There you have it. For the first time in living memory, a person of the red-headed persuasion has managed to ascend to the highest office in the land. That this was achieved with the kind of brutality that would make a Mafia kingpin blush is beside the point. Politics, much like Masterchef or germ warfare, is often a cruel business.
There’s no getting around the fact that our new Prime Minister is a red-head. Sadly, those with a titian tint are often the subject of unwarranted nastiness and prejudice. It’s not difficult to imagine that as a school kid, a nascent Julia Gillard may have been surrounded by snot-smeared children who would taunt her, throwing around terms of abuse like confetti. They’d have pitched everything at her; calling her a carrot top, a ginger, a ‘ranga, a human stop sign or blood nut, before tossing her in a pond to see if she floated. Luckily, those unenlightened days are behind us.
It’s worth noting that the term ‘red head’ is not merely a reference to a person’s hair colour. It’s also the title of a Tony-award winning musical from 1959. ‘Redhead – the Musical’ is a murder mystery set in a wax museum and, indeed, the similarities with recent events in our nation’s capital don’t end there. In fact, Music Theatre International describes ‘Red-Head the Musical’ as ‘a romantic, fast-paced adventure involving cunning disguises, spine-tingling chases, startling visions, an ill-fated show ….and a cold-blooded killer on the loose… not to mention some great songs and high-spirited dancing!’ It’s almost spooky. All except for the bit about ‘great songs’ and ‘high spirited dancing’. But imagine how much more gripping those events would have been with a bit of song and dance thrown in? If nothing else, the deposed Prime Minister’s final press conference could have been transformed by a rendition of ‘My Way.’ For all that, however, I have to profess some disappointment. Having been elevated to the esteemed role of Prime Minister, it must be said that Julia Gillard missed an important opportunity to bring other flame haired types with her. Granted, Martin Ferguson was already there, but surely there were other red heads who could easily have been catapulted into the Cabinet. Given that democracy has now been transformed from an expression of the will of the people to something resembling an episode of Survivor, the simple fact of not being elected should no longer be considered an impediment. It is, quite clearly, open slather. Luckily, there are many quality redheads to choose from. Maybe Nicole Kidman or Vincent Van Gogh appointed as Minister for the Arts? Or perhaps Thomas Jefferson as the Minister for Communication? I, for one, would certainly throw all my support behind having Willie Nelson as Health Minister. That Trotsky was a redhead seems not so much a revelation as it does a statement of the inevitable. Not that he’d necessarily take up the offer of a Cabinet role – he’s been on the wrong end of a factional dispute before and is probably, if not a little gun shy, then at least slightly paranoid when it comes to ice picks.
It was an opportunity that, sadly, went begging. Instead, the new Prime Minister elected to go a rampage of intolerance. Almost the very first thing Julia Gillard declared is that she didn’t believe in a ‘big Australia’. Naturally, I was outraged. How anyone can lead this great nation and not support the likes of the Big Banana and the Big Pineapple is beyond me. Perhaps her problem is not with oversized objects made of fibreglass but with fruit more generally. As it turns out, the Prime Minister was referring to was the country’s population growth.
Arguing against population growth is a funny business. In many regards, resisting an influx of people – whether by birth or by immigration – is something of a reflex reaction. Had the average Australian been asked the same question thirty years ago; back when our population was a mere twelve million, chances are most would have suggested that we were at our capacity. Granted, planning for the future is important. But ultimately, hysteria regarding claims of ‘overpopulation’ was best described by PJ O’Rourke who noted that such debates usually centred on there being ‘too many of you, but just enough of me.’ When you take into account that she was born in Wales and did, herself, immigrate to this country, it’s an odd way to begin. For any criticism that our immigration program might endure, there is no greater validation of its success than the fact that you can arrive here in pursuit of a better life and ultimately become prime minister.
Julia is not the first blood-nut to grasp political power. Winston Churchill is another ranga of note, as was Malcolm X. So was Judas Iscariot, as it happens. Not all red heads are quite so popular, however. Indeed, for all the wonderful redheads through history, there’s always the matter of Oliver Cromwell – an oppressive tyrant who was so despised that whilst he died of natural causes in 1658, he was exhumed for the sole purpose of being posthumously executed in 1661. No matter how her tenure turns out, hopefully Julia will at least have the comfort of knowing that she did better than Oliver Cromwell.