THE BRITTLE EDIFICE of the Palmer United Party looks likelier than ever to crumble, as it battles deregistration in Queensland and as Clive Palmer faces legal action that may disqualify him from Parliament; now, brainless renegade loudmouth Senator Jacqui Lambie has confirmed she is a law unto herself, with attacks on her leader and a ridiculous position on pay for service personnel. Lambie, put bluntly, is simply a national embarrassment.
The award of a pay rise for defence personnel of 1.5% by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal might not be to the liking of everyone concerned, but two points need to be made at the outset: one, that the Tribunal is essentially an entity at arms’ length from the government of the day, and two, that whilst defence personnel have secured a pay rise (like all other public servants), the fact they are receiving one at all puts them in a better place than millions of private sector employees who, in straitened economic times, will get nothing.
None of this matters to rogue Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie, who — not merely content to add her voice to others expressing disappointment over such a modest outcome — has resorted to characteristic overreach and the deeply ingrained ignorance and stupidity for which she has so eloquently and so rapidly forged a reputation since her Senate term commenced just four months ago.
Yet on this occasion, her actions speak to much of what is wrong with the culture of “democracy” that has infected politics in this country by stealth, and despite her claims to want to fix things, Lambie’s “stand” on this particular issue seems more designed than ever to exacerbate them.
I have written despairingly in this column many times of the populist, confrontational and downright destructive spirit in which opposition parties (usually on the Left) increasingly approach political debate; my remarks on “fact” and “truth” during the week, in the context of industrial action by emergency services workers in Victoria that seems designed to help bring down a conservative government, is merely the most recent example.
But on a wider basis, there is a breakdown in respect for authority and for the institutions of Australian society that is not only being fuelled by such tactics, but which engender a cavalier disregard for the consequences of doing so: and Lambie, in her attempts to hit out at the Abbott government by demanding that all soldiers turn their backs on any government MP or minister making official addresses at Remembrance Day services on Tuesday, is grotesquely prioritising her narrow and sectional agenda over what is (and always should be) a moment of reflection over the sacrifices made by others, and which should be free of such partisan endeavours.
Unlike Lambie, I have never served in Australia’s armed forces.
But in and around my family and social networks are countless numbers of returned service personnel (some, of course, now deceased), some of them — unlike Lambie — having served with distinction as commissioned officers, and the collective view of those of these who survive would seem to offer a far sounder basis from which to comment than the word of one disgruntled army truck driver for whom the services seem to harbour little residual affection.
I am very reliably told that most returned personnel (and especially those who have seen action on active deployment in battle scenarios) are mortified by Lambie’s posturing as their “champion,” and are growing increasingly angry at what she says and does supposedly in their name; most want nothing of this destructive loudmouth from Tasmania who is, it seems, a law unto herself.
There seems to be a view among this group that Lambie’s own time in the defence forces was not particular meritorious or distinguished, and a perception from the people I have spoken to that her “expertise” on defence matters is actually a self-serving construct and a diatribe (to translate what I was told into more euphemistic terms) uttered through an anal orifice.
But be that as it may, none of them want to be associated with Lambie in any way, shape or form, even if only by the indirect implication of her ill-advised rantings.
And it’s little wonder.
Piers Akerman, in his Friday column in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, amply captured this sentiment, noting that RSL President Rear-Admiral Ken Doolan slapped Lambie’s call for diggers to turn their backs on government MPs down, observing pointedly that to do so would be an insult to “more than 100,000 who have given their lives for us.”
It’s a key point. The freedoms enjoyed in Australia are owed, in no small measure, to the sacrifices of defence personnel over two world wars and a raft of smaller, but no less significant, conflicts in which Australia has participated.
In an ideal world, of course, the money would be flowing like honey, and current personnel could be given more than a 1.5% rise.
But — and I don’t want to divert too far down the path of an attack on the ALP today — with the $350 billion in debt and a budget haemorrhaging red ink at the rate of another $50 billion per annum that was the bequest of the last Labor government to Australia, the money for such largesse simply isn’t there.
That doesn’t bother someone like Lambie, however, who has adopted the absolutist language of confrontational populism now common with the Left, saying that in granting such a small pay increase, those responsible have shown that “they don’t care or are cowards.”
And it comes as no real surprise that the response from opposition “leader” Bill Shorten (like anyone infected with Labor’s “fling the money and leave someone else to fix the consequences” mentality) is that the service people should be paid much, much more, even if such a bounty simply doesn’t exist.
