Australia’s success in curbing Covid-19 infections is allowing it to slowly ease some restrictions even as it remains largely closed off from the rest of the world, taking its economy back to the pre-globalization era.
Mining and agriculture continue to support exports and a government-sponsored group is looking at ways to revive manufacturing. But the flow of foreign tourists, students and immigrants has been frozen, pinning hopes for a rebound on local consumption.
The closed borders and domestic reliance has the economy harking back to the 1980s, before the lifting of tariffs opened up trade and Paul Hogan offered to put another shrimp on the Barbie for international visitors.
Services Driven Nearly two-thirds of economic output from service industries
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Nominal gross value added, 2018-19
The capacity of services to quickly turnaround and the fact Aussies aren’t blowing savings on holidays abroad could help the nation fare better than many developed-world peers. Much will depend on the mood of households as unemployment rises, with a poor construction outlook adding to headwinds.
What Bloomberg’s Economists Say “Close to 1 million Australians per month traveled overseas in 2019. They will now be looking for a change of destination, heading to Noosa instead of Nusa Dua; Port Douglas, not Penang; and catching up with friends at bars in Melbourne Laneways, instead of Hong Kong’s mid levels. Containment measures change the economics of international travel.”
James McIntyre, economist
Household consumption, which makes up around 55% of the economy, has been boosted on the one hand by people stocking up on essentials during the lockdown, but hammered on the other as they couldn’t eat out or go to the movies. Shops and restaurants are gradually reopening but, for consumption to drive any rebound, households must put aside concerns over job security and debt to drive spending. That may be tough.
Wesfarmers Ltd. is seeing shift in consumer behavior across its retail portfolio. Home improvement and office products stores, Bunnings and Officeworks, have seen significant uplift in sales, while general merchandise stores, Target and Kmart, have seen sales slow.
Pessimistic households have consumption outlook seeming bleak Even before Covid-19, Australian households were among the most indebted in the developed world, with debt almost double disposable income. The threat of unemployment to people’s ability to meet their debts is now key, and the Reserve Bank of Australia has long acknowledged it as a major risk facing the economy.
The unemployment rate is currently 6.2%, with the central bank expecting it to peak at around 10%. Banks are offering repayment holidays to help tide homeowners over and have quadrupled provisions for an expected surge in bad debts.
Australia Passes Massive Stimulus Measures as Virus Spreads People wait in line outside a Centrelink office in the Bondi Junction suburb of Sydney, March 2020.Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg The absence of skilled migration due to closed national borders will also hit pause on what had been steady stream of profitable mortgage lending for the banks. That could flow through to housing prices if sustained.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia said its base case is for an 11% fall in home prices, though in a prolonged downturn a cumulative 32% slump is possible. National Australia Bank Ltd. said in a severe downturn, prices could plummet 21% this year.
Uncertainty and job insecurity impacting property market Residential construction typically closely follows house price movements, and the sector was already scaling back activity following the previous flood of new stock still working its way into the market.
The RBA earlier this month said that indications from the initial stages of the development process suggests demand for new housing “has deteriorated significantly.” It expects dwelling investment to plunge 17% in the 12 months through June and remain a drag on growth until 2021.
Property investors have been hit by the six month moratorium on tenancy evictions during coronavirus. Without renewed interest from investors, it’s challenging to get a new apartment development, particularly of any size, into construction.
The same holds for business investment. Unless the project was already underway, or is related to creating a covid-safe environment, capital expenditure plans have been parked until demand returns.
Natural Endowment Things look brighter as you leave the cities. Internationally, Australia is known as a commodity powerhouse. While it accounts for just 10% of output, it is a key source of export income and prosperity in the country.
Iron ore shipments from Port Hedland, a key export hub, hit a record for April, while gold sales from Perth Mint -- the main refiner -- also surged. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. lifted its projected annual iron ore shipments in a wager on China’s recovery. “We are selling everything we can possibly produce,” Chairman Andrew Forrest says.
