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Life out of Balance

I recall 1982 as a confluence of firsts. As I began my thirty first year, life seemed as an endless sequence of possibilities, rolling toward a future gilded with boundless opportunity.

The bitter years of the Fraser interregnum, triggered by the dismissal of Gough Whitlam rapidly gave way to Bob Hawke’s unstoppable rise.

The scent of optimism seemed sweet as spring. And to celebrate an inevitable change in fortune, I tagged along to a movie at the Valhalla Cinema in Glebe Point Road Sydney.

The film had an improbable, unpronounceable name. Koyaanisqatsi introduced three elements which remain with me as I contemplate my seventieth year:- the concept of dystopia, the music of Philip Glass and the reality of an ‘unbalanced life’ as expressed in the Hopi language.

The Hopi people, who occupy much of the south western states of the United States of America, today live their own Koyaanisqatsi — unbalanced life — brought about by the ravages of the COVID-19 virus.

It is as if the world is now flickering through the images of this remarkable film … but with notable exceptions.

I’ll use another film title to continue the metaphor. The Usual Suspects of Trump, Bolsinaro, Johnson, Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte … the list seems endless … persist with the notion normalcy will return, and economies will do what they did before the virus.

To quote Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects:- “the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Switch on any news channel and see for yourself.

The United States is paralysed by conspiracy theories. And in the absence of Government initiatives, Brazil’s street gangs patrol the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, warning people to stay indoors. The death toll from the virus in the United Kingdom surpasses Italy and Spain. So much for BREXIT.

Tankers filled to the Plimsol Line with Middle Eastern oil, sit off the American coast, waiting to off-load a cargo nobody wants.

And as Australian art institutes crumble, football teams occupy Tamworth and Albury-Wodonga with seeming impunity.

At the National Press club on May 5 2020, Treasurer Frydenberg ruled out public works as a way of rebuilding a shattered economy, preferring instead the so called nous of the private sector.

This despite the greatest example of a kowtow by billionaire Andrew Forrest, when he invited a spokesperson of the Chinese Communist Party to an asinine press conference about his donation of 90 tonnes of medical supplies via his Minderoo Foundation.

Never mind the fact Forrest will pocket a tidy tax right-off of this so called goodwill gesture, courtesy of an army of accountants.

And while Australian citizens of Chinese descent are beaten bloody in the streets of our cities, Senator Kristina Keneally lets loose a high-pitched dog whistle about immigration.

Sky After Dark invited pauline hanson (lower case intended) on to its various Conspiracy Corner programmes (upper case intended) to make merry with Keneally’s ill-timed and intemperate Op-ed published in The Sydney Morning Herald on May 3 2020.

Not even a smooth talking Senator Penny Wong on the ABC’s Q and A on May 4 2020 could explain away Keneally’s nationalistic clanger, which I contend, was probably not cleared by the office of the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese.

Despite this the endless political coup within the LNP rolls on. The NSW Deputy Premier and National Party head kicker John Barilaro, at the behest of Barnaby Joyce, scorned the hapless Federal Leader of the Nationals Michael — Micmac — McCormack, for not backing his tilt.

Cartoon by Alan Moir (

And the NSW State MP for Bega Andrew Constance, famous for wasting billions of public dollars bankrolling private toll roads, imperils the Berejiklian Government by throwing his hat into the ring to contest the Federal Seat of Eden Monaro.

I’m not saying Constance cannot win Mike Kelly’s old bailiwick, but the following quote, plus endless footage of Scott Morrison’s disastrous handling of the conflagration around Eden, will haunt the Constance campaign, or doom it altogether.

“To be honest with you, the locals probably gave him [Morrison] the welcome he probably deserved. I say this to the Prime Minister today, the nation wants you to open up the cheque books, [and} obviously help people rebuild their lives.”

So with Constance pulling out do we say hello … Jim Molan?

