Federal Politics

On the Q.T.

Combet's big sweep of the members, a Liberal wait-for-rage event

When the race that stops the nation stops the nation next Tuesday, Australia's federal parliamentarians will be safely back in their electorates, far, far away from Canberra Town.

But even though MPs are missing out on a parliamentary Cup lunch, that didn't mean there were no festivities yesterday.

Sure, there was no cold barbecue chicken or supermarket coleslaw. And no one dared rock a fascinator (what would Anna Burke say to that?). But Greg Combet had some ideas for a sweep.

It all started when the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Industry and Innovation, Manufacturing and Whatever Else is Going was asked a Dixer. Would he update the House on the impact of carbon pricing across the economy, including on major sporting and cultural events?

Combet was happy to oblige, reminding MPs that Tony Abbott has suggested the tax would threaten the ''whole Australian way of life''.

But fear not, he informed racing fans: the economy was in fighting, muscular form. ''[Carbon pricing] will not stop the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday!''


The horses in the government stables stamped their hooves, neighing loudly in support. The racing industry needed to know Abbott's scare campaign was the ''biggest shakedown since the Fine Cotton Affair,'' Combet declared. The horses stopped stamping for a second to think about it (too much?).

But Combet wasn't finished with his metaphoring. He hadn't even turned for the final lap.

''The ring-in that day [was] called Bold Personality. That is all we have had from the Leader of the Opposition, the rest of it is all rubbish,'' said the Minister for Climate Change et al. ''Frankly it is time that the Liberal Party stewards started to intervene.''

The glue factory was not mentioned - there was no need. Combet had a parade of alternatives at the ready.

What about the member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull? ''A classy thoroughbred if ever there's been one,'' Combet said, though he noted that he was ''badly checked'' by the member for Warringah in the 2009 race.

Or what about Joe Hockey (who had earlier been banished for heckling ''we love you, Swanny!'')? According to Combet, the shadow treasurer was ''hungry for a win, but he's demonstrated yet again today, that he's not up to group 1 racing level.'' The horses almost choked on their carrot sticks. Hockey! G1!

Next, there was Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop. ''Three times runner-up, surely a chance,'' Combet said, as Bishop looked ahead, perilously close to a death stare.

Still Combet galloped on. What about immigration spokesman Scott Morrison? ''A promising weight-for-ager, I reckon. But spooked by foreign horses every time!''

With the sweep nearly swept out, that just left Bronwyn Bishop, the member for Mackellar and points of order.

''A favourite in 1994,'' Combet ventured, showing no signs of tiring as he lunged for the finish line. ''But what a stayer!''

The stables erupted. Give the man a drumstick!