It was all rather … chummy. So much for the supposedly fierce opposition between the two leaders and their parties; so much, indeed, for the notion that politics is fundamentally divided along lines of conflict (most notably, the conflict between capital and labour), and never the twain shall meet. Reading Shorten’s statement, it was hard not to feel that the sound and fury regularly witnessed in parliament was all for show: a rather hollow performance, after which the actors retired to some backstage party to which we were not invited.
Finally, it is worth recognising that the insistence on respect and basic camaraderie reflects only the interests of politicians, not the mood of the public. To return to the Liberal leadership spill, it’s telling that the only statement to really ‘cut through’ – that is, to genuinely connect with how people outside the Canberra bubble were feeling – wasn’t Shorten’s sycophantic statement about Turnbull or any of the other platitudes mouthed by politicians and figures in the media. It was Richard Di Natale’s screaming rant in the Senate, in which he eviscerated the Coalition as self-interested, power-hungry egoists who ‘deserve to be turfed out’. This was enthusiastically received by a public who had, perhaps, grown a little weary of all that respect.