In a seemingly interminable announcement late in 2010, Federal independent MP Rob Oakeshott held the nation in thrall awaiting what amounted to his casting vote on which party leader would get the keys to the Lodge. In the process he foreshadowed a parliament with a new consultative character, which would be “beautiful in its ugliness”. Two years into the fragile life of that parliament, we might collectively respond: “Wrong, Rob. It’s just ugly.”
It’s hard to identify a less edifying period in our nation’s public life than this one, which has been characterised by a vile trade in vituperative personal insults hurled across the dispatch box in both directions, mirrored and egged-on far too much by a personality-obsessed media. In common public opinion the chief responsibility for this appalling state of affairs belongs to Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. Certainly its ironic to recall that it was from his lips that the phrase “kinder and gentler polity” was uttered over the looming hung parliament. The contrast between that claim and the now grotesque reality might fall on the fact that it was made before Abbott found himself cruelly, by just the thinnest of margins, on the wrong side of the governing alliance. Abbott has been a man on a mission ever since, the PM’s office the tantalisingly reachable prize.
But does anyone seriously imagine now that the tone of the parliament would have been greatly different, had the governing boot landed on the other foot? Judging from Tuesday’s performance, would a narrowly aggrieved Team Gillard have dished out any less question time venom, from the camp of the vanquished?
What the Federal Labor caucus might care to contemplate is just how very different the past two years might have been for us all, had the fever of electoral paranoia not produced the midnight knifing of a revered first-term Prime Minister, to the savage detriment of the Government’s public trust.