Thursday, 17 April 2014

Barry, Politicians and Publics

Barry O'Farrell leaves ICAC - AAP: Dan Himbrechts
The resignation of Barry O'Farrell for what seems to be unintentional perjury (yes yes, perjury is perjury) has raised many interesting responses in the political world and the broader community. One from the Prime Minister and the other from the general online interwebs social online world media.

First, there was the Prime Minister who practiced his Richard Dawkins thoroughly indignant look when one of those media folk (from The Australian no less) called the NSW Liberal Government corrupt:
That, if I may say so, is an entirely unjustified smear. Let me not mince my words, madam. An entirely unjustified smear, and frankly I think you should withdraw that. There is no evidence whatsoever for that.
With O'Farrell announcing his resignation just before the press conference was due to begin, it clearly would have been hard for the Liberals to hold it together. Even Tories are humans and to see O'Farrell resign would have been a shock, particularly for the state ministers who had served under the premier. Abbott, however, did his cause no favours, calling for the media to have "decent standards". That probably doesn't apply to the ABC, who need to meet different standards, like never questioning the nation, its leaders or its defence force.

After years of baiting the Gillard government and running campaigns based on smear and fear, Abbott's used up his "moral high ground" card (like, within his first three days as opposition leader). Particularly while his good friend and former Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos faces far more serious accusations at ICAC than an overlooked Barossa Shiraz (don't pretend like they make other varieties - Barossa is to Shiraz like the Herald Sun is to moral panic).

This leaves Abbott in a particularly hard situation in how to deal with Senator Sinodinos. The senator, who was a director of AWH, stands accused of being either wilfully ignorant or accidentally forgetful in his role at the company. Either way, he is probably not the type best suited to help manage, you know, the economy. O'Farrell, by falling on his sword over a bottle of wine (yes, an expensive one, but wine nonetheless. This isn't fucking Watergate) has set the Bar-o-Integrity® impossibly high for Abbott.

Second is, for lack of a better phrase, "social media's" response. That is to say, the sometimes comprehendible arrangement of words on a screen of those who can now spew forth opinions without being asked by Vox Pop or pollsters (your humble scribe included).

A few quick and witty memes aside, the response has been largely a "good riddance" one. These responses would likely been seen regardless of political party O'Farrell hailed from. In this era of low trust in politicians ("they're all the same!!!"), it's a shame that someone who has been a generally dependable and trustworthy leader gets thrown out with the same voices that not 12 months ago would have been saying "JULIAR! JULIAR! BOB'S BROWNS BICH".

It seems that even when we get a political leader who does and says mostly the right things (as we repeatedly say we want from our leaders), we can't wait for the first moment to cheer at their downfall.

The moral of the story is that, if you're willing to enter politics, prepare to be hated for reasons that aren't quite clear or reasonable. Even if you do a fair-to-middling-to-good job, you will be hated. You will be ignored by those who voted for you and despised by those who did not. And when you do resign, don't expect fireworks. Just expect a circus. Relax and go and have a nice glass of red a nice cup of tea.

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