SURELY NOT NEWS* EXCLUSIVE: One political commentator describes their ideology as “a mix between the devout religious right and the hysterical PC loony left with ideas far beyond anything the Greens could dream up whilst ingesting powerful hallucinogens.” Another says “Imagine Mike Baird, Julia Gillard, Karl Marx, Fred Nile, Helen Lovejoy and Joffrey Baratheon had an orgy and somehow produced a love child”. One pundit even offered a bold prediction that their impact would be “somewhere between Mal Meninga and Jaymes Diaz“. Most simply call this group of time wasters and busy bodies a bad joke.
But whatever your viewpoint, there’s no denying this shock announcement is the biggest thing to happen in Australian politics since dinosaur and cruise ship enthusiast, Clive Palmer (often referred to as “the loosest unit in parliament”) assembled a motley crew of ex front rowers and Tasmanians. In a move nobody expected (or wanted), unpopular busybody lobbyist group – Fascists Against Responsibilities, Enjoyment & Rights (FARER) has shocked Canberra by registering itself as a political party and declaring themselves to be major contender this July. FARER is of course, it the joint venture of various self interest groups (mainly prohibitionists, the perpetually offended, nanny state lobbyists and deluded middle class uni students seeking outrage and meaning) with a common goal. These groups have always encouraged mob mentality, it was only natural for them to form a dysfunctional posse. These nut jobs have always been ridiculed,usually rightly so, but this power play is no laughing matter.
Unsurprisingly, may initially took this as a poorly timed April Fools Day prank. After all, Easter and Anzac Day were nearby and if there’s one thing these types like doing, it’s hijacking events and making them all about themselves. But since last weeks bombshell they’ve been busy assuring everybody they are in fact, legit. Despite complaints about the “boisterous” venue we suggested, party leader Mr John Bland agreed to meet us at his local library in semi-rural gated community, Nann Estate. In this Surely Not News exclusive we talk to Mr Bland about what he thinks about the world, why everybody else should think the same and what FARER has planned for the campaign.
Nann Estate is a gated community about an hour and a half from the CBD. Upon reaching the secure checkpoint my photographer and I were subjected to a screening process one would expect to endure upon touching down in Pyongyang. Once our papers had been presented and scrutinised we began to slowly navigate the streets, capitlising on our punctuality so my colleague could take a few photos and document what it was like inside. For you see, communities such as this rarely allow outside visitors. And residents rarely leave. It’s all about keeping people safe and protecting them from something or other. Naturally, FARER leader Mr John Bland is a resident and runs his organisation / political party from his home – top level of the tall, ivory apartment building in the centre of town. The scenic route proved to be quite the non event, with every street somewhat ironically resembling the set from time travel love story Pleasantville. (the 1998 time travel romance flick starring pre Cruel Intentions Reese Witherspoon, Tobey “Benjamin Button” Maguire and Jeff Daniels who had only recently realised it was time to stop dining out on Dumb & Dumber)
We met Bland at the local church where we had agreed to conduct our interview but upon arrival he told us we would have to come back another day as unexpected renovations were taking place. My colleague would later find out this was not the case, the real reason was because the annual Fathers & sunday schoolboys sleepover was still in full swing from the night before. Determined not to come here ever again, we suggested a few alternatives and eventually settled on the local library, despite Bland protesting it was a “boisterous late night hot spot” and was always “troublesome” during school holidays. We left my colleague to explore quickly made our way over to find the building occupied by a sweet, old librarian and a group of children quietly reading together. With some apprehension Mr Bland remarked “this will have to do.” With that we sat down and were offered refreshments by the librarian. My grateful request for a short black was met with a disapproving glance from Bland who then claimed coffee was a strong stimulant that should be banned. Shunning tea for being “a gateway” he opted for a glass of hot water with two teaspoons of salt and a lemon.
Bland is an inconspicuous man. He has very non-descript features, his expression a constant straight face with an air of smugness. There is also the occasional smirk. Bland speaks in a manner that forces whoever is listening to really concentrate on paying attention. Not because they’re engaged, but because it’s quiet easy to become disinterested and distracted by his monotone drawl. A friend of mine had previously described him as someone you would want to listen to if you were having trouble sleeping. Much like NSW opposition leader Luke Foley and his predecessor John Robertson, most people would not recognise John Bland on the street. It was his begrudging knowledge of this that prompted his interview request. Publishing FARER reports complete with meaningless data and bogus quotes on associated websites then having select members of the media distribute them was enough in the lobbying game. It was safe, it was relatively effective. But the campaign trail would be different and Bland accepted the fact he needed to boost his brand profile if his party was to have any success. He also resigned to the reality he would not have final edit after a lengthy negotiation.
