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Nov 28, 2012

Bishop and her fierce battle with the English language

For an experienced lawyer, Julie Bishop sure struggles with what should be the tools of her trade: words. She badly let down the Coalition yesterday.

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For a lawyer of 20 years’ standing, as she claimed yesterday, Julie Bishop has a real problem with what should be the basic tool of the lawyer’s trade, words.

Never mind that one of the highlights of Bishop’s legal career was enthusiastic participation in what some have characterised as CSR’s “litigate until they die” asbestos strategy. That merely denotes the sort of cynicism and amorality that doesn’t exactly distinguish Bishop from many of her former colleagues in that profession. This is about her problem with how she uses words.

Recall why Bishop is in her current role as shadow foreign minister: she lost the shadow treasurer’s role after just a few months in the job following two separate plagiarism incidents and a number of blunders on economic basics.

Now, having been delegated the task of prosecuting the case against the Prime Minister by a leader too scared of accusations of negativity and s-xism to touch the issue, she’s shown once again that words are her enemy, on three separate matters.

First, and most egregiously, was the accusation about Gillard that “she and Wilson and Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up to siphon funds through it for their benefit, and not for the benefit of the AWU,” an accusation so wild and unsubstantiated that not even The Australian has dared make it. This meant Bishop had to backtrack in her post-question time media conference — conveniently cut short when she was under sustained pressure from journalists by a division — insisting she had been misinterpreted, and that her words “their benefit” didn’t mean Gillard.

Well, arguably not. As a lawyer, you’d expect Bishop to be careful about the wording of the accusations she makes. So either she was peculiarly lax in her phrasing or it was deliberate. If it was deliberate, it was a bad idea, because it meant most of the evening news coverage was about her having to backtrack.

Second, Bishop and Abbott’s senior staff managed to botch several of their questions yesterday, with two ruled out of order entirely and another partly ruled out. Given the Prime Minister was hitherto under no pressure whatsoever from the “grilling” she was receiving, it didn’t matter a great deal, but it was the opposition that built this week up as some sort of key political moment, and they couldn’t even get their questions right.

And third was the saga of Bishop’s meetings with Ralph Blewitt, which is still developing today with revelations Bishop took a phone call from him last week but professed to not know who it was (Blewitt has been accused of many things in this matter, but this is the first time making prank phone calls has been one of them).

This follows Bishop yesterday describing her meeting last Friday with the Jolly Bagman as a “chance meeting”. A “chance meeting” would suggest she bumped into Blewitt while out for a morning stroll, or at a function, but in this instance “chance meeting” extends to Bishop agreeing to go and meet Blewitt at the request of Michael Smith, Dante to Blewitt’s Virgil in this dodgy amateur production of Inferno. Or perhaps another cultural touchstone, Princess Bride, is more appropriate here: I don’t think “chance meeting” means what Bishop thinks it means.

The net result of all of which is that, peculiarly, it’s now Bishop under pressure over the AWU “scandal”.

“You can say anything you like to the media and it has no consequences,” insisted Bronwyn Bishop yesterday in question time.

She should ask Bishop how that “no consequences” thing is going.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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52 thoughts on “Bishop and her fierce battle with the English language

  1. tonyfunnywalker

    This inability to arriculate a question continued today following Abbott’s cameo question of the Palistinian UN vote abstention and had Gillard lost control of the party.
    The question again were repetitive and so much so she got Abbott and Pyne in trouble with the Speaker by consulting on their feet before telling Julie Bishop to just to articulate ” is it yes or is it no”.

    Politicians do not answer categorical questions nor should they.

    The Speaker is pissed off and so was Katter as his suspension of standing orders would have been more constructive for the electorate that more of Bishop’s circumlocutory questions.

    This week as been a disaster for the Liberals and their sponsors in the press especially News Ltd.

    For Example Paul Murray’s 6PR interview with Blewett (source ABC —Cassidy) was timely as he sang the praises of Blewett on his program on Sky News Last night.

    labor has had a free ride to promote themselves to the swinging seats with Minister after Minister having a free commmercial of Labor achievements a bit like a replay on the footy.

    The Liberals are in dissaray. Who ever devised this strategy — it was a bummer from the outset and was not in character with more effective negative campaigns for example the carbon tax, until that too fizzed post introduction and it is obvious no one thought that the electorate might even grow to like it (Kean).

    Brand Liberal is in trouble and its percieved value to the electorate damaged even as an effective opposition.

    The support for a Rudd/ Turnbull coalition demonstrated the frustration of Liberal leaning voters.

    If the Liberals are to win then over the break they need to consider:-

    Replacing Abbott, Bishop and Pyne and no end of makeovers Christopher will make us love you more.

    Have the New Leader (who ever he or she may be ) with a clean out of the Opposition Leader’s advisors that can effectively market a broken party- and not Lynton Crosby as the Conservatives in the UK have already tarnished his effectiveness.

    Any hope of an abandonment of a independent regulatory body to Monitor the Press body is lost as what has occurred this week has tarnished the professionalism of the press so badly in the eyes of electorate.

    It has been a litany of misrepresentation of the facts where facts did exist, to construct evidence out of nothin where substantive information was not availiable.

