A study in character

Article by Andrew Welder /
Press Gallery Reform /
July 03, 2012 /
Click here to view original /

See this in its entirety: thirty minutes of your life you won’t get back, but it’s all about the context.

It is ironic that GetUp! achieved greater insight into the way our political system works through an accident than it has for many of its best-orchestrated campaigns.

When Simon Sheikh passed out on the set of the ABC’s Q&A:

  • The host, Tony Jones, just sat there (some host!)
  • Lenore Taylor, a journalist, also just sat there
  • Greg Combet MP, a government minister, stepped up and helped Sheikh
  • Grahame Morris, a lobbyist, stood up at his desk and looked concerned; a man no longer accustomed to getting his hands dirty, Morris is used to having people scurry around at the sight of him doing something really dramatic like standing up at his desk looking concerned (or maybe he wanted to do to Sheikh what he advocated doing to the PM, and “kick [him] to death”), and
  • Sophie Mirabella MP, who was sitting next to Sheikh, regarded him with revulsion and then, realising that others were making her look bad and that there was nothing she could do about it, put her hand on his shoulder.

This was a test of character for all concerned. The idea that they all deserve a free pass because “hey, that’s just live television baby!” is just bullshit.

Combet showed himself to be a leader in our community, which is what you’d hope for from someone in his position. Some Coalition MPs would have stood up and helped in such a situation, and not just those with medical qualifications. Mirabella, who aspires to the job currently occupied by Combet, showed only that she must not be put in a position of any responsibility whatsoever and must be removed from any such position she now holds. Simply calling for help would have showed the humanity that is needed in her position, but which she clearly lacks.

Lauren Rosewarne thinks Mirabella was criticised for “failing to emote”. She was actually and fairly criticised for failing to render assistance where assistance was required. It is stupid to accuse Sheikh of ‘crying wolf’ as some sort of invalidation for medical treatment.

Medical emergencies always happen quickly (or, as Rosewarne put it, “Under. One. Minute.”). It’s part of your civic duty to find out how to help people who need help, and wait with them until the professionals arrive (or, as Rosewarne put it, “Florence Nightingale mode”). Medical emergencies transcend gender politics, and if her failure was not at the heart of this issue the very first person to assert this would be Sophie Mirabella.

Let’s give the benefit of the doubt, if not congratulations, to off-camera staff at the ABC studios that night. Their actions, unseen by viewers outside the studio, may explain the (non-)actions of Taylor, Morris and Jones. The latter may think it’s his role to keep his head while all about are losing theirs, but I still think there is more to it.

Sophie Mirabella failed the basic moral test of refusing to assist someone who needed it. Having wound herself up she couldn’t get over herself in order to render basic assistance. Everyone on that panel is judged on the same basis, regardless of gender; most found wanting. Lenore Taylor hasn’t done much emoting today over this matter, but so what? Practical assistance, and the need thereof as required, is much more important than irrelevant disquisitions on “emoting”.

It’s probably more important to be able to help people when they need it than it is to enrol to vote, but at the time of writing I am too pissed off to even think about that. This is partly because I have just reviewed the earbashing that Mirabella gave the nation once again. Along with Macquarie Street troll Peter Phelps, a piece of jetsam swept up in a king tide, Mirabella embodies that perverse strain of the worst, Pellite notion of conservatism: that you are entitled to deference by sheer assertion/gall and the occupation of titles, but that none dare expect any from you. That’s why this doesn’t work:

Lindy Chamberlain. Casey Anthony. Joanna Lees. Women who were each publicly vilified based on the weakest and yet most damning of evidence: the failure to appropriately – to femininely – emote.

Weak, yes, but hardly damning. Lees emoted like billy-o when it suited her and Chamberlain didn’t just sit by and watch her baby being dragged to death. Whatever point Rosewarne might have is stranded by the sheer fatuity of her parallels and her simple inability to perceive the situation on which she commented (click the link at the top of the page, Lauren, and watch it). That, and the fact that Sophie Mirabella has spent what passes for her life sneering at “do-gooders” (of whatever gender, Lauren) who render aid to others completely flouting Randian teachings.

Mirabella did express emotion towards Sheikh: the emotion was disgust.

There isn’t a question anyone could have asked that so clearly demonstrated who stands where, who can be relied upon and who can’t. As a telling moment about those who would govern us it was up there with Joe Hockey’s moment of weakness/moral failure on gay marriage with Penny Wong.

The civic-minded among us can get first aid training at a location near you from Australian Red Crossor St John’s, or other organisations I’m sure. Get some. This blog will still be here when you get back – and yes, I have, and do – and stuff any “Florence Nightingale” bullshit. Some good thing has to come from this sorry and absurd episode.