malcolm turnbull

Us versus them.
That’s what fences are all about.
Whether it’s the Berlin Wall, Hungary’s anti-refugee razor wire or even Trump’s mean-spirited US-Mexico wall, walls and fences serve to emphasise the difference between peoples.
They say: the people on the other side of the fence aren’t like us. They’re different. Strange. Perhaps even dangerous.
They also create a false moral dichotomy: that the people on one side of the fence are more worthy than others.
That is why the optics of the new fence being installed on the grassy slopes of Parliament House are terrible. No more will visitors to our nation’s capital be able to walk on the top of the “people’s house” unobstructed.
That famous green grass is now partially restricted (“stop the goats?”, anyone). Now greeting them is a 2.5-metre fence preventing access to the roof, part of a $126.7 million security upgrade. Gum trees have been cut down and replaced with steel. Discrete surveillance technology has been ignored in favour of one giant “f— you” fence. Optimism has been replaced by fear of terrorist attack.
Last year Senator Derryn Hinch said during the Senate debate over the fence that “it would be like wrapping the Sydney Opera House in barbed wire”.
“I know that since 9/11 the world has changed,” he later wrote. “We have lost whatever innocence we had left. I know the public and our staff must be protected. But, excuse the pun, this is over-kill.”
He was one of only a handful of MPs who voted against the fence, including Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
“Most politicians want to wall themselves off from ordinary people as much as humanly possible, and this fence is just a physical representation of that trend. It’s everything that’s wrong with the political establishment,” said Di Natale.
I remember as a child the immense pride I felt the first time I visited the nation’s capital. My heart soared as I took in the Old Parliament House; the War Memorial; even the baffling (to my eight-year-old eyes, at least) National Carillon.
If Canberra was the nation’s soul, then that soul was one of hope and optimism.
Now I look at Parliament House and I don’t see a proud, hopeful soul. Instead I see fear and loathing. I see a political elite that wants to turn its back on the world, to retreat to the comfort of the echo chamber and the safety bunker and the gated community. I imagine future busloads of tourists peering out at the once-magnificent lawns, wondering why the fence is there.
Politicians are often described as being “out of touch”. Now this is just a physical manifestation: as if Parliament has shook our hands en masse and then reached for the hand sanitiser.
A study by the Australian National University last year found that trust in politicians was at its lowest level since it was first measured in 1969.
The construction of this fence couldn’t have come at a worst time. It feels, in fact, like a massive own goal.
In time, no doubt, the outcry will die down. In time, we will grow used to the fence, as we have with all the other horrors of the modern world. In time, the way things used to be will just be a wistful tale told by older tour guides to busloads of young tourists.
Us versus them. And this time, outside of the gilded halls of our modern Versailles, we’re the “them”.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

The nation’s peak white-ant body has called upon the Canberra press and both sides of politics to cease their vilification of its members following talks of a tumultuous Liberal party spill.

Incensed by media references to Tony Abbott’s alleged “white-anting” of Malcolm Turnbull, Ben Insectivore, chairman of the National White Ant Support Group, says it is time for all concerned to put aside their “speciest” behaviour and casting white ants in a dastardly light.

“My members are sick and tired of the Canberra press gallery referring to the perfectly natural behaviour of white ants as something underhanded and cynical,” said Insectivore. “Casting aspersions on our perfectly legitimate habits undermining structures to gain access to the juicy timber inside only serves to demean white ants everywhere.

“Our constant underground tunnelling in the search for new food sources has nothing in common with the Machiavellian cut and thrust of federal Liberal politics.”

Insectivore called for understanding from the human world, threatening to take the matter to the Anti-Discrimination Board if the anti-white-ant slurs did not stop.

“It’s not fair to vilify the hard-working mothers and fathers of the white-ant world,” he said. “My members often work 23 hours a day putting food or dead leaves on the table for their larvae. At the end of the day, your average, true blue, salt-of-the-earth white-ant is too busy scouring Canberra’s infrastructure for tasty morsels to care about poll results, whether the Liberals are heading for electoral oblivion or what another Tony Abbott government might mean for Australia.”

Insectivore added: “To suggest that we’re some kind of secret agents agitating for change is, at best, speciest, at worst, a form of insect blood libel.”

Asked about his own opinion on the Liberal leadership battle, Insectivore said that white ants are by their very non-human nature apolitical.

“Mate, we’re too busy locked into a brutal Darwinistic fight for survival to care about who is PM,” he said. “I’ve already got 1000 kids: try looking after them for a day and just see how much time you have left to watch the 7.30 Report or Tweet questions to Q&A.”

My military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon. The sequel is due out in 2017.