Net exports important source of economic growth It’s less rosy for the liquefied natural gas producers. Just as the coronavirus sent the global economy into lockdown, Russia and Saudi Arabia began a standoff that sent oil prices tumbling below zero.
Top producers Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and Santos Ltd. have slashed spending plans and deferred flagship growth projects -- worth over $15 billion -- in line with drastic steps by energy majors worldwide to hunker down during the pandemic.
On The Sheep’s Back Virus Fears Grow In Sydney As Growing GDP Expected To Be Hit Rolls of toilet papers sit in an empty section of a supermarket in Sydney, March 2020..Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg As supermarket shelves were stripped bare, a panicked nation was reminded of the sheer mass of food the country’s farmers produce. Domestic food production services more than 90% of fresh produce sold in supermarkets and still is able to more than match that amount in exports.
The industry could also become an unexpected source of employment. Backpackers and workers from Pacific Islands flock to rural areas to pick up work with seasonal tasks, but with borders shut and jobs being lost across the economy, farmers are likely turn to the local community for the extra labor.
Other producers have greater worries. Barley and meat exporters have been caught in China’s crosshairs in retaliation for Australia’s public call for an independent investigation of the coronavirus outbreak, while the wine industry is looking on nervously.
It’s been a tough year for wine, even before the virus. Clonakilla winery in New South Wales, north of Canberra, decided against producing a 2020 vintage after analysis showed unacceptably high levels of smoke taint from wildfires over the summer.
Exploring Our Own Backyard Australia's China Reliance Backfires as Virus Fallout Spreads Students sit on the grass at the University of Sydney, Feb. 2020.Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg The education industry was one of the first to feel the pinch from coronavirus restrictions. When the government imposed travel bans on flights from China in February, around 100,000 international students were unable to enter Australia to begin the academic year and left universities bracing for a costly fallout.
The University of Sydney, where students from China represented nearly one-quarter of the total student body, projected a A$470 million loss this year. Other institutions, including the University of Melbourne and Monash University, are bracing for similar hits. Even smaller regional institutions that don’t attract nearly the same level of international students have been affected.
With a lot of money at stake, there could be a relaxation of international border restrictions for students to study in Australia, before leisure travelers are allowed. But for businesses catering toward an offshore audience, demand is unlikely to snap back.
Qantas Airways Ltd. is currently operating just 1% of its network and has canceled overseas fights until at least the end of July. Its main competitor, Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., collapsed into administration in April.
Virgin Australia Collapses After Pandemic Halts Air Travel Virgin Australia check-in kiosks inside a deserted Sydney Airport, April 2020. Photographer Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg Crown Resorts Ltd. and Star Entertainment Group Ltd., which both target big-spending visitors from Asia, were forced to close their casinos in Australia as the country locked down. Crown is just months away from completing a A$2.2 billion luxury gaming resort in Sydney.
The tourism industry was already reeling from the wave of cancellations following the December and January wildfires. The silver lining is that Australians will have no option but to spend holidays on home soil once inter-state travel is allowed again. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-19/australia-goes-back-to-the-1980s-with-economy-closed-to-world?sref=s0L1qQ1H
Listen, mate. Something is rotten in the State of Victoria, Australia.
From the muddy banks of the Yarra, up and beyond Sydney Road, to the Dandenong mountain ranges….down to the borders of Port Phillip Bay where the fibreglass Luna Park clown, old Mr Moon, grins contemptuously over the brothels and slums of St Kilda. Fuck me sideways. Pernicious humidity followed by a spell of rain, and a sky perpetually overcast with moral decay. Something is wrong, and it rhymes with girder.
Yeah, see....in St Kilda, in July of 2017 a dead body was found in the Triangle construction Site near the Bay, adjacent to where the Palais theatre once stood —before it burnt to cinders. Body had also been burnt, and was unidentifiable, charcoaled as it was. Funnily enough...Nobody seems to know who is to blame. As daily race riots and brawls break out on St Kilda streets, and the cops impose tougher alcohol restrictions, this gaping wound remains untended.
