It is hard to be original about the Joyce-Kardashian interview, but there are two points worth making. First, it was a good illustration of the proposition you have read here before, that the mainstream media continually fails us in what we can reasonably expect of it. It does not give us the facts and it does not interpret them. Here was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to examine in detail the dark impulses that led to this major politico-sexual scandal that is up there somewhere between Christine Keeler’s blandishments and Bill Clinton romping around the Oval Office. Here, too, we thought some light might be shone on the hazy boundary between public duty and private pleasure and what part of the bill was borne by the taxpayer. And when the J-Ks hid behind the veil of generalisations we could have expected some pressure to provide details and names. Instead of that we got baby talk and nappies. Worse, our intrepid interviewer turned out to be not so intrepid, but surprisingly coy and circumspect, reluctant to press a point, follow up or ask the hard questions. My second observation is that the interview has fired up a public campaign to have Barnaby drummed out of politics. I would like to see him stay. In such a drab and barren political landscape, here is Lasseter’s Reef, King Solomon’s Mines and the Rosetta Stone rolled into one. Not since Billy McMahon have we had such a source of light relief. Where else could you get such an opera buffa caricature of the politician, providing endless material for cartoonists and satirists, sweating and squirming in his wide-brimmed virginal hat, the Rhinestone Cowboy with his hand in the cookie jar. Barnaby should stay. And if only Bill Leak were still with us.
It would be a brave man who defended Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health. No-one would defend him for using a vulgar swear word against the female Mayor of Katherine. As swear words go, the offending pejorative was a fairly harmless one that you hear dozens of times a week in so-called comedies on the ABC. So I have found it a bit difficult to be too outraged at the minister’s adoption of a word that is now in regular use. And there is something hollow and ritualistic about these perpetual complaints from outraged women and members of other diversity groups, always followed by a howling media, demands for vengeance and the inevitable cringe-making apology. I would still criticise him for being vulgar and crude in his choice of words that should never be used in public discourse and particularly not when addressing a woman. But on the second ground for his denunciation I would defend him, as he has committed no sin. His shortcoming was allegedly that last year he had a tiff with Martin Bowles, the Health secretary who resigned in a huff. As everyone leapt into the re-writing of history, it emerged that the dispute was really no more than a difference of opinion. Naturally everyone assumes the public servant was right and the minister wrong, which is now used as the basis for condemning him and also for the ludicrous threat, obviously leaked by the PM’s office, that a third strike would mean instant dismissal. This now happens whenever a minister does the right thing and makes up his own mind. It is usually said with mock horror in the media that ‘the minister rejected the advice of his own department’ as if he had just denied the virgin birth. It is done to show that the media and the public servants are in real control over elected members and ministers and can intimidate them into submission. If you ask me, not only are ministers entitled to disagree with their department’s advice and have arguments with its head, but should do so whenever necessary. Ministers are elected; public servants are not. They are answerable to us through the parliament; the media and public servants are not. So Greg, stop swearing and broaden your vocabulary, but stick to being independent. Don’t become another toady under the bureaucrats’ thumb.
Talking of which, I see we are to have yet another inquiry into the powers of our intelligence organisations and the laws under which they operate, as if they had not already been examined to within an inch of their lives. The new inquiry will be carried out by Dennis Richardson who used to be head spook himself. This is not even remotely a personal criticism of Mr Richardson, but it seems now a regular, deadening ritual of government that we have periodic reviews of these bodies, always conducted by one or another retired member of the self-perpetuating club that runs them and always making the most predictable of recommendations that things are going pretty well, except that more powers should be given to the agencies. Why is it that the armies of public servants we employ cannot tell us, today, the changes they think should be made to our laws and institutions without an inquiry mooted to take 18 months? Why can’t ministers, for once, act like ministers and use their judgment? Moreover, this new inquiry is made all the more dispiriting by our rulers mouthing the empty shibboleth that they are doing it to keep us ‘safe’ from terror. Yes, they were really keeping everyone safe at the Lindt Café and the Parramatta police station, weren’t they, the same as the Brits kept everyone safe at the Borough Market and in Manchester? We will start being safe, not when we have another inquiry, the recommendations of which I could write for you now, but when we stop shovelling thousand of Muslims into the country every year, some of whom will assimilate and be peaceful citizens but some of whom, we know for certain, will not.
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