Thursday, July 3, 2008


A lively little debate has started on Larvatus Prodeo about the mythical or real status of a creature known as "ute-man".

The debate was started by Canberra press gallery commentator Glenn Milne's observations in The Australian that (and I will use quotes here) the "shock result" of the Nationals' holding the seat of Gippsland in a by-election - which they have held since 1923 - was due to the "genius of Brendan Nelson's uber-populist post-budget announcement that he would introduce a 5c a litre cut in the fuel excise", combined with "a backlash against Labor's "alcopops" tax grab by its own "ute man" mixed-drinks base".

I'm not sure whether the base Glenn Milne is referring to here is the Labor Party voting base or the base spirit Bundy or Johnnie Walker that gets mixed with the coke. I can only hope that, wherever it was that Mr. Milne was mixing this base with his "Liberal strategists", he did not mix it with the headache medication that led to problems at the Walkley Awards in 2006 or else this might have happened.

Anyway, if you really want to understand "ute-man", go not to Glenn Milne but to Glen Fuller and his Event Mechanics blog. I'll just throw in a few quick observations on this one:

  1. As someone who has worked at a university campus that also doubles as a perpetual building site, I can assure you that "ute-man" does exist, at least in Brisbane. He is notable for having a considerably newer and better car than the academics (let alone the students), and for having a lot of bumper stickers on it.
  2. The "ute-men" really, really hated Work Choices. Whatever they thought about just about anything else, they had well and truly decided to vote out the government that gave them Work Choices.
  3. As "ute man" does not read The Australian, Glenn Milne's new found love for him is likely to remain purely Platonic. He is also unlikely to be a Brendan Nelson fan, no matter how many guitars he owns, tho' he may knock down a bevvy with Belinda Neal if she's shouting (the drinks, that is, not at him).
  4. He is also unlikely to read the Garnaut Report on climate change, so there is lot of scope to explain what it really means for aspiring pundits and politicians. He may instead be reading The Tradie, so there's a thought.
  5. The "what to do about ute man" question is a variant of the age-old question that troubles advertisers, marketers and political campaigners everywhere, which is what to do about the young male, who may inherit the earth if he can get off the couch.
As Homer Simpson famously put it, "I'm a white male aged 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

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