J D Williams and the three Phillips brothers from Seattle had their part;— left their American legacy in Australia, no doubt about it— the Coney Island style theme park of vices, a carnival of underground crimes which led to that precise moment —a swamp of intertwined histories beyond my capabilities to research thoroughly or summarise accurately. Nevertheless, I swear to you old chum, like a moth to a flame, I was drawn into the tangled investigation of that mangled female corpse near Luna Park,... an investigation which would near drive me insane.
My name is Pharlap Dronefire, a Private Investigator based in South Yarra.
I’m not normally inclined to investigate murder cases, but this particular private client had a list of seemingly unrelated things he wanted me to research, the St Kilda murder being just one of them. As I didn’t have access myself to the police files, I resolved to meet up with my police contact, Andrew Barrington, and get the facts surrounding the case.
Officer Barrington consented to meet at Luigi’s; a video game themed bar on Acland Street. It was a hot Saturday, and the St Kilda crowds were wild and varied; thousands of English, Irish and American tourists flocked to the beach, whilst teenagers vomited on the rickety roller-coasters of the seaside theme Park. The scenes were impressionistic, with Bosch-like crowds, bollards lined with palm trees. Myriad junkies asked for change and cigarettes of passers by— on the street, whilst bips and boops sang out from customers playing the vintage arcade machines behind me.
I sat at the outside tables, drunks brushed by me on the cramped and cracked sidewalk, car pollution and smog slept thinly at knee level over the scene, as the green and orange blur of a passing tram flashed by.
I saw officer Barrington approaching from a distance and waved as he crossed the road, shortly he sat down at the table and we ordered two Pale Ales.
‘Thanks for comin’ Bazza’ I said with genuine appreciation. Barrington scratched his face, and muttered a kind of ‘no wukkers ’ through his chin.....he seemed to have a lot on his mind. ‘So what have you got on this St Kilda killing?’ I asked directly, ‘There’s almost nothing online about it, barely made a dent in the press.’ ‘Jesus Pharlap.’ Barrington sighed, ‘Haven’t you got anything better to do than dig up old corpses?’ ‘You know me Baz—’ I said, ‘I’m determined to end up a chalk outline myself. But this corpse is still pretty fresh i’d say. Why are the cops choking on this chicken anyway? What’s the unseen bone?’ ‘Look…’ Officer Barrington sighed, as our beers arrived and I took a big swig of lager; ‘The murder made the papers when it happened, toured the news for a week or so...but because the body has never been identified there hasn’t been much for the press to chew on. There’s no suspects, no motive or cause. We’ve only been barely able to piece together what actually happened.’ Barrington took a sip of beer, as I jotted down some notes. The officer looked down at my ex—left-hand for a moment, noticing the bandaged stub from the accident that had happened to me recently. ‘What happened to your hand?’ He asked. ‘My own bones have been chewed…You and I...’ I replied, ‘....Work in a dangerous line of work.....sometimes the danger of your profession leaks over to mine in unexpected ways ....probably best leave it at that. So what exactly DO the police know about this barbecued girl?’.
I noticed an extraordinary amount of discomfort in Barrington’s face as he discussed the girl. Being partially involved in the murder investigation, it seemed to have particularly disturbed him. He struggled uncomfortably in his seat, Barrington was a large muscular man with thick, black-rimmed glasses and layered, thin hair. His eyes seemed permanently tinged with paranoia.
‘Officially?’ Barrington replied nervously, ‘Nothing...... But unofficially....’ ‘You’ve got your own theories about who did this, don’t you?’ I asked making my own deductions. Bazza sighed and massaged the back of his neck; ‘Look’ he said, ‘Whatever I tell you here is completely off the record. You understand?’ I made an affirmative gesture.
‘You know well— I’ve been investigating various unsolved gangland killings for a long time.’ Said Officer Barrington, ‘We’ve discussed previously my unofficial research and interests.’ I nodded, motioning him to continue. ‘Well. Hexton Police Station is full of officer’s hunches. We’ve always known of these criminal families running things, and what not, but sometimes you don’t have the evidence to put the bastards away. This case goes back years....’
