The gloss of a new political year doesn’t take long to wear off. The shiny enthusiasm that accompanies the pomp and ceremony of our 46th Parliament becomes a real life version of Groundhog Day with a single glance across the political aisle.Sure, there are some new faces on the government and opposition benches. There are even some ‘new’ faces that have been here before but it’s the same armada of whingers inhabiting the Greens wedge in the chamber. Their first attention-seeking stunt is to boycott the swearing in of the new Governor-General, ostensibly because of a scheduled party meeting. Next they decide one of their own ten-member caucus should be responsible for upholding the Senate standing orders and behavioural standards by being elected President.It’s clear that the sneering contempt and disdain for protocol the Greens perpetually display doesn’t extend to the spoils of higher office and the associated salary benefits as they seek to further erode the vestiges of decency remaining in public life. However, it doesn’t take long to realise that there is something a little different about the Greens this time. The election has given them a chance to practice some new words they clearly learned from their comrades at the loony ‘extinction rebellion’ group. These lobotomised vegans have a perverse habit of gluing themselves to roadways to save the planet from fossil fuels. I can’t wait until someone tells them that their preferred adhesive is made from oil-based polymers and the heirs of old Boxer from Animal Farm.
At every opportunity, the Senate wedge of pious pontificators rail about the ‘extinction crisis’ which only makes me wish, that for humanity’s sake, the Greens themselves would become extinct. Regrettably, it was the Australian Conservatives who vanished from this parliament with my formal announcement that the party was over and I was becoming an independent. At the risk of channelling the spirit of Boxer myself, it’s silly to flog a dead horse and better to send it off to the knackers! Sometimes though, the announcement of a death – political or otherwise – is an exaggeration. Mark Twain said as much and the ‘new faces’ returning to the Senate are testament to that. Despite his own paperwork ‘proving’ he was only ever an Australian citizen (or perhaps a sovereign citizen as he once wrote to PM Julia Gillard) and his ancestry certified by leader Pauline Hanson, the High Court of Australia found the evidence from Malcolm Roberts less compelling. His disqualification under section 44 of the Constitution saw him depart the Senate in 2017 only to make a comeback in the 46th Parliament. It was a similar tale for Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie. Disqualified for being a dual national she returned triumphant and immediately demonstrated a new approach to her role in the House of Review. The previous Senator Lambie famously directed some of her anger in my direction – associating my name with sterling silver cutlery and various medical procedures. On another occasion she lamented the lack of a 4 by 2 as a means of dealing with some of my less welcome observations in the Chamber, once again proving that not everyone enjoys the same sense of humour. However, during the first week of parliament Jacquie 2.0 displayed how much she has learnt in her 18 months outside the beltway. During our first meeting we had a good chat about the pitfalls of reality television and declared we’d both work from a clean slate. She even laughed at a couple of my jokes and cracked a couple herself which is always grounds for optimism.
With One Nation teaming up with the Greens in opposing tax relief for the diminishing number of taxpaying Australians, the government needed the rest of us. I was locked in on the proposed tax cuts when the Treasurer first called and said ‘Hello’, leaving the power with Lambie and the Centre Alliance. Neither overplayed their hand but worked with the government to get a good result based on goodwill going forward. If these negotiations are the shape of things to come then there is good reason to be optimistic about the possibility of this government delivering great results for Australia. That’s not to say there won’t be some headwinds. Our economy is slowing which prompted the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates to record lows of one per cent. Economists expect further cuts in the months ahead. Despite the protestations of ‘nothing to see here’ by the political class, there is good reason to be concerned. High levels of immigration have been propping up our economic growth for decades and the lack of productivity improvements remain a key element of wage stagnation. The government also need to heed the call of business chiefs about the importance of industrial relations reform to give the economy a boost. One could understand why such calls may fall on increasingly deaf government ears as the business community were mute on such demands when they presumed Labor would assume office. Regrettably, the business lobby has become as opportunistic as the politicians they seek to influence. Its message is tailored according to whomever occupies the Treasury benches and they go missing when the tough argument needs to be prosecuted. But fair weather friends are a common element of political life. True friendships that can survive the vicissitudes of modern politics remain as elusive as a Green supporting zero emissions nuclear power. That’s not to say they don’t happen but they are rare. I said as much on a recent podcast with the comrades at the Guardian while reflecting on the political speedbump that was the Australian Conservatives. When you break from the tribe you soon realise how many good pals are really just different types of collectivists. If you aren’t with ‘em you’re against ‘em and you become the ghost of a friend that was. Politics has too many miserable ghosts already so I won’t be adding to the hauntings and if this past week is anything to go by, I am really impressed that Senator Jacqui Lambie won’t be either.
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