    It will be interesting what Leveson comes up with, the continued tarnishing of the BBC and ITV over the reporting of heresay from an inreliable source and the distortion of perceptions due to time lapse and the state of mind of the complainant over a significant period of time.

    The Press Corps have fought hard against independent regulation of the media but you will get the regulation you deserve- you failed miserably to demonstrate otherwise.

  2. Andrew Andrews

    Dear Bernard,
    This is the worst-written piece of commentary, or “journalism”, that I have ever read.
    I have no special regard for whatever political flavour you favour, but boy, it’s just woeful.
    Funny thing, Bernard K, you’re running a critique on someone else’s “battle with the English language” when your own writing is just so bloody atrocious.
    Were you ever a school-teacher, perhaps?
    The piece was so badly constructed that I could not finish.
    Were I to bother you with all the details (and I won’t) we might start with the dangling “words” hanging out of the of the arse of the lead par.
    Are you really a journalist, Mr Keane, or is this just satire? Is this a way to get back at Brother Patrick Keane, from the AFL?
    Should you and your editor ever read the work back, you might ask yourselves how you would feel if you were a reading customer.
    Please remove me from your list immediately.
    I feel completely conned by Crikey.
    I will obviously forgo the remainder of my annual subscription fees, that were renewed just a week ago. I feel duped, but am more upset (as a person out of work) that I have spent much-needed money in what I thought might have been a gesture of some support to quality Australian writing.
    I do not care what your ideological position is. All that I expected was that Crikey would be well written. Nope.
    I would recommend anyone who has to actually pay for this stuff think carefully. The main market is Government, ABC, and Public Service, which speaks volumes. They don’t pay out of their own pockets.
    In my opinion, you should have cyber-copy-kids who could write better than this.
    Goodbye, Crikey. Goodbye, Bernard.
    Enjoy my money.
    Conned again. My fault.

  3. Hunt Ian

    Seriously, Patriot, you have indeed made this up. It is only your assertion that Gillard knew beforehand that the association for which she drafted rules would turn out to be a way of siphoning money to Blewitt or Wilson. The evidence is against you. Gillard terminated her relationship with Wilson when others in the trade union movement expressed worries about his activities.

    As for the letter, there is nothing wrong with writing to the WA commission to assure them that the use of “AWU” in the name of the association did not indicate it was a trade union, and therefore is not ruled out as an association. Again, the objects of the association were to make changes in the workplace in favour of workers, with the main strategy for that being election of some members of the association as officials of the AWU. There is no evidence that Gillard knew that in fact money would be siphoned off for other purposes.

    Your position is truly pathetic. You invite the Australian public to share your prejudice, for which there is no evidence whatever, that Julia Gillard knew in advance everything done by the association for which she supplied advice on how to set it up under WA law as an association. It is like suggesting that Blewitt should be charged with defacing money of the commonwealth because, according to Wilson, he buried cash from the association in his garden, which was ruined when it got damp! Clearly, if this occurred as Wilson says it did, then Blewitt would have been as surprised as Wilson clearly was,although given your principle of guilt by association, we should charge Wilson with defacing money of the commonwealth as well because he was also a member of the association.

    Especially pathetic is the flounce of outrage at the idea that Julia Gillard should cut and paste from the rules of an association of which she was then a member. Presumably we should be so appalled at this outrageous action and showing just how despicable socialist organisation are, when their rules can “become a template for an entity used by union officials to steal from workers. There are some corrections of fact here, although Patriot may not be interested in facts that might get in the way of political posturing.

    Gillard also used a copy of WA rules of association to make sure the new association complied with WA law. The money in the association bank account did not come from members of the AWU but from businesses, primarily Thiess, which declined to complain about its use when questioned by WA police.

    Will your media friends really help you get over the fact that you have absolutely no proof whatever that Gillard knew before about 1995 that the association did anything other than help people get elected to AWU positions? I doubt it. All of your allegations are defamatory and I am afraid you have neither truth nor public interest as a defence for them. Some might think that the allegations are in the public interest, but all of us who are bored into the ground by this US Republication Party style attempt at character assassination know better.

  4. tonyfunnywalker

    Having read a lot of discussion and accusations by Gee Wizz et al I was wondering why Abbott did not lead the charge last week in question time and why Julie Bishop was hung out to dry.

    The Age has the answers http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/abbott-has-his-own-slushy-history-20121201-2anjy.html.

    Abbott has his own skeletons story of dodgy slush funds, I am sure that Michael Smith and Andrew Bolt will be racing to find Pauline Hanson to get to the bottom of this.

    I expect the same zeal as in the AWU beatup and Andrew will before Xmas have a total program on 10 ensuring that there be a judicial enquiry and as Abbott is a potential PM …. this requires the upmost scrutiny- Labor is about to have a field day.

    Hedley is already on the case demanding am interview with Abbott.

    Abbott was not a lawyer just doing their job 20- years ago he was already in the Parliament and about to become a Minister????

    I wonder if George Brandis will ……..

    Malcolm better polish off your Leadership badge…..you could be leader after Xmas.

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