Another tram chimed past in the street as Bazza continued his story; ‘There was the Walsh Street Massacre in 1988; that set a wave of anxiety through the ranks. You’ve head of it?’ ‘Sounds familiar. That’s what ‘Animal Kingdom’ was about, right?’ I said. ‘Right. Before Howard took the guns away, you had the crime families, bank robbers, strings of crimes done with sawn-off shotguns in broader Hexton. Cops shot Greame Jensen, and Victor Pierce promised two cops would die in revenge attacks. After those two young coppers were murdered in Walsh Street, the cops fought back. Executed a bunch of the gang leaders. Then there were the trials of the Walsh Street killers, that bitch Wendy Pierce didn’t testify. Half the buggers never done time. I was trying to nail Peter McEvoy for a long time in the nineties. He moved up to NSW after he was freed.’ I furiously recorded notes as the officer spoke.
‘After the gangland killings of the nineties, and the Purana task force, it took years to catch up on who was doing what. Well that’s when I really went down a rabbit hole in my research. Started trailing these rich crime families who’d been running tricks over the NSW/Victorian border for over a century unchecked. I’m not talking about Gangitano, Gatto or the Manillas. Used to be all the crime was comin’ in from the docks, you know? The Painter and Dockers union, that’s where Victor Pierce worked, the Walsh Street murderer, the Moran family and the Carlton Crew, they were all running drugs through Port Melbourne. The Calabrian mafia, AKA the honoured society, the Ndrangheta—now they also got their claws into Australian society way back then too, they come down from Queensland, had their racketeering going through the fruit and vegetable markets. Everyone remembers the key events— Frank Benvenuto was killed in 2000, but even without their leader the ’Ndrangheta was obviously still operating —because in 2008 the cops seized 15 million ecstacy pills hidden in tomato cans from Calabria. Now, Frank Benvenuto rang Victor Peirce the day he died. You want my opinion— That’s because the thugs that organised Walsh Street, weren’t just acting on some petty revenge motive. The whole thing was planned from higher up, maybe Frank was fronting up to Peirce before he was shot, and maybe Peirce knew too much when he was blown away in 2002. You catch my drift?’
‘’Im trying my best to follow—’ I replied, still anxiously scribbling notes.
‘Keep up mate… Anyway listen, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, people have been too hung up on Islamic extremism to pay attention to what’s really happening with the Mafia and these other organisations, these crime families. Now there was way more knowledge of this in the police force, the internal corruption was proven to go right to the top….in the end — we know the Wood Royal Commission only really exposed the affairs of the Kings Cross Police in Sydney, barely scratched the surface of mafia interception and corruption within the government. Yeah, they brought in some regulations, hell… even that snake Roger Rogerson got done eventually,…the Labour party dealing with Mokbel was partially revealed… but all the while, secret meetings of the same groups were happening; members of corporations, corrupt police, board members, Australian politicians. I was still trailing them, I had addresses of mansions where these figures lived and hung out. Just waiting to catch a lucky break. This wasn’t just a few career criminals. It was like an underground cult.’
I polished off my beer and motioned with my hand to the waitress to bring out another one. ‘So you think this St Kilda killing was perpetrated by these underground crime families?’ I asked intrigued.
