Rudd presides over an army of boring robot MPs
Hooray for Barnaby Joyce. I don’t actually agree with much the Nationals Senate leader has to say, but at least he’s saying it in an interesting way.
In the political realm, he’s like a splash of bright puke-yellow on a beige lino floor.
In the daily ambush at the doors of Federal Parliament, where all the main players either try to slip through with a wan smile or stay resolutely “on message”, Joyce was asked about a survey that showed people think PM Kevin Rudd’s a massive tantrum-chucker. “The guy’s a psycho chook,” Joyce said.
“Who in their right mind gets onto a plane and because he doesn’t get the right colour birdseed has a spac attack?”
He was referring, of course, to the incident where Rudd reduced a flight attendant to tears because she failed to come up with reheated, reconstituted gunk on demand.
Joyce had to take back the “spac attack” bit after a complaint from the Spastic Centre, but the rest of it stands as a lovely little inventive outburst.
Political response far too often is a game of copy and paste, as MPs regurgitate policy documents for the consumption of a bored public.
The copy and paste function extends to press secretaries and department media, who struggle valiantly to mash key phrases together to answer earnest questions from journalists.
Joyce, though, just spouts stuff. He’s a self-styled maverick, a grinning country conservative. He linked climate change action to Nazism, for goodness’ sake!
His peers can fire up on occasion in the houses of Parliament, and the Independents have a bit more scope for creativity, but in the main they’re just highly trained pups jumping through the hoops. Behind the scenes they’re much more interesting, but the velvet rope to backstage is more of a barbed wire fence.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said two interesting things during his reign. One was the apology to the Stolen Generation, which I found moving despite my determination to cling to cynicism. The other was the use of the word “shitstorm” – which he let slip while talking about the Global Financial Apocalypse - interesting because it appeared to be unscripted.
Sure, KRudd probably said it for political gain, to get kudos amongst those who thought he was just some grayscale nerd, but it still seemed like a flash of something real.
There’s been a devolution in personality in politics. Rather than survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the blandest.
People like and respect KRudd. They don’t love him. There’s no passion.
Even resident ranga Julia Gillard is disappointingly calm and controlled, as is Penny Wong, who sits outside the mainstream box in other regards.
Political pundits speak fondly of the wanton booziness of Hawke, the sharp smart-arsery of Keating, with nostalgia for a lost time. Old-school journos remember when you could get pissed with Members of Parliament, call them by their first name, even!
Of course the media are complicit in this gradual elimination of character. We pillory politicians – particularly, but not only females – any time they are less than circumspect.
Sure, chair sniffing deserves public contempt and a childish snigger, but we also ravage the slightest, most harmless deviation from robotic good behaviour.
Maybe we, like the public, are so bored to tears of practiced sermons, evasive answers and “weasel words” that we seize on anything that leaks out from the carefully cultivated edges.
My broader concern with the move towards inanity is the quality of people getting into politics.
Anyone with a remotely interesting life would have to be a brave soul indeed to expose themselves and their loved ones to the public life of a politician. We’ve gradually got to the point where it’s sort of OK to have inhaled, but that’s about it.
Pretty much everyone I know could picture how an Opposition (and the tabloids) would react to the whole truth of their past, and would rule out a political career because they just don’t want that righteous judgement.
Which means a whole lot of smart, forward-thinking, altruistic and passionate people will not enter an industry that would benefit immensely from their presence, leaving the path clear for hard-headed and ambitious power gropers.
It’s a giant shame with no easy solution, except that we need to look for a path between offensiveness and political correctness that allows spirited and open debate, and even a bit of personality now and then.
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