Passing bull 10 The end of sectarianism and tribalism?

We see Canberra as a sheltered workshop for the otherwise unemployable, a sad coalescence of politicians and journalists who stroke each other when they should be doing something else.  Our political journalists are too often too close and too matey with the politicians they report or comment on, and too one-sided.  They report on a vacuous game of man-to-man game grunting and dreaming that treats us the idiotic dupes of mantras and poses, where anything like policy or truth does not get a look-in.  It is a hideous dance of the veils.

Here is a typical slice from one piece last Saturday week.

The Prime Minister’s challenge is to frame these arguments in the public eye from the coalition side, highlighting the inconsistencies and choking any momentum at the start.  It is a political challenge but also an opportunity to demonstrate a ruthless and effective political will to further undermine Shorten’s leadership and Labor’s credibility…..

The next election will be about the economy above all else, and it is up to Joe Hockey to fill Labor’s void with a coalition profile.  The Treasurer needs to snap out of the mid-winter torpor before Labor gets away with another distraction…..

Abbott’s mantra of the first half of his term as Prime Minister – that Labor will bring back a carbon tax and can’t stop the boats – is under threat…..

Abbott of all people should realise the importance of acting quickly to frame an opponent’s personality or political strategy detrimentally, in your own terms.

When Abbott became the surprise Liberal leader in 2009 the ALP the unions and the Labor government deliberately moved into overdrive immediately to cast Abbott as old-fashioned, anti-women, ‘stuck in the past’, pugilistic, anti-worker, embarrassing and innumerate.

Dredging up long-dead events, leaping on scandalous and spurious claims, skirting on sectarianism and amplifying every criticism, Labor managed to imprint a firm caricature of Abbott, built on existing impressions, which created a lasting prejudice and has contributed mightily to his enduring unpopularity.

Halfway through the electoral cycle Abbott is better placed strategically than Labor after recovering from the failures of 2014, but he faces a new challenge of doubling down and repelling Shorten’s attempt to reposition Labor on key issues and shift the focus back on the Coalition….

The Coalition can’t assume the public – which supports renewable energy – won’t be dazzled by Shorten’s use of sunlight and blinded to another election campaign fought on rising electricity costs….

Well, at least the author does not hide whose side he is on or who his mate it is.  We get a quota of DLP paranoia – did you know that the ‘enduring unpopularity’ of the PM is largely down to a scare campaign put on by Labor and the unions of the kind that the author is recommending to the PM to deal with Shorten? – and we even get a bit of the old Mick chip on the shoulder about the Protestant Ascendancy – the Labor and union attack on Abbott was ‘skirting on sectarianism.’

But this kind of bullshit does not just show the vices in Canberra that make people ill.  It positively endorses and extols the place of bullshit in our politics.  And who is the most decent political leader that you can think of who demonstrated ‘a ruthless and effective political will to undermine’ the other side?  Is that not rather the role of the Opposition?

The following Saturday, we had a piece from the same writer headed ‘PM’s to-do list: walk from rorts, talk about jobs, go for Shorten’.  It has a kind of tribal and footy ring to it.  We are told that Labor’s attack on the Speaker’s entitlements was ‘opportunistic,’ but that Christopher Pyne would be allowed to ‘exploit the evidence that Shorten gave to the trade union royal commission that he took seven years to declare a $40,000 donation to his political campaign.’

Do these people have the Inquisition in their blood?

The same paper has one columnist reviewing a book by another, Ross Fitzgerald reviewing Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man, by Gerard Henderson.  The reviewer tells us that he did the final film interview with the subject, but the ABC and SBS were not interested – ‘I suspect that this was largely because of the deep dislike of and animus towards Santamaria by the Left and other supposedly progressive forces in Australia.’  This is the reverse Masonic handshake – the uninitiated can put the paper down right now.

As Henderson demonstrates, BAS was very much a Melbourne man….

Indeed, as Henderson convincingly argues, Santamaria had relatively little influence in NSW…

In a telling section of this compelling biography, Henderson reveals the highly negative…

Henderson, correctly in my opinion, maintains the principal cause of the great Labor Split in the mid 1950’s was the erratic federal Labor leader HV (‘Doc’) Evatt and not Santamaria….(That reminds me of the line of Falstaff: ‘Rebellion lay in his way and he found it.’)

Henderson’s assiduous research mirrors the conclusion of my own in The Pope’s Battalions….

Henderson also correctly claims BAS had a strong influence on archbishop (now Cardinal) George Pell – who delivered the panegyric at Santamaria’s state funeral…

As befits a book subtitled….Henderson’s captivating biography has a strikingly arresting front cover of BAS in profile directly gazing at the reader and standing in front of an old-fashioned Channel 9 camera….

Henderson’s biography is not only extremely well researched and clearly indexed but boasts an illuminating array of photographs…..The reviewer’s favourite is a photo of BAS in front of a crucifix of which the author says: This was an ill-advised pose for a Catholic activist with an Italian name at a time when anti-Catholic sectarianism prevailed within sections of Australian society.

Henderson has certainly done his homework into all aspects of Santamaria….The author recalls that the reviewer was prevented from including a piece by BAS on the Carlton Football Club in a collection about football, but the piece The Agony and the Ecstasy had pride of place in the follow-up volume.  Fittingly, in the first game of the 1998 season, the Carlton team wore black armbands in memory of their high-profile lifelong supporter.

It is all a bit like the school magazine of say Haileybury College circa 1957, or the Victorian Bar News circa 2015.

Now for the good news.  I am nearly seventy and all this sectarian bullshit, even the memory of it, will die with me and my generation.  Our kids could not give a bugger about any of it, and thank God for that.  Tribalism is another matter.

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