Everyday battlers doing it for Phar Lap (or, In the pocket of Big Fondue)

So. A bunch of European bankers with their sharp suits and their cuckoo clocks want to take a break from their fondue parties and ski lodges made of cognac to tell us about doing it tough as a true blue Aussie.

What right they have, I don’t know. In the global economic climate, ‘Euro’ and ‘money’ make as credible a pairing as ‘Fascist Fun Run’ or ‘Relevant Bono’.

Yet when Euromoney magazine named Wayne Swan the world’s Finance Minister of the Year, it presumed to get stuck into his constituents for their despondency. “Surrounded by the consumer baubles that wealth brings, grumpy Australians don’t seem to appreciate how good they’ve had it,” said the report.

“Hard to please,” they call us. “Cloaked in an obstinate melancholia.” With the apparent suggestion being that this is somehow incongruous.

Really, Euromoney? Sure, you can dazzle us with numbers. The 13th-biggest economy despite a population ranking 51st. Second spot on the Human Development Index. Tenth on the millionaires list. One of three OECD countries not to go into recession. Our big six capitals all ranking in the 36 most liveable cities worldwide. Incomes at a record high, savings up, debt and unemployment down.

Even if your mere ten or twelve exhaustive studies are true, there are at least several numbers above us, or below us, depending on what is better. No wonder we lead the world in CO2 emissions. That’s how hard we’re having to work to try and close the gap.

Then with only these flimsy figures that could have been plucked from a phone book, you claim surprise that we’re in the bottom third of the Happy Planet Index, roughly as contented as the people of Sudan.

You call us “dejected lotus eaters”. Well, enough from you econo-spin-magicians-cum-classicists. We all know the truth. The truth that was branded into our scalps by Weary Dunlop with one of Phar Lap’s shoes.

You don’t know how hard it is to be Australian. The drovers, the pioneer spirit. We’ve read Henry Lawnman and Bindi Joe Paterson. Our forefathers had to ride down sheer cliffs on penny-farthings to catch the barber who was worth a thousand pounds so he could stop a dog exploding, then it turns out Ned Kelly was actually an ill-tempered pudding all along.

Let me tell you a few things about hardship. As little as six generations ago, those forefathers grew this country out of nothing but dust and hope and massive, massive deposits of gold. The memory of that toil lies heavy in our limbs, and every time I crack a cold beer at the end of a long hard day’s remembering, I drink for them.

Not for much longer, mind you. Our oldest and proudest brewer, Fosters, is being sold to South Africans. What would some upstart antipodean ex-colony know about brewing? We won’t even have our favourite iconic disgusting beer that no Australians have drunk since 1976.

Sure, Euromoney, we’re “democratic, peaceful, and living in spacious, sun-drenched splendour.” But did you know we’re supposed to put suncream on every time we go and sit on our thousands of kilometres of perfect beaches? Sometimes there are march flies. Sometimes it’s windy and the umbrellas blow over.

We’re not playing around, Euromoney. Some of those things are really annoying. And for those who resist solar fascism, skin cancer rates are huge. Extensive leisure time without basic precautions is a stone-cold killer, just as much as typhoid or cholera or any of the other trendy diseases of the Brussels café au lait set.

You don’t know tough. For years, mums and dads who couldn’t afford nipples fed their young on nothing but the sweat of their own brows mixed with a few of Bill Hunter’s whiskers. These days, there’s the indignity of suggesting that hugely profitable corporations could afford to pay more tax. Every time we hear that lie, a working family dies.

Don’t blather on about our free hospitals and highways and universities and Centrelinks. We earned those. Who deserves things more than the people who already had them? It’s called natural selection. It’s totally in a book and stuff. I think Andrew Hilditch wrote it.

Yet other freeloaders don’t have to earn theirs. All up and down the high grass oceans of Africa, the lunar marshscapes of Asia Minor, the crystal towers where the griffins of Latin America bide their time, is an endless buffet of free lunches, doled out by smug heart-bleeders who send the bill to us.

When was the last time Somalia gave us a handout, that’s what I want to know? Why isn’t Antarctica building a base to study Wangaratta? Where are the Oruzganis building me a school? I want to play blocks.

Even the world champion of hurdles is Australian. Surely poor countries should be best at jumping over stuff and running away? No, that’s how hard we’re working.

But what do we get, for our hard labour, our Eureka stockade sacrifice, our endless quest for bootstraps by which to pull ourselves up? Do you know how hard it is to find bootstraps these days? No-one even knows what those things are.

What do we get? We get the ultimate insult: immigrants coming in to take our stuff. Where do we put them? Can’t put them in the desert, or the pinkos have a parade. Can’t put them in the country, because Jack Thompson needs it for being laconic in commercials. Also did I mention our country towns are dying for lack of residents? Solve that, Europants.

Instead we put them on free junkets to Pacific resorts. While Aussie nippers toil in the koala mines, queue-jumpers sip piña coladas. Then sometimes a bunch of them die on boats which is really bloody selfish because it makes us all feel a bit bad for a little while, except when we don’t.

Each year, boat arrivals equal up to .05 percent of our population. It’s like a Noah’s flood of annoying guilt-tripping cocktail enthusiasts. In just two thousand years they could even equal our 2011 population.

