Appearances in politics can often be deceiving
Just as appearances of hatred in politics can be deceptive, periodic appearances of civility can be equally so.
A combination of last night’s annual Press Gallery Ball and the calming effect of two women leading question time today lead to a more conciliatory day in Parliament.
But don’t let it fool you, MPs are nervous and tetchy right now, and pretty sick of the sight of each other and the weather.
On the surface Wednesday night’s Press Gallery Ball kept with tradition and was a largely a bi-partisan and friendly affair. But there was a lingering undercurrent of anxiety about the current political climate, keeping a lid on things like an officious principal at a school disco.
There was a strange speech from the Prime Minister Rudd in which he looked every bit like that principal, who thought it necessary to get a few serious messages to the kids who’ve been playing up.
The Punch understands the speech was partly written by his daughter Jessica Rudd, also his date for the evening. While Rudd’s office is officially saying that he the Prime Minister wrote his speech, The Punch understands from sources close to the Prime Minister the speech was a composite effort from Rudd, speech writers and, soon to be published author, Jessica Rudd.
While Jessica appearance turned heads for the right reasons, Rudd’s speech fell flat on the audience and contained what can only be described as a rather unsubtle threat to the mining companies - which there isn’t much doubt was his personal touch.
“Can I say guys, we’ve got a long memory,” after making a gag about him and Wayne Swan being roasted alive by the Minerals Council.
As Katharine Murphy pointed out earlier today in The Age: “Rudd’s speech was a high concept outing designed to refute David Marr’s recent argument that he is driven by anger - but perversely, it only served to reinforce Marr’s contention.”
Perhaps Rudd’s next ball speech should have one author to stay on a single message.
The fact that Kevin Rudd might not be making any Prime Ministerial addresses is greater worry for Labor MPs.
Question time on Thursday was a matter of Julia v Julie. With the Rudd and Abbott attending the funeral of one of the soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan, it was Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop heading up their respective squads.
Perhaps it was the reason for the absence of the leaders, or the fact that two women bring down the levels of testosterone in the house, but it all started with an unusual degree of dignity and aplomb.
Bishop delivered targeted and concise questions about the mining tax, and Gillard answered in confident equal measure.
Peter Dutton was sent out not long after however (The Punch had seen him a the ball the night before and was told he also had a breakfast meeting that day, so perhaps he was just over the week), and things became irritable in that stuck-on-a-broken-down-bus-in-the-rain kind of way.
Trade Minister Simon Crean had to defend himself from allegations that he found out about the mining tax in the newspaper. The Government accused the Opposition of having a strategy that involved picking up the morning newspaper and reading out the front page in Parliament. Neither Crean nor the Opposition did a particularly good job of refuting the other’s claim.
As if to mimic the mood the weather in Canberra was awful yesterday, black clouds, biting wind and a rain that served as the metrological equivalent of non-stop spam emails. Politicians are very testy right now, and given next week’s sitting is likely to be the last before the election, the capital may need to upgrade to a typhoon warning.
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