The Prime Minister reverses her position on Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper because “a line has been crossed”, and gets angry at journalists when they ask why. We half expected a Nixonian line about former statements being “inoperative”.

Tony Abbott gives a media conference at which he demands the government “disown” the vote of Craig Thomson. Of the assembled journalists, none bother asking him about his double standard, given he has readily accepted the votes of Coalition figures charged with civil and criminal wrongdoing.

And Clive Palmer, a man who long ago earned so much money he no longer needed to care what anyone thought of his eccentricities, today declared he was rebuilding the Titanic, this time with the “sinking” issue addressed, and challenging Wayne Swan at the next election. Perhaps he’ll bring his new boat to Lake Burley Griffin when he arrives in Canberra.

Federal politics has become, if not quite a joke, then something no longer serious. Voters are increasingly regarding politics with contempt. The Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition are profoundly disliked by voters. The commercial media is not trusted. Now the parliament itself is in disrepute. A figure such as Palmer, who openly boasts of how he uses the media, can casually dominate the media cycle.

This is what happens when politicians and the media debase the truth in favour of endless spin — spin from government, spin from the media, spin in which the truth is of only incidental significance, and far less than the self-interested requirements of pursuing a partisan or corporate agenda. Voters get the message: if politicians and the media don’t take politics seriously enough to bother with the truth, why should they take politics seriously? Why not treat it simply as game of egos and tall tales without real significance?

The Prime Minister in fact is correct in declaring that a line has been crossed, but it was one crossed a long time ago. When voters start treating democracy as a joke, we enter a difficult and potentially hazardous period in politics.