Flat White

Phantom referenda, section 44 and other follies

31 July 2017

12:05 PM

31 July 2017

12:05 PM

The past week has been hellish for those who insist on taking politics seriously. Assuming there are actually any Australians in the Senate the upper chamber is set to resume with two fewer Greens and perhaps minus a National. The one conservative Italian who isn’t a dual citizen has already departed from the Liberal Party.

Fortunately for Malcolm Turnbull, it appears the deceptively named Julia Banks MP is not, in fact, a Greek citizen. The Turnbull Government creeks on to fight another day. However, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts may actually be Anglo-Indian, which explains his dislike of the Pakistani football team and deep fear of Muslim incursion.

As though this wasn’t absurd enough some commentators actually sought to defend the Australian political class against “populism” as the week unfolded. Somehow they managed to twist the whole debacle into a comment on Australia’s dark past. A few even had the gall to demand a referendum to allow Australian Parliamentarians to hold dual citizenship. Apparently checking the website to see if one is actually eligible to run for office is more onerous than changing the constitution.

It is the season for phantom referenda. Australia hasn’t passed a constitutional referendum in a generation but amidst all the Senate resignations we were told Mr Shorten is going to make a republic of us yet. Indigenous recognition was also back on the agenda once we ignore Indigenous people themselves and assume the electorate is in any mood to do what the political class wants. Never mind Mr Turnbull can’t even pass a plebiscite.

At this point, Mr Shorten seems like he might actually be slouching towards the Lodge. In a few months, we may be subject to the greatest curiosity in Australian history, a Labor leader without charisma who no one ever seriously liked. All it would take is a single a Russian on the Coalition front bench and the Opposition would surely win. Meanwhile, U.S. politics has devolved from the smugness of the West Wing to a rerun of one of those Soprano episodes that involve castration. As in “someone tell Tony ‘the Mooch’ Scaramucci to bring the pliers”.

Meanwhile, Senator Dastyari has offered his colleagues some free advice and called for a ban on all political donations. The Iranian-born Senator even used the term “arms race” in reference to his heavy helping of Chinese money. The Labor Senator appears to be committed to his ongoing Mr Bean impersonation.

Politics is a foolish business and things look likely to get a lot sillier in the August sitting season. The Prime Minister, notwithstanding his shortcomings of leadership, is yet to find a program and the opposition Leader is yet to give a speech in which he looks like a human instead of a piece of greying wood. Now if only someone could find an extra passport on Senator Dastyari we could all sleep easier.

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