FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ending the War on Terriers: Pistol, Boo and Judging Hollywood

“At the end of it we’ve got a message that is going all around the world right now, it’s going off like a frog in a sock telling people that if you come to this nation and you don’t obey our laws, you’re in trouble.”

— Barnaby Joyce, ABC News, Apr 19, 2016

Johnny Depp was happy to feign ice cool, valium laced casualness when talking about it last year. His pet Yorkshire terriers, named Pistol and Boo, have been the ongoing subject of disagreement with the bio-security minded Australian authorities. Their interest in the canines was sparked last year when Amber Heard, his wife, attempted an act of smuggling into the country via private jet. Husband Depp was engaged with yet another Pirates of the Caribbean project, and wife Heard did not deem it fitting to worry about the myriad quarantine regulations that characterise Australia’s border controls. The dogs were none the wiser.

In September last year, Depp, when cast a question on whether he was going to take his dogs for a gondola ride in Venice, answered with dismissive aplomb: “I killed my dogs and ate them, under direct orders of some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia.”[1]

As easy as it is to be dismissive of Australia’s paunchy current deputy prime minister, crimson-red from sun, stress, and a suggestion of imbibing, a serious note prevails. Barnaby Joyce should not be cast aside as a relic of a provincial backwater indifferent to the fine lines of the law. If anything, he has come across as a crafted caricature, noisy about the egalitarian nature of the Australian spirit in the face of Yankee rough riding. This is Hollywood getting all too cute.

The ecological wars fought in Australia tend to be of a savage sort, cruel, merciless and genocidal in intensity and tendency. The fears are always the same: agro-economic threats, and the assault on biodiversity (more a secondary matter).

It is not necessarily that Australia’s quarantine and border controls are sensible, well-informed or decently applied. Feverish and arbitrary, they reveal a quotidian manner when it comes to concern about porous borders: some will be allowed through, while others won’t. By in large, they are determined to makes sure as few species and agents get through on their watch.

The premise is purely sovereign and patriotic: if we are going to destroy a country with unseen and undetected bacteria or viral phenomena, then let us be the ones to introduce it. Let Australian scientists and sagacious wise men and women of agriculture and the biosecurity field introduce the next malignant strain against resilient rabbits, or the next technique of destruction for the Indian Mynah Bird. Such killing and destruction is entirely a matter of Queen and country.

The overview by Joyce, who uttered his comments in the holy position of agriculture minister, was unvarnished in its simplicity. In foreign presses, such a statement would come across as almost childish. “There is a process if you want to bring animals: you get the permits, they go into quarantine and then you can have them.” Exemptions for “the sexiest man alive twice” would be corrosive to the rule of law – or at the very least the rule of quarantine.

Much of this sounds mindlessly corrosive, but Depp and Heard had to make their case clear. Hollywood had come up against an ecological test. And however egalitarian Joyce may claim to be in the business, the standards towards the dream factory are different to those afforded an asylum seeker who arrives by boat, or the Chinese visitor replete with swallow nests.

Some get the accommodation of a cruel detention centre, or a savagely punitive fine; wealthy actors, playing on innocence and a lack of malice, fare better. This is exactly what Heard and Depp found: feign and dissimulate in recording a video of apology for their actions, and get off virtually scot-free. “Australia is a wonderful island with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and species,” begins Heard.[2]

Depp then chimes in: “It has to be protected.” What follows is a half-baked effort at condescending anthropology: “Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct… When you disrespect Australian law they will tell you firmly.”

Joyce’s response to this act of cinematic idiosyncrasy? “What I can say is although I don’t think he’ll get an academy award for his performance, the fact that he did it… he looked like he was auditioning for the Godfather.”

In what has become a prolonged episode of fancy and fame, Joyce dotted his interviews during the day with suggestions on how he might have actually filmed the effort more appropriately. Joyce the environmental protector had become a pseudo-director. “Do it again Johnny, do it with gusto mate, a little gusto.” To the Sunrise show on Channel Seven, he observed that Depp should “rise to the camera”.

An otherwise serious biosecurity matter that might have seen a ten year prison sentence had become cinematically farcical. No conviction was recorded against Heard’s name, despite her admission to one charge of falsifying border protection documents in smuggling the dogs into the country. The worst she had to deal with was a one-month good behaviour bond. As Joyce had to observe after the ruling, “The court determines the punishment of the court so I’m not going to start being in contempt of court.” Thus ended the war on terriers.

Notes.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-05/johnny-depp-jokes-he-killed-and-ate-dogs-pistol-and-boo/6752206

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-19/depp’s-apology-like-‘an-audition-for-the-godfather’-joyce-says/7336736

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail