The answer, of course, is that one is a prop and shouldn’t have been taken into the Parliament, while the other can be burned to provide heat – apart from that it’s useless…
Well, so am I! We have a Treasurer who took a lump of coal into Parliament. Just so you know, it’s against the rules to use props in Parliament. Ok, some of you are thinking, everybody knows that, but clearly Scott Morrison didn’t. I mean he wouldn’t deliberately ignore the rules, would he? That’s not a very good example to set our country.
Still, I guess when you’re dealing with those boring old number things as Treasurer day after day, you might need the odd creative outlet. Joe’s was dancing after the Budget, but unfortunately, not in the dark. Costello’s was creating fiction; he used to tell people that he’d be a great PM and one day soon, he’d challenge John Howard. Scott must have spied a lump of coal and been hit with an idea. Once inspired, you do tend to take liberties. That’s what artists are like, they sometimes feel that the rules don’t apply to them because they have a message to get out to the world.
I can picture it now, Mr Morrison and his lump of coal in his office. He calls in his staff. “I have this great idea,” he tells them.
“What is it?” they ask, fearful that it will involve incredible amounts of work “fixing the Budget”, or at the very least coming up with reasons why Labor owing $287 billion was the end of civilisation, but raising the debt ceiling above half a trillion isn’t worth talking about.
“I’m going to take this lump of coal to Parliament,” Scott tells them.
The staff nod approvingly, figuring that if they can perfect their nodding, they may get a safe seat where they can stand behind the PM and nod approvingly, but Scottie doesn’t notice. He’s on fire… (no, not literally!)
“And I’m going to say ‘This is coal,’ and I’m going to tell the Opposition not to be afraid of it! Brilliant, eh?”
His staff keep nodding as though there’s more, so Scott improvises.
“Um… then I’m going to suggest that the Opposition are suffering from coalophobia.”
When told that there’s no such word, Scott says that he’ll be remembered for creating it, like that guy who invented the word “selfie”.
“I’ll admit that I’m making up the word and tell them that it’s this ideological malady that stops them from allowing coal to create jobs and growth. And it’s an illness and they need help… Brilliant, eh?”
The staff nod more approvingly because nobody wants to upset the Treasurer when he seems in a good mood. Lately he’s been so down, thinking of how Cory has left and that’s one less vote for him when the spill happens. Not even the idea of some families losing Family Tax Benefits has caused him to smile. Even when told that some asylum seekers are being forcibly removed from Manus and sent back to possible torture and death, his spirits barely lifted.
So the staff say nothing.
And Scott appears in Parliament with that ugly lump and hands him the coal when the Speaker tells him to put the prop away. (Someone assured me that a lip-reader confirmed to them that when Joyce was given the coal he stroked it, saying, “My precious, my precious,” over and over.)
Of course, it may not have happened quite like that. Scott may have just wandered in to Parliament and put his hand in his pocket and discovered that he had a piece of coal that he’d forgotten to take out, and when one of the Labor MPs recoiled in horror, he may have quite genuinely thought it necessary to calm their fears.
Whatever, I found Morrison’s performance with the lump of coal more disturbing than Richard Denniss’ great article: How Christmas Prawns Explain Australia’s Power Blackouts