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Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Comedy From Canberra

I greatly enjoyed the sport which is Australian federal politics when I lived there during the 1970s. The radio broadcasts were known as The Comedy From Canberra and often they surpassed Monty Python or even Pete and Dud. There were some truly brilliant characters, wonderful debaters and superb wits on both sides of the house. Two of these I remember well were blue blood Liberal QC Sir James Killen and Labor’s Fred Daly a shearer from Northwest NSW, I think.

Ocker politics was and I think still is far more robust and vigorous than the Kiwi counterpart. (Mind you, they have been smart enough to keep the bloody socialists away from the real money which is income tax and confine them to building state schools, a few back roads and some prisons.) However, both suffer the same image problem, whereby ordinary people who actually work for a living cannot understand how a gang of Fourth Formers ever got to run the country. Of course, the reason for this is Parliamentary behaviour or the lack of it.

I’ve only seen snippets from Aussie recently on Sky TV. Howard, Costello and Abbot taking apart the hapless Latham and his sorry bunch. Here in New Zealand, until the last few weeks it has tended to go the opposite way, with Labour pretty much dominating the show. That changed, thanks to Bill English and the NCEA, Rodney Hide and Waipareira, Ken Shirley and the Wananga and of course God’s greatest gift to National, John Tamihere and his contributions of eloquence and astute observation which just keep on giving. In spite of all that, the house is perceived to be a puerile shambles where endless bickering over silly points of order and often inane personal explanations seem to fritter away the costly but apparently not terribly valuable time of Parliament.

I am no expert but I suspect this problem can be sheeted home to two parties. Firstly to blatantly partisan speakership in which Ministers are allowed to get away with never giving a straight answer to a straight question, thereby depriving opposition MPs of their only real opportunity to scrutinise and call to account the Gummint of the day. Secondly to a press gallery which with a few exceptions seems to focus exclusively on personal scraps, stoushes and sensational sound bites. I’ve never understood what makes it so important for a politician to “perform well in the house.” Trevor Mallard’s (how come he missed out on a JT label?) performance in the House did not help him lose half a million dollars in the black hole called Wananga. Smarmy Maharey (Oooh, that rhymes) was a good talker but he still managed to produce the mess that is NCEA.

So, I say get rid of the TV, get rid of the radio, get rid of the press gallery and simply send the bloody Hansard to all the daily newspapers about a week after the event. Then if something is still really genuine news they will print it and we can all go back to productive things like watching Hogan and the Simpsons.

Posted by Adolf Fiinkensein | 4/07/2005 03:29:00 pm


Anonymous Benny said...

"Mind you, they have been smart enough to keep the bloody socialists away from the real money... "

That's because they were smart enough to retain an upper house.

4/07/2005 07:35:00 pm  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

We used to have one, a long time ago. We also used to have far more independent provinces.

4/07/2005 08:09:00 pm  

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