Federal

Mar 2, 2018

Character comes to the fore but not in the way the government hoped

The government decided to make Bill Shorten's "character" its target this week. Not unexpectedly, it blew up in its face.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

What a miserable week in a thoroughly shitty political year. And it's only March.

The government wanted this week to be all about Bill Shorten's "character". As the Coalition's shell-shocked troops returned to Canberra to contemplate how badly a "good" (i.e. not marked by any debacles) start to the year had been fried in the nuclear explosion of Barnaby Joyce's ego, the idea was to go on the offensive by focusing on Shorten. The Opposition leader "didn't have the character to lead either at home or abroad”, Julie Bishop told the joint partyroom meeting on Tuesday. "He has no shame, no principle, no character," Malcolm Turnbull said in Question Time that day. Peter Dutton went further a few questions later.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions

38 comments

Leave a comment

38 thoughts on “Character comes to the fore but not in the way the government hoped

  1. Wallywonga

    The libs are certainly in a mess at the moment; even the more experienced performers are going off message. And the latest from the guff prone Cash – is she on something, poor thing?
    Methinks Turnbull’s weak, inconsistent leadership is really now starting to infect the whole organisation. So what next?
    Surely not, is it possible? – Abbott has another go… Right now the libs seem poised for another coup, and the mad monk looks like he has been limbering up recently.

  2. Arky

    The usual. The Liberal Party engages in gutter attacks and most of the press (not Crikey! It’s refreshing!) just talks about the decline in political standards in a ‘both sides are equally as bad” way, thus encouraging them to keep on doing it.

    No-one lost their career over Children Overboard. Stuart Robert is still in Parliament wasting taxpayers’ money and Michaelia Cash is copping more criticism over the whiteboard stunt than over the fact that the government’s pet ROC initiated a totally unnecessary and uncalled-for police raid, with media coverage ensured by Cash’s press officer who obviously thought the boss would approve (and who has been given a cushy spot with the AHA as a reward for taking the fall for Cash), a police-state tactic that you’d think our freedom-loving media should abhor.

    But hey, Sam Dastyari isn’t in Parliament, because when an ALP Senator does the wrong thing they get hounded out in a way that Coalition members just don’t.

    1. Decorum

      It was striking, I think, that when Plibersek was interviewed yesterday about Carr’s stupid Hitler Youth crack she said not a word – at least in the interview I saw – about the “Russian Revolution” provocation but, instead, just said that Carr’s comments were wrong and were appropriately withdrawn immediately. By contrast, Turnbull had to cite the ‘provocation’ of an utterly imagined innuendo in his defence of Cash and failed to condemn her – quite incredible – remarks. So I agree, Arky: this is not a “both sides are equally as bad” scenario at all.

      (BTW, what Cash was doing has a long political pedigree – Google “LBJ pig sex” for the iconic case from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail!)

      1. DF

        Thanks Decorum – I did as you recommended and found the passage by Hunter S Thompson. It is exactly the tactic being employed by Cash (and Dutton for that matter).

      2. Michael James

        If there was a poll (say an online poll, nudge-nudge Crikey) about which member of parliament was a member of Hitler Youth, Paterson would win it hands down (even with competition from Dutton, who afterall was a copper in Bjelke’s Queensland … ).
        Last night on the news, when they went from showing Senator Carr to Paterson I involuntarily laughed out loud, lol. Carr absolutely nailed him. And really was there ever a better case of backpfeiffengesciht? (Well ok, I concede: Madame Cash, but we have Penny Wong for that, and she did it magnificently. Coming from an Asian-Australian non-hetero female made it even sweeter.)
        But it’s not so funny when you read the IPA’s wishlist of 100 things they would like to do to Australia, which as the Senator for IPA, Paterson is bound to try to implement.

