"Social Consequences be Damned, it was Money for Jam":

the Kennett Era, Shane Maloney and the Writer as Vernacular Theorist


Carolyn Beasley, Craig McIntosh, and Jason Bainbridge

Swinburne University of Technology




As the state of Victoria moved into the 1990s, its governance shifted decidedly to the right of the political spectrum. This was due to the election of the traditionally conservative Liberal Party, led through Premiership from 1992 to 1999 by the controversial, charismatic, and decidedly neo-liberal Jeffrey Kennett. There were two distinct aspects to the Kennett era: the overwhelming self-belief and autocratically anti-democratic attitude of its leader, Jeffrey (‘Jeff’) Kennett, and the expectation that its electorate should embrace Victoria as the ‘event’ or ‘fun’ state (Gibson 1997, A4).

Jeff Kennett’s extreme confidence in his right to lead had its origins in his prominence as a political figure prior to being elected as Premier of Victoria in 1992. His reputation as direct, divisive and determined was a hallmark of his personal style and political career (Parkinson 2000). He was also known for his gaffes and propensity to objectionable behaviour in the guise of playfulness or ‘fun’:

"Perhaps the most controversial incident came in September 1985, as he officiated at a ceremony for the Miss Italian Community beauty contest. At a boisterous formal dinner to crown the new queen, Kennett and the officiating party, were heckled by protesters. Jeff sought comic relief. Turning to the disappointed finalists, he promised he would see all the contestants backstage, ‘because I’ve got a prize of my own to give you" (Parkinson 2000, p. 63).

As Kennett himself observed, in an announcement to an astonished media on his election as leader of the Victorian Liberal Party in October 1982, "I represent risk" (qtd in Parkinson 2000, p. 56). This risk was not only a comment on his potential for political self-harm but also for those who resisted his government’s agenda. One of the tactics that Kennett used was an exhortation to those in the electorate who were resistant to his government’s radical neo-liberal reforms. This exhortation was that they should ignore the potential undermining of democracy as well as the longer-term social implications and simply have fun (Gibson 1997, A4).

It is no surprise that such a dramatic change in the way Melbourne was governed, and in the way the city was transformed, would draw the attention of a crime writer with a bent for satirical comedy and a history of civic engagement, such as Shane Maloney. With a central character connected to Victoria politics, a bestselling series of local political mysteries to his name, and a past as an arts bureaucrat and cultural director for Melbourne’s 1996 Olympic bid, Maloney was perhaps best positioned to engage with the Kennett era. He revisited this time, with the benefit of hindsight, in the final two volumes of the Murray Whelan series, Something Fishy and Sucked In, published respectively in 2002 and 2007.

Taking these novels as our focus in this paper, we identify the ways in which Maloney engages with both the main tenets of Kennett’s leadership style and the effects of Kennett’s political and social policies on the wider community. We place Maloney’s work in the broader contexts of Australian crime fiction, the literature of protest and the politics of the Kennett era. Finally, we point to the ways in which popular fiction like the Murray Whelan series can go even further by functioning as a kind of vernacular theory (following Thomas McLaughlin), as capable of critical reflection and insight as more traditional or culturally legitimate forms of theorising. 

Shane Maloney

Certainly, pre-1980s Australian crime fiction generally does not have a strong tradition of using place or setting as the context for its crimes (Knight 1997, p. 167). This, suggests Sue Turnbull, could be because during this period, as a nation we felt "a sense of not being quite at home" (Turnbull 1999, n.p). Even criminal activities did not seem to belong to us, as they were depicted as the result of an abstract aspect of human nature (Knight 1997, p. 167) rather than being caused by the coming together of place and personality. It could be argued that it was not until a "citified consciousness" in Australian writing emerged throughout the 1970s that the normality of the urban, suburban and metropolitan city-surrounds started to feature in film, television and literature in a more politicised rather than touristic or sentimentalised manner (Knight 1997, p. 168). Similarly, it was not until the 1980s with the work of writers such as Peter Corris and Marele Day, and the 1990s with the fiction of Claire McNab and Garry Disher, that the sleuth demonstrated a particular understanding of the ebbs and flows of a city (Knight 1997, p. 167).

