Someone I know wrote to my colleagues and I awhile back about ‘those clowns’ in Canberra – I think his language couldn’t be more spot-on. I’m no expert on clowning and circus performance, but when I think of clowns I think of distraction, of trickery, of intentional foolishness. I think of passing entertainment.
Now I also think of our current government. they have become clowns – an absurd side-show, light relief, a foolish entertainment act, but scarily, about really serious matters.
When I wrote to the PM earlier in the year complaining about his characterization of remote Aboriginal communities as ‘an endlessly subsided lifestyle choice’, the three page letter I received back spelled out the importance of a mature national conversation about remote communities, connection to land, and economic sustainability. I absolutely agree, but I think it’s the government who’s not capable of this. Today I read that the PM, who trumpets his yearly visit to remote communities, was mostly wrong about what was going on at a ‘successful’ remote school – he said his government’s attendance officer policy had made all the difference – they hadn’t of course. Attendance was strong before, because of the things like working collaboratively with parents, having high expectations of students, and good quality teachers (I think we might have heard those suggestions before). He also misrepresented a key teaching philosophy they undertake, instead lining up their approach up with something else he and his people have promoted.
And then there was today and the operation for the ABF to target people and check their visas on the streets of Melbourne. Once it’s roundly recognised as a complete shambles, all of a sudden the decisions were made at ‘a lower level of the organisation’, and the minister is ‘not available for comment’.
We could apply the clown test to so many other situations: “Sorry, what action are we taking on climate change?” “Staff in detention centres could be prosecuted for reporting child abuse – really?” “How many billions of dollars are we spending detaining/torturing asylum seekers in neighbouring countries?” “And how’s that budget emergency?”
I wish we could cross-examine these clowns. I wish we could put them up on stage and make them answer our questions, and not allow them to get away with ‘on water matters’ and just repeating ‘it’s all about jobs and growth’.
I wish they would respect our democracy. And I wish they wouldn’t treat us like we’re just at the circus.
* My apologies to the people I know who have performed as actual clowns, and do a great job of it. To you I mean no disrespect.