        1. DF

          I suspect the reference to Hitler Youth may have arisen because of young Les Paterson’s striking likeness to Reinhard Heydrich, . Of course it is not young Les’s fault that he looks like Reinhard, just an unfortunate coincidence.
          https://www.google.com.au/search?q=reinhard+heydrich&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=qN6YWtyXLcTN8geCsrcg

          1. Michael James

            Exactly.

            But Barry Humphries might object to your confusing the young Les with the young James … even if reality and parody are increasingly difficult to tell apart in Australian politics. While James might metaphorically foam-at-the-mouth, especially when on Q&A (which non-ironically he is trying to close down ..IPA policy wishlist #50-51) I don’t think he actually dribbles.

            Now, while we shouldn’t pick on people’s genetic features or appearances, with the young James Paterson I strongly suspect there is a process akin to Nominative Determinism (where one’s occupation is pre-determined by one’s name). But actually it is a kind of inverse process: certain people unconsciously adopting the appearance that most matches their self-conception or inner values. Of course he was the director of communications and development at the IPA. Such stirling preparation to run the country at age 27 (when the Libs found the Victorian talent barrel so empty, and of course no worthy women …).
            ………………………..
            50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function 


            51 Privatise SBS
            plus:
            14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
            15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
            16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
            17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations
            47 Cease funding the Australia Network

          2. Di Keller

            Err, some of his attitudes would have something to do with it, but yeah, he looks the part.

      3. leon knight

        Carr’s comment at Paterson was wrong for sure, but looking at Paterson and the way he spreads whatever propaganda his minders at the IPA and LNP-HQ tell him, and indeed his snivelling demeanour, you can certainly see where Kim was coming from.
        But Carr and Cameron are from the Keating school – vindictive but with some wit and humour….Cash and her colleagues are from the Abbott school – all malice and no wit at all.

  3. DF

    Cash lost the plot when Cameron asked who was her new Chief of Staff because she (the COS) is a woman, who was moving from Ciobo’s office. It seems Cash was anticipating Cameron’s next question was going to relate to a woman transferring from the office of a male minister. Clearly the Government has been rattled by the Joyce Syndrome.

    1. Marcus Hicks

      Meanwhile, I thought the next question was probably going to be relating to the high turnover of staffers within the Liberal Party in general. Cash, herself, has lost 4 members of her staff since mid-2017.

  4. pjp

    Is this it? Is this modern politics Australian style? Is this all that our contemporary bunch of politicians have to offer? Incompetence, anger and outrage, and snouts in the trough? Devoid of wit and intelligence and refusing to govern for the good of all? Is this truly what it’s all about?
    Does one grow numb to the outrage of it all? Or is it best to resign oneself to day after day of this grey stodge being served up to us all as Australia’s model for effective government and good governance? I don’t know. I spent the Howard/Rudd/Guillard/Rudd/Abbott years out of the country safe in the arms of a European social democracy. So I truly don’t know how to cope with this.

    1. mary wood

      At the moment it seems it is all there is. The sad truth is that we no longer have a democracy – what we have is crony capitalism, with big business running the country. God knows how we get out of it. I am now in my seventies and daily weep for what has become of my country.

      1. Howard

        Yes, it is enough to make you feel like weeping. But surely not every day! There’s a lot to weep about these days and there’s only so many tears to go around!

  5. EG

    Turnball and the crew covering themselves in glory again.
    On Dutton and his tactics; you can take the boy out of the Queensland coppers but you can’t take the Queensland copper out of the boy.

    1. Marcus Hicks

      Boy being the operative word here. I doubt he got all those investment properties by being an honest cop.

      1. Woopwoop

        However he got them, surely it would play well in an ad:
        “This man owns 14 houses. Do you think he understands how hard it is for you to own one?”

    2. DF

      While I agree Dutton is beneath contempt, I have ceased using the Qld copper story, so as not to disrespect the great Bill Hayden.
      By way of comparison with their backgrounds, Hayden went to govt schools, whereas Dutton, the son of a businessman, is a private school boy.
      But you could have guessed that.

