So, what are the ‘big issues’?
Well, the name is obviously based on a parody of the magazine, The Big Issue, and we thought it was a great name for a show. When I come back to Australia I always get more ideas for the show because it’s such a radically changed country over the past few years. I think if I stayed there for a year I could end up writing a whole new show based on the country.
What do you miss about Australia?
Well, what I miss is the way Australia used to be. I find it to be a highly conservative country, almost a police state now. And I can’t believe how expensive it is. Phil Bird, the American comedian, was recently doing a show at the Sydney Opera House and I was listening to his podcast and he was saying he had a great time, and that the country and people are cool but what is up with the fucking prices?
A lot of people say how expensive it is…
I know, when I was there last time I had an argument about it with a woman in Melbourne who was defending this. I love it when Aussies defend their country. She was like, ‘what do you mean?’ And I was like, well what I mean is, one bottle of mineral water should not be $5. Even in Norway. I can buy this in London for 80p. Why is it $5 for mineral water?
It’s ridiculous isn’t it?
In Australia you can’t live poor there anymore. Like how is a packet of Iced Vo-Vos $5? I cant fucking work it out. I can’t understand how people are surviving. Even when I lived there and I was poor and unemployed, I could still eat at home and buy tuna and vegetables and pasta and cook cheaply. But now you go to a fruit shop in Australia and they want $45 for some apples and broccoli. How come in Manchester where I live it’s a few pounds? Oh, and seriously, how are cigarettes are $40?
I know. And you can only bring in 50 duty free now…
So I can’t bring in 200? Here’s what I want to know, after 50 years of being able to bring in duty free, now we cant? Why? Sometimes I think I’ll move back there and then I hear things like this and just think, why? There’s so much going on there, it’s like a laboratory. It’s like they test everything on Australians because no one will say anything – unless they’re on fire. So they test things, like the plain packet cigarettes, I mean it’s like fucking Russia. And what is this supposed to do? Now that it’s in a grey box we wont smoke? I love how when we were kids they were allowed to sell us chocolate cigarettes and we could watch cowboy films so that we all get addicted to cigarettes and now you just blame the general public for being addicted.
Sounds like it should be part of your show. Any other gripes?
Yeah, it’s like how they say there’s so much violence in the country. Of course people are violent, look at our leaders, they’re violent. They bomb Arabs to death. And then they say the kids at school can’t punch each other, well why? You drop depleted uranium on people’s children. The world is run by violent people.
So, if you were prime minister, what would you change?
Australia is a weird country in that it’s connected to England but seems to follow America. The state of police presence, the rules and the political correctness is tantamount to America. Aussies don’t fight back, even in the media. You have people like Miranda Devine who writes a right wing column saying that cops should Taser everybody, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the other side saying ‘no they shouldn’t’. And why is there 30 police with dogs on a Tuesday morning at Central station? It’s like Nazi Germany, the way cops get on trains and ask people for ID.
So, you’d change the police presence?
Yeah, like why are we even allowed to be searched by drug dogs considering you need a warrant to get into our houses? Sure, they’re doing that in Europe as well, like I’ve been searched in London, but this is at 10pm on a Saturday night. They do it at Redfern Station during the week when the students get off to go to Uni. Why do you need 30 cops? You better find some serious drugs. It’s psychological warfare.
It’s intimidating too.
That’s it. And then there are signs everywhere with pictures of cops wearing sunglasses saying: ‘We’ve got you in our sights’. Another thing I find weird is how the higher powers will tell you how shit the country is and how violent it is, but then the tourist board will tell the rest of the world how beautiful it is. They’re like ‘come to Australia, there’s sun, sand, blond men and we can all have a BBQ’. But if you live there it’s like, ‘oh no it’s terrible and there are drugs everywhere’. These two roles should swap. You wake up in the morning and the radio should say, ‘what a beautiful country, why don’t you go for a surf?’ And then the tourist board can tell the rest of the world, ‘I wouldn’t come to Australia, it’s a fucking nightmare.’ That way you’ll cut down on your immigrants too! That thing that used to make Australia great is gone. You know that thing?
That carefree attitude?
Yeah, they used to call it the ‘Lucky Country’ and now there are just cops everywhere. It’s a prison state.
Where is home for you now?
Manchester. I feel more at home there but personally I’d like to live in the Netherlands. England is a fucking mess too. There are a lot of people there – 77 million people in that tiny little island. European countries say why can’t England get its shit together and run the country properly? Well, because in Europe you might have a population of three million, that’s a fucking BBQ in England.
So there’s no chance you’ll come back to Australia for good?
Probably not. What have they banned lately? Walking?
Catch Steve in Brisbane March 5-10, Melbourne April 18-20. stevehughes.net.au