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Barrow Boys and Spiffs

By Andrew Klein

Barrow Boys and Spiffs: The Australian federal government – parties that damaged the nation – a reflection on the last three years of political escapades in Australia.

I remember listening to the Banking Royal Commission. One of the chaps who was nailed in the first few minutes, confirmed my own view.

In banking, there was a deleterious change in culture that occurred about 30 years ago. In essence, profit before ethics.

I have watched this Australian tragedy unfold since the days of Howard. I mention banking only as an aside, bankers were once regarded as reliable judges of character and pillars of the community.

I remember that 40 odd years ago (I was very young) my banker gave me a reference and it mattered. These days? Spiffs in fancy suits trying to sell questionable products.

Anyway, the fear-mongering that Howard and others engaged in enabled every opportunist meandering through life. The sort of niche pond dweller who at other times , would have ended life as a runner for a bookie in a pub or less.

When I was very young there were these bizarre little shops in Swanston Street Melbourne (a couple of hundred meters away from Flinders Street) and they were operated by men who would sell the most useless rubbish at faux auctions, and people bid and bought.

I grew up and in the 1970s when I put on my first uniform (I was terribly naïve and wanted to serve my country and better the community).

By the time I hit 30 I had seen some terrible things but I was hopeful. I believed that good people could make a difference, that with enough information the general public would make informed decisions. I had travelled and had become familiar with the Middle East, Europe and Asia and by the time that I was 40 I had grown up. Sorry for the digression, the context I suppose.

I am now hitting 70 and I don’t recall a golden age; I recall hope for the future.

Now, after years of watching the antics of Canberra politicians, my own Victorian and those globally, I find that the last 30 years have contributed nothing. In fact, we have gone backwards.

The antics of the Liberal National Party (LNP) are not the cause of the decline, the LNP is a symptom. The spiffs have taken over selling fear and hatred.

I see things today that frightened me when I was a teenager and then only because I had become aware of them. I lived through a time when we worked hard at including others by offering equitable approaches like education and opportunity.

I vividly recall Howard and Abbott lying and deceiving the public on so many things and people lapped it up. These creatures tickled the underbelly of fear and reignited tribalism.

I am stunned that under performers like Joyce, Morrison et al would even get a run in politics. They are the mediocre operators, the spiffs selling trinkets in those long forgotten shops in Swanston Street.

In those days the less discerning consumers would buy these baubles only to find them break and the police would close the barrow boys down and move them on.

Of course they would reappear, suckers are born every minute and at times they would reinvent themselves and open car yards and the media would have a field day exposing the shysters.

Sadly, there is no one empowered to move the spiffs and barrow boys out of Canberra.

More often than not they are not committing a crime, they are opportunists skirting the edge of the amoral and the party commends them, the voters buy the cheap offensive trinkets looking for that golden opportunity to prove that they too have mastered the art of the deal.

Me, I am considering options. I no longer feel at home in the country of my birth, I have seen my country lose so much. Not to a foreign threat or foe but to the mediocrity and its acolytes. Those who measure a man worth only in coin.

I still travel and I am very familiar with Asia and though this might seem bizarre, there are cities there (small and away from the tourist haunts) that remind me of my youth. Covid has changed much of that but I live in hope that I will travel before I peg it.

The buildings are reminiscent of Australia in the 70s and 80s. The people are friendly and I find that entire families eat together rather than farming the kids out to McDonald’s. I know that these places too have their problems, often very serious problems and maybe that is why the people still value each other and the families that they are part of.

I look at that and consider if I have time to make a difference in my life, to end my days feeling that it has been worthwhile.

Right now I see the Tim Wilson carry on, the greed and the pervasive bullshit that I can sense and almost smell that exudes from the likes of Morrison, Dutton and Josh.

The damage these things have wrought and the damage they have done.

Then I see the faces of those who surround me admire the Trumpisms, the valueless and utterly demeaning.

I see the future of Australia, the little kid who tells his mum that a career as a ‘barista’ sounds cool and what’s worse, I see her agree because she too is lost.

I visit the cemeteries and see my friends, their names and the crests on the plaques. I remember how they died.

I have buried their sons and have tried to keep faith with their children. I see their children struggle daily with the cost of living, the lack of affordable housing and utilities.

I see men and women profit and receive accolades and know they ventured nothing.

These creatures get to feel the morning sun whilst my ‘brothers’ smoulder in the dirt.

Australia, you could have been a great place to get old in and die in but you gave birth to things like Fraser Anning and worse.

Australia, you went to sleep and you let hope die!


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  1. Pat

    You are on the money, Australis has gone backwards I see it too . The country we inherited has been sold by a conga line of treasonous political operators

  2. Some Village Hampden

    Andrew, I don’t want to seem a pedant here but these people are not “spiffs” – they are “spivs” and nasty ones at that.

  3. Phil Pryor

    SVH, perhaps ” sensationally pissweak idiots, for f—‘s sake!” I hate spiffs.., they are far worse than spivs…

  4. David Stakes

    A very true piece of writing is this.

  5. L. S.. Roberts

    So merchant bankers have gone down in your estimation; big deal.
    We are watching the end days of capitalism. Rather like Covid, it comes in phases.
    but Carl Marx didn’t write climate change into the equation.

    Australia is still the least worst place on the planet, even with #ScottyfromMarketing.
    It won’t be easy under Anthony but it won’t be easy under anyone.

    Vote preferentially and tactically and vote often.

  6. wam

    never heard of a spiff but spiffy to a pom is a compliment meaning everything’s alright.
    I like amoral because that describes the rabbott The lying rodent, the copperman and scummo are immoral. It is hard to believe that after his speeches 37184 queenslanders gave Anning their first preference. Well not that hard when you think of the service personnel based in Qld? “Australia, you could have been a great place to get old in and die in but you gave birth to things like Fraser Anning…”. In your uniform you must have seen a thousand annings?? He was bred in service and not debriefed.

  7. Harry Lime

    Hard to disagree with your sentiments,but I have grandchildren like many others, and I’m not conceding to the wide boys who think they’re running the country.The Liar is just the latest, worst example of what can happen when people don’t take enough interest in politics,because the current mediocrities are bludgeoning an already shaky democracy.Labor and Albanese are far from perfect,but they are a million times better than the woeful rabble currently stumping the country, lying their arses off.The rot has to be stopped right now.Every single day ,every single announcement by these fools screams of their total unfitness for office.The imbecelic ex walloper only opens his big gob to change feet…Taylor, the Minister for Industry,Energy and Emmissions Reductions? Just emphasises the contempt with which they regard the voter.
    If we don’t vote them into the dumpster of oblivion,we may never recover.

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