Theatre of the Absurd:
A form of drama that emphasises the absurdity of human existence by employing disjointed, repetitious, and meaningless dialogue, purposeless and confusing situations, and plots that lack realistic or logical development.
That was the bizarre impression that I got after visiting federal parliament this past week as I got to peek behind the veil that gets drawn between what really goes on and what we see and hear in the media.
For example, for a day or so after I got back from Canberra all I heard about was the momentous defeat of the Gillard government on the floor of parliament over a procedural motion to do with the Standing Orders. The first time a government had been defeated in a vote since 1941 according to the ever-braying Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, but which, according to his own dictum, wasn't true anyway because he only spoke it, and which I know to be untrue because the Fraser government was defeated in a 'No Confidence Motion' in 1975, as was kindly pointed out to us previously.
Now what was so absurd about the whole situation was that, on the one hand, I observed Tony Windsor deep in conversation with the PM immediately before the 'momentous' anti-government vote, laughing and smiling, so I don't think the PM thought Windsor and Oakeshott voting against her government was much of a big deal, especially so because Bob Katter voted with the government. However, on the other hand, Tony Abbott was sure going to try his darndest to make it out to be one.
There I sat, in our Member's office, watching Question Time on her TV, and it was a lot more decorous than I expected. However, when Question Time had finished I noted Tony Abbott and the Coalition did not get up from their chairs. “Here we go”, I thought, Tony Abbott wants to grandstand, in order to get on the 6pm News tonight. And so it came to pass that Tony Abbott got up to request permission to speak on a 'Matter of Public Importance'...about...the tiny little procedural vote loss that Julia Gillard had just suffered.
It hardly seemed worth a second mention if what I had just seen was anything to go by. The atmospherics in the chamber around that vote hardly suggested the calamity that Tony Abbott tried to portray to the outside world had befallen the Gillard government, but there he was, putting on his little 'Political Theatre of the Absurd' playlet, huffing and puffing for all he was worth, attempting to blow the Gillard-led Lower House down.
The members of the Gillard government didn't even hang around to listen to it, that's how absurd they knew the whole thing was.
Yet it didn't stop Tony Abbott, and it won't stop Tony Abbott for the rest of this next parliament as that appears to me to be the 'new paradigm' that the parties of the Right are operating under as they battle to defeat and 'demolish' Progressive Social Democrat parties in government. Taking every absurd opportunity they can get to enact their acidic 'drip, drip, drip' erosion of electoral support for the government. They have made no secret of the fact that that is their aim, and it behoves us to keep this thought front of mind, every waking moment as we read the screeds of the political shills in the media supporting the agenda of the Abbott Opposition, as they work to create a false consciousness about the performance of the Gillard government. Abbott will continue his 'do nothing to help' effort, which has been extremely effective up until this point, not caring whether opposition to the NBN will make regional and rural Australians suffer, while the rich who now live for the most part in our inner cities prosper, like Malcolm Turnbull, who can access the best of everything outside his front door in Point Piper. Same with Abbott's 'Paid Parental Leave Scheme'. 'More generous', but to whom? Those women in the Dress Circle suburbs of our cities, whose well-paying jobs Abbott seeks to supplement with the tax dollars of the workers in the outer suburbs.
And yes, again, in its totally absurd way, this policy would actually make most Australians suffer by diverting tax dollars away from more worthy government initiatives, to ensure the rich continue to prosper. All behind a veil of corporate media-obfuscated accountability for his actions and policies that has pervaded the entirety of Abbott's time as Opposition Leader.
In fact, in a continuation of this absurd position that Abbott has been placed in by his supporters, his actions in parliament reminded me of nothing so much as the play 'Waiting for Godot' – a play about men who divert themselves while they wait expectantly, and unsuccessfully for someone named Godot to arrive (or, in Abbott's case waiting for a divinely-ordained government to fall into his lap).
To occupy themselves while they are waiting for this to happen, they eat, sleep, converse, argue, perform, play games, exercise, swap things around, and contemplate suicide (or, in our particular case this will be substituted with the Euthanasia debate) – anything 'to hold the terrible silence at bay'. As it appears that Abbott is operating on the principle that, 'Nature, and politics, abhor a vacuum', especially in these days of the 24/7 news cycle.
Again I am reminded of a scene from the play where the characters demand of another, 'Lucky', that he 'dance and think' for their amusement while they wait for Godot.
The dance is clumsy and shuffling, and everyone is disappointed. As was I when I sat in the Public Gallery to observe Abbott's MPI 'dance' on Wednesday. His 'think', as was Lucky's, was a lengthy and disjointed verbal stream of consciousness. The soliloquy began relatively coherently but quickly dissolved into logorrhea and only ended when his metaphorical hat, which had been placed upon his head in order to signify his right to speak, was ripped off his head, when his time ran out.
Though you would never have realised the utter pointlessness of it all if you had only had the media's reports to go by. According to them, when I got home and viewed the late news shows, Tony Abbott had achieved a strategic strike at the heart of the Gillard government and followed it up with another bravura performance at the Despatch Box, starting the process of the inevitable decimation and demolition of the Gillard government.
Uh, no, actually.
Thus my advice to you all, courtesy of my day peaking behind the veil of federal parliament is: always keep front of mind how absurd it may be in reality. There will be days when truly important 'Matters of Public Interest' will arise, but mostly it will just be a little 'dance and think' put on to amuse and entertain the Public, and which will no doubt be blown up out of all proportion by the Press Gallery seeking to divert attention away from the political reality.