Unless the Australian Budget remains our common wealth, a majority of Australians face the prospect of impoverished, unbalanced lives for the foreseeable future.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Vote for Molan? Why not pray for pox. Molan is an old decrepit, rotting conservative with uncivilised, primitive superstitious views on vital topics. He can rave to himself on the dunny but is an unfit type for public office of any kind. Constance is gone, thank goodness. His hollow and vacuuminous attitudes to reality and need make him unsuitable where he is now, let alone an imaginary promoted position. Australia needs more planning, foresight, collaboration, consultation, social input, and NO MORE conservative cliquery, cronyism, insider’s profiteering graft, old boy networks, short term filth and depravity in lack of answerability.

  2. RomeoCharlie29

    I think Molan would be an excellent choice for the LNP, he exudes the self importance and sense of entitlement, which are practically essential requirements for the party and, in doing so, will almost guarantee Labor holds the seat. Phil, in his inimitable way, has drawn attention to Molan’s unsuitability which will, in consequence, almost guarantee his preselection. I just wish Morrison would have an attack of the hubris, believe his own bullshit, and call an early election on the basis of his magnificent response to the ‘Rona.

  3. Roland Flickett


    You have more or less reproduced the Liberal Party application form there. You have covered all the requirements. Molan ticks every box.

  4. Neil

    Murderin’ Molan

  5. Terence Mills

    So it’s up to Newscorp to nominate the candidate for Eden-Monaro> is that how it works ?

    Let’s not forget that Jim Molan has never been elected to our parliament. In December 2017, during the parliamentary eligibility section 44 crisis, the High Court declared him elected in place of Fiona Nash, who was ineligible to stand. He was not re-elected to the Senate in the 2019 federal election. But on 10 November 2019, Molan was selected by the NSW Liberal Party to fill the casual vacancy left by the resignation of Senator Arthur Sinodinos.

  6. Henry Johnston

    This is a fast moving story with far right Liberal Veep Teena McQueen spruiking Tony Abbott as a candidate for Eden Monaro. Oh wait. Now she is denying this claim! Quick. Call Rupert!

  7. Roland Flickett

    They should pre- select George Pell. Having two jobs had never been a barrier in the LNP.

  8. wam

    certainly an interesting creation the film never made its way north. Koyaanisqatsi is the word for today thanks boobby, and, for me, with smirko and dutton in charge, today, barring another miracle, is forever
    The film, 30 years earlier, that allowed me to reject the ooga booga of jewish white american film depiction of africans starred dorothy dandridge and harry belaphonte and an all black cast. To a teenager dandridge in a red skirt was bloody beautiful

  9. Matters Not


    probably not cleared by the office of the Leader of the Opposition

    If that was the case then Albo might as well step down right now because there’s one thing that Shorten achieved, and will be remembered for, and that’s party discipline. Can’t imagine Keneally who’s been in senior leadership positions herself on several occasions would want to be a lone ranger on this issue. That Albo hasn’t sacked her is powerful evidence that he at least knew about it and then permitted same. Doesn’t mean, of course, that he agrees with it. Even ‘flying kites’ have their value.

    (PS – try tax write-off.)

  10. carole

    A great article, however As a rusted on Labor voter and a believer in multiculturalism, I have to agree with Kristina That we must have a proper review of immigration. The immigration policy is the only thing that keeps this government afloat. Immigrants are relied upon to lift our GDP and as long as Morrison and Frydenberg can rely on them, there will never be an effort to kickstart our economy with infrastructure spending. Immigrants do lift our building and construction industries but you need a government that will raise services at the same time. It’s obvious that we need more hospitals, schools, housing and public transport when we allow our population to grow uncontrollably. When KK refers to Australians and putting Australians first, she is including all the migrants that are currently here. She is advocating for a better living standard for all of us.
    So while I agree with everything else that has been said, let’s not let Frydenberg and Morrison off the hook by alluding to disunity in the Labor Party, KK being a rebel or Albo being blindsided or undermined.
    A rational debate about immigration is long overdue.

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