Age of en­ti­tle­ments

Warwick Daily News - - WEEKEND - This is a satir­i­cal col­umn. Owen Jac­ques is on Twit­ter @owen­jay. with Owen Jac­ques

IT’S now July 2017 – six months since Sus­san Ley stepped aside as Health Min­is­ter. Amid the furore that en­gulfed the Coali­tion front­bencher and her col­leagues from all sides, the pub­lic looked for an an­swer. That an­swer and a po­ten­tial threat to the en­ti­tle­ments long en­joyed by politi­cians came from an un­likely source – for­mer Speaker Peter Slip­per.

In an un­marked Can­berra build­ing, po­lit­i­cal ri­vals have put aside their colours. Ms Ley pi­loted her­self down, while Vic­to­rian Steve Her­bert ar­rived by chauf­feured limou­sine. His dogs came too. They are sit­ting in the build­ing’s foyer with his driver.

La­bor shadow min­is­ter Tony Burke flew in at the tail-end of a hol­i­day, his en­tire ex­tended fam­ily also sit­ting out­side the room. For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop ar­rives by car.

She gen­tly hands her cus­tom polo mal­let to one of the many per­sonal as­sis­tants who are hov­er­ing by the door. Every­one in the room will list this other­wise se­cret meet­ing as “min­is­te­rial busi­ness” and will later say any ex­penses claimed are “within the rules”.

There is a sin­gle item on the agenda – how to de­feat Mr Slip­per. The for­mer Speaker has be­come a one-man force in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics in the first half of 2017.

De­spised by both La­bor and the Coali­tion, there is no perk he has not al­ready claimed. That makes him im­mune to the lure of en­ti­tle­ments. To politi­cians, it makes him dan­ger­ous.

Mr Slip­per’s “Re­duce the Rorts” slo­gan has tapped into a rich vein of pub­lic anger. He knows the sys­tem bet­ter than any­one, and is de­mand­ing it be dis­man­tled.

Un­der his plan, ev­ery dol­lar claimed by a politi­cian will be scru­ti­nised.

Any at­tack on the man only strength­ens his sup­port – crit­ics seen as elites want­ing to pro­tect their own feath­ered nests. The meet­ing be­gins and every­one re­ceives a black dossier. A gi­ant red stamp reads “Clas­si­fied” on the cover.

In­side is the nu­clear op­tion. It is a plan de­vised by the great­est minds of the Coali­tion and La­bor. As they open it, a chop­per can be heard over­head.

Mo­ments later Bron­wyn Bishop – whose own ca­reer was de­stroyed by overzeal­ous claims – shat­ters a glass ceil­ing and rap­pels in. “I have the an­swer!,” she de­clares. “We blame so­cial­ists!” The room goes si­lent, then turns away from her. She is col­lected by two heavy-set men who de­liver her out­side the front door. Blam­ing the reds won’t save them this time.

Each mem­ber of the group opens the dossier to re­veal a sin­gle page, with a sin­gle line of text. “Pre­tend it’s not a prob­lem,” it reads. Every­one looks at each other and nods. Julie Bishop sighs. “And may God have mercy on our souls,” she whis­pers.

Pre­tend it’s not a prob­lem... and may God have mercy on our souls.

PHOTO: DIG­I­TALLY AL­TERED

A fu­ture that has Peter Slip­per in the fir­ing line fol­low­ing the en­ti­tle­ments furore that has implicated both sides of gov­ern­ment.

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