Bye Bye Bishop

This evening’s Guest Poster is Turn Left, with a neat summary of broomhilda’s brilliant career. Thank you, Turn Left!

(Image Credit: Alan Porritt; AAP)

Machiavelli had some advice for leaders: It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

When you rule through fear, intimidation and bullying, you maintain power as long as you maintain your reign or terror. When you lose that ability to create fear and become an object of ridicule, it is Game over. People don’t fear what they laugh at. Right now Bronwyn Bishop, the people are laughing.

For Bishop, the ending was as spectacular as the beginning. Her wikipedia page says that Bishop studied law (LLB), which I quote here, in case it gets edited away. Bishop:

undertook a five-year LLB program at the University of Sydney. However, she was deemed ineligible to continue after failing a number of subjects multiple times. Bishop failed a total of 11 subjects over six years. In her first year in 1960, she failed all four core subjects. In 1964, she failed four subjects again, and repeated them in 1965, in which she failed three again. The policy of the University of Sydney at the time was that a student was required to show cause why a student should be allowed to repeat a subject for a third time, and Bishop was deemed ineligible to continue.

Once considered a ‘rock star’ in the Liberal party, Bishop moved from Senate to House of Reps so that she might become Australia’s first female Prime Minister. That plan did not work out, mainly because of her own incompetence.

When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister in 2013, he spared the Bishop the tedium of a Ministry by making her Speaker. After all, her greatest achievement as an Aged Care minister in the Howard Government was ignoring a scandal in an aged care home where a resident was bathed in kerosene which led to the death of the resident.

The Speaker is ostensibly supposed to be independent of a party, yet with a 94A ratio of 400 to 7 in the Government’s favour, it was not so much maintaining order in the House of Reps, as it was, in Tony Burke words “Parliament looks more like a protection racket to protect Tony Abbott … than a place of open and accountable debate”. Throwing people out for laughing, for saying “Madam Speaker”, and refusing to make the government withdraw comments as offensive as comparing Labor policy to the Holocaust, rejecting points of order as irrelevant before they could be made (not a demonstration of prescience with “I anticipated” but a trashing of democracy and a disrespect of every voter and the electorate).

Tony Burke, in the following two speeches, highlighted the grossly incompetent, biased farce that HOR had become under Bishop’s Speakership.

Liberal Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, grossly incompetent and biased

Speaker Bishop prevents Question about Rinehart, Labor asks: Why The Cover Up?

Like a school marm, with her big book of rules and peering over the top of her glasses on the end of her nose, glaring down the Opposition for daring to make a point of order. Yet, in Bishop’s twilight years she began relying more and more on Christopher Pyne for help as she struggled to maintain order and fulfil her role as Speaker.

Paul Keating once described Bishop as “old acid drop”, but to my mind, Bishop reminds me of the Old Lady in the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, waiting to throw children she decides are being naughty into her oven, for daring to nibble her gingerbread house.

As the Liberal politician told Triple J radio in an interview, “Some are born to rule, some are born to follow. I was born to rule.” Bishop just wasn’t very good at following the rules.

It was this born to rule attitude that brought about her downfall. Ordinary people had a gutfull. Her lack of contrition or acknowledging she did anything wrong fueled the anger among voters. It was the $5,227.27 helicopter trip from Melbourne to a Geelong golf course to attend a party fundraiser known as #Choppergate on social media, and it became the scandal the Liberal party couldn’t ride out.

Bishop didn’t believe she had done anything wrong, thought it was perfectly acceptable to treat the taxpayers of this country as her own personal ATM, (like her 3-week job search in Europe, funded by taxpayers, she arrogantly corrected the accusation she spent $90,000 on limo’s and lunches, with it was only $88,000), she was belligerent when caught out, refused to apologise until 3 weeks after the #Choppergate scandal broke in MSM, and only then begrudgingly on the Alan Jones morning show, as if the only people she thought were worthy of her cringing faux-apology are right-wing talk-back listeners.

Following #Choppergate came revelations that Bishop charged taxpayers to attend the weddings of 3 colleagues – Mirabella, Gambaro and Kroger. This resulted in the frankly ludicrous assertion from Tony Abbott that he was placing Bishop on “probation”. No one could find out what “probation” meant. For someone who has been in parliament nearly 30 years, these extravagant charges are not “errors of judgement” but systematic and deliberate lifestyle choices.

