May 31st, 2012 at 08:01am
There were some very interesting scenes in federal parliament yesterday when Craig Thomson, the self-suspended Labor member for Dobell suddenly changed his mind on how he wanted to vote, and sided with the Coalition. He did this at a time when it was too late for anybody in the Coalition to abstain from the vote, and therefore put Tony Abbott’s promise that the Coalition would not rely on the “tainted” vote of Craig Thomson in jeopardy.
Both Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne (the Coalition’s manager of business in the House of Representatives) bolted from the chamber to avoid the vote and cancel out Craig Thomson. Mr. Pyne made it out, but Mr. Abbott did not. Regardless, their goal was achieved; Craig Thomson’s vote was cancelled out.
But to the same extent, Labor got exactly what they wanted. There can be no doubt, despite Labor’s claims to the contrary, that this was a stunt aimed at making Tony Abbott unwittingly break a promise and that Labor got something even better. The footage of Tony Abbott running from the chamber was used in the mainstream media along with captions such as “mad dash” (referring to the media’s “Mad Monk” nickname for Tony Abbott) as some sort of evidence of erratic and unprofessional conduct on Tony Abbott’s behalf.
Those of us in the know are well-aware that Tony Abbott was trying to uphold a promise, but people who don’t pay quite as much attention or interest to politics would have come away from the coverage with the notion that Tony Abbott did something wrong and has questionable judgement. In the short term at least, I think Labor got more out of this than they ever could have dreamed of getting from having Craig Thomson break Tony Abbott’s promise on a fairly minor vote. In terms of the political point-scoring of the day, Labor won simply because the majority of the media ran the coverage in a way which was very favourable to Labor.
Tony Abbott did the right thing and got a roasting for it…and I dare say most of the public don’t even know it.
The thing which I’m left wondering now is, seeing as the stunt worked reasonably well for Labor, what’s to stop them from pulling it again? And if they do, how will the Coalition respond?
The vote, in case you’re wondering, was over whether the Labor government’s plan to increase the federal government’s debt limit should continue to be debated. A minor procedural vote on an important issue. Labor probably won on that point as well as we’ve barely heard a peep about the debt limit in the last 24 hours, when it should have been the Coalition’s main talking point.
As for Craig Thomson himself. Channel Nine’s “A Current Affair” has shelved plans to air an interview with a prostitute who claims to have been engaged by Mr. Thomson at some stage, but won’t say why. One can only wonder what pressure was brought to bear on Nine to prevent them from airing the interview which could have contributed strongly to the downfall of a government. I suspect they were threatened with the loss of revenue from government advertising. I also suspect that we will hear more about this in a few weeks…probably at the hands of “Today Tonight” who would undoubtedly like to find an angle on this story which paints “A Current Affair” or the Nine Network as being “weak”.
It’s amazing how Craig Thomson, one man, can have such a grubby reputation and make such a mockery of something as important as the parliament. Meanwhile, all of us suffer from having an inept government which is being kept in power via the mockery.