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Opinion Piece

Clive and Tony are no joke

Originally published in SBS News 7 November 2013. 

For too long the Left have mocked Clive Palmer and Tony Abbott, greatly underestimating their political capabilities in the process. The jokes on them, writes Simon Copland.

Aren’t they a joke? ‘Cliev’ and ‘Tony’ – the jokes of Australian politics. The ‘stupid’ things they say, and ‘ridiculous’ positions they take – it’s hilarious when you think about.

Hahahaha – ‘Cliev’ – boy, the next three years are going to be fun! And Tony – I mean, how stupid are people that they voted that joke in? Oh, God – what is the rest of the world going to think of him?

It’s really funny, isn’t it? So funny that Tony Abbott is now Prime Minister of Australia, whilst in their first election ever, the Palmer United Party have won at least two Senate seats and one seat in the House of Representatives. Whilst we’re laughing at Abbott and Palmer, they’re out there getting elected and building significant power to implement their agenda. Whilst we’re laughing at them, the rest of the community seems to be saying in one form of another ‘we like what you do and want you to keep doing it.’

We want to laugh at them to diminish them. Point out to the community how stupid and ridiculous they are – how stupid they would be if they voted for these men. I mean, come on! How could anyone vote for such jokes? I mean really?

It says a lot about how much the left has underestimated these two.

Let’s take a look at one of Tony Abbott’s classic ‘clangers’; the sort of thing that made everyone in the left laugh and ask the question, “how could anyone be so stupid to vote for this man?” It is that famous quote about an emissions trading scheme:

“It’s a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

Ignore the fact that when you look at the statement broken down it is relatively accurate. ETS’ are actually a market in the non-delivery (as the market is designed to stop the delivery of greenhouse gasses) of an invisible substance (CO2 is invisible to the naked eye) to no-one (the Greenhouse gasses aren’t being given to anyone as part of this market).

But more importantly in one simple phrase, what Abbott did was tap in to a lot of the complexity of an ETS. Abbott was expressing the significant confusion about what carbon pricing is all about – expressing confusion at the complexity of scheme that seemed so disconnected from everyone but at the same time was causing some pain. He expressed the sort of confusion and complexity that I often feel about carbon pricing.

This is what happens all the time. Whilst we’re laughing people like Abbott and Palmer off as if they’re jokes, what they’re doing is tapping into many of the fears, hopes and dreams of much of the community. Abbott effectively tapped into people’s fears – fears of the impact of the ‘destruction’ of a past Government and of what the future holds. Palmer instead effectively taps into people’s hopes and dreams – he is the epitome of an ‘Australian Dream’ – a self-made millionaire who has it all. Why would we not want someone like that in Parliament?

While Abbott and Palmer are convincingly engaging with the community, the left is just laughing at them. And in turn the left is laughing at the people they connect with – the people who’s fears, dreams and hopes they have managed to connect with.

That doesn’t mean we have to suddenly agree with everything Abbott and Palmer say, or even with the fears, dreams and hopes of the community at large. It is part of politics that we would at times, or even very often, disagree – even about the very fundamental values that people hold. But to laugh at people – to tell them that their values, their fears, hopes and dreams are stupid and that they are stupid for supporting people embody those fears, hopes and dreams, is well, just stupid.

For too long the left have fundamentally underestimated people like Tony Abbott and Clive Palmer. We’ve laughed them off – treated them and their supporters as morons. In some ways this just hurts us because we’re not taking our opposition seriously, but when we start laughing at people because of this, we actually hurt our own chance – we entrench people in their positions and insult them whilst doing it.

Stop laughing. Abbott and Palmer are not jokes.

They are serious politicians, with serious skills, and they are clearly serious threats. Time to treat them like it.

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About Simon Copland

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. In his spare time he plays rugby union and is a David Bowie fanatic. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer, blogs at The Moonbat and tweets at @SimonCopland.

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