Apologies to Guy Rundle (and maybe Hunter S. Thompson) but, in the middle of my first day of Senate School in Canberra this week, my mind obscurely flashed on Winston Churchill.
Maybe it was because I’d been staying in the Curtin Room at the Hyatt Canberra and had moved downstairs to the Menzies Suite because of my gammy leg.
But the British bulldog came to mind in the massive committee room I was herded into with all the other freshmen (and freshwomen) senators.
One of only 580 men (and shamefully few women) who have ever held the honorific “Senator” in this Commonwealth of Australia. A far more exclusive club than for those who have worn the Baggy Green or played for the VFL/AFL.
Sitting there (wearing my exclusive “access all areas” senator’s lapel button, which negates the need for a security pass) and clutching my Pocket Guide to Senate Procedure, I thought of Winnie, who once said: “I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
Know how you feel, Winston.
It was my first time back at school since 1959. That’s 57 years ago. More than 20,000 days ago. I didn’t know what a “high school drop-out” was until I went to America and discovered that I was one.
But here I was, for two and a half days this week, back in school. The most famous/notorious/ infamous other student at this political seminary was one Pauline Hanson. We were two frosty seats apart.
She came with her quartet of accidentally elected One Nation stalwarts. Sounds irreverent, but Pauline, as the leader of the pack, reminded me (in Canberra) of the movie Grease. Certainly not Sandy. Betty Rizzo. Expelled from her last school. Bad reputation.
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After day one of Senate School, the One Nation quartet went off (actually Malcolm “empirical evidence” Roberts asked for an early mark) to meet with the Prime Minister. Wallpaper: That would have been a meeting of the minds!
I’m told somebody asked Hanson if she had “worked Senator Hinch out yet?”. Her response was something like “I never will”. That’s possibly a compliment.
This Canberra immersion has brought back great memories from years and decades past. The last time I was in Canberra, I was in in another grand building: The High Court.
The last time I was in the new Parliament House, I sat in the marbled Great Hall for Hinch for a live interview with prime minister Paul Keating. He joked about growth, and I remember he chided me, and my scepticism, and boasted that if GDP growth couldn’t be sustained at 4%, he “might as well give the game away. I wouldn’t deserve to be PM.” They’d kill for 4% now.
What a wonderful town of dreams and spin and bullshit this is. Hinchey, don’t let it get to you.
To finish on a serious note. Some genuinely tangible stuff. I am making great headway in my quest to pull the passports of convicted sex offenders to stem the child sex tourists in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Thank you, Rachel Griffiths.
And, within a year, I am confident I will have helped add 1 million more names to the organs donors’ register.
The fire is still in the belly. This is exciting. It is an honour. It is awesome.