The motto of the Abbott Liberal government seems to be “weddings, parties, anything”. Apparently, attending their friends’ social functions is important business. It is “networking” they say, as they claim thousands of dollars in expenses for their trips.

Attorney-General George Brandis, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Prime Minister Abbott have all been forced to repay monies.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and MP Teresa Gambaro also claimed expenses to attend a wedding in India as guests of Gina Rinehart, according to Fairfax media.

Such is the Liberals’ arrogant cake-scoffing deportment that they nevertheless protest that they’ve done nothing wrong. 

It is hard to imagine an unemployed person taking receipts to Centrelink and being able to claim expenses, on the basis that they were “networking”, for attending a friend’s wedding.

Maybe a call centre worker could try it on. Possibly they could argue that they were developing their communication skills. They wouldn’t get very far with the boss.

In May, then shadow treasurer Joe Hockey promised the “end of the era of universal entitlement”. Meanwhile, Brandis is claiming expenses for cartoon books.

The only culture of entitlement that exists in Australia is at the top.

What’s the big idea?

If you’ve ever been in hospital with someone as they are being put under a general anaesthetic, you will be familiar with the look of euphoric calm they get in their eyes as they giggle and talk nonsense for the last few seconds before going under.

Watching Anthony Albanese talk about how excitingly wonderful the Labor leadership contest is, you can’t help but think someone has slipped him a little something to ease the pain.

A great exercise in democracy that is reinvigorating the party, he tells us. Maybe. The debate between Albanese and Bill Shorten in Melbourne barely filled the council chambers at Trades Hall – the “overflow rooms”, prepared in anticipation of a big turnout from a galvanised rank and file, turned out not to be needed.

They didn’t miss much. Of course in any attempt to win votes from the party membership, a genuflection to the left and the trade unions is inevitable.

Bashing refugees and the unions is a task to be undertaken after winning the party leadership, not before. Even so, gestures towards any genuinely progressive policies are few and far between.

Both Shorten and Albanese insist it is crucial to defend the last six years of abysmal right wing government. And all they have to offer for the future is the notion that Labor should be the party of “big ideas”, without suggesting what any of these might be.

We suppose it’s marginally better than proclaiming that you “believe in the future”, but not much. Far from providing a stepping stone to rebuilding Labor as a social-democratic party, all this leadership contest has done is show how far the ALP has fallen.