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October 14th 2011 print

John Izzard

Borgia bliss-kiss!

It’s not The West Wing we should be watching to get the new slant on politics and how to run a country. No! The TV series to watch is The Borgias.


Watching The West Wing on DVD is possibly the closest thing you can get to a TV version of political reality— and how politics works behind the scenes in the White House.


Spin, tactics, being nasty, being kind; the manipulation; the lies and the deceit—The West Wing has it all. It’s the tops. 

So West Wing followers are always on the lookout for similarities between the American political scene and the Australian equivalent; that is the Rudd/Gillard governments. Seeing Barack Obama fall into the same situations, and traps, that befell the fictional Jeb Bartlett (Martin Sheen) is sometimes quite spooky. Passing budgets, influencing Senators and Congressmen, saving the free-world; terrorists, the unions—handling the Vice President; handling Mrs Bartlett and the three daughters. Great TV, but none of it really that relevant to the Australian political snake-pit. 

But then came the kiss! The Rudd/Gillard kiss! The Carbon Tax bliss-kiss! 

People, we’ve been watching the wrong show, the wrong DVD series, the wrong story, the wrong actors.

It’s not The West Wing we should be watching to get the new slant on politics and how to run a country. No!

The TV series to watch is The Borgias

Barely 15 minutes into The Borgias, the newly elected Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia (played by Jeremy Irons), plants a full-mouth kiss upon the lips of Cardinal Orsini, Borgia’s arch enemy. A few days later Orsini is served poisoned wine during the banquet he has given for the newly elected Pope. Orsini falls dead across the banqueting table. It’s only a television version of history, but it sure makes you wary, as to who you kiss—politically speaking. 

The election of Rodrigo Borgia, as Pope, in 1492 had more than a whiff of what was called ‘simony’ about it. Simony is the buying or selling of, amongst other things, positions in the church hierarchy. Today we would call it corruption. Borgia was reported to have used four mule-loads of silver to buy the vote that got him elected Pope. Julia Gillard certainly did deals with some politicians to get herself elected Prime Minister of Australia. The deal she did with Bob Brown, for his party’s support, was well and truly consummated this week with the passing of the Carbon Tax bills. We now have a Carbon Tax that Julia Gillard promised not give us. The deal with Bob Brown was kept. The deal with Australia was broken. 

I’m not sure whether it is simony, or something else, but tens of millions of government spending has been reported in the media as going to the electorate of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott. Promises made by Julia Gillard regarding the roll-out of the NBN in Tony Windsor’s electorate; and the Tax Summit promised to Rob Oakeshott have been honoured. Promises made to Andrew Wilkie, included a bill to curb problem gamblers, and repairs to Hobart’s aging hospital were, apparently part of Andrew Wilkie’s deal with Julia Gillard. All the backroom deals have been honoured. 

Now that we are on the Borgia case, or at least the Borgia TV series, things become a little clearer. Is what the Prime Minister’s done, and is doing, to retain power, a form of modern day simony? Is this the re-discovery of Borgia politics in Australia? 

There is something rather Machiavellian about a Prime Minister who is prepared to boast that she has designed legislation that cannot be altered by a future parliament (the Carbon Tax). That any Prime Minister would think, let alone design such legislation, goes against every tenet of parliamentary democracy. You cannot bind future parliaments any more than you can control the living from the grave. 

Gillard’s Carbon Tax, NBN and her Malaysian deal (if it ever gets up), can be re-examined and dealt with by future parliaments. The silly thing about trying to bind future parliaments, and this is something our Prime Minister should have considered— what if the Labor Party decides it needs to alter or abolish the Carbon Tax/EST legislation? 

If Greg Combet and Julia Gillard think that the Australian public who opposed the Carbon Tax (about 71%), will forget the Labor Party’s arrogance that was evident during the 12th of October parliamentary debate, then they may be in for a nasty shock. Indeed the defining moment of the great Carbon Tax debate may well be the Rudd/Gillard kiss. 

Kiss of life or kiss of death? Now, that is the question. 

Meanwhile, back to The Borgias, Episode Two. Who’s going to get it in the neck?