Alright. Alan Jones should be crucified. Will that do? No? Well, he should be hung, drawn and quartered. Still not enough? Well, he should be boiled in oil and garroted. Surely, with those contributions, I have played my part in the latest national pastime: trying to outdo everyone else with superlatives to express our indignation at Alan Jones’ remarks about John Gillard and his death. But what, in reality, does it all amount to? Jones, it is true, made some remarks that were offensive to the Prime Minister and doubly so because they were personalised and besmirched the memory of her father. But Jones apologised. That should have been the end of it. But it was not, and the rest, as they say, is hysteria.
Where has this outrage come from? We would be naïve if we thought it was generated solely by sympathy for Julia Gillard. In part, of course, it was. But if it were solely that, you would think the grief merchants would just say so and leave the issue alone before they caused more hurt to the Gillard family. But, no, there is a clearly an element to this posturing from the government and their media acolytes that goes far beyond sympathy for the Prime Minister and that is to milk the incident for all it is worth and to trade on Gillard senior’s death to smear Tony Abbott. The Liberal leader had nothing to do with this drama and is no more responsible for the antics of the Sydney University Liberal Club and its guests than Gillard is for the antics of the endless line of ratbag groups that bear the Labor name. So any attempt to link him to Jones’ comments is absurd. Any attempt to blame him for some alleged cosmic shift in public behaviour, where abuse and violence now stalk the land, is a monstrous smear.
But this comes as part of a long line of Labor smears over many years, which, generally, people on my side of politics have not replied to, for fear that a reply might make things worse. Perhaps we have been too soft; perhaps it is time to remind the public that the ALP and its acolytes are not exactly lily-white when it comes to smear and personal abuse and that, for them, to condemn Jones or anyone else is breathtaking hypocrisy.
But there is a bright side for Tony Abbott and his team. First, the over-reaction by the government’s bully boys has cast them in a ludicrous light. The undergraduate finger-wagging of the pathetic Swan with his little essays; the frothing with confected rage of Emerson the court jester; the ponderous whining of Albanese; the droning on of the lugubrious Combet; the footstamping of the increasingly pompous Rudd — none of this has done them or their government any good at all. If this is as good as it gets when they do outrage, it is not very persuasive.
Second, the current issue has been a timely reminder for Abbott’s senior colleagues to be more vocal in defending him; the outrage at Jones would have been just as legitimate had it been matched by a spirited defence of their leader.
Finally, it is now certain that the public have had enough high drama and would like to see more substance in public debate. Economic clouds are obviously gathering and there is a lot of uncertainty around. Now is a real opportunity for a series of speeches by Tony Abbott with some guiding principles on the economy, undoubtedly the main game in the coming election.
There was a delightful item buried in the press last week that the Ecuadorians were just wondering if Julian Assange could go to Sweden and be interviewed at their embassy in Stockholm instead of being extradited to… oh, Sweden. It was obviously leaked to gauge the reaction. But it spoke volumes. As I predicted, a few months of that simpering narcissist cluttering up the bathroom and receiving his ghastly celebrity friends in the Embassy drawing room would be enough to persuade even Che Guevara to surrender. My next prediction: he will turn on the gullible Ecuadorians, denounce them as America’s running dogs, and be thrown into the street.
A notable reform has been introduced to Melbourne’s trains, to achieve a more punctual service. The idea is to bypass stations to avoid being encumbered by the burden of picking up passengers. The tram service had already introduced its own reform to achieve the same result by abolishing some stops so that the trams are not impeded by the same encumbrance. Both reforms are a variation of the old method of giving public services an air of efficiency not otherwise apparent. For instance, the times by which the mail had to be delivered were pushed out so it could truthfully be said it had been delivered on time. You would have thought that the hospital with no patients in Yes, Minister was original, but the idea has been around for a long time.
At last there seems to be a good reason why some of the more exotic members of the UN should vote for our candidacy for the Security Council. Many of them have the bit between their teeth on the new campaign to stamp out freedom of speech so that Islam will not be criticised. Our credentials on this issue are impeccable and we could be a great help in implementing this reform. After all, we must be the only Western country that is renationalising telecommunications, proposing restrictions on who can own media assets and setting up a government committee to decide what the media can publish. That sort of experience is invaluable. I am sure that neither Finland nor Luxembourg could match our experience in government attempts to stifle freedom of speech.