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Australian politicians can't stop quoting Borat

Photo: Stephane L’hostis (Getty Images)

Borat is funny, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 satire has, over the years, made monsters of the nation’s dads, who can answer even the most innocent of questions with a sloppily hoarse “very nice” or “my wife.” Not even the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is immune to the joke’s (?) powers, as he recently dropped a few of the former in parliament, signature thumbs and all.

During a debate on carbon emissions and the Labor party’s proposal that companies polluting over a certain limit would have to buy carbon credits from those under the limit, Morrison asserted that they’d probably be buying them “from Kazakhstan.”

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“I know what Borat would think of Labor’s policies on emissions reduction: ‘very nice, very nice’,” he said, following up the impression with references to the “Borat tax,” which, it should be stated, the politician does not actually find “very nice.”

Cringe in 3, 2, 1...

What’s wild is that Morrison is hardly the first Aussie lawmaker to rely on the 13-year old film for policy-related yuks. Per The Guardian, Labor MP Ed Husic previously channeled Sacha Baron Cohen while talking about the country’s internet. “We’ve gotten to a point where our download speeds in Australia are slower than in Kazakhstan,” he said. “We have Borat broadband in this country.” Ugh.

Back in 2012, Liberal MP Greg Hunt also linked Borat to the carbon debate. “Carbon credits are going to come from China and Kazakhstan, among other places,” he said. “I love Borat but I would not be buying 94m tonnes of carbon credits from Borat and his friends.”

More often than not, pop culture and politics make uneasy bedfellows. Mike Huckabee, for example, is a lot more comfortable using it for racism than for crafting Adele parodies. Our current president’s brain breaks every time he’s forced to discuss a musician or movie. Ted Cruz’s desperation, meanwhile, grows roughly three sizes every time he drops a Simpsons reference. Even Democratic upstart Beto O’Rourke’s numerous references to his punk rock past come across as pandering.

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While lame Borat quotes are harmless, The Guardian isn’t wrong in pointing out what’s so gross about politicians using it. Critics have pointed out not just that the joke is lame—but that it is rooted in a childish sense of poking fun at another nation for having a funny name. There’s also the broader point that politicians purposely use this kind of daggy humour to distract from the real-world power they wield, and the implications of their policies. That is, he’s not an embarrassing dad—he’s the prime minister dodging a pertinent question on what’s happening to the country.”

To wit:

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Anyways. Yekshemesh!

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.