It’s impossible to look back on the major political events of the week without reflecting on the two incidents that brought out the best and worst of our society: Anzac Day last Saturday and the execution in Indonesia on Wednesday of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were arrested in Bali during a heroin smuggling operation in 2005.
MVP (most valued politician)
While Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s job may not involve the rough and tumble of everyday politics, this week’s events provided it can still be one of the toughest.
Ms Bishop proved yet again she has the mettle to stand up to other nations on our behalf, even if on this occasion she failed.
Her fierce determination to protect Australia’s interests was no match for the domestic politics that drove Indonesian President Joko Widodo to doggedly insist the executions must proceed.
By all reports Ms Bishop used every official and unofficial channel available over past weeks and days to plead clemency for the Bali Nine ringleaders, including numerous phone calls on Tuesday night as the execution deadline approached.
Now she is following through with the only protest options available to government leaders in a world ruled by the mighty dollar and the need to keep trading partners onside.
The Australian ambassador has been recalled from Indonesia, and possible cuts to foreign aid funding for the country are “being considered”.
Most memorable line
Many words were expended this week on the fate of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, ranging from who was responsible for their arrest in a country that favoured the death penalty, to what should be done now to show Australia’s anger, frustration and grief at their death at the hands of a government.
However, in recognising the most memorable words of the week, it is impossible to go past the official statement made by the families of the two Australian men after they had been executed by the Indonesian firing squad:
“They asked for mercy, but there was none.”
What planet are they on? (most outlandish policy idea/comment of the week)
The week also saw its fair share of undignified exploitation of the tragedy, as faded politicians and celebrities alike made bizarre proclamations in the desperate search for relevance and public profile.
It’s hard to choose which of two public demonstrations, in particular, was more outlandishly pathetic in the attempt to get on the Bali Nine bandwagon.
The selfie video by Australian thespians calling on the Prime Minister from the comfort of their sofas to show some balls and do “something” was the epitome of self-obsessed slacktivism.
And Clive Palmer’s announcement of a private members’ bill, aimed at “stopping” Australians from being executed overseas was a case study in hollow political spin.
Mr Palmer’s proposed law won’t stop executions at all but is aimed at locking up police or intelligence officials who disclose information that “might” lead to an Australian facing the death penalty.
His bill also provides exemptions against terrorists or violent criminals; apparently it must be okay if those villainous types are executed.
Career limiting move (if they had their time again, they wouldn’t have said or done this)
SBS sports reporter Brett McIntyre literally made a career-limiting move on Anzac Day, with a series of tweets that essentially denounced the ‘Anzac myth’.
The broadcaster’s management reportedly gave the journalist, an Australian public service employee because SBS is a government-owned broadcaster, the chance to delete his tweets and apologise.
Mr McIntyre refused and was sacked for breaching the SBS social media code. Other public servants have suffered a similar fate.
Even more troubling than the APS’s draconian approach to employees’ free speech is the fact that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull drew the reporter’s tweets to the attention of SBS managing director Michael Ebeid.
It doesn’t matter if the minister didn’t ask for the rogue tweeter’s sacking – the necessary action was implied.
Equally clear is that by slapping down a media contrarian and defending the honour of our mighty Anzacs, Minister Turnbull hoped to score a few brownie points with the arch-right in the Liberal Party whose votes he needs to become leader.
More of this please
On a brighter note, Labor Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek, showed uncommon courage this week by calling for the ALP to actually follow through on its formal policy that supports same-sex marriage.
The party that prides itself on its progressive credentials adopted the policy in 2011, but then went to water by allowing its MPs to have a conscience vote if ever the matter was considered by parliament.
This was done in the knowledge that arch conservatives in the Labor Right would rather tear the party apart than vote for a policy that they don’t support, either on religious grounds or because their constituents are opposed to the move.
Ms Plibersek is taking some big hits from her colleagues because of her commendable stance, but is likely to fail. Her proposal is expected to be defeated at Labor’s national conference in a few months’ time.