It was from this new awareness of urbanity that Shane Maloney’s work could be seen to grow. In his first few novels, Stiff (1994), and The Brush Off (1996), his protagonist Murray Whelan works as a public servant for a Labor State government minister. On the surface of the novels, Maloney comically records the absurdity and realities of political culture. The works could be read as satire, however, satire is generally accepted as positioning its protagonist as a believer or advocate of the world it attempts to critique. Whelan, however, is innately suspicious of this world and hence the novels do not function as a traditional satire. Subtextually, the stories feature a sense of inclusion and a distinct understanding of the intricacies of Melbourne and its political and social tapestry. Whelan not only understands Melbourne, he is Melbourne, as Sue Turnbull suggests when she remarks that Whelan's rise "from grassroots to glamour" mirrors "that of the Labor Party in general and Melbourne in particular, especially in the nineties under Kennett" (Turnbull 1999). However, it is not until his final two works Something Fishy and Sucked In, in which Whelan shifts from being an administrative public servant to a Member of Parliament for the Opposition party, that Maloney’s work begins to engage in a more open and critical way with the manipulations of power committed in that era.  It is these novels that can be seen to wholeheartedly question and critique methods of policy-making, the policies themselves, and their wider impacts on the democratic functioning of the political system.


Something Fishy (set circa 1994 but written in 2002) and Sucked In (set circa 1995 but written in 2007) occupy a unique space in the literary mise-en-scene of their time as they attempt to harness the natural political suspicion held by their protagonist, Labor backbencher and Member of Parliament Murray Whelan, towards his political opponents. They then use this suspicion as a tool to express and interrogate the author’s unease about the social and political changes occurring around him. 

Whilst Maloney’s novels are set in the world of politics without necessarily being political (Syson 2007), Murray is perfectly cast to critique and suspect on a number of levels. As a Member of Parliament in an Opposition party, Murray Whelan’s public and professional role is to throw suspicion on the policies and behaviour of the government of the day and its leaders. As a politician, he is both under surveillance and must surveil others. As a work in the genre of crime fiction, the novel also makes use of the notion of suspicion as both a narrative engine and a motivating force. And as the sleuth, Murray must be suspicious and also deliberately employ suspicion in order to uncover and then resolve the mystery at the novel’s heart.

Of course, using the device of suspicion to offer social critique is a technique that is not limited to crime fiction. Writers have long had a tendency to draw on the tensions that flow around them. Andre Brink argues that all writers write to explore some aspect of the human condition and suggests that this exploration is a result of a "profound involvement in the problems of his world" (Brink 1983, p. 47). One could even argue that a central motivation that leads writers to produce any literature at all is to voice protest at the problems in life that surround them (Rapaport 2011). The very act of being a writer is a deliberate assumption of a type of responsibility, as Andre Brink puts it eloquently when he explains:

"The writer remains a writer. The nature of his choice – to write rather than to go to parliament or be a good Calvinist – implies a different relationship with the world" (1983, p. 46).

Writing about aspects of the human condition and dedication to engaging in that "different relationship" with the world leads many writers to naturally focus on what they see as the injustices of their time. This idea of interplay between the political tendencies of the time and the fiction of the era has a proud history. Literature that protests social injustice has many such notable examples, including the work of Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, John Steinbeck (Rapaport 2011), and Andre Brink himself. Indeed, Herman Rapaport suggests that the purpose of this specific form of writing is to: "make the reader identify with the plight of victims and against the rapaciousness of victimizers so that consciousness about our social surroundings will be morally raised" (Rapaport 2011, p. 11).

This literature of protest has been given many names, including the literature of conscience, writing of commitment, and activist writings. While Maloney does not regard himself as an activist for many of the issues raised in his work, such as Kennett’s cutbacks to public education (Maloney 2004), the fact that his work offers social and political critique means it can still be read as a form of protest literature, and could even be understood as drawing on a more specific subgenre affectionately known as ‘apparatchik lit’. This subgenre is named for its exploration of the internal workings of political parties and the mechanisms of government and related lobby groups, and the effect that these have on the social fabric of the city in which they are set. Critic and activist Ian Syson suggests that Maloney’s work is an initiator in the field: "the master of a genre of his own making - apparatchik lit. Stories from the murky, lurky world of Australian politics (especially inside the Labor Party and union movement) have no better teller in contemporary Australian fiction" (Syson 2007, n.p).

