Jacqueline Maley in the SMH came straight to the point:
- Michaelia Cash marched into Senate estimates on Wednesday, and the former minister for women used parliamentary privilege to slut-shame the entire female contingent of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s staff, “over which rumours in this place abound”, she frothed.”
We had some fun at her expense. Problem is that whichever way you look at this, it’s not funny. Cash clearly crossed a line. Everyone, almost, could see that. Phil Coorey in the AFR says that thanks to her signature coiffe and disdain for organised labour, she is known inside the trade union movement as “Thatcher”. But:
- This week, female Labor staffers started referring to her as “Boko”. As in Boko Haram, the West African group of militant Islamic thugs which has been abducting schoolgirls.
Why Boko? Because, the staffers contend, Cash was willing to use young women as collateral for her political goals.
Joking about the likes of Boko Haram is not funny but the Labor staffers are not joking. They are upset.
- yesterday, we saw an entire cohort of women defamed by a minister in a fit of pique, in a blatant attempt to damage the Opposition Leader in the eyes of voters.
Women were used as political weapons by a senior female minister of the crown, who happened to be a former minister for women.
Tony Abbott said her comments were a “brain snap” and a “cheap smear”:
“There’s been far too much cheap smear and it’s time it ends… it must end,” he said.
“It’s particularly bad when it comes from a minister of the crown… they’re supposed to act to higher standards.
“It was a pretty bad lapse by the minister.”
Cash should apologise, he said.
However, when Bill Shorten suggested in parliament that Cash should apologise Turnbull defended her, saying she had been “bullied” into making the remarks by Labor Senator Doug Cameron. She withdrew the remarks but specifically refused to apologise. According to Coorey:
- At least one member of her staff has been the subject [of] unsubstantiated rumours involving an affair with a minister and Cash thought this was where Cameron was going when he was asking about staff transfers. So she decided to head him off at the pass.
However, Coorey says:
- A transcript of the exchange shows Senator Cameron was suspicious Senator Cash’s new chief of staff may have a union-busting agenda.
Seems Cash was not paying attention. However, to understand what was really in Cash’s mind we have to reel back a few days, with Laura Tingle, who says the outburst was actually part of a political strategy.
On Monday Tingle was on a panel including Julia Gillard and John Howard meeting at the University of Melbourne to select the inaugural winners of the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership.
The prize – one for Political Leader of the Year, and one for an emerging leader – is the initiative of the University and the Susan McKinnon Foundation and has been established to “recognise politicians who have successfully tackled vital issues of public policy, overcome adversity and achieved real change for the public good”.
Perhaps more importantly in the longer term, the creators of the prize hope it inspires others “to pursue courageous and visionary political leadership despite the challenges they may face and generate national discussion about our expectations of political leadership in this country”.
The winner was:
- Liberal backbencher Senator Dean Smith, who chaired the parliamentary committee that constructed the same-sex marriage legislation passed by the federal Parliament last year. Vonda Malone was named emerging leader for her “outstanding leadership as mayor of Torres Shire Council”.
- Those who nominated politicians for the prize were asked to describe how the nominees’ actions helped solve important public problems, including through being able to cross partisan divides; through courage and bravery to “overcome formidable opposition and stand up for a worthy principle, regardless of risks to their career”; and through “honest, compassionate and ethical behaviour that inspires public confidence”.
That’s all very grand, but the very next day in the real political game, Tingle says this:
Julie Bishop told colleagues in the weekly party room on Tuesday they needed to keep talking about the inadequacies of Shorten, who “does not have the character to lead at home or abroad”. (Emphasis added)
So the nation must be saved from Bill – anything is justified. As Coorey reported ‘Vacuous’ Malcolm Turnbull escalates assault on ‘two-faced’ Bill Shorten. Then they decided to double down, sending out the truly abominable bomb thrower Peter Dutton:
- “I think there’s a frustration on the Coalition side at the moment,” Dutton told Radio 2GB.
“We’ve sat there taking a morals lecture from Bill Shorten in relation to Barnaby Joyce over the last few weeks. People know that there’s a history of problems in Bill Shorten’s personal life, in Tony Burke’s personal life, and to be lectured by the Labor party sticks in the craw.
“I think Michaelia Cash did the right thing by withdrawing her comments – she’s done that [actually she didn’t] – but there’s a general frustration within the Parliament that you’ve got people like Shorten, Burke, and a couple on the other side being virtuous and I’m not sure they’ve got great grounds to be virtuous.”
He accused Shorten and Burke of lecturing on Joyce’s personal sexual morals, when in fact the only one who did was Malcolm Turnbull.
So telling blatant lies is part of a Coalition strategy, which is political insanity, according to Tingle. Maybe so, but she does not seem to realise that this mob know what they are doing. Bill Shorten said “It’s this sort of nonsense that turns people off politics.” Maley said:
- Women as weapons: if this is the new political culture, expect voters to switch off, wincing in disgust.
I’m sorry, but this mob are not silly. They are being advised by an outfit called Cambridge Analytica. I’ll tell more in a separate post when I get to it, but they are the ones funded by the Mercers who helped put Trump in the White House. One of their strategies was to suppress votes by trashing politics. People from minority groups and on the fringe, and young people, those who are likely to lean left, are so disgusted that they stay at home rather than participate in a broken system.
But we have compulsory voting, I hear you say. Yes, but you only have to mark a piece of paper and put it in the box. And young people don’t have to enroll if they think the whole show is ridiculous. You only need to influence 2 or 3 people in a hundred to turn your political fortunes around
That goes along with the kill Bill strategy, which I posted about in July, but I noticed on the article about Scott Morrison bringing a lump of coal into parliament, this introduction:
Scott Morrison taunts Labour about energy policy a day after Turnbull’s eviscerating speech about Bill Shorten. (Emphasis added)
They know that eviscerating Shorten will depreciate the whole political currency, but it’s a price they are prepared to pay. That article was on 10 Feb 2017.
If you have a spare 55 minutes Emma Griffiths on the ABC 612 show Focus asked the question What’s Gone Wrong with Federal Politics? with John Anderson, Nats leader from 1999 to 2005, who had very interesting commentary without using big words.
He thinks politics is becoming fractious because of us. The people want their lives bettered instantly, so they have less patience with politicians. There is also less respect and less trust. It was Joyce’s apparent hypocrisy that brought him down.
But more broadly trust and respect are disappearing from the political scene. We are treating the other side like enemies, says Anderson. If we don’t respect them enough to think that they might form a government, or even see them as a danger to the body public, then democracy is in trouble.
Then you might also like to listen to Steven Levitsky, Political scientist and professor of Government at Harvard University talking to Phillip Adams on How democracies die.
Let’s hope Cash’s effort was just a brain snap by an unpleasant person, but I think not.
Yet Australia is not America and the strategy may not work so well here. The latest Newspoll:
Malcolm Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister has slipped dramatically, according to the latest Newspoll.
He is sitting at 37 per cent, only narrowly ahead of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on 35 per cent, according to poll published by News Corp on Sunday night. The prime minister was 14 points ahead of Mr Shorten at the start of February.
Satisfaction ratings of both also fell, with Mr Turnbull dropping two points to 32 per cent and Mr Shorten down one to 33 per cent.
There was no change to the two-party preferred vote, which remains at 53 to 47 – the coalition behind Labor.
Couldn’t have happened at a better time.