01 June 2011

In the red room

(This column comes to you after reading too much of The Australian and Paul Sheehan, and listening to more Angry Twerps on Radio than is wise.)

Here at the Politically Homeless Institute, we name the fifth column that is infesting the Liberal Party, a bunch of saboteurs whose every word and deed seems to entrench Labor and the Greens forever!

You know who I'm talking about. That bunch of recalcitrants just seem to drain every skerrick of credibility from the Liberals and Nationals as a potential government.

The Senators.

You may think Senators are harmless enough, beavering away at their committees and so on, but oh no - they clearly have it in for Tony Abbott and are doing all they can to stop him from becoming Prime Minister. Some may say they are doing more than Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan put together to this end.

Consider the evidence:

  • Barnaby Joyce. Enough said? Perhaps. You may as well do vox-pops in the street as ask Senator Joyce about matters of high public expenditure. Those smart-alec journalists posing questions about seasonally-adjusted percentages, Barnaby charges through like a bull in a china-shop, and the china-shop owner is made to look stupid for hosting the bull in the first place. The very idea that this man is a byelection from becoming a minister must fill public servants in Canberra with utter dread.

  • David Bushby. His catty remark to Penny Wong was flung straight back into his face.

  • Mary Jo Fisher. All I can say is, it's astounding ...

  • Cory Bernardi. Democracy disgusts him.

  • Mitch Fifield. Euthanased a Liberal MP in a marginal seat in a state where Liberals are few and getting fewer, at an election which might have been one for the Liberals had that MP kept his seat. Top effort, Mitch!

  • Russell Trood. The only Liberal who knows anything about foreign policy, and they're getting rid of him. By contrast, Ron Boswell has been there since Labor split and he's learnt bugger-all about anything.

  • Michael Ronaldson. Failed in the House of Reps.

  • No Liberal seats at all in the Reps, not even in a tight election - but my goodness, don't the Tasmanian Libs stack the Senate with some talent!

  • Same with the Vics - Costello is gone, so the Senate has become a retirement home for his former staff who couldn't cut it in the House or not nasty enough for The Australian.

  • Gary Humphries. Only has to win one of two seats, and barely manages to do that (too early to put him on deathwatch?).

  • George Brandis. As smug as Turnbull or Costello but without a single achievement to sustain him in the stratosphere in which his ego cruises.

  • Bill Heffernan, Eric Abetz, Matthias Cormann - take your pick.

The Senate is meant to be the House of Review, but these clowns make it a House of Revue. One of them is even called Wacka.

In a tight parliament they have not stopped, or even slowed down, one single piece of legislation. Not one. All they do is look "mean and tricky" at committees where they are rude to public servants (who increasingly give their own back). Eric Abetz must be the most useless Senate Leader of any party since Federation. He has nothing, nothing to show for his efforts but Godwin bloody Grech.

You almost feel sorry for Tony Abbott in dealing with such people, but he has a lucky break: we are into the final month for six of them, and next month they get two newbies! Fresh blood ... well, they are both from South Australia: one of them is from the most famous families in Dusttown or wherever, and the other one is another retread from the Reps who's been unable to get a job since 2007 in a boom economy.

Coalition Senators. Listen to them bleat about Labor spending $11.79 on whatever, and wonder whether any one of them would be worth the price of their food.

Not one of them came to this country on a boat.


  1. Some of our best are in the Senate, though:

    - Marise Payne
    - Judith Troeth (sadly, retiring)
    - Sue Boyce
    - Simon Birmingham

    The bad outweighs the good, unfortunately...

  2. George Brandis should be given the Richard Alston Award for Pomposity.

  3. I agree unequivocally with all of the above (particularly regarding Senator Trood) but I quibble, slightly, with your characterisation of Brandis: it's useful for Parliament to keep a silk or two around (even those anointed in such questionable circumstances) - Brandis may be long gone from his initial moderate credentials, but I'd rather at least one person serving in the Senate to be presumed to have some in-practice experience of of equity, trusts, trade practices and the other miscellania of corporate and commercial law rather than let these be entirely the preserve of suburban solicitors (of Howard or Ruddock's ilk, not David Bradbury or Melissa Parke - both are rare exceptions) or staffers. He may be fairly useless but I'm not convinced anyone with greater legal experience would be willing to replace him.

  4. No no, Andrew, the kerrect langwage woodabeen: "We don't employ no subbies."

  5. Trish, I'll give you all those. Trouble is that the quiet-mousy strategy isn't working.

    When I was in the Liberal Party the moderates had a saying, borrowed from Disraeli: never complain, never explain, never resign, leave a good looking corpse (or something like that - it was a while ago). It seems to be one of the few principles they've kept to.

  6. Anon2, I take your point about silks. While Helen Coonan wasn't one she was a "senior junior", and there will be others like them when the tide next turns.

    Fanks, Fiona - was wary of the double negative though.

  7. "doesn't ... neither" is a double negative already...

  8. Who needs subbies when you've got readers like Fiona!