Shakespeare never goes away. Ask any English teacher. And he’s appeared again this week, in the ongoing drama of the leadership wild winds in Canberra. Laura Tingle on her first report in the ScoMo Era used lines from Macbeth, mixed with Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet music. The Australian likened Julie Bishop to Lady Macbeth, which showed a deficiency in their understanding of the play – Lady Macbeth egged on Macbeth and then couldn’t cope with the fallout, which is nothing like Bishop’s role. The Oz just seems to like to repeat the same sexist lines as ever. Julia Gillard was also called that, even though she too acted nothing like Lady M.
There is another Macbeth parallel that has been brought to mind by the events this week. I have been watching Paul Murray Live over Thursday and Friday, to see the reactions to the events. My live tweets of Part One is here, Part Two is here. It’s a strange and swirling mist that blows inside that cave of aggrieved ex-insiders, far right axe grinders and Bronwyn Bishop, all led by their host, Human Agro (a nickname invented by the members of The Chaser).
From that cave, and from the other caves of Sky After Dark – Bolt’s, Credlin’s and the rest – there’s been a range of strange incantations, all aimed at the restoration of Their Man, Abbott, or his proxy, Dutton. This week, they played the role of the Weird Sisters from Macbeth, telling MacDutton that he would be King. They frothed and bubbled and boiled with tales of the evils of Malcolm. He was a bully, he was not a Liberal, and the rest. The content is in the live tweetage. The mood of these weird units was of letting the blood of Malcolm at any cost, continuing a theme that has been a key obsession with Murray, including the “That Man” moment from the night of the 2016 election.
The extraordinary feature of this Weird Shouty Ghost Show is that it seems to have influence well beyond its paltry viewer numbers. The ghostly presences on it should have passed into irrelevance years ago – people like Gary “Mr Magoo” Hardgrave from the Howard years, Bronwyn “Gold Helicopter” Bishop, ex ad man Roman Dean, Ross Cameron, Chris “Godwin Grech” Kenny and the like. Yet here they were, suggesting that the Liberals hang on their every word.
Chief among those exhibiting such a “player” attitude is Human Agro himself. His style seems to be taken straight from Phil Gould at the State of Origin broadcasts, striding down the field, speaking slowly, invoking some kind of grand oratory with what is intoned. Seeing him rail and broil, however, reminded us of more of our cat Leopold, who regularly walks into our kitchen at 9pm and starts meowing loudly for no discernible reason. We don’t pay him any attention, just as any serious political party should not be paying attention to these people.
It appears on one level that the party didn’t listen to them, not voting in MacDutton, instead in this version we saw Macduff rise, thankfully with his family alive and smiling in new photos. The would-be Lady Macbeths, Cormann and Cash, seem to have possibly overestimated the force and power of these weird brothers and sisters, though it’s hard to see how they will be damaged. However, it also appears that the crew were more obsessed with vengeance against Malcolm than necessarily pinned entirely with Dutton. Hence, the unusually calm demeanour of Murray (who made two references to him disappointing viewers in depriving them of a meltdown). Also of interest was the appearance of Michael Kroger from his velvet lined coffin, who expressed a business as usual message with ScoMo in charge.
Maybe it was all just about being rid of “That Man” after all. It would not surprise anyone if That Man was relieved to be gone from this place.