Episode XVI: The Snark Awakens
Yes, View from the Street is back on our national day of patriotic rejoicing, when we celebrate… um…
Well, it's not the formation of Australia, since that happened on January 1, 1901. Neither is it when the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay (January 18, 1788), their landing at Sydney Cove (January 21, 1788), or the foundation of the Sydney colony and vesting of the land in the name of the British Crown (February 8, 1788).
In fact, January 26 is perhaps the most arbitrary of the many arbitrary dates we could have chosen to plant our national flag - not least because the sealed orders to Captain James Cook specified that he was to claim the hypothesised great southern land "with the Consent of the Natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain". Say, how'd that work out?
But enough with the black armband history, right? Australia Day is part of our nation's mighty heritage, stretching all the way back to 1994 when it actually became a national public holiday.
So obviously we can't move it to another less contentious date - after all, that'd break an epoch-spanning 22 years of tradition! - but instead it becomes an annual moment of division. So much so, in fact, that the Meat and Livestock Council decided to get into the spirit of the holiday by pitting carnivores against vegans, because what's one more hurtful fight between Australians?
In any case, V from the S popped off for a bit of a belated honeymoon, secure in the knowledge that precious little happens in the snarkosphere during the Xmas break. And all freakin' heck broke loose!
It's been a bad few weeks for the core group of MPs that helped Malcolm Turnbull mount his successful leadership challenge.
First we lost junior minister Jamie Briggs after he went a-drinking in a Hong Kong bar on an official trip and attempted to kiss the neck of one of his staff, who then complained about his behaviour - at which point Briggs gallantly shared her picture around. What a guy!
And we also lost Special Minister of State Mal Brough, who leapt at the opportunity to resign while everyone was looking at Briggs and not asking questions like "hey, when is the man tasked with overseeing the trustworthiness of the Parliament being questioned by police over procuring a rival MP's diary for the purposes of rolling them - before or after he answers questions about lying to Parliament?"
Meanwhile Arthur Sinodinos is being very tight-lipped about whether or not he's actually been cleared by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Guess we'll see in March, huh?
Another zany episode of Oh, Peter!
And there's V from the S's best pal, Immigration Minister and comedy superstar Peter "Lapping At Your Door" Dutton, who leapt to Briggs' defence by sending him a supportive text message about how News journalist Samantha Maiden - who wrote a piece about Brigg's inexcusable abuse of authority - was a "mad f-cking witch", which he promptly sent to Maiden instead of Briggs. Genius.
Maybe Duttles can perk himself up with a medal (after all, his department has more of them than the actual military does). What better way to celebrate the epidemic levels of self-harm happening in offshore detention, or the fact that the government buried the report showing that their witch hunt against Save the Children was utterly groundless, and that Indonesian authorities confirmed that Dutton's department totally paid people smugglers last year - in fact, that cash ended up being the key evidence against said people smugglers.
Does Dutton read this column? The V from the S mobile is on, so we should probably expect a text message shortly.
More pointless division!
We'll have us an election later this year (Sept-Oct: you read it here first!), and the current evidence is that PM Turnbull will basically walk it in despite having the unenviable task of becoming a quantum PM where he must exist in the state of not being Tony Abbott in order to be electable and also simultaneously being Tony Abbott in order to maintain the support of his party.
And the problems with that state were agonisingly and painfully clear with the disgraceful farce that was the death of Englishman David Bulmer-Rizzi, who was holidaying with his husband in Adelaide when he died in a tragic accident.
Initially Marco Bulmer-Rizzi was told that not only was his husband "never married" under Australian law, as far as his death certificate went, but also that he therefore had no rights to make funeral arrangements or transport his husband's body back to the UK for burial since he wasn't a family member.
SA Premier Jay Weatherill intervened, calling Bulmer-Rizzi to apologise personally, but even so: this is the sort of embarrassing, insulting situation that is going to keep happening if we continue to refuse to recognise same-sex marriages in this country.
And before you say "oh, but only when things go unusually wrong", yes: since that's literally the only time when laws ever come into play. This is the reason why the whole "I don't need a piece of paper to solemnise my lurve" argument doesn't work: no-one needs the law messing with their relationship, until something goes wrong.
It's similar to how no-one ever contacts the Fair Work Commission to let them know that their boss is awesome, or rings up the police each day to enthuse about how they've not been murdered.
The Preselecting Dead
Turnbull also has another looming problem in the shape of Banquo's Ghos… sorry, former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Big Tone's confirmed that he plans to contest the next election, which means that Malc can look forward to a continuation of the white-anting that has accompanied the last few months of his leadership - especially from ex-ministers Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz, who realise that their skill sets are not as valued in the new regime since blind, unquestioning loyalty to the PM has become less desirable than ministerial attributes like "talk cogently to the media about your job without getting flustered and angry" and "don't go on TV to promote discredited science on behalf of anti-abortion hate groups".
Speaking of which, Abbott's jetting off to the US to speak before one such group, which hilariously calls itself the Alliance Defending Freedom while seeking to remove freedoms around access to abortion, gay rights, and anything that looks a bit feminist.
And that's another indication of exactly why Abbott's planning to stay on as MP for Warringah: firstly, because it will embarrass the far-less-reactionary new PM, and secondly, because it's clear that offers for those $40,000 speaking engagements aren't exactly rolling in.
If ranting to scared American bigots is the best gig he can get, he'd be mad to quit the day job.
Up, up and away…
Another lingering embarras… sorry, "heritage MP" is Bronwyn Bishop, whose decades-long policy of charging the taxpayer for trips to weddings and Liberal party functions came unstuck when she decided she'd take a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong for a mere $5k, rather than endure that nightmare hour-long drive along a major highway.
While she has continued to bravely insist that she did nothing wrong, she was forced to step down as Speaker of the House and most pundits felt that she'd probably be too embarrassed to stand for preselection again.
However, reports that Bishop had developed a sense of human shame proved premature, as she declared she would indeed be standing in Mackellar in order to - and this is genuine - "fight terrorism". Which, as we all know, is rampant in the well-heeled northern beaches of Sydney.
However, Bronnie's popularity has been on the wane in the historically safe seat, and one of the more hilarious threats is that entrepreneur Dick Smith has indicated he's considering a run at Mackellar as an independent.
On the plus side, at least he owns his own helicopter - meaning that, unlike Bronnie, he'll be passing those savings on to you!
The cocktail hour: please be upstanding
It's been a year since this column began its campaign to change the national anthem from the staid, clunky 'Advance Australia Fair' to John Farnham's sleek, inspirational 'Pressure Down', and it's fair to say that progress has been… um, stable.
However, let's keep the momentum going, team! Our forthcoming Australian Republic's going to need some sweet tunes, after all.
Pour a cold one, sing loudly, and let's meet back here to compare hangovers tomorrow. Cheers!
The top stories on smh.com.au on Tuesday:
- Australian of the Year David Morrison delivers Malcolm Turnbull slapdown in first speech
- Australian Open 2016: Andy Murray in phone rant during win over Bernard Tomic
- Australia Day Honours 2016: the full list
- Sylvania bakery closed after at least 40 people suffer food poisoning
- The truth behind the avocado shortage: growers made 'innocent mistake'