Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Chairman Sniff and the quokka – on a serious note

Posted by Possum Comitatus on May 15, 2008

This was me earlier in Crikey today.

After the column miles of faux-gravitas written about the budget, trust the WA political scene to change the national tone and take us to a new low in Australian politics.

The WA Opposition leader was asked, seemingly in all seriousness, whether he’d ever done anything inappropriate to a quokka, those small, furry little marsupials that call Rottenest Island home -you can see the interview over here. While this sad little episode will no doubt fuel mountains of jokes, and some pretty funny ones at that, it does show something a little more serious going on.

Troy Buswell might not be a perfect individual, he might have had a robust past, he may well be a bit of a goose not fit for public office into the bargain – but while those things are all problematic for a political leader, he has a far bigger problem; his past behaviour – the bra flicking, the chair snorting and general stupidity, has put him on the wrong side of the credibility threshold.

When a public figure is found to have acted in a breathtakingly ridiculous fashion – like sniffing a staffers chair before cavorting with it around the office for instance, then the presumption of normality gets suspended. If he did the ridiculous before, then other ridiculous allegations cease to sound, well… ridiculous.

Who could imagine this same question being asked to any other political figure in the country? But to Buswell, it’s now fair game regardless of the fact that it’s a completely fabricated rumour that started from a blog. The damage gets done by the simple existence of the story – by the simple act of Buswell being forced to deny the ridiculous because he’s no longer protected by a cloak of normal human behaviour.

The fact that he was in a position where he had to deny the allegation is what makes Buswell’s leadership pretty untenable.

But the question that needs to be asked here is what type of journalism sees it as acceptable to substitute smear and innuendo that has no credible source, for proper reporting and analysis on the news and events of the day? What sort of journalism is it that uses rumours, knowingly or not, to create a story that doesn’t actually exist but will inevitably damage the person it’s aimed at?

Well, we know the answer to that – the type of reporting popularised far too often in the Sunday papers political columns by people that should know better. This is where that sort of piffle leads to, the widespread adoption of tabloid sleaze as a news substitute.

Charming, isn’t it?

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12 Responses to “Chairman Sniff and the quokka – on a serious note”

  1. Kevin B. said

    Neverthe less, Possum, I think you should stay away from Troy – just for your own safety!

  2. Rx said

    The WA Liberals just reaffirmed Buswell’s leadership, in full light of recent “events”. He also has the support of federal leader (sic), Brendan Nelson.

    I thought these Liberals are supposed to advocate Work”Choices” – ie the principle that any employee can be sacked for any reason (or even no reason) at any time with no notice needed.

    They employ Mr Buswell (on publicly-obtained money). So why is he still there, after all the brown stuff that has hit the fan?

    Doesn’t WorkChoices apply to one of their own?

  3. Rod said


    What hurt Buswell the most in relation to undoing the bra of one lady and sniffing the chair of another was the initial denial, where he either dodged the question, refused to answer, hid or did not remember.

    He would have been better off acknowledging the incidents upfront, not after he was nailed dead centre after trying to avoid them.

    It makes look like someone who will deny an incident unless there is positive proof.

  4. Meng Tan said

    So Buswell was swift-quokka-ed.

  5. fred said

    ‘Somebody oughter do somethin’ about the media in this country’.

    When knowledge is power, as ‘they’ say, then disinformation is disempowering and we must have one of the worst performing MSM’s as far as informing Australians about their society is concerned.
    A virtually monoploly in daily metro print news with the ‘Age’ visibly dumbing down so I am reliably informed, a tight oligarchy in TV, particularly in rural regions, shock jocks knee deep in radio, its a dismal pictutre that does not serve the public as they deserve.

    ‘Somebody oughter do somethin’ about the media in this country’.

  6. Zafar said

    otoh, it’s things like sniffergate that add a certain zing to Australian political life. would we really have it any other way?

  7. Rudi said

    What is happening with protest in Melbourne these days?

    A few weeks the cabbies stripped for safer working conditions and now seniors are showing off their wrinkles, Y-fronts and nanna pants:

    Angry pensioners and a Family First senator have stripped off and stopped traffic on one of Melbourne’s busiest intersections in a protest against a lack of support for seniors in this week’s Federal Budget.

    Up to 200 elderly people stood at the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets this morning.

    ‘John’, 69, who ran off into the intersection and stripped off to his underpants, said the budget was a “slap in the face” for pensioners. “More needs to be done,” he said.

    Police tried to coax him away from the intersection but a swarm of other pensioners joined him before officers could stop them.

    Another woman stripped down to her bra and longjohns during the protest.

    I reckon the aircraft engineers could learn something from all this and call Qantas’ bluff in the buff.

  8. Rod said

    “EMBATTLED West Australian Opposition Leader Troy Buswell, who has admitted sniffing a female colleague’s chair and snapping another’s bra strap, has been accused of squeezing an MP’s testicles.”

    I don’t know why they are picking on Buswell for doing this. Howard cut off Costello’s testicles and mounted them in his office as a trophy yet we didn’t see any hoo ha from the media over it.


  9. Squirrel said

    Is it possible to squirrel-grip a quokka?

  10. David Richards said

    “I know.. it’s only Quokkan Roll, but I like it”

  11. Rod said

    “Is it possible to squirrel-grip a quokka?”

    No, because a quokka’s testicle are above it’s penis, seriously!

    Also cannot squirrel grip a Costello because doesn’t have any.

  12. imacca said

    Living in W.A. i have tried to follow the Buswell debacle, but when the reports came out of exactly what the “chair sniffing” incident entailed i stopped. There is just no point as this bloke will not be leader for long.

    Apart from the bra snapping, chair sniffing, denials followed by teary admissions, the bloke was never particularly popular. He’s from an area in the SW where there have been questions about most of the polies (at state and council level) being paid off by lobbyists (BBurke and NCBrown) and developers over the last few years. My impression is that he got the job as at the time they simply had no-one else.

    Most telling thing though is that after meeting him personally, my Mum, who is a long time Fascist (though i love her dearly) reckons she wont vote for him. She was in Bussleton with her oldie mates and he descended on their group to press the flesh while they were having coffee. He was all smiles until he found out they weren’t locals (and didn’t vote in his electorate) and then he literally turned off the charm and left. They all felt he was very rude.

    If he is stupid enough to alienate people like this, he is a liability for the Liberals in any position, much less as their front man!! Still, if he is leader at the next State election it will make for some really funny advertising, and the blog comments will be fun.

    Nelson supports him, fine, i’m sure thats a big comfort to Capt’n Sniffles.

    Would love to hear what Julie Bishop thinks of him, but when she was interviewed on Lateline after the budget she wouldn’t comment on the state party leadership. Funny that.

    The state of journalism in Australia may be pretty poor sometimes but the state of the Liberal party is much much worse if Troy Buswell is the best they can come up with. Its actually bad for our democracy, as the Libs are so pathetic the ALP here can get away with anything. Funny , me wanting the Libs to get their act together. Thing must be bad.

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