From A Complete Dagg (1989)

New Zealand-born comedian John Clarke’s character ‘Fred Dagg’ was a ‘Freelance Expert in matters of a general character’ on Sydney radio and television in the 1970s and 80s. Clarke wrote a series of satirical pieces on Australian politics for the Sydney Sun-Herald under the title ‘Damon’s Beat’, in the style of Guys and Dolls creator Damon Runyon. Here he meets newly-elected New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner, but interstate and Federal politics in both major parties intrudes:


I am sitting near the window of Mindy’s the other night watching a great deal of rain crashing down into the street and a number of citizens rushing about the place with their collars turned up and their shoes slapping the deck like penguins.

Many guys come through the door and shake themselves and bang their hats on their knees and complain bitterly about the depressing character of the conditions. Several very eye-catching dolls blow in too, although the weather is by no means likely to be the main problem for a doll who walks into Mindy’s.

I am shooting the breeze with a somewhat microscopic dude named Excitable Greiner, who recently replaces Personality Unsworth as the head of certain very extensive local operations. Excitable Greiner has a huge smile on his kisser and is fighting the urge to thank people for their support although the idea of supporting Excitable Greiner never occurs to anyone except perhaps as the down-side of removing Personality Unsworth.

In fact if Excitable Greiner ever finds anything out about the operations for which he is now responsible he will be very annoyed about the overwhelming support he receives from a grateful public and he will wish to be many miles away and possibly on another planet.

As Excitable Greiner and I are sitting there, speaking of one thing and another, we observe a very lean-looking greyhound standing on the back of a truck. In fact it appears the truck’s engine breaks down as Thick Mick has parts of it all over the road and is tossing a coin.

The pooch seems somewhat familiar to me and once I see it move I realise that it is none other than Bannon’s Pride, the favourite for the Big Race which is being run at this time in another part of town and of course this is a most surprising realisation in every respect. Naturally I say nothing to Excitable Greiner about these matters as he is apt to be greatly alarmed if he hears the result of the contest while looking out the window at the winner standing on the back of a truck.

In fact it is a long time since anyone can recall such a short-priced favourite as Bannon’s Pride and for some time I personally suspect the result is somewhat fixed as Little Bob places a G with Burke the Bookie and it is a well known fact that Little Bob does not place Gs with people unless he hears something very convincing.

Of course Burke the Bookie has no trouble laying this bet as he is on the Hospitals Committee and the Schools Committee and is able to free up some of their potatoes if his buddies experience short-term difficulties such as being cleaned out in the crash or getting the result wrong at the races.

Cartoon by Jenny Coopes in 'A Complete Dagg', 1989 (Allen and Unwin)

Cartoon by Jenny Coopes in ‘A Complete Dagg’, 1989 (Allen and Unwin)

The situation is becoming very complex and I consider taking a little night air of a type found some distance from here, but events commence to worsen with the arrival of John the Nose, who is somewhat prominent in the brewing line and who has a worried look on his pan. ‘Good evening, Excitable,’ he says. ‘I wonder if you can assist me. I have Landslide Howard in the car and he requires urgent medical attention.’

‘Thank you for your support,’ says Excitable Greiner. ‘I am distressed to hear of this occurrence as I have nothing but admiration for Landslide Howard.’

‘Landslide and I attend a conference together and I am afraid Landslide sustains a number of cuts and abrasions,’ says John the Nose.

‘I trust no-one else is hurt,’ says Excitable Greiner.

‘There is some limited structural damage to the venue,’ says John the Nose, ‘although happily no one else gets a number of slugs in the thigh while addressing the meeting on law and order.’

‘Goodness me!’ says Excitable Greiner. ‘How can I help poor Landslide?’

‘I do not recall asking you to help Landslide,’ says John the Nose. ‘I want you to help me. We must tie some rocks to Landslide’s very attractive suit and you must hide this Roscoe,’ and he pulls out his persuader and slides it across to Excitable Greiner as he speaks. ‘I also require another vehicle and a good alibi in case the authorities fail to see the merit of my involvement.’

It is at this point that Excitable Greiner reveals that he is by no means the sap he looks. ‘Thank you for your support,’ he says. Two hours later Thick Mick is apprehended carrying the body of Landslide Howard towards the docks and John the Nose is nabbed trying to drive through a police cordon with the winner of Race 5 on the back of a truck.

John Clarke, New Zealander-Australian, 1948-


From Stay in Touch (1983)

During the 1980s, David Dale’s ‘Stay in Touch’ column in The Sydney Morning Herald kept readers up to date with the latest in ‘Animal Acts’, ‘Great Moments in Bureaucracy’, ‘City Life’, ‘The March of Science’ and the latest in politics:

June 22, 1983

Bill Hayden wasn’t in Canberra yesterday, he was shuttling between Sydney and Adelaide, giving the same speech to the NSW ALP Conference and the South Australian ALP Conference. Basically the speech said people shouldn’t push too hard for immediate implementation of Labor policies by the Federal Government. But there was clearly another purpose…to settle a couple of old scores.

By way of background, we should explain that Mr Hayden believes that it was largely because of the activities of the senior officials of the party’s NSW branch that he was forced to stand down from the Labor leadership in favour of Bob Hawke. So in Sydney he began his speech by saying that when the NSW Party Secretary, Steve Loosley, had phoned last week to invite him to the conference, he had replied: ‘I dare say you are inviting me so you can display to your State conference my deep sense of gratitude to the officers for all they have done for me in recent times.’ The Left wing delegates laughed uproariously. Mr Loosley laughed politely.


