How did it happen? The same answer … Sufficient people in the right place, were benefiting from the

patronage, for them to sell out the rest.

The Siege of Sydney had lasted long long years.

Citizens were at the mercy of the Evil King Sford Smith.

King Sford Smith had grown fat and loud and dirty. This engorgement of King Sford Smith cost many citizens dearly. Yet many people did not care. They came from somewhere else, and King Sford Smith treated them well, never mentioning the suffering that he was causing close to where he lived.

Those who said that King Sford Smith threatened their health or disturbed their sleep or appropriated their back yards were ignored by people who preferred to think that oppression was an act performed elsewhere by people called Idi or Slobodan.

Songs are very good in their place, but tyranny needs more than songs to get fat.

Cries of the downtrodden are never very compelling when they originate close by. Distant suffering calls loudest for our pity.

So every gulp that King Sford Smith took from the lives of the citizens was hailed by people who lived in places where the shadow of King Sford Smith did not fall. There were some places where the King weighed heavy on the people but the local powerbase, basked in the King’s sun so they were compelled to sing ‘Hooray, King Sford Smith is even bigger’. The songwriters wrote songs just for King Sford Smith. ‘Sydney is a good place for King Sford Smith. Therefore King Sford Smith is good for Sydney.’

There were people who believed that since they lived in a democracy there were protections of their human rights. Sometimes this belief flew in the face of evidence, but a belief is a belief and a comfort to have.

King Sford Smith grew bigger and louder and dirtier slowly and like all abuses by small increments, was not strongly resisted. But one day, and that one day always comes with tyrants, he took a big grab. An enormous grab, so big that Fairly Great Wallah of Australia himself had to mingle with the crowd to tell them that it was good and necessary.

Words are sometimes not enough. The people could see that they were being sold a complete dog. The Fairly Great Wallah got the sack, because he was making too many such claims on behalf of the big, the loud and the dirty.

There was a new Fairly Great Wallah. The new Fairly Great Wallah said to King Sford Smith of the Enormous Grab ‘you’ll have to give it back for the moment’. To the citizens he said ‘I’m pretty good, I made him give it back’ and he muttered the last three words very quietly under his breath so that only those very close to him could hear. They understood, because there’s nothing difficult about that.

Being a public servant must not be confused with being a servant of the public interest.

It had just looked too ugly, and something had to be done, for the moment. Think tanks thought, backrooms buzzed. Spin doctors sought the spin. Since perception is all, how can we make it look better? If it can be dollied up to look pretty, we can bring it back. That will be good for the King and what’s good for the King is good for us. That’s what it means to be a public servant.

Then King Sford Smith said to the new Fairly Great Wallah ‘the old Fairly Great Wallah did very well out of sending minions to say there was a Grand Plan to make it better. Why don’t you do that?’

The new Fairly Great Wallah was delighted with the suggestion. He sent his minions to sound out the minions of the old Fairly Great Wallah about the Grand Plan and how you sell a Grand Plan to the multitudes.


Well the minions said, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that all the bounty to be had has been had. The bonanza is over. However the good news is that we will all support the Grand Plan, and that has knock on benefits for you. There’s some largesse, a bit of patronage, and the best thing is it will score us both points with King Sford Smith, because no government lasts for ever. What we do is call it bipartisan support and we tell people that we are doing it because we are committed to their wellbeing above and beyond our Parties.

They settled down to the gritty and the nitty of the Grand Plan.

This might be time for a rethink of something not previously doubted

The Siege of Troy, as recounted to us by Homer lasted years. The crunch came when the Greeks pretended to retreat, leaving behind them a big wooden horse inside which were hidden the cream of Greek warriors. Trojans wheeled the horse into the city and then forgot about it while they celebrated the departure of the Greeks. Children’s picture books show the horse as an enormous hollow toy horse on wheels, with warriors leaping out of a trapdoor in its belly. According to the story, those warriors then opened the gates and the Greeks flooded in and lay waste to Troy. Because it’s a story for children there is no mention of rape, pillage or murder. All children who watch the news on television know what that looks like in all its detail, but picture books spare them still.

Think about it now. The Trojans had held the Greeks outside for years. Years. They would not have fallen for such a ploy as a fake retreat. Feints are basic in any conflict, everyone in a beseiged city would be familiar with all the range of military tactics. Sentries who come out in the open to wheel in horse? And having wheeled it in, gone off to party leaving it tethered, so to speak, handy inside the gates? No watch posted? Having the wherewithall to party after a siege lasting for such a long time? And from the other side, generals doing a commando raid? I don’t think so.

The Grand Plan is called Bad Gerrys Creek. It’s just so simple. You tell everyone who feels the hot foul breath of King Sford Smith that a redeemer at Bad Gerrys Creek will take it all away. Tell them that the weight of King Sford Smith will be lifted from them.

