From the Daily Telegraph, Paul Sheehan writes an epitaph on “the worst week, of the worst year, of the worst parliament in the history of Australian parliaments”:
Tony Abbott described it, in a more unique use of subtleties: “We are now at the fag end of a very contentious parliament.”
He was referring to the very issue that started the PM’s Hebdomas Horribillis, and ended it. The bungled attempt by the government to pass new electoral funding laws that proposed to take $60 million from taxpayers and put it in to political parties campaign coffers is emblematic of just how out of touch the political class in Canberra is with the rest of the country.
How Labor strategists didn’t twig to the potential for Abbott to back away from it is staggering in itself. But Gillard’s own failure to walk away, even after it was dead, instead continuing to back it, is symbolic of how out of touch her leadership team is with the mood not just in the electorate but inside her own caucus.
Labor elder John Faulkner couldn’t have been more blunt about his views on it when he labelled it a “disgrace”.
But it wasn’t the only thing that ruined the PM’s week and diverted attention from the one issue Labor does have over the Coalition and is desperately trying to find clear air to campaign on: education.
The well known Rudd supporter Anthony Byrne, the chair of the intelligence committee, fired the second missile on Monday when he attacked the government in parliament over funding cuts to the spy agencies. That too, was labelled a “disgrace”.
Then there was the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ spectacularly inept response to suggestions that Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints to its new $650 million office block. It all went pear shaped from there.
The PM couldn’t buy a trick when it was revealed the NBN was exposing people to asbestos. And then news that a suspected terrorist wanted by Interpol had been living in low security detention centre in South Australia for a year as an asylum seeker.
Labor MPs this week were even talking of just “bringing on” an election to put them out of their misery. The malaise that has been hanging over Labor MPs has now become a blanket of abject despair.
Most MPs, if they are honest, now live day to day under Murphy’s famous law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
And this week it has.
A greater symbol of the despondency that now grips the federal Labor Party there is not than Martin Ferguson’s decision this week to pull the pin on an 18 year career as a parliamentarian. Labor sources claim he won’t be the last to hang up his boots before the end of June.
Ferguson was rightly and ironically hailed as a true Labor hero by Tony Abbott.
Well may the Prime Minister have rolled her eyes when the Opposition Leader wiped tears from his, but his words were nonetheless true.
Ferguson was a Labor warrior, and not in the class war sense – which he abhorred. Not only did his departure deliver a final vote of no-confidence in Gillard and the new Labor she has fashioned, it revealed a man who believes there is nothing more he can do to save the party from itself.
Another Labor heavyweight, Faulkner, is equally dispirited. “I’m no longer angry,” he wearily told the caucus this week of the party funding bill. “I am ashamed.”
Thank God there are only three weeks of parliament left before the September election.
At least such shame will be fleeting.
Well might we all join hands with Senator Faulkner — of what was once the “working man’s” party — and cry “Hear Hear!”