Kennett’s Leadership

The first key tenet of Kennett’s government was Kennett’s own autocratic leadership style and Maloney’s critique of this style is evident from the opening pages of Something Fishy. When Murray informs the reader that "A cult of personality had surrounded the Premier. The smirking bully was king and Fuck You was the official ideology" (2002, p. 14), there is no need for him to formally identify that he is talking about the then Liberal Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett. The leadership style of the nameless Premier in Something Fishy bears an uncanny resemblance to Kennett not only in the infamous leer, but also in the way that behind the scenes negotiation replaces democratic process (Steger 2007). When Whelan complains that ‘a veil of secrecy had descended over the processes of government’ (2002, p. 14) and that "the spirit of the place" of his home town was changing (2002, p. 14), there can be little doubt that author Shane Maloney is referring to Kennett’s determination to implement neo-liberal reforms, even if they are seen to be running against the cultural values of the society they are to impact upon.

Maloney’s follow-up work, Sucked In, makes even more explicit reference to Kennett. Whereas in Something Fishy the state’s leading political figure is "the Premier", in Sucked In, he is named "Kenneth Geoffries" and given physical descriptions that perfectly match Kennett’s distinctive appearance and manner:

"The Premier stood on the topmost step of the broad terrace leading to Parliament House. His chest was thrust forward, his chin tilted upwards, his hands on his hips. The tuft of his trademark cowlick stood erect, the comb of a strutting cockerel. A great strutter the Right Honourable Kenneth Geoffries. He could strut standing still. All is mine, his stance announced. The legislature behind me, the city at my feet" (2007, p. 33).

Maloney’s message about the character of Kenneth Geoffries, and by proxy, Jeffrey Kennett, is not merely a comment on the panoramic aspect of Parliament House. The Premier’s surveilling of all that lay before him exudes arrogance and, with the "legislature behind me", the Parliament has been rendered ineffective as a tool for checks and balances. Maloney ensures this mandate to power is clearly explained when he has protagonist Murray Whelan remark:

"The Liberals had an iron-clad majority, a steamroller legislative agenda, and a bullet-proof leader. They outnumbered us two to one in the lower house, five to one in the upper house. We [the Labor Party] weren’t just a minority. We were an endangered species…" (2007, p. 34).

Maloney’s setting of the novel during 1994-1995 and the evolution of Murray Whelan from ministerial advisor to Labor backbencher and MP for Melbourne Upper provides ample narrative opportunities for the exploration of the effects and consequences of Kennett’s policies and the problems that arise when a party holds overwhelming control of both houses of Parliament. Whelan is often forthright in his criticisms and his efforts to cast suspicion. These include the general thrust of neoliberal politics and specific Kennett ‘reforms’:

"The worm had turned and, for the last three years, my constituents had been punished for their traditional adherence to the party of social democracy. Their schools and hospitals had been closed, municipal councils abolished, a poll tax imposed" (2002, p. 12).

He also hits out at the scaling back of educational resources, especially teachers and the "…senior bureaucrats in the education department being paid a cash bounty for every governmental school teacher fired or strong-armed into redundancy. Four thousand of them in two years" (2002, p. 15). There is reference to "ambulance delays" (2002, p. 236) and to poker machines as "a booming sector of the state’s new growth industry" (2002, p. 85) All are considered notorious policies of the Kennett era (Batt 2001).

The ‘Fun’ State

The second key tenet of Kennett’s governance was the branding of Victoria as the ‘event’ or ‘fun’ state. This call to fun was built on his introduction of a culture of consumption which in turn was built on a bread and circuses strategy that not only brought ephemeral sporting events to the state but, at the time, the world’s largest casino – the Crown Entertainment Complex. This practice of focusing on consumption and events as a way of transforming an ‘old’ economy, while not unique, had a dual affect. First, it stemmed the economic damage experienced by the first world decline in manufacturing. Second and crucially for Kennett, it also had a distracting affect on the electorate. It drew their attention away from the process of hollowing out the state through an extensive programme of privatisation and changes to industrial relations amongst many other shifts in the economic organisation of the state, instead, it directed them towards activities that were at best entertainment and at worst socially destructive.

