On backyard cricket

Australia appears to have become a nation governed by people who proudly engage in legalised child abuse, torture and neglect. Both the ALP and the Coalition conspired to make that happen, and we now have the brain-bending spectacle of a Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse ruthlessly laying bare the predatory practices of nearly every significant institution in the country that has ever had care of a child, while the institution of government continues to blatantly torture the children it has care of on Nauru and elsewhere.

It’s worth asking what it is that makes Australians so keen to imprison and brutalise children. We are, after all, a people with some professional experience of abusing children in large numbers. But we have never had both political parties boasting of it as an example of their moral strength.

When Malcolm Fraser was prime minister I thought he was the spawn of Satan. But Fraser looks like a Summerhill graduate compared to Tony Abbott, whose racism, misogyny, smirking declarations of cruelty and outright weirdness are enough to give nightmares to young and old.

The fact that he is political toast is no consolation. Behind the gimcrack stage sets of the sordid operation called federal government, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop are locked in vicious hand-to-hand combat to decide which one of them sucker punches Abbott first. Their titanic struggle undoubtedly takes place in some dread lair of the 1 per cent, the air thick with smoke and hysteria, before serried rows of the faithful, all shrieking like baboons and throwing crumpled $100 bills into the bloodstained arena. Scott Morrison squats grinning like a dentist, eyes spinning with paranoia, while Christopher Pyne blurts out random profanity and cackles like a chicken, George Brandis foams at the mouth, and Joe Hockey puffs on a cigar the size of a stovepipe that – no matter how much he swaggers – still makes him look like he’s sucking on an infant’s dummy.

Eventually Turnbull or Bishop will emerge triumphantly from the thunderdome and drive Abbott into the street with jeers and kicks.

Turnbull is, in fact, looking a little pale lately. And whether it’s from blood loss because of all the knives in his back, or just the relentless strain caused by pretending to be a friend of the people while still harbouring the cruellest neoliberal fantasies in his black wizened banker’s heart, who can say?

Of course, none of this evil state of affairs would be happening at all, were it not for the mindboggling ineptitude of the ALP. Labor could fuck up the making of a Vegemite sandwich, even with the instructions carved in granite and slowly recited by Kylie Kwong. With their history of vindictive incompetence, one can only conclude that Labor is actually a franchise of the Coalition. When we get sick of the gurning vicious mugs of the Coalition, they temporarily replace themselves with the gurning, slightly less vicious mugs of the ALP who keep the machinery of cruelty oiled-up while they refresh themselves on Grange Hermitage and lectures from the Lord Monckton.

‘What will it take to resist these maniacs and elect a government that isn’t dominated by bloodthirsty robots?’ I said to my friend Tallulah as we hurtled along the Pacific Highway in her Karmann Ghia, listening to Suzi Quatro, late for an avant-garde music festival run by mad people and neurotics.

‘You are a naïve fool,’ she said, taking her hands off the wheel to light another cheroot. ‘Democracy is an irritating inconvenience for Abbott and his crew of sadistic low-rent incompetents. It is seriously getting in the way of their brutal visions of the neoliberal apocalypse, and it has to go.’

She is probably right. Things are at a pretty pass, and it is hard to imagine a more vicious and laughably incompetent government in Australian history than Abbott’s.

Tallulah laughed like a crow and said, ‘At the next Federal election the entire voting population should stay home and play backyard cricket. We will call it Cricket for Democracy. Even that ruthless savage John Howard knows that backyard cricket must include everyone, regardless of gender, age or ability.’ That is true. Adults show infinite patience with small children – spooning them catches and temporarily dropping the LBW rule – and are pretty quick to come down on Uncle Terry’s delusion that he is Chris Gayle.

Tallulah cursed a stretch limo as we scorched by. She blew smoke out of the window and said, ‘It has to be better than standing in a queue trying to decide between the lying child-abusing ALP or the lying child-abusing Coalition.’

I have done some strange and shameful things in my life, and the longer it gets the more it is starting to look like a hallucinatory description of the Battle of Stalingrad written by Terry Pratchett. I may well do a lot more shameful things too, despite my resolve to become more considerate and continue to swear off the drugs and the vodka. But voting for serial child abusers won’t be contributing to the sum of my stupidity.


Stephen Wright

Stephen Wright’s essays have won the Eureka St Prize, the Nature Conservancy Prize, the Overland NUW Fair Australia Prize and the Scarlett Award, and been shortlisted for several others. In 2017, he won the Viva La Novella Prize. His winning novel, A Second Life, was published by Seizure, and also won the Woollahra Digital Literary Prize for Fiction.

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