Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Hospice Vigil

ANYONE who has endured the anguish of a prolonged deathbed vigil will know how the mind takes refuge in a grim relativism. There is no hope and you know as much, fully aware that sooner or later (and most likely sooner), the loved one laid low will heave the final breath, that the loss will be forever, and why no prayer or medical miracle can alter the coming end. Yet somehow, despite all the evidence of eye and experience, the mood adjusts. As the former Mrs Bunyip’s mum went to her reward via an awful final month of wasting and shrinking, there was even a little laughter amongst the tubes and monitors. It wasn’t a callous jocularity so much as the product of that mental adjustment by which, with chuckles and kisses and by creeping degrees, one begins to accept the loss before it has yet happened. The news that the disease was terminal came as a shock, but once assimilated there was some room for light and shade. True, the visitors’ eruptions of good humour brought comfort to the dying, but it was those gathered ’round who drew the greatest benefit from distraction and delusion. She had a good day, you might say when pain  briefly receded, and you would be fortified with good cheer to overlook for just a moment the certainty of its return.

Something very similar is underway amongst those friends and lovers gathering at the Gillard government’s deathbed. There are bouts of denial, of silencing the grim certainty by shushing the realists who speak so tactlessly of the cancers that are eating it. Ask 2UE’s Michael Smith about that. For two weeks he has been off air, silenced by Fairfax until he agrees not to speak of our PM’s intimate relationship with a swindler. It is a valid matter for discussion, not least because it raises the issue of Gillard’s judgment, the connections that elevated her political career and, in her claim that she was “young and naïve at the time”, the ongoing willingness to fudge and mislead. For the record, Gillard was 35 and a rising lawyer when her then-bedmate was robbing union members blind.

Same thing with those troublesome refugees. Not so long ago, when a government of another stripe was in power, the Fairfax press and ABC could not write enough of conservative Australia’s racist inhumanity. A boat dubbed SIEV-X went down with horrendous loss of life and no charge against John Howard, not even of murder, was too spurious or obscene to be withheld. And where are they now, those outraged accusers, as more boats sink and Gillard clings to the wreckage of her flint-hearted “Malaysian solution”? Apart from a few activists who demonstrated their moral consistency by chasing Immigration Minister Christopher Bowen down the street, the rest of the posse has disbanded. No books or breathless broadsheet exposes of a heartless butcher in The Lodge. Wouldn’t do to be so frank, not at this time, not with a dearly beloved on life support.

Instead we get, well, just read Misha Shubert in this morning’s Sunday Age and observe the latest source of comfort for our PM’s soon-to-be mourners. It’s not that Gillard’s crew is inept, incompetent and ideological incoherent, nor is that Australia’s voters have noticed as much. Yes, Gillard is perhaps a little awkward on the stump, Shubert concedes in passing, but the problem – the real problem – is that Tony Abbott has “torn up the rule book”, as the headline puts it.

“Abbott's success as an opposition leader is that he simply shrugs off the expectation for consistency," Shubert writes. "He is adept and swift at rationalising shifts in position. And, let's face it, he is not often held to sustained account to explain such anomalies.”

Forget Gillard’s inconsistency – from cash-for-clunkers to her stillborn citizens’ assembly and, of course, the no-carbon-tax bill of goods – it is all about Abbott and his Teflon coat. It is a perspective that would have been at home beside the bed in which the ex-Mrs Bunyip’s mum expired. Out of the dying woman’s earshot, the cancer took flesh in her family’s imagination. It was no longer a disease, but a near-human entity, one whose advances and retreats were evidence of the evil her well-wishers projected upon it. Didn’t bother the cancer, of course, but having something to blame did ease the burdens of those following its progress.

Shubert might well enjoy casting Abbott as Tony the Tumour, and while her summation of the opposition leader’s astute tactics as a violation of political fair play would rile the sensible rest of us, leave the poor woman to mop the patient’s brow and see her off with words of blameless comfort.

Gillard's condition is terminal and this government with her. So don't begrudge the Shuberts, Hartchers and Marrs the consolation of pointing the impotent finger at the coming coalition ascendancy. Just be ready to make sure Tony Abbott cleans up her legacy of decay.


  1. The analogy cannot be any better. Did you see the 4 Lefties including Barry Cassidy in today's Insiders? Looking at the 4 faces, I thought I was watching a funeral taking place. Lenore Taylor was in her elements talking of tax and refugees and at the same time slagging of Tony Abbot. It is all about Tony Abbott ruining Julia Gillard's red hair day.

  2. I tried to buy 2 litres of paint this afternoon, but it only came in 4 litre or 1 litre tins.
    I blame Abbott for this.

  3. "Shubert might well enjoy casting Abbott as Tony the Tumour"

    A bit pointless of the leftist meeja to be carping on about cancer when their beloved has done itself in earning a Darwin Award along the way.

