Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
It is fine to label an MP of Lebanese descent 'Jihad Jackie', but not fine to compare fly-in-fly-out mining camps to concentration camps.
Why? Because, politics, stupid.
The Queensland Parliament spent close to four hours on Thursday morning debating comments made by the Member for Bundamba just before midnight on Tuesday night.
Then, Jo-Ann Miller told the House about her tour of the state's mining communities, stating “workers are being kept in what only can be described as mining concentration camps”.
Her comments were reported on Wednesday morning, but the story died off because most people recognised it for what it was - another ill-advised piece of hubris uttered in a chamber where ill-advised hubris and hyperbole roam free.
But two-days later, the state's newspaper put those comments on the front page, giving the LNP an excuse to condemn, criticise and condescend a favourite sparring partner, instead of debating wide sweeping electoral reforms or any other issue which will impact day-to-day Queensland life.
Ms Miller could have made it all go away by apologising. Instead she attempted to justify it and the result is what played out in the House on Thursday morning. She said she was repeating comments made to her by miners, their families and those living in the communities during her visits, but to compare mining camps in a free, democratic and capitalist society, where workers are well compensated for any sacrifices, to the atrocities of Nazi Germany is ridiculous.
Because she didn't apologise, it gave Mines Minister Andrew Cripps the opportunity to stand up and move a motion for the parliament to apologise on behalf, giving LNP MPs the floor to condemn her further.
The view from the moral high horse is mighty fine. It also allows those riding it to brush away any muck thrown at them from lower ground. Ray Stevens, the LNP Leader of the House never apologised to Labor MP Jackie Trad for calling her 'Jihad Jackie' during a feisty debate in September 2012. He didn't have to. That's the advantage of being part of a government that holds an unprecented majority.
But when Annastacia Palaszczuk, who teared up speaking of her grandfather's seven years in work camp in Poland* during WWII, took to the floor to apologise "on behalf of the opposition if there is any offence to anybody in Queensland caused by the comments made", Mr Stevens interjected that Ms Trad was running a "terrorist campaign" against Ms Palaszczuk for her job.
When Ms Trad objected, Mr Stevens withdrew the comments. That doesn't make them go away. It's the equivalent of a parent or teacher forcing a recalcitrant child to say sorry.
But not a single member of the government, who were so incensed by concentration camp comparisons, made a peep at someone with Lebanese descent being linked to terrorism.
When Ms Trad spoke of her personal offence at the comments and compared it to the current debate, members called out that the "analogy didn't work" and she was "drawing a long bow".
Because those comments are apparently 'different'.
All sides of the house say stupid things. All sides will continue to say stupid things. It comes with living inside the rarified parliament bubble. But there is no difference depending on which side of parliament those studpid things come from, because stupid is stupid is stupid.
Just apologise and move on.
Don't attempt to justify it, or make excuses, or pass blame.
But don't also throw mud with one hand, while attempting to brush your own muck off with the other.
Democracy is a privilege. Respect it.
*CORRECTION A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to a Polish work camp. The author agrees that the camps were situated in Poland and that Poland was occupied by Germany at the time and that the camps were run by the German Nazis.