Is this the Face of Australia?


If there’s one thing that defines Australian political culture, it is deranged, uncontrollable violence. Whether it’s Mark Latham savaging cabbies or Tony Abbott feasting on human flesh at the full moon, there is nothing we love more than our elected representatives laying the smack down.

Which is why it was so refreshing to see NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca (Italian for "of the Bosca") and his wife, Federal Labor MP Belinda Neal, kick up their heels and indulge in a spot of good old-fashioned peasant abuse recently at Gosford’s Iguanas Waterfront Bar.

When asked by staff to move tables, Della Bosca and Neal reportedly reacted with abusive language, threats, and according to some accounts, the brandishing of broken whisky bottles. Neal apparently threatened the workers’ jobs, and the club’s liquor licence, screaming "Don’t you know who I am?" at the cowering Iguana serfs, which was hardly fair to them, given that she is a backbench MP and nobody on earth was likely to know who she was. I for one am still not sure, and apparently Della Bosca himself has denied all knowledge of her existence.

Naturally, Neal and Della Bosca completely reject the allegations, and have offered as proof statutory declarations from their close personal friends and an apology from the manager of the club, Steve "by name and nature" Twitchin, which Della Bosca wrote himself just to make sure it was completely sincere. On the other hand, as proof of their allegations, the bar staff offer their own sworn statements – along with the fact that Belinda Neal is a psychopath. This may seem a harsh, or even pointlessly vicious and immoral thing for me to write, but that’s journalism for you.

And unfortunately, Ms Neal has form on this issue. Two weeks before the Iguanas incident, she was sent off in a soccer match for repeatedly kicking a rival player, who subsequently said she feared Neal would be "waiting for me in the car park", echoing the deepest fears of myriad parliamentarians who even now scurry furtively to their cars at the end of the day, forever glancing over shoulders lest Neal come looming up behind them with a crowbar.

The reaction of the couple’s political masters has been interesting. Della Bosca’s boss, NSW Premier Morris Iemma – known to his most loyal supporters as "Australia’s most useless man" – moved with typical speed and forthrightness to do nothing, before eventually standing his Education Minister down, as his opposite number, Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, declared the issue was a "cover-up of Watergate proportions". This measured and thoughtful and in no way moronic assessment seemingly prompted the media to coin the phrase "Iguanagate", in yet another demonstration of journalists’ willingness to go the extra mile in their pursuit of insight and originality.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ordered Neal to undergo anger management counselling. Neal agreed to this, accepting that the continued string of incidents which she says didn’t happen demonstrated a disturbing pattern of blameless behaviour which should be addressed by professional help in working through all the lies people tell about her. It is a similar case to Sam Newman, who is currently undergoing a similar course of counselling to overcome his issues with uptight bitches who can’t take a joke.

Speaking of Sophie Mirabella, the Liberal MP has come out with a scathing attack on Neal’s ferocious ways, stung by Neal’s parliamentary claim that Mirabella’s impending baby would be "born a demon". This despite the fact that Neal very graciously withdrew the offensive comments she says she never made, indicating that perhaps Neal is exhibiting a pattern not of violent and abusive behaviour, but of making amends for fictional events.

Which brings me to the problematic part of this whole affair. Rudd’s disciplinary action is, clearly, based on the premise that things like threatening restaurant staff and kicking young women are, to some extent, "wrong". Is this so? What sort of parliamentarians do we want representing us? Do we want weak, insipid, "polite" politicians? Do we want the kind of people who calmly acquiesce to reasonable requests from hard-working hospitality staff? The kind of people who see a woman on the ground and simply give her a hand up?

I say no! I say we want strong leaders, people who are confident enough in themselves to say, yes, I am better than other people, and I am willing to be as violent and maniacal as it takes to prove it. Can a leader who won’t bully low-paid workers be relied upon to bully terrorists? Can a person unwilling to lay the boot into a defenceless young woman be relied upon to lay the boot into Japanese whalers? Maybe instead of sending Belinda Neal to anger management counselling, Kevin Rudd should send himself to Don’t Be Such A Pussy counselling.

What it comes down to is this: the Prime Minister can’t handle honesty. He can’t handle the fact that Neal and Della Bosca treated the Iguana staff as what they are: social inferiors. We’ve all been to restaurants, we all know what sort of people work there. Classless, illiterate, greasy people with unpleasant nasal voices who are always judging you when you ask for no onions. Threaten their jobs? They should be grateful the power couple didn’t stab them with forks. Rudd can’t handle the fact that soccer is a tough game, a game where you either kick or get kicked, a game where failure to commit battery constitutes nothing less than moral cowardice.

This hatred of honesty is endemic in public life. The Mirabella affair shows it up clearly – we’re expected to cluck our tongues and make disapproving noises about her unborn child being called a demon, without even considering whether or not Neal was right. Maybe Mirabella’s baby will be a demon. She’s a Liberal, after all – does nobody comprehend simple genetics?

It’s no wonder our country is descending into a hellhole of uncontrollable inflation and child pornography when we have a Prime Minister so beholden to political correctness that he will punish his MPs for standing up for demonstrating strength and decisiveness. If Australia is going to bestride the world stage as it should, it needs more anger, more violence, more arrogant presumption of unearned privilege.

Let’s be frank: Belinda Neal is Australia, and if we don’t want to become a nation of whiners, cowards and Beazleys, we’d better realise it quick smart.

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