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Will the curse of the despatch box strike again?

As the Prime Minister of the day strides to the despatch box in Question Time, the cameras focus on the back benchers sitting directly behind him as they nod dutifully and call out “hear, hear”, or point accusingly as they call out “shame.”

These people are deliberately placed there in order to raise their profile and, in the case of the Coalition, to give the impression that they actually have some women in their party.

But recent experience should make them wonder if this is a good strategy.






Seated behind Tony Abbott were his faithful blondes, Natasha Griggs and Karen McNamara, both of whom lost their seats in the 2016 election.






They were replaced by Malcolm Turnbull’s girls, Ann Sudmalis and Julia Banks. Both have said they will not recontest the next election as Liberal candidates citing bullying as the reason, with Ms Banks quitting the party and moving to the crossbench for the remainder of her term.

Scott Morrison has placed the relatively-unknown SA Member for Boothby, Nicole Flint, behind him and, seemingly on cue, a seat that has been held by the Liberal Party since 1949 is looking shaky.

A recent ReachTEL poll put Ms Flint ahead 51-49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. But the poll also found that about 60 per cent of voters are opposed to oil drilling in the Bight – an endeavour that her government is encouraging.

About 84 per cent of poll respondents supported declaring the area a World Heritage zone because of the little known Great Southern Reef which is estimated to generate $10 billion each year for the Australian economy through fisheries and tourism. That’s about 50 per cent more than its more famous cousin, the Great Barrier Reef.

Whilst a seat behind the despatch box might make a member more recognisable, it also indelibly associates their image with the toxic policies being spouted by the Minister in front of them.

If I was Nicole, I would be changing seats.


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  1. Baby Jewels

    It’s always amusing how the small handful of Liberal women are always placed there, immediately behind the PM. Everything they do is designed to pull the wool over, in some way. I am so sick of these con merchants and their cons.

  2. Sir Scotchmistery

    So the liberal and labour have the dispatch box but what do we poor voters have?

    all we have is one vote so how do we influence others towards our point of view?

    There is a thing called a water cooler conversation which usually takes three to five minutes, as people fill up the vessel of choice before returning to their desks. That moment is a time where we could as actively engaged political people have an opportunity to change another person’s mind, and we only need to do it one mind at a time.

    think about it next time you have 3 minutes with somebody and a possibility of a serious discussion.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Sir Scotchmistery,

    I try to do that at every opportunity I get. My children are in their twenties and yesterday a few of their friends came over. The cricket was on and the topic of Usman Khawaja’s brother’s arrest came up which led to a broader conversation about how politicians are stoking fears about terrorism for their own political benefit and how important it is to recognise the attempt to manipulate you. My kids straight away said, oh lawdy don’t get her started, but the others were quite interested.

  4. Jaquix

    Women Libs are usually only considered for marginal seats. IPA members (Murdochs apprentices) always get the safest.. You won’t see any of them lined up in those “box” seats. And there are about 18 of them! But what used to be a safe margin, can’t be relied on anymore. Wentworth and Victorian state election Dan-slide, WaggaWagga NSW state by-election, all showed that. After Fed-slide in May, there will be a lot less Lib faces across from Labor.

  5. Christopher J. Ward

    I think you should at least note that the ALP has the same set-up behind the wannabe PM. I call them “nodding dolls” just as with the LNP. Perhaps you can extend the ‘phenomenon’ to any politician interviewed “live” (maybe stuffed and mounted) on TV. Apart from the pollie, you get a staffer, a nodding doll and sundry hangers-on. Possible the worst thing ever in coverage of Fed Parliament was the transfer from the radio – Parliamentary News Service – to TV. It is arguably a disaster because they are bad actors who wouldn’t get a run on any contemporary drama series. The Minister for Defence/South Australia mincing around the chamber, like the former member Downer: the rare but not extinct female minister whose vacuous rants don’t qualify for a role model; the simpering, snivelling, whimpering across both sides and snide remarks then the insults. When Anna Burke, a good Speaker, quit her position just before Christmas some years ago, concluded with a remark that ended: “…and I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done to your Parliament.” Apart from the dignity shown by Julie Gillard when PM, the rest have been and are a rabble and disgrace. Your taxes and monopoly money at work. In a non-existent, never-could-be world, I’d make them all serve the poor and homeless on the streets at Christmas to mid-January, with no home support: an idea borne of old age and malice.

  6. terence mills

    “I am going to declare my gender today… to be a woman and then you’ll no longer be able to attack me,” Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan.

    Now, if Barry O’Sullivan were in the lower House he could alternate and be a woman during Question Time and revert to being a boofhead at other times.

    It’s a broad church !!

