I mean, seriously, who charters a helicopter to avoid a one-hour car ride? Are you the kind of fabulously wealthy person who can snap your fingers and a helicopter appears? And even if you were that kind of wealthy, what on earth would make you want to do it? We know of people who could and would, for example Donald Trump – but then it’s not really a good time to be emulating him.
And Bronnie, on the public purse?! Words nearly fail me. My imagination doesn’t extend to hiring a helicopter, compliments of the taxpayer, for a tiny ride to a personal, partisan event. It’s painful to contemplate. I’m in Canada at the moment, and you’d think the turmoil of Australian politics would be far over my horizon. However, I am unable to avoid a glance at the Sydney Morning Herald every now and then – and I find the entire news front is dominated by your shenanigans. Even the Canadian papers are having a laugh about it.
(For those of you from other parts of the world, who might be forgiven for not having noticed these Aussie antics: Bronwyn Bishop is a political VIP, Speaker of the House and favoured child of the Liberal Abbot government, who was recently discovered to have spent $5000-something for a helicopter charter for a short ride to a Liberal Party fundraiser. It hasn’t been going well for her since.)
I mean, our legislators could be finalising the new laws currently under discussion which will help to keep out asylum seekers (please note: that was irony), or revoke dual citizenship from people who might have communicated with an enraged Muslim (ditto), or increase surveillance aimed at omnipresent terrorists (ditto; sigh…). But Bronwyn’s exploits are keeping them busy in Parliament.
It would be an interesting mental exercise to calculate the cost. Consider several hundred parliamentarians on decent salaries, each spending several dozen hours on Bronwyn’s spending idiosyncrasies; then there’s all the staff involved who are busy finding evidence or finding excuses, and all the lawyers who are circling at several hundred dollars an hour—all at the taxpayer’s expense. That $5000 might have been bad enough, but it was only a molecule on the tip of the iceberg. If I were a less peaceful person, I would be beating my head against the wall.
$5000 might not seem like a lot of money, but in some circles it could go a long way. For example, my garden club spent hundreds of woman-hours fundraising to buy a swish new chair for the oncology department at the local hospital. Surely the heavens would have smiled on a politician for pouring $5000 in the direction of health care. Or think what the local public school, where I listen to the littlies reading, could have done with $5000 aimed at its dog-eared reading materials. That $5000 would even have filled a few potholes on our bedraggled local road. Am I incredibly naïve for thinking that a politician, who has chosen to make a career out of serving the public good, wouldn’t think of those kind of things as an alternative to chartering a helicopter? Doesn’t anyone in Parliament think that way?
But I guess Bronwyn was in a hurry that day. Or perhaps she was caught in the rapture of it. Picture the helicopter blades whipping dangerously through the air above you, while you smilingly hold your hair, skirt and dark sunglasses in place. The urgency of it! The raw power of that warlike machine! Part of me can really understand the thrill.
However, let us rein in those rogue emotions for a moment. Consider the possibility of an entirely different way of being. Imagine Bronwyn pulling up to her event in a little red Smart Car, where she’s been getting dictation done into a recorder on the seat beside her as she drives (I can tell you from experience, there is precedent for this). Maybe I live on a different planet, but it seems to me that that arrival would garner a certain respect from people, and might even loosen their pockets for the Liberal coffers.
We do have to be a bit careful about this shooting of fish in the barrel: Bronwyn isn’t the only one of us guilty of confusing the source of respect. My own life rules for living well in community occasionally fall into disarray around me. I’ve been known to go unconscious about the consequences an action might have on myself, as well as on others. I sometimes spend where it’s unnecessary, or try to impress people, or get jealous when someone has more helicopters than me.
And while we’re practising a little humility, let’s remember that sometimes indulgence is just plain fun. We can’t afford to get too righteous about someone succumbing to the odd bit of extravagance.
But I’m not sure Bronwyn’s indulgences have ever been giving her fun—and they’re sure not fun now. So loosen your hair, Bronwyn. All of us old dogs can learn a few new tricks.
Shedder postscript. When we first started our Shedders adventure, I had a concern that we might turn out to have different spending habits. Perhaps someone would be more lavish with the communal pot than Rick and I, or more miserly. But it hasn’t worked out that way. We talk things through to our mutual satisfaction. There are no taxpayers’ dollars to rely on here, so we’re all responsible. Spending on behalf of others can work.