Don't Close The Door On Slippery Pete


Ah, how the best-laid plans of mice and extremist Marxist women gang aft agley. Five years ago, Julia Gillard thought it’d be a great idea to dismantle the Howard government’s Workchoices legislation. "Let’s pull apart this bold and daring industrial relations reform!" she bellowed at her cheering Trotskyite brethren, and everything seemed hunky dory.

Well, the laugh’s on you, Julia. If you’d only kept Workchoices, Peter Slipper could have easily avoided the sexual harassment charges against him by invoking the "Acts of Evil" clause in the legislation, which explicitly stated that employers could legally do anything to any employee deemed "a bit sexy". Oh, there’d be that Cabcharge thing, but nobody really cares about that: if there’s an Australian alive who wouldn’t rort a Cabcharge allowance given the chance, I have yet to meet them and give them a wedgie.

This just shows how the laws of unintended consequences applies to politics. When Julia Gillard moved to deny decent Australian citizens the right to run their businesses as they saw fit, she thought she was living up to traditional Labor values of destroying productivity and raping freedom, but actually she was planting a mighty petard on which she has now been hoisted.

Likewise, when the Liberal Party did nothing to halt the excesses of Peter Slipper, it thought it was upholding the traditional Liberal value of indifference to gross immorality, but actually it was just biding its time before seizing the opportunity to hold the Labor Party accountable for Slipper instead. Tony Abbott must have been shocked to learn he was doing the right thing all along, but then this is a shocking business all around, isn’t it?

For example, it’s disgusting that for all those years while Liberal MP Peter Slipper was sexually harassing his staff and abusing his privileges, the Labor Party was turning a blind eye.

The extent of their duplicity is shown by the fact it has taken so long for the Liberal Party to discover the misdeeds, and thank God they did. Who knows how much longer Labor might have failed to investigate impropriety in the Liberal Party? Who knows, indeed.

The allegations themselves are repellent, of course — the very fact the word "twinks" has been published in the mainstream press is enough to cause good men and women everywhere to shudder in horror. When our founding fathers drew the colonies together to create this great nation in 1901, I’m confident they thought they were bringing to life a country in which "twinks" would never be a subject of public discussion; to the extent this is true we have failed those founding fathers. We apologise, Edmund Barton, for the shame we have brought upon your head (Barton himself, of course, was a bear).

After all, we are not speaking here of a minor peccadillo, like a backbencher stealing union funds to hire prostitutes or a minister inflicting mental torture on desperate refugees. This is the Speaker of the House of Representatives we’re talking about. A higher parliamentary office there is not.

There is a reason that every statement in parliament is addressed to "Mr Speaker", instead of the person the member is actually speaking to. Nobody really knows what that reason is, but it definitely exists and to degrade the office of Speaker is to degrade the traditions and institutions that made our system of democracy so unwieldy and annoying in the first place.

We want our Speakers to be calm, sober, masters of all they survey, handing down their judgments with due gravitas and solemnity, and keeping a firm hand on the reins of that unruly mustang we call government. We would prefer it if they weren’t scampering about like milkmen in a 1970s British comedy, dangling their sinful portions in front of every staffer in a six mile radius, winking eyes and waggling brows and enjoying massages and asking people about the things they may or may not have done in men’s whatevers.

Frankly, the question of internal fluid transfer is not one that should be occupying our elected leaders to any significant degree. Surely there are more important things for a Speaker to be thinking about? Standing orders and things, parliamentary procedure, how to aim a blowpipe at Christopher Pyne’s neck, things like that. A Speaker fixated on which parts of the anatomy his staffers have deposited genetic material in is a Speaker who is not fixated on smooth Australian governance.

But let’s look on the bright side. The whole affair has at least demonstrated the best thing about politics: the wonderful capacity of political life to make people happy.

There are normally no winners from tales of infidelity and naughty office shenanigans and revolting references to "sinking the Slipper" — only losers. But because this happened in politics, Slipper’s sugar-daddy proclivities have produced a significant amount of joy — everyone in the Coalition is cock-a-hoop.

In what other profession can you gain such euphoria from revelations of terrible depravity and corruption? In our own humdrum lives we often find ourselves wringing our hands in depression and despair when we realise how far our species has fallen. Yet if we were in politics, there would be endless sources of delight to brighten our days.

Imagine being an opposition politician these days. Sexual predators in high office? Hooray! Deep-seated official corruption? Whoo! Billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars wasted? It’s my lucky day! Hundreds of women and children drowned at sea? Let’s get this party started! It is heartwarming to see how happy a politician can be about things that we unfortunate hoi polloi find infinitely upsetting. The world is after all a beautiful place.

So let’s not get too down in the dumps about Peter Slipper.

Admittedly it might seem as though it marks the moment at which the ailing body politic plunged to the bottom of the stagnant scum-coated pond it’s been floundering in for the last couple of decades, but let’s remember that every cloud has a silver lining.

Peter Slipper, by (allegedly, OK) rorting the system, abusing his position, stealing from the taxpayer and putting the hard word on his staffers thereby forcing us all to think about him naked, has made a lot of people very, very happy, and we need to give him some credit for that. It’s surely worth a massage at least.

And hey, if it gets rid of that lying ginger cow, it’s all good, right fellas?

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.