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November 28th 2011 print

John Izzard

Julia’s glass Slipper

The words Harry Jenkins spoke as he offered his resignation to the parliament-assembled said one thing— the pictures of him saying them, suggested something entirely different.


The only instance in recorded history of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship.
                                                            Winston Churchill.
 


The elevation of Mr Peter Slipper to the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives cemented the decline in the standing of our Federal parliament for those who value Australia’s honour of being one of the oldest democracies in the world. Last Thursday you might have thought that our elected representatives were in Fiji or Zimbabwe rather than Canberra. 

The words Harry Jenkins spoke as he offered his resignation to the parliament-assembled said one thing— the pictures of him saying them, suggested something entirely different. There seems little doubt that Julia Gillard and her henchman, the Duke of Albanese, had blood on their hands. And they were much pleased with the stains. 

Our Prime Minister certainly has form, what, with her dispatching of Kevin Rudd last year, and now the removal of the only person in the nation who can tell a prime minister to sit down and be quiet. Form yes—substance, no. In practice the parliament grants the position of Speaker, not Julia Gillard, and the parliament should be the only body that can have the Speaker removed. 

But not, apparently, in Gillardland. There you need eyes in the back of your head, although for both Rudd and Jenkins, they apparently didn’t see it coming. 

Perhaps we will never get to know what threats, pressure or promises were thrown at Harry Jenkins to resign, but one thing is for certain, the ancient position of Speaker was subject to a plot and an overthrow. So it is a fair question to ask as to where the responsibility lay? Gillard and Albanese are free to scheme and manipulate against the laws and traditions of nation as much as they like but surely we can expect the parliament to exercise it’s authority to ensure that the government is kept in check—ethically, morally and traditionally. 

The first failure occurred in the ALP Caucus meeting on Thursday morning. Surely one of the members representing the people of their electorate had some doubts about the ethics of what was going on? Well, apparently, not. Here was one of their own party about to get the axe for no other reason than he was a valuable asset in the game of political survival—for Julia Gillard. Surely one of the Caucus members had doubts? Could no one say “This might be ethically wrong”? Or perhaps even worry that “The public will smell a rat”? Where was the “honourable” Doug Cameron and his Scottish ethics? 

Then there was the unfolding of events in the chamber—the place where the plot became public. In the aftermath of Jenkins’ announcement where were the independents? Were they not curious? Were they not concerned both with the demise of Harry Jenkins and the elevation of Peter Slipper? It was quite extraordinary that Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt were either struck dumb or were quite happy to go along with the plot. So much for keeping the bastards honest. So much for being independent. Can one of them honestly say that Peter Slipper is the best person for the job? I doubt it.

The charade of a brace of ALP members refusing nomination for the position of Speaker only added to the surreal, Balkan whiff, of the situation. No one in the ALP wanted to be Speaker? Really? This was where it became evident that the position of Speaker, the third most important position in the nation, had become the plaything of survival politics. Just where is the national interest in that? 

To add to the hypocrisy—there was the dragging of a reluctant Peter Slipper to the Speaker’s chair. This bit of traditional theatre represented the fear of early Speakers of the House of Commons having to take unpleasing news to the monarch—and risking death. Well Harry Jenkins now certainly knows the feeling. 

Back in 2007 when the European Union suggested that the Serbian parliament sack its elected Speaker, at least the Serbs had the decency to debate the issue for a few days. Of course that was avoided by the tricky business of leaving the revelation of the plot until the last sitting day of parliament. How clever—how very clever. 

Tony Abbott certainly took a king-hit on Thursday—but since when has the victim of foul play been to blame for the thuggery of bullies? The pong surrounding the Gillard government just grows stronger and stronger. Can the country stand another two years of this madness? 

Well, with investigations proceeding into the affairs of both Craig Thomson and the new Speaker, Peter Slipper, perhaps not. We can only live in hope.