Diary

Gadfly
‘A pretty f***ing good milkshake’

Not since John Travolta asked to try the $5 milkshake Uma Thurman ordered at Jack Rabbit Slim’s has anyone cared so much about the cost of a milkshake. But it turns out that prices have gone up a bit since 1994.

Now, if you want a milkshake to bring all the boys to your yard, you’d better be willing to spend upwards of $3.7 million. At least that’s what the Australian government paid for a series of educational videos around consent, which somehow involves milkshakes, and tacos. The videos are so utterly confusing that even if you understood what consent was before watching them, afterwards you would not be so sure anymore.

Much has been made of the cost of the videos. Some commentators have even gone to the trouble of adding up how many Cartier watches can be bought for $3.7 million (it’s 769 for those playing along at home). It is also about as much as it costs to keep a family of refugees locked up in cruel and inhumane detention for more than three years.

But beyond the eye-watering cost, the milkshake campaign’s website and videos are strange, to put it lightly. They're full of Americanisms and position women in surrealist metaphors as both perpetrators of assault and victims who need saving by virtuous men.

Everything around this campaign is confounding, from the behaviour of the federal government regarding consent and women’s safety in the past few months, to the creepily religious overtones of the site, to the fact that Liberal MP Alan Tudge – who is facing a workplace harassment suit from his former staffer Rachelle Miller – was the person chosen to launch the consent videos. Perhaps a milkshake smeared on a boy’s face might be the least peculiar thing about this whole saga.

Laboring to have a purpose

It’s an exciting time to be a lump of coal. Long-coveted and even lusted after, somewhat disturbingly, by the federal government, coal has never been sure how the Labor party feels about it. Sure, the pair flirted a lot, but Labor played coy. Never showing its hand and yet constantly sending cryptic signals to coal in parliament, voting again and again to support the mining industry. Now, however, the game of will they/won’t they has come to an end. Like the last season of a TV show when the two leads give in to the sexual tension and smear milkshake on each other’s faces, Labor has finally declared its undying love of coal.

First New South Wales Labor announced it will not support a ban on new coalmines in the Upper Hunter, despite new polling – ahead of a hotly contested byelection – that indicated most voters in the area want a moratorium. Then federal Labor’s Resources spokesperson Madeleine King came out in support of coal exports beyond 2050, while somehow still backing Anthony Albanese’s commitment of net-zero emissions by 2050.

This is exactly the kind of standing for something while also standing for the exact opposite of that thing that Labor has mastered in recent years. It’s like quitting cigarettes by smoking more so that you die of cancer, or visiting a family of refugees who’ve been held in detention centres since March 2018 while also voting in favour of keeping refugees in detention centres indefinitely.

That last feat was achieved by Kristina Keneally, who flew to Christmas Island this week to have her photo taken with Nades and Priya Murugappan, and their daughters Kopika, 5, and Tharunicaa, 3. The Labor MP strongly advocated for the family’s return to the Queensland town of Biloela they had been wrenched from by Australian Border Force. It was a forceful statement. Keneally was clearly moved by the family’s suffering, and the moral failure of her own senate voting record: including when she was absent from the vote to return the family to Biloela, absent from the vote to observe Universal Children’s Day with a focus on children in detention, and when she voted against removing children from Nauru.

At this point, Australia’s opposition party consists solely of Malcolm Turnbull heckling Scott Morrison on Twitter.

When will Blak lives matter?

It’s so rare to see justice being served these days that there was palpable shock when American police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. Even here in Australia, there were celebrations about the verdict. Perhaps the celebration was also because if America deals with systemic racism and police brutality over there, it means we don’t have to bother doing it here.

No police officer in Australia has ever been found guilty of a death in custody. And yet, in the 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report, 474 First Nations people have died in custody. Four last month alone.

David Dungay Jr died in a Sydney prison cell in 2015, pinned face down by guards and stabbed with a sedative, because he had been eating biscuits. In the video footage of Dungay Jr’s death, the 26-year-old can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” repeatedly.

Yorta Yorta grandmother Tanya Day died in a prison cell in Victoria, unchecked by the guards who were meant to be looking after her. Her only crime was being Black in Australia.

The federal government has made almost no comment about the anniversary of the deaths in custody royal commission, no meeting came from a petition asking for the prime minister to meet with families who’ve lost loved ones in custody. Labor, meanwhile, has pledged a paltry $90 million for justice reforms to reduce the incarceration of Aboriginal people. Considering the party is not likely to win an election for a long time to come, it could have pledged much more as it won’t actually cost them anything.

On the same day, nay the same morning, that Chauvin was found guilty of pressing his knee into an innocent Black man’s neck until he died, the Police minister in NSW, David Elliott, attacked a school in Sydney because students made “Black Lives Matter” posters.

Elliott called it “indoctrination” and said it was terrible to teach children mistrust of police. This is because it’s police that the government is teaching people to turn to if sexually assaulted, he said, thus ignoring pretty much the entire history of police negligence regarding sexual assault cases.

Like the prime minister, Elliott is known for invoking his family, and asking himself the question, “What would I do if this happened to my daughter?” For his part, Elliott once defended revelations of police in NSW strip-searching 122 girls by saying that he would want the same to be done to his own children.

He made these comments on Sunrise, which famously paid Pauline Hanson to come on the show for many years, up until she put an “All Lives Matter” motion to senate.

The fawning interview with Elliott was conducted by David Koch, who has in the past made a slavery joke about Usain Bolt. However, Kochie failed to ask Elliott how the investigation being conducted by the NSW Police Force into Elliott’s alleged use of highly restricted firearms was going. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 24, 2021 as "Gadfly: ‘A pretty f***ing good milkshake’".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.