  4. Masterful satirical commentary. Alas the times do not suit you so well for a truly wider audience (how did Mark Twain ever do it?) -- except that you can buy bandwidth by the cent -- so while others are trucking in those ink barrels, what’s to lose? Your time here is an investment and an outlet and at its best is really an accomplished didactic art form (see Bernard Shaw intro to Pygmalian for non-pejorative sense of didactic). And then if you have ink on your hands from your day job, well you’re connected there and have some say and get paid. Good on you. Do your best as others have said before. If it’s any comfort for this fawning note, I don’t agree with much of what you are saying, David C. Barrow

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  6. I don't believe the incoming government will clean up the legacy of decay.
    I've had sufficient dealings with the current crop of LNP representatives that their lack of concern for constituents is such that I do not recommend anyone vote for them.

  7. Your analogy is couched in such delicious words, I have savoured every one -- I will be sustained until my next visit here. This is no fawning note just a heartfelt grateful thanks for sharing. As for Gillard and her near-dead government I am wearing a black mood every day and can hardly wait to revert to sunny colours upon the demise of this worthless, truthless, scurrilous band of incompetents pretending to govern.

  8. Steve at the Pub...are you recommending that we vote for the Greens or vote informal?

  9. Prof,

    Steve said "I don't believe the incoming..."

    who will clean up what Martin Amis called
    "stupefied by relativism"

    and what Melanie Phillips called the "the baffling incoherence of the West"

    I applaud your adventurism into the poetical, and lyrical commentary,

    many a reader here, is obviously here for being tired; tired of having everything dumbed down for public dissemination.

    but if Martin Amis is right the problem has not been people dumbing things down, but them being actually that dumb -
    denatured, desensitized, idiots, a people made fools,

    CSLewis called it the coming "Abolition of Man" -maybe? If his observation is right, you are simply standing it. Po Mo crucified intellect.

    perhaps this isn't my place Prof, or my generation. still its good to keep an eye on you - keep on. Even if few, James Delingpole, "get it".

  10. David C. Barrow: "If it’s any comfort for this fawning note, I don’t agree with much of what you are saying"

    PROF BUNYIP asked: Can you elaborate why you do not agree to what was said? You may even change my mind in the process.

    ==>> Dear Prof Bunyip, I should clarify that I am referring generally to all of your Bunyipitude posts. It's a gut reaction, like I had in Melbourne Chinatown on Friday night to a curry beef & veg dish which was nice enough (and affordable) except for two occasions when I chewed into something which seemed neither beef nor veg (like a joint cartilage or something I don’t want to think what) and my gut insisted that I spit it out into a serviette, as discreetly as possible (which wasn’t very), even though the morsel may have been perfectly digestible and nutritious. And so too this is my first blush feeling about the content of much of what you seem to be saying in your articles, if you will pardon me to belch at the table, much as I admire the style in which you put your views (lay out the place settings, a metaphor too far?)

    In the "The Hospice Vigil" piece, for instance, there are these coherent points:

    "For two weeks he has been off air, silenced by Fairfax until he agrees not to speak of our PM’s intimate relationship with a swindler. It is a valid matter for discussion, not least because it raises the issue of Gillard’s judgment, the connections that elevated her political career and, in her claim that she was “young and naïve at the time”, the ongoing willingness to fudge and mislead. For the record, Gillard was 35 and a rising lawyer when her then-bedmate was robbing union members blind."

    I thought I got good value for my 8 cents from Media Watch on 5 September 2011 in the "All dredged up and nowhere to go" story in actually considering all of that (chewing my food for me as well as feeding it to me, which is sometimes seriously helpful in a busy world):

    The Media Watch story ends with a quote from Nine News's Laurie Oakes: "The question is why it's been dredged up again and the answer to that, I think, is people just are trying to, people who don't like Julia Gillard and want to bring her down are beating it up." -- 3AW, Mornings with Neil Mitchell, 31st August, 2011

    ...leading into the Media Watch conclusion that I think actually lands a justified criticism on the Prime Minister: "The irony, of course, is that they didn't need to. The High Court has, with its decision this week, raised far more pertinent questions about Julia Gillard's judgment and authority. What happened sixteen years ago has indeed become peripheral."

    David C. Barrow

  11. Anonymous,

    did Julia's wardrobe, ergo, Julia herself benefit from stolen monies?

    were monies ever recovered?

    Given Xenophon wants to raise 40 year old rape allegations that were never reported to police?


    this is not an attempt to "dredge" your thought processes; just looking for a plumb line to moral consistency in media expectations

  12. David C Barrow

    How can one possibly take seriously anything said by anyone who utters the solecism 'serviette?'

    And then you combine this heinous crime with another of taking Media Watch and Laurie Oakes as some kind of superior authorities. Both are lefties and bottom dwellers in the pond of life. Neither has half the intelligence or wit of the Prof. Oakes has been wrong on just about every major point for years. Holmes is just a shill for the ALP viewpoint. They say that Gillard's relationship with a swindler should not be brought up again; we can guess the appropriate Mandy Rice Davies response to that, can't we?


    Rococo Liberal