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He hit me first

By Ad Astra

We all have memories of a child bawling its eyes out after being clobbered by another kid. We also have memories of the offender’s customary excuse: ‘He hit me first!’. We tend to label such behaviour as ‘kids stuff’.

But how many of you expected grown-up politicians to ape them?

Yet they do. How sickening is it to see those who ask for our vote, who ask that we trust them to manage our nation, exhibiting such ‘kid’s stuff’.

When the Coalition appointed Simon Birmingham as its spokesman, I wonder if they expected him to so often use the ‘He hit me first!’ excuse? I suspect they might be disappointed with such childish behaviour. Let me explain what I mean.

In the run-up to the election we have been astonished at the number of candidates who have been found to be unsuitable because of past behaviour: guilty of foul insults, racism, anti-Muslim rhetoric, anti-Semitism, white supremacist language and behaviour, homophobia, misogyny, sexism, crude references to female anatomy, vile ’jokes’ about women, dirty language and unseemly behaviour. These behaviours seem to have been stock in trade for countless candidates, whose pasts have caught up with them courtesy of the social media, where misdemeanours are meticulously stored, only to be unearthed at the most inconvenient time.

Every ‘exposure’ of the behaviour of these would-be politicians, selected mainly for unwinnable seats, has been seized upon by opponents and shouted from the rooftops. Every day we have seen politicians confronted by opponents calling for the disendorsement of their offending candidates. The response is always the same: ‘He hit me first!’. Translated into the vernacular of politics, this deciphers into: ‘You have candidates who are as shonky as ours’.

To illustrate this, I offer this transcript of a recent dialogue between Sabra Lane of the ABC’s AM and Simon Birmingham:

SABRA LANE: Two Liberal candidates were dumped or jumped yesterday. Do they match the criticism attributed to Kelly O’Dwyer, that the Liberal party in Victoria is perceived as “homophobic, anti-women, and climate change deniers”?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think there’s a lesson for both the Labor and the Coalition parties out of yesterday. We saw, and have seen, candidates now disendorsed from both Labor and Liberal ranks. The Labor party’s lost a couple of candidates in the course of this election for anti-Semitic issues. There’s another candidate under some pressure in relation to making light of rape. [‘He hit me first!’ excuse]. In the end, this is a reminder to all parties to make sure that the vetting of candidates, even those running in unwinnable positions, is thorough.

SABRA LANE: But how worried are you that in Victoria in particular, where your own colleagues admit it’s more progressive and not tolerant of these kind of views, that it further damages the Liberal brand?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Sabra, I just think that there are lessons here that the Labor Party, the Liberal and National parties, all of us need to heed in terms of making sure that our vetting processes are thorough. [‘He hit me first!’ again]. We are the parties of government, and people expect us to have thorough vetting processes.

We do that for candidates, especially in all of the winnable seats. Clearly, some have slipped through the net on both sides of politics in relation to those unwinnable seats.

Let’s leave Birmingham; I’m sure you’ve had enough of his persistently defensive rhetoric.

The Second Leaders’ debate on Sky News gave us another example of childish behaviour.

In what columnists are describing as his ‘Mark Latham handshake moment’, PM Morrison tried to get under Shorten’s guard onstage after tensions flared when Shorten questioned him about the LNP’s big tax cuts for high-income earners in 2024. As Morrison dodged his questions, Shorten scrawled “$77 billion” on a piece of paper and held it up to the audience. Morrison’s retort: “I wouldn’t trust your maths in a heartbeat”, and Shorten’s response: “$77 billion to the top 3 per cent of earners, that’s nice money if you can get it” evoked an encircling move towards Shorten.

Morrison then accused Shorten of having been shifty with a blue-collar worker who wanted to know if he would get a tax cut when he earned over $200,000 a year working in the mines. “You couldn’t look him in the eye and tell him you were going to increase his taxes”, Morrison said as he stepped closer to Shorten, who smilingly responded: “You’re a classic space invader”. The audience and moderator David Speers saw the joke. Morrison didn’t!

Morrison hated being challenged so publically before a TV audience of many thousands. His aggressive response – invading Shorten’s space – was yet another example of ‘He hit me first! So I’m going after him.’

It’s all rather depressing, isn’t it? On May 18 we are required to vote for our local candidates and senators, to whom we entrust the governance of our nation. Yet so many of them show so little aptitude for their parliamentary role, so little understanding of the issues that ordinary folk consider important, so out of touch with existential environmental threats, so unaware of the social inequity that afflicts our nation, so indifferent to the sheer unfairness that debases our society, and so shonky to boot!

To cap that catalogue of ineptitude, too many candidates are self-centred, focussed solely on gaining the prize of election, aggressively antagonistic to their opponents, and disparaging towards those with different views.

Most distressing though is that every day they exhibit the behaviour we censure in our children: ‘He hit me first!’

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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13 comments

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  1. paul walter

    They must really had to be scraping the bottom of the barrel to use Simon so much.

