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Federal

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.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

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.

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52 comments

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

  1. macphang

    What I find interesting about the phone call Julie Bishop took from Blewitt is her claim that she didn’t know who she was talking to.

    So there we have the person who wants to be Australia’s next Foreign Affairs Minister admitting she takes calls from unknown persons and starts a conversation with them.

    Unbelievable and scary for ASIO.

  2. beachcomber

    Malcolm Turnbull had his Gordon Gretch. Tony Abbott slipped his own Smoking Ute to Julie Bishop, and it is backfiring as badly. She will only survive this debacle because the only other woman he has to replace he with is Sophie Mirabella.

  3. The Pav

    I note Bishop now admits that she had a possible phone conversation with an unkown part that dropped out but the pcall was made by a discredited shock jock.

    How would such a person have her mobile number unless she gave it to him thereby clearly showing that thgis involvement

  4. SBH

    Maybe she bumped into him at the gym?

    Anyway, None of that matters to the media. A master class in how to inflate minor issues (or complete non-issues) again delivered by Fran Kelly this morning. Lucky Mark Latham was there to point out just how silly the ‘caucus revolt’ and the AWU ‘scandal stories are. Not once did Kelly mention what a cock-up the Libs are making of this.

    I don’t want my eight cents back but gee, I wish it bought a bit more talent.

  5. CML

    And this lot want to run the country???!!!

  6. Sean Cornell

    In my opinion, a quality journalist is one that happily asks the tough questions of both sides, showing no favoritism. Fran Kelly is one such journalist who springs to mind.

    Andrew Bolt is one that does not qualify as a quality journalist, as there is no doubt about his bias. Bernard Keane is all Andrew Bolt and no Fran Kelly. He is getting more and more pathetic.

  7. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Woo is the country. If the polls are right we will end up with a gutless leader, incompetent deputy and sundry no hopers like Andrews, Dutton, Joyce,Mirabella et al running the joint.
    Sadly the dismal spectacle in Canberra doesn’t resonate with the average swinging voter in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, Qld or WA; so we don’t have a lot to look forward to!

  8. geomac62

    Is the Bishop chance meeting similar to Ashby meeting Mal Brough that Mal claimed didn,t happen then admitted to more than one meeting ? Pyne had a similar memory problem regarding emails with Ashby that happened a few months earlier . How would he and Mal go remembering something from ten years ago ?
    I curious how come Bishop is available to phone calls from bagmen and ex DJs yet I would have buckleys chance of getting her number . I might get a contact detail from the lib site but not her personal mobile number . Imagine the crank calls .
    Pyne , Ashby , Brough , Abetz , Greche , Blewitt , Bishop and a sacked DJ . 10 mb of memory between them and 2 GB of smear and innuendo .

  9. Mike Smith

    Was Bishop seated in the Eighth Circle in the production of Inferno? That would be apt.

  10. Niall Clugston

    How is it like the “Inferno”? And the “Princess Bride”…???

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