At a funeral, there are those who are in mourning and those who are merely paying their respects. For the close friends and immediate family of the deceased, the occasion is incomparably wretched.
However, for everybody else—acquaintances, associates, friends of friends — a funeral is a dull affair. What song will they play when I die?, one idly wonders while fidgeting with the program. After an hour, one has run out of prayers for the deceased, and starts praying that the slideshow will end before James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful plays for a third time. I wonder if the wake is BYO?
Australia finds itself similarly divided after a Prime Minister’s political death. The vast majority of Australians are blithely unaware of the day-to-day happenings in Canberra. A video of Richard Di Natale has gone viral this week, in which the senator hectors the Liberals for ‘focusing on themselves’, rather than the country. It is, perhaps, the first time ever that Richard Di Natale has said what middle Australia is thinking. Across suburbia, a leadership spill is regarded as an unwelcome intrusion upon regularly scheduled television programming. We’d much rather see the beloved Cash Cow — that much adored modern day golden calf — than the pigs in parliament. No wonder that the Coalition has taken a hit in the polls; sure, their policies haven’t changed, and folks seem to like ScoMo, but, nevertheless, they must be punished for interrupting Millionaire Hot Seat.
However, for an unhappy few, for those who feel a profound kinship with their leader, the knifing of a Prime Minister is a cause for sorrow so immense it rivals the passing of a loved one. The only feasible explanation for recent events is that the so called ‘delusional conservatives’ never really got over the ousting of Tony Abbott. I, myself, still remember the night that Malcolm and the Black Hand moved against the Member for Warringah. Glued to the television, I drank two bottles of red wine, and made a series of increasingly hysterical telephone calls to bemused friends (none of whom could understand why anybody would be upset by Abbott’s demise). Later that year, I allowed my party membership to lapse.
A few years earlier, Julia Gillard’s downfall was lamented by many, from trade unionists to single women in possession of a cat. The famous Misogyny Speech was arranged as a requiem by a young Australian choir, and a thousand essays were penned in vengeful denunciation of the murderous patriarchy.
And a few years before that, when Kevin Rudd was removed? Nobody who follows politics will ever forget how hard that ordeal was for Kevin Rudd.
And so, as the better part of the nation nonchalantly bids farewell to yet another Prime Minister, let us, momentarily, spare a thought for those Australians who are presently mourning Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
But who is that, exactly? Certainly not the conservative right; they’re the ones who got rid of him. The progressive Left isn’t grieving either — they’re jubilant. They thought the 29th Prime Minister was a toffy coward incapable of standing up to his own party, and are certain that his demise will pave the way for a Bill Shorten government (which, if recent history is anything to go by, will be the Albanese government by August 2020).
Surely, somebody must be sad to see Turnbull go. He delivered same sex-marriage, but do the LGBTQIA+ community miss him? Hardly! They loathed him most especially. They believed that marriage was theirs by right, and resented having a postal survey forced upon them. Actually, environmentalists might have loathed Turnbull even more; especially when it turned out that he could ‘lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change’ as he was, after all.
Conversely, the battlers never warmed to Turnbull who, for his part, gave up his embarrassing attempts to win over the hoi polloi shortly after insisting that his favourite AFL team was the non-existent Roosters.
In the end, the top end of town didn’t much like Malcolm either; he established the damning royal commission into the banks and, in his last act as PM, dumped tax cuts for big business. The Aboriginal lobby were furious when he dismissed the Uluru Statement from the Heart and, despite insisting that he was a friend of the ABC, Turnbull had few friends there after he slashed their budget. It is incredible that a man could make so many enemies, and have so little to show for it.
Only one small segment of Australia loved Malcolm right to the end: the sensitive, private school educated wets of the Young Libs. Were they morose, last Saturday, as they drove their VW Golfs to the intercollegiate rugby union tournament? Were their deck shoes a little less comfortable, somehow? Their puffy North Face vests not quite so warm? Was it possible that the little horse on the salmon Ralph Lauren polo shirt looked more melancholy than usual? Wasn’t it only the other day that they were reading a very perceptive and reassuring article by Peter Van Onselen in the Weekend Oz, while they sipped San Pellegrino, confident that everything would turn out alright?
Of course, things will turn out alright for Malcolm Turnbull. Like Tom and Daisy Buchanan, he has smashed things up and then retreated back into his money and his vast carelessness. But what about the silver spoon acolytes? Will they ever recover? It seems as though they already have. Their heads are bloody, but unbowed, which is to say that even in humiliating defeat, they’ve found a way to be smug. The sensitive centrists are all convinced that the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, a happy-clappy conservative from The Shire, the man who launched Operation Sovereign Borders, is one of them. They are so pleased that Peter Dutton has been defeated, they forget that the Liberals have installed as leader the man who taught Peter Dutton how to run a detention centre. If I’m not mistaken, the first stage of grief is denial.
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