(This post is a direct reference to this article, which I suggest you read now, and the accompanying video, which I demand you watch now. The video is spectacular, you can’t write better comedy than this.)
When Emperor Palpatine was thrown into the core of the Death Star Tony Abbott was ousted as Prime Minister, members of parliament, like most of us in our living rooms, took to dancing on tables in spontaneous celebration, like the final scene of the rejigged Return of the Jedi.
Well it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, in this case Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs who emerged the next day in a wheelchair like Dr Strangelove, and somewhere among the hootin’ and a hollerin’ a marble table from the Prime Ministerial Suite was smashed.
Aren’t you glad the adults are back in charge?
So someone else’s property (in this case the Commonwealth’s) was broken. What would be the appropriate next step for the Liberals to take? It’s the same for everyone, from a “six and out” backyard cricket slog through a neighbours window to an accidental fender bender in a crowded parking lot, the process is the same: admit fault, apologise and offer to pay the damages. That would be the adult thing to do.
Except we’re dealing with the Liberals here and there’s nothing adult about them. Instead of an offhand mea culpa and an insignificant cheque from a Cayman Islands holding account, they instead implemented “The Formula”
“The Formula” is their answer to everything, no matter the scale or significance. From trashing a AAA economy to breaking a piece of office furniture in a post coup d’etat kegger, the process is always the same:
1: Do something stupid and destructive
In this case it was needlessly destroy a marble table. Previous examples have included defunding the SBS and ABC, attacking Medicare and fibre to the node.
2: Deny it
“The table was damaged” Senator Bernadi“Well if the marble was in bits, I’d say it was smashed” Senator Wong“Damaged” Senator Bernadi “I’d hate to speculate unnecessarily, so let’s just refer to it as a damaged table”“Well I might refer to it as smashed, but that’s fine…because I think you can only really smash marble” Senator Wong“You could chip it” Senator Bernadi “You could chip it”
(In response to Senator Wong’s claims that the table was “smashed”) “We haven’t established that, what we’ve established is that an item of furniture has been damaged”
3: Try to mitigate it with semantics and look like you’re conceding while actually stubbornly holding your ground
“I just hate any inflammatory rhetoric to work it’s way into this committee today” Senator Bernadi (yes, THAT Senator Bernadi)
“It’s damaged…well they could be chips…large chips” Senator Bernadi“When does a chip become a chunk? That’s what I want to know” Senator Wong“Semantics we can argue, we can have a Senate Inquiry into that” Senator Bernadi “Let’s just go with damaged”
4: Blame the victim
“Was there any evidence of a natural weakness in the stone?” Senator Bernadi
“(There was) clearly a structural weakness…” Senator Bernadi
5: Spuriously claim expertise in the field being debated
“I studied geology…” Senator Bernadi “…in year 12 and I can tell you it’s a structural weakness”
(I find that hard to believe considering one of the first topics one studies in geology is how rocks are more than 6000 years old)
6: Blame the whistleblower for leaking it in the first place
“The hearing boiled over when Senate President Stephen Parry suggested that cleaners had broken a “duty of confidentiality” by reporting what they saw in ministerial offices.
Senator Wong replied: “So it’s the cleaner’s fault for telling people that ministers have been souveniring bits of marble? Are you going to go after the cleaners?”
“Are you seriously telling the committee, Mr President, that your primary concern is the cleaner’s conduct in this?”
Parry: “No, I’m not saying that Senator Wong. What I’m saying is how can we rely on evidence, anecdotal evidence when it would be the duty of cleaners not to report matters that they sight on ministers’ desks.”
Wong: “I will place on record that I think it is an extraordinary thing that a presiding officer is concerned about what the cleaners have done here and not about the fact that Commonwealth property has been treated in this way.”
7: When all else fails, try and pin it on Labor
“I’m sure there was a hair crack previously” Senator Parry“There’s also chips and cracks in the side of it” Senator Wong“That would be long standing damage, perhaps from the previous occupant (Rudd/Gillard)” Senator Bernadi
So there it is, “The Formula” applied to full effect in the Upper House. No matter the issue, small or large, the process is always the same, applied with tired predictability and fatuous inanity.
So why focus on damage to a marble table? It’s petty and ridiculous. Well so is the Liberal Party. Their response to this issue is the same as their response to any other. The only variables that change are the size and the ramifications. The insouciance and contempt remain the same. Australia, we are all the table.