By their scandals ye shall know them

Ideas@TheCentre – The CIS newsletter (Sydney), 26 June 2009

In case you missed it, the King and Queen of Spain are currently on a state visit to Australia. Contrary to diplomatic practice, the Royals did not attend a sitting of Parliament. We can only speculate about the reasons but it may just be that there is no word for ‘Utegate’ in Spanish. Even if there were, Their Majesties would have found this week’s proceedings too bewildering to understand.

So let’s try to sum it up for our Spanish friends: A car dealer sends a request to his MP (who also happens to be the PM) and the MP forwards it to the Treasury. End of story. Add to that some side shows like faked emails, policy inquiries, moles and whistleblowers, and they’re still only left with a mildly interesting plot. Unless, of course, you are an Australian politician or journalist in which case you think it’s the most exciting stuff since bread came sliced.

Juan Carlos I must have been puzzled by Australia’s obsession with Utegate. Coming from a country with real problems such as 18 percent unemployment and separatist terrorism, who could blame him?

The Australian media’s priorities are not only surprising to the King. Faced with the gruelling choice of scrutinising President Obama’s new economic plans, dealing with the Iranian riots and analysing Godwin Grech’s character, our newspapers of course went for the Kafkaesque Treasury official.

When His Majesty returns to Spain, what would he tell his subjects? That he had just visited a country where unemployment was still low, where the economy was not in a technical recession, where public finances were in better shape than almost anywhere else in the world. In short: A beautiful place where everything was running so smoothly that its people had to stage some weird sort of political scandal to add some spice to their comfortable lives.

So let’s take heart from this whole bizarre affair. As long as we can get excited over something as trivial as Utegate, our condition may be hopeless but not serious.

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