Which isn’t to say Bland is not a seasoned campaigner. Far from it. He assured me he’s “been around the traps” and “knows a thing or two”. In fairness I would expect nothing less from a distinguished gentleman one month who had recently celebrated (or as Bland says, “acknowledged”) his 104th birthday. But although he holds a long list of associations with various odd ball self-interest groups, it does not seem as though he has any high profile connections. Or relevant qualifications for that matter. And despite claims of holding a prominent government role for 40 years, we recently discovered the highest position he ever held was “senior parking inspector”. Not interested in discussing his experience, Bland was quick to refer to the team FARER has assembled for the campaign, creatively referred to as “the dream team”. The team is made up of policy advisors from all walks of life as he knows it – there is a local doctor and a priest who are long time associates of the organisation. New additions to the team include a few residents group leaders, one lady who is head of her buildings strata committee, a young student who has created more change.org petitions than anyone else in the country and a reformed alcoholic. Oh, and a bloke from down the road who recently crashed his car into a parked van and has since been aggressively calling for the national speed limit to be dropped to 30kph.
I open our discussion by addressing the goals and aspirations of the party and how many seats in the senate FARER is aiming for. “All of them” came the stone faced reply. I knew Bland wasn’t joking, he is a man entirely without humour. I suggested that was perhaps a little optimistic but I was quickly shown the results of various research FARER had conducted, polling select groups to assess their chances. He proudly hands me the 4 page document he has been holding, flipping the pages as we speak as though it’s a lengthy tome. “90% of the population will be voting for FARER” he declares. I notice that the report is based on a survey with a sample size of 353 people which he assures me is “standard”. It appears they’ve been carefully selected too. Diplomatically broaching this, I suggest that 353 people is not a lot, and even Ricky Muir had more people vote for him than this report claims will vote for his party. He looks at me like a disappointed school teacher and says “See what you need to understand about these polls is that they are scientifically weighted and are therefore completely accurate. The process is infallible and a true representation of the community”.
Bland then hands me a stack of documents which contains nothing but screenshots of various change.org petitions he claims is further evidence of the community support FARER enjoys. “. A lot of people don’t want others doing things they don’t approve or saying things they don’t agree with” he declares. “It’s not just the uni students making petitions these days either. The boomers, the grey vote, they’ve become pretty savvy and sure do know their way around the world wide web.” The rare smirk begins to appear as he confidently runs through a list of reasons these demographics are the most crucial and control the power. Unfortunately I can’t say I disagree. Bland goes on to tell me not only will be pandering to those groups, he will also be aggressively chasing the child vote. He feels this is a very shrewd tactic even when I point out the fact that children can not vote. “Yes, but they’re very persuasive, especially with their parents and grandparents. I’m sure you have seen a child have a tantrum at the checkout before, imagine how they will be in the polling booth.” Touché
Moving on to policy I asked what they would be bringing to the table, other than their core values – the nanny state, prohibition, suppressing freedom of speech and enforcing complete political correctness. I was surprised with his response, insisting that set policy was bad policy and it was a far better to stand for nothing and fall for everything.
We like to see ourselves as a more dynamic, modern organisation. Why have set policies when chances are you will have a totally different stance months later? There’s a new iPhone out every year isn’t there? We prefer to be more reactionary with our policies so we can best fight for what we believe is right at the time. Oh, and the people and all that too.
I pressed the issue further by asking what their policies would be today if there were FARER members in parliament, hoping for a little more substance. He continued
“Well, definitely lockouts. We like them. In fact we would prefer a complete 24 hour lockout. We don’t want people having any enjoyment and we’re totally opposed to small businesses that deal in sin. They won’t be missed anyway. Nobody needs to be out that late and everybody knows that nothing good happens after 10pm.”
