A bit of a depature this week and for those of my vast readership who have no time at all for politics, an apology.
I have been fascinated by events in Canberra yesterday. No matter what you think of Julia and the Labor government, it seems they have not been able to take a trick all year and, to mix metaphors, too many have been ‘own goals’. Now that negative momentum seems to have shifted and the icing on that rising cake has been the resignation from the Speaker’s chair of its long-time Labor incumbent, Harry Jenkins, for turncoat Nat/Lib (well its peculiar Queensland hybrid) Peter (Slippery Pete) Slipper.
Annabel Crab on The Drum explains it much better. It’s good writing, IMO and, appropriately for a Friday, has some amusing moments.
Harry’s gift: a seat, a vote, and order from chaos
By ABC’s Annabel Crabb
Posted November 24, 2011 13:00:51
Order!! I'm outa here!
Just when you thought this parliamentary year had entirely run out of fizzy-pop, there it was. Harry Jenkins, resigning from the speakership, relinquishing the nicest office in Parliament House, and causing thereby a fairly considerable power shift in the House of Representatives.
His stated reason? He had become frustrated by the speakership’s obligation to remain aloft from partisan political matters.
“My desire is to be able to participate in policy and parliamentary debate, and this would be incompatible with continuing in the role of Speaker,” he told an electrified chamber.
Now, a man who resigns in order to spend more time with his policies is a man of whom further questions probably need to be asked. That this impulse should strike Mr Jenkins at exactly the same time as the concerted attempt by the Queensland Liberal/National Party to disown its difficult and profligate son Peter Slipper further strains the notion of coincidence.
The result? A disaffected Slippery (already held in pretty poor odour among his colleagues) will commit party treason and defect, in return for an office of dignity and respect, a more accommodating pay packet, and the right to pour brandies for visiting bigwigs.
Slipper has remained in the chamber doggedly directing traffic on the floor of parliament pending what will presumably be his formal election to the speakership some time after lunch. Quite possibly, he was loath to step outside, lest he encounter an angry mob of his erstwhile colleagues.
Ambassador Jenkins (if I may be so bold as to rehearse the title) will return to the Government benches, boosting Labor’s voting numbers by one, and thus shifting the Poker Machine Of Damocles from its customary position six inches above the Prime Minister’s head.
What lies ahead? I think it is reasonably safe to predict several things:
1) A flood of recovered memories from the Opposition benches about irregularities in Mr Slipper’s conduct. Colleagues tend to forgive such failings, but adversaries never do, and one can expect all of the savagery of Labor’s Mal Colston fixation to be visited upon Mr Slipper from this point on.
Mal Colston was the Labor senator whom John Howard’s Coalition duchessed with the Senate deputy presidency in 1996.
Speaking this morning, Tony Abbott likened Labor’s recruitment of Mr Slipper to Whitlam’s sensational purchase of Vince Gair in 1974, in which the DLP senator was offered the ambassadorship to Ireland in order to free up his seat.
“This is a Government in crisis,” he told reporters, and sternly refused to discuss the Colston analogy on the grounds that it was “ancient history”.
(Abbott history, one may conclude, features a wrinkle in time around about the mid-’90s, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and mudskippers edged from the primordial slime with nascent hopes of one day helping John Howard flog off a third of Telstra.)
2) A Christmas bonus for Anthony Albanese, who has been working on today’s coup for a bit and who – despite historically chilly relations with Julia Gillard – was this morning able to present her with something money can’t buy: An extra vote. I don’t know what Tim’s got planned, but it’s not going to beat Mr Albanese’s gift. Mr Albanese’s speech at yesterday’s censure motion – read it here – was also one of the strongest of any minister, all year.
3) A distinct devaluation in the Independent currency in the House of Reps. From now on, instead of having to win four extra votes for any given issue (out of Windsor, Oakeshott, Wilkie, Bandt, Katter and Crook) the Government will only have to win three. If today’s events had taken place this time last week, for example, the Government could have saved itself the $100 million or so it handed to Andrew Wilkie in concessions on the mining tax (which would additionally have saved them all the consequent fuss and bother it took to get the, er, Bandt back together)
Luck, or planning? A bit of both, really.
After a year and a half during which it often seemed as if some unseen cosmic hand was timing events of random misfortune to coincide most grievously with unforced strategic errors from the ALP, November 2011 seems to have brought a rearrangement of sorts.
Some vast pieces of legislation tucked away. Confusion to her enemies. The Prime Minister’s year has ended with the audacity of hope.
My second reason for posting from The Drum harks back to a comment on CA this week in response to James, about online news media:
More seriously, I occasionally dip into The Punch and The Drum online and they’re both good examples (particularly The Punch) of how quickly and eagerly online Australians resort to the same ‘competition to find the most puerile insult’.
If you are in a ‘purile insult’ mood, some comments can be funny … well most often in a Schadenfreude sort of way … and, yes, it’s not too sophisticated … and not at all Christian … and it becomes a farce for anyone wanting to post a thoughtful response.
Which makes me wonder what news organisations have in mind when they let these comments fly on their online outlets. Do they just equate numbers — no matter the quality of contribution — with evidence for their business model? Speculation for a non Wryday, I think …