Last night, Acting PM Wayne Swan delivered his John Button lecture at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre, channelling his musical idol Bruce Springsteen, among others, to critique mining magnates like Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest. Championing Springsteen for his ability to “pick up on the subterranean rumblings of profound social change long before the economic statisticians notice them.”
Swan used Springsteen’s blue-collar narratives that reflected on his native America as a parallel for contemporary Australian issues: “If I could distil the relevance of Bruce Springsteen’s music to Australia it would be this: don’t let what has happened to the American economy happen here… don’t let Australia become a down-under version of New Jersey,” said Swan.
Today, The Age reports that several members for the Liberal Party have criticised Swan for invoking Springsteen and other musical references in his address, saying that it demonstrated a lack of musical patriotism as well as a misguided political intention.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey lambasted Swan, saying his renewed attack on mining bosses, inspired by Springsteen, “says everything about this government that it is guided by the principles of a rock singer, rather than any enduring philosophy that builds a stronger nation,” said Hockey.
Hockey called the Acting PM’s John Button lecture a “look-at-me speech” designed to gain the attention of young voters. “You have got the clown trying to run the circus,” said Hockey, before adding that rock music’s place was as entertainment; not “as the benchmark of guiding principles for the destiny of a nation”.
Hockey decried Swan’s appeals that Springsteen fostered a sense of political spirit in the young politician, saying that if the Jersey musicians was the benchmark for political aspirations, “then we might as well have Glenn A. Baker and Molly Meldrum running the country – and they would do a far better job than the current mob,” said the shadow treasurer.
He was inspired by the likes of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill or a Robert Menzies.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, added his voice to the argument saying that the Liberal Party was “not here to defend billionaires, billionaires can defend themselves”, in regards to Rinehart, Palmer and Forrest who were being targeted by Wayne’s Springsteen speech, but added that the “what’s important” was that “the Treasurer’s words attack billionaires but his policies attack middle Australian families.”
One such mining magnate that was targeted, owner of Mineralogy – billionaire Clive Palmer, took to twitter to respond to Swan’s attacks, calling the Acting PM’s speech “unpatriotic” for “quoting songs from a millionaire US rock star” in his address; adding that, “I prefer Oz groups like Redgum and The Seekers.”
Palmer obviously missed (or selectively ignored) Swan’s references to Australian acts like Cold Chisel, and even Hilltop Hoods in his ‘Wayne Swansteen’ address, saying of the latter, “my kids tell me the political tradition lives on in Aussie hip hop bands like the Hilltop Hoods.”
Whether you agree or disagree with Swan’s musical-quoting lecture, we can all agree that he’s a massive Springsteen fanboy. If you had any doubts, take a look at the video the Labor Treasurer posted to his YouTube account yesterday, showing Swan talking up his musical idol while lounging about the house in a vintage Eric Clapton t-shirt: