With a federal election looming — and a change of government likely — it is obvious that many members of the present Parliament will leave Canberra forever; today we look at a retiring, time-serving MP whose “services” are unlikely to be missed.
I’m not going to, er, labour the point — pardon the pun — but it’s obvious the member for Bendigo seeks attention, and today I am prepared to give him some.
Steve Gibbons is the sort of career backbencher that all political parties have; the winner of a marginal seat that traditionally changes hands regularly, and whose length of tenure defies to an extent the ebbs and flows of voting intentions on a national basis.
Gibbons was elected in 1998 at an election narrowly won by John Howard, and at which anger in regional Victoria toward the Kennett government compounded the impact of a national scare campaign waged by federal Labor over the purported impact of a GST if Howard was returned to office.
In the time since, Gibbons is one of a number of Labor MPs who has benefited from the fact Victoria has consistently been the ALP’s strongest mainland state ever since; at the 2004 election — at which the Howard government was thumpingly re-elected — it was the only mainland state in which Labor won a majority of seats (Labor also won three of the five seats in Tasmania at that election, but that was after losing two others, Bass and Braddon, to the Liberals).
In 2007 and again in 2010, his seat of Bendigo became safer for Labor as he benefited firstly from a change-of-government swing to the ALP, and later as Victoria recorded a near-record two-party vote for the ALP in the mad and misguided clamour to vote Labor in support of alleged “local girl” Julia Gillard (who is from Wales, via Adelaide, but never mind the truth getting in the way of spin winning out over the facts).
And a quick glance at the “achievements” page on Gibbons’ own website — a very short list indeed for someone who has spent 15 years in Parliament — suggests that beyond his electorate being a beneficiary of the type of pork-barrelling thrown at marginal seats by all sides, there is very little to it: certainly, virtually everything on his list of “achievements” is attributable to measures implemented on a wider basis than simply within the electorate of Bendigo.
As it reads, it would appear nothing has been added to the list in quite some time, either.
Conspicuous in its absence is any mention of ministerial office either in opposition or government, or even a stint as a parliamentary secretary; there are committee memberships, of course, but virtually everyone in Parliament gets those at some stage, and certainly during a tenure spanning five terms.
The point is that much of Gibbons’ margin of 9.5% over his Liberal opponent in 2010 is an obvious result of the higher Labor tide in Victoria relative to other states.
I wanted to run through these points in order to give readers a fair perspective on the member for Bendigo in light of his activities on Twitter and, specifically, some of the more inflammatory items he feels this stellar parliamentary career qualifies him to proffer.
Readers will recall that we first encountered the aptly named Gibbons before Christmas as part of a look at sleaze and smear as presented by the ALP; at the time he had seen fit to describe opposition leader Tony Abbott on Twitter as a “gutless douchebag” and his deputy, Julie Bishop, as a “narcissistic bimbo.”
Of course, the tweet was viewable just long enough for everyone to see it before it was removed and apologised for; in my book, it might as well have been left there permanently, for the damage had been well and truly done by the time Gibbons deleted it.
He has been at it again this weekend, describing Australia Day as “Invasion Day” and suggesting that those of us who celebrate the day do so “by throwing bits of dead animals on a cooking fire just like the people we dispossessed.”
I am well aware of the revisionist view of history the ALP and figures on the broader Left seek to perpetuate in relation to Australia Day but the simple fact is that these views — not exclusively held by Gibbons, to be sure — are tasteless and offensive in the extreme to millions of Australians who love this country and are proud of its heritage.
Even so, the comment is indicative of a distinct lack of respect for Australia Day, and shows a lack of sensitivity to Aborigines even as it seems to be attempting to make a point on their behalf.
“I hope everyone had a meaningful ‘Invasion Day’!” he wrote.
As the predictable backlash began, Gibbons followed this up with an insiderish jab from the Labor operative’s copybook. “It seems I’ve upset a few Lib Rednecks (sic). I’m shattered!”
It continued, with a sarcastic comment designed to add nothing meaningful. With no irony whatsoever, he tweeted “I promise to be much more aggressive towards the Tories on Twitter this year! – No more Mr Nice Guy.”
I’d ask what was nice about him in the first place.
Even Labor types weren’t immune from his ramblings; “Steve, you may be retiring, but we want to retain Bendigo. This stuff is unhelpful” one clearly concerned Labor local tweeted. “I doubt you would have any idea about being helpful,” Gibbons shot back acidly.
I think Liberal MP and shadow minister for citizenship, Scott Morrison, got it about right in describing Gibbons’ tweets as “childish.”
“They are the rantings of someone who is increasingly losing touch,” he said.
Here at The Red And The Blue, we have talked about candidate selection from time to time, and it’s clear that most readers agree that candidate selection by the major parties in winnable electorates is one of the problems with politics in this country.
I have opined many times that union thugs and party hacks working in Labor MPs’ offices are groupings that are not conducive to providing adequate or effective representation to communities at large on account of their narrow and insular focuses on an increasingly irrelevant union movement and the conduct of political activities in a fashion reminiscent of student politics as practised on university campuses across Australia.
So it comes as little surprise that Gibbons’ pre-parliamentary work history consists substantially of employment by a trade union and working for former Labor Premier Joan Kirner in Victoria.
I’m happy to give the member for Bendigo a moment’s attention today, but a moment is all I can spare.
And it is to be hoped that particular attention has been paid by local ALP members in Bendigo to the very, very careful consideration of their replacement candidate; after all, in a marginal seat it’s important to put up decent candidates, and after all, local communities seek to be effectively represented in Parliament, and not made to become a national embarrassment.