Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Legislative Fisticuffs

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be partially defending a Nationals MP who manhandles an ALP Minister during parliament. But I feel this has to be put in context.

For starters, I don't think very highly of Joe Tripodi. He earned his first black cross in my book not long after I moved to Sydney in 2003, when he was one of the few Labor Lower House members to vote against equalising the age of consent. Then there's his dodgy history of corruption and sexual misconduct allegations.

Andrew Fraser is claiming the reason he lost it in the chamber was because Tripodi was deliberately goading him. Tripodi claimed that, on the occasion he went to visit Bonville as part of his dealings looking into improving the Pacific Highway, Fraser, the local member for that area, "was somewhere in Sydney...unable to be found in his electorate".

In fact, according to Fraser, he was travelling to Yass to attend the funeral of a close friend, the father of another MP Katrina Hodgkinson, who had taken his life as a result of the drought.

Now, I know goading is part and parcel of parliamentary debate, and that it is the responsibility of MPs to rise above it. If they react as Fraser has, ultimately they're the ones who look foolish, ill-tempered and aggressive. I also know it would be difficult to determine if Tripodi knew about the suicide of Fraser's friend and was deliberately using this to provoke Fraser.

But my gut tells me, given Tripodi's history and an understanding of how men in the NSW ALP Right machine operate, that he, and indeed the party, did know the state of play and this was part of a greater ALP plot to make Fraser snap, by exploiting someone's suicide and another person's close relationship with that person.

The fact is, if this is true, Fraser's actions have not brought down the NSW parliament any further; it's already very much in the gutter. Although it is correct that Fraser be reprimanded for his actions, perhaps this could also be a catalyst to examine what sort of system we have where politicians can be so devious behind the scenes that they can plot to exploit one another where even something like a friend's suicide is not sacred.

Of course, Labor aren't the only ones guilty of this unforgivable crime. Last week, Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja lost it at Nationals senator Julian McGauran after he goaded her regarding her party's stance over the so-called "war on terrorism", presumably knowing about the friend of Stott Despoja's who died in the September 11 attacks. Neither of the two major parties is any better or worse than the other and Fraser's attack is just the tip of an iceberg.


At 19/10/05 7:27 pm, Blogger Nic White said...

Trackback replacement:

At 20/10/05 8:48 am, Blogger JahTeh said...

I saw the footage on the news last night and Andrew Fraser more than lost it. It looked like Tripodi must have said something really over the top for Fraser to put both hands around his throat. Tripodi certainly tried to make a fast exit.
Why watch Neighbours when we have reality Parliament.

At 20/10/05 2:23 pm, Blogger Ambrose said...

Crickey has the Hansard transcript of the incident.

At 22/10/05 10:59 am, Blogger Susoz said...

It's interesting to read your analysis. I suspected something of the sort. I don't like Tripodi or of course the Nationals but I was taken aback by the extremity of the attack, however, there can be different types of vioilence.

At 24/10/05 9:52 am, Anonymous Trebby said...

Tripodi went too far in his 'outrage' at the incident. With his colourful history as an MP and ALP apparatchik he should have thought twice before mounting that high horse in condemnation.


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