Bazza grew more paranoid still, almost sweating and glancing about him as if he was afraid of being watched. ‘There’s this urban legend among ...those interested in crime ....in this city. Have you ever heard of the the ‘Slaughter Theatre’ trilogy?’ ‘The what?’ I asked cluelessly. Barrington seemed peculiarly begrudging to keep telling me information about what he knew, nonetheless he obligingly indulged me;
‘Back in the days of Walsh Street there were rumours of these VHS tapes existing, you know?… It was rumoured that Peter McEvoy, Victor Pierce and other murderers involved in the police killings— used to film their crimes. Snuff videos —which would prove their identities in various murders —nail the Walsh Street killers, and hundreds of other crime figures….. these VHS were alleged to have been seen by multiple witnesses. The stickers on the old video tapes were supposed to be labelled ‘Slaughter Theatre’ in red permanent marker, creepy handwriting. That’s what all the legends say anyway. I know officers who claim to have seen some of this footage. I’m talking sadistic brutal shit. You remember Dennis Allen?’ ‘Sure’ I said. ‘Mr Death they used to call him, well— there’s apparently a snuff video of Allen cutting up one of his biker adversaries with a chainsaw, he’s covered in blood, films the whole thing as he approaches a bunch of slaughterhouse workers in their white gear. They’re all covered in blood and laughing their asses off, saying ‘What floor you working’ on then Dennis?’. Another guy I know claims he’s seen these tapes, proof of all kinds of things we just suspected… Mad Charlie being massacred at his home in Caulfield. Girls being raped and tortured and mutilated. One of the pieces of footage is allegedly of a group of about 30 members of the Comanchero Motorcycle club, and they’re standing around with a group of these government guys in suits, who pay them a bunch of money, then what follows is a sadistic orgy which ends in bloodshed and bizarre ritual.’
I sweated, my hand starting to cramp from the overload of information. I held my hand up for a moment, indicating Bazza to give me a second to catch up. Finally, after a deep breath, and massaging my wrist, I waved; ‘Go on’. Barrington continued;
‘In the nineties and noughties —more rumours popped up about these secret videos. Apparently rich perverts we’re paying criminals for these snuff films, this Slaughter Theatre….. some of them were even getting top notch production values with members of the Melbourne creative industry being involved. At least that’s how the rumours go. The legends are constantly embellished. In the 90’s it was burnt DVD’s which the files were allegedly being copied to. Press dubbed it ‘Slaughter Theatre part Two’. Then downloaded files, and well, you can imagine how the rumours escalated in the modern age of social media.’
I tried to absorb what Barrington was telling me, but had to admit it sounded suspiciously like an urban conspiracy theory. I tapped at my pad with the nib of my pen. ‘So how exactly does this relate to the burnt female corpse that was dumped here in St Kilda?’.
‘Listen,’ Barrington said adjusting his thick, black glasses nervously and preparing to stand; ‘I’m afraid there’s only so much I can tell you without compromising my job. That girl was burnt alive, with a can of gasoline. Autopsy confirms that much. If I tell you that urban legends suggesting that her murder was filmed— are prominent in police circles, would you even believe me? What if I told you I had proof that this murder was filmed as part of a third instalment in this snuff trilogy? Slaughter Theatre - Part Three. That these murders are having a resurgence ——that its all part of this conspiracy?’ ‘I’d say you were either crazy, or had something that would make the biggest news story in Australian history.’ I replied bluntly. Officer Barrington stood up and handed me a business card; ‘That’s all I can do, mate—to tip you off. Listen Pharlap… If you want to learn more I suggest you dig around about this snuff video, I think you’ll find more than you had imagined in your worst daydreams. The.... You’re going to want to speak to the guy —on this card’— (Barrington handed me a business card)— ‘…about a murder that happened at the Three Vertice construction site in Footscray in July 2016. Sorry I can’t be of more help...’ Officer Barrington then shook my hand firmly, and I thanked him before he disappeared into the St Kilda crowds.
So that was how it started. How my innocence was tainted, and I was dragged into this most unnerving and unusual investigation. The business card Barrington gave me belonged to somebody called ‘Drendyl Pex. Three Vertice Construction Company. Owner. Manager.’
For a moment I sat back, and tried to get the tangled mess out of my brain, sipping at the last of my beer. Surely Barrington had gone a bit nuts— reeked of classic Police conspiracy stuff. The idea that the whole criminal underworld is linked through some kind of satanic cult— it was absurd. Satanic Panic. And as for this snuff film? Well… I just had trouble believing that something that could’ve appeared on a /4chan creepy pasta/ could exist in any tangible reality. Nonetheless, right now, it was my only lead. If Barrington believed that the murder of the girl at St Kilda… could somehow be linked to another murder in Footscray, i’d have to investigate it, any other solution would be neglectful.
