Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Westminster or Canberra

I’ve been trying to work out why I find Australian politics so much more engaging than the British variety. Of course, in Australia there is the wonderful spectacle of daily question time when the parliament is sitting– some reckon it’s the best theatre in the country-and the possibly resultant fact that many of our MPs are far from bland (performing in the question time arena may force them to become showmen as much as bureaucrats).
Not that our current bunch of politicians are as vivid as their predecessors. Although quite colourful when compared to the present occupants of Westminster, beside our former Prime Minister Paul Keating they all fade to a dusty grey.
Just this morning he was on the radio, simmering with his usual barely contained impatience at the fools he has to deal with. ‘I wouldn’t trust that mob with a jam jar full of five cent pieces,’ he growled, in reply to a question about the opposition’s economic credentials. I can’t imagine Blair or Brown or Cameron coming up with such a vivid and amusing image – let alone Clegg (and even if he could, he’d fluff the line).
But then Keating’s always had the greatest way with words. It was he who described the then shadow treasurer as ‘all tip and no iceberg’ and a former accountant turned opposition leader as ‘an abacus gone feral.’ Being attacked by that same politician, he claimed ,was ‘like being flogged with a warm lettuce.’
Would any British politician be as brave as he in admitting that most politicians ‘have brains like sparrows’ nests – all shit and sticks’? And surely it takes a kind of genius to come up with a phrase like ‘He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.’ Best of all, as his reply to a question about his economic record demonstrates – ‘The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on’ – even when he doesn’t make sense, he knows how to turn a lovely phrase.


  1. Good heavens, that's brilliant. Are you sure Barry Humphries doesn't write his lines for him?

  2. I think it's the other way round - Humphries comes to him when he needs new material

  3. Terrific stuff - I didn't know he was so good. Should be collected somewhere.

    I wonder whether it's the Irish influence in Oz politics? Blarney, and that.

  4. Gaw - all I can say is this, apparently, is the search engine used in the Keating household: