Attacking ScoMo for visiting his kids sets a new low for Labor
Are we talking out of our backside when we talk about mental health or are we fair dinkum? When a father — in this case the Prime Minister of Australia — follows the state-prescribed health orders to return home to see his kids, Labor attacks because they argue other fathers cannot.
It’s a hollow argument designed to score points and division over an issue that is already at flashpoint for ordinary Australians.
Based on Labor’s logic, all politicians must do as those in the most impoverished situation because some others are going through it.
I hope deputy opposition leader Richard Marles, who inflamed the commentariat over the PM’s trip home, doesn’t like Comcars because many in Australia can’t afford a taxi.
And if the ALP was serious about being at one with the common man, let’s lose free phones, flights, laptops, iPads and staff while we are at it.
The Covid exemption rules politicians follow as they go between Canberra and their homes are no walk in the park.
Half of the Queensland cohort got stuck in the ACT for five weeks, others could not go anywhere but inside their hotel rooms or office and NT Senator Sam McMahon had to end that in quarantine camp.
And in a Parliament where 151 were paid, 111 were not present, and only 20 video-linked in.
There is someone always in worse circumstances so where does it end?
The government plane that flew LNP Queenslanders home also flew Labor MPs — because no other flights were available.
The response to Scott Morrison’s trip home is a disturbing sign of the times and stands in stark contrast to the more gracious tactics of PMs past.
There was no outcry when PM Billy Hughes spent three days rowing on the Thames before World War 1 ended. In July 1945, when British PM Winston Churchill went on holiday to France two months before World War II ended, the news reported that “in order that his rest may be as complete as possible, the Prime Minister’s whereabouts will not be made public”.
When PM Alfred Deakin, in 1907, was told to rest for nervous exhaustion, the opposition leader Mr J.C. Watson, said that in the event of Mr Deakin having to take a few weeks holiday, nothing like an “adverse move against the Ministry would be taken”. When PM Joseph Lyons had a trip to Tasmania in 1933, he returned “much stouter, and decidedly more cheerful,” the then Canberra bubble proclaimed. Now he would be body shamed. In the turmoil of depression, in 1930, PM James Scullin had a break, the bubble reported he “swam, sunbaked, and read for hours in a deck chair, and sometimes went for long walks at sunset”. When Nationals leader Doug Anthony was acting PM from Brunswick Heads barefoot at the beach with his family, it was endearing. And as deputy over 12 years, he acted as PM on more than 25 occasions, added up, maybe more than any “real” prime minister at the time, his staff claimed. Then there was “tourist” PM Gough Whitlam, who went on a five-and-a-half week trip as the country grappled with inflation and record unemployment. The 14-nation tour was his 12th trip overseas since he came to power 23 months before.
Then PM Malcolm Fraser was dubbed “first-class Fraser” because of his affinity for leather seats and a fleet of Cadillacs on call. What’s changed during that time? If anything, the mobile phone vibrating on the family dining table ensures that work is still there even if one is at home.
And the issue diagnosed as “nervous exhaustion” in 1907 by Deakin’s doctors has greater relevance now. As our country has grown and developed, empathy, logic and fairness have eroded.
The itchy disconnect here is that many MPs were in Canberra because Labor smashed the government when it delayed sittings earlier in the year due to state-imposed Covid restrictions and that the majority of both sides stayed home.
At one division, Marle’s Labor, which holds 69 seats, had just 13 members in the chamber. For the Fair Rights at Work Sex Discrimination amendments — the biggest issue of the year, of 151 members, 111 did not appear for the division. In the Senate, it was down to 12 to 12, with the majority of the minor parties staying home. Most who did go were paired, which reduces the autonomy of politicians to that of the party line.
I want a PM who has to deal with his wife handing him his kids. I want a ministry that has to deal with toddlers and children and pre-teens and elderly parents. I want politicians’ partners to say “over to you”. Maybe Mr Marles doesn’t remember his partner climbing the wall, saying: “Where are you?”
Just writing this, my kids have smashed six eggs over the carpet, one poured honey over his brother, and I’m not in a frame of mind to hear the ALP tell me I don’t need respite as well. It’s easier for politicians if they do stay in Canberra, like staying too late at the pub. But not for me or any other FIFO mum.