It was about a twenty five minute drive out to Footscray in my Valiant Charger. I had the air conditioning up to full blast, and my tinted windows down. The radio was blaring FURY FM, some poncy hipster DJ raving on about his succulent garden, and his batch of home-brewed beer. I was about to turn it off when a killer track came on, Head On by The Jesus and Mary Chain, so I cranked the volume and hit the gas. The DJ may have been an arsehole… but he did have decent taste in music, the next tracks were also great; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, MGMT -Little Dark Age, ORB -Man in the Sand, Nap Eyes -Don’t be Right. The synthetic pulses of the Chromatics cover of Kate Bush’s ’Running up that Hill’ was playing as I pulled into the car park of the Three Vertice construction company.
It was a busy location, with an adjacent yard; many workers in their flouro orange high vis neons and yellow hard hats coming and going. I stumbled over a poorly concreted patch of turf, up a flight of roughly hewn stairs, through a mesh steel fence, until I came into a sheltered office, and temporary reception desk. The lady at the desk gave me a funny look, and I realised I was still wearing my aviators and tennis visor, and I removed them for politeness. ‘Pharlap Dronefire. I’m here to speak to Drendyl Pex’, I said flatly. The blonde woman with dark wirey eyebrows still had an aggravated look on her face, she scowled and said, barely curteously; ‘I’m afraid Mr Pex is quite busy, do you have an appointment?’ I thought cunningly for a few split seconds; ‘No. But this is of a very private and urgent nature. Mr Pex will see it in his interest that we speak as soon as possible—’ ‘Im sorry sir, but Mr Pex….’— ‘—You can tell him it’s in relation to something that happened last year—at this site— he may want to keep confidential…’ The woman sighed, looking fearfully at her computer, ‘Ill try his office, if you just want to take a seat Mr….?’ ‘Dronefire’ I repeated, casually taking a seat on the old, tattered couch.
It was about a seven minute wait —before a well dressed man, with shoulder length, greased-back hair, purple waist coat, cravat, dark velvet jacket and long boots walked into the room. The woman stood up to introduce us, but before she had a chance the man lunged forward and stood before me with his right hand held straight. The man commanded a strange authority, so that I found I quickly leapt to my feet in his presence, and before I knew it we were in the middle of a firm handshake. ‘Mr Dronefire I believe? Drendyl Pex.’ ‘It’s a pleasure, sir, Is there somewhere we can talk a little more privately?’ ‘Of course, please… Come to my onsite office.’ I followed Mr Pex outside of the temporary unit, and we walked up a hazardous mud slide mountain to a— 3 metre square— white cubicle or trailer. Pex opened a door, and we entered into the luxurious space, decked out with a bar and expensive furniture and entertainment system. ‘Can I fix you a rum, Mr Dronefire?’ Pex asked. ‘I’ve never said no to a rum before.’ I replied truthfully. Pex pulled down a bottle from his packed shelves, dropped ice machine cubes into two glasses and poured. ‘On the rocks suit?’ ‘Yeah…that…uh…that….suits perfectly’ I replied. Drendyl handed me a three quarter full glass of pale liquid; ‘Have you tried it?’ He asked ‘Australian brand, from Adelaide, Gunnery, white spiced. Best this country has to offer.’ I took a sip of the drink, and was surprised by the earthy taste, it was dirty but delicious.
‘Mr Pex’ I said, ‘May I be upfront?’ ‘You want to know about the death that occurred last year.’ Pex replied; ‘I’m guessing you’re a Private Investigator or amateur sleuth of some kind.’ ‘Your receptionist passed on the hint, I suppose?’ I asked. ’I must apologise for our quote-unquote reception. It’s a temporary head office, we’re building a new office space here. Miss Weabley is actually our occupational health and safety manager, just filling the desk whilst we get a new temp in—’ ‘I’m not here representing anyone in a legal capacity Mr Pex’… I said, sensing Pex’s defenses, ‘…you guessed it right, I am a P.I-——— my client is interested in a murder that occurred in St Kilda recently, however other trails of research have led me to a you. Did the death last year occur at this location?’ ‘Aha!’ said Pex, seeming to have figured me out, ‘You’re following the urban legend surrounding a certain snuff film.’ I tried not to act surprised. ‘I can provide you some information about that. But follow me, I want to show you something first.’
