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Pollie bashing is such sport

By John Hargreaves - 19 June 2017 8

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.

What’s Your opinion?


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8 Responses to
Pollie bashing is such sport
dungfungus 11:10 am 22 Jun 17

John Hargreaves said :

For the first time in many a year, I find myself in furious agreement with all the responders to the article. All spot on.

Well said John and I for one acknowledge that when you were one of the competitors in the sport of politics you copped your well earned fair share.

John Hargreaves 10:54 am 22 Jun 17

For the first time in many a year, I find myself in furious agreement with all the responders to the article. All spot on.

Holden Caulfield 10:05 am 21 Jun 17

Those you point out as exemplars of historical QT banter had the luxury of duelling pre-24 hour news cycles, click bait and going viral. These phenomena have, in part, led to outrage being the new black and if Keating were to utter his “I’m gonna do you slowly” barb today, or Menzies his “he’s a Country member” they’d likely be crucified by some rights group or other.

Couple the faux outrage, from the left or the right (and sometimes both at the same time), with media wolves hunting to claim the day’s agenda and we end up with politicians who are unable to flourish in the way they once were.

Oh, that, and the fact self-interested idiots unable to look beyond their own wallets to the country’s greater good are forced to vote.

dungfungus 9:43 am 21 Jun 17

Mysteryman said :

QT has changed because the audience has changed. The public used to enjoy a bit of witty banter and some sharp barbs. Those were the days before twitter, facebook, and the mass of morons that populate the two. If politicians of today were to engage each other the way Keating and Howard used to, the precious SJWs would go into meltdown, wailing about “childish behaviour” and decrying the politicians for not being role models, or not earning their pay. And God forbid a male politician might take a stab at a female one… Fairfax and The Guardian would be frothing over the the potential for a week’s worth of sexism-related headlines. Remember what happened when someone criticised Gillard? The very definition of the word ‘misogyny’ was changed to line up the rambling and baseless claims she made against her detractor. Ridiculous.

I would love to see our pollies toughen up and bring back the biff, so to speak. But it won’t happen because the noisiest members of the public are now too precious to understand or accept it.

The TV coverage of QT says it all. Half the members on their social media devices, some asleep and some eating ear-wax.

Mysteryman 1:32 pm 20 Jun 17

QT has changed because the audience has changed. The public used to enjoy a bit of witty banter and some sharp barbs. Those were the days before twitter, facebook, and the mass of morons that populate the two. If politicians of today were to engage each other the way Keating and Howard used to, the precious SJWs would go into meltdown, wailing about “childish behaviour” and decrying the politicians for not being role models, or not earning their pay. And God forbid a male politician might take a stab at a female one… Fairfax and The Guardian would be frothing over the the potential for a week’s worth of sexism-related headlines. Remember what happened when someone criticised Gillard? The very definition of the word ‘misogyny’ was changed to line up the rambling and baseless claims she made against her detractor. Ridiculous.

I would love to see our pollies toughen up and bring back the biff, so to speak. But it won’t happen because the noisiest members of the public are now too precious to understand or accept it.

dungfungus 10:37 am 20 Jun 17

I recall it was Fred Daly who said a life of a politician is hard with long periods of separation from family, irregular working hours etc., not being paid enough etc. but despite all this one will never see a “job vacancy” sign outside Parliament House.

CanberraStreets 9:06 am 20 Jun 17

Politics is an odd business and politicians very clearly reflect the tensions of that. In theory, our elected representatives are there to represent us, the people that voted for them; but the majority of MPs and MLAs are also bound to represent the policy positions of their political party and on occasion, they reserve the right to vote to suit themselves (the conscience vote).

While I enjoy the theatricality of a bit of biff in the Parliament or Assembly it is the same sort of guilty pleasure as watching reality TV. I know it is people behaving badly in a self-serving and mostly disingenuous way. Our elected representatives are supposed to be the leaders of our nation or territory or community, we entrust them with the power to pass laws that we are obliged to obey, we entrust them with decision making on the spending of our tax dollars, we entrust them with representing us nationally and internationally.

Having reflected on the original article, I cannot come up with a single instance where the Biffo of QT or debates actually advanced any of the work of the Parliament or the Assembly. In the main it is the rhetoric of hating the player, not the game and seems to waste a considerable amount of the limited sitting times.

To be perfectly honest, if I want to watch people behaving badly, I will watch reality TV; I would far prefer that our elected representatives spent their time doing the tasks they are paid to perform.

wildturkeycanoe 6:26 pm 19 Jun 17

Fully agree. QT definitely highlights the abysmal lack of intellect shared by all our elected leaders. The fact that we voted them in shows how dumb Aussies really are. But I can’t blame us as there are no alternatives in this rigged game.

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