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.
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.