Tony Abbott waved away Bishops rorting with a dismissive “But she paid the money back” (do we have proof of this and does anyone think this makes it okay?). Paying back was an option denied to a previous Speaker, Peter Slipper and his $900 taxi trip, the Liberals used this to set about destroying Slipper, a witchhunt that dragged him through the courts, not only ruining his career, but almost his life.

With the expenses scandal showing no signs of abating, Clive Palmer (PUP) and Andrew Wilkie (Ind), put out a statement saying when Parliament resumed they would move a No Confidence Motion in the Speaker.

“There seems to be double standards with both the former speaker Peter Slipper and now Bronwyn Bishop. They have not been a fair yardstick for the Australian people. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander,” Clive Palmer said.

It looked like Bishop’s goose was well and truly cooked. Time to put a fork in her, she’s done.

Maybe in another Parliament the limos, helicopters, lunches, wines, European holidays, chartered aircraft scandal might have lasted only a few days before being overtaken by another scandal, but this was a government which was screaming “Debt and Deficit”, This was a government which got front page headlines calling for the GST to be raised 50% at the same time Bronwyn’s helicopters were making the news. This was a government which gave us a “lifters and leaners” budget which punished the poor with austerity and rewarded the rich with taxpayer handouts. This was a government which wanted to raise the retirement age to 70, because even though you have sacrificed your wages your entire career in the form of taxes to fund your aged pension this government was going to call you a leaner. This was a government that wanted to deny unemployed under-30s any form of income support for 6 months (since revised to 5 weeks).

This was a government full of over-entitled people who had spent their lives with their snouts in the taxpayer trough, as if they earned it, living a lavish lifestyle funded on the backs of pensioners, the unemployed and the working poor surviving on slave wages and high taxes.

This was a government out of touch with ordinary people, Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses scandal would not quietly.

When challenged on her expenses, Bishop showed a lack of humility, a lack of contrition, an arrogance in blaming the Labor party, an inability to take responsibility. This was the final step when Bishop crossed the line from feared to hated, and then she became a national joke.

Bishop’s taxpayer-funded expenditure for the years 2012-2014 show zero family travel. Perhaps her money can keep her company in her retirement.

Throw a bucket of water on Bishop, it’s time for her to disappear.

An undignified end to an undignified career. Go quietly or go kicking and screaming, Bronwyn, just go away. Take your overly generous taxpayer-funded pension, take your golden ticket on the gravy train and ride off into the sunset of obscurity.

Flaunting, Extravagant Friday . . .

(Image Credit: Vote1Julia – courtesy of Mrs Vote1Julia)
‘Now, everyone say “entitlements” . . .’

I’d been musing about this evening’s thread; then one of Vote1Julia’s brilliant pics turned up in the email (by the way, doesn’t the bridegroom look like a prize dork?). So that decided it: even though this saga has been around for three weeks, it ain’t going anywhere soon.

(Image Credit: Vote1Julia)
‘Choppergate – how it all began.’

The cartoons have been wonderful, some of the commentary insightful. For example, Andrew Elder:

Bishop, as with most politicians, knows that you have to put yourself about if you want to build and maintain your base. The reason why the rules on parliamentary entitlements are like that, and why they won’t change much, is because politicians from all parties agree that you have to travel a lot to maintain your base.

To most people, there is a clear delineation between work and social events. The social events that political parties stage as fundraising events are designed to be social for those contributing money. For the politically ambitious, they involve all the performance-indicator aspects of work with the addition of social skills like seeming pleasant, knowing who to chat to (and if they’re really important, how to chat to them) and not drinking as much as you might at a purely social event – particularly if you’re going to many such events in a day.

For most people, a golf course is unambiguously a social place, different from Bishop’s workplace in the green room under the hill in Canberra. Bishop regards her job as going where her job requires: Collaroy, Launceston, Ottawa, wherever. She has been in politics so much and for so long that she is genuinely astonished that turning up to a fundraiser might lie outside a reasonable definition of a politician’s “work”.

