If the politics in this country were a Charles Dickens novel and every day a page, it would be the most awful piece of Victorian literature ever. Ironically, ‘Great Expectations’ would actually be an appropriate title but we’d probably settle for ‘Great Affectations’ or ‘Malcolm Twist’ – just to avoid confusion. Nobody would buy it and maybe that’s why nobody is buying it now. The voters would be the protagonists of the story, of course. And just like the heroes in Dickens novels we’d find them orphaned by a cruel, political and economic system.

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                The novel starts on a dark night. A crash of thunder and lightning reveals a wretched group of constituents sitting at old wooden benches. As the light slowly improves, some voters can be seen shuffling timidly toward the heartless Master of the orphanage. The sick, disabled, poor, homeless, pensioners – arms outstretched holding a metaphorically empty bowl.

Mr Abbott, could we have some more gruel, please ?”

More !” Abbott shrieks. “You want more ?!” The Master aims a blow at the voters’ heads, in the form of harsh, unfair budget measures and broken election promises.

Okay… now the story continues in this grim fashion for another 2 years. I know! And sadly, this book could not be described as a page turner – ( page a day) 730 of them, so far. So, if you’re still reading after all that time, trying to binge the four seasons of it on Netflix might do serious brain damage.

Eventually, the author gets some editorial advice and decides to change things up.

           Back at the orphanage, the dark curtains are ripped aside to reveal a surprisingly bright and airy space. The voters, slumped over their bowls of porridge, lift their tired heads and squint into the blinding light. Their faces slowly brighten in relief and anticipation. Standing triumphantly on the old Masters table is their saviour, Malcolm Twist.

Three cheers for me!” Malcolm calls out. He’s posing boldly, legs astride and hands on hips. Malcolm is wearing a Robin Hood costume – an anachronism in tights.

There’s never been a more exciting time to be unemployed and homeless,” he calls out, waving a tankard of ale in the air. The voters all cheer. The music starts and the orphanage takes on the appearance of a Victorian era dance hall. They laugh and sing, twirl and swirl into the night.

Sadly, all this joy and frivolity only lasts about a week. I know ! That’s only seven pages. Read them slowly, things are going to get a lot worse.

              Malcolm Twist is slumped in the old master’s chair, elbow on the seat rest and his head in hand. The curtains have been replaced and slivers of light cast the hall in uneven shadows. He’s looking forlornly at his wretched constituents. They are huddled around the wooden tables while the band plays raggedly and out of tune – more a dirge.

‘Why don’t they love me any more ?” Malcolm drones to his band of not-so merry men.

As usual, the Treasurer deflects the question. “This tattered bunch ? They need to be more self reliant and.. ,”

ScoMo suddenly collars a passing voter and demands a fake debt from him. The fellow protests but the Treasurer pushes him away. “You’ve got two weeks !” he spits at the confused man, as he scurries back to the bench.

Just then, Health Minister Sussan Ley stumbles into the hall, looking slightly awkward in a tight fitting bodice and a long, wide gown. She’s been on a shopping spree. Her arms are full of strange Victorian merchandise. Sussan admits she has an impulse buying problem. She looks disdainfully around the hall at the despondent voters and shakes her head.

Ms Ley is followed into the place by another Minister. He is prancing through the door wearing an elaborate wig, curved jacket and fitted breeches. Behind him is a veritable conga line parliamentarians, dressed to the hilt in 19th century opulence. They’re all carrying spectacular gifts for themselves – an unavoidable work expense. Minister Ley shifts her indifferent gaze from the voters to her colleagues and suggests…

 “We really must get more money out of these peasants, or they’ll never afford a better life.”

Then she turns happily to Malcolm – the voters already forgotten.

I just bought a residence in town. I didn’t plan it. I just did,” she announces excitedly.

Then giggles, “Now, I’ve got three.”

          The old master lurking in the corner smiles, menacingly…

And the story has been like that for 16 months now – that’s 480 pages of Victorian tragedy. The novel is far from complete and no one is certain how it will end. But let’s hope it has a Charles Dickens’ flavour. Maybe, like Scrooge…

          Malcolm is visited in his restless sleep by the ghost of past, present, future and persuaded to mend his ways.

Or perhaps a Copperfield ending…

          After a lifetime of bad choices, the government returns to find happiness with it’s true love, the Australian people.

No doubt, if this were a Dickens novel we’d be delivered a happy ending tied in a bow. But in some bizarre literary twist, it seems Malcolm Turnbull is determined to rewrite the genre.

Jim Pembroke January 8, 2017                        View more posts here.

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