At some point, possibly not in the very distant future, the furore over Belinda Neal is going to come back and bite a Coalition MP in the backside.
Neal may be one of the less pleasant individuals to grace our halls of power but the microscopic attention to which she has been subject in recent days suggests she’s achieved notoriety beyond that of even violent criminals. Annabel Crabb’s piece today summed up the hysteria perfectly.
Even The Australian thinks things might have gone a bit too far. Perhaps it was the Telegraph’s recounting of unfounded gossip from neighbours of Della-Bosca and Neal that appalled even The Oz.
For an opposition that’s run out of petrol on the issue of … um, petrol, “Iguanagate” (whatever will we do if there’s ever a political scandal involving Bill Gates? We can’t christen it Gatesgate) has been manna from heaven, or wherever manna comes from. The puffed-up self-righteousness of Joe Hockey in arguing the toss with the Speaker yesterday over whether questions about Neal should’ve been allowed was extraordinary coming from a senior member of a former Government that systematically trashed parliamentary accountability.
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But the referral of Neal’s comments about Sophie Mirabella’s forthcoming baby to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee is particularly absurd. Neal stupidly denied the remarks – denied them aggressively – but later withdrew them. Anyone want to suggest she’s the first politician to deny saying something offensive?
As for Mirabella, her contribution to Australian politics since arriving in the House of Representatives seven years ago has consisted pretty much entirely of abuse pitched across the chamber from her backbench bunker. Some Coalition frontbenchers are no better. Earlier this year we saw the undignified spectacle of Peter Dutton and Steve Ciobo shrilly mimicking Justine Elliott while the latter answered a question at the Dispatch Box. It was like watching some teenage boys taunt a female teacher. Utterly charmless.
And people might want to compare and contrast Neal’s behaviour with Senator Bill Heffernan’s efforts over the years, inside and outside the Senate.
But never mind. Standards have now been lifted. There’s a higher bar for all Parliamentarians to get over, not merely for the way they behave in public, but for the standard of their contributions in Parliament. In eagerly pursuing Belinda Neal, Opposition MPs have lifted expectations. Neal isn’t the only dumb, aggressive politician in the place. Having been savaged for failing to meet this new, higher standard of behaviour, at least Neal will have the privilege of sitting back and watching some of her tormentors fall at the same hurdle. It will happen.