The sight of the Prime Minister offering hugs and more lasting measures of practical Commonwealth comfort to the victims of the Victorian bushfires, has been a telling counterpoint to the ugly posturings of last week. The bitter Parliamentary cock fight over stimulus and the rights or wrongs of various packages was a piece of purely political theatre that all but obscured the real and potential economic sufferings the Australian government (at its best a sometimes almost apolitical construct) should have been acting with all haste to address.

In the circumstances that confront us, the opposition should not have been so desperate to scrape selfish advantage, the government should have been prepared for open discussion and compromise. Both failed, and it seemed the fast unfolding economic and social calamity could go hang while both sides bashed egos and made impassioned self-serving speeches to empty parliamentary chambers.

As the weekend’s desperately sad events tell us, some things are beyond the playground squabbling that dominates most of our public life. The deadly tragedy of these bushfires is one of them, the encroaching economic crisis is another. Both sides of politics should see the connection.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey