As a small child, I have very fond memories of quality time spent with my father (I was the first born child and therefore had lots of privileged access). Visits to the zoo, or to the Royal Melbourne Show, or to see the Moomba Parade.
Moomba was always a constant. You had the parade each March (I was 12 before I knew that the public holiday was Labour Day and not Moomba Day), with the King of Moomba and the regular appearance of the clowns Zig and Zag.
In 1999, when I was in Canberra for many months, I went to some festival one Saturday night at a similar time of the year with some female colleagues and their kids, where the husband of one of colleagues (the only other adult male) sought refuge and suggested the two of us sneak off for a few beers at some bar in the Sydney Building in Civic.
During those six hours of beer drinking (‘few’ is an interesting concept when you are drinking with like minded people), he did break to me the news that whilst Zig and Zag had been crowned co-kings of Moomba that year, they had been forced to abdicate before the parade due to sexual allegations about one of them.
OK… I think Moomba was mostly on the way out by then – I think when they experimented with holding it on different days or with trams instead of floats, and generally burying Moomba under political correctness instead of joy, it had been terminal for most of a decade by that stage.
But as a child, I saw Moomba as a happy festival of clowns and humour and fun.
The King of Moomba was mostly a clown prince. Who can treat Bert Newton or Graham Kennedy or Mickey Mouse or Johnny Farnham seriously? Lou Richards was a clown prince before it rained on his parade!
But I guess that the real King of Moomba was always the king behind the Moomba throne, ie the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. Moomba was and still is a festival run by the City of Melbourne, and first established in the 1950s when the Lord Mayor of Melbourne was still a person who enjoyed great power and authority and prestige.
Such power has been eaten away since then by the jealousy of state governments and the very ridiculousness of some of the incumbents of the office of Lord Mayor, who have reduced it to a level of major derision, to match the statutory impotence of the role.
[An exception of course is John So. He is so beloved and respected that we all still think that he is our Bro!]
Probably the most visible and high profile of these buffoonish Lord Mayors is Robert Doyle, who spent some 12 years as Lord Mayor before being forced to resign from the role due to allegations of sexual harassment of female councillors.
Today, an announcement was made by the Victoria Police that their two year investigation into his alleged improprieties will not result in criminal charges.
I will admit here, as many of my friends already know, that I vehemently dislike Robert Doyle. Looking back wryly on the reasons why I happen to dislike him, most of the most personally compelling ones are puerile and probably petty. As for some of the more legitimate ones now, such as my belief that he is not a man who has any decently held principles but whom is willing to sell his soul to feather his own nest (such as the perception I hold that he ‘threw’ the 2002 election and was then rewarded with a sinecure by the Bracks Labor government for his incompetence as state opposition leader), well, I guess I can put those aside too.
What is more important is whether or not he has gotten away with not only serious sexual harassment, which caused him to resign from the buffoonish role of Lord Mayor, but actual criminal sexual assault or related conduct?
Given my stated vehement dislike of this buffoon, I find it hard to be a ‘big man’ about this sort of thing. But do I really want to celebrate the possible misery and utter ruin of someone, even though I dislike them so much on a petty scale? I think not. I will say that I vehemently hope that he has been able to escape prosecution because he is innocent, and not because of lack of evidence. That is not only because I do not want to wish ill on him, but because the alternative is that he has done some seriously horrible things to some people with total impunity. I would not wish that on those people.
But these are the sorts of moral dilemmas I face as I become a more mature adult and move away from petty spitefulness and hatefulness.
But whether he has done anything bad or not, I still consider him a rather swinish buffoon, an apt clown-prince of Moomba.