A few years ago in the week after the Victorian bushfires I had a cup of coffee with Tony Abbott at Parliament House. By way of small talk I made the fairly asinine observation that some of the speeches by MPs about the disaster had been quite moving. “Do you reckon?” Abbott asked. “I don’t. It’s the job of parliamentarians to concentrate on practical solutions, rather than emoting.”
At the time I thought Abbott’s words sounded harsh and were an example of his quality as a politically incorrect hard-arse. But Abbott was right. The speeches weren’t that moving. The bushfire certainly was.
You could argue that the tears which MPs shed were a display of collective catharsis, where the nation was reassured that it was OK to feel gutted and overwhelmed by the terrible loss of life. You could say that some of the MPs were just being human, and that it is only natural that the extent of such a tragedy would get to some of them. Ultimately, however, it is the job of the Parliament to get things done, to provide what Abbott called practical solutions, to deliver meaningful information to the public. And this week has been a stellar example of the Parliament descending into a useless weep-fest, where for all the tears which fell, all those choked voices, the end result is that the taxpayers flew 226 politicians to Canberra to achieve bugger all.
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