This opinion piece first appeared in The Drum on 14 October 2011.
Labor's carbon pricing legislation passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. More importantly, the current and deposed prime ministers shared a kiss and a hug that failed to convince onlookers of their genuine affection for one another.
First of all, I'd like express my gratitude to The Age for their hard-hitting political coverage. A lesser newspaper may simply have headed the front page with an 11-inch photograph of the awkward embrace, attached the obligatory punning headline and then perhaps moved on to lesser issues, such as the legislation itself. The Newspaper of The Year, though, lived up to its reputation by calling in the experts. The CEO of Image Group International (who, in the best pop-star tradition, apparently goes by the full name of Jon-Michail) informs us that:
"If you really believe in the concept of authenticity and you're teaching your kids today honesty, this is just a joke."
Thank you, Jon-Michail. As a believer in the concept of authenticity, I am of course teaching my kids today honesty. Clearly there is an important parenting lesson to be drawn from this debacle. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but it seems to have something to do with refraining from kissing either Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard. Or, if you must, at least do it with a bit of vigorous sincerity, as Body Language Expert Allan Pease explains:
"If you're embracing somebody you really like you bring them in close. You don't point your bum back so your hips don't touch."
This, I think, goes to the heart of the problem facing Australian politics right now: a lack of physical intimacy between Members of Parliament. Kissgate - as I am christening this shameful incident, in the spirit of originality so beloved of our political media - is an unusually prominent example, but it is only one manifestation of a common failing.
Can you even remember the last time you saw Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull share a few precious moments of hip-to-hip frontal contact? Was Wayne Swan congratulated by colleagues for his Finance Minister of the Year gong with a series of close, lingering embraces?
No. It's disgraceful, and my only criticism of Body Language Expert Allan Pease is that he didn't go far enough. If Gillard and Rudd were truly sincere in their mutual congratulations, they would not have been content with static hip contact. A few lusty thrusts would have demonstrated to the nation that our governing party is truly and enthusiastically united.
In fact, why limit the action to the leader and her trusty sidekick? Labor is a party of the people, after all. Its egalitarian spirit surely dictates that even the most humble backbencher be allowed to celebrate, together with his or her comrades, the passage of historic legislation.
Under the guidance of a stable of Body Language Experts and image consultancy CEOs, I have determined that the ALP owes the nation nothing less than a simulated orgy on the floor of Parliament. Clothing need not be removed (for we must remain safely within the bounds of decency and good taste), but convincing performances are required from the participants. This is the only acceptable way in which to demonstrate the closeness and unity of purpose felt by all Labor MPs, in their moment of legislative conquest.
Just imagine the scene: 74 sweaty, triumphant bodies, some draped in Australian flags, tangled together across the hallowed chamber, while the Opposition and a mob of protesters look on in dejection, defeat and disgust. Could there be any more apposite symbol of virile, united government? Could anyone take seriously rumours of division and discontent, in the face of this kind of body language? Clearly not.
To the ALP: you're welcome. Once you've rescued yourselves from the electoral wilderness by implementing my suggestion, don't thank me. Thank The Age, its commitment to quality journalism and its crack team of Body Language Experts.
Matt Ralston is a third-year Politics and Philosophy student at La Trobe University in Melbourne.