By Henry Johnston
Type the words ‘train wreck’ into your favourite search engine, and you are more than likely to come up with hits describing the appearance of Teena McQueen on the ABCTV programme Q&A, broadcast March 25, 2019.
I prefer a different word. Hubris. My version of the Macquarie Dictionary defines hubris as, “insolence or wanton violence stemming from excessive pride”.
I contend her appearance on Q&A was not the train wreck described by umpteen media outlets including the Sydney Morning Herald which reported it as Train wreck TV: Q&A features worst panellist in show’s history.
Rather, it was a calculated and deliberate attack mounted by a person who amongst other things, is a paid commentator for the News Corp television outlet Sky News.
Ms McQueen’s excruciating comments were derogatory, possibly defamatory and certainly insolent. Her vulgar rant reeked of ‘wanton violence stemming from excessive pride’.
But it is not new. In 2018 the Sydney Morning Herald reported a stoush concerning Ms McQueen, who is the Liberal party’s federal vice-president. It seems Ms McQueen was called a “spoilt f—ing bitch who has to get her own way”.
Public debate in Australia is light years from civilised, sophisticated dialogism. Rather, the national discourse is sophistry of the worst order, displaying disturbing echoes of an earlier, much nastier Australia.
More about this in a moment
Ms McQueen shared the Q&A set with American author Roxanne Gay who penned a New York Times best-selling essay collection, Bad Feminist.
Needless to say, neither woman struck-up an on-air friendship. Nevertheless, Ms McQueen exulted in the victory of the Liberal Party’s most successful female politician, Gladys Berejiklian, the only person in New South Wales who it seems can get things done.
I doubt Ms McQueen read Elizabeth Farrelly’s luminous, heartfelt homage to her homeland, New Zealand. In her essay Ms. Farrelly says amongst other things, “feminism needn’t be “left wing”. But it’s not just about girls-on-top, either. Simply to replace one gendered cabal with another would be fair, perhaps, but futile”.
Like hubris, the word ‘cabal’ evokes dark, disturbing echoes of the earlier, much nastier Australia I mentioned a few paragraphs back.
As I watch James Ashby of One Nation negotiating with the U.S. National Rifle Association I think about a grainy black and white image secreted in a dark corridor of my old workplace, the NSW Parliament on Macquarie Street Sydney.
It is a portrait of the Labor Premier Jack Lang, eulogised in this essay by Shane Maloney.
The Big Fella as Lang was known, took on the forces of Francis Edward de Groot, an Irish-Australian army officer and commandant of the right-wing paramilitary group known as the New Guard.
In 1932 de Groot at the behest of New Guard leader Eric Campbell, used his sabre to slash open the Sydney Harbour Bridge from horseback, before Lang could do the honours.
Then as now, housing was top of mind for Sydney-siders, and armed fascists were happy to wield the billy clubs against starving squatters especially in the streets and alleys of the Greens’ stronghold of Newtown.
And while much has changed since those colourless days, much remains. Hatred, fear, racism, simmering violence, scorn of the Other; all deliberately articulated by Teena McQueen at the behest of her employer News Corp and its political client the Liberal Party of Australia.
It would be foolish of me to conclude this essay by not considering the word hubris as apt for the current leader of the NSW ALP Michael Daley.
Despite the fact Mr Daley’s odious observations were dutifully reported at the time by local radio news, Ms McQueen’s Liberal dirt unit on behalf of Premer Berejiklian wielded this voice grab with the devastating effect of a 1930s police truncheon.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale at Brays Bookshop in Balmain an at Forty South Publishing.
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