Is Bill the ALP’s squishy version of Tony, and if so, what is Malcolm? Paul G. Dellit offers a candid answer.
My partner said I am too long-winded and I use arcane vocabulary to show off. It would take far too long to summarise my devastating riposte; instead let me settle the matter with this vernacular analysis. More people follow professional sport than follow professional politics because with sport the players have to be good at what they do and if they get caught cheating they get sent off, and if they get paid because they were cheating they have to give the money back. Nevertheless for the benefit of the masochistic minority, let’s stick with politics.
His first real play for the limelight came when he was Leader of the Opposition. Never much good at creative thinking nor noted for his wisdom, he knew he was in need of wise suppositories with a creative bent. So he cast around for a mentor. It would have to be a woman in case they needed knocking into shape. He knew he was good at bullying women, but blokes – they made him feel uncomfortable, like those blokes in the seminary! Yuk! What he wanted was a motherly mentor, and her name is Peta. (And with her ministering suppositories over the passage of time, the Back Bench also agree that Peta is a ‘mother’). She filled his suppositories with venom and bile and they made him so angry and agitated that Peta only had to write a few zingers and catch-phrases, point him at Julia and press ‘play’. It helped that Kevin had started his own venom and bile factory and was Peta’s major supplier, but nevertheless, it was Tony who was providing copy for Murdoch headlines and Alan Jones fulminations. (I’ve always found it remarkable that the exceptionally wealthy ex-Australian Murdoch and the exceptionally wealthy confirmed bachelor Jones find themselves so well attuned to the circumstances and values of ‘ordinary Australian families’).
And so it was that after the ALP sacked their own PM for a second time, Tony became PM.
The business of government – yes, well, as it turned out, there was a lot more to actually doing stuff than attacking other people for the stuff they’ve done. There was nothing for it. Tony would have to lie about promising to do all the stuff that got him elected. So Peta filled his suppositories with lies and obfuscations. Then when everyone kept saying over and over: “Hey, Tony, that’s a lie”, he and Team Tony had to lie about lying. No problem. He and the Team were in their comfort zones. This is what they do for a living. But it still wasn’t getting any new stuff done.
And so, after 15 months of not getting stuff done, and no more lies to tell, even about lying, people had had enough. They began comparing him to Julia who passed 127 pieces of legislation during her first 7 months with a hung parliament when Tony could only manage 7. The polls said 76% of the people thought Tony was a dud. Being a good Catholic he thought he would try confession: “Good government starts today!”, but he failed to offer the people a refund of the salaries they had paid for the period when Tony and the Team weren’t doing their job. Tony wanted absolution without penance.
Asked why the people should trust him to deliver good government, he said it was because he could beat Bill. Yes, he had beaten Julia and Kevin, and now he was going to beat Bill (repeated several times.) Then he added that he is the best one to lead the Government because look what happened to the ALP when they played musical chairs with sitting PMs.
Bill first came to significant public attention when he parachuted into the middle of a mining disaster, once it had captured the attention of the media. You couldn’t miss Bill. He was the one in the heroically shiny flying jacket. It made a change from the grey cardigan he favoured when in union leader mode. Bill’s not one of those charismatic orator types. Picking the right words and then putting them in the right order is a bit of a struggle. So Bill worked out he needed some mates he could trust and then work with them to stitch up the deals he wanted behind the scenes before meetings were called. Then all Bill had to do was turn up at meetings and recite the Bhagavad Gita followed by: “All those in favour of the motion” to get what he wanted. This ‘mates behind the scenes’ way of doing business worked so well for Bill it became his default modus operandi.
So it just seemed the natural thing to do, when Kevin’s ego began taking on blimp-like proportions and he began to suffer from delegation constipation, for Bill to get some mates together and set up a back room deal to have Kevin replaced with Julia. And it worked! Woo-hoo! “This politics surrender monkey cheese-eating is as easy as taking candy off a log!” thought Bill. “I should have a crack at this leadership caper by my own”. So when Julia was heading for a monumental election defeat, he did another back room deal to replace Julia with Kevin in the certain knowledge that both Julia’s and Kevin’s political careers would be over once the election was lost.
Now Bill was so excited by the prospect of future leadership he began a back room self promotion campaign by telling any member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery who would listen that he would be the next leader of the ALP. He argued that it was because he beat Kevin and he beat Julia so he was the natural choice (and he had his back room modus operandi ready to fend off any challengers).
Bill won the day and is the Leader of the Opposition. He doesn’t have a Peta to load suppositories for him so his zingers and catch phrases in and out of the Parliament are incomprehensible to all but those who speak in tongues. But the people get the gist of it; as with The Life of Brian’s Sermon on the Mount, they understand that “Blessed are the Cheesemakers” metaphorically refers to all those involved in the dairy industries.
And it really doesn’t matter what he says as long as he doesn’t say anything meaningful which might be susceptible to debate and attack. Opposition is an easy ride for Bill. Not only does he not have to come up with anything constructive, he doesn’t even have to do much in the way of picking apart Tony’s performance. Tony is much better at that than Bill could ever be. And so it is that Bill remains leader in spite of his lack of performance because it is far too soon for the people to stomach another ALP leadership spill.
Thus it is that both Tony and Bill claim the right to lead their Parties because they beat Julia and Kevin, and also to retain their leadership because if they were themselves beaten, someone else would become leader and changing leaders is frowned upon by the people. Just look what happened to the ALP when Kevin and Julia were beaten by Tony/Bill. So a case can be made for the proposition that the non-bully, Peta-less, sans suppositories Bill is just like Tony . . . only squishy.
Malcolm is an intelligent man albeit with a Godwin-like glass jaw. Plain and simple, he is stuck in a Party in which contains a number of less-than-intelligent right wing ‘trickle-down-tea’ addicts. He could as easily find accommodation with traditional ALP values but could never accept nor be accepted by the ALP faction system. If Malcolm replaces Tony, he will be opposed by LNP right-wingers except those who believe he will save their seat. And if Malcolm replaces Tony, one hopes that the ALP will feel liberated enough to consider replacing Bill with a leader who stands for something and is courageous and articulate enough to take the argument up to the Government. If the ALP sticks with Bill, the disaffected ALP supporters who vote on issues and questions of principle may make the Hobson’s Choice of voting for Malcolm at the next election.
Just as Tony/Bill beat Kevin and Julia, so the performances of Tony and Bill will be the cause of the replacements of Tony and Bill, with Malcolm as the catalyst.
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