When Peter Slipper resigned, the former Speaker demonstrated a dignity and a vulnerability that many would say had been missing from both his career and this hung Parliament.
Will Slipper the crossbencher vote with the Government on key motions? [EDITOR: He voted with the government this morning on the election of a Deputy Speaker, with the Opposition criticising the government for taking his vote while not ruling out taking it themselves]
Probably. A motion of no-confidence in the government to test Slipper’s loyalty and the House’s numbers is surely imminent.
Hypothetically, Wilkie and Slipper could bring this Parliament to an orderly end with 76-74 vote.
Wilkie is unlikely to participate in this and is considered highly likely to re-visit his anti-pokie policies on the Gillard Government.
An honourable course of action for Slipper would be to vote against the Government and let Anna Burke make the casting vote.
But even that is unlikely.
Slipper, who has been the fairest Speaker in living memory, will want to sit out this term and hope he is exonerated in court.
Is that possible?
Yes. The texts are blue and unbecoming. However, there seems to be sufficient reasonable doubt for a judge to dismiss Ashby’s claims of harassment.
Slipper’s reputation has paid a very high price for this covetousness for the Speaker’s chair. In the meantime, he and the government will hang on to recover some of his wounded pride. And that it is a pity.
This Federal Parliament has been a dreadful farrago of hypocrisy and hyperbole, of cant and contempt. This Parliament is despised.
Note here that I don’t say the Prime Minister is despised. She is not. In punter land, Julia Gillard is another merely untrustworthy politician leading a directionless government.
It is no more complicated than that.
CROSSBENCHER GOT CROSS
The new paradigm of this hung parliament has assisted this directionless.
As a vanity project for the cross-benchers Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, these former embittered Nationals have personally mishandled its integrity of the new paradigm.
Windsor, in particular, has indulged in unconvincing slurs against the Leader of the Opposition. He has taken the Opposition’s … well … opposition to his choice of government way-too personally.
A new era of deference and civility has been elusive because Windsor and Oakeshott did not know how to even pretend to be honest brokers. They became open apologists for Gillard’s broken promise regarding the carbon tax. They sold their neutrality to an unhinged anti-Abbott campaign.
The new paradigm was a lost opportunity because of their behaviour, not the Coalition’s.
FAUX GENDER WAR ELBOWS OUT NATION INTEREST
The media, largely sympathetic to Gillard, has egged on by a thinly veiled focus grouped strategy to besmirch Abbott’s reputation, has sidelined the following issues in the last two weeks:
■ The resignation of a Defence Secretary because of the under-funding of our armed forces;
■ The deteriorating health of the Great Barrier Reef;
■ The economy in the context of a post-peak mining boom, a rapidly easing Chinese economy, subsequent job losses and an interest rate cut to shore up consumer confidence;
■ The risks to the multi-million live exports of sheep and cattle to the Mid-East by animal rights activists;
■ The ongoing three-way tug of war between the Government, the High Court and people smugglers;
■ The growing adventurism of the Chinese government in North and South East Asia;
■ The loosening of alcohol restrictions in the NT and Queensland for vulnerable Aboriginal communities; and
■ The cornucopia of opportunities for our services and financial sectors in a booming Indonesia and other near northern economies.
The Alan Jones or the Ashby-Slipper controversies should not have eclipsed none of these issues, but it did.
The blame in undermining national priorities lies primarily with the petty vengeful and salacious journalistic juggernaut. The Australian mainstream media confuses itself with the national interest; it believes it has a vital role in polarising the electorate against Abbott’s leadership in the name of a gender war, laced with ugly sectarianism; and yet it believes that it is a qualified arbiter on all that is sweetness and light.
The Gillard Government has been feeding this self-righteous group-think by framing aggressive negativity of Opposition attacks with sexism and now misogyny.
Not one current Labor frontbencher that endured the Latham years ever complained about aggression or negativity or colourful idioms, let alone specific and obscene attacks at least one female columnist, either at the time or subsequently.
The Government should be alive to the fact that the Australians are not buying vexatious claims against Abbott.
On the day the Speaker resigned for derogative and demeaning vulgarities towards female genitalia, it is not credible for the Prime Minister to claim zero tolerance towards the great contemporary of blasphemies against the womanhood, when she just voted to protect him.
As November 2011, Gillard owned the opprobrium that went with offering him the second highest office in the House of Representatives to Slipper. It is simple as that.
In the public’s mind, the Prime Minister has ‘jumped the shark’ with these claims, no matter how genuinely personally offended she may be.
A stateswoman should rise above it and should have ceased indulging in the personal attacks against Abbott.
Yesterday’s 15-minute speech against Abbott delivered by Gillard was rehearsed outrage. It was market-tested by Albanese at a doorstop yesterday morning. Here is the doorstop transcript – it is a close facsimile of Gillard’s speech that the usual suspects in the media thought was a spontaneous tour de force.
Surprisingly Michelle Grattan, press gallery doyenne, even described Gillard’s speech as ‘desperate’ on RN this morning.
PURPOSE VERSUS PATHOLOGY
Labor has tried almost everything to shake the Coalition’s lead in the polls, including the aforementioned confected gender war. As a tactic and as a strategy, it is wrong because it is divisive and personal and unedifying. It hurts Labor’s reputation.
My advise is to try resembling a half credible government with purpose – the single thing the public craves.
Hating Tony Abbott and ‘the Tories’ is not a purpose; it is a pathology. Windsor, Gillard, her staff, Albanese and most of the press gallery have no insight into their own disease.
Whatever principles they are trying to defend is now lost in the fog of anti-Abbott hate.
Tony has not strangled a cat. He wants to be an alternative PM. Go after his policies.
Slipper’s demise is a significant milestone in for the new paradigm. The numbers in the House are closer and more complicated yet an early election is no more likely. It remains the stuff of Liberal staffer fantasy, already booking in appointments with their tailor for a few new suits to celebrate.
Abbott wanted an early election. Instead the government with the cross-benchers’ support is stewing itself slowly into ignominy and electoral defeat.
Only Rudd’s second coming – a seriously dysfunctional administrator with serious character flaws – will bring about an early election.
Not even I could recommend that as a solution.