And Jennifer Wilson:

In case you are still in any doubt about what matters and what doesn’t to the Anglo-Saxon hegemony think on this: white Speaker of the House of Representatives and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s personal pick Bronwyn Bishop remains in charge of the House, in spite of decades of financial abuse of taxpayer funds, the obscene details of which are unfolding daily before our disbelieving eyes. The only thing that keeps her in her job is Abbott’s support, because while the Prime Minister cannot actually sack a Speaker, there’s little doubt that if Abbott pressured her to get on her bike, she’d be mad not to obey.

. . .

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, normally a man with an opinion on everything no matter how irrelevant, remains conspicuously silent on both matters. Ms Bishop’s shenanigans with helicopters and luxury limos have left rotten egg splattered all over Tony’s face, an ungracious response on her part to the man who, when he won government, rewarded her with the prestigious job of Speaker. Getting rid of Bronwyn will cause Tony to lose egg-splattered face, as it will be an admission of his lack of judgement of a woman he’s known for decades, and indeed, has been heard to refer to as his “political mother.”

But as Freud would have it, an adult man must at some point cut ties with his mother, and this could be Tony’s moment to sever the umbilical cord.

Ever since Choppergate broke, this theme – with an obvious name change – has been an almost constant earworm for me:

As for dame kero’s “apology”

Too little too late.

As always in public life, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up that does the damage.

(Image Credit: Vote1Julia)


A huge thank you to Vote1Julia for letting me use his pics!

Heigh ho, let’s have a flaunting extravagant Friday. Enjoy The Pub’s delightful ambiance, enjoy the comestibles, crank up the jukebox – and if anyone is curious about the origin of the title to this thread . . .

(Image Credit: Amazon)

Prior to Travel

A few weeks before Gorgeous Dunny and his delightful partner Sim left these shores, GD sent me the piece published below. This was the accompanying email:

I’m aiming on this journey to do a series of articles, loosely titled Journey Into My Past. I’m hoping to fuse my English-origin heritage views with some of my childhood perceptions, along with general reflections on life and values.

In particular I’m trying to articulate what made us what we are. The English-speaking peoples, as Winston liked to call them, have had a dominant influence over the past two centuries. It will last a while longer despite the rise of China and India. I’m trying to highlight what got them in this position. I don’t think it was any special virtue or industry, but more a series of events and the pragmatic way they adapted: taking something from the past and building on it.

The attached is intended as a preamble to where I’d like to go. I may not get there, since I’m keeping an open mind. It is also a useful digression from the horrors of Abbott-Murdoch government.

I would value your opinion on this piece and the general aim. You are free to run it at The Pub if you think it is interesting enough, but my main intent at present is just to test the waters.

I look forward to any feedback you may offer … at your leisure.

As always, GD, your thoughts are well worth publishing. Your travel experiences will be equally welcomed.

I wish you calm seas (airs) and a prosperous voyage, and a very happy and fulfilling time.

This series of stories relates to my reaching into my past. It is in both senses of the word: drawing on my boyhood education and experience, and reaching out into my ancestral influences.

It was inspired by my plans to visit England for the first time in my life. At 73 years, I am old enough to reflect on life influences. My known ancestral origins are flimsy enough not to justify too much time. My paternal ancestors appear to have come from Lincolnshire. My father’s mother, an Alderman, had grandparents from Wiltshire. I have no substantial information on my maternal ancestry of the Mortimers and O’Donnells.

So my journey to the Old Country on ancestry will not occupy much of the three weeks I will have there. In truth I had not had a burning desire to go there until my partner Sim expressed a desire to go. She is of Chinese Malaysian origins. She won a nursing cadetship for two years in England in the 1960s. An old friend from that time is living in the Midlands and is in poor health. Sim wants to see her again while there is still time.

We planned it with that in mind. However, later she indicated that a few hours would be sufficient and we could travel the rest of our time. I had limited funds and started travel plans with that in mind. I wanted to accrue the maximum I could within that limit and time.

I’d had an earlier career in tourism and used that experience in research and planning. Although that is over 30 years ago, a lot of the skills still remain in getting the best value. In addition, what can be found online now makes it easier than it was during my working days. I soon got used to checking out almost anything.

