Politics

From Sledging Tony Abbott To Loving Dungeons And Dragons: The Best Of Senator Scott Ludlam

Here's to you, DJ S-Ludz.

Last week Greens Co-Deputy Leader Scott Ludlam shocked the nation by announcing his immediate resignation from parliament. The WA senator made the decision after it was brought to his attention that he was a dual New Zealand citizen, making him ineligible to hold public office.

In a statement, Ludlam said that he was “personally devastated” to have to leave Parliament, but added that he would “continue making a contribution in some different capacity”.

Ludlam’s sudden departure has left us with plenty of questions, and it may be several weeks before we have all the answers. For starters, who’s going to take his seat? Will he have to pay back his salary? And who now holds the mantle of parliament’s biggest nerd? (My money is on Labor MP and Buffy tragic Terri Butler).

His resignation is especially noteworthy because Ludlam was one of a very small number of people in parliament who seemed to understand what young voters care about. From online privacy to mental health to the environment, Ludlam consistently fought for the issues affecting the next generation of Australians.

Not only that, but unlike many of his colleagues, he actually came across as a human being. Listening to Ludlam talk, you got the impression that he actually believed in the product that he was selling. And boy, did he know how to deliver a burn.

In light of all this, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the moments from Senator Ludlam’s decade-long tenure in Canberra that made him such an iconic figure and first rate memelord. Here’s to you, DJ S-Ludz.


“Game On, Prime Minister”

If you’re looking for the moment that catapulted Ludlam to the forefront of the Australian political consciousness, it would have to be his speech, addressed to then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, ahead of the 2014 WA Senate by-election. Speaking to a near-empty Parliament, Ludlam invited Abbott to visit the state, remarking that every time the PM opens his mouth “the Green vote goes up”.

“Western Australians are a generous and welcoming lot,” said Ludlam. “But if you arrive and start talking proudly about your attempts to bankrupt the renewable energy sector, cripple the independence of the ABC and privatise SBS, if you show up waving your homophobia in people’s faces and start boasting about your ever-more insidious attacks on the trade union movement and all working people, you can expect a very different kind of welcome.”

“Your determined campaign to provoke fear in our community-fear of innocent families fleeing war and violence in our region-in the hope that it would bring out the worst in Australians is instead bringing out the best in us,” he added.

“Prime Minister, you are welcome to take your heartless racist exploitation of people’s fears and ram it as far from Western Australia as your taxpayer funded travel entitlements can take you.”


Shutting Down Pauline Hanson

It wasn’t quite as spectacular as his Abbott sledge, but Ludlam got stuck right in to Pauline Hanson during the most recent round of budget estimates. Hanson was have a whinge over a Four Corners story about a private plane used by One Nation, and asked the ABC’s Alan Sunderland why her party had been “targeted”. It was this point that a very exasperated Ludlam chimed in and told Hanson “it looked like you broke the law. It’s not targeting, it’s journalism.”

Honestly, I think Ludlam was just annoyed with Hanson because she was taking attention away from the real problem at the ABC: too much Antiques Roadshow!


Throwing Shade At Greg Hunt

When the World Government Summit declared Environment Minister Greg Hunt “Best Minister in the World”, a lot of Australians were understandably baffled. This was, after all, the very same Greg Hunt who once cited Wikipedia to dismiss links between climate change and bushfires. Surely the summit had made a mistake?

Still, Ludlam was quick to congratulate his parliamentary colleague, and even called on Malcolm Turnbull to declare February 10 a national holiday in Hunt’s honour.

“We want to acknowledge the brazen audacity of Minister Hunt accepting an award for his contributions to dismantling Australia’s world-leading climate change laws,” said Ludlam in a very bitchy video on his Facebook page. “Our hope is that the statues built in Mr Hunt’s honour in every capital city will be placed far enough above sea level that generations to come can honour him.”


Brutally Owning Chris Kenny

Politicians and Twitter can be a disastrous combination, but Ludlam knew how to deliver the goods. There’s not a great deal to say about the following exchange between him and conservative columnist Chris Kenny, other than that represents some of his very finest work.

