Australians are falling off their chairs, all over the nation as they guffaw, hoot and cackle with laughter at the latest offering from the Federal government’s veteran entertainer, Joe Show-biz Hockey. Just as he predicted. Almost. Well, he got the chairs bit right.
Lenore Taylor says it’s not scary. But then she spoils it all by giving reasons. Typical. She’ll never be on Team Australia. Trust is what’s called for. Respect. True belief. All long gone, you say. Just you watch. The show’s the thing.
From its catchy title to its up-beat, all-singing, all-dancing closing finale, ‘Living within our means’ with its touching chorus of colourful elderly beggars plaintively singing about their love of poverty, constant hunger, ill-health and the freedom of living rough whilst being moved on by riot squads of heavily armed police, The Intergenerational Report is a gag a minute family show which has everything; a great cast, a classic plot and some wonderful numbers.
The stage is dominated by a giant piñata doll effigy of Peter Costello, a sacred figure who founded the IGR tradition with Budget Paper Number 5 in 2002, a sexy little number which was all about dipping into the future which even then was an act of foolhardy bravado if not utter futility but at least it took the focus off his giveaways, lowering taxes and other bribes to stay in power. Costello could not even foresee what he had started. A gifted bureaucrat wrote with a straight face that the report would:
“assess the long term sustainability of current Government policies over the 40 years following the release of the report, including by taking account of the financial implications of demographic change”.
Centre stage, Costello’s fingers are raised in what seems to be a gesture of benediction or perhaps a victory salute. The smirking doll is worshipped by all characters at the beginning of each act until it is smashed in the finale, bursting open in a ticker tape parade explosion of receipts from the sale of the resource boom and other assets.
It is a rich spectacle in a show that takes the incredible into a realm well beyond mere disbelief. Costello’s other hand bears a future fund brief case with over a hundred billion dollars in it which is rescued by a regiment of Iraqi commandos and quickly borne off stage before anyone even thinks of settling any debts.
The most spectacular gag of all, however, is that ordinary punters pay a small fortune for our tickets while multinationals get in almost free because they provide jobs. We must not upset them by asking them to pay their fair share of tax or they will bugger off and leave us to exploit ourselves. Just think of it as spending money to make money, impresario Hockey says. Spending your money to make them money. They are needy and deserving is his punch-line. Quality entertainment is never cheap but look at the cost of funerals these days. Or dental care.
Just the focus groups cost $380, million. Focus groups test your best lines for you. There’d be other costs in there, too, doubtless, including a massive saturation ad campaign, but what can you get these days for under a billion? Star of the show is MC Joe Hockey whose torch song opening brings the house down with a seductive number about starting a conversation reprising the Eurythmics’ Would I lie to you?’
The IGR plot is surreal. It creates the most implausibly fantastic future scenario: ‘No carbon tax, not never and policies to stay the same for ever,’ goes the chorus. No change for forty years but government will lower income tax rates every year. Labor either never gets elected or its carbon tax policy is not reintroduced. Technology never evolves nor makes work more possible, more profitable. There is no ink wasted on the renewable energy industry nor the boom it could bring not just to lower power costs but also to exports.
‘Blame it on the old; their lives are over’ is a toe-tapping Bossa Nova number which scapegoats an ageing population for raising health costs. Pressure on the system, in fact, comes from the wealthy wanting to be healthy. They then purchase ever more expensive government health services. The old are hunted down by work for the dole youths and deported into work camps.
Our current Treasurer, it is true, struggles a bit with numbers or economics, but give him his due. He makes a great fiddler. And what an act! We should scratch Sebastian and enter Joe in Eurovision. A versatile comic genius, he effortlessly combines parody and pantomime and tops it all off with shlock-horror served with lashings of vaudeville. Everyone gets a chance to hiss the Labor villain right through the show. He’s right behind you! No. Over there. On your right! In 2055 the budget is finally balanced on stage with the assistance of a small tactical nuclear device.
We must give the Hockster his due, his intergenerational report is full of inspired comedic situations such as everybody paying less tax until 2055 or women and elderly folk finding non-existent jobs so that the government can pay less on health and pensions and families may be fed
Climate change is not even a cloud on the report’s horizon because doubtless, factored in is the certainty everything will be fixed by all that direct action that the government is taking. Whew. Or is it that old standby: turn your back on it and it will go away. Either way it’s a shaggy dog story at best.
The last IGR warned ‘the largest and most significant challenge to Australia’s environment. If climate change is not addressed, the consequences for the economy, water availability and Australia’s unique environment will be severe”. Great we’ve cleared all that up. Nice one, Joe.
You have got to hand it to Joe Hockey. He’s really thought this thing through. Talk to me while I lie and frighten you is an approach which commands respect even if it is the rapid step back to create personal space we deploy to safely distance ourselves from the dangerously insane, the intellectually challenged or the nice bicycle brothers heaven sent in suits and sure of themselves all the way down to their patent underclothing who visit your home to chat about God’s Word, Satan’s wicked ways and how to stay out of Hell.
It’s a hell of an act of faith to think you can scare the nation peddling lies and false testimony, making false prophesy and then expect folk to want to talk to you ever again. Or a last, dumb, desperate gamble from a man who knows this is the last time ever the country will suffer an IGR of his making, a man who must know in his water that he will be lucky last past the NSW election. In the meantime, enjoy the show for what it is, the triumph of deluded self-belief and ignorance over any form of science or better judgement. What better epitaph for a government that never rose above an opposition, a party that was elected not for what it might do but because of what it was not, a government so blinded by its far right ideology that it never came close to being in touch with reality.