  7. helvityni

    Sir Scotchmistery, you are funny…three minutes at the water cooler/coffee maker…

    I wrote here about my old friends Chrissie party in Sydney; we ate, we drank, we laughed, we talked, but not about politics…not all of us there were of the same party….we all agreed Oz politics is one big mess at the moment, and moved onto books, movies, family members…

    ( oops, so sorry, I asked our French friend’s opinion about Macron)

  8. Paul Davis

    Thanks Kaye for the info on value of the GAB’s Great Southern Reef….. don’t think enough of us know or appreciate this extraordinary wild and beautiful asset.

    Yep, looks like little miss noddy Nicole Flint is a another goner … perhaps she could save her reputation if not her political career by doing a ‘Banksy’ and joining the faux not-so-RWNJs on the crossbench.

    Whenever i have watched televised house of reps there is one image that remains for me a constant fixture. It is of course Christopher Pyne. A man who has no leadership ability, a toady, a fawning sycophant, a power groupie, who sits on the front bench staring at his leader with doe eyed adoration regardless of who the leader is, be it Howard, Abbot, Turnbull, Morrison, bobble-heading along in tune with the song sheet.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Christopher Pyne, like many of our politicians, was involved in student politics at university where he, like Joe Hockey, campaigned against the introduction of fees. When asked relatively recently about why he has changed his view on that, he said when he was a student he had to give the voters what they wanted to hear. In other words, Christopher does not have any principles and will say anything at all if he thinks it will get him votes. I just cannot imagine him meeting with other defence ministers.

  10. Ian Hughes

    Yes Kaye, agreed. And, on a similar subject, let’s get rid of all the nodding heads behind the interim PM or OL whenever they’re giving an outside interview. Much prefer to see the leader standing on their own with confidence, sans props. In Morrison’s case he’d have to scout about and find a leader first!

  11. Kaye Lee


    I would like to see outside interviews stopped. Every electorate has a local member who can make announcements about local issues. Policy announcements should be made in Canberra press conferences. Imagine how much we would save in expense claims and emissions reduction if the entourage, including the media, didn’t have to go on the road.

    Imagine how much more productive it would be if they spent their time reading reports, being briefed by experts, and responding to their constituents. Do they really need the photo with the shovel, followed by the hard hat and high vis vest at the factory, the cup of coffee at the local cafe, before they head off to a fundraiser or social function that night? How about getting out of the road so people can do their work and getting on with your own which is not being a photo model.

  12. Ross in Gippsland

    Ian Hughes, I agree. When some political ”leader” gets his/her melon on the outside interview there are always two or three grinning, nodding Muppets close behind them. Why are they there? They don’t say or do anything. Apart from the fact it looks terrible it really puts you off whatever is being said. The mind wanders, the first thought is generally ”Wankers” before a lunge for the remote.

  13. Matters Not


    replaced by Malcolm Turnbull’s girls , Ann Sudmalis and Julia Banks

    Now that’s a stretch.

    According to Wiki:

    A girl is a young female, usually human, usually a child or an adolescent. When she becomes an adult , she is described as a woman .

    Next we will have Hannah Gadsby speaking about “good boys talking about bad boys incredibly … “.

    But not likely to happen for a whole range of reasons.

  14. Kaye Lee

    I was waiting for someone to object to that MN. I did think about it at the time and specifically decided to leave it. I meant it to show the dismissiveness with which these women are treated as props.

  15. Florence Howarth

    Christopher the Opposition also have many women sitting the shadow front bench. No need to rely on the few sitting behind Leader.

  16. Matters Not


    I meant it

    No doubt (and not really an objection – just an observation.) But it illustrates the difference (and problems) with intended meaning and the ultimate given meaning – and further – the different meanings given (not received) by different people.

  17. Matters Not

    Speaking of nodding heads, it’s time for Jim Molan to be given center stage. (Never thought I’d ever say that.) His criticism of excessive defence spending, without Parliamentary oversight, is probably his best contribution since winning the Senate lucky-dip. In the US, Elizabeth Warren make a like criticism of military allocation.

    Military efforts alone will never fully succeed at ending terrorism, because it is not possible to fight one’s way out of extremism … The United States will spend more than $700 billion on defense in the 2018–19 fiscal year alone. … more than all the rest of the country’s discretionary budget put together.

    … even as Washington spends more and more, U.S. military leaders point out that funding a muscular military without robust diplomacy, economic statecraft, support for civil society, and development assistance only hamstrings American national power and undercuts any military gains.

    … The Pentagon’s budget has been too large for too long. It is long overdue for an audit that would allow Congress to identify which programs actually benefit American security and which merely line the pockets of defense contractors.

    In Australia military expenditure is for the purpose of promoting the fear factor. We can do much better by spending far less for photo opportunities.

    Just heard the next GG will also have a military background. Shakes head. C’mon Triggs.

  18. Kaye Lee


    I missed that from Molan. It surprises me. Can you provide a link please?

  19. DrakeN

    MN re. “girls”

    Self identification as “girls” is quite usual amongst those of “the female persuasion”.

