Keating: the musical

31 Oct

Keating! opens at the Belvoir Theatre (I live next to it, almost) on November 11, a nice irony that. I am very tempted to avail myself of my Seniors Card discount and go.

Casey Bennetto’s scathingly hilarious lyrics tear through the reign and tragic fall of the Placido Domingo of Australian politics in a production with Neil Armfield and comic satirist John Clarke blowing wind into Casey’s spinnaker.

Part French farce, part Greek tragedy, and all Australian history, “the country soul opera we had to have” transports you back to a time less politically grey as it charts the rise, fall and rise again of an antique clock collector from Bankstown.

SIGH over duets between a love-struck Cheryl and Gareth!
HISS the mean spirited ghost of Lazarus with a triple bypass!
THRILL to the spectacular settings from the plush sitting rooms of Kirribilli House to the Bankstown RSL!

How could I miss it?

PJK, meanwhile, has been the perfect grumpy old man with his attack on the post-modernisation of Sydney.

In a scattergun speech to rank alongside his most famous fusillades, the former prime minister yesterday unloaded on the NSW Minister for Planning.

Mr Keating said Frank Sartor had become “the mayor for [Harry] Triguboff”, called for a ban on political donations by developers and expressed disgust at the “mediocrity” of modernist design…

The greatest reaction, though, came as the self-styled aesthete was still at the podium, telling his audience that “knocking back outdoor advertising companies, kicking them in the bum, should be a national sport”.

Mr Keating was clearly enjoying the guffaws as he worked through a list of his favourite targets, principally architects and developers. He said if councils did not stop “rapacious” property magnates such as Mr Triguboff, chairman of Meriton, spreading the “disfiguring eczema” of modernist design, Australian cities could look as barren as Tokyo…

Worse, however, was “the NSW planning minister – whoever that may be from time to time; they do have a history of not lasting – [who] is the mayor for Triguboff, and the mayor for the other developers who’ve got projects over a certain value”.

“The wall of money coming at a minister in these jobs is phenomenal because as you know, the industry is into political donations, which in my opinion should be outlawed.”

Property developers have donated more than $5 million to NSW Labor since it was re-elected in 2003.

Later, Mr Sartor said he did not “believe [Mr Keating] was referring to me, as he made a point of telling me afterwards. In any case, my record as lord mayor of Sydney clearly shows otherwise.”

I live in an earlier Meriton development, as does M in another. I have seen how they were built. My father was a builder/carpenter, as it happens, who had certain standards about quality of workmanship. He used to say back in the 1970s that such standards had gone the way of all greed. He must be turning in his grave today.

Still on Keating, Peter Costello, the PM in waiting and waiting and waiting, has given PJK a serve over the granting of permanent residence to Sheik Hilaly after the infamous 1988 sermon on the International Zionist Conspiracy.

The Australian Federal Police said they were monitoring the sheik but it was understood his comments about jihadists did not amount to incitement under the new sedition laws.

Mr Costello said the former prime minister Paul Keating should not have intervened to keep Sheik Hilaly in Australia when he was due to have been deported. “Keating wanted his votes, not just for the election but probably for branch-stacking purposes.”

Mr Keating refused to answer questions about the sheik yesterday, saying he would not be harassed by journalists.

Mr Costello added: “This sermon, it was preached to 5000 people, wasn’t it? No-one seemed to complain when it was preached. It took a long time for it to come out. No people stood up in the middle of the sermon and said, ‘This is unacceptable.”‘

John Howard certainly didn’t at the time, not that I recall anyway. His focus was elsewhere at that time:

Meanwhile the McPhee-Howard wet-dry conflict continued. Howard had sacked McPhee from his frontbench in April 1987. In August 1988 McPhee crossed the floor to vote against Howard when Howard wanted an immigration policy to discriminate against Asians. The Victorian Party machine set to work and in April 1989 McPhee lost pre-selection to David Kemp, with Howard watching ‘passively’ on the sidelines while his greasy staffer Graeme Morris was working the media.

I was teaching at Masada College, an excellent Orthodox Jewish school, in 1988 when Hilaly preached that sermon. I was surrounded by South Africans and Israelis. No-one, as I recall, suggested Hilaly should be deported back then, though they were none too pleased by what he said, but they had heard it all before and were not surprised. There has always been, at least since the foundation of the State of Israel, a strand of political Islam that bears quite an amazing resemblance at an ideological level to some of the ideas that had currency in Nazi Germany or Tsarist Russia, where that obscene forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion had its origins. It is still in circulation in parts of the Islamic world, and among the KKK and White Supremacist nutters in the USA and elsewhere. So nothing Hilaly said surprised them.

Rather, I remember asking a colleague at Masada what she liked about Australia compared with South Africa. “Not being woken at 3am by secret police searching for subversive literature,” she replied. When they felt nostalgic, my Israeli colleagues used to go down to the Lebanese restaurants in Surry Hills for a bit of home-style cooking…

We were all a bit less paranoid in 1988.

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