Doodling on the hill

Jaye Fletcher (Letters, 14/3) is a bit tough on the pollies with their smart phones. If we expect the poor blighters to sit through day-long meetings on our behalf, the least we can do is let them amuse themselves for sanity’s sake. It’s inconceivable that back-benchers since the year dot have not employed the technology of their time to escape the boredom of discourse. Parliamentary sittings have surely spawned volumes of shopping lists, completed crosswords, love letters and artistic doodlings. Let them tweet. At least they have to be awake to do it.

Simply trust

Mary Delahunty (Opinion, 11/3) joins a long list of commentators and public figures suggesting that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fight for legitimacy is fundamentally down to old-fashioned misogyny. Certainly the persistence of glass ceilings and salary discrepancies alone should warn us against doubting that a low view of women is some part of the equation. Sadly, it must be. However proponents of the Gillard misogyny theory too commonly overlook natural comparisons and at least one major event of still recent memory.

All Australian jurisdictions bar one have now enjoyed the leadership of a woman as head of government. To varying degrees most of those women have endured sexist attitudes in the exercise of their high office. But it’s frankly hard to think of one who has found the battle for the public’s trust quite so exacting or unyielding. At least on our admittedly distant observation, the same seems to have been true in overseas instances. Why then is Ms Gillard’s case different?

The answer may be a quality equally simple and old-fashioned: public trust. Australians will not quickly forget the June 2010 political assassination of Kevin Rudd and the circumstances in which it occurred. We watched the apparent genuine collegiality and even perhaps personal friendship of the then Prime Minister and his deputy. We heard the repeated pledges of confidence and loyalty on camera, some within a few days of the coup. Some of us even remember feature stories of Gillard spending weekends as a personal guest of Rudd and his family. And then we watched the clinical execution. And it was over.

We may not all articulate it the same way. But in the land of mateship and a fair go, there are many many better ways than that to win the trust of a nation.

Up the poll again

With a surfeit of worthy contenders, it would be difficult to single out one Age Reader’s Poll for an inanity award. However the question posed on 9th January would certainly be right up there. “Is the lack of iodine to blame for Australian children underperforming academically?” Quite a question, when on the facing opinion page a world leading authority on iodine deficiency can only suggest it might be one factor. On the assumption that the majority of readers don’t hold doctoral research qualifications in both medical science and education, how on earth would we know, and what intelligent use can the poll possibly serve? Leave the cryptic teasers on the puzzle page.

A coin toss

I’m trying to decide which major party I respect less. Labor for sacrificing the world’s poor to appease the god of economics, and insulting our intelligence with a spurious casuistic rationale? Or the Coalition for straining credulity beyond breaking point, with their feigned moral outrage? It’s a tough call. Guess I’ll just toss a coin. At least I have one.

Just ugly

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.

Enough about Alan & Tony

Quite magnanimous of The Age (Letters, Tuesday) to publish Roger Stagg’s observation that 46.7 percent (14 of 31) of letters printed Monday, related to Tony Abbott. Also quite ironic, given that on Tuesday itself 53.3 percent (16 of 30) related to either Tony Abbott or Alan Jones. More ironic still in light of Lindsay Tanner’s polite suggestion on Monday’s Q&A that matters of greater substance might merit more of the nation’s attention. Please wake me up when it’s over.