“We’re also very concerned about current real world issues. Such as this cultural appropriation business someone showed me with that Bieber kid and his stupid, rude haircut. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think too highly of these ethnics, coloured folk and foreigners and frankly couldn’t give a toss about some pansy boy and his hair cut. But from what I can see people are trying to express themselves however they want and this whole cultural appreciation thing is a pretty bloody good way of stopping them from doing it! Everyone is so bloody sensitive these days they’re becoming too scared to say and do anything, which is perfect FARER and indeed the community.”
This showed a bit more tactical nous than I was expecting. Siding with a group or a movement you personally resent for political gain was a cunning concept I thought may be beyond Bland and his bunch. He then referred back to the idea of reactionary policy policy by suggesting the issue may not even be trending soon so what’s the point of getting too invested. I asked for further clarification and he stunned me by bringing up Caitlyn Jenner (who Bland calls that Bruce fella with that daughter who is a prostitute) and Rachel Dolezal and suggesting one day people might accept individuals identifying as a certain race “I don’t understand it, they’re a bunch of freaks and if I had it my way they’d be locked up. But as they say my enemies enemy is my friend. And we’ve got plenty of enemies!”
I asked if this meant he would be publicly supporting LGBT interests but was told if I asked that again he would “fucking level” me, losing his composure for a minute. He then asked if we could stop the tape and start that one over. He went on to tell me that an important tool FARER used to battle freedom of speech was moral outrage. He explained that if you wanted people to take you seriously when you claimed to be offended by the completely innocuous, you had to build a bit of credibility by feigning outrage over more realistic issues. Bland had been advised by his team the best way to do this was to support groups who faced actual issues, undermining them in the process.”if you want the freedom to be offended by absolutely anything, you need to make sure people don’t think you’re being ridiculous. So by supporting and undermining groups who have concerns, we can get away with our more absurd notions. Then nobody will be able to say anything without being made a pariah. Genius, isn’t it” I assumed that was a rhetorical question. He then went on to offer an insight on policy ideas with the following hypocritical and contradictory statement –
“We will be aiming to make it illegal to say anything that offends anyone by altering current legislation that deals with harassment, abuse and discrimination. We feel the judicial system does not offer any support to people who choose to be offended. But we’re pro choice and feel the law should support that idea too. Why should a judge decide whether or not somebody has offended you? You’re the only one who can be the judge of that. We’re going to make sure this is reflected from now. Perception is the most crucial factor with these cases..”
Noting their use of the phrase “pro-choice” I used that as a segue to ask if that meant they were held that stance on the issues of abortion before being shut down in no uncertain terms “You’re fucking kidding right? We have already made our moral judgement on this issue, and we will certainly not be giving people any choice in this matter. I’m offended you even would think that we would support women making their own decisions. We will most definitely be rushing through legislation as a matter of urgency that will enable perpetrators to be prosecuted for murder. What’s more important than the safety of babies?” Perhaps reading the look of utter disbelief on my face he did soften his stance slightly, “Never say never, especially with our reactionary policy policy, or as I like to call it – the Knee Jerk” before paraphrasing his good friend, NSW Premier Mike Baird – “But as I’ve said before, it is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving every part of the third world”
Moving on… I asked Bland to look into the crystal ball to tell me what he predicted the big issues to be 12 months from now. He claimed “the war would be over” and bars, pubs and nightclubs within a 30km diameter of the CBD would be shut soon and people will be spending their leisure time at “safe spaces” such as the one in Pyrmont and the one being built at Barangaroo. The casinos. We’ll need a few more of them as well by the way” I remarked that “safe space” already a ridiculous concept, but using it to describe a casino was just taking the piss. Not to mention fairly hypocritical given the dangers of gambling but Bland was having none of it
“We understand people will still drink, and we don’t like it. But they will be under close supervision – they run a tight ship over there. With any these idiots will occasionally piss off the wrong person and cop a good flogging from time to time. Plus, the casinos aren’t like all the booze barns. People will have other things to do like fun, non-violent computer games as well as playing cards with their mates”
“Look, we live in the real world here. We know how much revenue the pokies bring in and to take that away would send the country into another great depression. We understand compromises must be made sometimes”
Ah, the real world! I’d forgotten about that place… Pressed for more issues Bland stated
“Based on our research, things like backyard swimming pools, skateboards and dogs are posing a real risk to the community. Our supporters often complain sometimes they can hear what sounds like people riding a skateboard, jumping into pools or dogs barking. They say these disturbances are often accompanied by loud, excitable voices and worse still – laughing. All of this suggests a culture of enjoyment. We won’t be copping that, and neither will the local community. Enough is enough.”
