Palaszczuk’s booze ban speaks volumes

IT WAS forty-two years ago today that one of the highest holders of public office in the land decided that he would celebrate the running of the Melbourne Cup by having a drink.

Not just one drink but several. This conviviality continued apace and by the time the race was run and won the honourable gentleman was, as Barry Humphries might so eloquently put it, "as full as a state school".

Then Governor-General Sir John Kerr.
Then Governor-General Sir John Kerr.

The gentleman was the then Governor-General Sir John Kerr whose drunken appearance on national television as he attempted to present the Cup to the connections of winner Gold and Black evidenced the time-honoured Australian tradition of mixing business with pleasure.

Sir John, it is worth noting, had as much form as the Cup winner having fallen flat on his face at the Tamworth Show the previous year.

His Cup performance will be emulated today by some of society's finest, immaculately dressed matrons staggering along beneath the weight of a large hat and several litres of champagne until gravity prevails.

There will, however, be at least 18 sober minds amongst us today, these being the members of the Queensland state government's cabinet who are all now banned by order of Premier Palaszczuk from getting on the drink in public.

Consider this, if you will. You have finally got the Big Job. Being made a cabinet minister in Queensland is like marrying the boss's daughter. You can't go wrong.

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

You've done your time in the trade unions, crawled to all the right people, promised to do as you're told by the union bosses if they'll back you and finally been sworn in as a minister.

All that remains is to try and stay awake when parliament is sitting and stand behind the Premier, as required, at her press conferences and nod.

All decision making is to be deferred with any contentious issues which might arise being sent back to your department for review before being placed in a large bin labelled Too Hard.

The money rolls in, your superannuation piles up, people say "Yes, Minister" and "how very wise Minister" and as long as your trusted public servants can do what they are paid to do which is keep the workings of your department cloaked in a bubble wrap of opacity, shielding it from public scrutiny, all is well.

The one thing you don't do is a John Kerr and get a skinful, or even half a skinful, in public.

This, you might think, comes under the Common Sense heading.

How extraordinary it is then that the Premier, sounding very much like a parent addressing her teenage children before they head out for a night on the town, has to warn them not to get drunk.

Governor-General Sir John Kerr puts his arm around victorious jockey John Duggan who holds aloft the Melbourne Cup trophy, after his win on Gold And Black, at Flemington Racecourse, in 1977.
Governor-General Sir John Kerr puts his arm around victorious jockey John Duggan who holds aloft the Melbourne Cup trophy, after his win on Gold And Black, at Flemington Racecourse, in 1977.

More than a warning, it was a total prohibition indicating that she has so little faith in their ability to remain upright while performing their highly remunerated duties that she has to impose a booze ban.

Sorry ladies and gentlemen. No more being poured into the back seat of your chauffeur-driven limo as tired and emotional as a newt. Just a strict diet of soda water or for that special occasion, a nice tall glass of lemon, lime and bitters.

The Premier's desperate demand for sobriety from her ministers is a sadder reflection on the calibre of her cabinet than any of her political opponents could ever offer.

mike@parkinpr.com.au