PM's phoney hysteria over personal dust-up
The Daily Telegraph
October 12, 2012 12:00AM
IN what seems a very long 10 years ago, prime minister John Howard, deputy prime minister John Anderson and opposition leader Simon Crean flew to Bali to do what they possibly could to comfort the surviving victims of the first Bali bombing.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of that atrocity; the three senior politicians flew up four or five days later, as soon as the already-overworked Balinese officials could handle the extra load of a top-level visit.
Howard, Anderson and Crean travelled in a small aircraft from the government's VIP fleet. They sat together, to and from Bali.
For the first anniversary, a year later, Howard and Crean and their wives, Janette and Carole, again flew to Bali.
Howard invited the Creans to travel with him and his wife. It was the decent thing to do, the civil thing to do.
Not an eyebrow was raised; Howard - despite being the butt of a sneer campaign by almost all media commentators and the nation's leading comedians - observed standards of behaviour that were above reproach.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will be in Bali for the anniversary memorial service. They will travel separately.
The Howards will also be present, flying with the Abbotts.
Civility in federal politics seems to have died with the end of the Howard government.
As opposition leader, Howard had a good relationship with prime minister Hawke. The bovver boy from Bankstown, Paul Keating, set things back, but it is well-known that Howard, as PM, and the then opposition leader Kim Beazley were able to work together, as were Howard and Crean, despite the latter's narrow union background.
Mark Latham, who notoriously claimed he wanted to teach his children to hate, introduced an unprecedented nastiness to federal politics. Kevin Rudd, who one of his own colleagues was later to label a "psychopath", did nothing to remedy the situation and Gillard has now taken the bar below the most supple limbo dancer's reach.
Thursday morning, Howard spoke to broadcaster Alan Jones about the trip he took to Bali as prime minister in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
It was an apolitical discussion and Jones' program received a number of messages subsequently from listeners who remarked upon the former prime minister's measured and restrained tone - the "voice of sanity", one said.
The contrast between Howard's sober pitch, mature character and reflective comments and the shrill tenor and venomous remarks delivered by the current PM this week could not be greater.
Labor women claim that Gillard spoke for them when she accused Abbott of misogyny.
They overlook Gillard's own confession to ABC radio's Philip Clark on September 15, 2011, in which she said: "I'm always happy to accept responsibility for my role and my actions."
Then, when asked about "the level of vituperation directed against you personally and the office of the prime minister" and whether "it's due to some deep-seated misogyny", she said, "I don't "spend much of my time thinking about that".
But clearly she has been obsessed with remarks made about her lack of leadership ability as she had her speech attacking Abbott for his alleged misogyny ready to run when she needed to divert attention from Labor's ongoing support for the grossly offensive former Speaker Peter Slipper despite evidence of his obscene text messages.
Last year she said: "I've got very broad shoulders and what I spend my time thinking about and doing is implementing the policies and plans our nation needs."
The vitriolic personal attack she made on Tuesday would indicate that her shoulders have shrunk and her thinking has narrowed considerably in the past 12 months.
"I didn't come to this position hankering for people to say nice things about me every day," she said last year. "I came to this position absolutely determined to do what we need to as a nation to make sure that we've got opportunity for all, right around the country, whether that's the chance to get a job, the chance to get a better job, the chance for a kid from a disadvantaged home to get a great education.
"And to make sure we don't leave people behind, which is why I'm so passionate about things like a national disability insurance scheme (NDIS). And I also don't think it's in us as a nation to really cower in the face of the challenges of the future, which is why it's so important we stump up to big changes, but important changes, like pricing carbon.
"So it's those things that drive me every day, not debates about what is said in politics, or personal matters. It's not what drives me."
That's good to know, except she announced the NDIS policy with no real funding in place, she told a bare-faced lie about the introduction of the carbon tax and, as we witnessed this week it is clear personal matters are driving her.
In perhaps the most farcical example of the phoney hysteria Gillard has tried to evoke in her followers to support her bizarre accusations of sexism against the opposition, she demanded Abbott withdraw a remark he made on Wednesday: "What a piece of work," he said.
Indeed. It is actually one of my favourite quotes from Shakespeare, whose works so enrich the English language. It can be found in Hamlet and reads:
"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals - and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"
In finding the expression "piece of work" unparliamentary and disrespectful, Gillard must have been offended by the reference to "quintessence of dust".
In this case, the truth must surely have hurt.