I added that obviously these issues also posed a safety threat to young children, costing more lives than many other activities said to be dangerous to which a suddenly distracted Bland scoffed at and said “What?” before composing himself and adding“Oh yes, yes and all that safety crap” Suddenly Bland became quite agitated, no doubt because of what distracted him. He was becoming very flustered and red in the face. He apologised and said he quickly needed to take care of something.
I took this opportunity to have a breather and go outside, making sure I was well and truly 4 metres away from the door so I could enjoy a cool, refreshing Malboro. I could feel the eyes of locals burning into me from every angle, with everybody making their judgement.
When I came back the furrowed brow and popping veins had left Bland’s face and his regular straight faced smugness had returned. Although he still seemed a little shaken from whatever he had just needed to deal with. When I enquired if everything was ok I was told “Oh this prick with a blog just published another article full of actual research and analysis that totally discredits one of our agendas. But not to worry, we will just get someone respected to make up another way to spin it and people will believe us.” Bland clearly had an axe to grind here as he went off into a tangent. “But these independent websites and bloggers are becoming a serious problem to our credibility”. He said.“Not for much longer though. We aim to make differing opinion illegal too. Once we’re in power we will ensure the upstarts this who have the hide to use logic and express differing opinions will get the Raif Badawi treatment. (Raif Badawi is of course, the Saudi Blogger who was arrested and subjected to floggings before members of his family were also arrested). “There you go, there’s another policy! We can even give it a catchy name like Raif’s Law. People love buzzwords and new terms or phrases that don’t actually mean anything.”
Sarcastically I remarked that would be quite a unique policy that no other party would dare to implement. “Many claim to be, but FARER is the one party that is truly not like the others” I added facetiously. Bland took this opportunity to preach the virtues of his party.
“For starters even though we have substantial government funding we’re 100% independent. We don’t feel this creates a vested interest. Plus all the other parties are corrupt. They take donations from developers and all sorts of dodgy people. We accept donations from public hospitals, local residents groups and charities. So you know we won’t be pushing any agendas and will only be lobbying for issues that are for the good of the community.”
Sensing (or perhaps just hoping) our time was running out I pressed forward, eager to obtain comment on all the big issues. Employment was up next.
“As our clever homonym suggests we like people to think we believe in a fairer go. Ger it, FARER! Everyone should be the same amount no matter their age, experience, gender, race, ability, education or indeed how much work they do, if any. We have a model that draws inspiration from basic minimum income as well as one of the most proven welfare systems in the history of civilisation – pocket money.”
This made sense. FARER believes everyone should be treated like children, so it’s only natural that they be paid like children too. Unfortunately we could not could not confirm if their system would pay people their full weekly allowance in one go or whether there was any truth to the rumours that a percentage would be automatically deposited into a Doallamite account to help them save.
“Whilst we don’t think people should be made to work for a living, we want to reward those people who we feel deserve it. Incentives will be offered so rather than having motivation to work hard, people will be given financial reward for behaving well. This will include things like spending 75% or more of your week inside your house and monitoring social media and internet comment sections to identify differing opinions so we can prosecute those who hold them. Of course, there will be rewards offered for simply being a good member of the community, so you know things like letting us know if anyone is making too much noise anywhere, or pointing out hotbeds of recreation, stuff that causes a problem for decent, moral folk like myself”
Quite bizarre, but unique nonetheless. “What about education?” I asked. “That’s a simple one” came Bland’s reply. “We look to US college system as well as some of our own local universities for inspiration” A frightening statement if ever I heard one “now that is how you should run a country” I was going to enquire on where FARER stood on costs of education but Bland went off in another direction. “Except for the junkies and the pot smokers” he stated, for reasons I was not sure off. “I’m assuming you were going to ask about that too. Well FARER stands for one thing and that is keeping people safe. So obviously we fully support harm minimisation” Before I had a chance to ask him what he thought that phrase meant he continued
“Our policy is simple. Don’t take any. That’s what we’ll be telling people. We feel people respond to three word slogans. And even if they don’t, we’ll be bringing in mandatory sentences for possession. Kids these days have no consideration for what we think of their personal choices and should be locked up. And we will not be stupid enough to consider any pill testing. You’ll get locked up for that too. There is no justification for even contemplating legalisation. I mean look what happened with alcohol, it was made legal and consumption has been doubling every year since.”
