From slinging racist insults in parliament to the never-ending “battle” for ALP leadership, it’s a bumper week for Sideshow Alley, our weekly column where Crikey readers nominate the most shameless political stunts and dodgy media coverage helping to dumb down and trivialise national debate.

There seems a brooding disaffection for both major parties this week among Crikey readers:

Aaron Murphy: I would like to nominate every address made by a government or Coalition MP in the house this week. Every speech I saw accused the “other side” of hypocrisy while being riddled with hypocrisy itself.

Robin Mavrick: Just the whole vibe of the two major parties!

Nicholas Jankovic: Two things: everything Liberal did and everything Labor did.

@Qewhistle: Question time — all of it — a disgrace!

Let’s narrow it down to more specific examples of politicians and their games, shall we?

Terese Kingston nominated “Joe Hockey’s disgusting display after Swan won the treasurer’s award.” It was a humble moment for opposition Treasurer Joe Hockey, when he mocked Treasurer Wayne Swan’s award for Euromoney‘s top finance minister of the year in question time this week.

“Slovakian ministers, a Serbian, a Nigerian and a Bulgarian. In 2001 there was a Pakistani finance minister. That is quite an extraordinary one, that one,” Hockey told the parliament.

Casual racism is always hilarious.

How about this rather extraordinary example of the Victorian Liberals copying a Labor press release from the year before nearly word-for-word? Neil Mitchell had the scoop on 3AW this morning, regarding a funding upgrade to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Try and spot the differences. A press release from Labor premier John Brumby in 2010 read:

“The MCG is our nation’s greatest sports venue, one of our proudest icons, and has been recognised as one of the best sporting stadiums in the world.

“More than 150,000 footy fans are expected to flock to the ground this weekend to watch their clubs battle it out in the Preliminary Finals and there is no better place to watch footy than at the people’s ground.”

Compare this to Ted Baillieu this week in his press release about the MCG upgrade:

“The MCG is Australia’s greatest sports venue and a Victorian icon, and it has been recognised as one of the best sporting stadiums in the world,” Mr Baillieu said.

“More than 150,000 footy fans are expected to flock to the ground this weekend to watch their clubs battle it out in the preliminary finals and there is no better place to watch footy than at the G.”

As reader Caitlin Syrett said in her nomination: “Penny pinching by the Vic Liberals means they couldn’t even afford a fresh sheet of Reflex for an original press release”.

But one example stands out amongst all these fine nominees, and it’s one we’ve seen before.

Yes, it’s the never-ending leadership battle between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Is Rudd coming back? Is he canvassing for support? Can he take Vegemite to the US?

Today’s stories are fuelled by Country-Liberal Party Senator Nigel Scullion, who apparently overhead Labor Senator Trish Crossin in a mysterious phone conversation three days ago. After drinking a bottle of wine together, Scullion asked what the conversation was about, Crossin apparently replied that it was Rudd and that he was asking about the leadership and said “he’s only nine votes short or something”.

Crossin denies the phone conversation, saying she’d last spoken to Rudd nearly three weeks ago and it wasn’t about leadership, it was about sending a letter of support to the AFL team he’s a patron of, the Territory Thunder.

We think Breakfast Politics put it best, with its “Destabilisation” count on all the Rudd leadership speculation stories this morning:

“The destabilisation of Julia Gillard’s leadership is under way, there is no knowing where it will end or what the result will be, but be in no doubt — it has begun,” wrote Dennis Shanahan in The Australian.

But we’ll leave the final word to Crikey reader Rob Crasti: “Coalition Senator claims Rudd is seeking the ALP leadership … that is an A++ for bullsh-t.”

Peter Fray

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