THE MARGARET THROSBY INTERVIEW
Hello, and welcome to the programme and welcome too to my guest today who is a very interesting person and a towering giant in the world of Australian broadcasting, arts, ideas, films, creativity and genius. You've probably guessed it's Phillip Arblaster, the greatest polymath Australia - no I think I should make that the world - has ever produced. Good morning, Phillip, and it's lovely to have you in the studio.
Polymath, now there's a word with associations - it reminds me of Polyfilla, a very useful all-purpose product for the handyperson and the subject of one of my earlier outstandingly successful sales-record-breaking advertising campaigns.
It must have been a very interesting childhood, growing up to be an advertising agent, Phillip. Tell me, did you talk much about it at home, you know, around the family meal table?
I did - in fact I did all the talking in our home. My family were Christian believers, you see, and left to themselves would have talked superstitious tosh all the time about Jesus and heaven and other nonsense. So I was compelled to impose a ban on their opening their mouths in my presence.
You must have been very persuasive. Most parents used to think it was the children who should be - what did they used to say? - seen and not heard.
I simply told them that I was God and that they were to keep silence before me. It is a belief I have come to accept today as being truer than ever.
Well, that's certainly an interesting approach, but tell me, how do you square it with the fact that you are quite a well known, I mean terribly famous, atheist - you know, with the fact that you don't believe in God?
No no, ha ha, you've got me wrong. It's other gods I don't believe in. You remember the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"?
Mmm, mmm ...
It's those gods that don't exist. The kind of god you read about in the Bible and that the Greeks used to have. False, all of them. Whereas, unlike them, I exist. Indeed, before all worlds, I am.
Do you find the rampant disbelief in you - I was reading in the census that a growing number of Australians don't believe in a personal god - do you find that distressing?
Couldn't care less. The people who count, people like the top programmers at the ABC or the editor of the Australian, they are all believers, to a person. So is my old mate Dickie Dawkins, the second most intelligent being on earth - though it's true he didn't believe in God until he met me when he was here and had to admit the existence of a supreme intelligence in the universe. It was a sudden conversion, like St Paul on the road to Corinth.
Tell me, as God, what have been your most creative moments? What are the things you're proudest of? I know if I was God I'd have lots of things of which I'd want to say, "You know, that's not bad. You did that, take a bow." What do you take a bow about?
Where do I start? There are so many things, it's an embarrassment of choice. I suppose I'd say my brilliant campaign to change consumer perception about Ol' Colonel Greazy's Krunchy Fried Frozen Chickenburgers. They're fried of course, but for health reasons the client didn't want people to think that they were. I just came up with the formula "OCG" and that was that. Or the slogan I created for Marlboro, "Smoking Is Good For You" - remember? It was pure genius though if I say it myself I subsequently outshone even that with my campaign for the National Health Commission and its stark warning "Smoking Will Kill You Horribly". Stupendous works of the Lord, every one of them. And they were only in the first of my six great days of creation.
You are of course a very politically concerned God, a God who is no friend of what I believe you describe as right-wing nutters like Tony Abbott - though he of course is a believer in you. But is it hard to reconcile the richly rewarded capitalistic world of advertising, you know, with all its materialist values, with your role as socialist and defender of the downtrodden and have-nots?
Not at all. It is simply a case of rendering under Julius Caesar and not giving the matter any further thought. Besides advertising is not the only attribute for which men, I should say people, praise me. I move in other mysterious ways my wonders to perform. You haven't even mentioned my single-handedly bringing Australia's world-leading cinema industry into life. Or my enduring legacy in Australian broadcasting.
I was going to ask you about that. As I'm sure I don't need to tell listeners, we have both made a name for ourselves in the same field. I suppose you could say we are colleagues.
To the extent that my Lamborghini and a Daewoo Nubira are both cars, yes I suppose we are.
With all the achievements under your belt is there is any ambition you have not fulfilled? For instance, there's a lot of injustice in the world. Can that be overcome?
There is indeed and yes it can, for with God all things are possible.
Where would you begin, O Lord?
I would begin with the most monstrous injustice of our times, the injustice crying out to heaven for vengeance, which is that even now certain of my works go unheeded. In all the years that I have laboured and brought forth a mighty company of volumes - immortal creations of wisdom and scholarship such as The Unspeakable Arblaster, The Uncensored Arblaster, More Unspeakable Arblaster, The Penguin Book of Australian Jokes, The Penguin Book of More Australian Jokes - not one virtuous voice has been raise to nominate me for the Nobel Prize for Literature. If a grumpy old goat like Patrick White should be thus honoured, why not the Author of All Things? But it is an injustice I shall rectify. I shall start my own prize.
What a wonderful idea. I can think of several Sydney writers -
The prize will be for myself.
Hmm. Well I think we could have a great conversation about that, in fact Phillip I'd love to have you in the studio all day, but there are things called schedules. Let me quickly change the subject slightly and ask you what you think about the big question of the moment, the carbon tax.
It was a great mistake to introduce it -
Really? But surely -
- to introduce it without commissioning me to conduct an appropriate advertising campaign. I could have shown them how to convince a doubting public. Something on the lines of "It's carbon. It's a tax. It's cool. Be in it". True, I don't come cheap but with all that tax money rolling in they could have afforded me.
Amen. Well, dear Lord, it's been a lovely privilege to have you on the programme. And I believe you have a musical item for us before we run out of time. What is it and what made you choose it?
Yes, and once again there was so much choice. I'd thought of having "How Great Thou Art", the hymn that used to be sung to me at Billy Graham's revivalist meetings - terrible self-publicist he was but he knew how to run a campaign - or given that this is a cultured programme, I've got a Te Deum dedicated to me by Palestrina, or there's my own composition, "The air, the air, of home sweet home / Is sweeter when it's Air-o-Zone", or another personal favourite, "What's the finest tissue in the bathroom you can issue? / Why you'd have to say it's Sorbent for sure" - I composed that on my harp, catchy tune isn't it? And I think perhaps my very favourite is one of my earliest successes, why not sing along with me, Margaret? "False teeth need three-way care / So soak your dentures in Kemdex / To sterilise, deodorise / Clean your dentures in Kemdex"? (FADES OUT)
23 June 2015 / 7 July 2012
23 June 2015 / 7 July 2012