Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's friendship with Australian Senator Nick Xenophon is proving to be a very shrewd relationship for both men.
For Anwar, it has given him the chance to engineer a straightforward piece of political theatre for which he is so adept. Get Xenophon to lead the seven-strong "fact finding" delegation to Malaysia to look at the electoral reform process (which took place in April).Next, make sure Xenophon declares that his mission will be "fiercely independent" despite the fact, as The Choice reported recently Xenophon was a self-declared Anwar supporter long before this imperialist tour of all-knowing foreigners was cooked up. (In 2010 he went as far as to demand the Sodomy II charges against Anwar be dropped despite the fact Australian politicians don't interfere with judicial proceedings in their own country.)
The next stage of this clever symbiotic relationship was for Anwar to suggest that Xenophon stick around for the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28 and from that point on, the scope for positive PR for both men just got better and better.
Xenophon said he was tear-gassed in the mayhem that followed Anwar's decision to urge the yellow t-shirt crowd over the police barricades in central KL. Anwar's vital role in creating the trouble was not mentioned by Xenophon when he branded Malaysia "authoritarian" to the solemn journalists back home.
(This is a turnaround in itself because normally it is Anwar damning his own country as "oppressive" to the foreign media.)
After the Bersih episode the positive headlines flowed freely. "Nick Xenophon gassed in democracy rally in Malaysia" was one Australian headline. "Tear-gassed Xenophon says we must rethink Malaysia" was another, implying it is time for Australia to scrap half a century of positive relations between our two nations on the basis of Nick Xenophon's woes.
For Anwar the benefit of all this was obvious. Forget the so-called fact-finding tour, having a foreign Senator complain he was tear-gassed by an "authoritarian" regime is a story even spin-master Anwar would struggle to extract from the fawning foreign media.
But although this relationship is mutually beneficial the fact is Xenophon needs Anwar more than Anwar needs Xenophon. The Australian has in recent years had some sizeable career setbacks.
Senator Xenophon was set to have an anonymous career until he struck gold in the form of a hung parliament.
Suddenly independents in both the upper and lower house had the balance of power but Xenophon's heightened sense of worth proved his undoing last year when he stood up in the Senate and accused a priest of being a rapist, despite the fact he had already been warned this was an abuse of parliamentary privilege and that it would ruin a man's reputation without giving him legal redress in the civil courts.
A fellow Senator Simon Birmingham lambasted Xenophon saying "it's not the role of politicians to play police, prosecutor, judge and jury and I am concerned that it appears that Nick has perhaps overstepped that mark on this occasion.''
More recently Xenophon has threatened to use his position of power to overturn Australia's landmark carbon tax, introduced to global acclaim last year and aimed at redressing the embarrassing fact that coal-hungry Australia is one of the world's biggest carbon polluters.
It was political opportunism in the extreme and reminder of why in this country, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak needs a healthy majority to continue his transformation of Malaysia.
Could you imagine a figure like Nick Xenophon in Malaysian politics? No thanks.
When Xenophon delivers his report on his mission to Malaysia he will invariably find our "authoritarian" regime on a par with North Korea and sadly, there will only be two winners from this tawdry exercise – Anwar and Xenophon.
Once again, Malaysia, our government and our international standing, will emerge from the process looking diminished in the eyes of the world thanks to Anwar and his very useful friend.