Tremendous.


SRSLY?

Cheap political theatre is a Canberra tradition. It’s what makes the nation tick. Even so, it’s rarely as blatant or as deeply, deeply cringeworthy as the time Queensland Liberal Ian MacDonald wore a hi-vis vest on the floor of the Senate while making a speech about the mining tax. What made it even more galling was the fact that the vest was given to him by the Minerals Council of Australia. The man was literally wearing his corporate allegiance on his sleeve.

But what MacDonald didn’t know was that Ludlam had crept around behind him with a sign that said what all of us were thinking.

The Greens senator was quickly admonished by Acting Senate Chair Cory Bernardi, who said Ludlam’s use of a prop was “completely inappropriate” and “disorderly”. Weirdly he didn’t feel the need to have a go at MacDonald. I guess props are fine if you’re wearing them.


Twiggy of the Forrest

But there’s more to Ludlam than his love of trolling conservatives. He’s also a giant fucking dork. He’s into Commodore 64 and Battlestar Galactica and like all good nerds is a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons. In 2015, he even played the game live at PAX Melbourne, as a level two human ranger named Twiggy of the Forrest (a reference to mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest).

When we asked him at the time what parliament would look like as a game of D&D, Ludlam said Malcolm Turnbull would be “a fairly high-level illusionist”, while Tony Abbott would be “a revenant, but an embarrassing one that nobody’s scared of.”

Oh, and Peter Dutton?

“Nobody wants to play D&D with Peter Dutton.”


That Time He Wrote Our Review Of The Force Awakens

Did I mention that he’s a giant fucking dork? You can read the review here.


Rapping About Data Retention Laws

Few issues got Ludlam as fired up as that of internet privacy. He’s repeatedly butted heads with the government over their attempts to gain greater access to people’s data, and in 2014 wrote an op-ed for Junkee calling on Australians to fight back “against the invasion of our internet by digital illiterates whose recklessness is only exceeded by their mediocrity.”

But that wasn’t half as memorable as the time he teamed up with the team at The Juice Media to record a rap describing data retention laws as part of a path to a “fascist fuck-fest of Orwellian proportions”. Dude even managed to squeeze a line about Gandalf in there.

On a related note, more politicians need to think about communicating their policies through the medium of hip hop. I would pay good money to hear Malcolm Turnbull spit mad rhymes about Gonski 2.0.


All Hail Gary

Rapping skills aside, we all know that the root of Ludlam’s popularity was his gorgeous head of hair. Named Gary by former Crikey and current Guardian cartoonist First Dog On The Moon, that magnificent mane has made voters weak at the knees. It’s so influential it’s even got its own Twitter account.

Ludlam has at times attempted to play down the power of his follicles. During a 2015 appearance on Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet, he responded to a tweet complimenting his coif by remarking that “folks, the ice caps are melting, the economy is caving in, and this is what you’re putting on Twitter?”

Still, he was always more than happy to take advantage of his hair’s celebrity when it meant supporting a good cause. Last year he raised more than $10,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave by letting people vote to either “shave” or “save” old mate Gary. In the end, the shave camp got home by a whisker.


Speaking Candidly About His Struggles With Mental Health

It mightn’t be as memeable as some of the other moments on this list, but honestly, one of the most memorable points of Ludlam’s career was when he took a temporary leave of absence at the end of last year to treat his depression and anxiety. In a post on his Facebook page, Ludlam spoke openly about his struggles with mental health, and revealed that he had been dealing with them “for a while”.

Upon returning to work in January, Ludlam called for mental health services to be made available to all Australians. “I’ve had the benefit of a supportive family, an amazing team, access to healthcare and a workplace that makes allowance for illness of all kinds,” he wrote.

“I am keenly aware that these advantages are not available to far too many people with mental illness. Treatment and professional care should be available to everyone who needs it.”

At the end of the day, it’s human moments like that for which Ludlam deserves to be remembered.

Tom Clift is Junkee’s after-hours editor. He also writes for Concrete Playground, is the co-founder of Movie Mezzanine, and tweets at @tom_clift