ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
WALTER “WALT” MALLHOUSE’S life was perfect in every way.
He was one of the most respected members of his community and a successful grazier.
The people of Bingara, the town where he grew up and raised his family, all knew his name. His family has held on to their Merino stud, Earndale, through the good years and the bad. Walt’s superfine wool is known around the country and he’s even been featured on Landline before.
But earlier this month, all of that changed.
Walt’s wife, Abigaile, ran for mayor in the local by-election after the sudden passing of the previous leader. Mrs Mallhouse won in a sweeping victory, the first independent to be elected to the highest office of Bingara. At first, Walt Mallhouse was proud of his wife for winning by such a convincing margin – but now he wished she’d been beaten by a landslide.
Because now the people of Bingara are calling Walt Mallhouse, Tim.
“After Abby got up in the election, on of the boys down at the pub said ‘you’re just like Tim, Julia Gillard’s bloke’ and it’s stuck,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I respect the bloke and all – but he’s a hairdresser,”
“I can see the funny side of it but it’s starting to piss me off a bit,” he said.
It’s not a term of endearment – especially not for a farmer.
“They can call me anything they fucking want. But it’s a worry that my entire identity in this town is now based around the fact that my missus is much more powerful than I am,”
Julia Gillard hasn’t got a very good name out in the bush, especially after the live export disaster – which cost thousands of Australians their livelihood and income.
Then there’s Tim, who as a hairdresser with a chequered past, doesn’t have a very good name in regional Australia either because country towns have barbers.
Nevertheless, Mayor Mallhouse’s victory has heralded a new beginning for Bingara, which has dropped in size and population since the decline in wool prices.
Mayor Mallhouse’s chief policies include providing concessions to small businesses to make sure they stay in Bingara and deregulating the Gwydir River Authority.
Her staff, which includes a press secretary and personal assistant, has already moved to their new offices beside Peckham’s Mitre10 and the Wu-Fung restaurant.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” says Walt.
“I nearly laid out the publican’s son yesterday. Smartmouth prick”