"Like a year 12 schoolies trip," one witness said. "It was pretty appalling behaviour when MPs are having liquor poured down their throats."
You could almost hear the pearls, firmly ensconced in the clutching fist of this mysterious ‘witness’, as he or she described the antics of four Victorian Labor MPs, dancing and drinking in a Bali nightclub in late December last year.
And that wasn’t the worst of it. “At various times the four colleagues linked arms to dance and also high-fived bemused patrons, while [Oakleigh MP Steve] Dimopoulos lifts [sic] up [Bayswater MP Jackson] Taylor as the pair leaves [sic] the bar,” the story continued. The horror, the horror! Won’t somebody think of the constituents!
So many questions about the story, which ran in the Herald Sun in February this year. For one thing, who is this ‘witness’? What was he or she doing in a seedy Seminyak honkytonk if the sight of such relatively mild debauchery was so ‘appalling’?
And how, for that matter, did this person even recognise the troupe of obscure state pollies?
Frankly, the only reason I know who those people are is from a lifetime of bouncing around political circles for one reason or another. And even I wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a line-up, especially with my vision obscured by a combination of booze and cigarette smoke at God-knows-what hour of the evening.
But the biggest question is why it was a story to begin with. As the piece begrudgingly noted, it was a private trip, at absolutely no cost to the taxpayer. Even in these damned-if-you-do times, when pollies are (rightly) criticised for being too scripted, then (wrongly) damned for going off message, a piss-up between friends in Bali – of all places – seems like a non-event.
"If anything, people should be flocking to Australia – and maybe they would, if only the jackboot of the nanny state was lifted off our collective throat."
Because really, who among us hasn’t found ourselves in an identical – and indeed, in many cases worse – situation? Who hasn’t crammed themselves into rickety tuk-tuk with four or five or 10 of our nearest and dearest and hooned off into the night, singing and chanting and hollering in between tinnies of Bintang or Singha or Angkor or any of the other cheap and plentiful brews on offer?
Why do we do it? Because we can. Because as wonderful a country as this is, decades of finger-wagging by hypocritical politicians, clipboard-wielding bureaucrats and an army of self-important ‘public health’ types have made anything worth doing either prohibitively expensive or too much of a damned nuisance.
We do it to escape the indignity of paying upwards of $14 for a pint, of having to stare at grotesque pictures of diseased lungs or toddlers on life support every time we buy a packet of cigarettes, of having behavioural awareness officers (yes, that’s a real thing) tell us off for barracking too loudly at the bloody football.
We do it so that we can pour ourselves into a pair of shorts and wander down through those magnificent oases of unfettered hedonism like Lang Kwai Fong or Khao San Road or Pub Street, where patrons at the bars spill joyously onto the streets and drinks are sold, literally, by the bucket. Places that do not – and could not – exist in Australia, for literally hundreds of separate regulatory reasons.
If anything, Mikakos and her parliamentary colleagues should be commended. Because when you think about it, there are few things more patriotically Australian than letting one’s hair down in Southeast Asia.
The real crime is that a country like Australia is – to borrow a bit of pollie-speak – a ‘net-exporter’ of holidaymakers looking for a good time. If anything, people should be flocking to Australia – and maybe they would, if only the jackboot of the nanny state was lifted off our collective throat.
Maybe one day. Until then, happiness is just a Jetstar flight away.
Or at least it will be, once we can fly again, of course.
Grab a copy of the latest Penthouse here.