Flat White

Woke and broke: what’s honourable about Victoria?

18 December 2020

5:31 PM

18 December 2020

5:31 PM

Time and common sense have appropriately bourne witness to the disappearance of centuries-old parliamentary extravagances such as gowns, wigs, frilly cuffs, silly hats, parchment and even the drinks‘ cabinets.

Outmoded and more than faintly ridiculous, these trappings of elected office have faded into the mists of time.  

While everyone knows Australia has too many parliaments and a significant oversupply of politicians, we can at least be thankful that some of the ludicrous conventions of the governing class have now be consigned to the dustbin of history. 

Also well known to voters is that the very purpose of these observances was to make quite ordinary people appear extraordinary.  

Far from drawing elected officials closer to voters, these practices were specifically designed to separate the riffraff from those doing the governing. It is pleasing at least that some change is afoot.

But one immovable ‘rock solid’ trapping of office survives – even flourishes. It is, of course, the honorific the Honourable.  It continues for ‘elevated’ members of parliament, judges and other assorted, unelected ‘officials’ across the country.  

Why no movement to jettison this dubious and frequently misapplied relic of the past you ask?

The answer lies in human nature and our innate love of self-puffery. Our penchant for a jolly good title is well established, especially for those that stick like Lord, Prince, Excellency, Sir, he Honourable and so on. Amusingly, however, it is those who have been the strongest advocates for the removal of the parliamentary wigs and gowns who stand shoulder to shoulder to maintain honorifics in the hope they will ‘get’ one too. Do they honestly think we don’t notice?

Even the wokest of woke Labor or Green MPs — with the notable exception of that Green friend of Stalin, Lee Rhiannon — in this country crave the title which is bestowed upon party leaders and ministers.

All ministers enjoy the ‘status‘ attached to the title — and appallingly — get to keep it even on retirement from their handsomely paid public duties (as long, usually, as they survive for 12 months).  Equally, all members of Westminster-based Upper Houses also have the title the Hon.

It’s galling enough to have to tolerate the daily utterances of MPs without having to insert The Honourable before their names when addressing them or writing to them. 

Liberally adopted in Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Ghana, The Congo, Mauritius, South Africa and in many Asian countries, the Honourable can help mere mortals navigate who may hold Royal Orders, sit on Judicial benches and who may hold various categories of parliamentary office in different jurisdictions. 

The diplomatic services of numerous countries are assiduous users of the title with the objective of puffing themselves up and making themselves sound far more important than they are.

Among the idiocies of the honorific is its frequent bestowal on those who have repeatedly breached parliamentary standing orders and in more than a few cases the law itself.  They usually keep the honorific notwithstanding their dishonourable (even illegal) transgressions.

In the case of Victoria, we have an Honourable Premier who feels vindicated for having ‘single-handedly’ solved the pandemic but who conveniently overlooks the tsunami of wreckage in the disappearance of the virus.

Also of note is the cavalier indifference of the ‘Honourable’ the Treasurer in inflicting debt mountains on future generations of Victorian taxpayers without a plan to repay it or the merest concern about cost overruns on everything the government touches.

This is a government replete with the wokest of woke public officials under the firm grip of the Very Honourable Chairman Dan Andrews who see it as entirely appropriate to keep boosting public sector employment and debt — and then to expect punters to vote them back in again.

The Hon honorific may well be the very least of our worries , but it is now long past time when the least deserving in society claim such titles and those who actually work in the community and support people in need are never considered for recognition.  

Is there one, just a single MP, who might take up this point and move to end the sheer, appalling hypocrisy of the title for politicians?

In good old Macau the Hon honorific is reserved for individuals who have been awarded the Grand Medal of Lotus Flower.

Let’s take a flower out of Macau’s book and give every MP in the country a lotus they can plant in their own back gardens …but let’s keep the title of Honourable for people who actually deserve it.

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