The chooks were all having a dust bath in the shade under the cypress tree. Speckled Bantam had been reading the papers, and was getting irritated by the tone of some of the reporting on Prince Charles’ forthcoming visit to the southern realm.
“Foulfax press is being very nasty about Prince Charles” she complained to the dust bathers. “It says here in Saturday’s news section that ‘He’s definitely not one of us - ‘their’ Prince Charles - the man who would be King of Australia returns for the first time in 11 years for a whistle stop tour’. And then, in their Sunday rag they run a cover story almost praising the man who tried to shoot the Prince the last time he was here”. She clucked exasperatedly as she flicked some warm dust over her back.
“Don’t get upset” said Mother Bantam. “You know Foulfax likes to push its own barrows under the pretence that its ‘news’. Remember they’re market fundamentalists who would encourage battery farms if it was best for some greedy shareholders”. They all cackled nervously at the thought of their caged sisters in the sprawling battery suburbs of the city.
“I know what you mean Speckles” said Red Hen. “Their TV Guide also had a go. I was looking forward to watching that show on SBS about the Welsh rebel Owain Glyn Dwr. The reviewer made a sarcastic reference to Melvyn Bragg’s history of the English language reflecting recent surveys showing monarchists now outnumbering republicans, and this show was just another example of our TV being filled with British history shows. Apparently an interest in the cultural histories that now form a basis for Australian systems of governance and language just marks you out as a slave to the old Empire”.
“I suppose we should only be allowed to know about the history of the new Empire” said Boy Bantam. “I hear that the history of the American Civil War is very popular with the republicans!”. They all cackled loudly, and flicked dust all over the place as White Leghorn jumped up and caught a passing fly.
“I understand that Prince Charles’ absence for 11 years should be questioned” said Speckles. “He should be visiting his other realms a lot more, and not just thinking of England. Perhaps the assassination attempt scared him away?, but they never ask about these things, they just publish these malicious, sneering ‘news’ stories”.
“I also saw those stories about the schizophrenic woman locked up in Immigration detention because she didn’t speak English very well” said White Leghorn. “Imagine that, sent to the battery cages just because you can speak more than one language. No wonder the Feds have stopped supporting school teaching of second languages. Police and immigration agents think it means you’re a foreigner.”
“It’s just another part of Howard’s 51st State Strategy” said Boy Bantam. “We all have to learn to speak only American English, which can only be learnt in the market place of Americanist commercial TV, so that we can be easily integrated into the new Empire.”
“But won’t that conflict with Howard’s support for the monarchy?” said Speckles. “I mean, a country has to be a republic to be an American state doesn’t it? Look what happened to Hawaii”.
“And that”, said Red Hen “shows their contrariness. They like the market fundamentalism of Foulfax but not its republicanism. Foulfax loves to insinuate its nasty anti-monarchism throughout its pages, but also supports 51st Statism with its overt market fundamentalism. I suppose they’re at least consistent. But there is a contradiction going on in the ruling establishment, and I reckon that once Howard gets control of the Senate from the middle of the year there’ll be such a wave of hubris and an oversupply of backbenchers that some viscous manifestations of these contradictions will come spewing out of Canberra”.
At that moment the shadow of a large hawk passed across the chook yard. Mother Bantam squawked a sharp warning, and they all ran into the chook house, the lotus-land of the dust bath temporarily forgotten.