Remember before the Enormous Grab we told people that it was a little thing that they wouldn’t notice, hardly at all? Well, we’ve still got the old documents: the old speeches, the old handouts, the old graphs and tables. We can pull it off twice. And even if it wasn’t successful for very long last time, it was successful while it lasted. What a great and rare opportunity, to use the same trick twice. And when it falls over again, we will have Plan One to fall back on, exactly how we wanted it all to turn out. It depends on introducing ideas that appeal to self interest. Once the idea has penetrated the barriers, and some advantage can be perceived for the self, opposition is weakened and the siege is over. What you say doesn’t have to be true. It often does not even have to be likely to be true. We can call it a legend.

So the minions devised Bad Gerrys Legend. A memorable dish has perhaps ten or twenty ingredients. Not many. The proportion of ingredient to ingredient, the time each one is introduced, the size of each piece, texture and colour of the final mix, the pace of the cooking all contribute a part to the success of the dish. Careers are built on getting a stew just right. But a meal, however good, however memorable is only ever a meal. A legend has life. It continues on through generations.

The Legend is not just a collection of information, be it true false or in between. And however simple the original concept, the execution of an act by use of legend is far from simple. A good legend is brought to life by a specialised team each contributing something important to the ultimate success. So the Bad Gerry legend team swung into action. The team was created with the writing of position descriptions, and the filling of those positions from amongst those who were known to workshop well. This stage of that legend came from amongst those on the public’s payroll. They were tapped on the shoulder and packed down officially into a team when they went to the first strategic planning meeting. The mission statement was devised. They quickly decided that it was ‘to be pre-eminent world wide in the servicing the needs of citizens whose benefits from King Sford Smith are limited by geographic location’.

The logo took much longer, but a designer eventually persuaded them that their efforts were best represented by arrows. The designer had similarly persuaded several groups, because the arrow-speil was both persuasive and adaptable, but she conscientiously changed the arrow a little bit each time.

When you’re on a good thing, stick to it.

The minions allocated areas of responsibility then went to London for the cricket, and to study the situation overseas. Minions know that fortune has a way of turning on her favoured, so it’s best to grab the fringe benefits now, in case you get scapegoated later and lose them. The Legend Task Force then wrote its flow chart. A lovely thing it was, written on overhead transparencies, one colour for each sheet; each sheet a separate process. So the team separated its areas of responsibility: media, community, non-aligned minions. They contacted ex-employees and put them on the payroll as consultants.

An early priority was to find out what was most hated and feared about King Sford Smith. The answer came back ‘noise and danger’.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be likely, it only has to be said.

First requirement of the legend: persuade folk that Bad Gerry would remove noise and danger from the lives of those under the shadow of King Sford Smith. It would all be taken harmlessly away Somewhere.

Of course there is the problem of the people Somewhere. Why should they be shouldering a burden that other people did not want?

One part of the Legend Task Force was dedicated especially to engineering perception about Bad Gerry. It had a large team of consultants and experts. Scientists, social planners, all that sort of thing.

It was a firmly held belief among the citizenry that government should be from the bottom up. Unfortunately this had come to mean that the government organised itself from the bottom up. So from neighbourhood committee level to the Fairly Great Wallah at what you might loosely call the top, consent was gathered, and passed upwards. So the function of the chair of the precinct group was to promote goodwill towards the Area Government, and they promoted upwards to the mighty national level. If a ballot swung against a federal parliamentarian in one place, the mayor of that municipality would have some explaining to do. May even suffer on that account. May lose endorsement, and certainly would not be invited to sup at the really lavish tables.

Old men say cui bono, which means watch out before you jump for joy.

So when the Fairly Grand Panjandrum wanted to serve the
King, the local mayor needed to serve the King.

The group tasked with Somewhere started working on mayors.

‘Having Bad Gerry come amongst you is a great advantage. There’s money above board, there’s money on the QT, there’s just oodles of boodle.. Get in on the ground floor - buy the land now that Bad Gerry is going to want later. He’ll buy at any price.’ The mayors looked thoughtful. The group had more shots. ‘And you can make yourself look good: Say that there will be heaps of employment come with serving Bad Gerry, all for your constituents. And say that you are negotiating to maximise the good effects and minimise the bad. And if you do it terribly well, there may be a job in it for you here, some sort of planning or consulting role…’ The group tasked with Somewhere had yet more to say, but it was the sort of thing that was not said straight out. It was spoken in code. ‘The friends of Bad Gerry are remarkably lucky at the track; often succeed in Art Unions with the smallest outlay; sometimes can provide really useful rainfall measurements for lucrative government commissions; their children tend to win scholarships…’

Some of the mayors were not once very enthusiastic about Bad Gerry, having seen what King Sford Smith did to the neighbours. But after the group invited them to the casino and blew a bit of cigar smoke, the mayors, began to swing around like weathervanes. But what persuaded them was not the material that they could use to persuade others.

