lose by taking a principled stand pro-immigration. It would satisfy many within the party who want more delineation and maybe, just maybe, stir that part of the pie that’s not all crusted over.

If the big bloke can’t muster up some culinary magic over the next few weeks, we could be in for an extended period of National indigestion.

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Peter Fray

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