Sunday Territorian 24 Aug 2014
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14 OPINION SUNDAY AUGUST 24 2014 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 PUP policies make joke of politics as Chinese whisper in unhappiness Clive stars in a bad sitcom Clive Palmers apology for his comments about China will not be accepted by all THERE is a dopey oldAustralian saying thatholds that you never really know what the Chinese are thinking. I can remember aged and now-past members of my family saying this when I was a kid and it always left me puzzled. One and half billion people, all mastering the art of inscrutability. Those inscrutable Orientals. If this ludicrous assertion were true, the counterpoint to it would be that you always know what Clive Palmer and his zany chums in the Palmer United Party are thinking, because no sooner does an idea or comment enter their minds than out it comes. It doesnt matter if its Clive on ABC televisions Q&A railing against those Chinese mongrels who hold one-day trials and then shoot their own people. It doesnt matter if its Senator Jacqui Lambie, who really put her home state of Tasmania on the map, so to speak, musing in a radio interview about the equine qualities she sought in a sex partner, before noting that it had been so long between drinks that things were getting a bit Amazonian downstairs and that she would need to get the whipper-snipper out before date night. At least this week she managed to get her gaze off her nether regions and toward the Asian region with a dire warning of the imminent Chinese invasion of Australia. There are a few key reasons the Australian political system is in a state of paralysis. One is the obstructionist opportunism of Labor which, having been deservedly and comprehensively punted last year after its protracted leadership indulgences, refuses to acknowledge the Coalition won a mandate to do anything. Another is that Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his tineared Treasurer, Joe Hockey, have exceeded that mandate, spending a full term campaigning (rightly) against Labors Carbon Tax lie, then getting in and proving themselves quite handy liars, too, with a promise-breaking Budget. The third is that we now have a Parliament which should really be covered with a giant canvas tent, and tickets sold out the front, so voters can at least have a bit of a giggle at the spectacle of Australias best-practice lunatics pissing our money up against the wall. The level of derangement in Parliament is now such that I suspect that with a more responsible and suitably humbled Opposition, and a more honest government armed with a competent treasurer, the country would still be up the creek. The fascinating and alarm-ing thing about the rise of Palmer is that for the first time we have someone in the Parliament who was elected off the back of foreign money, and is in a position to make policy decisions which directly influence his own hip pocket. None of the existing nor proposed laws surrounding electoral funding nor conflicts of interests apply to Palmer. This is because he is such an unusual and unprecedented creation that the current political scenario has not needed to be addressed previously. There has been talk about publicly funded election campaigns to break the nexus be tween the major parties and donors who seek policy influence. The issue with Palmer is that all the money he has is his own money, derived in part from his now estranged Chinese business partners. The millions he had to play with during the campaign explains why most Australian households received a DVD in the post urging us to get behind Clive, and why he went close to matching the major parties with his campaign spend, albeit with a ragtag bunch of no-names behind him. The other problem with Palmer is that because he is not a minister, he is not covered by the code of ministerial conduct which prevents Cabinet members from adjudicating on matters which could affect their own investments. He can vote to abolish the Carbon Tax, vote to abolish the mining tax, and happily check his bank balance the following week. What we have seen from Palmer this week suggests that the bloke has little interest in the national interest, only selfinterest. His blowhard conduct on TV risks every Australian job (of which there are probably only a million or two) which is reliant on the fact that China is the enthusiastic recipient of goods, resources and services from this country. He might have tried to snivel his way towards a clarification, saying he was talking about the Chinese state, not the Chinese people. But the language he used was so loosely abusive, and involved words that are used to describe individuals rather than governments. Its a hell of an environment to create for the many thousands of high fee-paying Chinese uni students who keep our tertiary sector solvent. Beyond self-interest, theres another thing we have seen from Palmer this week: stupidity. From a crowded field, the funniest thing Ive read in a while was one of Palmers convoluted attempts to claim he was a true lover of China. Back in 2009, he was gushing about the great cultural contribution the Chinese had made to Australia, talking about how the Brisbane suburb of Toowong was named after two Chinese brothers, the Wongs, who ran a market garden there in the 1890s. The Queensland Governments official website of place names explains that the suburb takes (and has only ever taken) its name from a local Aboriginal word meaning cuckoo. Cuckoo, all right. The depressing thing about this country is that over the years we have seen politicians derided for being too bookish, too intellectual, too academic, too smart for their own good. Yet a lot of people will cheer on stupidity. Self-interested stupidity at that. The whole exercise is treated as a joke and often reported as if it were a sitcom. Oh big Clive, hes done it again. Oh Jacqui, what will she get up to next. Its no way to run a country, but running it they are.
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