My will to live was slipping, never mind my desire to argue any of Bland’s ludicrous points using logic, reason and common sense – three concepts that were foreign to him anyway. Instead I asked about policing. “More Means Less” he proudly stated. I asked him to elaborate. “More power, less work. Simple as that. Efficiency. My crime expert who had the car crash is keen to study new technology he saw that a couple of countries have adopted in a documentary”
Curiously I asked if he knew the name of this documentary “The Minority Report” he said. “I assume it’s about better ways to throw the blacks and all that into jail. Sounds like it’s working too. We also want to bring in the crime linking program where you can be prosecuted for a crime by being somewhere or doing something that we believe may lead to you becoming a perpetrator or victim at some point. We don’t tolerate gateways to risky behaviour.” My disdain was becoming quite obvious and I suggested this policy was absurd. I made an observation about the risks of innocent people being branded criminals for hypothetical crimes that were never committed or ever going to be committed. But Bland had a strong rebuttal ready to deal with any common sense.
What is more important? Preventing crime? (there was no alternative suggested -ed) This is about protecting people and keeping them safe from all crime, whether it be violence, robberies, things people say, you name it. Think about it. If we can stop even ONE real crime from being committed. Does that not make it all worth it???”
Bland then took the opportunity to go yet another tangent, this time about why he felt FARER needed to become a political player.
“At FARER we have always felt we had the right, the duty and the ability to unfairly influence policy by loudly expressing our minority views based on our personal moral judgement. Using scientific research we’d always present these arguments as the general consensus. Because people need to be protected, whether they know it or not. I look at people who fall over and injure themselves and have the hide to sue the shopping centre or council or whoever. But shouldn’t we be making falling over illegal? So people can be protected? Maybe then they won’t go out and risk breaking the law. But I digress. As it stands, people are still able able to do far too many things that we don’t like. So the next logical step was to gain power at a legislative level. Why lobby for change when you can just change it yourself? This campaign is over two years in the making and we would never have been able to get where we are without cheaply cashing in on a few tragic events. People say they were isolated incidents, but we know they were signs from above. This country was out of control and it’s only been getting worse and worse every year. People were getting slaughtered on the streets. People were too scared to leave the house. Which is fine, but we’d rather them be afraid of breaching curfew, not of some thug who thinks he’s in charge. We’re in charge, we make the rules. Enough is enough”
Noticing our time was up I threw in one last comment, secretly hoping it would not prompt a reply “But haven’t crime rates been dropping and wasn’t Australia just named safest country in the world?” I asked with a smug smirk of my own. Confronted with this fact that rendered his passionate stance completely invalid, Bland immediately flew into a fit of rage. He slammed his fists down onto the table, gathered his belongings and stood up. “What utter garbage!” he bellowed, forgetting we were in a library and startling everyone present.
He began to storm out of the library telling a group of children who were minding their own business chatting amongst themselves to “shut the fuck up you little cunts”. He then turned his attention back to me and yelled “See what I mean? My advisors and I are out there on the front line every day. What did they do, survey a bunch of pricks who don’t even live in this country and haven’t been here in years?” I contemplated a reply explaining how the index worked and how it was nothing like all his bogus polls he been proudly showing off earlier. Instead I opted to respect my surroundings and those that were present. We were in a library, after all.
After knocking over a full shelf of books and glaring at the librarian Bland reached the door. He paused and turned. Anger had morphed with distress. Tears had begun to form and it became evident my last question had really touched a nerve. Not content to let it go, Bland let his guard down. In a moment of weakness he made an admission that undermined the very existence of FARER to the core. In a single moment of madness Bland may have just derailed his campaign and indeed the entire organisation.
“What are you, a fucking idiot? Safest country ha you believe that you’re a moron.” You could see the spit flying in all directions. “Everybody knows polls mean absolutely nothing and are a total load of shit.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr Bland.