When the ACT Legislative Assembly sat down to argue about a gigantic inflatable whale with tits, it was always going to be a great day for democracy.
The whale was designed by Canberra-bred artist Patricia Piccinini to mark our capital city’s Centenary. The piece has been lauded as “a massive floating feat of aeronautical engineering” and praised for its “benign, maternal presence”.
But it has also been ridiculed. Mainly because it cost $300,000, and looks like this.
What follows are the highlights from Hansard on the 14th of May 2013, when the skywhale was brought up during Question Time.
1. “MRS JONES: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, in regard to the Skywhale balloon, referred to in some parts as Hindenboob-”
It is no exageration to say that this is pretty much the best thing a politican has said or will say or is currently saying.
2. “MR COE: Chief Minister, what brief did your government give to the artist who created this centenary balloon?”
“Oh sure, I have it right here, Mr Coe. ‘Dear Ms Piccinini, to mark our capital’s centenary, we would like to commission some kind of enormous sea-mammal with the ability to soar majestically through the sky. Tits should be innumerable.”
“MS GALLAGHER: With respect to the issue of ownership of the balloon, if we had retained ownership of the balloon it would have required that we retain an operating budget for that balloon, including ongoing maintenance of the balloon, and a pilot for the balloon.”
Fun fact: The word ‘balloon’ only gets more dignified every time you use it in a sentence.
4. “MS GALLAGHER: If you had looked at some of Patricia’s work, I think that would have given you an idea of the fact that it would not be a standard hot-air balloon.”
However, it is tempting to imagine that they did expect a standard hot-air balloon for the centenary. It’d be like asking Jackson Pollock to paint your house.
5. “MRS GALLAGHER: I did not actually realise we had seven art critics in waiting sitting across the bench. Everyone is an expert in skywhales.”
Yeah, if Robert Hughes was still alive, he’d tell you that this particular soaring, tit-spangled whale is in fact a mediation on Jungian notions of motherhood and rebirth. Also bewbs.
6. “MR WALL: Chief Minister, given the current level of national public ridicule of the centenary balloon, what strategies does your government have in place to counter that ridicule?”
Erm…we could put a hat on it? Or a fetching blouse? Or maybe build an even stupider balloon and pretend Queensland did it? Work with me, people.
7. “MS GALLAGHER: I know plenty of people … are upset that $500,000 was spent on the cricket.”
I cannot express my dissapointment when I realised the Chief Minister was refering to the sport and not another hot-air balloon, this one shaped like a cricket with 14 penises hovering over Lake Burley Griffith.
8. “MS GALLAGHER: I know Mr Smyth’s fascination with all things ballooning and flying…”
This feels like the sort of thing that would have been shouted across parliament in the Edwardian era, while Mr Smyth scowled into his beard.
9. “Mr HANSON: Is it a she or is it an it? Does it live?
MS GALLAGHER: Mr Hanson, you have a look at the Skywhale. I presume it is a she.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, members!”
This went from a metaphysical meditation to a boob joke with break-neck speed. Also excellent is the speaker’s admonishment, suggesting a boisterious ‘hey-oooooo!’ rose up from the benches.
10. “MR GENTLEMAN: Minister, how have the centenary balloon and other promotions raised the profile of the ACT across Australia and internationally?”
We end with what is possibly the greatest Dorothy Dixer in the history of Australian politics. Yes, Mick Gentleman, we’re all all keen to hear the Chief Minister outline how this majestic, impossibly buxom whale has positioned our nation’s capital on the world stage. Is it like an inflatable be-titted Star of David, acting as a beacon for weary travellers to the ACT? Will we see a spike in cultural tourism? Has the World Heritage Organisation been made aware of the existence of the Skywhale? If not, would someone like to let them know we have a fucking whale in the fucking sky?
Header image courtesy of In The Taratory