Here at the ‘dillo we’re more on to it than Marr – and much merrier with it. Especially when it comes to Mike Carlton. Weeks before David the Dilettante pointed out that the SMH’s Saturday polemicist had elevated Senator Robert Byrd to the Moral Conscience of the Age, without any mention of his earlier career as a Ku Klux Klansman, we had pointed out that fairly significant omission.
In his latest outing, Carlton, who hilariously declares himself to be a sans-culotte republican, has a go at Ambassador Butler’s tawdry volte-face, among other things. Sans-culottes which translates as “without breeches” is a terminology originating with the French Revolution. Knee breeches or culottes were the de rigeur apparel for 18th century gentlemen. To be “without breeches” was to be a horny-handed son of toil clad in rough, homespun trousers: the vanguard of the Revolution against those born to breeches! Never mind that the French Revolution was basically by the breechclad for the breechclad. The guys without them were handy tools for enforcing the will of whoever was wearing the biggest breeches at the time: and no-one wears bigger breeches than Carlton. At 1.2 million a year for holding forth on 2UE between the ad breaks – never mind what he picks up in pin money from the SMH – he’s about as likely a sans-culotte as Kerry Packer.
Heres what he had to say about Butler:
Though a sans-culotte republican, I am disappointed that my contractual obligations in Sydney have obliged me to abandon any hope of the honour of serving our Queen as her governor of Tasmania.
What a sumptuous delight it would have been. Elegantly poised ‘tween towering Mt Wellington and a commanding panorama of the Derwent viewed from verdant policies, Government House, Hobart, is a Victorian Gothic pile grand enough to grace any heathered Scottish brae.
The prospect summons up Alfred, Lord Tennyson – the splendour falls on castle walls and snowy summits old in story – and the official website is scarcely less majestic. “Some 73 rooms … one of the best Vice-Regal residences in the Commonwealth”, it boasts. “The scale, detail and finish of the entrance hall, grand corridor and state rooms together with their furniture are unequalled in Australia.”
What republican would not hoick his or her beliefs overboard to wallow in such taxpayer-funded luxury? Certainly not Richard Butler, an unemployed weapons inspector who grabbed the gig this week with both hands.
“I will happily take the oath of allegiance to the Queen of Tasmania,” he burbled on Tuesday. “Why? Because this is an oath and a constitution that we Australians designed.”
Setting aside one small constitutional solecism – there is no such person nor thing as the Queen of Tasmania, or not since Truganini, anyway – you have to applaud Butler’s brazen chutzpah. Only a lifetime in diplomacy could train you for somersaults of logic and principle like that.
The fun thing was watching the monarchists get sniffy. “A sell-out who has taken the Queen’s shilling,” huffed Tony Abbott. “A conversion on the road to Hobart,” hissed the feline David Flint.
I hope Butler rubs their noses in it. Let Hobart thrill to levees and martial parades of Her Majesty’s arms, and fetes champetre served by liveried flunkeys. There must be routs and balls beneath sparkling chandeliers, where young gallants whirl sloe-eyed, bare-shouldered girls in the schottische and the carmagnole. Laughing, they tumble out late into the spangled night, whipping away down the drive in a clatter of hooves and carriage wheels. The republic can wait.
Wonderfully florid stuff. The only slight point of dissonance in this evocation of Georgette Heyer Regency frolics is “the carmagnole.” The Carmagnole is not -as Carlton seems to think – a society reel. It’s in fact a French Revolutionary song and associated dance, which pours scorn and invective upon Monarchy, aristocracy, and all the associated privilege that Carlton so lyrically depicts. About the only way Governor Butler and the sloe-eyed guests of Carlton’s imagination would be likely to encounter it would be if revolution occured in Tasmania and His Non-Excellency and guests were being tumbril’ed to the guillotine at Constitution Dock through a carmagnole dancing revolutionary mob. And what an appealing vision that is……