Winston Churchill once memorably defined a fanatic as someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. And they never change anyone else’s mind either.
And it is the fanatical conviction that the personal is political that has landed these two carrots in the cauldron.
The first is of course the Deputy Premier of Queensland, an office which should require at least some degree of dignity and decency but whose current occupant has repeatedly shown he struggles with both concepts. And I will refer to him only as the Deputy Premier of Queensland in the hope that this conveys the chasmic distance between the position he holds and the behaviour he exhibits.
A few weeks ago we saw the Deputy Premier of Queensland post a video on Facebook of himself ripping up a $30 million hotel quarantine invoice from the NSW government because he was upset with the federal government.
It was idiotic, illogical and embarrassingly undergraduate but at least it was only paper. One would have thought Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would give him a quick clip around the ears and such silly stunts wouldn’t happen again.
But like all dumb gamblers he doubled down. On Monday the Deputy Premier of Queensland accused the Prime Minister of Australia of using the rolling argument over the vaccine rollout as cover for a rape scandal.
“No doubt the Prime Minister will continue to use the vaccine rollout and COVID more generally to distract from the government’s other problems,” he said.
“That’s been a very orchestrated campaign to try to stop you talking about Brittany Higgins and rape and sexual harassment and all the things that have happened in Canberra.”
Frankly, I doubt the second coming of Christ could distract most people from all the things that have happened in Canberra but for a Deputy Premier of Queensland to use outrage over the alleged sexual assault of a young woman in Canberra for his own political benefit in Brisbane is a level of shamelessness I haven’t seen in 25 years of journalism.
Sadly, it did not end there. A mere two days later the Deputy Premier of Queensland was on Facebook again.
“Tommy Raudonikis was a legend,” he said. “He was always on the side of working people.”
Then in the very next line: “Here’s some of what he had to say about John Howard and WorkChoices …”
And so once more for the Deputy Premier of Queensland the death of a beloved Australian identity and another family’s raw tragedy was just one more political weapon.
Now I was front and centre in the WorkChoices debate as the workplace roundsman for Sydney’s biggest newspaper. I exposed its myriad injustices as a reporter and I condemned them as a commentator but never would it occur to me to use the death of a good man whose body was barely cold to attack a Prime Minister who hasn’t been in power for almost a decade and a half. It is hard to even imagine the kind of person who thinks like that.
Indeed, compare the instant morbid opportunism of the Deputy Premier of Queensland with the gracious and thoughtful words of the actual Premier of Queensland.
“In a blue jersey, Tommy Raudonikis never gave the Maroons an inch but we loved his passion and his commitment, and we welcomed him when he made his home in Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk wrote. “My condolences to his family at this sad time.”
So why hasn’t the actual Premier pulled the Deputy Premier into line for his ever-escalating embarrassments?
Because she can’t. Despite being the titular head of the Labor Party in the Sunshine State and a member of the Right faction, the Left of the party still controls the numbers behind the scenes. Despite having just won a thumping election victory she is still beholden to their invisible strings. That is something all Queenslanders should know and think about.
In Victoria there is a warped mirror image of this scenario, namely that the party has a left-wing leader and the Right technically has the numbers – yet it still seems to be the Left that wields all the power.
According to a report on the front page of The Australian, an activist lawyer and serial social media pest called Josh Bornstein is favoured by elements of the Victorian Labor Left to be parachuted into Kim Carr’s heavily indented Senate seat.
Mr Bornstein is well known as a tireless keyboard warrior who appears pathologically pre-programmed to pick fights even with his would-be comrades.
In one exchange he had a crack at a senior female union official and likened her to a dog, saying: “Have you misplaced your chew toy?”
Another female unionist replied: “May I recommend refraining from suggesting a woman is a dog?”
To which Bornstein replied: “Yes u may. It was a reference to being harassed by an annoying pain in the arse. Reminded me of a poodle snapping at my heels.”
In 2013 he posted: “Personally, I think Penny Wong would make a very fine Morticia.”
And, again in 2013, he called former Treasurer and acting Labor leader Chris Bowen a “muppet”.
It must have been a pretty full-on 12 months because he also tweeted: “I was so pissed off by the #ALP that I refused to vote for them in 2013.”
This is, to say the least, a pretty odd statement from a would-be ALP candidate. Indeed, one look at Josh Bornstein’s immaculately curated website and it soon becomes clear who’s really getting things started on the Muppet Show tonight.
Of course the problem is not that these people exist, it is that they have infiltrated what was once the greatest party in Australia. A party that could once claim icons like Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Gareth Evans, Kim Beazley and the late Mick Young in a single cabinet.
For Labor to once more become the party of mainstream Australia it can’t just take up a new set of policies. It also needs to take out the trash.