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Hubris and its consequences

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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  1. RomeoCharlie29

    I don’t think I would have used the word hubris in connection with Daley. His comments about Asians with PhD’s were made months ago and while insensitive in the current ( and by that I ran this term of the LNP government) climate of race denigration, were no more than what a vast number of Australians would be thinking, if not saying in their own circles. Despite their age, the audio/video of his comments, were used to devastating effect by Berejiklian’s gutter crawlers. Given the way the local Murdoch rags, and even the SMH had been trashing Labor it was inevitable that once the vision could be fed back into the system Daley’s and Labor’s geese were cooked. The so-called slip ups in the debate were minor and would have been only a blip by themselves. There is a lesson for every person with a public profile: in this world of the ubiquitous mobile phone with camera/video recording, nothing said in public can ever be considered private or contained and if you are going to express racist views, prepare to have them bite you in the arse. More than a few politicians must be combing their memories for such potential land mines.

  2. Patagonian

    What McQueen and fellow travellers simply cannot grasp is how far the ground has shifted beneath them. Last night’s audience identified as 29% Liberal, 24% Labor and I didn’t catch the rest, but there were no claps from the audience for McQeen’s comments, and more than a bit of derisive laughter. Gay’s comments on the other hand were met with strong applause.

  3. David Stakes

    And still over 29% of the audience were undecided. Surely Mcqueens performance should have swayed them Labors way. If not they are ratbags not worth bothering about., who will rue the day and get what they deserve in the end.

  4. Judith

    I thought it was a perfect example of entitlement – she behaved as if she was entitled to speak over everyone else on the panel.

  5. silkworm

    She is Hitler with a hair bun.

  6. Deanna Jones

    Scary on one level but sad on another. She was clearly unable to grasp basic concepts or even understand simple sentences. She was way out of her depth, and I say in all seriousness, possibly has a learning difficulty. The Liberals love women like that, and they used her badly by putting her out there. If conservative women could just learn, that at the end of the day, men will throw them under the bus for their trouble, along with the rest of us.

    silkworm, that’s not a bun, but enough of your hysterics. Hitler. Seriously.

  7. Henry Johnston

    RomeoCharlie29 I agree, especially your last sentence, and yet so many politicians of all stripes have said worse than this. But in this era of “truth isn’t truth” the far right weaponise their faux pas, whereas the left agonise.

  8. Kaye Lee

    The funniest thing I saw today was Barnaby Joyce who, when asked about the One Nation thing at his ubiquitous presser, this time in Queensland with Ken O’Dowd, said something about them going over and meeting up with people from Coca Cola. Apparently Barnaby either doesn’t know about the Koch brothers or he hopes we don’t. Or more likely he didn’t really listen when being briefed about it.

    Teena McQueen is also good for a laugh. After the allegations of bullying in relation to the leadership spill, she went on Sky in September and said

    “I would say put up or shut up. Women always want the spoils of victory without the fight,” she told Bolt. “You have to fight for your principles; you have to fight for your spot; it’s a fight so you must have that DNA within you to be in politics.”

    Then in November we hear….

    The NSW Liberals are investigating allegations of verbal abuse made by the party’s federal vice-president Teena McQueen and levelled against a state Upper House MP.

    Snowflake? Moi?

    The complete lack of self-awareness combined with overweening self-confidence is something Ashby, Dickson, Anning, Hanson, McQueen and Joyce all share.

  9. w ch

    This attention getter is just another one who is about to pass into total irrelevancy once this train wreck of a Liberal Federal Govt loses the next election and leaves office. Its very unlikely the Liberals will be so lucky as to strike a disunified Labor Federal Government twice in a row in which case you can expect the Liberals to be in Opposition at a Federal level for some time. The internal battles will really take hold once the Liberals are in Opposition, and those tensions extend beyond internal party disputes to differences with the Nationals which are already starting to show. Let Abbott and Joyce retain their seats, I say, their presence will greatly aggravate proceedings in Opposition. Labor were indeed lucky to have Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey as opponents. Once that 2014 budget hit, Abbott tanked in the polls and the Labor Opposition unified behind Shorten as a return to power in the near future looked likely. And so it proved, but for one seat at the 2016 election, since then the Liberal Party has been a picture of disunity with its slender majority an encouragement to dissent rather than unity. Labor have been on the other hand very unified, chastened also no doubt by the 2007 to 2013 trauma

  10. helvityni

    Kaye Lee is soo right, ‘Teena McQueen is also good for a laugh’.

    Almost as good as combining Dickson/Ashby with Rodney Muller….

  11. corvus boreus

    I was quite impressed with the performance of Tony Burke during that Q&A.
    Burke came across as polite and reasonable, articulating positions of rational decency in measured tones, displayed likeable good humour, and even offered some moments of sober reflection about past failings on the part of his party.
    It made a vivid contrast to the snidely petulant idiocy of Teena McQueen, and cut through far more effectively than the strident soapboxing of Mereen Faruqi.

  12. Phil.

    Dull, colourless and boring.

  13. helvityni

    corvus boreus,, totally agree with you, I have always liked Tony Burke, Dreyfuss (another Labor-sider) has that same quality, polite, reasonable and they both have a pleasant demeanour…

  14. Josephus

    The poor woman could not distinguish between anger caused by having one’s unproven beliefs challenged and anger due to being insulted for what you are, eg your colour. Hence her rants about the ‘violence’ of the Greens. She was no match for the intelligent other panelists. Her lack of intelligence is in my experience common among Coalition voters.

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