THE challenge for a political columnist is to find something to write about other than the bungles, incompetence and excessively ideological actions of the Federal Government.
It is difficult to resist so much material as the Abbott Government seems so intent on providing, from foreign affairs to immigration and education!
Calling someone a liar in the parliament is simply unacceptable. However, members find ways to describe the mendacious or hypocritical behaviour of their opposite numbers in interesting ways. This is the background to the speech Greens Senator Richard Di Natale used to compare the current government to the Land of Topsy Turvy, from Enid Blyton’s “The Magic Faraway Tree”, which he has been reading to his small son.
It is the land where people walk on their hands and wear hats on their feet. The children of her story explore lands such as the Land of Take-What-You-Want, the Land of Dame Slap, the Land of Topsy-Turvy, the Land of Spells, the Land of Goodies, the Land of Dreams and the glorious Land of Birthdays.
There was a risk for the Senator of the clichéd accusation of the Greens being “off with the gnomes and fairies at the bottom of the garden”. As it turns out, it was a risk worth taking; a bit of light-hearted fun to draw attention to political foibles is a welcome change from the hard-nosed and vicious accusations that were the hallmarks of the previous parliament and are boomeranging back at the Liberals now they are in government.
The Senator started with the notion of “some kind of bizarre political version of the Topsy Turvy Land” and quickly moved to refugee policy: “In the case of the Abbott Government, where transparent and accountable government means keeping billboards with the tally of boat arrivals in opposition but refusing to disclose details about boat arrivals in government”.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison used his ministerial powers to undo Labor and the Greens’ move to override Temporary Protection Visas. The Minister has now effectively frozen the issuing of Permanent Protection Visas until next financial year. How will more than 30,000 people feel about the Australian Government?
“In this version of Topsy Turvy Land clear and calm and methodical government”, according to Senator Di Natale, “means you convene late-night meetings to clean up the mess that is the fallout from your broken election promises”.
Whether it is education or foreign affairs, the Government hardly seems to need an opposition to pour mud on them, they seem intent on digging themselves into deeper and deeper holes.
In this form of Topsy Turvy Land the Senator draws attention to the response of a government with financial issues. “The response to a Budget emergency is to cut revenue – like those provided by the Mining Tax and by the Fringe Benefits Tax on novated leases”. He then went on to refer to the attempt of the Government to lift the “debt ceiling” by $200 million.
However, immigration and fiscal management were not enough for Senator Di Natale. He went on to illustrate the Topsy Turvy nature of the Government in science and its commitment to women.
“You show your commitment to science by cutting CSIRO and by not appointing a Minister for Science and campaign with daughters to show commitment to women and then appoint one woman to the cabinet,” he said.
He continued on financial contributions to big polluters while removing a market mechanism to deal with carbon and accuse others of being politically incorrect when pointing out the increase in extreme weather events.
The Senator considered Topsy Turvy the notion of concern about people drowning at sea, then the Australian Navy is given a dangerous task putting sailors lives at risk.
“Being a ‘good Christian’ means locking up young kids indefinitely in offshore prisons. It means denying a woman and her newborn access to decent medical care,” the Senator said.
His conclusion was “other people would use less kind words to describe the behaviour of this government in their first few months,” before returning to “walking on their hands and wearing hats on the feet”. It is a shame he missed the line: “You pay for what you never get”.
Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health
Senator Richard Di Natale’s speech can be seen at youtube.com/watch?v=tjYhD-piZU4
Topsy Turvy Land
By H E Wilkinson
The people walk upon their heads,
The sea is made of sand,
The children go to school by night,
In Topsy Turvy Land.
The front-door step is at the back,
You’re walking when you stand,
You wear your hat upon your feet,
In Topsy Turvy Land.
And buses on the sea you’ll meet,
While pleasure boats are planned
To travel up and down the streets
Of Topsy Turvy Land.
You pay for what you never get,
I think it must be grand,
For when you go you’re coming back,
In Topsy Turvy Land.