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Friday, 20 May 2011

Of Budgets and Brittons

Last week had much to offer in terms of riveting television viewing, thanks mostly to the Federal budget.
Tuesday was Wayne Swan, fresh from a season playing the bumbling detective in the Lilley Amateur Theatrical Society’s production of The Pink Panther Runs Rings Around Clouseau.
Thursday night was Tony Abbott – fresh from his just completed nationwide tour with Terminator Four: The Carbon Chronicles.
I won’t waste too much time on either of those other than to say that Swan’s speech was entirely predictable in that he looked like the Grade Four class fat kid who had drawn The Man From Snowy River to recite at the end of year school concert.

He fronted manfully, but he seemed just a stumble away from tears when, after desperately searching the audience he realised his mum hadn’t turned up.
To his credit he soldiered on, only occasionally allowing a hint of moisture on the upper lip and trouble with turning the pages to betray the truth that he was kacking himself.
He clearly had no idea of the meaning of what he was saying, but he had equally clearly spent countless hours in front of the mirror employing the rote method so it was nice to see him getting through without fluffing his lines too much, even though it owed more to Banjo’s younger brother, Ukulele Paterson than the great man himself.
You could see the relief in his after show interviews, though he was a bit naughty when he used the old ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse for not knowing how much debt he’d racked up, but I trust it will feature in next year’s exam, as will the year in which a Labor Government last delivered a budget surplus.
As for Abbott, he elected selected excerpts from Poor Fellow My Country for his recital, mostly because he already knew the words by heart.
The Government and a posse of media critics had tried to trip him up by changing the programme at the last minute, insisting he recite the complete works of Marlowe, Donne and Wordsworth and finish with a rendition of The Ancient Mariner set to Wagner, but he stuck to what he knew.
What he knows is that it is easy to get rattled when he looks at the front row and sees Inspector Clouseau sitting next to a wax dummy of the Prime Minister.
A consumate performer when familiar with his material, he confined himself to casting the occasional glance at the Speaker while he went through his number.

Worst act of the post-recital show was a toss-up between Joe Hockey and Penny Wong.
Hockey has built a career out being typecast as the mild-mannered big guy with the heart of gold. He has designs on making the step up to leading man and chose budget night to unveil his range. Unfortunately he seemed to have inadvertently mixed up his characters. Aiming for Orson Welles in ‘Citizen Kane’, he produced his interpretation of ‘Of Mice and Men’s’ Lennie - doing anger.
Penny Wong, who has made a career out of playing the straight guy to the comedy star, had nothing more to do than recite the seminal Bruce Hawker work: Ode to a Negative Wrecker.
She’s been studying Hawker’s work for years, is intimately familiar with it, practices every day and even had written notes to help her, but still she fluffed it completely.
To describe her as wooden would have trees everywhere up in arms. I’ve heard her described as robotic, but having seen every episode of Lost in Space at least one hundred times I can say with some authority that she has nothing like the charisma of Robot, so I can only conclude she must be an older model.
I have noticed she has been having trouble with her voice programming of late, having acquired a British upper class drawl from somewhere. Perhaps her batteries are running flat or her diodes need oil or something.
There is definitely a problem there somewhere, if only because she should be so familiar with Bruce’s work, given that he has been providing the ALP with material for many years.
With Joe gone off in search of rabbits and Wong in the workshop, I believe this is an appropriate moment to pay homage to Bruce, a man who is so much more than the clever couplet or the snappy stanza.

It is a little known fact that Hawker is also an aircraft designer of some note, being the driving force behind the legendary Hawker Britton.
Enthusiasts often mistakenly believe that the Britton is a direct descendant of the Hawker Hurricane, aviation hero of the Battle of Britain. This natural assumption is a mistake.
The Britton – an entirely Australian product - was first developed in the early 1990s after the fledgling company won an order from the then New South Wales opposition.
Originally designed as a single seater, multiple monosyllable assault aircraft, it proved so successful that several variants were produced for use in a number of state and federal conflicts.
The Mark II, equipped with the more powerful multi-spin rotary engine, was particularly successful as an escort fighter designated to shepherd fleets of lumbering, poorly equipped transports through enemy territory.
The period between 1992 and 2007 saw the Hawker Britton reign supreme, but by 2008 the suspicion began to emerge that the company was perhaps resting on its laurels and had failed to keep up with developments.
It was knocked out of the skies in battles in Western Australia and Victoria and barely held its own in a number of other conflicts.

In an effort to keep in touch, the company decided to replace the aircraft’s ageing armament. Originally fitted with a one-shot, repeating scatter gun, Hawker completely revamped its armament capabilities by equipping the Mark IV, the Hawker Britton ‘Rudd’, with the new Clusterfuck munitions package.
Though initial trials proved successful, engineers were alarmed when cracks began to appear in the airframe. Work was done to solve the problem, but the Rudd’s future as a full production model was thrown further into doubt when it crash-landed at Copenhagen airport in late 2009.
Investigations concluded that gross overloading, an attempt to fly higher than the aircraft’s operational ceiling and integral failure of the wax coating on the feather-covered wings, all contributed to the failure.
The death knell for the model was sounded six months later when the Rudd prototype suffered catastrophic Early Warning Radar failure and was shot down by friendly fire.
The Rudd Mark II, a long range single seater stealth fighter for use primarily reconnaissance/transport, shows some promise, not least because its bottomless fuel tanks allow it to stay airborne indefinitely.

Facing running battles on a number of different fronts, the company decided on the most radical re-design since the Mark I and introduced the ‘Gillard’ Mark V, a wide-bodied pilotless drone version fitted with the extra-large bomb bay designed to carry the more powerful carbon-fuelled Clusterfuck munitions package.
(Although the details are shrouded in secrecy it is believed the Hawker factory produced at least six versions of the prototype, with each designed for maximum performance depending on the prevailing winds at the time of trials.)
Initially touted as an air-to-sea receptor, this ground-breaking model – it is powered by the revolutionary constant-spin, wind-drive solar engine - has suffered a number of setbacks.
One suffered Direction Finder failure and wandered into East Timorese airspace where it circled for eight months before finally running out fuel and crashing, two others were lost in crashes in PNG and Malaysia and two more inadvertently released a full suite of Clusterfucks on both Christmas Island and Villawood.

At this point in time the future of the Hawker Britton remains secure, but serious questions are being whispered about whether the venerable veteran can stay the course.
Whatever the future may hold however, there is little doubt that the Hawker Britton has left a mark, an indelible stain even, on the landscape of Australian history.