Cham­ber of hor­rors

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Viewpoint - By phillip adams

Un­doubt­edly the most poignant an­nounce­ment dur­ing our re­cent po­lit­i­cal tur­moil came from Madame Tus­sauds, the fa­mous wax­works com­pany. Though used to heads fall­ing into bas­kets – Marie Tus­saud was kept very busy turn­ing guil­lotined nog­gins into waxen death masks dur­ing the French Revo­lu­tion – the lo­cal branch com­plained about Mal­colm’s de­cap­i­ta­tion. In a surly tone they said they’d stopped work on the Turn­bull ef­figy and would no longer at­tempt to add Aus­tralian PMs to their col­lec­tion. They weren’t around long enough to jus­tify the ef­fort.

Need­less to say I emailed ur­gently, beg­ging Tus­sauds not to melt our Mal­colm. Hasn’t he suf­fered enough? Please don’t re­cy­cle him into a rock star! Let us in­stead have a joint ven­ture. A Par­lia­ment House of Wax! And not just for the PMs top­pled from their pedestals by plot­ters. We could boost tourism with a Cham­ber of Hor­rors star­ring the likes of Roberts, Bernardi, Ley­on­hjelm and Han­son. But Tus­sauds couldn’t be tempted.

As things are, it must be dif­fi­cult to keep up with the of­fi­cial por­traits of PMs (they must have painters work­ing round the clock) or to find the space to hang them. Add to the RIP rate for PMs the be­wil­der­ing turnover in min­is­ters, sen­a­tors and MPs and it’s clearly time for new think­ing. In the past many a redundant, sec­ond-hand, slightly used politi­cian has been sent to an em­bassy – Kim Bea­z­ley to Washington; Sir Les Pat­ter­son, Alex “Fish­nets” Downer and Ge­orge “Book­case” Bran­dis to London. The odd left­over can be made Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral – a tra­di­tion pi­o­neered by Men­zies, who im­pris­oned ri­val Lord Casey at Yar­ralumla. La­bor did it with a sur­plus-tore­quire­ment Bill Hay­den and there’s scut­tle­butt that Julie Bishop will soon be mea­sur­ing the cur­tains. But head­lines thun­der­ing DEAD MAN WALK­ING made me think that per­haps we should put ex-PMs out of their mis­ery, and ours, by means of in­vol­un­tary eu­thana­sia. Then their ca­dav­ers could be put to prac­ti­cal pur­poses. Why shouldn’t we, the vot­ers, get our money’s worth? In­stead of let­ting them sneak off on gen­er­ous pen­sions? Body parts pro­vided for trans­plants, or sold on eBay or Gumtree. Or the en­tire politi­cian freeze-dried in dy­namic poses for Tus­saud­style dis­play at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery. Freeze-dry­ing is far cheaper than taxi­dermy; ap­par­ently the tech­nol­ogy is quite re­li­able and the end re­sult looks more life­like.

(I’d like to freeze a few oth­ers for a quite dif­fer­ent rea­son. Cry­onic preser­va­tion of, for ex­am­ple, Barn­aby Joyce. Not be­cause he’d be any more use in the fu­ture than he is now – but sim­ply to have global warm­ing thaw him in a few years. To show him the crim­i­nal id­iocy of his climate change de­nial­ism.)

There’s a tour­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of pick­led corpses do­ing the rounds. Mildly con­tro­ver­sial given con­cerns about their ori­gins. Let us re­place it with pick­led pol­lies, corpses that peo­ple vaguely re­mem­ber and recog­nise. “Look kid­dies! That’s…” Or we could have tombs for the high and mighty, like Lenin’s in Red Square, Ho’s in Hanoi or Mao’s in Tianan­men. All draw huge crowds. Great for tourism and pa­tri­o­tism.

What about an Un­known Politi­cian, like the Un­known Sol­dier? Per­haps lots of Un­known Politi­cians in ser­ried ranks, like the En­tombed War­riors. (Most back­benchers re­main un­known through­out their ca­reers.) Then there are the Very Known pol­lies. I bet Hawkie would like a spec­tac­u­lar mau­soleum so he could outdo Keat­ing for eter­nity. Al­though Bob might de­mand a Great Pyra­mid. Dunno about you, but I’d queue for hours to see an em­balmed Ab­bott.

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