by Ross Sharp

Three weeks ago, I receive a phone call from my father, and he tells me, “Your mother has cancer, she has to go in for an operation in four to six weeks.”


“She has cancer. Liver cancer”, he says, wheezing and gasping down the line. Turns out it was kidney cancer, but he’s 84 years old and unable to care for himself, and he gets a little confused, if you know what I mean.

“Shit”, I say.

A couple days later, he phones again and he tells me, “She’s going in next Thursday. They had a cancellation.”

“Okay. I’ll be down on Wednesday”, and so I was. Booked a flight to Sydney, rented a car, and took her to hospital on Thursday morning at 10.00am, the time we were told to be there, even though she wasn’t admitted to prep ’til 2.00pm.

Four hours, just sitting around.

That’s your public health system, right there.

Some may think that would be cause enough for complaint.

It’s a public health system. It’s free.

Complaint? Blow it out your arse.

Hell, it’s not as if the four hour wait to go in would see the cancer metastasize into her brain.

She came out of the theatre at 8.00pm, doped to the hilt on morphine and looking like white death on a stretcher.

I watched these people, these nurses and interns, cleaners and trolley pushers, doctors, all manner of people, God only knows what most of them do, as they went about their business during the four days she was in the hospital, in a mixed ward of four (two men, two women), and each and every one of them knew exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it, and they did it brilliantly.

These are our public servants.

They are not our public slaves, or serfs.

They are not, as our politicians often infer, disposable, weedy, sunken chested little dweebs, clad in short-sleeved, white polyester shirts with four pens in the top pocket, wearing a visor, and beavering away under green lamps on a foot-high pile of papers and forms, like the Jonathon Pryce character from Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”.

A couple weeks ago, on Linda Mottram’s morning show on ABC702, the topic of a teachers’ strike came up.

I understand the primary reason these teachers decided to take strike action was this  (my emphases) …

“Children with special needs in NSW public schools are losing specialist support and classroom teachers are needing to fill the gap according to the NSW Teachers Federation. The Federation says that changes to the system of supporting special needs students is about saving money. Specialist support staff have been removed and classroom teachers are expected to train in those specialist areas and support those students in class as well as delivering general classroom education.”

“Saving money”.

Such a noble pursuit.

If we’re going to start ripping money from services for the intellectually and physically handicapped, why not just revert to practices of ye olden times, and shove them all in asylums.

That way, they soil ‘emselves or get rowdy, we can just hose ‘em down and give ‘em all a thrashing ‘til they quieten down some.

A couple people rang in to Mottram’s program to discuss the matter of this strike, this one day strike, and common among them was how terribly “inconvenienced” (yes, that was the word used) they would be by this day of tumultuous industrial action. Why, they would have to rearrange their whole day just to cope with the upset, maybe miss out on that extra twenty minutes at the gym, skip the afternoon latte, or a beer with the boys after work in order to accommodate the not-so-special needs of their own overindulged offspring, like pay them some fucking attention for a time instead of fobbing them off on the poor bastards who are paid two-fifths of fuck-all to deal with the brats five days a week for twelve fucking years.

God help us all, I thought, if somewhere in this world of almost seven billion people, a fair dinkum Aussie bloke or sheila is bein’ “inconvenienced” for a brief period of time over sumfin’.

Aw, jeez.

It’s almost enough to warrant a complaint to the U.N., bigger than the bombing of Dresden, shall we call in the Marines?

Poor buggers.

At what point was it, precisely, when the most defining characteristic of the Australian national identity became one of a squealing, pants-wetting, fist-clenching, foot-stomping, soft-bellied, spineless, yowling little child – the spoilt brat with screwed-up baby face, its automatic expectation of privileged entitlement to anything, everything, right now?

Because it’s giving me the shits.

Here were these people on the radio, banging on and on about how “the teachers oughta be doin’ this, they oughtn’t be doin’ that, and if they wanna strike, why can’t they do it durin’ school holidays, they get enough of ‘em, the bludgers. They are our public servants, y’know, it’s our taxes pay their wages.”

I’ve never rung a radio station, but on hearing all of this, I was sorely tempted to ring in and suggest, in far more polite terms than these, that perhaps these people may like to take a good, close look at the circumstances of their lives in this, the most troubled nation on the face of the planet, and the difficulty they believe they are facing as a result of this ONE DAY of industrial action, and then go fuck themselves with forty sharpened sticks.

I resisted that temptation.

God only knows why anyone in their right mind would want to devote their working life to serving the needs of the Australian public by becoming a teacher or a nurse or a doctor or cop or a bus driver or train driver in the public system, when the only thing they ever seem to face is this constant barrage of whiny complaint about any damn thing, no matter how trivial, from the “ME! ME! ME! NOW!” generation that seems to typify the average Australian, in this, the 21st and a bit century.

But they do. Bless ‘em.

As for the taxes we pay them to put up with this nonsense from all these penny-bunger, one-pot screamers, as far as I’m concerned, we should be paying them fucking double, and you can raise my taxes twenty bucks a week to do it.

Fifty. Take fifty.

And take a hundred from him over there, the one earning two-fifty grand a year. Fuck him.

In her 73 years of life, my mother had never been under the knife before, and the last time she was in hospital was 1959, when I was born.

The cancerous kidney was removed and the operation was declared a success, but she was shaken and upset and unnerved by it all, as I would be, I suppose. As anyone.

Her local G.P. paid a visit this morning, looked over the notes on the procedures, the medications, and said, “Yes, this is very good. This means they are very confident everything is now fine, and you should recover very quickly. So, nothing to worry about now. It’s very good.”

He walked in the front door while I was trying to get some work done, and I looked at him as he came in and I thought to myself, “You have got to be fucking kidding me! You have got to be kidding! I need to get myself a phone with a camera in it, ‘cause no one is going to believe this.”

For he looked the spitting image of Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring from “Breaking Bad”, only with gray hair and more of it, and thick-rimmed glasses.


No, seriously.

You have to believe me.


Would I lie to you? …