GASP: Agony Aunty

The ABC gets threatened with a haircut after broadcasting state secrets, while an Irishman and an Englishman spar over the flying kangaroo.

Those damned Lefties at the ABC sure know how to rile the conservatives. How else to explain the prime minister’s very public rebuke of the national broadcaster’s decision to collaborate with The Guardian this week? Cory Bernardi called for a funding cut, while the Twittersphere descended into anarchy over a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to install ousted Liberal Sophie Mirabella as ABC's managing director.

Obviously, the memo outlining the Coalition’s new requirement for blanket disdain for Aunty didn’t quite make it to Casa Turnbull. Just hours after Abbott blasted the ABC, Lucy Turnbull, wife of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull (under whose purview all things ABC falls) was parked on the couch of ABC1’s First Tuesday Book Club, where she chortled along with progressive icons Marieke Hardy and Jennifer Byrne as they discussed, of all things, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The whole debate merely nibbled around the edge of the central question: is taxpayer money wasted on the ABC? It is a fair question and one best answered by politicians. After all, they wrote the book – then bought it as part of their personal library – on wasting taxpayer’s money. What’s a few extra dollars to keep Margaret and David bickering over hand-held cinematography? Write it off as a wedding gift for the fiscal marriage of the Coalition and the Greens.

An Englishman and an Irishman walk into an airport bar…

News of up to 1000 job losses and a downgraded half-year profit out of Qantas reignited the bitter war of words between the national carrier and chief competitor Virgin.

Chief executive Alan Joyce, through gritted teeth, said its “competitors” had an unfair advantage to pursue “Australian dollar profits” because of the support they receive from governments.

"Since early 2012, there has also been an unprecedented distortion of the Australian domestic market, with Virgin Australia's strategy to seek majority ownership and massive financial backing from foreign government-owned airlines,” Joyce continued, determined to distract from Qantas’ internal strife.

The comments followed a vitriolic serve from Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson: “If Qantas was better managed and offered the public a decent service, it would not be in the financial mess it is currently claiming it is in.

The irony of an Englishman (Branson) and an Irishman (Joyce) sparring so ferociously over the sanctity of the Flying Kangaroo is palpable.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who makes a point generally to rise above mud-slinging, couldn’t resist getting a piece of the action, calling for heads to roll at the national carrier – namely the head belonging to Joyce. Time for a vacay, Alan?

The billionaire bogan

Being a bogan just isn’t what it used to be. Freshly minted billionaire MP Clive Palmer upped his credentials as a man of the people this week by embracing bogans, one and all. “We love bogans and we love all Australians," he said. "I'm certainly a bogan. I wear ugg boots. I like to go to McDonald's, so that's no problem.” Who knew entry into the exclusive bogan club was so simple?

It capped off a bizarre week for Palmer in which he invoked the spirit of the ANZACs in his maiden speech, rose in question time to ask the Prime Minister if his ministerial office was bugged and fielded a call from his lawyer in the middle of a press conference.

Behold the Age of Palmer. GASP’s advice? Be prepared.

One-line wonders

  • "People who didn't know who Christopher Pyne was before the election know who he is now and they hate him.” – Jason Clare
  • “The Labor Party is doing its best to give the two-finger salute to the Australian people.” Tony Abbott
  •  “I would say that the relationship between Australia and Indonesia is a bit like your relationship with your mother-in-law. You just have to make it work and we are not doing a very good job at that at the moment, but there is a really interesting question.” – Julian Burnside
  • "It's like a husband being upset that their ex-wife went off and had a cup of coffee with some other man."  Joe Hockey on Labor’s response to the Greens-Coalition deal.

Tweet of the week


Graph for GASP: Agony Aunty

The last gasp

Even the most seasoned of political observers must have been taken aback by the partnership struck between the Greens and the government this week to remove the debt ceiling. Stranger political bedfellows you are unlikely to find, nor two parties with a longer history of vitriol.

But if Christine Milne succeeds in her quest to reshape the national conversation on debt and deficit, the pairing will instantly be worth any short-term grief incurred by either party. After all, the question parliament should be asking is: “what are we, as a society, willing to be in debt for?” not who can return a surplus sooner?