    The local “Red Hat” ladies were overheard only yesterday to utilise that term in reference to themselves.

    Not a single one of them would have equated to that wiki definition.

    Likewise the “boys” in the mens’ shed are generally those of significant seniority.

    It’s all about context.

  20. Kaye Lee


    That is true. I always refer to my friends as my girls and we are in our 60s.

  21. Matters Not

    Heard it on ABC radio but it is in writing.

    This particular case illustrates a problem with how parliamentary oversight of defence is handled in Australia. As things currently stand, decisions of national importance are made behind closed doors. The public, and even parliamentarians, must rely on promotional releases or leaked details for information about major programs.

    Naturally, there are many good reasons for secrecy. But secrecy doesn’t have to take precedence over accountability and good standards of governance

    Parliamentary defence committee needs the power to pursue a national security strategy

  22. Kaye Lee

    Ok, that is slightly different. I was amazed when you said Molan was criticising excessive defence spending but that’s not what he is doing at all.

    “Australia’s implied national security strategy has been to support allies so that, in some unspecified future crisis, they might support us. That approach is demonstrably inadequate. We must prepare ourselves for the possibility of conflict. In many ways the nation is in denial, but, to its credit, the Coalition government is leading and has embarked on the largest peacetime rearmament program in the nation’s history, worth some $200 billion over the next decade.

    What good are 72 magnificent joint strike fighters if we don’t have the required infrastructure, spare parts, liquid fuel, industrial base, contingency plans, political leadership, national resolve and support from the nation?”

    He’s just pissed off that the Senate committee he was on wasn’t allowed to look at classified material. He wants to be able to advise on defence and military strategy which is most definitely NOT the job of an accidental minor Senator. He actually wants us to spend a shitload more – he’d just like to be the one to decide how many killing weapons we can stockpile and he wants MORE.

    That is the Molan I know and fear.

  23. Matters Not

    KL, yes I can see where (my) problem was. I wrote that with the unexamined assumption that excessive spending was an uncontested given and my intended emphasis was to be on the without parliamentary oversight. (People often hear what they want to hear but then again I am not sure that I did so in this case.)

    As to the weakness in the general process, we know that Pyne’s raison d’etre begins and ends with the political – thus whatever it takes. It is the inexpert Pyne (in this case) who takes a recommendation of to an inexpert Cabinet – ‘wins’ the case and it’s all systems go. Much prefer an arrangement such as the US Senate Armed Services Committee which has reps from all sides, has some continuity and results in some ‘expertise’. Further it has access to outside experts. (Note that a number of ex Navy types are now quite vocal when it comes to the submarine gambit – cost, suitability and the like – but it’s not Committee input – just media reports.

    Having Pyne in charge of anything is laughable as it Dutton, Morrison et al. Just sayin ..

    Democracy (decision making) should be in the hands of the many and not the few.

  24. Kaye Lee

    I am all for oversight but I would prefer it to be from people who don’t have a preconceived view that military might is the best investment, which is most definitely Molan’s view. Molan, Kelly, Abbott and Hastie are/were on some sort of weird speaking tour together. They are four that this country must remove from decision making IMO.

    Back in 2013, Molan’s view on the submarines was “We need submarines and we need them much faster.” I don’t think any evidence would sway him from that view.

  25. Matters Not


    don’t think any evidence would sway him from that view.

    Agree. But if it was a properly constituted Committee, his voice would be one among many. It’s the one with all the power and influence that’s the problem. More need for Senate type ‘hearings’ – with public broadcasting.

    BTW, Molan isn’t the first to be ‘narrow minded’. It wasn’t that long ago that Nelson as Education Minister was advocating creation science for reasons of ‘balance’.

    Ministers (Members with both Executive and Legislative powers) need a lot more parliamentary insight – not less as advocated by Dutton with his ‘disadvantage’ statements.

    Peter Dutton told Sky News he has always seen parliament as a disadvantage for the government of the day.

    And he was a contender. And was and is a ‘controller’. Just ask Morrison and Turnbull.

  26. Aortic

    I don’t mind looking at the staged woman display, the thing that induces projectile vomiting in me is the always prissy mincing look on Pynes face and he is always on camera. As Julia Gillard rightly opined, ” a performer looking for an audience.” How anyone could give this smarmy little puke a ministerial post, much less Defence for goodness sake is way beyond me. Not a fan of Howard, but you had to admire his judgement when he decided he would not have a bar of him.

  27. RosemaryJ36

    I think the point Kaye Lee was making was that showcasing the Coalition women was a poison pill.

  28. Kaye Lee

    Yes Rosemary, it sure seems that way.

  29. Tim Jefferson


    centre, not center

    We’re not septics.

  30. Frank Smith

    Given Scummos penchant for “own goals” I would have expected him to put Jane Prentice, disendorsed Member for the safe Liberal seat of Ryan, behind the despatch box.

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