There always was a difference in how the two extremes of politics regard personal peccadilloes. John Gorton, Liberal Prime Minister, war hero and considered to be a serial womaniser, was never hounded. But his contemporary, Jim Cairns, Labor Treasurer, was hounded to resignation over his affair with Junie Morosi. As you point out, Malcolms’s mysterious pants-less episode was treated as an amusing and atypical episode in an honourable career.
Bob Hawke knew how to handle such matters. If he had been Bill Clinton, he would have said: “Of course I let her suck me off! What is a man to do when his wife is so never home? Grow up!”
However, the vital difference now is the hung parliament and what is at stake.
If Gillard loses Thompson, there will be an election and all the reforms that over half the members of the Government worked so hard to achieve, will be in jeopardy, if not doomed.
Abbott has wanted blood from the get go and has used all and any tactic, no matter how negative, no matter how sleazy, no matter how bad for the country, to bring down this reformist government. Note also, that the tactics used on Jim Cairns were as vitriolic, and like the Thompson affair made great news stories. And like now, the media became obsessed with sensationalism at the expense of good government.
So frustrating for me, as a scientist and ‘futurist’ is that the Rudd/Gillard government is being attacked so savagely because they had the guts to start this country on the absolutely crucial change towards a carbon free economy and secondly, to drag some value out of the mining boom to apply to infrastructure and education instead of tax breaks for the already wealthy.
Both these are overdue, but will cost the Corporate world, so with their ear to their constituency, successive Conservative governments failed to address either.
The ‘Juliar’ jibe needs to be put into perspective. She had the choice of agreeing to a Carbon Tax to get her carbon price through the Senate or call a new election on a small change to the detail of the carbon price mechanism, a change that was supported by the majority of the House.
She chose to not call an election, knowing that to so would result in loss of government the dumping of any chance we would have this side of chaos to make a start on pollution reduction. By this time, the seeds of doubt, boosted by the perceived pink batts scheme mismanagement on the one hand and Rudd’s hissy fit as he unilaterally announced he had abandoned his carbon price policy, a key election promise, was enough to swing public opinion.
The Rudd/Swann decision to borrow our way through the GFC and so avoid recession was successful, but is now being described by those who offered nothing but constant statements that ‘we would do it better’ as unnecessary. It was a bit like inoculation against smallpox. Nobody gets it, so maybe the drive to inoculation was just a scare campaign!
Sure, I care about election promises and the standards of behaviour of individual MP’s, but I care more about policies. In this Parliament, I have heard not one word from Abbott that tells me he has one policy that addresses the difficult issues like climate change, infrastructure building and social justice.
All I have heard are accusations of incompetence and personal attacks; all designed to give media plenty of controversy to hold our attention while Abbott and Co enjoy teflon coated life in the policy free zone.
He has his orders from the big end of town, and I am terrified he will get his way. The media will continue to accentuate the sleaze of one side of politics only, and the electorate will continue to lose respect for Parliament.
Unfortunately we are prone to believe 'where there is smoke there is fire'. But I remember the media picture built around the myth that Lindy Chamberlain murdered her infant daughter Azaria in some bizarre religious ritual. Lindy was found guilty and was jailed because the court believed she was capable of such a ritual and the court also believed an opinion by National Park rangers that a dingo would never attack a human child! Several child deaths by dingo attacks busted that myth and Lindy was freed. But imagine the pain. A mother loses her baby by wild dog attack, she is accused and convicted of the child’s murder and jailed!
Now we have the same witch hunt mob mentality casting aside natural justice to prejudge a man accused of misuse of union funds for political purposes and other dishonourable pursuits. He may be guilty but the allegations must be regarded as suspect, considering the source. But whatever their merit, I think it is vital to the very survival of Humanity on this planet, that media time and effort be directed toward informing a complacent public about acidification of the oceans, rising sea levels, peak oil, degradation of soils, overpopulation, starvations of billions, looming worldwide conflict over water, land and resources and so on.
Remember press coverage of wars like Korea, when every newspaper showed gains and losses on a map? WWII also showed the position on a map. Newsreels and papers had war news on the front page almost every day. Where are the daily 'maps' of carbon dioxide, forest destruction and acidification?
These threats to our Human future are more pressing than any war has ever been. I know any unilateral action by Australia will have virtually no effect in the physical world, but if the country with the healthiest economy in the world does nothing, why should anyone else? I suspect we will all degenerate into a mess of squabbling tribes. If we do not change how we react to crises we will destroy each other. I look at the bright trusting faces of my dear grandchildren and cry for them.
Pic of politicians as the Three Stooges, borrowed from Moir.