Insults: where are the new ideas?

So the Opposition Health spokesperson, Julia Gillard, got thrown out of Parliament today for calling the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, a “snivelling grub.” Yesterday, Mr Abbott was not thrown out for saying the exact same insult. Commentators have called it a double standard.

Well sure, it is a double standard. But let me go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe it isn’t a bad thing if the speaker throws out politicians for recycled insults. Yes, I know that Gillard was just being ironic. And that plays well in a sitcom. But what I really want to see is more innovation by our politicians in insults. It is critical for the entertainment function that is central to our democracy. In fact, that was what the Labor Party of old was really known for. Take Paul Keating for example:

  • “He has more hide than a team of elephants.” (Keating on Howard)
  • “You boxhead you wouldn’t know. You are flat out counting past ten.” (Keating on Tuckey)
  • “(His performance) is like being flogged with a warm lettuce.” (Keating on Hewson)
  • “The Opposition crowd could not raffle a chook in a pub” (Keating on everyone)
  • On each other ..

Whitlam: “That was a good speech. You should go back comrade, and get yourself an honours degree.”
Keating: “What for ? Then I’d be like you.”

But if all else fails we can just remember the late great Douglas Adams …

“It gives me a headache just to try to think down to your level.” (Marvin the Paranoid Android)

Let’s face it, the Labor Party isn’t going to get re-elected unless we see some real new ideas playing on their traditional strengths.