NSW politician Peter Phelps says eye tattoos like these should be treated like a whole raft of other dangerous practices.
NSW politician Peter Phelps says eye tattoos like these should be treated like a whole raft of other dangerous practices. Jessica Mckenzie

STRANGE POLITICS: You can’t say that in parliament

FINALLY, a politician has compared squirting ink into eyeball membranes to wearing another person like a sock puppet.

Avert thine eyes now if you have a weak stomach. Or perhaps revisit this page once your breakfast has settled. It gets rather vivid.

A fortnight ago, I wrote about the major parties being terrified of saying anything not straight out of the Politics for Dummies playbook – the kind of bland, learn-by-rote sloganeering that implores us to “stop the boats”, have an “ideas boom” and be “lifters, not leaners”.

Our adrenal glands blew a minor fuse when Bill Shorten showed hints of not being a reptilian humanoid and threw an off-the-cuff “at least I’m not a homophobe” quip at self-proclaimed Liberal moral compass Senator Cory Bernardi.

But in the contest for “did he really just say that?” politics, the NSW Government’s upper house whip has just applied his white-knuckled grip around the crown and sceptre.

Liberal MP Peter Phelps despises nanny statism and, as he puts, health totalitarianism.

In a debate last year over whether to ban e-cigarettes, or “vapes”, he was one of the very few voices arguing the government should not outlaw something “smokers like and which helps smokers quit” when there was no evidence it caused cancer or heart disease.

“I am opposed to the view that one’s body belongs to the state and that the state has a right to determine how it operates,” he said.

Not such a revolutionary idea, one might think, but it was completely out of whack with his party’s stance.

In that debate, he was trumped by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who whipped out an e-cig and enjoyed a few parliamentary puffs before being reprimanded for using props.

Well, Bucko, he got you this time.

In this week’s debate on whether to overturn the government’s introduction of eyeball tattooing regulations, Phelps put his inimitable skills of persuasion to use.

“We’re not going to ban rugby league. We’re not going to ban ballet,” he said.

“We’re not going to ban anal fisting.

“These things are dangerous, but we’re not going to ban them, are we?

“Or maybe we are. Maybe we’ve reached a whole new morality in this state which says, ‘Because I don’t like it and it’s a bit dangerous, let’s just ban it all’.”

To make things even more interesting, the debate was being overseen by Christian Democrats leader Reverend Fred Nile.

Phelps was obviously pleased with himself and changed his Twitter profile picture to a clenched fist, and its banner to an image of Lenin with his knuckles raised high.

It is hard to know whether anyone else has ever mentioned that particular sexual practice in parliament, mostly due to concerns that a Google search might land one on a government watch list.

But surely it cannot have been uttered more than a handful of times.

Regardless of its delivery, the message rings true: “Freedom means nothing if you cannot be an idiot”.

Government policies – including those of the government Phelps works for – have been edging further and further into personal liberties for years.

Should Steve Irwin have been allowed to mess around with crocodiles?

Should kids be sent to juvie if they execute a perfect triple-somersault cliff jump into a creek?

If someone really wants to inject ink into their eyeball, let the idiot go right ahead.

Just leave it up to insurance companies to decide what sort of self-mutilation premium they charge when it all goes horribly wrong.


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