Politics

The view from Billinudgel

Julie Bishop’s and Christopher Pyne’s aspirational conduct
The former MPs prove that if you have a go you will get a go

Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop in the House of Representatives in 2008. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Once again the warriors of the right are caught in a conflict of loathing. They would love to see Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne – supporters of the arch fiend Turnbull, renegades from the Miraculous Morrison and his band of angels – embarrassed and humiliated. They both deserve to be cast into the nethermost pit, along with the other unbelievers and blasphemers.

But the warriors hate the idea that delivering Bishop and Pyne their just deserts would be a small victory to the even more abhorrent leftists, the Greens and the Labor Party, who have forced a Senate inquiry into the former MPs’ hugely lucrative new jobs.

And besides, there is a principle involved: the sacred goal of what Morrison blesses as “aspiration”, and what ordinary people call naked greed. It is the right, the duty, of Australians to collar as much loot as possible, regardless of the ethics – isn’t ethics just a small county in England?

And from that point of view, Bishop and Pyne are simply obeying their party’s call, fighting their personal class war for their ordained privilege, the politics of avarice. It can hardly be called a moral dilemma, because morality has nothing to do with it. But it is a bit of a problem, nonetheless.

Fortunately there is absolutely no risk of either of them, or of any of their many predecessors and successors, suffering anything more than a mildly censorious mention in the socialist rags masquerading as the fourth estate. Martin Parkinson, the retiring head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, has already cleared them of impropriety. He asked them personally if they had breached any ministerial guidelines, and they assured him they hadn’t, and they should know.

After all, they were the part of the government responsible for devising the guidelines, for making sure that, whatever portentous phrases were used, there would be loopholes that even the most overfed ex-minister could slide through with ease. Guidelines of the politicians, by the politicians, for the politicians.

And in any case, who cares? They are only guidelines. There is no penalty for breaching them, even in the highly unlikely event that disobedience could be proved. How could it be? They are not allowed to lobby for their new employers for 18 months – well, a quiet reunion with their former colleagues is hardly lobbying.

And as for not using their ministerial knowledge in their new jobs – what an unreasonable and risible demand. Ho ho ho.

Does the public expect them to get by on the shitload of salary they have accumulated, not forgetting the lavish expenses seldom accounted for? Or the obscenely opulent pensions they will trouser for life? Get real. They always told us they could make more money out of politics than in it, and they are just fulfilling their promise.

And as for the curmudgeonly critics, just remember: if you have a go, you will get a go – at least if you’re a politician. And for those in the party room who think they have been perhaps a touch too blatant in their dash for cash, we just say: reject the politics of envy. Your chance will come.

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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