A week is a long time in politics.
Last week started with Bridget McKenzie becoming the Blockbuster Video of politics: the principal of her own predictable and pitiful demise. In the middle, we saw Greens leader Richard ‘Smee’ Di Natale hand over the reins to Adam ‘Tinkerbell’ Bandt in what can only be described as a nominee for the 2020 Anti-Democracy Award. And the end of the week saw the Nationals throw an internal tantrum and achieve a stunning own goal.
This week is shaping up to be a rerun of Mean Girls, with National Llew O’Brien announcing he plans to sit on the crossbench.
I wish I was joking.
First, back to McKenzie. It is said that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching. If that is your general rule, then you tend to pass ‘go’ and collect $200, when someone is, in fact, watching. Someone should’ve told her that. Actually, a federal minister should already know. This is not the first case of pork-barreling, but it is one of the more indiscreet. Eventually, the compounding allegations just became too much to bear, she was found to have breached ministerial standards and was forced to stand down.
Most people outside the bubble knew she was cooked from the outset. The optics were dreadful. If she’d been a corporate, she would have started gardening a fortnight ago.
On the other side of the chamber, the ALP was apparently outraged by a member of the coalition bringing politics into disrepute. That’s ripe irony right there: the ALP flouncing onto the high moral ground to defend parliamentary integrity. Let’s not forget many of the current ALP crop formed the Pretorian guard for Sam Dastyari when he was playing footsies with Huang Xiangmo, Tony Burke when he was trysting on government dime and time, and Craig Thompson when he infamously got nicked for putting his hookers on the union credit card. Spare us the faux piety.
But the fundamental difference between the coalition and the ALP is that the ALP is better at playing politics, and shamelessly and unrelentingly protecting its own. Conservatives, arguably, fall on their sword too easily and too often. Aside from that, our collective political class have a few notable things in common: unbridled hypocrisy, conveniently short memories, and pathological self-absorption.
Speaking of pathological self-absorption, let’s move onto the Nationals. Conservatives certainly didn’t need the bloviating chest-beating we saw off the back of McKenzie resigning. The chips fell, and the sulking commenced. Notably, Matt Canavan was the only net loser. Now we have talk of rebels crossing the floor and while McCormack looks weak for excluding from cabinet those who voted against him, Joyce looks like a petulant child whinging about ‘his backers’ missing out. Excuse me, Mr Joyce – those ‘backers’ are federal parliamentarians who work for the Australian people, they are not your personal retinue.
And now O’Brien.
While the rest of us have been trying to ease ourselves into the new year in earnest, our pollies and their hangers-on in the media have been incessantly prattling about themselves and their adversaries. And while there turned out to be fire along with the smoke in the case of Bridget McKenzie, Canberra’s sycophantic infatuation with itself is wearing thin with the rest our us. You know, the little people who look to government for policy and progress, and who foot the bill for this whole federal sh*tshow.
In short and sincerely, stop fawning over yourselves and please get on with governing the country. As for the opposition, we want you to criticise government policy rather than dedicate your every waking moment to criticizing its characters; it’s not like any of you are worth feeding.
Caroline Di Russo is a lawyer, businesswomen and unrepentant nerd.
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