For our pollies, 'sorry' really is the hardest word

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(Meme via @RunawayBudgie)

Even when socialists and packs of dogs may be to blame, a contrite apology goes a long way, says Jim Pembroke.

“I'M SORRY BUT ...”, says Steve Ciobo — the classic "nopology".

Politicians don't do sorry. Yet in other workplaces, it's not that difficult for people to show regret when they make a mistake.

The bloke doing the classic buttocks photocopying prank on office equipment is very sorry when the glass breaks, just as he hits the print button — the whole thing caught on the office video. Workmates wince, roll their eyes and have a chuckle on the way to hospital. But in the end, a little brown-nosing from the prankster and all is forgiven — everyone moves on.

Not so in politics. Our elected representatives shake their heads vigorously in denial. Heaven forbid "they" should ever be caught making an arse of themselves. 

Of course, it would be better if our pollies didn’t go crazy with the taxpayers' credit card but things really only start to unravel for them when they get caught. The MP's first instinct is to deny everything.

Like the three-year-old with chocolate dripping down her chin. "No, mummy, I didn't eat the Nutella." Yes Sussan, you did. The stuff is all over your face! Deep breath. Now, tell the truth Sussie. We won't get angry if you tell the truth. But Sussie knows her parents and the whole of Australia will get angry if she tells the truth. So she compounds her denial by concocting some bizarre tale about being forced into real estate by the Impulse Fairy.

Then, as if things weren't crazy enough, along comes the former speaker Bronwyn Bishop. She tries to defend Minister Ley by blaming the whole thing on a ”pack of dogs” consisting of alcoholics and socialists. No one is quite sure what she was trying to say — just being helpful, I guess. After all, "Choppergate" Bronwyn knows a few things about travel entitlements and saying sorry when they spiral out of the sky. During her own controversy, she apologised twice. Well, both of them were pretty much, non-apologies. And now, the ex-Speaker is forever associated with cartoon helicopter memes, presumably created by Marxists with drinking problems.

Maybe taking advice from colleagues who have been forced to resign is not such a good idea.

Possibly, Ms Ley should have done what our cheeky photocopier did and grovelled to the boss.

Here's what that would sound like.

Health Minister Sussan Ley would grasp a microphone tightly in both hands and in a breaking voice, say ...

“I'm sorry.”

The public would lean closer to hear the tearful confession.

“I don't know what came over me ... and I ... ”

The health minister's sentence would trail off as she cried openly into the microphone.Then her legs would give way and she'd collapse to her knees on the Surfers Paradise beach.

She would then turn her head from the warm sand and scream to the sky:

“Forgive me! Please don't make me resign!"

Now, that's an apology.

And going the full confession has been done before.

Former Labor senator Sam Dastyari looked like someone had stolen his halal snack pack when he resigned over payments from Chinese donors.

“I made a mistake and I'm sorry.” 

See, it's not so hard — and that wasn't even taxpayers money.

Back in Susann Ley's world, things didn't go so well either. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a press conference for 2pm and threw the health minister under a bus. She was required to resign. But still no apology.

I followed the rules.

No Sussan, the chocolate is all over your face.

If Health Minister Ley wouldn't apologise, maybe Prime Minister Turnbull would. The media had spent the whole week exposing the extravagant spending of "his" ministers. Then he announced a new watchdog to oversee "their" spending.

Someone other than Sam Dastyari needs to apologise.  But it seems an apology wasn't on the PM's mind when he called the presser.

So, in the end, the responsibility passes to the board members of this new compliance body. These fine, frugal folk will be watching those sticky-pollie fingers carefully. But maybe, their first task should be to gather all those parliamentarians into one room, give them a good "shellacking" and make them atone for their past misdemeanours. Perhaps, a formal dinner event where all parliamentarians and their families are forced to participate in a tightly scripted but elaborate apology ceremony. It would be broadcast live on ABC television and known forever after as The Great Polliepology (#polliepology).

Funded by the taxpayer, of course.

Read more from Jim Pembroke on his blog, or follow him on Twitter @Jim_Pembroke.

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