Rules are things you apply to other – lesser – people

Stalwart of The Pub, Aguirre, today ‘penned’ yet another of his exquisitely insightful comments. It was greeted with much acclaim, as post of the week, and I agree. So – with our guest author’s kind permission, the comment now morphs into our latest threadstarter. Thank you so much, Aguirre!

Photo credit: Alamy Stock Images

Looking around the discussion regarding MPs and citizenship, it seems to me a lot of people out there are still missing the point. It’s not really about how this government can or cannot hang on to power, or about whether the constitutional rules are arcane, or even about the timing of renunciations. It’s about something a lot larger than that, and something that strikes at the heart of everyone’s lived political experience.

It’s about short-cuts, privilege, and the idea within right-wing circles that rules are things you apply to other people. I think we’ve seen enough to know that a lot of MPs were aware all along that they had citizenship issues – they just didn’t care because they thought it would never come up. The key to this is that that is their attitude to everything. You do as little as you need in order to become an MP – that includes not only just ticking boxes on a form whether or not you’ve done your due diligence on them – but also trotting out whatever empty promises get you across the line, only considering what’s strategically effective as a message and not what’s practically effective as a policy, and just generally riding in on a tide of slurs, lies, and slogans. As a party, the Liberals also have that attitude to expense claims. Take, take, take, and justify later on – when and if necessary. It’s what got Bronwyn Bishop kicked out of her job.

Coalition MPs simply aren’t across the details on anything. They think things will work out in the end, but at that level they simply don’t. They spent a lot of time in opposition focusing on minor details, which gave the impression that they were into fine print, But that was just concentrating on gotchas, and even most of those were based on shonky information or misconstruing data – think of any of Hockey’s presentations as Shadow Treasurer: they were all based on distorted information made to look like real research.

What we’re seeing at the moment is a bizarre manifestation of that general laxity of discipline and accountability. It’s the same attitude that brought us the Census, the NBN, all of our policy-on-the-run asylum seeker bastardry, Robodebt, and pretty much everything they’ve touched since gaining power in 2013. Even their Royal Commissions were half-hearted and shoddily researched. Their Productivity Commission reports were constructed around … you couldn’t even call it ideology: mere assumptions, as was more or less admitted in the aftermath. Robodebt is almost the textbook case for their double-standard on accountability. Welfare recipients are held to the strictest standards based on data that’s wildly inaccurate, and designed to be that way. It was a rush job treated as a kind of economic gospel, and of course it ran into problems at once. The recent raid on the AWU is another good example of the Liberals’ holding somebody else to strict standards – an internal procedural issue from a decade ago? – while leaving themselves wide open to attack because their own organisation of the raid was so cack-handed. In fact, this pattern goes all the way back to Utegate.

And that’s what the citizenship mess is telling us. These guys don’t check anything beforehand. They guess at things, expect it all to go swimmingly because they’re Important People, and only energise themselves when it’s time to organise a cover-up to save their arses.

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