In a normal year, Easter is the only time when eggs play anything other than a nutritional part in Australian life. But this being an election year, and many voters being more than usually exercised by the big ticket issues, it was inevitable that a small number of Australian chickens would at some point be pressed unwittingly into public service, and indeed the Easter bunny was still in pre-season training when the first egging occurred. Being of the far right and – after his comments about Christchurch – on the nose with just about everybody at the time, Fraser Anning would not have elicited much public sympathy if he’d reacted to this affront d’oeuf in the traditional way; that is, if he’d masked his shock with a nervous smile and allowed himself to be led to safety by tissue-waving supporters. But by lashing out at the egger the independent senator for Queensland forfeited any claim to victimhood, and, it seems, any hopes of re-election. Perhaps he was inspired by the precedent set in 1997 by the then UK deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, whose even more aggressive response to an egging – punching his egger squarely on the chin – earned him more applause then censure and helped to cement his position in the Blair cabinet for another six years. The difference is, of course, that John Prescott was of the left, and had impeccable working-class credentials, and his assailant was a chinless Tory wonder.
Smart conservatives accept that egging will never help their cause. That what is deemed a harmless truth-to-power prank when practised by the Left will be condemned as an egregious assault when perpetrated by their own base. Indeed eggs are such a well-established missile of choice for angry young progressives that the more recent egging of Scott Morrison in Albury may well have contributed to the modest Newspoll spike he enjoyed immediately afterwards. If that egg had broken, the yolk dribbling down the PM’s ample cheeks would even have been seen as a badge of honour in certain Coalition quarters. ‘Hey, if Sco-Mo can piss off the snowflakes this much, maybe he is capable of restoring the core values Malcolm worked so hard to undermine. Maybe he can provide the conservative leadership we’ve so conspicuously lacked post Abbott. Then again, Albury’s always been a pretty safe Liberal seat. Let’s send him to Hobart and see what happens there.’
But as the video shows, the Albury egg didn’t break. Au contraire, it bounced off the prime ministerial bald spot like a well-struck golf ball, and there are only two possible explanations for this. One is that it was one of those solid ceramic eggs which poulterers use to encourage hens to lay real ones. But if he’d been hit by one of those bad boys it’s unlikely that Mr Morrison’s response would have been quite so good-humoured.
The more credible explanation is that the Albury egg was hard-boiled. And this has led some observers to conclude that the deployment of eggs for political purposes in this country is moving to a disturbing new level. And that the run up to future elections will see egging take on various different forms depending on the objectives of the eggers. For example, given that the Albury egger was concerned about living conditions on Manus Island, we can assume that the egg she threw was cage-free. But since Greens are increasingly of a vegan persuasion it is quite likely that her successors will hurl only the eggs of invasive bird species. Or, more worryingly, that environmental extremists may attempt to draw public attention to loss of native species by pelting the politicians responsible with emu eggs.
In the meantime, older, wiser political heads continue to rely on eggs figuratively rather than physically to make their points. One of the most compelling parts of Paul Keating’s ABC ambush at the ALP’s election launch was his justification of Labor’s position on renewables. Never one to baffle with science or obfuscate with groupthink, Australia’s last great Labor leader was not ashamed to dust off an old chestnut and claim that ‘you can fry an egg on any footpath or roadway in this country’. Only time will tell if he is right. But for many voters the words ‘chickens’, ‘roost’ and ‘home’ will spring irresistibly to mind.
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