Where there is democracy, there are politicians that don’t want to answer questions. Politicians have perfected this art of not-answering-questions over many years. At first, when politicians were faced with a question they didn’t want to answer, they would say ‘next question’, ‘no comment’, or maybe even grunt in disapproval. Then they got really good at answering questions, without ever really answering the question. We can call this the ‘work around’. Most politicians embrace the ‘work around’. They live for the ‘work around’. It’s a good move, because it makes it seem like you are answering the question, but you don’t have to divulge any information at all. You just talk drivel. But in 2018 we have seen a new political not-answering-question move that, it turns out, our very own Australian Prime Minister has embraced. It’s blaming ‘fake news’. Or in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s case, the ‘Canberra bubble’.
"I'm glad to be out of the Canberra bubble. And you've clearly got a hotline to the Canberra bubble on your phone as they're feeding in the questions to you… Not too many people are reading the AFR up here in Rockhampton" – Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP. #auspol #7News pic.twitter.com/NNGKB4I6qY
— 7 News Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) November 7, 2018
Morrison has adopted this phrase as an explanation when asked tough questions by journalists, to avoid answering them. When asked about a possible dual election for the Senate and House of Representatives, he said, “we’ve got no plans for that. That’s just more Canberra bubble chatter.” And when the stability of Michael McCormack’s leadership of the National party was called into question, he said, “the Canberra bubble is the Canberra bubble, I’m not distracted by it. You guys can focus on politics all you like, I’m focused on what the Australian people are focused on.” And on November 7th, Morrison responded to a journalist’s question by saying, “you’ve clearly got a hotline to the Canberra bubble on your phone as they’re feeding questions to you.” Basically, ‘Canberra bubble’ has become Morrison’s go to cop out.
So, what actually is this so-called ‘Canberra bubble’?
“The ‘Canberra bubble’ is what happens down here when people get all caught up with all sorts of gossip and rubbish and that’s probably why most of you switch off any time you hear a politician talk”, explains Morrison.
This explanation is iffy, to say the least, and doesn’t define what the ‘Canberra bubble’ actually is. (To be fair, Morrison probably doesn’t know what it is either.)
From context and uses of the phrase by other Australian politicians in recent months, we can define the ‘Canberra bubble’ as the frenzy which evolves as politicians are only exposed to each other and political news in Canberra. It’s a way to describe how Canberra types grow out of touch with the real people of Australia. It’s a legitimate way to explain why Scott Morrison displays his tasteless ‘I Turned These Back’ boat trophy, or the embarrassing Liberal spill earlier this year. But it is not a way to explain the Government’s failings, as Morrison has attempted to do so. It is not an answer to a question. It is not a way to escape accountability.