None of these asses deserve so much as a donkey vote
There’s something far worse than a hung Parliament. It’s an election decided by a public so disappointed, disillusioned and turned off by politicians that record numbers stay away from polling booths or cast an informal or protest vote.
This week’s ugly behaviour in federal Parliament will increase contempt for the way politics is played.
Instead of great vision for the nation we have been treated to farce and hypocrisy, gender wars and petty point-scoring. Some MPs have tried to talk about issues such as jobs, climate change and the cost of living but have been drowned out by what Trade Minister Craig Emerson admits has been an “all-in brawl”.
The election will be held in the next 12 months. Whoever limps across the line after such a toxic political battle could hardly say they command a mandate if a significant slice of the nation votes only for the least worst candidate.
Turnout at the last poll was the lowest since compulsory voting began in 1925 and Newspoll says one in four voters doesn’t want Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott as PM.
A fired-up Gillard gave a powerful speech in Parliament on Tuesday about sexism and misogyny that even Coalition MPs admitted was a “brilliant” performance. It made her a social media superstar and won praise in the UK and US.
Gillard’s supporters reckon the speech, and her cry that “enough is enough”, taps into a public mood that was reflected by 30,000 men and women marching in memory of Jill Meagher.
They hope Gillard will cut through to a jaded electorate. But voters might decide it was a great speech that was followed by an act of hypocrisy.
The PM claimed Abbott had a problem with women, then voted to protect a man who sent text messages about women she described as offensive and sexist. Gillard could find no words to defend Peter Slipper in her speech - trapped by her dirty deal to make him Speaker and improve her numbers. Labor also didn’t want to risk a by-election, hand victory to Abbott or set the precedent of Parliament being a “kangaroo court”.
Yet a day after Gillard launched her war on sexism and blasted Liberals who did not walk out of a dinner when Alan Jones made offensive comments about her father, Wayne Swan and other ministers were at a union dinner where a comedian made a vulgar joke about Abbott and his chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin.
Swan stayed at the dinner to give a speech and protested the next morning. He admits, on reflection, he should have objected on the night. Emerson walked out. Gillard - who had left before the joke - rang the union to complain. Liberals scream hypocrisy.
Gillard is right to take on insults and personal abuse Jenny Macklin says Abbott hurls across the table at her in Parliament, but Liberals say she fires back. She’s also called Abbott Jack the Ripper.
Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor - the maligned country independents who keep Gillard in power - are among few MPs who can hold their heads up high this week. The dynamic duo showed principle regardless of the political consequences by marching into Slipper’s office to tell him his position was untenable and he had to quit that day.
Abbott claimed high moral ground as he hounded Slipper out of the job yet before the Queenslander defected from the Coalition, Abbott happily accepted his support to give him the one-vote victory over Malcolm Turnbull to become leader. And now Slipper is no longer Speaker, he wants his vote again.
As MPs traded barbs about who was sexist and misogynist, and whether it was an insult to call the Prime Minister “she” and the Opposition Leader “he”, the most absurd moment came on Wednesday when Anthony Albanese called Coalition MP Scott Buchholz “a good bloke” and Christopher Pyne protested.
“If I described one of the members over there as a sheila I would be accused of making a sexist remark so I ask you to withdraw it.”
A Labor MP yelled out “sit down, you sheila”.
Is this what we are paying MPs for?
Liberal Kelly O’Dwyer, who branded the female ministers attacking Abbott the “handbag hit squad”, on Wednesday tried to shift the focus to the extreme sexism of the Taliban who shot a 14 year old girl in the head in Pakistan because she wanted to go to school!
Perhaps all MPs should have a think about that and clean up their act. Until they do, we are entitled to wonder why we should vote for any of them.
Phillip Hudson is Herald Sun national political editor
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