Barnaby’s back

Australians have been hankering for a leadership spill for a while now. The memory of the last one is so distant we’ve forgotten what that potent mix of adrenalin and disappointment feels like. Nary a week goes by without someone with a Canberra mailing address shouting about an imminent leadership spill on social media, trying to goad Josh Frydenberg into taking a stab at his boss. That bait has not yet been nibbled, but it has clearly put ideas into the head of Australia’s favourite philanderer. Just a quick spill later and Barnaby Joyce is once again deputy prime minister.

Victim blaming is a sensitive subject, but if this came as a surprise to Michael McCormack he really has to consider his own naivety. Perhaps if he’d been less focused on feeding baristas to mice, or whatever the heck he was talking about last week, he’d have noticed Joyce’s lustful gaze lingering on his seat. Joyce, whose longest-lasting legacy is betraying those who trust him, is finally able to earn $433,575 a year, compared to the meagre $211,500 he was scraping by on as a backbencher. He might even be able to afford an Akubra large enough to shade his sense of self-worth.

If anyone can teach us a lesson on how to survive this new era of Joyce, it’s his ex-wife, Natalie Abberfield. After Joyce ran off with his former staffer, Abberfield hit the gym and became a competitive bodybuilder and basically a role model to everyone who has ever been cheated on. She looks better and happier than ever, which is what all Australians can hope for when we are also one day free of Joyce.

Howard talks

When viewed in its entirety, the life cycle of a celebrity is a tragic one. From the heady days of stardom, when one can do no wrong, to falling out of favour, when one can do no right, to the final struggle against obscurity, which often results in saying yes to the producers of Dancing with the Stars or I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

In politics it’s even more brutal. A politician used to the gladiatorial limelight of parliament can hope for, at best, a regular guest spot on Sky News or an active social media profile. It is understandable then, if not a bit sad, to see former prime minister John Howard sandwiched by Annabel Crabb and Waleed Aly (or “Nazeem Hussain”, as he prefers to be called) on a broadcast of Australia Talks. Presenting the results of a national survey to ABC audiences is one step above hawking T-shirts with his own face on them at a carnival.

His immense eyebrows trimmed to a presentable level, no doubt by a beleaguered ABC make-up artist, the Favourite Prime Minister of Most Australians got to tell us how many times we wash our bedsheets; how many of us won’t have sex with a bisexual – as though a bisexual would want to have sex with any of us anyway – and that he doesn’t think racism is a problem because it’s not something he has experienced. Speaking about the Cronulla riots, Howard said he didn’t believe they were caused by racism, which disappointed all the racists who took part in the 2005 fracas.

Australians are curious to see what the former prime minister does next, as he struggles to hold on to relevance, like an asylum seeker struggling to hold on to their child in rough seas. Or a Lebanese Australian holding on to life after being beaten by a crowd of angry white men.

Critical Pauline Theory

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has taken time out of warning about Australia being swamped by Asians and Muslims to pass a motion calling for the government to reject critical race theory from the national education curriculum. It’s a bold move, especially since there’s been no effort or plan to include critical race theory in Australia’s education system. Bolder still because the senate is not responsible for the curriculum, which is instead drafted by consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and independent experts. Relevance has never been Hanson’s strong suit.

Hanson, who is so obsessed with identity politics she could be reported to the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit, was no doubt moved to action after learning that the proposed revised curriculum would see the British colonisation of Australia described as an “invasion”. This isn’t a part of critical race theory, but it is a part of historically accurate education. To not teach it would be a denial of historical fact in exchange for subjective fantasy, much like misstating when one’s birthday is just to win an argument in parliament, which Hanson did last week.

Many Australians are currently being told that critical race theory will destroy the fabric of Australia and bring about the end of civilisation. If true, this would be a remarkable achievement for a theoretical academic framework. Conservative politicians and members of the media have been actively exaggerating the influence and goals of critical race theory for the past few years, in a bid to make any understanding of the racial components of society and culture an attack on white people. Apparently, learning that racism is a major part of both history and current life is bad for society, and we’re all better off pretending it doesn’t exist. Critics feel critical race theory is creating division and discord, as opposed to all the harmony that has existed between the races before critical race theory. Defenders of critical race theory, however, argue that the discord and division has always existed, and understanding its roots can bring people together better.

It’s a distinction that is best explained thusly: Even if you did know the actual date of Pauline Hanson’s birthday, would you really want to celebrate it?

Legal briefs

A generation that watched too much Matlock just as they were entering puberty is now throwing themselves at every lawyer they walk past. It turns out nothing turns us on more than someone saying, “I object, your honour.” Or, “May I approach the bench?”

First former attorney-general Christian Porter was announced to be dating Sydney-based criminal lawyer, Karen Espiner. Then we discovered Ben Roberts-Smith was seen holding hands with his lawyer Monica Allen, which is either a sign of an intimate relationship or of a really supportive lawyer. And now New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has found a romantic partner in high-profile barrister Arthur Moses, SC. Moses represented Berejiklian during an inquiry into her relationship with her former lover, and tractor driver, Daryl Maguire. The private relationship was made public by the premier’s sister, who posted to her Instagram a photo of the couple together, proving all younger siblings are treacherous little shits.

It’s amazing that Moses has time for a relationship, much less with the premier of a state battling the Delta variant of Covid-19, given his own busy schedule representing the aforementioned Ben Roberts-Smith in his defamation action over allegations of war crimes.

It turns out, if you’re lonely, just get a lawyer.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 26, 2021 as "Gadfly: Barnaby’s back".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.