Long live the worm. It is so much an intrinsic part of Australia. We are a gentle, if irreverent, people; political assassination is rare. (It is practised only within political parties, members of which are far more murderous than your average Aussie punter).
Just think, whenever a politician intrudes into a sporting contest crowd – and they do it all the time to try to fool the electorate into believing that they are what the Americans call “regular” – the unorchestrated chorus of spontaneous booing and jeering is every bit as Australian as Waltzing Matilda.
We like to take the mickey out of these strutting suits, and just as we tell risqué jokes about them, make up bawdy verse (“The Balls of Bob Menzies”), happily believe the raunchiest gossip, the worm gives us delight in getting our own back at authority in a harmless way that is not yet illegal. Indeed, it would be quite un-Australian to banish the worm. (Come to think of it, why wasn’t the worm featured in Howard’s absurd little booklet on citizenship?)
Sure, one can understand that he is uncomfortable. But he really should not be taking it seriously because it has precious little to do with the fact that he is a cryogenically preserved serial purveyor of terminological inexactitudes; it is simply because he is authority. We obey, but we don’t have to suck up.
Remember the serve he got at the ARL Grand Final? Par for the course. It goes with the territory.
Cast your minds back to the first rugby league State of Origin back in 1980 when the Queensland Rugby League boss, Senator Ron McAuliffe, walked out on to Lang Park in front of an unprecedented 35,000 spectators.
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Striding along with Senator McAuliffe was Gough Whitlam, the former Labor Prime Minister. When the crowd spotted the two Labor politicans there was an enormous eruption of booing and jeering that went on and on. (The rage, it seemed, had ceased to be maintained north of the Tweed).
“McAuliffe,” said Whitlam in a stern voice as he turned towards the Senator, “I never realised how unpopular you are up here.”
If Rudd wins the election, the worm will turn. He will surely cop it next time around, and that’s precisely as it should be.
The worm must be saved.