The great American conservative William F. Buckley Jr. said: "I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University."
The Australian version of that quote would be "A cabinet full of Ricky Muirs couldn't be any worse than a cabinet full of Gillard government ministers."
Ricky Muir, the 32-year-old former timber worker from Gippsland in Victoria, took his place in the Senate on Tuesday for the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party. His spot in Parliament is as legitimate as that of any other MP.
The suggestion that somehow he shouldn't be in the Senate because he only received a total of 17,122 votes and was elected as a result of other parties' preferences can't be sustained.
The Coalition, the ALP, and the Greens all had senators elected via preferences flows from other parties. Likewise, numerous MPs in the House of Representatives are elected via preferences.
It's difficult to argue an MP elected via preferences from four or five other parties has a better right to be in Parliament than someone elected via preferences from 10 or even more other parties. For as long as Australia has preferential voting, people are going to get into Parliament on the votes from parties other than their own.
The reason why so many political commentators are upset by Ricky Muir's election is not because of the way he was elected.
What's upset the Canberra press gallery is that Ricky Muir is different from them. And he's different from the politicians, the staffers, and the public servants that the Canberra press gallery spends its time reporting on and socialising with.
Muir doesn't have a university degree. He's done manual labour. He's been unemployed. He hasn't done media training (as was obvious from his infamous interview with Mike Willesee). And we don't know for sure, but he probably doesn't think the Three Rs - the republic, "reconciliation" and refugees - are the three biggest issues immediately facing the country.
In other words Ricky Muir is like the vast majority of the population.
The disdain and the sneering with which so many political commentators have greeted Muir is palpable.
Perhaps the least bad thing that's been said about Muir was on the ABC's The Drum last month when all the panellists agreed he "wasn't up to it". None of the panellists explained exactly why they thought this, but the imputation was obvious - Muir wasn't smart enough to be a senator.
EDUCATION V EXPERIENCE Unfortunately the panellists didn't reveal exactly how smart they thought someone needed to be before they could be in Parliament. No one on the panel pointed out that if there was a piece of legislation before the Parliament that Muir (or any other MP for that matter) couldn't understand, than perhaps the problem might lie with the legislation not with legislators.
The panel all assumed that government is now so large and so complicated that inevitably laws will be passed which only someone with a university degree would able to understand.
Julia Gillard's last cabinet had plenty of smart people in it. The 20 ministers had between them no fewer than three dozen university degrees (a third of them in law). Every single member of the cabinet held a university qualification.
All those smart people in Gillard's cabinet thought it was a good idea, for example, to abolish freedom of the press in this country.
It wasn't education or eloquence that was missing from Gillard's cabinet - what it lacked was any experience of the real world.
In the scheme of things whether or not Muir mangled a media interview is irrelevant. (Remember Gillard delivered her "no carbon tax" promise impeccably and pitch-perfect.) Muir should be judged on his merits and he should be judged on his policies (or lack of them).
Whether Ricky Muir has the character, the judgment and the sensibleness to be a good parliamentary representative it is too early to tell.
But the fact that he's upset so many people simply because someone like him is in the Senate means he's already made an excellent start to his parliamentary career.