The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest news, every week. This week, Australian politics hits a new all time low, Bruce Wilson digs a hole for himself over a hole and even the big banks are taking shots at the pollies.
A cold draft in a glass house
If only Tony Burke was right. The MP said at the very start of the week that claims from former Australian Workers Union official Brian Wilson that Prime Minister Julia Gillard knew nothing of fraud within the organisation during the 1990s should have brought an end to the story. How very wrong he was, and we were all worse off for it. The saga dragged on and on, far past the point of reason and to a level of nauseating drama that resembled early 90s Neighbours repeats. Claims of cover-ups, illegality and dishonesty, as well as demands for resignations, piled up on both sides of the House until everyone was covered in equally thick mud. In a week of many lowlights, the peak was reached when federal Labor MP Steve Gibbons used Twitter to accuse deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop of being a "narcissistic bimbo". The move completely destroyed any moral high ground the ALP had gained in the tit-for-tat 'No, you’re the meanest' saga and left the government’s sleaze and smear accusations against the opposition redundant. Oh, and he also said opposition leader Tony Abbott was ‘a gutless douchebag’, in a fantastic piece of irony from an otherwise unknown keyboard hero.
There used to be a point to this
The attack on Bishop followed a unique, yet still utterly ridiculous question time where the deputy opposition leader asked every question from the Liberal side of the floor, with all directed at the prime minister and two-decade old relations with the AWU. The PM padded them away like a young Ricky Ponting, claiming that she had already dealt with the allegations in a cleverly timed press conference before the sitting and turning the spotlight back on a conspicuously absent Abbott, who was at that point hiding meekly, yet sensibly, in Bishop’s shadow. Having Bishop lead the charge was clearly a ploy by the Libs to allow Abbott to avoid courting misogyny jibes, which even he would admit he has been handling recently like a present day Ricky Ponting. Gillard used the conference to further push the ALP’s sleaze and smear line, and then somewhat undid this by attacking Ralph Blewitt over admissions he made about her role in the scandal, calling him a imbecilic fraud with a taste for Asian prostitutes. The PM went as far as to say that the current Libs couldn’t be compared to previous iterations of the party, and stopped for a moment to fondly remember the Howard era. Given the current state of Australian politics, it's likely the whole country has done the same.
Bury the hatchet
It seemed difficult for the whole circus to take a further turn for the ridiculous – but by George, it did. Wilson fronted a television interview when the saga was at its height, which was particularly good timing given the things he said were so bizarre it would have been front page news otherwise. The PM’s ex-boyfriend said his union sidekick Blewitt, the other man at the centre of the AWU allegations, had buried the tale's missing McGuffin, in the form of $5000 in AWU funds, in his backyard. Then it rained and the money was destroyed. Conveniently. Wilson warned before the admission that it would sound crazy. Still, it’s unlikely that anyone was quite prepared for that amount of crazy.
Just blame yourself once, and move on
Former ANZ Banking Group deputy chief executive Bob Edgar remembers who got him this far. The now Centro Retail Australia chairman has warned that ‘bank bashing’ from politicians, particularly the world’s best treasurer and crafter of comically inefficient taxes, Wayne Swan, may have pushed depositors out of the mainstream financial sector and into the arms of risky non-bank lenders such as Banksia Securities. Banksia collapsed earlier this month, leaving thousands of Victorians in debt and letting the business sections of several regional papers around the state get their first readers in decades. Several banking sector experts agreed with Edgar, and quickly wrote off alternative suggestions for customers leaving the big banks, such as their refusal to pass on full interest rate cuts and years of squeezing every last possible dollar out of customers. Political bashing, they said. That’s the reason.
The cheap seats
The current Qantas story is a ripper, and likely would have got a lot more attention had tedious political posturing not dominated front pages all week. The tale goes that a group of high profile Qantas investors, including ex-boss Geoff Dixon, former executive Peter Gregg, venture capitalist Mark Carnegie and, apparently, retail doyen Gerry Harvey are attempting to engineer a coup against the current Qantas leadership. Industry experts are excited by the development, and say they can’t wait to hear Harvey speak every day about how much the evil internet is hurting aviation. Harvey has admitted to owning a small stake in Qantas, but says he's just a passive holder. He reportedly told sources that he is happy to sit back and watch the whole circus pass by, much like he has with the Australian retail industry over the past 20 years.
– West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has slammed the federal government's Asian Century white paper for lacking analysis and objectivity. It’s harsh criticism from a man who is a model of objectivity whenever discussing something related to the federal government.
– I don't know about you, but if someone randomly put $5000 in my account, I'd bloody well remember it forever.