    3. leon knight

      And yet the ABC still repeats his mendacious drivel ad nauseum – false balance anyone?

    4. Di Keller

      Have to ask yet again , how on earth did Dutton get to the position he is in ??

  6. Susan Anderson

    A cack government suffocating in its own cack, is anyone surprised ?….
    Didn’t think so.

    1. DF

      It’s a kakistocracy – noun, (plural – kakistocracies) Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

      1. AR

        Wow, who knew that was not a recent neologism – Anthony Love Peacock 1829!

      2. Coral SeeNQ

        Thanks DF, I was wondering why this Government so so similar to the Trump Whitehouse with its’scandals, lies, incompetence……messing up the coverups, no work getting done to serve ordinary folk…….so, it’s a kakistocracy.
        What a coincidence, two amoral leaders who needed the job for personal reasons, to fill up some bottomless pit of emptiness that they can never fill, leading a mad group of ideologues who are trying to burn the place down. I wonder if Rupert knew it would be quite like this over here and over there.

  7. Nudiefish

    I’m going against the general trend of these comments.

    I will credit the LNP with real talent that after being faced with a deep month-long pit excavation courtesy of Barnaby Joyce, Michaelia Cash hit the bottom, and then immediately started digging.

    If you are going to take a shitbath, make sure you do a propper job of it and have a nice long soak.

    1. Michael James

      The problem with your comment is that reality is making mockery and irony impossible.
      When one watches Cash, it is very difficult not to believe you’ve accidentally tuned into a rerun of Kath and Kim (Cash and Kim!?). Michaelia is already a parody and nothing can outperform her except herself. Her mouth, with its ugly twists and grimaces of hatred and disdain, deserves to win a Emmy or whatever … Seriously it would beat Frances McDormand on next Sunday.

  8. MJM

    “It’s strange tactics, then, for Dutton to justify attacking Shorten [and Burke] personally … ”

    Shorten – married, divorced, remarried. Burke – married, divorced remarried. Dutton – married, divorced, remarried. Joyce – married ….

    1. Marcus Hicks

      None of which changes the fact that Labor has rightly focused entirely on potential financial impropriety by Joyce. Its only the Coalition & the Tabloids who appear obsessed with the actual sex side of things.

  9. Old Bag

    I agree. Things are bad when anyone goes for personal stuff rather than policy.It never has nor never will end well.It is about time for Ms Bishop to have a timely chat with her WA colleague Ms Cash about when and HOW to handle herself and her job. As for Mr Dutton ?? As for PM Turnbull,please do something positive for the nation.I and many others just want to see the government getting on with governing for all.

    1. leon knight

      Are you suggesting Bishop knows something about proper behaviour ?
      I still recall footage of her waving her tightly-clad arse at the TV cameras and gesticulating at it, as a classy way of criticising something or another…something you just can’t unsee.

      1. GF50

        Thanks Leon. I have total recall of that totally trailer trash attempt at comedy! LP conference. Absolutely something you can’t unsee! not only did she wave it, she patted it! with the comment that the ALP could kiss it. Strewth, that bit of smart- arssery gave me nightmares for months! Nasty, nasty, nasty, stupid, stupid, stupid. She is on my short list of SGRF’s, unlikey to ever change my opinion of her, her past and current conduct is totally in keeping that “form”. No class, no breeding!

      2. Di Keller

        Or mouthing “bitch” across the floor

  10. klewso

    Turnbull is as big a “truth twister” as any of them.
    And Homer’s got form – during an shared interview on Lateline, with Craig Emerson, backed into a corner the bone-head raised Emerson’s “personal connection” with Gillard (Sept; 21 2012) :-
    DUTTON: I won’t dignify some of the ridiculous comments Craig made. Craig has obviously been very close to the Prime Minister and he’s a defender of his leader and I understand that. The fact is, though …
    CRAIG EMERSON: It’s called loyalty.
    PETER DUTTON: … It goes beyond that… This is the Hawker-Britton model.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details

Sending...