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Gillard and Abbott are the self-absorbed bogan couple arguing over which neighbour should look after their pet greyhound while they take a holiday. He says that family from Nauru seems nice. “Don’t be silly,” she sneers, “they’ll feed it doughnuts.” She says the Malaysians next door are safer. “Knock it off,” he yells, “they’ll beat the damn dog.” Everyone in the street can hear them fighting, but they look the other way and pretend to be grateful when the call comes to mind the pooch.

It would be funny if Gillard and Abbott were just playing politics. But no Labor or Liberal leader has been this unthinkingly parochial since the last defender of White Australia, Arthur Calwell. Gillard and Abbott would be appalled by the comparison. But what are the neighbours supposed to think, when our leaders trash the golden rule of diplomacy: subtlety.