One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson takes off a burqa during Senate Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, August 17, 2017.
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson takes off a burqa during Senate Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, August 17, 2017. LUKAS COCH

OPINION: Has rare moment of clarity come too late

WORDS and action have the capacity to change behaviour and to incite it for better or for worse.

The past week has given ample evidence of this with the Barcelona devastation on The Rambler following examples set in London, France and Charlottesville where vehicles have become crude weapons in a war that stretches back to the invasion of Iraq where the armoury was infinitely more sophisticated and effective in the destruction wrought.

We've seen in the United States an inadequate buffoon of a President who sprays words without regard for consequence unable to accept he is the problem, the enabler that has given white supremacists the courage to emerge from their holes and take to the streets with devastating result.

In Australia Liberal MP Russell Broadbent has been moved by words to completely alter his stance on the hapless refugees living twilight zone lives in offshore detention, urging his government to also change a policy position that will shame our country for generations.

It is no small pity that his colleagues on both sides of the House haven't stood as one to applaud his heart felt change of heart.

Instead it took an act of deliberate and transparent political connivance for them to do that after Attorney General George Brandis rose to the bait and gave the finest speech of his long and undistinguished political career. In doing so he and they marked an important line in the sand which may or may not represent a turning point for the better in the national discourse.

It was a line Pauline Hanson sought to draw when she entered Parliament covered head to toe in black, effectively pushing Greens, Labor and Coalition into one camp and bluntly underscoring the choice voters can make when they next go to the polls.

This sorry point in our history has been coming for longer than the start of John Howard's demonisation of boat people in the early 2000s, reaching back past the manufactured threat of Vietnam and more current irrational fear of North Korea stoked by the words of politicians all the way to the inhuman treatment of this country's indigenous population and refusal to appreciate the realities of intergenerational trauma.

And it is a consequence of a failure of leadership that chose words designed to provoke division for gain, rather than to re-enforce that so-called Australian values should be inclusive rather than the privilege of a select few defined by colour, religion and race.

I don't know but maybe it was the realisation that what Pauline Hanson was doing in the Senate on Thursday was what his party has been doing for decades, that caused tears to flow from the eyes of Senator Brandis, himself a master of the art of the manipulation of the meaning of language.

He after all was among many of his colleagues who showed no restraint in branding The Greens as incompetent after Senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam honourably fell on their swords and who now seeks wriggle room where there is none to justify the continued presence in the Parliament of government members clearly caught by the same rules.

Words and actions have a habit of catching up with those who deploy them without thought for anything other than immediate advantage. They eventually expose character that tears or remorse can't wash away.

The lavish trappings of office demand more than the craven greed and opportunism that passes for public service in this country where a winner-take-all mentality consistently dismisses all but half the electorate as losers of no consequence in a democracy reduced to football game equivalence.

After a moment of enlightenment the farce that is Australian politics rolls on with the federal parliament now all but dysfunctional with nothing short of a citizenship amnesty likely to save the government and careers of many of its members - one that in the spirit of Russell Broadbent should be extended to those trapped in off shore detention and onshore twilight zones.

What is certain is much more needs to change than our current crop of politicians including Pauline Hanson and her band of opportunists appear capable of guiding with any real sense of national purpose.

It will take a population more engaged in the process than moments of indignation expressed by the tap of an emoji or a 10-word Facebook rant and leaders more capable than now evident to use words carefully to encourage it to do so.

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