There is plenty of parking, which is rare for Canberra, but it’s late, after eight o’clock on a Tuesday night. Fucking freezing middle of May. The problem with dealing with climate change is that, for Canberrans – a few of whom are in significant decision making functions for public polity - global warming strikes them as not the worst old idea in the world. At the least it’d stop those mad skiers being Highway Patrol fodder on the Monaro from June till September.
I take security buy surprise after my cloaken and beanied stride up over the gravel on the Parliament House forecourt. I am scanned, including the steel capped boots. The canary yellow high-vis shirt I am wearing throws them. I am obviously worthy, but arrive uninvited and unsuspected, so due suspicion is accorded. The story that I am killing time until I start night shift at the Mail Centre, which is true, barely washes in the security entrance, this place without humour.
I am escorted to the Public Gallery, but am not allowed in until I surrender my mobile, for which receive a chit for redemption, later. I have the gallery to myself. About six members in the chamber, but the government must always provide a minister. The Ministers take it in turns , Nicola Roxon is using her shift to correct a draft of some things, later she is replaced by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek (more on her another time).
Half of the Hansard team is pretty cute, while the Clerk is embroiled with some stern matter with the Acting Deputy Speaker. None of this stops the Member for Bradfield, the former Optus executive Paul Fletcher, delivering a polished and fiery denunciation (to the sparsely populated theatre) of letting unions anywhere near the boards of superannuation funds.
I opposed super when it came in because I thought then, and still believe now, that it will be the instrument by which a great deal of currency is extracted from the household sector and then Gen X hits retirement age and all of a sudden the big super funds go all Mother Hubbard. Capitalists better pray to Hell that super holds together, all they will all die with their throats slit in the middle of the night. If it wasn’t for industry super most working Australians today will spend their final years living in a cardboard box behind the tip. But Fletcher sticks like araldite to the Abbott HSU narrative; keeping equal representation of employees on superannuation boards will lead to Craig Thomson pimping your daughter.
At nine thirty the house moves that it do now adjourn and we move into the Adjournment debate. This is where an MP can go about anything and all sorts of libellous gossip can be dumped onto the public record; but tonight we get a mawkish speech plumbing the depths of pathos by the very Christian Louise Markus, Member for Macquarie and one time shill for the Hillsong Corpora...err...Church. Tragedy strikes as Sarah Frazer and Geoff Clark are killed on the Hume Highway south of Mittagong and Markus attaches herself limpet like to Sarah’s parents' grief. My deepest and sincerest sympathies to the Clark and Frazer families and all who knew them, but this stuff makes me puke.
They alternate government-opposition-government-crossbench-government-oppoisition in order of preference for adjournment speeches, like a taxi rank, so thankfully Deb O’Neill, the Member for Robertson (well, Woy Woy really), tells us how they’ve cured Cancer, then there are a few more medical ailments held up by other MP’s before the Member for Hindmarsh makes a more lively contribution on the SANFL Club Glenelg getting lighting at their home ground.
By this stage the attendant (well, technically he’s a security guard, but Al Qaida are safe from this septuagenarian) comes over and asks if I’m asleep. Damned impertinence.
I catch a smile from a most unlikely source; the Member for Chifley, Ed Husic, swaggering in to deliver a structural address on some activities in his electorate. Husic, Australia’s first Moslem MP, bogged down in the politics of incorporated identity, was secretary of my union in 2006, following a career as an executive with Integral Energy. Such, such are the joys of ALP membership. Back in the day Husic worked for the previous Member for Chifley, another household name, Roger Price. Now Husic’s the boss. It’s safe to say he has never held a real job.
He was done over badly by Markus for the seat of Greenway in 2004 when they used the same tactics that Liberal MP Jackie Kelly tried in Lindsay in 2007. Basically smear shit and run. This is what happens when you let student politicians be the brains trust behind the people that run the country. Vide Thompson et al.
They are doing this in your neighbourhood. And your silence, your vitiation, begs consent. Luckily Luke Foley (More on him too later) sprung this shit when Kelly tried it on three years later, but Markus still won Greenway by the skin of her teeth and Mark Latham was never Prime Minister of Australia.
Anyway, then there was some guff about the Member for Moreton saving Nemo before Warren Entsch got up and castigated capitalism, which was strange coming from an Abbott acolyte. Daryl Melham talked about how hard it is to afford to go to the dentist then the Liberal Member for Moncrieff (on the Queensland Gold Coast) got up to talk about crime and, as much as I love Laura Norder, I’d had enough. The freezing bite of the Canberra night was not so fearsome after all.
So I left, and went to work.
- Lachlan Ridge, Country Gentleman