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MUNGO MACCALLUM: Bishop, Pyne and the politics of envy

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Caricatures of former lIberal MPs Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop courtesy KeoghCartoons.com.au

Once again, the cultural warriors of the right are caught in a conflict of loathing. 

They would love to see former MPs Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne embarrassed and humiliated — they were supporters of the arch-fiend Turnbull, renegades from the Miraculous Morrison and his band of angels. They deserve to be cast into the nethermost pit, along with the other unbelievers and blasphemers.

But they hate the idea that delivering them to their just desserts would be a small victory to the even more abhorrent leftists, the Greens and the Labor Party that have forced a Senate Inquiry into their hugely lucrative new jobs.

And besides, there is a principle involved: the sacred goal of what Morrison blesses as aspiration, and what more normal 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 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 any hint 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 which 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 disobedience could be proved. And 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.

Do 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 is a veteran journalist who worked for many years in the Canberra Press Gallery. This article was published on 'Pearls and Irritations' and is republished with permission.

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