To prevent suspicion of these developments exposing the chimera of the ‘fun state’, the Kennett government engaged in even more draconian attempts to avoid the surveillance that suspicion necessitates. These included Kennett’s attempts to curtail the ability of the Victorian Auditor General to act as an independent "watchdog" on the role, performance and function of government departments (Green 1997, p. 1) and the removal of the checks and balances provided by the auditor. This presented an increased danger of financial benefit flowing to the government and in particular, the Premier’s supporters. Prime amongst them was Ron Walker, an influential businessman, Treasury and primary fundraiser for the Liberal party, and director of the company that owned and ran the Casino; and one of the Premier’s most enduring public and private friends.

Examples of the reciprocity of this relationship were manifest. It was demonstrated in acts of patronage, such as Crown Casino’s sponsorship of the Premier’s son and his basketball team. This $7000 sponsorship deal breached the "casino’s written policy of not sponsoring individual sporting teams" (Coffey & Gluyas 1995, p. 3). Both the Premier’s and the Treasurer’s sons secured unadvertised jobs at the casino through ‘word of mouth’. During the same period the cabinet subcommittee, on which both men were sitting, was considering an increase in the number of gaming tables for the casino (Brady 1995, p. 3).   

In response to criticism and questions about these processes, there was the familiar political, bellicose and belligerent "shouting down" of dissent through the accusation that dissenters were "unVictoria" (Davidson 1999). More sinister was the notion of suspicion visited upon citizens and organisations who were not prepared to set aside their concerns about the radical economic transformation, the apparent improprieties of the casino tendering and 'relationship’ problems inherent in the licencing process, and who, therefore, were not prepared to have fun. This reciprocal layering of suspicion explicitly demanded that the citizens’ political fealty to the government and its transformational cause should be expressed through engaging in the distracting ‘fun’ of the casino or bread and circus-like events. If this response was not forthcoming from the citizens then the government cast doubt on their ‘Victorianess’, suggesting that we be suspicious of their motives. Furthermore, there was a strong implication that questioning the government’s direction was malign and intended to undermine the life chances not only of the government, but of all other citizens as well. This political tactic of creating doubt about a citizen’s, media organisation’s or public spokesperson’s commitment to the state in which they lived and worked because they did not engage in the distraction in a convincing way was responded to with reciprocal suspicion. This set up a culture of mutual surveillance where suspicion, subversion, surveillance and intimidation became the political currency that the government offered to the people and traded in.

Maloney often uses fun and play as a veil for something more sinister in his novels. This could be read as offering critique of the Kennett government’s positioning of consumption. The devices of setting and temporality are central to this approach. The main action of Something Fishy occurs on and around New Years Eve at Victoria’s second biggest cultural event for the evening, the Falls Festival, in the coastal town of Lorne. Maloney’s protagonist Murray Whelan observes that the beach at Lorne becomes "a tableau of the nation at play" (2002, p. 89). That play, however, is represented as capable of shifting to violence with speed and ease, especially on the most ‘fun’ night of the year, December 31. "It can get pretty ugly in town, all the boozing and brawling on the foreshore, yobbos coming from miles around," says Murray’s love-interest, Barbara Prentice (2002, p. 103).

Play is also portrayed as a political tool that can used to address suspicion. The Fisheries Compliance Officers within the Department of Natural Resources deceive a Coastal Management Advisory Panel featuring "Go Vic" 'kitchen cabinet’ members and coalition party members into thinking that they are involved in a high stakes pursuit of poachers in the "suspected unlawful taking of abalone" (2002, p. 30). The "Go Vic" behind the scenes ‘kitchen cabinet’ of cronies and business interests (2002, p. 22), bears uncanny resemblance to Kennett’s "Project Victoria", a think tank and policy advisory committee made up of business leaders and influential party faithfuls.

The town of Lorne and similar developments along the Victorian coast that Maloney calls attention to in the novel can also be read as symbolic of the Kennett government’s backroom dealings and sidestepping of democratic processes. Maloney makes this clear when he has a Planning and Regional Development civil servant tell Murray "…the real agenda will emerge: the privatisation of public assets along the coast. Camping grounds, piers, lighthouses, they’ll all be flogged to commercial operators, turned into theme parks, resort hotels and a pay-per-view whale-watching tower. This panel will recommend who gets what, and how much they pay" (2002, p. 25).

