Friday, 16 October 2015

Bovver debate

On his first day in Parliament as PM in late 2013, Tony Abbott told the ABC that the chamber "should always be a place of spirited debate". But, he intoned, it "should never be a place where motives are impugned or characters assassinated".

This was the same Tony Abbott who, in March 2011, stood alongside Bronwyn "Chopper" Bishop in front of placard declaring: "Juliar - Bob Browns [sic] bitch." The same Tony Abbott whose occasional friend, Alan Jones, had declared his intention of putting PM Gillard "in a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea".

Our political leaders and opinion shapers call for civilised  debate on the issues that matter then promptly trash those they disagree with. What's wrong with a contest of ideas? What's wrong with robust differences over policy? The answer is nothing. But I know only too well from writing about Israel how easy it is for those who can contribute little to the debate to fire off accusations of racism or anti-Semitism. If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable.

Take Greg Sheridan, The Australian's Foreign Editor. He and Professor Hugh White from the Australian National University, have well publicised differences over dealing with China. That's hardly unreasonable. But for Greg, Hugh has become Australia's "strategic jester". Pathetic.