The original title was, ‘Who’s on First? and What’s on Second?’ I remember hearing the skit with my family as we sat around the giant radio in our living room. The radio was easily the largest piece of furniture in the house, excepting beds. Father was convulsed and the rest of the family joined the mirth. The humorous baseball skit by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello came from the Kate Smith Hour on national radio in 1938. It was an immediate countrywide hit and would be considered to be the funniest and most successful skit in vaudeville history. I would encourage the reader to Google for the video.
You see, this skit is a metaphor for the increasingly humorous, comical, laughable and sometimes droll leadership which is referred to as our Tasmanian government. The trouble is…government is not supposed to be funny. Governments are supposed to be fountains of leadership. Instead, they have become dry mud puddles who blame their dryness on the lack of rain. Nothing is their fault. It is like Adam blaming God in the Garden of Eden, “It’s not my fault Lord, it’s the woman you gave me!” The descriptive words to be used about government today are more like ‘preposterous, mediocre, embarrassing and sadly…sad’.
It does not make me feel superior to write this as I personally know some of the very good pollies in the ranks of government. They DO exist. However, in the past two Tasmanian decades we have seen the rapid skulking of parties empowering, NOT the people but, empowering the vested interests such as big businesses, (Forestry) professional sporting teams (AFL, Cricket), horse racing and especially the rusting on of jobs for the good old boys of business and unions. (Names withheld for fear of being sued). And when the good old boy (or girl) leaves their frequently cushy jobs because they fear they would not win their next election, they are offered even better paying jobs with such organizations as Hydro or a seat on another cushy company such as a national or state bank…or perhaps a board membership with an auto club.
‘I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!’ Google Peter Finch and listen to his speech from the movie Network (1976). Finch’s tale may be a mythical happening but it is exactly how I have come to feel and I know that many Tasmanians share my judgment. In fact, this feeling of powerlessness has become national and world wide. Where will the next national explosion be? Unfortunately, not Tasmania.
How can I trust my government when both parties who have alternately given each other power for over a century are still a boys’ (and now a boys’ and girls’) club and power is kept in the hands of the same old, tired power brokers of the past? Read the names of the elected officials from state and local government for the last 100 years and you will discover a preponderance of repeated family names…and that does not count the inter-related families with different surnames which almost doubles the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ of the anointed. For example, almost two hundred years ago a Tasmanian politician presented (successfully) a bill to pay a high reward for any Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) pelt or specific parts thereof. He was convinced, without proper investigation, that tigers were killing his sheep. The aristocracy of government continued this myth with the result we now have concerning the animal’s habitat: possible extinction. Perhaps the tiger still exists, perhaps not. What we do know is that the same old tired pollies of the past continued the myths and with it received high rewards from pelts and land. And they were wrong! Just as our present mob is wrong about priorities.
These rewards continue today for the holders of power. ‘Of course,’ they say, the new raise in pay is not of our doing nor is it within our control!” That is pure @#%$#&*! as it has been these same pollies, national as well as state, who developed the ‘independent committee groups’ to examine politicians’ income…and then the pollies proceeded to load the new committees with their own kind. The result we know and the increases we pay. Independent Committees my eye!
I have a friend who needs two new hips and one new knee. His waiting time is only to be estimated. It is more today than it was last month. Huge new editions to our hospitals are being built and/or planned. A fancy parking lot is being built for another hospital. Yet beds close, nurses sacked and there are empty wards waiting for the ill. Yet, we are told by these same pollies that ‘The money comes from different pockets! We have no control over the purse.’ Bugger that bit of palaver too…the money comes from the people and the businesses…and the dance continues with all dancers facing each other and watching their partner’s steps. They continue to race with the moon. Schools close, some teachers are told to get redundancies only to find out their pensions and funds will not be enough for them to have a long-term retirement. And to have a degree in teaching will not guarantee you much of anything, except a nice party after graduation and a chance to go overseas to another, and probably poor, country.
‘Who’s running this government?’ Lou Costello would ask. To which Bud Abbott would answer ‘What’s’ not… Maybe ‘I Dunno’ is.’ No, ‘I Dunno’ plays Education’ ‘Why?’ No he plays Health.’ Well then, Who is Tomorow?’ No, Who runs the government.’ Why, no he plays Health.’ He does? Because ‘Tomorrow’ plays forestry and gets to call off the game if it rains. You see, he is a mudder.’ ‘A mudder?’ ‘Yes, a mudder.’ Who does, No, ‘Who runs the government and ‘Tomorrow’ plays forestry.’ ‘OK, then ‘Sure’ runs Roads and Bridges and ‘Who’ tries to keep track of all the players and tell them what to do but they won’t listen.’ ‘Why?’ No ‘Why’ plays Health.’ ‘And don’t forget that ‘Tomorrow’ is replacing ‘Today’. You got it all wrong, ‘Naturally’. ‘No he plays Fishing and Boats’. ‘Naturally’. Yes, you finally got it…‘Naturally’ plays boats.’
Then Lou Costello could have asked Bud Abbott in total frustration, ‘Tell me then, what would happen if all of the politicians got into a new Boeing Dreamliner on their way to a planned ‘Dreaming’ conference, all expenses paid of course, to Bali…and the plane crashed with all aboard. Who would become the government? ‘No Who is dead.’ OK, then who would run the government? ‘Simple, their sons and daughters and close friends. You would not even notice the difference!’ ‘Naturally’.
It ain’t funny…really…but this is what the state of affairs in Tasmania seems to becoming. ‘Who’ ain’t on first and ‘What’ ain’t on second. There is another player Costello and Abbott forgot. That is, ‘Too Hard’.
Perhaps a second team of independents can take over. It seems like ‘Nobody’ is on first and ‘Never’ is pitching.