Politics in Australia is best described as a spectator sport, and there’s never a dull moment. From massive U-turns through to practical jokes, jibes, personal insults, bribery, corruption and scandal, Australian politicians make their UK counterparts look like model, if dull, citizens.
Take the recent corruption scandal in Wollongong, for example. Wollongong is New South Wales’ third biggest city, about an hour south of Sydney. As a city, it’s a lot less built-up than Sydney – but thanks to alleged bribes, sexual relations between developers and the town planner, and blackmail, lots of rather large buildings are now in Wollongong that perhaps shouldn’t have been built.
The corruption is said to run deep, even up to the level of the State Labor government. In fact, Wollongong council was so incompetent that it has now been sacked and put into administration – a story I’m personally familiar with, as our local council, Warringah, has also been in administration for the last 5 years for similar reasons. This seems to be a bit of a trend.
A Ruddy good laugh
Then there’s the Kevin Rudd cardboard cut-out affair. Pictured above, we see a real Tony Abbott (the MP for Warringah, as it happens) standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a fake Kevin Rudd. Why? It was a protest by Liberal and National MPs about Kev and his mates not turning up to a sitting of backbenchers in the House of Representatives. Obviously in an age of climate change worries, spiralling inflation and interest rate hikes, the most important thing on the political agenda is whether the PM turns up to a sitting or not.
The event certainly had comedy value if nothing else. In fact I’m surprised there’s no “best of” DVD of classic Australian parliamentary debates. (Now there’s an idea.)
Keating, Master of Insults
Bill Bryson offers an excellent summary of Aussie politics in his book, Down Under. “You’ll never understand Australian politics,” he says, and I’m inclined to agree with him. He also recalls a parliamentary debate between a Wilson Tuckey and ex-Prime Minister, Paul Keating:
Tuckey: “You are an idiot. You are just a hopeless nong…”
Keating: “Shut up! Sit down and shut up, you pig… Why do you not shut up, you clown?”
In fact, Paul Keating’s outbursts are so legendary that there’s even an entire mini-site devoted to his insults. Some of my personal favourites include:
“(Peter Costello) has now been treasurer for 11 years. The old coconut is still there araldited to the seat.”
“For Mr (John) Howard to get to the high moral ground, he would first need to climb out of the volcanic hole he had dug for himself over the last decade. It is like one of those diamond mine holes in South Africa. They are about a mile underground. He would have to come a mile up to get to even equilibrium let alone have any contest in morality with Kevin Rudd.”
Priceless. Who needs comedians when you have Australian politics?