Monday, March 19, 2012

Conduct Unbecoming

What was it with the Liberal leaders over the weekend? Tony Abbott took a long run up and shoved his foot in his mouth, and Campbell Newman refused to accept a handshake.

Neither of these gaffes had anything to do with policy, with governing, or with campaigning. They were both just bloody-minded (and pretty pointless) attempts at point-scoring.

Both misfired with the public because frankly, the public has better manners and knows what is appropriate and what isn’t.

When Abbott made his official condolence remarks on the death of Margaret Whitlam, he included criticism of the Whitlam government, which was both inappropriate and unsurprising.

He described Mrs Whitlam as ''woman of style and substance'' and ''a marvellous consort to a very significant Labor leader and an epochal Australian prime minister.”

But Abbott’s mouth was coasting, and he couldn’t help himself from adding, “There was a lot wrong with the Whitlam government but nevertheless, it was a very significant episode in our history and Margaret Whitlam was a very significant element in the political success of Gough Whitlam,''

It’s simply not the done thing. When you are offering your condolences, offer your condolences, and leave it at that. It’s just poor form that Mr Abbott saw it as an opportunity to snark a government that dates back over a generation. It was a pointless and ill-considered gesture that only served to damage his own reputation.

And then, Campbell Newman took it up a notch. Yesterday afternoon there was a forum in Ashgrove, featuring the five candidates and an audience of "locals".

The event was feisty, particularly as the audience was partly comprised of loud, conservative voters who may or may not be Ashgrovians. They were certainly a rowdy lot, applauding generously for their candidates. In contrast I hear the response to the ALP & Greens candidates ranged from mocking silence to audible booing.

All in all, it was the kind of political event more often seen in the USA than in suburban Brisbane. Journalists tweeted after the event how personally tough and emotionally exhausting it had been on the candidates.

It wasn't until later that the real disgrace of the afternoon was known.

Footage confirms that Campbell Newman, the man who in less than a week is likely to be Queensland's Premier-Elect, refused to shake the hand of his opponent, ALP sitting member Kate Jones.

I was disgusted. The Twitterverse was disgusted.

Is there any excuse for such blatant rudeness?

Newman suggested later that he was waiting for Ms Jones to apologise to Mrs Newman regarding some comments the ALP had made. “The ALP” has made a lot of comments about Mr Newman, his wife and his wife’s family, but I’m not sure that he can hold Kate Jones responsible for that.

His refusal to accept a handshake from his opponent was churlish. As a former army graduate of RMC who retired with the rank of Major, he should know better. His conduct in refusing that handshake was ‘conduct unbecoming.’

These tweets from last night illustrated the mood:
@ellymac: What a stupid move from Newman. The media will talk about nothing but the refused handshake.
@Jess_Rudd Newman refused to shake Kate Jones' hand. An MP, a former minister, a candidate, but most importantly a human being. Disgraceful.

@greenat15 You are a shameful creature Campbell Newman...Refusing to shake Kate Jones's hand at the #AshgroveForum. #QLDvotes #qldpol

@Billmcdonald1 @jess_rudd @armac152 no excuse for not accepting a handshake.

@owenwareham Campbell Newman refuses to shake Kate Jones hand. What an outstanding role model for young Queenslanders. Grub.

@Dobboinaus @Jess_Rudd @armac152 I concur, he should be very very ashamed, but sadly it shows the real deal.

I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.

In any case, they both need to go back to charm school before they embarrass themselves – and us – any further.

Update: Perhaps the public reaction to Newman’s handshake horror has changed his tune, because today, after the one and only official debate during this campaign, Newman did shake the hand of the Premier.
@Jess_Rudd Good grief. Mr Newman, if you won't shake your opponent's hand after a debate, you aren't fit to be premier. #poorform #Ashgroveforum


  1. Barnett, Bailleau, O'Farrell and soon, Newman. All pretentious prats without any natural charm. It is obvious they have been taking lessons from the most disgraceful political leader in Australia's history. And I am including Mark Latham. Tony Abbott has a lot to answer for!

  2. suck it up, your little precious Laborite lost!

  3. Thanks to you both for these wildly divergent comments! ;)