Once I got beyond the key basic points of air transport and accommodation I could look at what we wanted to see in the time we had. Sim’s friend and her husband live in the Midlands. I decided to fly to Birmingham Airport for that reason. It was an accidental but inspired choice as it turned out.

Also incidental was my decision to use the Britrail Pass for getting around. A variety of schemes were on offer. Since we were staying in England for three weeks, we settled on the 15-days (in one month) Flexipass. I also purchased a Metro London Oyster pass for the six days we’d have there. That meant that the 15 days of the Flexipass was ample for our requirements.

Although first class rail was barely needed (and on some services not available) for the relatively short distances, I decided to purchase for the modest extra expense above standard class. Aside from marginal extra comfort, it will almost certainly allow us seats on most services without advance notice. We will be travelling in the peak summer months, and some destinations can be much in demand for standard seats. There are also the minor perks of tea and newspapers.

An accidental discovery/purchase in an Op Shop here of a booklet on Hadrian’s Wall really got me going on planning. It re-awakened a childhood interest I’d had in Roman-occupied Britain. I thought more about British history and my childhood education on it.

My schooling was in the early post-War years in South Australia. It is fair to say that it was very much an Anglophile view of the world then. At Gawler Primary School, which I attended from 1948 to 1954, we had daily school assembly where we were marched into classroom lines. It began with the Oath of Allegiance.

I am an Australian
I love my country, the British Empire
I salute her flag, the Union Jack
I honour her King, King George VI
I promise cheerfully to obey her laws.

In later years the Monarch line became “… Queen, Queen Elizabeth II”. Another change soon after was the changing of the word “Empire” to “Commonwealth”. It took the teachers a few days of prompting to get that right. Probably it reflected the unavoidable reality that we were a self-governing Dominion. Yet the “…my country…” remained. It reflected the ambiguity.

We saw ourselves as Australians, especially in sport. But part of us remained British. Our passports then were headed “British Subject”. Personally, I like to think I found it offensive even then.

It was certainly against my Labor-Australian nationalist view, but that probably didn’t really occur until I was an adult. By then I resented the subservient word “subject” as much as “British”. As children, however, we saw the world as out-posted British subjects.

I remember our class teacher for grade 5 and grade 6 (1952 and 1953) Mr Horsnell talking enthusiastically on British history. Most of our teachers had served during the War. Although I didn’t know at the time, I’m sure a few probably qualified as teachers under Post-War Repatriation program scholarships.

We were told of the Roman conquest and occupation. Boadicea was portrayed as a hero for leading a rebellion. We were led to believe that the Celtic Britons offered some resistance but were outmatched in war by the Romans. We showed patriotic empathy for the Britons.

So much so that Mr Horsnell felt it necessary to point to the positives that came from the Roman occupation. Foremost was the civilising influence. Roads, bridges and ports were constructed. Water supply and baths were introduced, and cities with stone buildings were built. The Roman Villa was probably the forerunner of the manors and country estates later to dominate. Very likely the words “villain” and “village” derived from it. The Romans brought villages, towns and cities to Britain. Celtic huts and cottages were primitive in comparison. The Britons gradually accepted the more advanced civilisation, which later brought Christianity to Britain.

The forays, invasions and then settlements of Angles, Saxons and Jutes, at least from the account given by Bede, presented a few problems for this empathy view. Then the theory was that the Britons were swept aside: that those surviving ended up in Wales and the more remote western parts. The rest were exterminated.

Explaining that in an empathetic manner to schoolchildren was not easy. Our teacher went along with the official line that the invaders, though our ancestors, were barbaric and wilfully cast aside the civilising parts of Roman Britain. In addition, they went back to pagan gods (which explains how some of our days like Wednesday and Thursday got their names) from Christian Britain. And that it took St Augustine coming to get it back on the Christian path.

I didn’t like the Anglo-Saxons much on that account, ancestors or not. More recent historical research has suggested a more nuanced view. That is, the Saxons and others may well have come there over a longer period. That the Romans might well have asked them to come as mercenaries or allies to boost a thin Roman force against other invaders. If they were capable warriors it would have helped.

They have also suggested that the Anglo-Saxons out-fought the Briton elite once the Romans had gone, and became the new elite. Germanic Old English and not the Celtic languages became the primary language. It might have been more convenient for trade.

