Aaaah Jacqui Lambie. The bogan from Tasmania. The potty-mouthed senator for the Palmer United Party who labelled the Liberals “gutless sycophants led by uncaring psychopaths”.
The simpleton who manages to make Pauline Hanson sound eloquent and well-informed. Now she finds herself in an almighty spot of bother with her latest foray in authentic speaking – daring to utter what she looks for in a man in response to a hypothetical question posed by a radio show no one outside of Tasmania has ever heard of.
“Outrageous!” screamed the men. “Show us yer tits – how'd you like us to say that to you?” they boomed.
“Outrageous!” screamed the feminists. “We’re back to saying we want men to be providers – in the boardroom and the bedroom!”
“Outrageous!” screamed the political elite. “Our elected representatives should display more decorum!”
Lambie is the sort of politician who makes us uncomfortable. She doesn’t pause thoughtfully before answering. She doesn’t trot out mind-numbing sound bites. While I don’t agree with her position on many things, no one can deny that outside of the major parties, she is one of the most talked-about politicians.
This month 12 new senators started terms in Parliament. It would be hard to find a single Australian "on the street" who could name more than two of them. Guaranteed, Lambie would be one.
On the face of it there is a lot to dismiss about Lambie, and the inconsistency of her party’s ideology.
But dig deeper and you’ll find a complex woman from an underprivileged background who’s achieved an almighty feat to be where she is now. A single mother who overcame mental health and substance abuse issues following a workplace injury.
While Tony Abbott can show off his fitness by joining troops for training drills when the cameras are on, Lambie served in the army for 10 years. By necessity, communication in her former workplace is direct, efficient and unambiguous. There’s no room for polite discourse and mild-mannered weasel speak.
Just before the Tasmanian radio duo niggled her about her relationship status, Lambie confessed she’d been single for 11 years, largely due to psychological and physical problems that had consumed her life during that time.
She followed this very personal revelation with a quip about needing a whipper snipper to take care of business in the waxing department. To me, it was a self-deprecating attempt to lighten the weight of what had gone before. And being breakfast drone radio, the would-be Cupid hosts leapt on the opportunity to steer the conversation away, delving more deeply into an obvious personal abyss.
Lambie found herself reluctantly wheeled out as a candidate for the single men of Hobart to consider as a potential date. She did what any reasonable person in the same situation would – trot out an ideal man list that you can be almost certain no man would match up to, lest this is thought of as a serious quest. Hence, a big package. Salary and otherwise. Ahem.
Given that last year Lambie said the Greens “had destroyed all hope in Tasmania”, suggesting the party should be subjected to a Senate inquiry over the state’s high unemployment rate, she probably thought the bar was set pretty high, on one of those packages at least.
Still, 22-year-old caller “Jamie” was undeterred, keen for a date with the senator.
Clearly uncomfortable but trying to play ball, Lambie asked if Jamie had plenty of cash. “Being 22 and living in Tasmania, you might not be quite there yet,” she told him, in what could be regarded as a quick-witted crack at the state’s economic state.
But no, the deadpan humour was lost in the stampede to condemn her out-of-context sound bites and the launch of a thousand Twitter opinionettes.
To me, Lambie’s greatest crimes are against the English language. “If I can’t let me hair down a little bit and make fun on breakfast radio...”
Other than that, Lambie might not be saying what others want her to. But she is being heard.
So may the male commentators get back to being indignant, and the feminists go back to writing PhDs on the relativity of heteronormativity. And let Lambie be herself – a rarity in this political era.
Diana Elliott is a freelance writer.