Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Peter Meter

JULIA GILLARD has been given quite some grief of late for appointing Peter Slipper to the Speaker’s chair, with gossipy sorts quite keen to learn how he managed to run up a $300+ cab charge in the course of a single night’s travels about Canberra. Now this really is a remarkable achievement, the ACT being a pocket handkerchief roughly 50 kilometres from border to border at its widest point. As the current tariff for cab trips after 9pm is $2.19 per kilometer, Slipper would have required three full trips from end to end in order to present taxpayers with such an invoice. The new Speaker has pointedly declined to explain where he went and what he was up to, a stonewall that can only lead the curious to wonder if the waiting-time tariff of $49 an hour might have contributed to the total sum. In the absence of a word from Slipper, speculation that his cab and driver sat outside some establishment or other until he had zipped up whatever business propelled him into the evening remains valid. While there are few certainties in politics – other than that Michelle Grattan will always find something to admire in our “devilishly clever” PM – it is the surest bet that Slipper’s nocturnal mystery mission will continue to be raised.

An ongoing headache for the government? An open sore subject to painful probing? Yes, that is likely, but it need not be. If our PM were to hunker down with spin-gali Bruce Hawker it would take but a few minutes to produce a strategy that could only enhance Slipper’s standing while doing the government that slipped him into the Chair a world of good.

First, there is the need to settle on a destination. Gillard and Hawker might persuade the Speaker to reveal that he is a pokies junkie, spent the evening losing money in Queanbeyan and is proof positive of the need for the state to regulate inappropriate individual behaviour.

The problem with that scenario, of course, is that Slipper would object to being identified as a degenerate gambler.

So why not sell him on the virtues of casting himself as a simple, straightforward, old-fashioned,  garden-variety degenerate?  If it were put to him that the cab was left waiting while he engaged in a de-briefing session with a carnal consultant, relativism would be his shield. Indeed, if judged against some parliamentary colleagues, he would emerge the very picture of probity.

Unlike, say, Craig Thomson, there would be no need for tall tales of a priapic doppelganger (with an identical signature, no less) who lingered in houses of pleasures while hospital floor-moppers and toilet-scrubbers picked up his bill. Who could object to the taxpayer covering transport costs if the remainder of the evening was drawn on the Speaker’s own pocket?

And it gets better. With earnest hand on heart, Slipper might then avow to never having bumped groins with a 12-year-old, as Tasmanian colleague Terry Martin was yesterday convicted of having done, apparently as a result of being exposed to medications for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The judge declined to incarcerate Martin, thereby establishing with the full authority of the bench the lower limit of what these days is deemed acceptable conduct. If Slipper were to say all his girls were 18 or older, even the dirtiest of his sheets would come with a wonderfully clean smell – relatively speaking, of course.

None of this is to suggest that Slipper was gambling or schtupping. Indeed, for all we know, he might just as easily have been overcome by the sudden urge to find sacred ground, rattle of a quick rosary, say novena or two, perform an act of contrition and stuff a fistful of unused Commonwealth taxi vouchers in the poor box.

But it would be a mistake to admit as much. Just ask Tony Abbott how the press feels about Catholics.


  1. Well written Professor. And just for the record, under the story "This Picture is not Allowed" on Bolt's blog yesterday I posted this comment:

    Looks like Slipper is in the right camp after all -- not pink silk slippers, though he may have had some dalliances in that area, but black leather jack boots. :P

    My comment didn't make it! So both the picture and free speech were not allowed. Ha!

  2. Does the cold fact of this frightfully inept and absurd collection of individuals entrusted with your governanace, not only being there in the first place, but remaining there, not sound some deep resonant Code-Red alarm bells within you as to the perilous state of mankind at this present moment in time/space? I speak not of just Australia, it's happening most everywhere.
    Are the veils not being lifted before your eyes?
    The madness is in plain sight, they aren't even trying to conceal it anymore. /dirge.

  3. “devilishly clever”

    Don't they employ subs any more? That's not how you spell "deviously".

  4. "spent the evening losing money in Queanbeyan"

    Eden-Monaro better still. Mike Kelly needs some help with the clubs down there.

    "rattle of a quick rosary"

    Isn't he some sort of office holder in the Anglican high church? But maybe they do rosaries too?

  5. Slipper may have indeed been rattling the rosary beads. His Wikipedia entry informs us that:

    "In 2008, he was ordained as a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia"

  6. May I comment as an resident? Going to Queanbeyan to gamble is just not necessary. The ACT is awash with gambling dens, disguised as 'community clubs'. (The very lucrative Labor Clubs contribute millions to the upkeep of the local and national ALP. Some wonder that it's passing strange that the workers party should profit mightily from the gambling habits of the deadbeats who sit for hours losing money, but there we are.)

    It is of course possible that the driver, perhaps harangued by the Slippery One, just got lost. If the journey started at the House of Reps side, the car first encounters the ring road around Parlt House. Except that it's not a ring road, and if one assumes that it is, one is soon forced to turn involutarily right or left onto another road. Not only is one now disorientated, but if say the road leads to the back of old PH, one is confronted by various options, some of which are poorly marked one-way streets. A mistake here and one could be heading out towards the Kings Ave bridge. Needless to say, the roads here are confusing, and rather than staying on the south of the lake, one can find oneself heading north. The Parkes avenue flyover is new, and of course confusing. If one was to travel up past the US-Australia memorial, and (assuming that another mistake did not lead one to get lost in Campbell, event to the extent of travelling up to Mount Ainslie lookout), one could take quite a bit of time extricating oneself from the massive car-parks adjacent to the Defence Dept. The one could find oneself travelling towards the airport, and at least the driver might take comfort from starting from a familiar point. This feeling would dissipate if (perhaps now being severely harangued by Slipper), he took a couple of false turns and found himself on Majura Drive heading towards Goulburn. He would probably then turn left back towards Canberra at the Federal Highway, which would be familiar enough. But then he has to negotiate the maze of roads not too far past the end of the Commonwealth Bridge, and in particular might head up the slipway to the Parliament House ring road ... where this could all start again! (Mind you, a few false turns at the start of this sage could have lead to Fyshwick (snicker snicker)).

  7. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.November 30, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Slipper's vehicular perigrinations somehow bring to mind Captain Oates' famous lines from Scott's Terra Nova Antarctic Expedition:

    Slipper to Driver as he exits vehicle:

    "I am just stepping outside for a while; I may be some time".

    We are now free to imagine some creative ways in which it will all end badly for Slipper in the long run as he heads off into his self-made blizzard. Unlike Oates, this is not a reputation-enhancing moment.

  8. "In 2008, he was ordained as a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia"

    Say no more, ah got it now -- weirdo.

  9. Peter Slippers taxi fare details are well documented by his local paper in the Sunshine Coast Daily. You only need to ask the local cabbies for the details.

    One cabbie who spoke to the Daily said that after one experience with Mr Slipper as a fare she had rung and attempted to have herself taken off the electoral roll.

    "He treated me like a second-class citizen," she said.

    Another Coast driver said the first time he had gone to pick Mr Slipper up at his home he drove in and blew the horn.

    "He came out and said, 'I know you're there', and walked back inside," the driver said.

    "After that I just put the meter on when I got there. That's why his bills are so high.

    "He's an arrogant pr*ck."