Pex swigged the rest of his drink, and placed down the empty glass, I followed his lead, and we exited the white building, trudging around a muddy path on the outer rim of the construction zone. My head was warm from liquor and smog, the sprawling horizon bore the haphazard scattering of Footscray industry. ‘Just up here…i’ll show you…. is where the death happened Mr Dronefire. Alice Goddard. Up over the hill there. I’ll show you the place alright…but….. Are you familiar with Footscray at all?’ ‘Not really…Not a bulldogs fan….I…uh…I barrack for Essendon.’ I joked. ‘Blasphemy’ Pex smiled with formulaic small talk, ‘This was Wurundjeri land, where we are standing. Some time ago it was an immense lagoon where the Koories went fishing. There was a factory here at the turn of the century when the industrial revolution hit. They bulldozed it in the seventies, and it’s been nothing much more than landfill up until 2007 when the Three Vertice construction company purchased it. It’s been a sort of base for some time, although our head office used to be in Fitzroy. We are an equal opportunity employer Mr Dronefire. In the last 20 years, over 50 thousand employees; South Vietnamese, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Somalian, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indonesian —they have all come through here.’ ‘I’m not quite sure why you are telling me this Mr Pex’ I confessed. ‘I know you’re not a fool Mr Dronefire. We’ve been through our trials and tribulations, pleaded our side in court cases. I don’t particularly enjoy going through the ordeal of recounting the horrific tragedy that happened here last year over and over again. But if I can be plain with you, off the record…’ I nodded. ‘There’s no doubt that girl Alice Goddard was murdered out here, and if you ask me, the likelihood that someone under the employ of the Three Vertice Construction company committing that murder— it’s more than just a likelihood. Of course, you can understand…. why, as leader of this company I would be cautious about publicity over this, i’m not a monster. My pity for the girl is endless. I’ve been very frank with the police about giving them all our employee files.’
I felt like I had just taken in a whiff of pure Drendyl heroine, and had to take a minute to contemplate it. ‘I’m not here to accuse you or your company of anything untoward Mr Pex. Just to seek out the truth. To be honest, I have absolutely nothing in my research which even suggests that the murder which occurred in St Kilda is in any way related to the death of Alice Goddard.’ ‘Well… if you’d done your research, you’d know that she—Alice— was burnt alive.’ Pex stated plainly, ‘Similar autopsy results as your St Kilda murder. I read the newspapers too Mr Dronefire. If I was a police man, i’d definitely be looking at the murders as a double homicide, or possibly two murders in a repeat serial killing. Mind you, this country’s never been well equipped to deal with the serial killer phenomenon, the AFP has a history of bungled investigations in that regard.’ ‘This snuff film?’ I asked increasingly intrigued, but distracted—’You said you were aware of——‘ ‘Everyone in Melbourne is aware of Slaughter Theatre, Mr Dronefire. It’s a legend that’s been spreading around parties in the Northern suburbs for as long as Venereal disease.’ I tried to hold back a chortle, given the morose aspect of the subject matter.
