The Liberal Party's week-long revenge pantomime

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(Screenshot via abc.net.au)

The Government's week-long orgy of feelings that brought our Parliament to a standstill and left us with yet another prime minister has provided no resolution for the Liberal Party's warring factions, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.

THERE'S LIKELY no other workplace on the planet in which employees are permitted to behave as our Federal politicians do in theirs.

As events last week in Canberra so resoundingly confirmed, the nation’s Parliament is, for the current Government, little more than a theatre upon whose stage Liberal MPs are entitled to perform the most base of revenge pantomimes.

Intermission in the turgid farce was marked by the abandonment of Parliament for the day — an unprecedented halting of the democratic process. The Liberal Party’s frenetic need to devour itself was judged to be more important than Question Time. The debating of bills, such as the reform bill that will end the practice of victims of domestic violence being subjected to cross-examination by their perpetrator, was defenestrated in favour of the furtherance of a feral ideological punch-up.

In case you were in any doubt this fifth-rate production was about anything other than hatred for the leader and the settling of old scores, consider this...

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull, in his strategically cunning and unexpectedly successful effort to buy time, arbitrarily decided he needed 43 signatures before he would consider calling a party meeting.

Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch signed last, giving the PM what he said he needed and, under his signature, added a short note'For Brendan Nelson'. This was apparently in reference to the ungracious manner in which Turnbull dealt with Nelson in times past and for which, apparently, Entsch has not yet forgiven him.

Riveting stuff for the men-children of the Liberal Party, for whom feelings trump responsibility. Not so much for the rest of us.

Not one Liberal politician has thus far been able to provide us with an explanation for the week-long orgy of feelings that brought our Parliament to a standstill and left us with yet another Prime Minister. Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton did say he believed he'd be better at the job than Turnbull. However, there was a notable lack of reasoned argument and evidence to back up Dutton’s personal belief in his own talents and abilities.

Inability to deal with and resolve internal strife means the Liberals are not fit for government. Never has this been so powerfully demonstrated in our grievously regular leadership dramas than last week, when internal strife fuelled by animosity, vengeance and emotional injury – but spectacularly not policy – literally brought the governing of the country to a stop.

To employ the vernacular, government was suspended for the first time in living history because a bunch of men were suffering butt-hurt.

Some commentators have attempted to give stature to these gutter shenanigans by describing them as “Shakespearean”. Claiming an event is Shakespearean brings to it a complexity, gravitas and class that describing an event as a farce, a charade, or a mockery, does not.

There is nothing in the least Shakespearean about the actors in the latest F-grade performance of the Liberal Party. They are one-dimensional in their goals and in their manner of achieving those goals. They are characters more at home in People — a magazine crammed with feuds of empty vessels such as the Kardashians, another tribe famous for being entirely bereft of meaning.

Shakespeare is cathartic. His stories are satisfactorily and imaginatively resolved. The audience leaves the theatre enriched. Kardashian feuds arrive at no such resolution and, indeed, are invested in prolonging the discontent because it is the discontent that fills their coffers.

I would argue the same process is at work with those in the media, who relish the crudely dramatic events we witnessed last week. These events are nothing more than the deeply unsavoury actions of men who have abandoned reason in favour of their primitive emotions and urges, and, in so doing, have dealt a nation’s struggling faith in its democracy a possibly fatal blow.

It’s clear there was an orchestrated campaign by Newscorp and 2GB shock jock Ray Hadley to destroy Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. 

These media don’t want a resolution and neither, as far as I can tell, does anyone in the Liberal Party. The Right wants only to dominate and will not cease its increasingly vicious disruption until it has beaten all opposition into bloodied acquiescence. The Left and Centre cannot see beyond a craven appeasement that will never satisfy their opponents’ gluttonous maw. The Liberal Party is no longer a “broad church” — it is instead comprised of irreconcilable factions, cleaved by an ideological abyss the size of the Grand Canyon.

Though Prime Minister Scott Morrison would have it otherwise, his team is not a cathartic “new generation”, suddenly birthed from the Godhead. Less than one week ago, the Liberal party was in serious disarray, however Morrison and his new Treasurer Josh Frydenberg were not being groomed to take over from the “old generation” — Turnbull and his Deputy Leader, Julie Bishop. This is spin, for which we the people are footing the bill.

There is every reason to believe the Morrison Government will lean more to the right than did the Government of his predecessor. There is nothing “new generation” about this outcome. Indeed, it is a disturbing regression to rightwing ideology that has no useful place in the world today.

That we should have to place our lives and the future of our young in the hands of people so unskilled in mastering their injured feelings – and for whom injured feelings rank higher in importance than the functioning and political wellbeing of the nation – is both shocking and tragic. It is, in fact, a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions — not for the actors emoting their melodrama onstage, but for the hapless Australian people who find ourselves reduced to the ignominious role of the horrified and helpless audience, witnesses to the sickening self-indulgence of elected representatives. 

It is a woeful, shallow narrative towards which we, the people, can rightly employ the words of Shakespeare's Macbeth

It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing

You can follow Dr Jennifer Wilson on her blog No Place for Sheep or on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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