Miranda Devine doesn’t pretend to be much more than she is: a once-over-lightly agent provocateur for the Fairfax stable. One of her few redeeming qualities, in fact, is her tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of the brief. She rarely strays down the path of ponderous self-importance that often blights this genre. Quite often she’s just silly – and leaves you in no doubt that she’s OK with that. The outraged epistles of those who continually fail to ‘get’ this aspect of the carefully calculated Devine Madness, is all part of the entertainment.
But in today’s Sun Herald she goes for broke, over the top and down the other side. She uses an irate Ph.D student at the University of Wollongong, who comes complete with a very Islamic-sounding name – see? She does see worth in Australian diversity – to hammer away at the monstrous inequity in funding support for Ph.D students. Miranda’s battler is bashing away at a ‘boring but worthy’ thesis on some aspect of superannuation. He’s forced – like thousands of Ph.D students before him – to eke out a less than comfortable existence while he does so: part-time tutoring and other unspeakable horrors. Meanwhile 5 other students – all of whom appear to be drawn from – you guessed it – the Social Sciences are or have been engaged in Ph.D studies on topics ranging from the now celebrated ‘Jesus was Gay’ farrago from the University of Queensland, to tattoos, to blondes, to media coverage of Tom and Nicole’s breakup. Her point – if there is one – seems to be that if people didn’t do stuff like this there would be more money for blokes who want to rip into superannuation, and we’d all be better off. It’s a bow so long you’d need to be standing in Ulan Bator to draw it but great, soaring flights of illogicality are Miranda’s stock in trade.
I’m the first person to raise an eyebrow at some of the self-indulgent excess that academia gets involved in but any Ph.D ripped out of context, stripped of it’s rationale – even those hypothesising on aspects of super I’m sure – can be made to look more than a bit wanky. You kind of have to be there, and read in to it.
Miranda does grudgingly allow that there may be the odd bit of useful stuff happening on the Ph.D front – “somone might be working on a cure for cancer” – and also mentions that 30,000+ courses of Ph.D study were reportedly underway in Australia last year. She doesn’t mention that there could be 1,000 reasons as to why her bloke missed out on major funding support, none of which is likely to have the remotest connection with the specfic social science Ph.D’s she cited as somehow ‘responsible’ for his travails. She doesn’t need to. You don’t need need to justify your source material in a comedy act.
Comedy turned to broad farce when she then turned to a quasi defence of Malcolm Jones. Jones represents the interests of, well.. himself largely, in the NSW Upper House. Ostensibly there as rep of the Outdoor Recreation Party, he’s done this via the stratagem of dreaming up a bunch of pretty much non-existent political parties, registering them and then using the electoral system to ensure he’s on to a nice little earner with the best lifetime super deal in the southern hemisphere. Not content with this sweet number, Jones has also been rorting his out-of-Sydney living allowance, claiming that an unoccupied shed on a friend’s property in the Hunter – and not his home 8km from Macquarie St – is his actual residence. The Independent Commission against Corruption has just ruled that Jones is in breach on both these counts plus using his mailout allowance to recruit more suckers to his ‘parties.’ The sooner his sorry, greedy arse is chucked out of Parliament the better. It’s difficult to defend Jones allows Miranda, promptly proving her point by trying to do so.
Her defence rests on the fact that:
Bob Carr doesn’t like Jones – like, who does?
The Greens dobbed him in to ICAC, and
ALP and Coalition parliamentarians don’t get done for travel rorts only plucky little third party blokes and ‘outsiders’ like, yes! Mal Colston
It’s a total bloody disgrace and no mistake. Someone needs to do a Ph.D on it……….