    No Cash, no Joyce, no Abbott, no Littleproud, no stacks of people who resigned from the party? No Tudge, no Porter, no Stuart Robert no AngusTaylor, Fifield or Melissa Price?

    Are they saying these people have less charisma than Simon?

  2. Kronomex

    Ah, Sir Blatheringmuch, when only a blithering idiot will do. Only one per pack and not worth the $300k price tag. And they taste terrible as well, not even cannibals will touch them because they give you horrendous gas.

  3. Kerri

    It is an interesting analogy. I tend to think of most of their lame excuses as “the dog ate my homework” parallels, but then I am a retired teacher. Morrison is a bully. His default position is physical threats. I wish some people would com out of his past and explain the bully boy chip on his shoulder?

  4. Aortic

    You only have to look at the skulduggery involved in the invidious manipulations involved in levering Morrison into the seat in the first place. It has as much to do with Christianity as one of his so called mentors that King of snake oil salesman Hillsong Houston. If that’s their version of the gospel I will happily remain a poor but doing my best atheist

  5. Kaye Lee

    Kerri,

    The board from Tourism Australia had quite a bit to say about Morrison’s time there.

    Morrison also fought running battles with Tourism Australia’s nine-strong board. Its members complained that he did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show. But Morrison thought he had the upper hand. Confident that John Howard would ultimately back him, Morrison reportedly boasted that if Fran Bailey got in his way, he would bring her down. When board members called for him to go, however, Bailey agreed, and soon it was Morrison who was on his way. “Fran despised him,” says an industry insider. “Her one big win was ousting Scott. His ego went too far.”

    https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/february/1328593883/nick-bryant/so-who-bloody-hell-are-you

    Nothing’s changed

  6. New England Cocky

    @Kronomex: You are being most unfair to describe Simon Birmingham as accurately as possible while avoiding (necessarily) any mention of the at least 75 other completely underwhelming members of the RAbbott Turdball Morriscum COALition misgovernment.

    @Kerri: Without a doubt, Morriscum is a gutter cunning, mindless, self-serving dormitory bully whose ego is inflated way beyond any description of his mediocre abilities.

    Meanwhile, ABC News Breakfast this morning 150519 report that about 2.2 million Australian voters have attended pre-polling ….. to evict Morriscum from the Lodge?

  7. Peter F

    NEC I, too, am mystified as to why so many have voted early. Is it that those who want change just want to get it over with, or has the scare campaign caused the government’s supporters to make sure they vote before setting out on their trip north for the winter?

    I know why I voted early: I’ve headed south.

  8. tyrannosauruswenz

    @ NEC and Peter F – early voting is unprecedented. I keep remembering that typically, Australians vote OUT, not IN. The vast majority do not pay attention to politics until they get annoyed – and this hellishly long wait to the polls (since August last year, most would expect an election close to a leadership change) has annoyed the electorate. I think much airplay is given to the lunatic fringe but the general public is fed up with unfairness – most people know at least one person who has been adversely effected by coalition policy. Usually someone vulnerable like the aged, disabled and ill. The younger voters have been largely derided and ignored. I’m torn between being fascinated at this election and terrified the coalition will somehow beat the odds.

  9. Henry Rodrigues

    Scummo reminds me most of a bouncer outside a King’s Cross nightclub, standing there glaring at everyone and mentally daring them to take him on. With respect to all bouncers, they are there because they look intimidating not necessarily because they are, but Scummo is desperately trying to look intimidating but is really a moral coward. He should stick to happy clapping.

  10. Alcibiades

    Yup, voters vote ’em out, not in, especially swing voters & especially so re third term Federal governments, of either flavour.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/CaseyBriggs/status/1128148799472357376

    Quite a few marginals there … and combined with an historic record number of enrollments, and energised youth enrollments/vote, somehow doubt it is because they are thrilled & motivated about returning a third term government …

  11. Miriam English

    Yeah, Australians have a history of voting governments out, not voting them in. What scares me is the extent of propaganda in Murdoch’s media. I’m also scared that Labor’s reluctance to embrace progressive policies might leave them out in the cold. Thankfully I think the Greens may pick up a lot of seats to compensate for that.

  12. Ad Astra

    Folks

    May I thank you all for your enlightening comments. I hope your views about voting trends and early voting prove to be a predictor of a Labor victory.

    Kronomex, I do like your Birmingham descriptor: ‘Sir Blatheringmuch’. How apt.

    You are right paul walter, the Coalition has scraped the bottom of the barrel and found there was nothing there.

    Kaye Lee, the Morrison history you describe is both enlightening and revelatory.

    Henry Rodrigues, your comparison of Morrison to a night club bouncer is apt. The bouncers might object!.

    Miriam English, your view of the Murdoch media is one shared by many. If only we could purge our society of Murdochracy.

  13. DrakeN

    This schoolyard style of behaviour appeals to a worryingly large portion of the population: It always has and probably always will.
    Warmongers depend on it for both popular approval and for the recruitment of their cannon fodder, so it is unsurprising that its use as a political ‘call to arms’ is so successful.

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