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Tag Archives: Kelvin Thomson

Welcome Refugees

On the 7 December 2013 in a co-ordinated effort the Refugee Action Collective (Vic) are attempting a mass action “to shower the streets of Melbourne with messages of welcome.”

Refugee Action Collective (Vic) rally at State Library.

Refugee Action Collective (Vic) rally at State Library.

Leaving your country is never easy and even people facing persecution do not take the move lightly. Refugees need to be welcomed, protected and helped; this is the basic standard of a civilised person. Any civilised, rational or moral human would welcome and protect a person fleeing persecution or death, it is an ancient tradition now codified in international law. Australia’s treatment of refugees is a crime against humanity perpetrated by a rogue state backed by a racist mob. Amnesty International reports that: “The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Australia to be in breach of its obligations under international law, committing 143 human rights violations by indefinitely detaining 46 refugees for four years, on the basis of ASIO’s ‘adverse security assessments’.”

Not that I think that any propaganda campaign of posters, fridge magnets and rallies can change the minds of the amoral psychopaths that dictate Australia’s crimes against refugees. I doubt that it will be any more effective than my rhetoric.

The Refugee Action Collective (Vic) was mildly calling for civil disobedience in encouraging people to “sticker, chalk your neighbourhood”. For yes, even writing in chalk is technically illegal in Melbourne; not that I’ve ever heard of anyone being arrested for it, not that the three police at the demonstration were making any attempt to stop people writing in chalk in front of the State Library. Not that many people were writing in chalk on Saturday morning.

Christmas Island Just Visiting

Dignity 4 asylum Seekers

Melbourne’s street artists have been putting out the welcome refugees and showering the streets with more witty about Australia’s treatment messages for years. Of particular note, is Phoenix who has made the map of Australia into a welcome mat in a long running series of paste-ups. Phoenix sums up the both major parties position on refugees with the phrase: “We scare because we care”, a phrase that started with his paste-ups about the ‘War on Terror’. Phoenix is not directly involved with the Refugee Action Collective but his has donated some of his art to their fundraising auction. He is not a single-issue street artist and has been sticking his political art to Melbourne’s walls for years.

Phoenix welcome mat sticker with Ghostpatrol tag.

Phoenix welcome mat sticker with Ghostpatrol tag.

This sustained campaigns of illegal posters and stencils creates signs that the federal government and the opposition does not represent all Australians on this issue and is not in complete control of the territory it claims. Even though it was buffed with in 24 hours I’m sure that my local member, Kelvin Thomson got the message when the external wall of his office in Coburg was recently covered in anarchist graffiti.

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Gangster Aesthetics

I walked around a corner and a little boy pointed at me and said: “Look mummy, a gangster.” I was dressed in all black with a black overcoat – I hadn’t realized until then that I was wearing gangster drag. I live in part of Melbourne that is central to Melbourne’s gangland war but I never thought that I was part of it. But, the cultural influences of Melbourne’s gangsters are all around me. It is rumoured locally that the house behind mine was part of the gangster Tony Mokbel’s assets. All I know for certain was that they had a large dog in the backyard. It was auctioned late last year and the interior was decorated in the worst possible neo-rococo taste.

Melbourne’s gangland is more than just crime and corruption of police and politicians, like former Shadow Federal Attorney-General Kelvin Thomson, my local MP, who gave a reference to Tony Mokbel in 2000. Thomson  wrote that Mokbel  had made “significant contribution to the community” and had “unblemished conduct”.

Melbourne’s gangland is also an aesthetic and cultural influence, creating some excellent crime TV series, most recently Underbelly, and crime movies. True crime authors Andrew Rule and John Silvester wrote the Leadbelly series of books based on their journalist experience of the gangland. Geoffrey Wright’s 2006 movie of Macbeth has a design influenced by Melbourne’s gangland that contributed to a great interpretation of the script. I haven’t read any of celebrity criminal Mark ‘Chopper’ Read’s books but I have seen his inimitable foray into visual arts along with the variety of signed axes for sale in a Collingwood shop. ‘Chopper’ Read uses the theatre and showmanship to build on his own publicity.

Battle-axe signed by Chopper Read

Battle-axe signed by Chopper Read

Melbourne’s stencil artists have commented on the gang wars with lots of gangster images. This is in part because street art is an illegal activity and also because street art reflects popular culture. The best example of gangster influence on street art is by HaHa of Mario Condello.

HaHa's portrait of Mario Condello

HaHa's portrait of Mario Condello

HaHa’s series of repeated stencil portraits Condello is appropriately placed behind bars in Hosier Lane.  HaHa is also well known for his stencil portrait of the Australian colonial bushranger Ned Kelly. There were images of Al Pacino from Scarface trackside along the Upfield line. These gangster images work well in b&w high contrast and so a perfect for single colour stencils.

Melbourne’s gangland war continues to play itself out in the theatre of court and the mainstream media. It is also reflected and commented on in the arts and in Melbourne’s overall culture. What other subtle cultural impact does Melbourne’s gangland have in the arts, fashion and culture?


Interview with Kelvin Thomson, MP

Recent events might cause people to think that all Australian politicians are philistines. So I decided to pose a few brief questions via email to my local member Kelvin Thomson the Federal Member for Wills. He was very quick to reply to prove that he does have an interest in the arts.

Mark Holsworth (MH) : What was the last visual arts exhibition that you attended in your electorate?

Kelvin Thomson (KT): The last visual arts exhibition I attended in my electorate was Friday June 20, an art show put on by Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College called “Something in the Air”. Before that, in my electorate, was “The Yard” Art Exhibition Saturday 3 November 696 Sydney Rd Brunswick. 

MH: Yes, 696 is well worth a visit; I have written about several of its exhibitions in my blog. And otherwise what was the last visual arts exhibition that you attended?

Kelvin Thomson: The last visual arts exhibition I attended was as above. Before that was Monday May12, Turner to Monet, Landscape Exhibition at the National Gallery, Canberra.

MH: What was the last live performance (theatre, concert, opera, dance) that you attended?

Kelvin Thomson: The last live performance I attended was the musical put on by Pascoe Vale Girls on Friday June 20; the performance before that was “Keating, The Musical” in Melbourne in 2007.

MH: Who is your favorite contemporary visual artist?

Kelvin Thomson: I don’t have a favourite contemporary visual artist; I’m more your Eugene Von Guerard nineteenth century landscape type.

MH: What is your favorite work of visual art featuring a nude?

Kelvin Thomson: Chloe, formerly (?) of Young and Jacksons.

MH: Thank you for your answers. It is good to know that you are aware about the arts and I hope that readers of my blog will find this better view of a Federal MP’s involvement with the arts than PM Kevin Rudd’s recent breakfast TV comments.


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