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Don’t blame Pauline’s plane, blame the system that gave it wings

Don’t blame Pauline’s plane, blame the system that gave it wings

Friday 7 April, 2017
The familiar face of extracurricular parliamentary spending has knocked on our door once more, but who should we blame? The people who take advantage, or the culture that says it's fine?
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The familiar face of extracurricular parliamentary spending has knocked on our door once more, but who should we blame? The people who take advantage, or the culture that says it’s fine?

As you read this, it seems we have another addition to the dodgy airforce swirling around Parliament House. Alongside the wocka-wocka-wocka of Bronwyn’s chopper, the guttural drone of Julie’s jet, add the Bee-Geean whine of the One Nation Cessna (hallllllaaaaaallllll). So, this morning as we scale the side of that building, enraged, trying to SWAT them out of the air, know that we lose when the credits roll.

Now, I don’t blame the individuals – not because they broke the law, but because we as the public don’t know for sure that they did. We just know it seems a bit “off” and therefore is wrong, so we trudge to the kangaroo court of public opinion to find them gavel-mutilatingly guilty, sentenced to have virtual rocks thrown at them in virtual public. Boo, you shonky mongrel bastards, boo. Off with his entitlements, etc.

So, who do I blame? A thing, actually. A shape without form: the prevailing culture of extracurricular parliamentary spending. It’s fair to say that these politicians are doing it because they can. It’s human nature. For example, if work let you pilfer the stationery cupboard, provided that you sign a piece of paper, but make no effort to police what you take, what would you do?

Exactly. That is, until you are caught. Then you’d deny all questions until it blows over, while quietly calling the supplier to order the next stash of goodies. Yes, a four-colour pen is not a Cessna, but they’re both equally superfluous. You need those three other colours as much as you need a parliamentary call-sign to use 2,000 feet above the electorate.

This is red leader.

On the same day that Pauline’s Cessna broke through the clouds, Family First senator Bob Day was turfed out for the heinous crime of being incorrectly elected, a high-court ruling that barely dented the crème brûlée of the hoi polloi as the follow-up informational tidbit from a reputable source met the deafest of collective ears.

Now, I’m willing to venture that there is no crowd amassing outside the doors of Cormann – or indeed One Nation who let’s not forget were described in depth on the ABC as “a dictatorship”. A dictatorship. Even in the realms of hyperbole, that’s new ground broken. But we don’t particularly investigate; we leave it to others, so anything goes. The antagonists are outpacing the powerless gumshoe who vows to lock them up, each day is a new crime to investigate, so we lose the trail of evidence of the previous one. Off the top of my head, I can name many of these; Mike Baird handing the Sydney nightlife parameters to his mates, Parakeelia, the AFP literally kicking down Labor’s front door to investigate what the opposition had on NBN costs spinning out of control, etc. Sensationalism has become court. I won’t say lawbreaking, but the collective assumption sees parliamentary shenanigans as the accepted norm. Somehow, the lawbreaking validates the assumption that politicians are crooked, but somehow that assumption doesn’t embolden us to change anything.

I watched All the Presidents Men and Frost/Nixon last night for research and found myself muffling laughter. Oh, Richard Nixon…you were born too early. For the journalistic scoop of the twentieth century, it seems so insignificant now. Someone broke into an office. Whoop-de-doo, Basil. I say we lobby Warner Brothers to produce a remake on these shores. And shoot it as a documentary.

It’s time we knew for sure, in transparent black-and-white, whether things like Pauline’s plane are illegal or not – and if not, how we can step toward changing that.

Then, next time we complain about politicians taking us for a ride on our dollar we can accurately hurl rocks at the system that allows it, instead of those midway through the in-flight boeuf en croûte.

 

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