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Lawn tableau proves wheels of pluralism are well-oiled

Slick campaign … olive farmer Richard Whiting makes his point alongside members of the Australian Hazara community outside Parliament House.

Slick campaign … olive farmer Richard Whiting makes his point alongside members of the Australian Hazara community outside Parliament House. Photo: Penny Bradfield

IT WAS a postmodern scene, one that either illustrates the marvellous pluralism of our democracy or speaks to the imminent and catastrophic decline of our entire civilisation.

It was hard to be sure.

Will the wheels soon fall off the lumbering wagon of our democracy? 

On the parliamentary lawn, in a large portable bath filled with extra virgin olive oil, sat the near-nude South Australian olive grower Richard Whiting, the frosty morning nipping at his nipples.

Farmer Whiting was in Canberra, and in his oil bath, to call for truth in olive-oil labelling.

Apparently some cheap imported olive oils contain other toxic oils, including lamp oil and sundry impostors. This is a practice that must be stopped.

But as our democracy is great and varied, the olive oil protest had to share parliamentary lawn-space with a group of Australian Hazaras, who were there to protest at human rights abuses against their people in Pakistan.

They gazed upon the bathing man with a mixture of bemusement and dismay, as though questioning for the first time whether they shouldn't have ticked ''New Zealand'' or ''Canada'' on their immigration application forms.

And who could blame them?

In a postmodern Parliament all truths are equally valid, and moral relativism dictates that no cause is worthier than another. Olive oil sits on the same canvas as human rights abuses, and Bob Katter makes about as much sense as Jacques Derrida.

This was true inside Parliament as well as outside.

During question time, the government laboured onwards with its budget theme - spreading the benefits of the boom to the working families of Australia (or STBOTBTTWFOA to give it its catchy acronym). The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, all lined up to quote tracts from the Class Warfare 4 Dummies handbook, and to accuse the opposition of hating working families and wanting to smooch billionaires.

The opposition, after a few fig-leaf questions about the increase in the national credit card limit, hammered the Prime Minister over whether or not she knew about the payment of MP Craig Thomson's legal bills by the NSW Labor Party.

''The matters raised are not my responsibility or my staff's responsibility,'' she said in a queenly manner.

You could have knocked no one over with a feather when the manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, subsequently moved to suspend standing orders to force the Prime Minister to tell the House what she knew about the matter.

The Coalition lost the vote 69-71 and the precariousness of the minority government was once again exposed.

Will the wheels soon fall off the lumbering wagon of our democracy?

It's too early to tell.

All we can be sure of is that farmer Richard Whiting, once he emerged from his protest-bath, would have spent most of yesterday smelling like salad dressing.

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11 comments

  • But at least Richard Whiting would have emerged supple and soft to the touch. We should have lined up the whole parliament and run 'em through Richard's bath like dipping sheep.

    Commenter
    Ken
    Location
    Wandin
    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 7:38AM
    • Ken, if dipping parliament in oil is your plan, and it's a good one...may I suggest, best to use baby oil.

      Commenter
      huza
      Location
      broken hill
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 10:48AM
  • If you drench Peter Slipper in olive oil does he come out any more slippery?

    Commenter
    Lucas
    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 8:36AM
    • What does FOOD STANDARDS AUSTRALIA actually do? It would seem very little, They are funded by us to test for problems in imported food. If Ms Gillard wants to get rid of some public servants this lot should be first to go.

      Commenter
      PORTMAN
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 8:47AM
      • We had a member of the Marrickville/Dulwich Hill branch of the ALP over for a meal a few years ago and inevitably politics arose as a topic. We thought he was trying to be amusing by discussing everything in 1950s class-warfare mode. Now we discover they really do believe this claptrap.

        This government needs to know they govern for ALL the citizens of Australia no matter where they live. They may not believe it but there are poor people everywhere including on the northern side of Sydney. I'm sure the same applies to the so called 'silvertail' areas of all the other cities and towns in Australia.

        Commenter
        Corinneski
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 11, 2012, 8:55AM
        • You had talked to one person from a political party and made a judgement about the whole party based on that? Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your employer so that similar inappropriate generalisations can be made?

          Commenter
          alto
          Date and time
          May 11, 2012, 11:40AM
        • I don't have a job - I lost it in the global financial crisis and live on the meagre amount of superannuation I have accumulated.

          I have also been a union member so I have been exposed to the rhetoric. I used this very real person as an illustration of the rubbish that's been put about.

          Since a large number of people have come to Australia for a better life for themselves and their children, to be dubbed as not being 'real Australians' if they have aspirations is just insulting.

          Commenter
          Corinneski
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          May 11, 2012, 1:47PM
      • Am curious to know how he got the oil out of the bath? and was it recycled? I'm unsure whether my next bottle of australian olive oil will have had a farmer sitting in it!!!

        Commenter
        glowstick
        Date and time
        May 11, 2012, 9:34AM
        • I'm wondering what kind of noise would have been produced by farting in that bath.

          Commenter
          alto
          Date and time
          May 11, 2012, 11:43AM
      • At least now I know his product name and will certainly won't be buying it; who knows what he's been doing in it before selling it.

        Commenter
        Daniel
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 11, 2012, 10:51AM

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