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Shame and scandal in our corridors of power, by those who wrote the book on it

Opinion

Just what we need is more words from our politicians – to be consumed in the comfort of our own bedrooms, writes Michael Blucher

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So, we’ve got another tell-all political biography hitting the bookshelves, to help satiate our bottomless thirst for knowing what really goes on inside the four walls of Parliament house.

This time it’s Julia Banks (yes, I had to Google her too) revealing with candour and courage, tales of her five years as a Liberal MP – the sexism, harassment and bullying that pervades the corridors of power in the national capital.

Unquestionably serious allegations, but is Banks, – clearly an intelligent, capable professional woman – reminding us of what we already know?

That Canberra – or at least Parliament House – is a snake pit, overrun with slippery, slithering reptiles, typically attacking, plotting or retreating, whatever best serves their quest for political survival?

This gives rise to thought around the broader question – what is the precise motivation of these tell-all political biographies?

No question Julia Banks would default to the desperate need for change – that no woman should be subjected to, or have to tolerate the toxic working environment she alludes to. And no fair-minded, reasonable person would disagree with her – she’s well entitled to have her say.

The problem she and others have is how little regard the public, at large, have for our politicians, and our political system.

We’re operating at ground zero. In 2021 – and probably well before, very little now surprises or disappoints us. We’ve become inured to the apparent sense of self-righteousness and entitlement.

Coupled with this are all the other spurious, self-aggrandising political literary offerings that have been served up in decades gone by.

You think I’m exaggerating? I’ll remind you that such towering public figures as Margaret Reynolds, Greg Combet, Rob Oakeshott, Anna Bligh, Bob Carr, Andrew Robb, and Tony Windsor have all written books.

The challenges they faced, the deceit and deception, the underhanded and the over ambitious, clamouring over one another, all in the name of “serving the Australian people”.

Seriously, is there anything that points more directly to the absence of emotional intelligence, than back-room politicians, thinking we’d be interested enough in their time in public life, to plough through 350 self-serving pages?

Rob Oakeshott for goodness sakes? The only thing anything anybody remembers about him was that farcically long press conference when he took what seemed like an hour to declare which side of the political fence he was planning to sit on.

If the transcript from the press conference featured in his book, it might have run to 800 pages.

I’ll also remind you that Kevin Rudd has written not one but two books about his life and times sitting in the big chair in Canberra. He’s also written a children’s book about his pet dog and cat, Jasper and Abby, living in the lodge.

Interestingly, that sold out. His more meaty political jottings – one I know to be 230,000 words in length (yes, nudging towards a quarter of a million) are still apparently in good supply, in case you’ve got a spare few months.

Or for a different version of the same story, you could read “The Good Fight” – former federal treasurer Wayne Swan’s account of the identical period. The Good Fight ended in a big fight. Swan and Rudd, one-time strong political allies, no longer speak.

Another truism of Canberra. In the wrestle for power and self-preservation, a lot of relationships eventually end of tears. Or more accurately, revenge.

Yes, politics is a tricky business.

Good luck with your memoirs, Julia. I’m sure you highlight a lot that is wrong, and urgently needs changing.

But I’m not convinced tell all biographies are the catalyst for change.

 

 

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