Crocodile Tears

The headline in The Australian says that Julia Gillard ‘sheds tears over disabled’, which made me wonder if she’d paid another of those carefully-staged visits to a special school.

But no: Julia Gillard started crying when she introduced a piece of legislation. This is absolutely the lowest point of this government. I never thought I’d say this, but I think we might be looking at the very bottom now.

It’s very nice that the Prime Minister chose to shed a few tears in Parliament over the fact that, theoretically, in a couple of months’ time, a disabled person might be able to access a tiny trickle of leftover money from an unplanned, unstructured, uncosted, and unaccountable scheme, where most of the money will probably be soaked up into the giant sponge of administration.

And I’m sure that when the people at the bottom of the pile – the severely disabled and their carers – realise that in fact they are only going to get a trickle of extra help, those tears shed by the Prime Minister are going to mean a great deal.

Julia Gillard will retire as Prime Minister in September this year on a handsome parliamentary payout. K-Rudd will be on around $600,000 when he finally goes, so we can use that as a ballpark figure. Gillard is also entitled to superannuation, a gold air pass — Tim will enjoy that, unless he’s been replaced by then — a car, some personal staff, and her own CBD office space in the city of her choice.

And sitting next to her, our incompetent and unapologetic Treasurer Wayne Swan will be on an annual, indexed, cool $166,400 if he loses his seat in September. There’s no performance management here; no deductions for incompetence, no decisions about whether he is sufficiently disabled to access this scheme. Just a nice generous payout.

I will tell you who should be crying, and that’s the rest of us, faced with (and this is just a selection):

I can assure you that, even though she may experience a personally embarrassing electoral defeat, the Prime Minister has nothing to cry about. A mother with a severely disabled child who is exhausted and poor has something to cry about, but Gillard is very happy to remind us at regular intervals that she is not married and does not want children, so she’s unlikely to be in that position.

We’ve seen this public sentimentality over and over, notably since Rudd’s time and his empty ‘apology’ to Aboriginal people. Sentimentality is the soft currency of our age, but it’s also the guaranteed hallmark of an utterly ruthless person. Sentimentality makes for bad laws and very bad financial management. And sentimentality crudely harnessed to desperate political point-scoring is the worst form of all.

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City.

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