House of pixelated representatives

Richard Ackland is taking a short break as he is currently The Prawn on The Masked Singer. We’ll be filling in until he returns in a fortnight.

While Covid-19 may have halted proceedings at the true home of Australian democracy, The Masked Singer, it has failed to stop parliament, which resumed this week after a nine-week hiatus. The break has been devastating for the ABC, which has been battered in the coveted 2pm time slot since losing its flagship Question Time program to tide viewers over to their afternoon nap.

It was relatively smooth sailing for the “virtual parliament”, although Oculus Rift is not yet sold on the concept as a game for consumers. There was brief alarm when a Twitter troll appeared to hijack proceedings; however, it was soon explained that Senator Malcolm Roberts was, in fact, entitled to be there.

In anticipation of our politicians taking artistic licence with their video-link set design while appearing remotely, strict rules were put in place “against slogans and novelty items in the background”. The rule sadly presents an insurmountable hurdle for novelty item Bob Katter. It’s also a devastating blow for Josh Frydenberg, who needs to find another space for his Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan posters.

Parliament will likely remain virtual until at least the end of the year, which is sure to be a mind-boggling experience for Australia’s political observers. If an Eric Abetz makes a homophobic sound on Zoom, but the mute button is on, did the Eric Abetz still make a homophobic sound?

PM curries favour on LinkedIn

LinkedIn, the website that must have helped someone get a job one time although no one knows who or when, was the social media platform of choice for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to post about his latest career milestone: a homemade lamb baduma curry and godamba rotis.

Declaring that “Saturday night is curry night”, the PM announced he’d performed another miracle for the rarely seen but oft-discussed “Jen and the girls”. The accompanying post featured a behind-the-scenes self-portrait taken from an ungodly overhead angle, utilising what one can only assume was a haunted selfie stick.

The prime minister has done more to promote curry in the past two years than the entire marketing team at Patak’s, bringing the dish up in a series of metaphors so tortured they are currently under investigation by Human Rights Watch.

In 2018, the PM told a crowd at the unveiling of a Mahatma Gandhi statue that Australia’s multiculturalism is “like a good garam masala”. “It brings together all the great spices. The cloves, the black cardamom, the green cardamom, coriander seeds, all of this, comes together – the cumin, don’t forget that,” he said. “It all comes together. Have any of it on its own, it doesn’t taste as good.” Later, Morrison told the troops in Iraq, “I love curries ... How you blend it together, all of these different ingredients, to produce something which is pretty magnificent, is how I’ve experienced seeing what you do here.” These philosophical reflections and more will be captured in the upcoming documentary ScoMo Dreams of Curry.

Curry may have even been on the brain when, during a recent appearance on Studio 10, the prime minister was asked about the production of a coronavirus vaccine in Australia. As he explained: “You basically get the recipe and off you go.” Looks like Australia just found its new chief medical officer.

And while August 24 marked two years since his ascension to the prime ministership, we’re looking forward to August 22 next year to “Congratulate Scott on his curry anniversary” via LinkedIn.

Holy crap

Anthony Fisher, archbishop of Sydney, has warned Catholics that the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine candidate uses a cell line taken from an aborted foetus, and therefore could have “ethical concerns”. Such an attack from the Catholic Church is all a bit pot, kettle, black – if the kettle hadn’t actually done anything wrong and the pot had a history of child abuse. The whole situation presents the greatest ethical dilemma for members of the Catholic Church besides their being members of the Catholic Church. On a brighter note, it does mark the first time Australians are relieved to remember that their prime minister is more of a Hillsong man.

Meanwhile, the archbishop of Ipswich, Pauline Hanson, further closed the Venn diagram between One Nation supporters and anti-vaxxers by announcing she wouldn’t be having the coronavirus vaccine that doesn’t currently exist. Hanson, who was recently dumped by the Today show for being “ill-informed” and “divisive”, has returned to posting videos on Facebook, where being ill-informed and divisive are stipulated in the conditions of use.

Speaking of ill-informed, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck came under fire last week for not knowing the number of deaths that had occurred in aged care during the pandemic. The senator made matters worse for himself by later apologising and saying he takes “full responsibility” when the Coalition’s ministerial guidelines clearly state one should double down and deny everything. We can expect the prime minister to ask for his resignation within days.

Sail away

While most Australians have been forced to abandon any travel plans due to Covid-19 restrictions, Australia’s rich-list yachtsmen are proving resilient. Melbourne building magnate Mark Simonds’ east coast jaunt may have hit rough seas after the Queensland government revoked his exemption to enter the state on his 30-metre skiff, the Lady Pamela, but one Sydney businessman has refused to let go of his hopes for a European summer.

The federal government has granted an overseas travel exemption to Jost Stollmann, a former government fintech adviser, for a reason all Australians can empathise with: picking up a new luxury yacht he’d purchased in Italy.

Before you sneer, it’s only fair to keep in mind that Stollmann did describe the yacht as “awesome” in an email to Double Bay Sailing Club obtained by the Nine newspapers.

We’re counting down the days until a yacht-shaped trophy appears in Scott Morrison’s office emblazoned with the words “I Started This”.

This ALP life

In an attempt to portray itself as the innovative, progressive alternative, the Australian Labor Party has decided to expand its self-sabotaging navel-gazing to the medium of podcasting.

Last week, just as the opposition was handed the chance to gain some traction by focusing on the government’s poor handling of aged care, shadow Agriculture and Resources minister Joel Fitzgibbon told the executive search firm Blenheim Partners’ podcast, No Limitations, “I do fear that ... the party might end up splitting.”

Fitzgibbon believes the challenge of simultaneously appealing to voters in inner-city Melbourne and central Queensland could eventually divide Labor. It’s an old problem for the party: how to secure the “Not Racist” vote while also appealing to the “Not Racist, But…” demographic. So, will the ALP eventually fracture across Akubra–Birkenstock lines? We’ll find out, right after Joel’s ad for MeUndies.

Meanwhile, Bill Shorten, the prime minister of Australia if only he’d fought the election with no policies and a nickname that rhymed, appeared on the podcast Bounce Back. Shorten told host Dr Andrew Rochford that since the election loss he now has his “mojo back”. We approached Merriam-Webster to confirm whether whatever it was Bill Shorten had pre-election could accurately be defined as “mojo”. At time of writing, they are still not sure.

The former opposition leader was asked what he was thinking the day after his 2019 election loss. “Fuck,” Shorten replied, managing to capture in a single word the history of the Australian Labor Party (2013-present).

As for former Labor prime ministers, Julia Gillard has been putting her iso time to good use with her podcast series, A Podcast of One’s Own. The show has garnered positive reviews, with an average rating of 4.8 stars. However, one reviewer, Kev072839, describes it as “a ratfucking of the finest order”.

And finally, in these tough times, it’s important that Australians can find a source of hope. We’re thrilled to report there have been no new editions of Barnaby Joyce’s Weatherboard and Iron podcast since June 4. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 29, 2020 as "Gadfly: House of pixelated representatives".

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Evan Williams and Mark Humphries co-write satirical sketches for the ABC’s 7.30.