Maloney presents fun and recreation as opportunities ripe for commercial gain, as "easy money opportunities" (2002, p. 25) identified by the Kennett government’s circle of business interests who argue that "jet-skis and dolphins are a natural mix" (2002, p. 25). The all corrupting nature of ‘fun’ and its deliberate use as a way of masking consumerism is also evident in Maloney’s depiction of a former Labour party member who "saw the chill weather ahead and jumped ship…to find himself a snug new berth as a consultant to the poker machine business" (2002, p. 85). Maloney’s work, then, can be interpreted as a critique not only on the use and function of government sanctioned ‘fun’, but also on the government’s determination to reduce funding to departments and lobby groups that oppose private use of public resources. By presenting a fictional scenario that examines the rationale for, and consequences of, privatisation and the marketing of ‘fun’, he effectively casts suspicion on the intentions and actions of the real government of the day.

This sense of the blurring of boundaries between politician and capitalist is presented in an even more direct manner in Sucked In. As Murray Whelan arrives at Parliament House for a caucus meeting, he encounters a Liberal Party function in which businessmen and managers wear lapel pins demonstrating support for the party:

"Many wore V shaped gold lapel pins, the official insignia of the Premier’s insider trading, head kicking, nest feathering regime" (2007, p. 35).

Murray goes on to amend the Liberal government’s logo of "Victoria: On the Move" to "Victoria: On the Take" (2007, p. 35) in response to what he sees as the "smell of greed in the air" (2007, p. 35) at these type of lobbying events. A sense of suspicion over the network of commercial relationships that might sit beneath the running of the state and the formulation of its policies is now clearly replaced by a certainty of corruption.

The Casino

The establishment of Crown Casino was an extremely high profile symbol of the Kennett government’s emphasis on fun, events and consumption. It, unfortunately, was also a well-documented example of the regime’s closed-door relationship with business interests and personal connections (Edwards 2001, p. 2). Citizens were exhorted to ignore the historical and political resistance to the establishment of a casino in Victoria and to spend freely to ensure Victoria’s bread and circuses future. But this exhortation to ‘fun’ also pointed to deeper layers of suspicion. One could argue that latent in the Kennett government’s orchestration of the citizens’ response to these fundamental changes lay an attempt to distract from ethically negligible practices. These included the appointment of the government’s preferred tenderer to entertainment infrastructures such as the Crown Casino and the Grand Prix, tenderers who were often personal friends of Kennett. As Kennett asserted in response to these relationships: "...[t]hat’s the way we do business" (Rintoul 1997, p. 18).

Maloney similarly presents ‘fun’ as a suspicious diversion in his use of the Casino as the underlying cause of the crime in Something Fishy. The leading perpetrator, a restaurateur who subsidises the abalone poaching and arranges the killing of a business partner whom he owes money to, has succumbed to a ‘run of bad luck at the blackjack table’ leading to "spiralling debts and a business partner impatient to be paid out". Fun, Maloney seems to be implying, is in fact a dangerous game. Throughout much of the novel, protagonist Murray hears news on radio and in his role as MP about the "pending amendments to the Gaming and Betting Act" (2002, p. 16), government approvals for "further casino expansion" (2002, p. 29) and, when musing on the "vast new casino" being built, remarks that "public interest was a bankrupt notion in the heads of fools" (2002, p. 14). The Casino, in Maloney’s eyes, is clearly another example of a public policy and planning decision that should be viewed with suspicion. In Murray’s case, news of the Casino prevents timely reporting of inquest findings into his lover’s murder.

Maloney could be seen to take this idea of the Casino-as-symbol for the policy excesses and cronyism of the Kennett regime to even greater extremes in Sucked In, by repositioning it as a landmark that should raise suspicion not just of Liberal Party policies but of Kennett himself.  Maloney has Kenneth Geoffries remark that ‘this is the kind of vision that drives my government’ (2007, p. 35), but only a few lines later has Murray Whelan explain that this vision is less about the forward movement of party politics or government, but more about the establishment of a personal regime:

"The Premier’s presidential style, an innovation in Australian politics, was built on events like this. Announcements of landmark accomplishments. Policy launches. New initiatives. Son-et-lumiere. Colour and movement. A torrent of proclamations that kept his Highness on the front page and his critics scrabbling to keep up" (2007, p. 35).