Inspiration! The Bad Gerry mayors contacted the Kings Ford Smith mayors. ‘Mates,’ they said, ‘Brothers. Where does the advantage lie for us? We have to look after number one, one hand washes the other, people don’t know what’s good for them, but we do. We know what’s good for us too and that’s more important. You help us swing this deal, and we’ll help you.

Think of the difficulties of administration in a city under siege. Food runs short. And the poorest people run out of food the quickest. That’s what being poor is, not having anything in reserve. If your beggars starve to death and your street people, it doesn’t matter much, provided their bodies are not lying around in an unhealthy and unsightly way. But the next people to be starving are the ones who do the low paid work. It’s the work no-one wants, and you can’t have all your municipal cleansing workers, all your laundry workers and mail sorters starve to death. You need them to do what they do, both because they know how to do it and you don’t, and because other people wouldn’t want to do it, even if they could.. So you take food from Alan the Area Manager and you give it to Mike the Mailsorter. And how do you keep Alan generous and Mike hardworking when the normal order has been thrown into siege turmoil?

You promise them future benefits. And you do deals. The nature of this work is that your hand must not show. If the people saw your goals and manoeuvres set out clearly, yours would be one less mouth to feed. Self preservation and the maintenance of order dictate that your work be secret. Your work be secret and your words be silken.

So the mayors and the mates and the mates of mates formed alliances that might once have seemed unlikely, and they started to breathe life into the legend. An artist painted a picture of The Maid of Somewhere, gazing into the distance with sadness and hope. The caption was ‘Longing for Bad Gerry’. The Maid of Somewhere was depicted far and wide. She got credibility. That’s part of making a legend. Good Pictures. Imaginative slogans. The bonus with this legend was that it was working both sides of the street. As legends go, it was shaping up to be one of the best. People in Sydney thought a bad presence was going, and people in Somewhere quite close by thought something good was coming.

The sloganeers ran some test slogans up the flag to see who saluted. There was ‘Free beer for all the workers’, ‘No child will be lacking in benefits’, ‘Gerry gives us what we want’, ’Every person will benefit’, ‘No-one will suffer’, ‘The EIS commends it’ and ‘End metrification madness now’. No-one knows how that got in. It came from a sloganeer who had been out of favour for about forty years but they kept it in reserve, just in case it was needed in the crowd scenes.

Slogans, anecdotes, claims and maps were concocted in the appropriate workshops and reproduced onto colour-coded A4 sheets for distribution to opinion leaders. Some of the opinion leaders had a vested interest in advancing the legend. Others were just gullible or journalists working for too little pay. And the legend creation team had a whole section dedicated to discrediting the opposition. If one person shouted in the street ‘Bad Gerry is a liar’ he or she was called a lunatic, or evil. If a group did the same thing they were called rent a crowd or professional malcontents.

What you, the administrator, want is for the siege to end while you still have your skin and your benefits intact. And you want this happy state of wholeness to continue even when many of the relatively unimportant people in your city suffer the extreme penalty. Besiegers are never going to storm into a city and give bread to the hungry, shoes to the shoeless and antibiotics to the people whose wounds are festering. Rape pillage and plunder is the very best they can expect. So they are not going to treat you well if they know you have been complicit in subjecting them to that fate, in the interests of your own pelt. You need to create a legend that makes you look good.

So the people of Somewhere were persuaded by appeals to their desires, and by their faith that their mayors would not betray them, and by basic human optimism, to agree to accommodating Bad Gerry. Bad Gerry roared at night, Bad Gerry poisoned the air that had been so fine and clear. Friends of Bad Gerry parked in all the best parking spots and the locals had to use meters. And all the time they were told how it was good for the country so it must be good for them.

The Fairly Great Wallah blinked his earnest eyes and the Court of the Evil King Sford Smith told him that he had done very well and would find his reward in heaven. The opposition licked their pointy teeth and waited for their reward in this life.

Because while Bad Gerry was a nuisance to the people of Somewhere, he did take a bit of the day to day workload off the functioning of the Court of that evil King Sford Smith. And with minor tasks out of its way, King Sford Smith could really rip with the big hunting parties that increased the burden on the peasants of Sydney tenfold.

It’s an inescapable conclusion. The people of Troy were turned over to the Greeks by some Trojans who were really good at covering their betrayal with a legend.

And when life was totally blighted in all of Sydney and all of nearby Somewhere, people started to ask about the benefits they had been promised. Then all the mayors and all the minions, who were the ones who had smelt the sweet smell of a benefit, started to retro-write the Legend of Bad Gerry. They did not have to try all that hard. Just admit that was not such a good idea, really. Unfortunately someone else, someone long gone far away, was to blame.

And there’s nothing that can be done now. If you don’t like it, you should have said something earlier. Or your grandparents should have. It’s their fault really.


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By Sue Hogan