Far from trashing the Roman influence, they seemed to adapt to it. They did bring their pagan gods, but gradually became Christian. The Viking-Danish raids and then conquests and settlements led to a further phase under Danelaw. They came to control about a third of the country (albeit it was not then really a single country but several kingdoms).

Their Norse language was closely related to the Germanic Old English. It probably led to a hybrid English language being formed. The Norman conquerors, however, had since settling at Normandy adopted French as their primary language. French did not take on as well with the conquered people. Over time it was easier for Normans to adapt to English than the other way round.

A peculiarity, as English evolved, was the variations in dialect and vocabulary in the different counties. The example given us was the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written in the North. It differs from Mallory’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, even though from the same mythology that led to it.

The legend of King Arthur and Camelot provides examples of how such events, if they did occur, can be purloined for national identity. The Welsh refer to him as “the once and future king”. At school we’d imagined him as a Briton king resisting the Romans. However, since the name was Roman-origin, it seems more likely he led resistance against the Anglo-Saxons. He probably passed into English folklore as they integrated with the Celts. And perhaps he was the symbol of a better age before the Norman Conquest.

The legend of King Arthur made its way into Norman folklore, and possibly thence into French. It might have helped that the greatest knight, Sir Lancelot, was French. Both cultures emphasised castles, monasteries and chivalry.

Other folk legend heroes such as Robin Hood and Hereward had their origins in Norman oppression. I gained an impression that it was ruthless and brutal in the early centuries. It softened a little with the Black Plague, and later the ending of French possessions. Anglicising would have occurred from then. The island separation from the Continent then allowed a more local development.

It is that isolation that contributed to its development in the succeeding centuries. Prior to larger-scale trade and capitalism, feudal wealth came from land ownership and what could be produced from it. The barons and landowners quickly realised that they had no wealth from their land unless crops were harvested and livestock were raised.

The Black Plague took out at least half and probably more than that of the labouring classes. There were not enough to do the work, and owners had to bid for those that were available. It ended serfdom and led to higher wages. Lords fought rearguard actions to suppress wages. They were only partly successful. More independent workers and yeoman helped contribute to more upward mobility and independent thinking. The corruption in episcopal and monasterial control of worship and lives was challenged.

That occurred more than a century before Henry VIII’s severing of ties to the Catholic Church. It was during the Tudor reign, however, that England emerged as a single monarchy with a strong growing navy. The Renaissance era was most conspicuous through the development of theatre in the Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.

The emergence of the Puritans challenged the Church’s dominance in social control. Catholic versus anti-Catholic squabbles was just the beginning. So there was upward mobility, gradual freedom of expression and being open to new ideas. The creation of a navy under Alfred became still bigger under the Tudors, leading to an imperial expansion.

So the modern nation started to take shape from about the time of the Magna Carta in 1215. Politically, most of the landmarks are about the limits of power: how the rights of subjects are maintained in return for loyalty and obedience. It is simplifying to suggest it was a continuum, or that most were not won without bloodshed. Over generations it gradually extended to common law and to all.

Culturally, the Renaissance came a little later than it had to other parts of Europe. Chaucer was an early example is a poet/diplomat, helping to establish English over Latin or French for poetry. It reached a maturing during the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. In poetry, the flowering of Spenser and Shakespeare soon led to the Metaphysical Poets. And the King James Version of the Bible was an outstanding literary achievement in addition to putting the sacred text into English.

Despite Civil War and several revolutions, the 17th and early 18th centuries offered a transition to the Age of Enlightenment and the rapid growth in science following Newton. Wealth from the growing empire encouraged enquiry.

The Canal Age expedited transport and trade. Some brilliant engineering occurred and that was to continue during the Steam Age and the Industrial Revolution. England got a huge jump on the rest of the world, allowing empire and trade to expand through the Victorian Years.

One of Australia’s greatest writers, David Malouf, once commented on the differences between the English settlements in the USA and Australia. America was founded in the Puritan Age; Australia in the Age of Enlightenment.

Our two greatest navigators, Cook and Flinders, mapped our land. Governor Macquarie extended the emancipation of convicts to positions of office. From that the ideas of equality of opportunity flowed to my country.

So there will be much to absorb in just a few weeks as I come to terms with my ancestral origins.