Charles Waterstreet - Opinion on his appearance on Q&A
Fish out of global waters
July 10, 2011
Illustration by Rocco Fazzari
If there was ever a doubt that Australia is a multi-ethnic, rainbow-coloured, miniature United Nations of migrants, a hotchpotch of peoples from all over the globe who floated down to the bottom of the world, washing up here, then the origins of the panel on last week's Q&A with Tony Jones nails it.
Foolishly I agreed to be on the ABC TV program, as I did not realise that only the questions were sorted out by a sifting process of tweets, emails and other forms of graffiti, not the answers, which you had to make up on the spot.
Q&A is live, like really live, not like in the cricket or football broadcasts, which is minutes behind, but live live, like in real life. I was the cold fish out of these waters, as everyone else had made something incredible out of their lives, whereas my life was barely credible. At one moment I thought I was on an international cruise ship listening to the Scottish lilt of Elizabeth Ann Macgregor on my left, interrupted by the brogue of Belgian-born Mathias ''Arnie'' Cormann to my extreme left but from the extreme right really, and most extraordinary of all, Penny Wong, Finance Minister, born in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, to an Australian mother and Malay-Chinese father, who moved to Australia when she was eight, completing arts law and navigating the most onerous of federal portfolios, climate change and finance, with aplomb.
Stephen O'Doherty, CEO of Christian Schools Australia, stepped in for John Hewson, who piked at the last moment. O'Doherty is the size of a jockey but has the debating skills of a giant. Senator Cormann showed early promise with the hand skills of a poker-machine addict, a handsome face that mirror images Bill Shorten and teeth that bespeak much fluoride in Belgian drinking water.
Penny Wong has the punching power of Manny Pacquiao. O'Doherty has a strong fist himself. Jones juggles them neatly and swiftly changes feet and topics. There are many things I wished I had said and some I wish I hadn't. Macgregor knew many things outside her portfolio as curator and re-inventor of the fabulous Museum of Contemporary Art. She is her own powerhouse.
Like an idiot schoolboy I had prepared questions for the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia. I was swotting for the wrong exam. If it had come up , I could have hit them with my off-the-cuff, fully prepared, ad-hoc ad-lib that we should be killing our own cattle here and if necessary allow boat people trapped in Indonesia to come here as long as they take jobs at abattoirs killing cattle, then it's win-win. Indonesia gets rid of its boat people; we get cheap butchers and make a killing. Philip Nitschke can consult on mercy killings.
I wish I hadn't said the arrival of Europeans was a peaceful invasion but Invasion Day is ridiculous because we are only temporary caretakers for the Chinese, who are going to be economic invaders in the near future. Father Bongiorno was right - there are reds under our beds but they're diggin' for coal while we sleep. Gay marriage is a hot-button issue and the irony of having an unmarried couple in the Lodge and Penny Wong ready to set a date to marry her girlfriend didn't need me to state it. Why on earth would gays and lesbians want to give up the free-wheeling lifestyle to join an institution that is crumbling before our very eyes? Beats me, but let's spread the misery around.
Gays have always been light years ahead. Forget RSVP. Gays have Grindr, an app with a GPS and a map that allows users to have instant knowledge of hot studs in the area, photos, potential meeting places nearby and available times.
The New Gay website totes it as the ''biggest change in gay hook-ups since the 'hanky code'''. Gays used hankies to hook up, whereas straights use them to blow noses. But straight geeks can, happily, get with the program. Grindr is getting ready to launch a heterosexual version, called Project Amicus.I have been an amicus curiae (friend of the court) on a number of occasions, where you appear for no fee to offer assistance, so I'm wary of Latin phrases used in English.
All I know is my signals are not working: tongue out, the Joker grin and the long stare have all gotten me nowhere. If I had such an app I could have let Elizabeth Ann Macgregor know that I would be outside the Contemporary Art museum 20 minutes after the show. I'd probably have been there for the rest of the night, alone.