You know Australian politics has reached a low point when a lunatic billionaire coal magnate driving a Rolls Royce manages to appear less heartless and out-of-touch than the government.
And yet Clive Palmer managed the feat, driving up to Parliament House in his luxury vehicle on May 27 and somehow twisting the act into a statement against politician privileges — pointing out money spent on government cars would be better spent raising the pension.
Of course, it is bullshit — among other things, if Palmer was really concerned about the plight of pensioners or his suddenly discovered passion for free education, he’d pay his goddamn taxes. After all, The Australian revealed on May 24: “The flagship investment companies controlled by self-proclaimed billionaire Clive Palmer have not paid company income tax to the Australian Taxation Office over the past six financial years.”
Palmer is right that the “budget emergency” is a hoax — Australia's debt-to-GDP ratio is among the best in the world — but this is no thanks to him or his fellow billionaires, as adept at swallowing up government subsidies as they are at avoiding taxes.
In response to the obvious point that it is slightly ridiculous for a billionaire to posture as the “common” voice, Palmer tries to spin it as a victory for egalitarianism — because, as he said on May 27, “all Australians, regardless of their race, nature, wealth or whatever, can be members of Parliament”.
Well, sure, but not everyone can buy their own fully funded party with a large-scale publicity machine capable of competing with the big parties.
That a hypocritical opportunist like Palmer can get away with this at all is a condemnation of the big parties — any success Palmer enjoys is entirely down to how well he manages to sound nothing like them.
People are lied to systematically by professional politicians with less appeal than — well, it is impossible to think of anything that can come close to the lack of appeal of say, a Christopher Pyne. Because, OK, if you searched the world long and hard, you may find someone exhibiting similar levels of self-satisfied smugness, but you'd surely never get someone who combines it with such sheer gut-level cunning and utter bastardry.
After all, self-satisfied is one thing, but being this smug about your role in destroying the futures of entire generations is almost a work of genius.
I mean, placing higher education out of reach of young people in the near future, ensuring if they ever find a job they'll work until they are 70 in the far future, and then, in the here and now, threatening to axe their favourite TV show featuring a talking pig — this is evil on a scale not even the most imaginative comic book creator would dare dream up for an arch villain.
Pyne and his fellow “grubs” have found a way to make us truly miserable at every single stage of our lives.
It is not surprising, in this context, that a clownish buffoon like Palmer, who is willing to call out their blatant, insulting lies — and the complicity of the media — can seem refreshing. Even when his day job involves enriching himself via an industry threatening to destroy the ability of the planet to sustain human civilisation while spruiking efforts to rebuild a ship that sunk in the worst maritime disaster in human history.
And it is hard to imagine a clearer condemnation of the status quo than that.