So one thing that has really surprised me about the eventual demise of the federal Liberal party is the unwavering support Julie Bishop maintains amongst the electorate. She is not just begrudgingly tolerated by the electorate like Bill Shorten is, she is loved – adored by many for her truly intimidating stare and gruff attitude to former Commies in China and Russia. Those on the Left don’t seem to be bothered hating on her too much. Why would you – when you have a smorgasbord of rotting cheeses to peg your nose at in the fashion of Palmer, Abetz, Andrews, Brandis and Pyne? With the sniff of a Cabinet reshuffle and the talk (I dare to even mention it, but I must) that our dear leader may not even see out a full term, the enemies of the government have bigger fish to fry.
On this point, I tend to agree with them. She has made very few missteps, but that is only in comparison to her Coalition colleagues. Analyse Bishop as a singular, unitary actor though, and you realise that she is still quite shit. To apply an apt analogy, she is a bindii in a large bindii patch that has not yet dried out and become dangerous to unsuspecting barefoot Aussies who like the feeling of a freshly mowed lawn under their feet. She has the capacity to be a painful and sore bindii – but she’s not quite there yet. However, lest we forget – she is still a bindii.
So on that note, let’s analyse where she’s from, where she’s at, and where she’s most likely heading. She was a typical dick under Howard, and therefore a part of the reason (I use this accusation lightly – there were many other factors involved) the Coalition was seen as out of touch and in an ideological funk after 11 long years in power. After a decade of Aussies having an unnecessary ‘culture war’ rammed down their throat, Julie’s pearler’s in the last couple of years of the Howard era weren’t looked upon kindly. Her thoughts on education were along the lines of “the states’ have ideologically hijacked school syllabi” and [insert Aussie school curriculum Julie doesn’t like here] are “straight from Chairman Mao”. I’ve read Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’, and I also completed my tertiary education in the Howard years so I can personally attest that Mao’s edition was, how shall I put this?… a little more on the radical side.
But what was she doing before she was a dick in the Howard era? Ohh that’s right, being a dick as a lawyer. So yeah, essentially doing what lawyers do best. One of her clients was CSR Limited, the company that makes your cuppa sweet. It’s also the company that presided over ‘the greatest single industrial disaster in Australian history’. Is that sugar leaving a slightly bitter taste in your mouth yet? Well if it doesn’t, Julie’s unflinching defence of this morally bankrupt company probably will. Just to give you a brief history, Bishop supposedly queried in court – as a consistent line of argument -just as to “why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”
Why, indeed Julie!?
‘Checkmate!’, I’m sure she was thinking in that odd-shaped head of hers, as she death stared the terminally-ill workers on death row with those hallowed beady eyes of hers. As the infamous lawyer William Kunstler would’ve argued, ‘everybody deserves a fair trail’, but even he had principles: “I only defend those whose goals I share. I’m not a lawyer for hire. I only defend those I love”(Navasky, 1970). I wonder; what is Bishop’s defence for being a dick, protecting other dicks?
Which brings us to the present – being a dick in government under Abbott. So just to recap, she has pissed off the three world powers while Foreign Minister. At face value, it’s actually quite impressive and it should also be noted that Russia, China and the United States are certainly not without sin. But let’s analyse what she’s called each one out on. First, let’s look at China. They are our largest trading partner, they can destroy our budget outlook simply by fidgeting with their housing market (see iron ore prices), and can squash us like a bug in any impending armed conflict. However, none of this stopped Bishop reaching for the microphone after the Coalition came to power in 2013, to lambaste the Chinese on their human rights record. Pot. Calling. Kettle. Black. Rightly so, the Chinese media (essentially an arm of the government used to put forth state opinion) called Bishop a ‘complete fool’ and responded by reminding her that her party abuses the rights of asylum seekers, Aboriginals and the country’s poor – seemingly for fun. China would nearly have a checkmate here if it wasn’t for the fact they systematically kill thousands a their own citizens a year for more crimes than there are letters in the alphabet. Bishop let the Chinese know ‘who’s boss’, so the story goes, because the Chinese respect raw power (and Australia oozes a shit-tonne of that supposedly) and Labor was too soft on them. You know, the same Labor with KRudd at the helm who went to China to tell a packed hall of Chinese students in their native tongue that their human rights record sucked and to go easy on Tibet… yep that one.
Next, let us look towards our rekindled arch-nemesis – Russia. How do you whip up terror amongst the populous like the good ol’ days of post-9/11 existence than to re-classify events as ‘terror attacks’. This was the lowly and morally bankrupt position Bishop and Abbott took in the wake of a serious dip in the polls. Bishop and Abbott referred to the MH17 downing as a terrorist attack, helping connect our simplistic brains to other such tragedies that took place in Bali, New York, London and Madrid. But does the MH17 tragedy having anything to with terrorism? Well no, not really… not according to Bishop’s own definition anyway. Moving beyond the rhetoric that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’, the argument that the Malaysian flight getting blown out of the sky was a terrorist attack fails because the act was not state sanctioned (as far as anyone can prove anyway) and was, by all accounts, an accident. Terrorists’ don’t accidentally carry out terrorist acts – you accidentally put the wipers on in an unfamiliar car while searching for the indicators – not blow a commercial airliner full of passengers out of the sky. The Russians responded by essentially telling us to piss-off and slapping a ban on Aussie produce. Massola writing for The Land states:
Australian farmers will feel the effects of the sanctions. Australian beef exports to Russia were worth $159 million in 2013, butter exports accounted for $64 million, live animals excluding seafood accounted for $55 million and meats excluding beef were worth another $48 million.
Yep, good one. A piddly regional power in the Pacific tried to stare down a nuclear armed world power – and unsurprisingly lost.
Next on to the US, where Bishop took offence to Obama’s cautionary words about the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Since when does a minister attack a US President, especially when they’re here as a guest? Even the Murdoch-owned Business Spectator calling her antics a ‘whinge’ and that “something extremely odd is at work“. For once in my existence, I wholeheartedly agree with the Murdoch-bot… something odd is truly happening. With Bishop today now defending the back-flip of the Coalition on funding for the UN’s Green Climate Fund – with money taken from the scandalously cash-strapped foreign aid budget – one has to wonder how long the good times can last for Julie? With war opening up on all fronts for little Miss Julie, her power and popularity may have already peaked. Any further attempt by Bishop to seek influence within the Cabinet and watch as, lo-and-behold, all the points I’ve just raised come into further scrutiny. This won’t just be from the Opposition and the forces that be, but within her own party too. As demonstrated by the first year of the Abbott government, responsibility isn’t high on the agenda, so maybe a word of warning from Voltaire to Bishop would read something like this:
‘with great power comes great scrutiny’
So be careful on your rise to the top Julie, because even though you’re a dick – you can still get fucked.