I’m an unashamed and vocal Collingwood supporter and I love my footy. I love the physical contest and the contest of the minds which play out on the footy field.
I used to love bashing the umpires (not allowed to anymore). I used to love to slag off at the other teams (not allowed anymore). I used to love getting into a jousting match with opposing supporters (not allowed anymore).
The giant intellects governing the game have taken the biff out, taken the niggle and teasing out, taken the sledging out (or are trying to), taken out most of the physical contact, like shirt fronting and leg sliding, like jumper punching and head butting (probably for the better here).
Football, in all its presentations, is a contact sport. But after the game, the players got together and enjoyed each other’s company. Indeed some players from opposing teams even shared houses together.
Once upon a time, politics was like that. A contact sport! When I was in it, it certainly was, and when I observed the federal arena after Gough had his job stolen; I looked back to the previous times. There I found pugilistic oratory was delivered with surgical precision, humour, viciousness, withering sarcasm and devastating effect.
Check the duels between Jim Killen and Fred Daly (in fact between Fred and anyone else). Look at the skills of Arthur Calwell and Gough, of Menzies, even.
My hero is of course Paul Keating, the greatest of the political enforcers. I just loved it when Paul pointed his finger at John Hewson and said “I‘m gunna do you, mate, and I’m gunna do you slowly!”
The difference between Paul and Mark Latham is that Mark had the flair but was and is, vulgar. His oratory and political commentary drips with the venom of an injured rat. Paul had and has class as well as flair.
But alas! Those days are gone, never to be seen again. The days when a duel could be viciously fought on the floor of the Chamber, points awarded for a parry or a thrust, and then the honour of duellists emerging outside the duelling arena into a collegiate comradery.
I was in and saw the end of that era and I mourn its loss.
I was talking a lady about an unrelated topic and she raised with me the spectacle of federal politics and we both agreed that the federal arena was a kindergarten sand pit, occupied by screaming twits who presented as hard-line pragmatists or lily-livered jelly backs. Either way, they did not inspire in her any confidence but merely entrenched her contempt.
The contrast was the ACT Legislative Assembly. I’ve been critical of that Chamber before as being a bit light on in the oratorical stakes. It has become as entertaining as listening to a yacht race on radio, or waiting for water to boil. It has a Tobin Brothers inspired quietness about it.
Both Parliaments’ Question Time are a joke. There is no information sharing, no forensic delving, no oratorical persuasion and no evidence of respect. At the federal level, it is all about volume. He (or she) must shout and his (or her) colleagues must enjoin the cacophony. I don’t know the collective noun for a group of banshees.
At the local level, QT has descended into the personal abuse with little or no regard for parliamentary etiquette. What you see is what you get. Needs a lot of work.
As an aside, I did notice a bit of colour the other day when former Speaker Dunne, notorious for giving Bronwyn Bishop a run for her money on being biased, gave current Speaker Burch a broadside for being biased. Hypocrisy from on high! But a bit of a laugh anyway because it was so ludicrous.
I don’t advocate a violent approach to debating in either parliament but really, some skill might be nice. Some entertaining phraseology but it must be good. Some verbal baiting and a surgical response would be a bit exciting. Don’t hold your breath.
I’ve lost my copy of Daly’s “From Curtin to Kerr” but if you can get a copy, do so. Great read. The Kerry O’Brien book “Keating” is compulsory reading for the political would be-if-they-could-be’s.
But for a really good read, get hold of the Commonwealth Hansard, type in Paul Keating and sit back and enjoy the show.
The lady I chatted with told me that her son watched every QT in both parliaments for entertainment. She would rather pull her fingernails out one by one with a pair of tweezers. I see her point.