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Last Post for musos, muzak and military mess

Date

Editor-at-large, The Canberra Times

View more articles from Jack Waterford

PILING Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa? Don't tell me that news of supposedly swingeing cuts in the defence budget at just the same time as we are decimating the Canberra School of Muzak is but a coincidence. It's a conspiracy, probably to bring down the Australian way of life, and I should not be in the least surprised if Christopher Pyne, MP from South Australia, had something to do with it.

I have had my suspicions about Pyne since 1993 when, at some federal parliamentary function, the newly elected representative came up to me, interrupting a conversation with someone terribly important (perhaps Bronwyn Bishop) and, thrusting a hand outwards said, ''Hi, I'm Christopher Pyne. I'm a wet.'' He looked it too, and I have never been able to take him seriously since.

I am not partisan in such matters. I can, for example, never look at Senator Joe Ludwig, darling son of Big Bill Ludwig, Australia's richest shearer, without suppressing a giggle about how far Labor nepotism extends. Heaven knows there are scores of ALP representatives whose chief qualification for office is being a descendant or crony of some Labor dynasty, but Joe, who has never worked for anyone but his Dad in his life, and the appreciation of whose talents seem confined to Ms Gillard and Big Bill, is proof that amor vincit omnia.

That's amor, not armour, a reason why I am not totally disturbed about a mild slice in the defence vote. Now that Joe is in charge of the sheep, and Bill is in charge of the shearers, we can, in any event, have them in charge of the Brisbane Line should there be an invasion from the north. These sheep are likely to present a greater obstacle to enemy progress than subs that don't sink, tanks that can't move and aircraft that cannot fly that our Defence Force and Defence department have been scraping together over recent years. A trivial example of their art is that it is generally agreed by people who ought to know that the main Australian combat rifle, at about $4000 a pop, is a markedly inferior weapon to the AK47, which one can, apparently, buy for about $10 in the Kandahar or Mogadishu markets.

The soon-to-be unemployed bassoonists, timpanists and Krug horn players will not be able to go to Duncan Lewis for a job, even if they do not subscribe to the theory that military music is to music as military intelligence is to intelligence. If, indeed, they are giving away submarines and Joint Strike Fighters in an effort to save the Australian military way of life, it will not be long, in any event, before a critical military eye goes over spending on brass bands, military golf courses, residences for top brass, and chauffeurs.

Like the soldiers, the musos should have fought when intervention was capable of achieving something, such as when Latin departments were closed. Where were the recorder players, and the SAS, during that epic struggle?

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