And does the number .05 sound illegal, anyone? Thought so. That’s another thing, we can’t drive home after a few tinnies anymore. I’m fine, I really am. No, I’m fine. Dude, I know what I’m doing. Give me my keys. It’s not easy, Europe. You guys have your magic fireplaces and your Floo powder. We’re living in the real world.

So pay a chimney-visit to Swan. Tell him to stop preening and get back to protecting us from the GFC. Even though it’s a total beat-up and they just wasted all that money. Either that or John Howard saved us. Or the GFC means the carbon tax will destroy us all. Look, I don’t have time for your questions, ok? Ask an economist. Just don’t listen to them, for God’s sake.

It’s time we told it how it really is. It’s time we stopped being robbed of credit for the things our distant relatives have done. If you still want to claim the moral high ground, Euromoney, I’ll meet you at the top. Just get ready for one hell of a penny-farthing race down the other side.






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33 Responses to Everyday battlers doing it for Phar Lap (or, In the pocket of Big Fondue)

  1. Thoraiya says:


    “Even the world champion of hurdles is Australian. Surely poor countries should be best at jumping over stuff and running away? No, that’s how hard we’re working.”

    *tears of laughter*

  2. melissakp says:

    I think I love you.

  3. Ross Kirkman says:

    What can I say? Just love your work!!

  4. Michael says:

    Haha, brilliant as usual. Such a shame the people who need to hear these things never listen. Like you said, it’s either Howard, or they wasted our money, or we’re all rooned because of the carbon tax.

  5. Thalesian says:


    And pretty much spot on for a few Herald-Sun believing bogans I know…

  6. Steph says:

    Well I’m glad somebody had the guts to say it!

  7. Greg says:

    Love your work.

    I’ve been referring to anyone complaining about our government as “dejected lotus eaters” ever since I read that report.

  8. Ando says:

    Ummm, I just don’t know where to start.

    How about, THANKYOU…..for some perspective.

    PS: can you please perform this and have it televised as a public service announcment.

  9. I think the “the people who need to hear these things” would hear it, but without the irony…

  10. Nick says:

    Euromoney magazines award to swann can best be described as “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” that’s my take on it all…. Question is, what are they getting in return ?? Our country is as strong as it is now, because of our booming resource sector, mind you along with economic booms, come economic pressures, chances are most Aussies won’t feel that… But there are those in Australia that do ! To the lot who whinge that we are loosing our lifestyle etc… And life is becoming harder and harder….. I think a few people need to wake up and really see what life is all about. I think to the rest of the world we are now a cash cow… ?? A driver of the world economy, the big end of town that complains if any policy’s that try to contain growth at more manageable levels are just fascism…. Makes me laugh….. Anyway, thx for the laugh Geoff….

  11. J.D says:

    “Why isn’t Antarctica building a base to study Wangaratta? Where are the Oruzganis building me a school? I want to play blocks.”

    Hahahahah so funny I nearly showered my laptop in tea.

  12. Ando says:

    Yep, it’s sure tough here on struggle street!

  13. armagny says:

    Pretty spot on. Although “free hospitals and highways and universities ” is clearly lifted from a post about another country.

  14. fractious says:

    Oi, you leave us “wine-swilling” (nearly Spoonerised that) ingrates with our glum prisms alone.

    Must dash, got to sail my yacht around my multi-homes what are situated in the newly-rejuvenated lake which, thanks to the end of the drought, is now knee-deep in Lotuses (yes, I know, I should have parked them in the garage).

  15. Reversed Concave Spoon. says:

    Lol. Loved all of the digs at the cultural and historical. Only one the flew over my head was the exploding dog one. WTF!

  16. Ruth Lovett says:

    Laughed so hard I broke a nail…..oh no….

  17. John Jacobs says:

    On paper we should all be living like the Sultans in Dubai, bathing in money from our coal, iron ore and coal seam gas. In reality the “working family” is drowning in personal debt and working two jobs. I have a suspicion that every dollar we earn is carefully monitored to ensure that there’s nothing left. If discretionary purchase stats go up, so do petrol prices, interest rates and school shoes to bring any household income surplus back to a manageable 0%.

    What’s a hospital?

  18. Pamela says:

    Geoffrey Lemon, your pieces get more entertaining with each sentence. I am giving you a virtual true blue aussie-battler handshake for that one. Laughed from start to finish with tears in my eyes. I am somewhat confused about the lotus-eating remark from Euromoney though…

  19. Beth Fleming says:

    Thank you … I am full .

  20. Danny Zorzi says:

    Were you pissed when you wrote this? Normally I recommend people don’t blog when they’re drunk, but THAT was hilarious. If you weren’t pissed, bloody good effort!

  21. firstkitten says:

    once again, a brilliantly funny piece that is bang on.

  22. Bonnie says:

    I quite legitimately love you/everything you write

  23. Skinny says:

    lolololol so true! I can’t believe we are as happy as the people of Sudan. Fucking SUDAN?? Dejected lotus eaters indeed.I can’t even turn on the commercial channels anymore because if I hear one more sob story about an aussie-fucking-battler I’m going to loose it. And who exactly are these ‘battlers’? Anybody earning less than $100k apparently, including skilled tradesmen. If you’re a single mother you’re a goddamned martyr. Popping out more kids despite not being able to afford the ones you have only increases you’re martyr status.

  24. chay says:

    get in line, bonnie!

    (seriously…amazing piece)

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