FOREWORD: I drafted the following post last Thursday (12th August), back when all was quiet on the inner city streets ... little did I know that my Hindenburg-like, pseudo-intellectual smugness was going to be deflated in a great, blubbery mess by the pointy-end of the real world, as Melbourne's gangland mobs geared-up for a whole new shooting spree.
While the ongoing northern suburban teenage knife fights and the cudgelling of Indian students keeps the blood-lusting Sunday paper readers interested past the Page 3 Girl, the rest of the city is starting to get a little twitchy that there hasn't been a decent shooting outside a suburban home, cafe or primary school for well over a year now.
For a while there it was looking promising that Carl Williams might be released before someone could knock him off in broad daylight outside Woollies (preferably at a home-value-inflating shopping strip near you), but alas, the grubby, tubby drug lord met his end on Her Majesty's watch, selfishly denying a salivating populous its opportunity to spend the next eight years driving by 'the spot where it all happened' and pointing at the pavement where one would claim that in the right light, you could just about determine the outline of his leaked cranial blood.
Such is Melbourne's obsession with organised, true-crime. Where the release of a ghost written 'auto-biography' of a notorious, nouveau celebrite gang lord can steal the front page from a politician's dastardly, late-night government takeover or a despot north Asian leader's preliminary steps towards nuclear world war.
And thanks to the good folk at Channel 9 bashing-out three series of Underbelly in as many years, the rest of Australia has followed suit and is obsessed with the seedy underworld of organised crime (not to mention soft porn and Matty Newton's arse!).
But while all eyes and cameras are firmly trained on the last known survivor of the Moran clan (poor, two-year-old Kitty is alleged to have signed a multi-billion dollar exclusivity deal with Murdoch's News Limited, to be paid in a lump sum on the release of Volume 1: the Primary School Years, should she be fortunate enough to live that long), the rest of the nation's established criminal families have been more-or-less free to get on with the business of drug-manufacturing and running, theft, extortion, protection racketeering, arms trading and illegal gambling, with narry a glance from the press or the cops.
Take my neighbours, for example. These folk aren't the types to be escorting high-end hookers and joining Eddie McGuire for the AFL's Brownlow Medal Count at Crown Casino in a few weeks time. They're not even the types to be seen playing at the high-roller tables of the same establishment. You won't see them hooning up and down Chapel St in Ferrari convertibles or spot them joining George Calombaris at table in one of his fine-dining establishments.
Rather, these fat, balding, tracky-daks-wearing, butt-crack showing, pitbull-walking, possibly excessively violent, but otherwise neighbourly types are more likely to be seen scoffing $8-parmies-and-a-pot-before-noon down at The 'Wick, throwing a few bucks each way on Race 6 at the Cranbourne Dish-lickers, or dropping twenty-cent coins into a slot after 3pm at the RSL. They're more likely to be driving a '96 HSV Commodore than a Ferrari, and the only thing high-end about their hookers is that when working the back alleys, their girls make sure they're not standing where the drain water pools at the bottom of the rise.
So while the three generations of criminals living next door won't ever grace the front page or be made the subject of a high-rating Australian TV series, you gotta hand-it to them for their diligence at keeping at it – a bit of a meth lab here, some movement of stolen goods there, a dabble in some illegal importation of tobacco products there – for decades, and all completely under the radar*.
I guess you'd have to liken them to former Prime Minister John Howard's Little Aussie Battlers. The kind of folk who will never be singled-out for their selfless and unrelenting contribution to society, but who, by their commitment to honest hard work, keep the economy on its feet.
That's my neighbours ... the Little Aussie Battlers of Organised Crime. They'll never be recognised for what they do, but with the media, the police and the hungry, true-crime-obsessed public's attention preventing the higher-profile crooks from dabbling in anything even slightly bent, my neighbours, and other, likewise established families are keeping organised crime alive.
The real Aussie Battlers of Organised Crime look more like David Wenham's character, Johnny Spitieri (Gettin' Square, 2003) than the slick, playboy types of Channel 9s Underbelly. Pic: http://www.oldmovies.net.au/top-10-funny-characters/
* - well almost completely, except if you count the incident which saw our neighbourhood wake up to view the late night handy work of one of our neighbour's grammatically-challenged competitors or disgruntled clients scrawled across their front fence in red spray paint; "DRUG DEELERS" (sic).