Labor Party

The view from Billinudgel

Make it memorable, Steve Gibbons

As if they didn’t have enough to fear and loathe already, the Liberal Party Tories and their media cheer squad have found a new hate object: the unassuming member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons.

Gibbons’s most recent crime is that last week, when demonstrators from the public gallery called the Prime Minister a bitch and a liar, he tweeted: “Looks like Abbott has contracted out his nasty side to the interjectors in the public gallery. A new low even for the Libs.”

And the man has form: just last year another tweet described Abbott and his deputy Julie Bishop as “a gutless douche bag and a narcissistic bimbo who aren’t fit to be MPs, let alone a PM and deputy. Both should be sacked.”

This, the Tories frothed, made him unfit to live. But actually, within the great parliamentary tradition Gibbons is pretty mild-mannered stuff.

When I arrived in Canberra in 1969 the great larrikins Les Haylen and Eddie Ward had retired, but Fred Daly and Clyde Cameron remained to keep the dream alive. And on the other side were Billy Wentworth, the brilliant but flawed scourge of the left who went on to become Australia’s first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and in the senate the orotund Reg Wright, who gloried in the title of the Winston Churchill of the Sandy Bay Repertory Company. They didn’t tweet; they roared.

The nineteen seventies brought us Stormy Normie Foster, a stentorian unionist from South Australia, and the anarchic Pete Steedman, whose stream of sotto-voce scatological insults kept his Country Party neighbours in the house constantly bemused and delighted. And then there were Paul Keating and Mark Latham, objects of fascination and even admiration for the Libs – until they achieved power or came close to it, at which point they became arch-fiends to be eliminated at any cost. Gibbons is never likely to rise to such heights but these days the right is taking no chances: he is to be crushed before he can become dangerous.

The irony, of course, is that his persecutors are the same people who are constantly lamenting the lack of colourful characters in parliament and in particular the uniform greyness of the career politicians who make up the majority of the Labor ranks. But whenever a possible exception appears, the new political correctness deems them unfit for parliament or indeed any form of politics and demands that they be re-educated or expunged from the system. Hypocrites and humbugs, clowns and frauds, pissants and poltroons the lot of them.

So Steve, your parliamentary career is almost over (he retires at the end of this term), so make it memorable. Go for them: they probably deserve it and even if they don’t, at least it will liven the place up.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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