Like clockwork, the Turnbull government keeps making bad decisions that only result in humiliation. Bernard Keane at his cracking best. 

ONE OF the staples of parliamentary theatre is confected amusement, when MPs on one side or another, on cue, roar with laughter like extras in an opera. With Labor MPs struggling to stop themselves grinning from ear to ear this week, there’s been little need for fakery.

The government’s conspiracy theory about Barnaby “The Maungatapere Candidate” Joyce, and its insistence on doubling down on it yesterday in Parliament, turned question time into a farce of an altogether higher order than it normally is.

Labor’s reaction Julie Bishop feigning outrage over the Great Aotearoa Conspiracy had more in common with the Jerusalem crowd convulsing with laughter at Biggus Dickus in Life of Brian than parliamentary democracy.

This is the conspiracy, by the way, in which the central charge is that Labor shouldn’t have tried to establish if the Deputy Prime Minister was constitutionally ineligible to even be in Parliament, as if that doesn’t fit the description of one of the core roles of any opposition.

[Punch-drunk government now flailing at foes, real and imagined]

There are few tasks in politics that require more bravery than walking headlong into a hail of ridicule, and Bishop undertook that terrible duty. But acting to orders is one thing, going on a suicide mission is another, and the penny should have dropped with Bishop that when Labor’s Tony Burke rose and mockingly invited her to keep going, she should have chucked it in. In failing to do so, Bishop perfectly symbolised a government so shambolic you don’t know whether it’s genuinely politically clueless, or simply lacks the most basic judgment.

“acting to orders is one thing, going on a suicide mission is another”

Ditto the Prime Minister’s bizarre decision to begin question time by a statement on indulgence taking on some suburban council over Australia Day. First war on New Zealand, then war on Yarra Council. Local bowlos throughout the country will be wondering if it’s their turn today.

No wonder Coalition backbenchers found much to do on the iPads and on the piles of papers they’d brought into question time, heads down, trying to ignore the shambles in front of them.

[Collusion with a foreign political party? The Coalition’s all over it.]

Meanwhile the government’s deal with One Nation to attack the ABC had run into a brick wall called Nick Xenophon, who opined that he wasn’t up for changing the ABC Act to suit One Nation’s agenda, thereby killing off any prospect of the government delivering on promises like forcing the ABC and SBS to disclose salaries.

Helpfully, Hanson offsider Brian Burston had given an idea of what he had in mind for the kind of “fair and balanced” news coverage that would be required under the One Nation-Coalition changes when he talked about the need to ensure anti-vaccination views got coverage. Remember, some genius in the government had actually made a decision to link themselves to this outfit, plainly oblivious to the risks.

Time and time again this government makes the wrong calls, judgments that end up dramatically escalating its problems. Julie Bishop is the country’s Foreign Minister, but how much respect can she garner in foreign capitals when she makes herself the object of mass ridicule as she’s done this week? How can the government itself be taken seriously when, next time the Prime Minister travels overseas, a bloke who was, in defiance of the constitution, a Kiwi until five minutes ago is going to act for him? And how can the government get any message out about what it’s doing when all voters see in Canberra is chaos and farce?

Bernard Keane

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

You can follow Bernard on Twitter .

This article was republished with permission. You can view the original here.