Aside from the subterranean disagreement of the bulk of Australia’s defence fraternity (which, characteristically, keeps its collective mouth shut on such things, unlike a self-aggrandising renegade like Lambie), it seems even her own colleagues do not share her views, or support her urgings of disrespect in relation to Remembrance Day services on Tuesday.
Palmer Senator Glenn Lazarus, who says he “married into” a military family, was resolute that soldiers should not in any way entertain the proposed show of disrespect advocated for by Lambie. Her leader, Clive Palmer, declined to offer either support nor sanction to her suggestions.
But as is the way of it with Jacqui Lambie, the shenanigans she encourages this coming Remembrance Day seem contrived more as a vehicle for her to advance her own personal political interests than they are grounded in any legitimate basis of reason or, indeed, reasonably founded.
As readers will note from the articles linked, Lambie has bluntly stated that she is “nearly at the point” where she no longer cares what Palmer has to say.
She may, in fact, be right to accuse Palmer of “backflipping all over the place;” yet her ultimatum-like assertion that Palmer either “stands with (her) or near the Liberal National Party (sic)” rather obliquely misses the point that for every “win” Palmer has deigned to gift the Coalition, he has only done so after inflicting enormous political damage on the government, and even then at far greater cost than it either envisaged or desired.
Still, it seems that this issue appears to be the one Lambie has decided to use as her pretext to walk out on the Palmer United Party or, more likely, to get herself booted out of it. After all, expulsion would allow her to continue the narrative of being a victim she so obviously loves — even if that expulsion, if and when it occurs, will undoubtedly have been largely self-inflicted.
And her threat to oppose “all government legislation” until or unless the armed forces get a bigger pay rise than the one awarded to them would (and should) be laughable, were it not for the fact that she actually has a vote in the Senate.
Her calls to effectively politicise and spoil Remembrance Day this year, with the anarchic disrespect for authority they belie, merely feeds in to the general disregard for politics and politicians that has grown dangerously widespread in recent years, and which can be attributed directly to precisely the sort of behaviour that Lambie herself is unashamedly engaging in.
And Lambie has form for it, too, as those who have missed our discussions will see by perusing back articles through this link.
Palmer himself undoubtedly has his problems at present, with the Electoral Commission in Queensland apparently serious about deregistering his party in that state, and with proceedings brought against him by his Chinese business partners potentially threatening consequences (if upheld) that could extend as far as his disqualification from Parliament.
But for once, Clive Palmer must be separated out from the antics of his rogue MP, for whilst he too is guilty of making some outrageous pronouncements as a parliamentarian, what Lambie is up to is something else altogether.
I think — and let me stress that I say this setting aside my connection to the Coalition, and that I say it purely on objective terms — that Palmer might find a great weight lifted from his shoulders if his party were to break up.
After all, if it is deregistered in Queensland (its “home turf”) and if it also loses an unmitigated liability like Lambie from its ranks in Canberra, Palmer could — if inclined to continue his active political enterprise — refashion the Palmer endeavour into a network of “Palmer independents” which would free him of some of the strictures he faces around compliance, and would free him of the disciplines of a party structure which, although ostensibly conceived around his own primacy, is proving inadequate at containing someone who makes no bones of her “superiority” to her own leader.
But that is a discussion for another time, and we will no doubt revisit it.
But the call to wreak havoc on Remembrance Day this year by Jacqui Lambie is an odious show of contempt for an institution — the armed services — to which Australia owes a continuing debt of gratitude, irrespective of what she says her motives are or how sincerely grounded they are in any concern for anything other than her own political furtherance.
It is also a hypocrisy of a particularly contemptible nature, given her claim to speak with authority on behalf of that institution, which nonetheless seems determined to disown any association with her at all.
And when considered alongside other Lambie outbursts — such as the advocacy of a nuclear strike by Australia on China, or her staunch defence of Vladimir Putin in the shadow of the MH17 atrocity, her ignorant ramblings about Islamic law, or the cringeworthy discussion of the state of her nether regions — the sad public reality of Jacqui Lambie crystallises further, and becomes more irrefutable every time she opens her mouth.
And that, simply stated, is that she is a national embarrassment: a miscreant beyond almost any control, this hot-headed imbecile is so inclined to provocative, divisive and inflammatory pronouncements as to make the likes of Pauline Hanson appear sober and reasonable.
And that — without putting too fine a point on it — is no mean feat.