After years of arguments, days of negotiations and hours of speeches from the Greens, the carbon tax was finally abolished. The symbolic emblem of Julia Gillard’s reign didn’t end with a bang or celebrations but fluttered out in a blur like a flame on a wet wick. The vote itself was a low-key event with Coalition senators like me and supportive cross-benchers relieved rather than exuberant at its demise. Madame Defarge, don’t go home yet, the mining tax, the world’s most incompetent tax, after the Georgian window tax, is next on the chopping block.
While procrastinating over writing my maiden speech I undertook some interior decoration of the Parliament House office. New senators enter at the bottom of the pile in choosing offices and art, although I am very happy with my office, not only am I between Senators Bernardi and Day but quite close to Aussie’s, the only café in the building. My office is now littered with old campaign memorabilia including the ‘pineapple of justice’, ‘lightsaber of freedom’ and a thunderbox seat from our old cane farm at Bli Bli. The latter was awarded in my previous incarnation as campaign director to recalcitrant campaigns and candidates as the ‘toilet seat’ award. Peter Slipper won it a record eight times in 2010. It would be uncouth to explain the antecedents of the pineapple and where it is recommended to be placed. A raiding of the parliamentary art bank sees me choose a Sidney Nolan and a Fred Williams for the office walls.
While my book collection is nowhere near the munificence of the libraries of George Brandis or Scott Ryan I have brought to Canberra some of my favourite tomes. Forgotten Land by Max Egremont is my current favourite. A graceful, melancholic, almost soulful wander through the ghosts of East Prussia. It mourns the passing of the junker class while weaving in Kant and the perfidious postwar Russian ethnic cleansing. More pressing to be read are the submissions to the Senate Environment and Communication Committee’s inquiry into the Great Barrier Reef. If I was being cynical, it appears that most of the ‘green groups’ are using the inquiry as a Trojan horse to attack the resource sector. Claims that China and India are dumping coal in favour of renewable energy are bunkum and economically illiterate.
On Wednesday it was time for the maiden speeches of myself and fellow Queenslander Matt Canavan. The PC brigade insist the correct nomenclature is First Speech. Apologies to maidens but I am sticking with tradition and it will always be my maiden speech. I hadn’t been this nervous since I was best man for my mate Gavin’s wedding where I forgot the rings and the speech. With 200 guests from Queensland in the gallery not to mention the opposition benches staring on intently I start my opus with ‘freedom’. French Communist Paul Eluard provides the inspiration for the conclusion with his poem, ‘Liberté’. Over the skies of Nazi-occupied France, the RAF dropped his poem to the caged citizens of remnants of the Third Republic. While writing the speech I wondered what poem we should drop to those being emasculated by Isis in northern Iraq.
The central thesis of my speech is that the first world war was the beginning of the ‘Second Hundred Year War – the War Against Tyranny’. Pausing in 1989 and resuming in 2001 in New York. Or to be pedantically accurate, resuming in 1998 when Al-Qa’eda bombed the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. It is up to all of us to defend the axis of enlightenment — freedom of speech, small government, low taxes and liberty of the individual. A tradition after each maiden speech is for all senators to shake your hand and wish you well. Senator Leyonhjelm cheekily offers me party membership while some Greens and Labor senators had trouble looking me in the eye.
Matt and I hold a joint reception at Parliament House in the Government Party Room with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister as guests of honour. Embarrassingly we run out of XXXX and guests are left to quaff unwooded chardonnay. John Howard drops in to say hello and barely escapes as he is mobbed by LNP members. One Direction fans have nothing on Liberal party members meeting the former Prime Minister. Tony Abbott in his remarks mentions my call for the GST to be broadened and increased. To much laughter he kindly suggests that my maiden speech will be the last time I will make such a call. I don’t think he was joking.
A second reception with Bundy and Cheerios in King’s Hall at Old Parliament House ended the evening. With oodles of family and friends it had the feel of a country wedding sans bad dancing. I cheerfully admit I may have overindulged and was a little dusty the next morning. Taki would have been proud.
It would appear my defence of free speech not to mention the shin-kick at the ABC riled a few people who are liberally exercising their own freedom of speech to provide me with succinct analysis of my character deficiencies. It is my experience that irony is rarely found in dictionaries of leftists. One of my friends is unhelpfully providing me with a referenced and cross-tabulated index of the repartee. It is being updated on a daily basis.
To Bundaberg on Saturday for ‘politics in the pub’ at the Young Australian pub with local MP Keith Pitt in my role as patron senator. Keith took over from the redoubtable Paul Neville and is filling his predecessor’s boots pretty quick. The pub is suitably named as the guest speaker is Wyatt Roy with the first question about the need for tax reform with reference to the GST. I can assure my Prime Minister that I didn’t say anything.
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