Overall then, Maloney’s use of fiction to critique the Kennett brand of neo-liberal politics can be encapsulated by one accusation, colloquially delivered by Murray Whelan in Sucked In: "social consequences be damned, it was money for jam" (2007, p. 71). In this way, the two novels can be read as a complementary pair of narratives, one representing trepidation about the progress of the state and its political freedoms and the other tracking the disillusion felt by public intellectuals over the state’s future.

Vernacular Theory

Maloney therefore seems to shift from mere critique to openly theorising about how Kennett, his government and his policies operate using ‘suspicion’ as his theoretical tool. In this way we would argue that Maloney is not an activist writer but a vernacular theorist exploring and debating in a fictional context the methods and merits of the Kennett Government’s functioning.

Taken from Thomas McLaughlin’s Street Smarts and Critical Theory, ‘vernacular’ refers to ordinary language, "lacking the genteel cultural style of the academy" (McLaughlin 1996, p. 29). The importance of this idea of the vernacular is frequently invoked in anthropology and literary studies, for example, as reflecting and contributing to "the social constructs of class, gender and professional and national identity" with the impulse to theorise in the vernacular coming out of what McLaughlin terms "a dissatisfaction with conventional thinking and authorised premises" (McLaughlin 1996, p. 160). Such a definition acknowledges that ‘theory’ itself is not an evaluative term, (rather, the relative strength of a theory will depend on the methodology employed) and reflects the twin aims of McLaughlin’s book to "demonstrate the existence of theoretical work outside the academic disciplines of theory" (McLaughlin 1996, p. 150) and show how theory is a widespread, everyday practice.  

Vernacular theory then, refers to "the practices of those who lack cultural power... They do not make use of the language or analytical strategies of academic theory (rather) they devise a language and strategy appropriate to their own concerns. And they arise out of intensely local issues that lead to fundamental theoretical questions" (McLaughlin 1996, p. 6).  As such, the concept of vernacular theory is radical because it suggests, first, that theory exists outside the academy, is widespread and being practiced daily by ‘ordinary’ people and second, that popular cultural texts do interesting intellectual work on their own terms - not as symptoms of capitalism or a controlling subconscious.

This also means that vernacular theory can be more advanced in its thinking than more traditional or culturally legitimate theories because it looks at the conscious processes of both popular cultural texts and those who consume them with vernacular theorists simply employing a rigour and style that differs from the academy’s, often foregrounding, conflating and exaggerating certain elements (as in the Whelan stories, physicality and melodrama) to fit the demands of their medium. But this does not mean that popular texts should be dismissed as being so divorced from reality that they have nothing important to contribute. Indeed McLaughlin acknowledges this when he states that he has "always been skeptical of the academy’s easy conflation of genteel cultural style and intellectual skills. Not all sharp minds get to college, and not all theorists are in the academy" (1996, p. 29). Vernacular theory then is predicated on the idea that "Individuals who do not come out of a tradition of philosophical critique are capable of raising questions about dominant cultural assumptions" (1996, p. 29). Clearly Maloney, in his questioning of the Kennett government, can be understood as functioning as a vernacular theorist.

Something Fishy (2002), the more 'suspicious’ of the two texts, offers theoretical frameworks for thinking through the anxieties involved in the re-building of the state, the new relationships with capitalists and commerce that this engenders and what these new alliances will mean and cost for the average man, for cultural diversity, for democracy and for the social fabric of the state. In contrast, Sucked In (2007) presents Victoria as a space beyond anxiety and as a space clearly entrenched in resignation. Implicit in this theorisation is the suggestion that there is no point being concerned about social consequences now, that the relationships between commerce and politics are as concretely set as the pillars of the Casino itself.


