Politicians really need to learn how to say sorry. Recently, Health Minister Susann Ley had to be dragged kicking and screaming to contrition over her taxpayer funded trips to the Gold Coast and even so she dismissed the controversy as a “distraction”. Then we witnessed the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defending her expense claims at the Portsea Polo event – literally una-polo-getic at the polo. And what should we make of Peter Dutton’s $4000 boozy U.S dinner or Steve Ciobo’s $1100 yahoo at the AFL grand final? Well, Steve seems to think that the public expect MPs to look rich and privileged and he’s “unapologetic” about Ministers “showcasing themselves”.
“I’m sorry, but…,” says Steve Ciobo – the classic nopology.
Politicians don’t do, sorry. Yet, in other workplaces it’s not that difficult for people to show regret when they make a mistake. The bloke doing the classic buttocks photocopying prank on office equipment is very sorry when the glass breaks, just as he hits the print button – the whole thing caught on the office video. Workmates wince, roll their eyes and have a chuckle on the way to hospital. But in the end, a little brown-nosing from our prankster and all is forgiven – everyone moves on.
Not so in politics. Our elected representatives shake their heads vigorously in denial. Heaven forbid, ‘they’ should ever be caught making an arse of themselves.
Of course, it would be better if our pollies didn’t go crazy with the taxpayers credit card but things really only start to unravel for them when they get caught. The MPs first instinct is to deny everything. Like the 3 year old with chocolate dripping down her chin. “No, mummy I didn’t eat the Nutella.” Yes Sussan, you did. The stuff is all over your friggin face! Deep breath. Now, tell the truth Sussie. We won’t get angry if you tell the truth. But Sussie knows her parents and the whole of Australia will get angry if she tells the truth. So she compounds her denial by concocting some bizarre tale about being forced into real estate by the Impulse Fairy.
Then, as if things weren’t crazy enough, along comes the former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop. She tries to defend Minister Ley by blaming the whole thing on a ”pack of dogs” made up of alcoholics and socialists. No one is quite sure what she was trying to say – just being helpful, I guess. After all, Choppergate Bronwyn does know a few things about travel entitlements and saying sorry when they spiral out of the sky. During her own controversy, she apologised twice. Well, both of them were pretty much, non-apologies. Ergo, more or less a waste of time. And now, the ex-Speaker is forever associated with cartoon helicopter memes, presumably created by Marxists with drinking problems.
So, maybe taking advice from colleagues who have been forced to resign is not such a good idea.
Possibly, Ms Ley should have done what our “cheeky” photocopier did and grovelled to the boss.
Here’s what that would sound like.
Health Minister Sussan Ley would grasp a microphone tightly in both hands and in a breaking voice she’d slowly say…
“I’m sorry.” The public would lean closer to hear the tearful confession.
“I don’t know what came over me and I…,” her sentence would trail off as she cried openly into the microphone.
Then her legs would give way and she’d collapse to her knees on the Surfers Paradise beach.
The Health Minister would turn her head from the warm sand and scream to the sky.
“Forgive me !”
“Please don’t make me resign !”
Now, that’s an apology. And it might have worked.
Instead, in the real world the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a press conference for 2.00 pm and threw the Health Minister under a bus. Sussan Ley was required to resign but still no apology, “I followed the rules.”
No Sussan, the chocolate is all over your face.
If the former Health Minister wouldn’t apologise, maybe the Prime Minister would. The media had spent the whole week exposing the extravagant spending of ‘his’ Ministers. Then he announced a new watchdog to oversee ‘their’ spending. Join the dots. Someone needs to apologise. But it seems the PM doesn’t do sorry, either.
So, in the end the responsibility passes to the board members of this new compliance body. These frugal folk will be watching those sticky-polly fingers, carefully. But maybe, their first task should be to gather all those parliamentarians into one room, give them a good shellacking and make them atone for their past misdemeanours. Perhaps, a formal dinner event where all Members of Parliament and their families are forced to participate in a tightly scripted, apology ceremony. It would be broadcast live on ABC television and known forever after as the Great Polipology.
Funded by the taxpayer, of course. #Polipology
First published by Jim Pembroke in Independent Australia January 17, 2017