It’s been a tenet of political commentary over the last couple of years that while our politics has been chaotic by historical standards, it hasn’t reached the depths of idiocy and malignancy we’ve seen in Trump, Brexit and the rise of far right in Europe. Well, Australia’s circus parade of ego, stupidity and malice is now in world-class chaos, strongly placed to “podium” and with a real chance of going for gold.

Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi.

Never has there been a newly minted prime minister with less credibility than Scott Morrison. Elevation to the prime ministership has exposed his hollowness; he is a figure who has stepped straight from an ’80s lawnmower ad, bereft of policy on the economy, on energy, on wages, on climate change — but most of all, bereft of authority. His colleagues and former colleagues are not even according him the respect due the office; instead, they’re blithely carrying on their own wars with no regard for either the government or the electorate.

Can you fathom the hypocrisy of Malcolm Turnbull, in his Central Park West eyrie, suddenly finding the courage to do what he wouldn’t when prime minister, and go after Peter Dutton? Two weeks ago Turnbull voted against referring Dutton to the High Court, but once out of politics, he’s on Whatsapp urging his erstwhile colleagues to do exactly that.

Not to be outdone, Julie Bishop, who hasn’t yet left the building, had a crack at Dutton yesterday as well, carefully throwing out terms like “clarity” and reserving her right to cross the floor on his referral, and for good measure suggesting that some other colleagues might have engaged in “illegal” behaviour.

Not that the reactionaries took this lying down. Barnaby Joyce lashed out at Turnbull. The Abbott camp at Sky frothed at the mouth even more than usual. Dutton himself said little, presumably preoccupied with how to top this week’s parliamentary privilege-abusing smear of former friend and colleague Roman Quaedvlieg. Earlier this week, I called this mob a government of mates. But once you stop being a mate, boy do the gloves come off. In Canberra at the moment, there’s nothing so ex as an ex-mate.

After offering unprompted legal advice on Dutton, Turnbull got down to the business of backing former ambassador Dave Sharma in his former seat of Wentworth, in the face of prime ministerial support for Katherine O’Regan on the basis that the Liberals needed their branches, not quotas, to preselect more women. It’s a measure of how little authority Morrison has that O’Regan barely managed 20 votes and was knocked out early on. If anything, Morrison’s backing might have harmed her.

Labor of course can’t believe its luck. It was just a couple of months ago that the by-elections were about to be lost and Bill Shorten was on the verge of being dumped. Now Labor is stable, united, focused on policy, etc. Labor would prefer that we forgot it subjected us to three years of this kind of shitshow itself. And policy? Policy like the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Labor has been raising serious concerns about for years, right up until last month, but which this week it agreed to wave through, despite the dearth of any actual benefits.

And then there’s its complicity in the cover-up of a serious crime by ASIS, a cover-up that includes the prosecution of two men who have served their country with honour and distinction, on which Labor is stonily silent while the Liberals try to railroad them, out of public gaze. Labor’s role in this colossal farce is no walk-on part.

Meanwhile the financial services royal commission spent the week examining how utterly contemptuous of its clients the Australian life insurance industry is.

This is the industry that for years has produced earnest reports showing how “under-insured” Australians are, all the while running boiler rooms to flog rubbish policies to people it regarded as easy marks, including people with developmental disabilities, and then using definitional chicanery to refuse to pay deserving claimants. The alleged regulator ASIC was even more MIA on insurance than it was on banking, if that’s possible. It’s the greatest regulatory failure in Australia for decades, revealed while politicians played silly buggers under the big top in Canberra.

Voters are dead right to be fed up with the lot of them.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey