There’s an unwritten rule in Australian politics that between Christmas and Australia Day, voters should be given a break from the annoying claims and counterclaims that dog them through the year.
Apart from the political tragics among us, most folk are interested in family, cricket and the beach. Politics and its intrusive chatter are all part of the working year and not the holiday season – unless, of course, there are elections looming.
On holidays in the northern Shoalhaven, Prime Minister Scott Morrison tried valiantly to keep a low profile but, in the end, couldn’t help himself. He pressed the flesh with locals in Shoalhaven Heads – making himself available for selfies at the pub and with RFS volunteers.
Perhaps because Labor heavyweight Chris Bowen helped launch Fiona Phillips’ campaign office in Nowra, the PM stepped out again – this time to shake the Australia Day tree, declaring councils would be obliged to conduct citizenship ceremonies and that a dress code ought to be observed among those taking the oath.
Australia Day – a national tradition harking all the way back to 1994 – has hardly been a display of the country’s sartorial splendour. That said, citizenship ceremonies we’ve covered have always lifted the dress standard on a day that’s all about boardies, bucket hats, thongs and singlets.
So Mr Morrison, opining in one of the most marginal seats in the country, just ended up looking foolish. Just days earlier, he’d been ridiculed for a family photo his office had tweaked with terrible Photoshop skills – placing two left shoes on his feet.
And all this in Gilmore, which is still waiting for the Liberal Party to sign off on its endorsed candidate Grant Schultz.
If he thought he was doing Mr Schultz a favour, the PM actually did the opposite. His pronouncements simply drew attention to the fact the party has yet to get its act together and have its candidate campaigning on important local issues. Most people saw the Australia Day pronouncement for what it was – a cheap political dog whistle.
Given the South Coast is a popular holiday destination for the country’s leaders, it would be useful if they actually acquainted themselves with the issues that matter to the people who live here – health, education, employment, infrastructure would be a good start. Banging the old jingoism drum might have helped Tony Abbott get elected but we’ve all moved on from that.