By locating vernacular theory in the context of popular literature like Something Fishy and Sucked In, we can move towards understanding writers like Maloney as vernacular theorists. Popular literature therefore becomes a way of connecting these theorists to the public sphere, allowing them to disseminate their theories. Moving outside the academy, popular literature itself can be read as a source of theory, a site where alternative vernacular theories are constantly being tested and explored, making popular literature akin to a theoretical petri dish in which different ideas can be floated, contested and explored and allowing us, as readers, immediate engagement with alternative theories.

This form of vernacular theorising is perhaps best summed up in the final pages of Sucked In when, at the opening of the Casino, a well-known Australian actress and social activist flashes her breasts at the media. Maloney has clearly based this on the infamous 1997 Casino opening night protest by Rachel Griffiths in which Griffith’s Lady Godiva-inspired nudity was aimed to draw attention to the government’s financial motivations for establishing the Casino. In Maloney’s novel however, moments after the revelation of the breast, there is an attempted political assassination by someone involved in the mysterious death that drives this crime novel. Yet it is the breast rather than the assassination that gets reported in the media the next day; it is the spectacle of brash behaviour rather than the corruption of the body politic that is exposed. Here, Maloney as vernacular theorist seems to suggest that this type of attention-shifting has been the modus operandi of the Kennett era all along – and it is only through the invocation of suspicion as a theoretical, political or literary tool that this can be revealed.



Batt, K 2001, ‘Interview’, in PC McIntosh, Crisis Management: The Kennett Government and the Neo-Liberalising of Victoria (Unpublished PhD thesis), Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.

Davidson, G 1999, ‘The modern and Melbourne: Self imaging in photography, journalism and film, 1945-1970’ in (eds) Lynette Finch and Chris McConville, Gritty Cities: Images of the Urban, Pluto Press, NSW.

Edwards, D 2001, ‘Interview’, in PC McIntosh, Crisis Management: The Kennett Government and the Neo-Liberalising of Victoria (Unpublished PhD thesis), Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.

Maloney, S 2004,  ‘Scotch College speech,’  Shane Maloney and the World of Murray Whelan. 29 August. Accessed 18 July 2012 http://shanemaloney.com/news-and-events/news/post/scotch-college-speech.

McLaughlin, T 1996, Street Smarts and Critical Theory, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

Parkinson, T 2000, Jeff: The Rise and Fall of a Political Phenomenon, Viking, Ringwood.

Rapaport, H 2011, The Literary Theory Toolkit: A Compendium of Concepts and Methods, Wiley-Blackwell, New York. .

Rintoul, S 1997, ‘King Victoria,’ in The Australian Magazine, pp. 12-18.

Steger, J 2007, ‘Fixing the politics for a laugh,’ The Age, 5 May.

Syson, I 2007, ‘Sucked in’ in The Age, 18 May, Assessed 18 July 2012. http://www.theage.com.au/news/book-reviews/sucked-in/2007/05/18/1178995392596.html

Turnbull, S 1999, ‘Are we there yet?: The place of place in Australian crime fiction’, Meanjin, Volume 58 Number 4.  pp. 50-60.


Carolyn Beasley is a Senior Lecturer in Writing and Program Director of Swinburne University of Technology's undergraduate and postgraduate writing courses. In addition to being an award-winning fiction writer, she also writes on the relationship between crime fiction and social change.

Craig McIntosh was conferred his PhD in 2010, the subject of his thesis being: "Crisis management: the Kennett Government and the neo-Liberalising of Victoria". This thesis  tested Regulation Theory's expectations of capitalist evolution from a Fordist to a post-Fordist accumulation regime in relation to the establishment of neo-liberal political-economic governance practices by the Kennett Government in Victoria between 1992 and 1999. Craig's recent research interests have been into the affects of on-line pornography on the sexual identities of young adults; along with a comparative analysis of the sexual identities of the baby boomer generation who grew up with only marginal contact with pornography. Craig has been teaching Sociology at Swinburne since 2000.

Jason Bainbridge is Professor and Chair of Media and Communication at Swinburne University of Technology. He has written widely on popular representations of law, anime and manga, superheroes and justice and crime narratives. His most recent publication is the 3rd edition of his co-authored text Media and Journalism: New Approaches to Theory and Practice (OUP, 2015). 


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The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction
Vol 1 No 2 2015
Editors: Rachel Franks and Wendy J. Dunn