Now, Bronwyn Bishop has been getting a lot of bad press lately over her decision to save time by travelling by helicopter, when a chauffeur driven limonsine would have only taken her a mere fifteen minutes longer. Some people have even been comparing her to Peter Sllipper who was charged with fraud over his trips to some wineries. While this was overturned on appeal, there is a big difference between Mr Slipper’s actions and Ms Bishop’s.
Now, let me point out the big difference. Peter Slipper was accused of knowingly falsifying the records so that his personal trips appeared to be part of his official duties. Madam Speaker, on the other hand, was simply confused. She thought attending a Liberal Party fundraiser was part of her official duties as Speaker, and that’s such an easy mistake to make. The line between official duties and party activities is often unclear. For example, as Speaker, her role involves ensuring the smooth runnng of Parliament, and the less time that’s wasted with Labor “Points of Order” or “Questions” or “Speaking Against those Running the Country”, the more efficiently Parliament can run. Of course, there have only been a handful of Coaliton MPs thrown out; they’re not the ones trying to disrupt the Government’s mandate to make the country safe, with secure borders and sound economic management. The sort of economic management that understands that time is money and while fifteen minutes may not seem like a lot to you or me, for someone as important as the Speaker, this enables her to use those fifteen minutes doing something else. Like lobbying for a new job.
Of course, the other obvious point which people seem to be deliberately ignoring, is that the helicopter ride was not simply about saving money. Had she arrived by car – even a large disco party Hummer with all the lights on and music blaring – it is possible that not everyone would have noticed. As Speaker, Ms Bishop is used to making the sort of entrance that where everybody has to pay attention, and a helicopter ensured this.
Some have suggested that Ms Bishop is not adopting sufficient distance from the Liberal Party, when the Speaker is meant to be impartial. While precedent dictates that the Speaker doesn’t attend party meeting in the interests of demonstrating this impartiality, Ms Bishop feels that this inhibits her understanding of the tactics that will be employed by the various parties, and she is happy to attend the party room meetings of any of the political parties to find out what they’re thinking. However, neither the Labor Party nor The Greens will let her in, so that only leaves the Liberals, because the Nationals don’t count – or develop tactics. And the cupboard where the Palmer United Party now meet, only has room for two.
When it’s all said and done, the events of yesterday should be the end of the matter because Ms Bishop has now paid back the money from the helicopter trip, plus a fine, even though the travel was all “within the guidelines”. Which is extremely generous of her. It seems very magnanamous of her to pay that fine when she’s done nothing wrong.
Of course, this won’t make those clamouring for her blood happy. They’ll probably just ask her to pay back the cost of her overseas trip by arguing that it was also a lot of money, and now she’s started paying back things “within the guidelines” just because someone complained about the cost, hasn’t she set a precedent for herself?
No, some people won’t be satisfied till they’ve hounded the poor woman out of the Speaker’s chair. I suspect that they’ll stop at nothing with an election coming up in September (whoops, I meant, October. and I meant next year.) I mean, the Murdoch papers won’t want her there being a distraction from all the things that Tony’s done. We’ve got the terrorist threat for that!
Some little known facts about Bronwyn Bishop:
- Her maiden name was “Setright”.
- Originally, a Senator, she moved to the House of Representatives in the hope of launching a leadership challenge, which was thwarted when she realised that she’s actually have to get some of the Liberal Party MPs to vote for her.
- The daughter of an Opera singer, she is an accomplished singer herself. As a lover of opera and musicals, she wanted all questions in Question Time to be put to the tunes from Gilbert and Sullivan, and was only dissuaded when she was reminded that various members of the Opposition had much better singing voices, and, as Speaker, she herself would not be allowed to sing.
- She was not a member of Australia’s first Parliament, and only joined after it moved to Canberra.
- If she hears any MPs refer to her as “Dolores” (Dolores Umbrage – a “Harry Potter” character), she makes them write out lines before they’re allowed back into Parliament.
- She did not copy her hairstyle from Gary Oldman’s character in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, just her wardrobe and political style.