One of my next projects, once I’ve finished the third and final volume of the South African Insult series (The Revenge of the South African Insult, which will feature a black cover with glow-in-the-dark writing), is an examination of the Australian insult. It’s a daunting task, and not just because it means reading many Australian history books.
What if Australian politicians do not provide as much entertainment as South African politicians? Where is Australia’s Manto? Her Piet Koornhof? Her ANC Youth League? While my fears have not entirely been allayed, there is hope.
It’s in the form of Australia’s favourite power couple, New South Wales minister of education John Della Bosca and his charming wife, Labor MP Belinda Neal. Della Bosca is famous for speeding, but he’s a wuss compared to his wife. Ms Neal has, over the past few months:
Told a pregnant Liberal MP that “your baby will be turned into a demon by evil thoughts”. (She had to apologise to Parliament for that one.) Attacked a fellow player in a soccer match, leading to a two-match ban. Her victim has shown her bruises to the media. Told nightclub staff that she could have them “fucking closed down”, and didn’t they know who she was?
It has also been revealed that she keeps a list of her political enemies in a very strange place:
Ms Neal is a woman who, senior Labor sources say, keeps photographs and written names of her political enemies in her freezer. And neighbours told the Herald yesterday of police visits to Ms Neal’s home at Woy Woy Bay, where she lives with her husband, the NSW education minister, John Della Bosca. They had often heard her swearing and screaming coming from the house.
(Why the freezer? Why not a cupboard or a drawer, or even — most obvious of all — a dartboard?)
“She’s a mouth on her,” said one neighbour. There are rumours that she abuses her husband of 22 years, though he denies it and says that the “muckraking” is “hurtful”. It is said that Della Bosca would have gone further in his career were it not for his wife, who has publicly humiliated him on several occasions.
Fellow Labor MP Julia Irwin says that Neal is a victim of sexism because a man would not have been subjected to the same treatment. Neal herself once defended her reputation for being difficult, saying: “I haven’t really heard people say that. Certainly I’m someone who has the courage of my convictions. I’m prepared to stand up [for them]. There’s no point representing a seat and not having a … strong voice.”
I look forward to more outbursts.