Mr Pex began to walk again, and I followed him up over the last dirt pile which led to the alleged murder site. We were quite high up on the elevation now and had a good view of the Melbourne CBD. Pex stared outwards towards the skyscrapers looming over the Yarra on the horizon. ‘Do you know much about the Crown Casino?’ Pex asked, looking in the general direction of the deluxe crown towers on the horizon. ‘Only that it’s putting a lot of cash in Andrew Packer’s pocket’ I replied. ‘Pfa haha… Packer’s barely here, he’s too busy in Sydney building his 60 million dollar pad at Barangaroo, when he’s not brushing gently against his Scientologist buddies. Good mates with Tom Cruise our James, they’ve all stayed out here at Crown towers too; prominent Scientologists, the Kardashians, the Bush’s, the Rumsfields. Kerry Packer was much more interesting than his son, you know Dronefire. Back in the days of VHS, back when him and Rupert Murdoch were fighting their cold war over who was to be the king pin of the Australian media.’ I took a moment to absorb the serene, pale view of the spires of Hexton CBD, and the dark crown towers silhouetted by the glare of the sun. ‘I’m waiting for the day when the full history of Consolidated press broadcasting comes out,’ Pex continued, ‘…there’s a dark past there the public may never know about. But ol’ Kerry, he knew how to separate recorded history into public and private.’ ‘How do you mean exactly?’ I asked ‘I’m not going to spill all the dirt on Kerry—Mr Dronefire. My father and he had some shared acquaintances. We’d be here all year, and besides, what’s the point. The old cunts dead. You’re a younger bloke, aren’t you Dronefire? I’m guessing 34?’ Pex continued without waiting for an answer, ‘My generation will always remember the day— ha— when Nine Network over stepped Packer’s rule book….’ We reached the top of the hill and stared down into a junkyard of scrap material where the body of the girl had allegedly been dumped. ‘During the shortly lived ‘Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos’ hosted by the Triple M yobbo Doug Mulray, do you remember? Grown men all over the country were loosening their belts with joy, but Kerry knew there was a time and a place for pornography, and Network television wasn’t it… Haha…. ‘Get that shit off the air!’ That’s what he told the Nine execs when he called them. You should have seen Doug Mulray’s face. Now young James, he’s much more interested in chasing girls, much more interested spending his time in Casino’s than policing the media-boundaries of public and private.’
‘Forgive me Mr Pex’ I interrupted, ‘Maybe i’m misunderstanding all of this. But what exactly does this have to do with the snuff film? Slaughter Theatre?’
Pex seemed satisfied he had given me enough time to look at the scrapyard the body had allegedly been dumped, his body language suddenly changed, and suggested I had overstayed my welcome, and he authoritatively began to escort me back down the dirt hilltop. ‘I can tell you everything I know about the snuff film Mr Dronefire. I’ve heard plenty of rumours about these murders being connected. About them being filmed, and what not. The rumours are everywhere out West and up North in Victoria. They have been for the last 50 years— every time a body shows up, theres a new trail of gossip. Melbourne IS the murder capital of Australia, Mr Dronefire. But unfortunately, I can attest to the truth of those claims no more than I can—the millions of claims about the Loch Ness monster. For all intents and purposes, those of us who are sane rightly dismiss such conspiracies as absurd. Right wing nuts who can’t handle disorder in everything, want everything to be part of some master plan. Then you’ve got the left wing vultures, media types who love a scandal, any fad you can write an article about, or make an indy film inspired by. That’s all this is. Now I have to apologise Dronefire, but I am a busy man. Always happy to help out any investigation, and i’d just as soon see whoever is behind these horrendous crimes behind bars, as much as you, the police— and the girls parents. Now—‘ I could see Pex was wrapping up, but I wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with the information I had been given, and needed a few more points; ‘Do you mind if stick around here for another ten minutes, just to get some quick interviews with the staff?’ Pex looked mildly disgruntled but not resistant; ‘I can give you ten minutes. Longer than that and you’d be interfering with our productivity i’m afraid. You can speak to our onsite supervisor, he works with most of the staff here.’
Drendyl whistled, and an ocker looking fellow with a mullet, safety vest and a hairy arms made his way over. ‘Fortyn Kildare, this is Private Investigator Dronefire. He’d like to ask you a few questions about the death of Alice Goddard.’ Pex excused himself and disappeared, as I shook Mr Kildare’s hand. ‘You’re a little late aren’t ya?’ asked the gruff man in a thick Aussie accent; ‘Press was all over this ten months ago. What are you hoping to dig up now—eh??’
Continued in Part Two: https://www.reddit.com/libraryofshadows/comments/7new6s/slaughter_theatre_part_two/
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