They are, in some ways, dinosaurs from a long-lost age that have somehow managed to survive a mass extinction event.
They are not united in age – some are relatively young – but rather they are united by attitude, alongside their lacking interest in the job at hand or, worse, their determination to make such work difficult for others.
And they stalk the corridors of Parliament House, at least when they are willing to show up for work.
They are a selection of men and women (but mostly men) who’ve been elected into the 47th Government of Australia. They hold the most coveted and privileged positions of responsibility in the country, but they don’t seem to be there for much else other than their ego, their status, and the power such positions hold.
The first such example is former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He still represents the people of Cook, and takes home a salary for doing so. Yet on the first day of work this week, he was absent — making the trip to Japan to give a speech instead. This trip comes just weeks after he crossed the country to Western Australia to share with a religious congregation how they should trust in god, over governments, and god again over anything like the United Nations. “As someone who’s been in it, if you are putting your faith in those things, like I put my faith in the Lord, you are making a mistake,” Morrison told the church event in Perth.
He doesn’t show up on the first day of the new parliamentary term. He doesn’t believe in government anyway. Why doesn’t he just leave?
Another example comes from the longest-serving MP in the lower house, Bob Katter. He’s been described as the “father of the house”. Not by us, by Sky News. He set about spending his first couple of days of the new parliament getting to the issues that matter.
But he didn’t speak up on climate change, mind you. Or the cost of living, the pandemic, racism, aged care, the scourge of domestic violence across the country.
Rather, the federal member for Kennedy delivered “the most important statement of my life” in support of the seven Manly Sea Eagles players who opted to sit out of last night’s game against the Roosters, due to being required to wear the Pride jersey.
Katter called a press conference, declaring that if you “believe in this book, you’re gonna be persecuted. They’re coming for you, so stand up.” He went on to draw comparisons to the Holocaust, saying that “six million people were sent to the gas chambers in Germany because they believed in this book.” He described the NRL as “prostituting the great game”, declaring the game is a “brotherhood”. He added that you “stick by your mates, it is a manly game – bit of irony there.”
Now to Pauline Hanson, who earned her right to sit in the Senate on the slimmest of margins, who used the first day of the new Senate to issue a protest – even before her fellow senators had taken their seats.
Hanson interjected during the Acknowledgement of Country, saying she did not and would never acknowledge Indigenous lands in Australia. Then she walked out. Later, her team issued a statement: “From this point forward, Senator Hanson will refuse to acknowledge country in the Senate.” It’s a stunt, something Hanson has become particularly good at in her many years in public office, including since 2016 as a Queensland senator. The Senator was hardly taken off guard by the Acknowledgement, it has been included – alongside a prayer – when opening the chamber for more than a decade. Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe described the stunt as “blatant disrespect and racism in my workplace”.
Parliament House is a workplace. One that’s been under significant scrutiny in recent years, and that the new government is attempting to make kinder and more family friendly.
It’s a place where elected officials have been given the privilege of representing their constituents in working towards a better Australia.
If you don’t like it, or you don’t want to be part of it, then leave.