Did you notice the behaviour of Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull during Budget week? Were you comfortable with the words and actions of our treasurer and prime minister? How did you expect them to conduct themselves?
It is reasonable to expect such important office holders to be assured, confident, well informed, and articulate. But should they behave aggressively? Should they bully their way through interviews? Should they shout, gesticulate extravagantly, and abuse their opponents during Question Time to the delight of those behind them? Should they abandon courteous behaviour to take on the mantle of a street fighter? Should our democracy by tarnished by bikie gang behaviour and bare knuckle aggression from our elected representatives?
When we cast our ballot for our preferred candidate, do we want to elect a bully who will trample on opponents and rub their faces in the mud? Bullying at school and in the workplace is now considered socially, even legally intolerable. Why then should we accept bullying from our politicians, from political parties, from advocates?
Why should we accept the bullying intrinsic in pejorative name-calling? We are not surprised when children do this in the schoolyard. Is it not reasonable to expect better from our elected representatives? Yet, after his Budget reply speech we heard the Coalition channeling the old song: You’re Unbelievable’, labeling the Labor leader ‘Unbelieva-Bill’, a tag intended to augment the Coalition’s ‘Kill Bill’ strategy.
Alternatively, do we expect them to behave civilly, respectful of other parliamentarians, even if from a different party? Do we want politicians who respect those chosen by the people no matter what the political leaning of the electorate? How many of you admire the aggressively adversarial behaviour that so many politicians exhibit?
How many of you would prefer the empathic behaviour of Liberal senator Dean Smith when he introduced the bill to legalise same-sex marriage in the Senate. If you didn’t see him doing this, go to this link and watch the video
. Note too how courteously Senator Brandis responded to this private member’s bill. Is this the behaviour you would favour?
Contrast this with the behaviour exhibited by our prime minister and our treasurer in the following video clip of Question Time the day after the Budget was presented.
As it’s a long video you will not wish to go through the hour-long agony of it all, but begin by listening to the first few minutes when, in answering Bill Shorten’s first question, the PM deceivingly accuses Labor of wanting to strip away the tax cuts already legislated for corporate entities that are carrying on a business with a turnover of less than $25 million for the 2017-18 income year and less than $50 million for the 2018-19 income year
. Labor has no such intention of ‘stripping away’ these small business tax cuts; it supports them unreservedly.
Then skip to 7.55 minutes in, and play until 9.17 minutes. You will see our treasurer in full flight shouting across the isle replete with frenzied finger pointing to Labor’s supposed intention of ‘ripping away’ the already-legislated tax cuts for small and medium businesses. Obviously, in anticipation of pointed questions about the Coalition’s proposed corporate tax cuts for larger businesses and corporations, which Labor opposes vigorously, he and Turnbull had decided to retaliate by hanging this accusation like a rotting albatross around Labor and Shorten’s neck, hoping the smell would persist until the next election.
Is this the sort of behaviour we want? Is Turnbull’s accusatory aggression acceptable behaviour in the leader of our federal government? Is the bullying we saw from Morrison in the QT clip acceptable from such a senior member of government?
QT is not the only place where Morrison bullies his way through. In interview after interview his strategy is to talk and talk – incessantly, assertively, aggressively, bullying his way to the end. The smirk that creases his face shows how much he is enjoying being a bully boy. If you’ve not noticed his smirk (a facial expression that we so often associated with Peter Costello in days gone by), take a look at him during his Budget interview with Leigh Sales on ABC TV 7.30
How many more Morrisons are there in government ranks? Although, like him, Mathias Cormann is inclined to talk and talk Dalek-like, he is a gentle soul who could not be labelled a bully.
But there are others. Until he was relegated to the backbench, Barnaby Joyce’s florid bullying was legendary. Fortunately, circumstance, and a new child, has quietened him. His backbench mate Tony Abbott still smirks from his possie. His bullying behaviour when he was Opposition Leader and Julia Gillard prime minister, lead to her razor-sharp ‘misogyny’ speech that left him speechless. He became more measured as relevance-deprivation set in after he was forced onto the backbench after Turnbull toppled him. Christopher Pyne, a less aggressive bully, can still become belligerent when worked up. Even the usually benign Attorney General Christian Porter revealed his bullying side when he forcefully demanded MPs found by the High Court to be ineligible to sit in parliament ‘resign by the close of business’ the same day.
Who could go past Peter Dutton in the bully stakes? Nasty, aggressive, belligerent, punitive, vindictive, this man comes across as a mean bully every time he opens his mouth. There is nothing appealing about him. No wonder he is the butt of so many cartoons and TV spoofs.
Take a look at this short video of Dutton attacking Bill Shorten on the subject of 457 visas, where he voices his infamous slur: This Leader of the Opposition can’t lie straight in bed.
As a rule, we don’t expect female politicians to be bullies, but Michaelia Cash proves the rule. Shouting nastily while she hurled accusations, we saw her in full flight during Senate Estimates when being questioned by Doug Cameron. You can review her appalling performance in this short video.
If a schoolchild persists with bullying, he is pulled up, counseled, and eventually expelled. If an employee persists with bullying, he is counseled, then sacked or even charged with an offence. Why then should we accept the bullying by politicians we see every day? Is there no remedy? Is there no counseling available, no disciplinary outcome for repeat offenders?
When have you seen a political leader bring a bully to heel? When have you seen a penalty applied? When have you seen a public reprimand? A mild ‘slap on the wrist with a wet lettuce’ is most we could hope for.
How come the penalties for bullying don’t apply to the very people in whom hundreds of thousands of electors put their trust? Is it perhaps because the leaders are so often the most brazen bully boys?
Tell us what you think.