Australian politics used to be a joy to watch.
Especially Question Time, even as a 15 year old I used to record the sitting of the house at 2 am and watch it the next day once cartoons were over after school. What a boring nerd I hear you say. Well, yes. But it did give me a great education in how to insult somebody in a polite and clever way.
Part of my attraction to Australian politics was the wit and cutting remarks made by Paul Keating. You can say what you like about him as a Prime Minister but has there ever been another sharply witted politician ready with an array of verbal barbs to throw across the chamber?
When I look at Question Time these days it’s tamer than a domestic cat. Sure, it has its moments but there is no real talent for wit anymore, all we get now is more of the same old shouting but no actual cleverness with responses. Perhaps that’s due to the symbiotic culture of focus groups and bland generic responses that the governments since Keating have attached themselves to?
And it’s not just in this term from this this government either. It’s been in decline since Howard took the helm. One of Howard’s flaws was he could never come up with stinging one-liners unlike Peter Costello who in my opinion was the Heir to Keating’s throne of wit. Howard, who was an excellent Prime Minister, lacked that gut reaction in the House.
Today we have the boring robospeak of Julia Gillard and the unfunny comedy styling’s of Anthony Albanese to contend with. Albo’s talent as a Parliamentary performer is so defunct that the mute button on my remote is wearing out.
If any of the Labor front bench has a knack for wit it’s Count Dracula himself Craig Emerson. Though not a great mind of our political times he does come up with comparable material to Keating. Barnaby Joyce also holds his own in the wit department, though he could use some refinement.
What I think is wrong is that Kevin Rudd is too folksy, Julia Gillard is too robotic and Wayne Swan is just a waste of space. Tony Abbott is too staunch, Turnbull is too self-interested, Scott Morrison is passionate but lacks the dryness and Joe Hockey often comes up with some real bangers but fails in the delivery.
I’ll give credit to Penny Wong and Eric Abetz both of whom often give good verbal jousts in the Senate but lack the decency of audience awareness to keep up a theme against each other.
Then there is the Greens, well they’ve yet to say anything of value on any topic at all. Let alone be witty and smart, instead they act all “holier than thou” sitting like pious fairies waiting to catch that next rainbow to Unicorn land.
I’d like our leaders to be jovial and witty once again. I’d like to see decent debates with genuine answers and memorable one-liners to keep me amused. Sadly, my desire to see a return to the old and much better style of political attack is probably never going to happen. So I guess I’m lucky that I have twitter and the #QT hashtag to read during Question Time.
(It was a quick post today as I've got many a thing to do.)