Chewin' the Gristle


Hello Gristlers! and welcome to Chewin’ the Gristle, the week’s political bits that we found hard to swallow.

This year is, of course, an election year and Prime Minister John Howard* has prepared his Government for the upcoming campaign with a Cabinet re-shuffle. The re-shuffle has, as always, resulted in some winners and some losers (and some losers winning).

The main loser in last week’s announcement was Amanda ‘hug-and-kiss’ Vanstone. The ‘human’ face of the Government has been removed from her portfolio at the same time as it has been renamed from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC). So, not only has the government’s senior female minister been removed, the name of the portfolio has been changed to DIC, just to rub it in!

It looks like Amanda will be given a nice, cushy foreign posting in Italy, though, allowing her to forgo the last four years of her Senate term. No disrespect to the South Australian electorate at all! The Gristle believes a more appropriate posting might be somewhere closer to her constituents. Woomera, perhaps?

Amanda’s former post has been given to Kevin ‘Lego Man’ Andrews, the bloke with the immovable hair and facial expressions that are reminiscent of a Botox overdose. The Lego Man will no doubt bring his tough, no-nonsense approach to bear as the Head of DIC. The Gristle can’t think of a more appropriate candidate for this title.

Lego Man moving into DIC has cleared the way for his old Industrial Relations portfolio to be transferred to ‘Jolly’ Joe Hockey. The big fella has clearly benefited from the phenomenon known as ‘The Kiss of Kochy.’ Following in the footsteps of ‘Charlie Brown’ Rudd. Jolly Joe has obviously been brought into IR to bring a bit of Seven Sunrise to the portfolio. The Gristle has heard a rumour that he may introduce his own version of the ROSWall into politics. People who have been unceremoniously dumped from their jobs can email in and Joe will leave the question on a whiteboard until he can isolate the bit of the WorkChoices legislation that proves that the employers were fully within their rights.

It is unlikely that sacked workers will be any better off under Joe but, unlike the Lego Man, he is at least capable of shaping his face into a sympathetic expression.

The Prime Minister had some interesting things to say about Jolly Joe’s appointment to the portfolio: ‘He’s certainly avuncular and if he reassures and is friendly and embracing and is a big bear of a man, well what’s wrong with that?’

A ‘big bear of a man’? With Mardi Gras coming up, maybe Howard is trying to increase the Coalition’s gay vote. Or is he just giving away a little more of his own feelings than he actually intended?

The final key change was the big promotion of Malcolm ‘God Save the Queen’ Turnbull. Malcolm has been promoted to the new Environment and Water Resources portfolio, but the Prime Minister has denied this puts him in the front line for the top job:

There is only one serious contender for the leadership of the Liberal Party if I were to be suddenly removed and that is Peter Costello. If I suddenly departed this world or this scene, for whatever reason, the Party would be foolish not to choose Peter as my replacement.

The Gristle wonders what would happen if the departure wasn’t quite so ‘sudden.’ Still, it’s at least something for Peter ‘The Man Who Walks Alone’ Costello to cling on to.

It’s not only the born-again environmentalist John Howard who has recently recognised that water and the environment are key policy areas  –  the shift is being echoed across the world. The UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft report has been issued and the US has provided some feedback. Specifically, the yanks (or seppos as we like to call them) are pushing to get away from the pinko idea of actually decreasing emissions and, instead, would like more emphasis to be given to techniques like blocking out the sun. This could be done with the use of lots of tint balloons or some sort of blocking satellite or maybe just a really big sun umbrella. (Perhaps we could use Amanda Vanstone!)

The other key seppo issue with the IPCC is that ‘the report tends to overstate or focus on the negative effects of climate change.’ The Gristle couldn’t agree more. Where the rest of the world sees problems, the US sees opportunities! Let’s face it, winter can be a boring and depressing time that we could rid ourselves of through global warming, and just think of all the extra tanning opportunities. If only those ‘negative Nellies’ at the UN would change their tune and start seeing some positives.

Finally, The Gristle can’t let the week go by without congratulating Chas Licciardello of The Chaser. Chas was found not guilty of offensive behaviour after a stunt outside a Canterbury Bulldogs Rugby League game last year in Sydney. A victory for common sense? Well perhaps, but it should be noted that the prosecution’s key witness was unable to attend after a serious illness of a close family member. Key witnesses failing to appear in criminal trials? The Chaser, or The Chaser Nostra? You be the judge.

*For those readers who are wondering why John Howard no longer has a nickname, we apologise but, quite frankly, we just don’t think he is funny anymore.

You can catch the Gristle on Radio 2SER 107.3 in Sydney or on the web at every Friday evening from 6:00 to 6:30.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.