Tony Abbott appeared in front of the press this morning to offer his own bizarre version of the olive branch to the Government: "Don’t worry Julia, you don’t have to adopt all of our asylum policy, just parts of it. We’ll work with you, change the Migration Act, give you a breather, we swear."
But he wasn’t channeling Ban-Ki Moon so much as Madame Lash. Abbott’s sly plea a demand for the ALP to Submit! in the latest episode in Australia’s increasingly debased national politics.
He wants the ALP to go back to Nauru, to ignore the Solicitor General’s advice, maybe even get slugged with a second failure in the High Court. The public knows it, and we love it. We’re all voyeurs as we watch Gillard and the ALP humiliated on one issue after another, squirming and pleading for the cameras. And then there are the shamefaced excuses at the end of the day: "We were just trying to stop the people smugglers, I swear." It’s too much.
Most titillating is the ongoing speculation over the ALP leadership.
The nation’s political commentators, licking their lips, report the latest scuttlebutt and speculation from one anonymous twerp after another. "Tell me your dirty secrets," they whisper. "Who will it be? Shorten? Smith? Swan? Who cares that they’re only on 5 per cent, we neeeeeed it! Who’s going to do the deed?" They’re ready and waiting to report when anything or anyone is stroked by a faceless man.
Phillip Coorey is the best of the bunch at kiss and tell. His quote from an anonymous Labor MPs about the Craig Thompson business is the most burlesque example of the genre: "Mate, if he fucking murdered someone we’d try and keep him until 2013." Coorey’s in: he gets to stand behind the one-way-mirror with the creeps.
It’s not just the ALP, either.
When Independent Tony Windsor says the crossbenchers would be more open to a Turnbull-led Coalition he’s asking whether the Libs are prepared to debase themselves to win government. Only 19 per cent of Liberal voters want Turnbull, compared with 40 per cent for Abbott. And right now the Coalition is happier dishing out the lash than taking it, even if it means being led by a man who’s likely to eat the soap if he spends too long in the bath.
But it doesn’t stop there. The pundits are having a great time as they describe the Governments’ suffering — and simultaneously recommend new tortures and contortions.
Take for instance Joe Hildebrand. Today he recommends Labor realise that "death can be liberating", and go out with a splash, trying to be remembered for something positive. You can just imagine him snarling, "You’re worthless. You’re nothing, look at you, you pathetic excuse for a political party. Look at the polls. 78 per cent of voters think you’ve made a mess of the asylum seekers issue. Lick my boots, process them onshore, do it."
Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe us voters just want to be told what to do. "I don’t like Rudd, oh, now I don’t like Gillard, they’re all crooks, wait, now I want Rudd back, oh God!" 78 per cent think Gillard’s mucked up the asylum issue, but 57 per cent want Abbott, whose policy would have gone in the same direction. We wanted action on climate change but are now happier to indulge cranks and battle each other than do anything about it.
And so here we all are, writhing around in pain as the nation’s politicians and political commentators vie to humiliate each other. It’s all a bit too much like Bertrand Russell’s description of democracy as a man in his sick bed, tossing from side to side in search of respite.
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