Flat White

Victoria: the failed punk rock state

18 June 2021

11:58 AM

18 June 2021

11:58 AM

I’m not saying Johnny Rotten is a prophet, but he kind of is. 

The manic-eyed lead singer of the Sex Pistols and later Public Image Ltd. cradled, together with bandmates and manager Malcolm McLaren, the punk rock movement into existence in 1976. Despite threats of cancellation from lefties who just don’t get it, he’s endured as an anti-establishment icon. 

What’s prescient was his howling down of our elected officials in Victoria who would think themselves absolute monarchs with a predilection to condescend and instil fear into their subjects. 

“God save the Queen,” he snarled once upon a time. “The fascist regime/they made you a moron/a potential H-Bomb.”

Replace “Queen” with “Dan” and “H” with “COVID” and you get a fairly accurate picture of Victoria’s state of mind. 

Punk rock flourishes in quasi-fascistic states. The brilliant Pig City by Andrew Stafford chronicles the punk rock explosion in Brisbane and Queensland under the iron grip of premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Charting the rise of The Saints, The Go-Betweens, and indie radio station 4ZZZ, it’s a glimpse into a state that was mired in “long-term systemic political corruption and abuse of power” (the Fitzgerald Inquiry’s words).


It also penned scenes of politicised police smashing down the doors of people who disagreed with the government as young people (illegally) congregated to oppose it – wow, where have I seen that in recent memory? 

Though rusted-on left-wingers (back then) would rage against his police machine, they’d also have cause to oppose his economic policies: low taxing economic rationalism all before Hawke and Keating made it cool. He was in power for 20-odd years? It’s the economy, you drongo! (to coin a phrase.) 

Victoria has all the hallmarks yet none of the charm of Queensland’s punk rock universe, barring one uniting fact: Victoria has no future.

“No future, no future, no future for you,” Rotten bellows during the coda of the song. 

No future is the foundation upon which punk rock stands. Strewn through its anarchistic concrete slurry are tenets of the Marxist ‘Situationist International.’ Greil Marcus in his excellent Lipstick Traces, points to the SI as the grandfather the punk rock movement. Like their tendency to “turn the expressions of capitalism against itself,” the Andrews government has a tendency to “turn the expressions of otherwise rational people against themselves.” Until they come for the hip pocket, that is. 

This where the future gets erased: at the Treasury. In the recent budget, Tim Pallas will levy a $42 million mental health tithe on universities and a whopping $2.4 billion in new property taxes. It’s like trying to remove a safety pin from a leather jacket – sure, it’ll come out eventually, but not without ruining everything around it. We’re also turning into the Pretty Vacant state: it’s forecast our population will shrink by 400,000 by the end of 2022 because, well, why live in a place with no future?

No future makes for idle hands and minds in stagnation. That said, the mental health of Victorians is of scarce concern to the government, as Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick said this week in defence of their Emergency Powers Safeguards bill. He recounted horror stories of life under lockdown, collected by @Voice4Victoria on social media. There’s a recurring theme: 

“A young mother said [to Limbrick] lockdown caused maternal health care workers to cancel all her appointments…her 18-month-old had not had a single professional lay eyes on her in 14 months. The young mother described the experience as ‘isolating’ and ‘extremely worrying.’ […] “Another said her 14-year-old son became totally disengaged from school last year,” he pauses, choking back tears. “He hasn’t left his bedroom except to eat since it started. He’s really worried about his future.” 

More harrowing stories abound in his five-minute speech, which I recommend everyone watch.  

Through endless cascades of ineptitude, Andrews and Merlino and his coterie of super-brainiacs have ripped the heart out of Victoria and left us a gaping maw with no future.  

I hope for the sake of the small business owners and their employees who may very well be left homeless after this Fourth ridiculous Lockdown, sitting in squalor in what we’re likely to call Dantowns or Merlinovilles, there’s some decent punk rock tunes decrying just how terrible this government is.  

Failing that, we can play the same song over and over. Play it again, Johnny: “There is no future… in Victoria’s dreaming.”

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