Derryn Hinch

Who’s playing politics now over the “P” word? It is true that Bill Shorten and Labor have shamelessly exploited the plebiscite debate leading up to the staged, but effective, Parliament House announcement yesterday that caucus had voted to block the plebiscite legislation. Hold the front page!

Their 26 Senate votes have been in the No column for weeks. As have been nine Greens votes, three from the Xenophon Team and one from Hinch.

Thirty-nine. Enough to rightfully kill this $200 million public opinion poll, which would not lock in politicians like Eric Abetz who still seems to think that homosexuality or heterosexuality is a “lifestyle”. Gimme a break.

(I’m itching for the time I can announce a plan on how to spend that $200 million on something tangible that will help thousands of Australian families. Bravehearts, I’m listening.)

We expected the plebiscite bill to hit the Senate yesterday. It didn’t. And it seems it won’t today, and then we break until November. This is cynically shameless behaviour from a government that has been bleating that the opposition has been cruelly playing politics with gay people’s lives. And their children’s lives.

Bring it on. A senior cabinet minister admitted to me this week that the plebiscite fight was lost shortly after the Attorney-General and government Leader in the Senate, George Brandis, had appealed on the floor that there was still time for Senator Derryn Hinch to change his mind. I won’t. I really hope mine is the vote that sinks this grubby backbench compromise for a public vote that both the PM and Brandis were against last year.

***

At yesterday’s official Great Hall lunch for Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, which, entertainingly, included the PM’s boyhood memories in Melbourne, Bill Shorten produced an example of the sort of bi-partisan camaraderie that prospers when a friendly country’s leader is in town.

He said: “Prime Minister Lee, you’ve created such a unity in this place that Mr. Turnbull and I are wearing the same colour suits and the same colour ties.” It got a laugh.

No risk of them wearing Tony Abbott’s baby blue number.

It reminded me of a day when I was interviewing prime minister Paul Keating on the Midday show in the 1990s.

I noticed a funny fashion coincidence. During a commercial break, I pointed out we were not only wearing identical black double-breasted Zegna suits, we also had on identical silk ties. (One of the perks of TV: after I got sacked by Channel Nine, then went broke and had my year-long Grizzly Adams period in flannel shirt and gumboots on my farm, there were still more than a dozen Zegna suits hanging in my wardrobe. Thanks, Kerry.)

Going back to former prime minister Tony Abbott. He featured a couple of times in the Lee speech, including a barbecue yarn, and I thought Turnbull showed class when he beckoned Abbott to join him on the House floor for the meet-and-greet after the speeches.

Not quite so lucky was Greens leader Richard Di Natale. At the crowded leaders’ table, he had to sit at a desk alone like a House stenographer and in the handshake parade he got missed on the first run through. A brief mini-repeat of when Governor-General Peter Cosgrove swept past the outstretched hand of Tanya Plibersek.

***

OK. The Hanson-Hinch televised stoush over Donald Trump.

I tried to be civilised on Sunrise when Hanson started defending this loathsome man. We did the Canberra TV cross in different studios and then I bumped into her in the press gallery corridor. I actually stood back so I wouldn’t interrupt her interview. But when our paths crossed, I couldn’t just pretend to all that it  was sweetness and light. Not after her locker room and “all men do it” defence on TV. I’d watched seven hours of Trump on CNN over the weekend and was sick of Trumpets, especially women, defending a man I accurately called a “sexual predator”.

It was real. It was raw. I’ve been told my body language showed my anger.

***

I mentioned the House of Reps speech by the Singapore PM, to which senators were invited. I was told several times “sit where you like”. I did. On the frontbench of the opposition. Whoops. Chatted with The Interrupter Senator Doug Cameron and then retired to the second row.

***

I’ll finish with pronunciation (or should that now be pronounciation?).

In their justifiable denunciation of Senate Leader George Brandis over his power play with the Solicitor-General both Penny Wong and Kim Carr used the word “dis-associate”.

I dissociate myself from that.

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Peter Fray
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