Lyrics: ‘20 Questions’ by Casey Bennetto

Casey Bennetto has offered the lyrics to the song he wrote in the 40 minutes between learning his subject and performing the song. 

O Captain! my Captain! my fate’s in your hands!
I’ve satisfied all your financial demands
and put all my faith in your secretive plans
in hope of a foreign salvation.

But Captain! my Captain! I need some detail!
I hope you don’t mind if I stop and unveil
a score of quick questions before we set sail
for this far-off and wonderful nation.

In this magical land that we’re aiming to find
Will the people be gen’rous and honest and kind?
Will they welcome us sweetly and keep us all dry?
Is it really a place where it’s safe to rely
to rely, too-ra-lie, to rely, too-ra-lie,
to rely on the kindness of strangers?

O Captain! my Captain! please tell me the score!
Tell me: what lies in wait when we land on that shore?
Are there mountains of tapas and goat’s cheese in store
to reward the audacious and daring?

Or is there a nation so rich and secure
that they’re happy to punish the desp’rate and poor
just to send a stern message to multitudes more
that they’re not that enthused about sharing?

Does it not sound preposterous, hard to believe
that a nation would wear a black heart on its sleeve,
that a people so high on their own sweet supply
would be eager to teach others not to rely
to rely, too-ra-lie, to rely, too-ra-lie,
to rely on the kindness of strangers?


More questions

So, what next?

For us, at least, 20 Questions is only the start of a whole year of questions, discussions, arguments and considered answers. 

If any of our 20 Questions got you talking or thinking, we’d like to help you keep those conversations going. Was it NGV/MCG? Yesterday/Tomorrow? Did having to click either of Nuclear/Coal make you furrow your brow or fidget? Was the choice between Party pie/Tapas harder than you expected?

Maybe Patriotism/Journalism made you ponder if there was a way to combine both – or perhaps you felt a twinge of connection between Privacy/Security and Democracy/Benevolent Dictatorship.

You may even have felt that Shane Warne was hard done by.

Whatever struck a chord, we know that many of you wanted to be able to answer somewhere between (or beyond) the two choices on offer.

Your decisions and ideas have their own texture. And you’re not as predictable as a demographic, or a handful of generalisations about how you look, what you read, where you live or what you buy.

So don’t simply do what’s expected of you. Whether it’s with us – at an event or on our website or somewhere else – or amongst the people around you, keep talking. Disagree. But let other ideas in. Be right – righteous, even – but also: be wrong. And don’t be afraid to change your mind when the facts (or your conscience) demand it.

In other words: think for yourself, but with others.

The closing address

Ladies and gentlemen, elites and patriots, thank you all for coming here tonight, to this, a Gala event that is firmly on Australia’s side. Tonight, we have gripped the hot exhaust pipe of controversy, under the direction of the Navy of good sense. We’ve asked you to make little choices about big ideas and big choices about little ones. 

We wanted to know what you really think.

And we need it. 

Because we are living in strange times.

We live at a time where Hope is a popular inner city girl’s name, Despair is probably a coffee lab somewhere in Northcote, and where Today Tonight was cancelled for being too highbrow.  

We are living in a country where before long the history curriculum will be just Robert Menzies and the Anzacs and our kids will learn citizenship by echoing their proud cry ‘Turkey out of the Pacific!’.  A country where a poem’s no longer a poem unless it rhymes and Gina Rinehart’s welded it to a rock. 

We are push-polled, prodded, sampled, smoothed-out, averaged and sorted and most of what passes for participation is actually marketing. We are a demographic. An audience.

The way things ‘feel’ matters more than facts or knowledge. We disdain our experts and have replaced empirical proof with a metric ton of opinion. 

We are living in a society where a multi-billionaire who controls 70% of the newsprint can direct his editors to talk about ‘the elites’.

Where the idea of intellect is portrayed as the enemy of the people.

And the only bright spot on the horizon is that every few years we get to stand in a small booth and exercise our right to vote. Our democracy, our engagement, our citizenship, gets boiled down to one reductive choice: yes or no, goodies or baddies, this politician or that politician.

And it’s not good enough.

If our entire political and social system does turn on an individual examining their conscience in a polling booth or a jury room or a meeting of cabinet, we’d better make sure that our public discourse and all that supports it is in far better shape than it is now.


We need better ideas and more of them, and more places where they can be expressed.  We need to remind ourselves that eventually good ideas will always drive out bad, that there is always an appetite for better thinking, and that it knows no barrier of class, gender, race or any other sort of division.

That is what we are all here for, and what we come back for. That is what we do, and we should be proud that we do it, and not be cowed.

It is time for us to stand up and say ‘I am not a number’! I am not a number! Say it loud! Say it proud! Say it into your Iphone!

Ask questions. Don’t stop at twenty, don’t stop when you get an answer.

Ask ‘Why?’. And ‘How?’. And ‘Can I see the data that lead you to reach that conclusion?’. Ask ‘What the fuck?’.

Because our questions should be opening up a conversation rather than shutting it down. The way we participate in this thing we call a society should be about multiple complicated answers and endless troubling and persistent questions.

We choose doubt over certainty, argument over consensus, complexity over simplicity (cheese over chocolate). We choose these things except when we don’t. Because we cannot be reduced to a single answer with all the meaning and nuance and discussion sanded off it.

Let us be defined by the questions we ask and the conversations we hold.

Let us know that no matter how dark the times get, how greatly it seems we are being debased and corrupted, that good ideas will make us speak them.

Let us counterpose memory against forgetting, and speak truth to power.

Let us rise up into the night and take part in what’s happening out there.

Let us rise up.

Written by Guy Rundle with Michael Williams. Delivered by Catherine McClements. Photo by Gavin D Andrew.

And the demographic detail of the poll’s most important question, as decided by voters. Leaky Boat / War-torn Homeland. Pictured here is Casey Bennetto – charged with the task of writing a song about this question in 40 minutes whilst discussion went to the floor.

(Photo: Gavin D Andrew)

Tapas triumphed strongly over Party Pie, which Bernard Salt believes is unsurprising given his assumptions about the demographic who voted (affluent, inner-city, educated, middle class; the ‘goat’s cheese in fridge’ set), and reflective of our evolving food knowledge (five years ago, he states, we didn’t know how to pronounce quinoa). As noted earlier, Ray Martin suggested there was a closet party pie fandom.

Marriage Equality / Traditional Marriage produced strong results in favour of Marriage Equality. 

Nature / Nurture and Bookshop / Online Bookstore results. Intersex/other gendered voters most in favour of Nurture. Bookshop strongly outvoted Online bookshop, but as Bernard Salt questioned on Sunday Extra, is this a ‘should’ result rather than a ‘do’ result?