In the 1997 movie Orgazmo, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone conceive of a
magic gun that makes anyone it is fired at instantly climax in their pants.
Technically no one gets hurt, there is just a brief rush of endorphins followed by immediate
embarrassment and shame.
And watching events unfold in federal politics this week, it is difficult not to believe that
someone has deployed such a weapon in Canberra.
RELATED: Joe Hildebrand: Who’s really to blame for climate failure
RELATED: Joe Hildebrand: ‘The true scandal of Australia Day’
RELATED: How 2019 bushfire season compares to other fire disasters
It is perhaps not surprising that the two minor parties whose undergraduate antics turned
Australia’s unprecedented bushfire crisis into a cheap political football the very moment it
began were the same ones who demeaned a national day of recognition for the victims and
heroes of that tragedy with their own petty squabbles and ambitions.
As we know it was the Greens’ Adam Bandt who couldn’t wait to get out of the blocks on
social media to pin the bushfire crisis on the Coalition’s lack of action on climate change
even as people were bracing for their lives. And it was the Nationals leader Michael
McCormack who foolishly rose to the bait by branding Bandt and his supporters “inner-city
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack tells @RNBreakfast it “galls” him when ppl raise climate change in relation to NSW bushfires. He says climate change is a concern of “inner city lefties” and “raving inner city lunatics”.
— Stephanie Peatling (@srpeatling) November 10, 2019
Both men may have had a point but that didn’t make their interventions helpful. As the
Dude saliently observes in The Big Lebowski: “You’re not wrong Walter, you’re just an
And now both men are leaders of their respective parties after the first sitting day of
Parliament was hijacked from being a day of thanks and recognition for those at the
firefront to yet another Canberra leadership tussle.
Now I don’t want to be too harsh on Richard Di Natale. I genuinely believe he is a decent
man and any politician who decides to put his family first automatically gets my vote – even
if by definition they will never be able to receive it.
But the timing of his decision to step down is, at best, unfortunate.
Mere weeks after the PM was viciously excoriated by countless Greens supporters – and at
least one Greens state MP – for taking a week off during the bushfire crisis Di Natale has
taken the rest of his career off on the very day that crisis was to be highlighted in the
To be fair, Di Natale didn’t join in the personal sledging of the PM – as I said, he is a decent
man – but surely he could have waited 24 hours so as not to detract from the day of recognition.
And if we really are at the zenith of a “climate emergency” as so many Greens Twitter
hashtags proclaim, surely it would be more important than ever for a man of his sensibility
to stick around?
Having presided over a steady level of support for the Greens – about 13 per cent at last count – they are still a way off Di Natale’s bullish hopes for 20 per cent by 2025.
It is hard to imagine how they will increase their base by moving even further to the left
under the erstwhile Marxist Bandt. I’m not sure exactly how many votes the Communist
Party of Australia tallied at the last federal election but I’m pretty sure it was a fair bit shy of
seven per cent.
Moderate leaders, even moderate Greens, are always to be welcomed in politics. It is
therefore a shame for the nation that Di Natale has decided to go but, as I said, family must
always come first.
This morning I took the incredibly difficult decision to step down as Parliamentary Leader of the @Greens. It’s not something easily put into words because representing this incredible movement has been one of the biggest honours of my life. Farewell and thank you for everything. pic.twitter.com/WAOHl7neW0
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) February 3, 2020
This brings us to Barnaby Joyce, a man whose love of family is so strong that he now has two of them.
Barnaby is good fun and good company and about as good for stable government as the
smoking room on the Hindenburg.
It is impossible not to like Barnaby – unless of course you were once married to him – but it
is equally impossible not to view his latest act as a madness that would put King George to
shame. To lose one leader, as Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell might opine, is a misfortune. To
lose two looks like carelessness.
And yet this is precisely the carelessness Barnaby deliberately attempted to orchestrate in
using Bridget McKenzie’s excruciating exit as a platform for his leadership comeback.
Again, to be fair, both McKenzie going out and Joyce coming in were equally inevitable. The
only difference is the former has happened and the latter hasn’t happened yet.
But this doesn’t mean that Joyce’s leadership putsch was the right thing to do – he is just
And so, on a day when the national parliament was poised to pay tribute to the tragedy and
loss suffered by regional Australia, the party that claims to represent regional Australia
managed to put its own petty and personal interests in the way.
Say what you like about McKenzie, at least when she screwed the pooch she was doing it for
the team. Barnaby’s reasons have all the clarity of a magic 8-ball.
And just when you thought politics couldn’t become more unbecoming, we have Malcolm
Turnbull – who seems to be adjusting well to retirement – exposing snippy texts about a
colleague’s wife. I have been a very lonely defender of Malcolm at times but I honestly
thought that sort of thing simply wasn’t done in Point Piper.
The overall impression of Australian politics is thus similar to a dog taking a dump on a
Persian rug. As a nation we are a tightly meshed interwoven fabric of unspeakable beauty
and harmony and on top of it is a great big pile of shit.
And frankly it’s high time our political leaders were house trained, because right now we are
all holding our breath.
Joe Hildebrand is editor-at-large for News.com.au and co-host of Studio 10, 8.30am
weekdays on Channel 10. Continue the conversation @Joe_Hildebrand