Cartoon by 'Colquohoun' (Chris Henning) in 'The 2nd Best of Stay in Touch', 1984 (Horan, Wall and Waker)

Cartoon by ‘Colquhoun’ (Chris Henning) in ‘The 2nd Best of Stay in Touch’, 1984 (Horan, Wall and Waker)

Once in the safety of Adelaide, Mr Hayden went a lot further. He told the story about Steve Loosley, then went on to tell one about the former NSW Secretary, Graham Richardson. He said that after a TV show had reported on various machinations to remove him from the leadership, he had phoned Mr Richardson, who said: ‘Mate, mate, I know what you are ringing up about…that dreadful program on Sunday…I have nothing to do with it, we are behind you all the way.’ When Mr Hayden remarked that Mr Richardson had said this the previous month, Mr Richardson replied: ‘Oh mate, this time I’m telling you the truth. Last time I told you a lie.’ Mr Hayden observed that the word ‘mate’  is ‘an expression of deep loyal male friendship,’ but in NSW ‘it’s like the mafia presenting you with a bunch of flowers.’

–David Dale, Australian, 1948-

from The Catholic Press (1919)

In ‘The Children’s Columns’ edited by ‘Playmate’, young Patrick O’Shaughnessy of Ashfield caused a storm with his essay in a competition on the theme ‘County Life versus City Life’. He followed up with a reply to his critics in the issue of 22 May 1919:

Dear Playmate. — In view of the tremendous upheaval which my essay on ‘Country Life versus City Life’ has created, I beg leave to reply to the vitriolic attacks of my multitudinous critics. I did not mean to offend anybody. I simply made what I considered a plain statement of facts, and, despite the storm of criticism which still rages over my head, I do not hesitate to reiterate the sentiments which I expressed in my essay. I still believe that the farmers are a quarrelsome, and discontented lot. I still believe that the people living in the country are lacking in that finer intelligence which characterises the people of the cities, and that the spectacle of the never-ending forests and fields, with the stupid cattle and sheep doing nothing but munch and munch the whole day long is dispiriting and monotonous in the extreme. I still believe that it is only in the city that you find real life — contentment, gaiety, and throbbing industry.

Some Cruel Statements.

But, my main object in writing this letter, is to endeavour to reply to some of the cruel things that were written by many country playmates regarding the dwellers of the slums of Sydney, and the densely populated centres, such as Woolloomooloo, Waterloo, &c. I think, and I know, the majority of broad-minded people will support my contention, that the dwellers of the so-called slums and the thickly populated centres, such as Woolloomooloo, Waterloo, &c, are the most democratic and unselfish citizens to be found throughout the length and breadth of Australia. They are possessed of many admirable qualities which may be searched for in vain amongst the residents of the fashionable suburbs, and even the prosperous farming and agricultural district of the country. Who was it saved Australia from the curse of conscription? Why, the people of the slums, the Woolloomoolooites, and others of the same democratic sentiments throughout Australia. They voted solidly against the iniquitous proposals of the turncoats, into whose hands had fallen the government of this fair southern land.

NSW Recruitment Committee poster, 1915 (National Library of Australia)

NSW Recruitment Committee poster, 1915 (National Library of Australia)

‘We Don’t Want to Lose You.’

Even the little children of the slums, and of Woolloomooloo and Waterloo and the ‘Rocks,’ are imbued with the true spirit of democracy. When the conscriptionist politicians visited those centres and endeavoured to persuade the people to vote away their liberties and their lives, the little boys and girls banded together and sang in chorus to the visiting politicians ‘We don’t want to lose you, but we think you ought to go.’ And the politicians went for their lives. When the dread influenza swept through the city, who was it that nobly volunteered to bring succour and relief to their stricken comrades when the ‘valiant’ V.A.D.’s, the flag flappers, and the high society dames flew to safety? Why, the people of the slums, and the residents of the democratic suburbs previously mentioned. They were only excelled in their efforts by the brave priests and nuns.

Anti-conscription leaflet, 1916 (National Library of Australia)

Anti-conscription leaflet, 1916 (National Library of Australia)


One Parting Shot.

Now, in conclusion, dear playmate, please let me have one parting shot at my country critics, and I will retire once again into obscurity. They have been cruel in their remarks about the dwellers of the slums, and the democrats generally of Sydney. I am not surprised. They do not know any better. They are cruel because they are ignorant. Let me point out an illustration. One morning, whilst on a holiday in the far west, I met a little girl who was returning home. She was very young, and a cheerful, merry-faced little soul. But in her hand she carried a cruel steel trap, in which was imprisoned the leg of a live rabbit. The sharp teeth of the trap were deeply embedded, crushing and tearing the bone and quivering flesh of the poor dumb animal, which writhed in agony. The little country girl laughed and joked at the sufferings of the animal, and she swung it around and around in childish glee. She seemed incapable of realising that dumb animals have feelings, like ordinary human beings. She was not to blame. It was simply the result of her environment. Most country people are cruel, as a result of their surroundings. They lay poison traps for rabbits and foxes and other animals, despite the fact that they know that by doing so they will destroy multitudes of beautiful and harmless native birds and creatures that are the pride and the glory of Australia.

–Patrick O’Shaughnessy, Australian