Brown Study

Brown study

24 February 2018

9:00 AM

24 February 2018

9:00 AM

Malcolm Turnbull is wrong about the effect of his proposed new morals code to stop ministers from philandering in the office. It will be impossible to police unless the federal government employs a gigantic team of snoops, even if that might be as useful as some of the other things on which they waste money. And it will not work, because it has as many holes in it as an old fashioned contraceptive. Ministers and MPs will still be able to form liaisons with each other, ministers will still be able to bed other ministers’ employees, MPs will still have an open go with their own staff and ministerial staff will still be able to form amorous associations with members of the press gallery. And the government should pay careful regard to the Constitution before trying to make the new code a matter of law; under Section 92, trade, commerce and intercourse between the states is ‘absolutely free’. And the new law will not even solve the present problem, a minister bedding his own staff member and then having some phantom job created next door so that she (or, in these enlightened days, he) can be moved down the corridor, like a wayward priest being moved to a new parish. Indeed, Mr Turnbull is quite wrong in saying that if the proposed law had been in force when Barnaby Joyce started to cast lustful eyes across greener pastures, he would have been guilty of breaking it. Surely he would do today what he did then: simply find a new job for his paramour with a colleague. He would not be in breach of the new code, even today.

In any event, Mr Turnbull is completely on the wrong track. He should not be trying to prohibit ministers from having affairs. He should make it compulsory that they have them. Ministers, like most politicians, would benefit from a liaison in the office and all the heated excitement and passion that presumably goes with it. It might engender at least the appearance that they are alive and breathing and had some excitement and interest in doing things to benefit the country. It might even give the appearance of a government that knew what it was doing, instead of the aimless, languid team we have at the present. It would also give them some experience of real life, a quality which most of them clearly lack. Who could honestly say that subterfuge and deception are not occupational pre-requisites for a politician? And what better training in subterfuge and deception could a politician have than weaving the honeyed dreams of love talk and false affection. By the time politicians become ministers they have refined the false promise to an art form. The mystery and subterfuge of the affair should also skill them in the devious ways of the burglar, the thief and the confidence man, valuable skills in the favourite pastimes of their government, like stealing superannuation and imposing new taxes. Practice in the false protestations of true and abiding love would also be invaluable training for ministers in trying to justify the waste of public money, defending the fantasy of climate change and explaining whatever non-existent policy on energy and power  they fancy that week. Undoubtedly, office affairs are a valuable part of the ministerial experience that should be enhanced, not banned. And this is not meant to be just a theory; the commonwealth should appoint ministerial supervisors to ensure that each minister’s affair is a real one; we do not want any Platonic liaisons under this new regime. And on the same theme, Mr Turnbull should not stop there. He should make it compulsory for his ministers to take public transport at least once a week. They should cut their own lunch, pay their power bills from an allowance provided by their wives, wash their own cars and, an overdue reform in my view, make them explain in simple language the labyrinthine gobbledegook that passes these days for commonwealth legislation. After that, they will deserve their affairs.

On another matter, I don’t want to discourage you from putting in an entry for the Gillians, but some of the recent offerings will be hard to beat. The Gillians, you will recall, are to honour the most egregious examples of the stifling of freedom of speech that is now rampant in this country and throughout the Western world. Recent entries are, first, the news that the University of Carleton in Canada has banned all scales; not the ones you might hear wafting from the department of music, but the scales on which you weigh yourself, and they have been banned from all gymnasia in the university. The reason: well, scales are a form of ‘triggering’, so that when you see a set of scales, you instantly say to yourself: ’danger, danger, people are judging me as a stereotypical flat slob.’ So, instead of being fat-shamed, you go off to McDonalds with a clean conscience. The authorities also say that scales show an unhealthy pre-occupation with health. Back home, our old reliable, the City of Darebin, fresh from its courageous initiative to ban Australia Day, has now banned any of its employees from even mouthing or writing the words ‘Australia Day’. I agree; Australia Day should be re-named as The Day that Dare not Speak its Name. Even closer to home, the art deco wonderland of my local cinema, The Astor, has executed a neat double pike and back flip by banning itself from showing the 1970s movie Deep Throat. The Coalition Against Trafficking Women in Australia made a single protest and the cinema collapsed like a bag of stale popcorn, although the star of the movie, Linda Lovelace, claimed she has been ‘used’ by the anti-pornography movement. So everything is being stifled, including Linda’s gasps. But keep those entries rolling in.

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