General Fannie Bay: Your leader in crisis

by | Apr 8, 2020 | NT Politics, Opinion | 0 comments

Welcome to the Democratic Republic of the Northern Territory. 

It’s always the ones with ‘democratic’ in the country title that have the rogue leaders.

Australians are not welcome here. 

On Friday afternoon, General Fannie Bay, the leader of a busted arse, shoeless army, the New Confederates, stood in front of the rostrum in front of a media pack – well a small, assemblage. 

In everyman open shirt, in #TeamTerritory style, the words were spitting, seemingly paranoid invective. A vituperation at the enemy. The enemy.

We had been told it was China.

But the enemy is in fact a country we thought we had been part of, but as of March 24, it seems retrospectively, it is a country we only share a border with.

“The biggest threat to the Territory is clear. It’s not us, it’s them. The rest of Australia is full of corona virus hotspots. We are a safe haven and we are trying to stay a safe haven,” he said.

“We have said to the rest of the country, we want you back one day but for now we want you to stay away.

“You are too dangerous.”

But there is a profession based around getting leaders elected again, and it seems the temptation is too large – even in the face of one of the greatest crises the NT has ever faced – to not engage in a little (well, road train-sized) harmless image-adjustment and electioneering.

We say the words were spitting invective because the actual man cannot spit invectives. Not in front of a crowd anyway. 

The words were written by one of the Territory’s best public composers.

The man who delivers them is verbally and expressively trying to boost himself many statesman weight divisions by donning the personality equivalent of an inflatable sumo wrestler’s suit.

The lack of gravitas is not his fault; it is just who he is. Right now, I want information. Very few leaders are broadly inspiring and I do not expect that from him.  

But it is the forced projection, the promotion to general that he is a party to that he has control over.

And we in the media are guilty when we swallow it up and vomit it up later to the public as if it all means something. 

Journalism is not just about reporting ‘facts’ but also telling what you see when you have the experience to do so. 

But it is hard to even conceive of the pressure of his job and the lives he literally does have in his hands.

Gunner’s job is probably the hardest ever faced by an NT chief minister; a real, normal man with a pregnant wife trying to stop the spread of coronavirus, including to a large remote Aboriginal Territory population with a broke Treasury.

An important message to Territory kids: Your Easter eggs are safe. 🐰🥚🍫⭐️

Posted by Michael Gunner on Friday, 3 April 2020

This is not a comment on the actions his government has taken, but what seems to be crisis press conferences morphing into a Crisis in Image Resuscitation lecture series.

When his COVID-19 press conferences began, it was the real Gunner. He spoke, simply, plainly and sometimes from the heart. For me, authenticity and humility equals real leadership. 

“Just remember, this is to save people’s lives, ” he said in the same presser. 

“Your family. Your friends. Your colleagues.”

But there was a change, starting with a move into occasional hyperbole by press conference four.

He has allowed others to feed him strange jingosims (while there’s an occasional smile in delivery, the jokey aspect seems meant to mask the fact that they are not meant as a joke but an image revival strategy) and stupid catchphrases in coronavirus crisis. 

His speech on Friday was the terrier having a crack at big dog Australia, and was meant purely for local consumption and seemed the stilted war room shenanigans of the delirious magicians of the Fifth Floor trying to conjure – in some sections of the community – a deeply unpopular man as a superhero. 

“I will save lives,” he said at an earlier press conference.

Or better still a general.

General Fannie Bay.

“From midnight tonight, we are getting even tougher,” he non-toughly said last week.

“If you come to the Territory we will put you in a room. We will put you there and then we will give you the bill.

“If you don’t want to get locked in a room. If you don’t want a massive bill, it’s simple: don’t come, stay away.

If the rest of Australia had been watching, there would have been guffawing.

The long drunk Uncle Northern Territory, wearing only jocks and a singlet and slurring his words again as he picks a fight with the whole rest of the family at a funeral.

Think that other mad, drunk, swearing, orange uncle, Uncle Donald.

While General Fannie Bay is not echoing the commander in chief of the US military’s words on COVID-19 and China but there’s a mirror of Mexico. 

Build a wall. 

“Mexico is not our friend. They’re killing us at the border…” Trump once tweeted.

People deserve to be told clearly what decisions are being made and why without first passing through the weasel words generator or the Image Constructor 3000.

“States down south might be able to let the virus get out of control before acting,” Gunner said. “Up here we do not have the luxury of waiting for it to get worse…”.

“There is a motto that our team follows…in this crisis: ‘Whatever it takes.”

“We’re ahead of the game.”

It seemed the tone escalated as the spin doctors got their dopamine hits from a rise in popularity.

Now we have too long press conferences about not much more than putting words in the mouth of a man who’s not great at delivering those words. 

Sloganeering camouflaged as leadership. 

Although, some people seem to love it. 

On Friday General Fannie Bay said tough or tougher about ten times in maybe ten minutes of talking.

The toughest men in tough Territory pubs never go around telling people they’re tough. 

Doing that’s like pinning a plastic sheriff’s badge on. 

But there is a profession based around getting leaders elected again, and it seems the temptation is too large – even in the face of one of the greatest crises the NT has ever faced – to not engage in a little (well, road train-sized) harmless image-adjustment and electioneering.

Because we got to the truth of it near the end of Friday’s press conference..

“I will follow health advice,” he said in the question and answer section after the police commissioner had spoken.

“I will always respect the decision of the chief health officer.

“All that we are doing here, basically everything that has been put in place in the Northern Territory has been done under the advice of the chief health officer.

So who really is the tough guy here? The chief health officer Hugh Heggie does not have a bruiser personality himself. They would need a second inflatable sumo suit for that.

And while we don’t think he’s telling General Fannie Bay to slug people for their quarantine hotel bill, who really is making the tough decisions?

We have basically no known community transmission. The government is obviously doing something right.

But by 5.30pm on Friday, we saw another constructed side of General Fannie Bay, in an armchair in a video on his Facebook page, saying lots of Territory kids had contacted him to ask if the Easter Bunny was safe.

The General Fannie Bay from earlier in the day would have told those kids that he had locked that damned diseased and dangerous, state-hopping interloper varmint in a room for 14 days and was making him cough up $2500 for a hotel room that used to cost $850.

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