05 April 2006

Give Kim a break rest

Like some old bull yearning to prove he can still mix it with the young guns, Laurie Oakes writes that we are all being too mean to Kim Beazley and should give him (Beazley) some credit.

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Poor Kimmoye.

The reason Kim Beazley "is still accused of lacking aggression" is because, for every blustery speech, you can be sure there will be a backdown on a major issue or two - a slide on Telstra here, a fudge on political donor disclosures there. He can't help it. He's facing a government whose momentum enables it to defy gravity and he lacks a core set of beliefs of his own, so by his fudges shall ye know him.

The issue of West Papua is one such. Labor could support Papuan independence, but that would alienate Australia's largest neighbour which fears ethnically-fuelled disintegration. Labor could oppose Papuan independence, but that would hark back to the old Hawke-Keating days where "distancing Australia from its Asian neighbours" involved Gareth Evans wiping Suharto's semen off his chin.

Notice how Kevin Rudd has stayed well away from this issue? Smart bloke that Kevin. Mind you, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has also been vewwy, vewwy quiet, can't be seen in public until he has picked every scrap of chaff off and there are no flies on him either. Anyone with as much press gallery experience as I have (0) would be asking questions a this point.

It's all very well for Beazley to criticise the dire state of Indonesia-Australia relations, but you know that a well-aimed question about how Labor would avoid annoying the Indonesian government ever about any issue whatsoever hasn't been asked. To be fair, it can't be asked by any journalist in the Canberra press gallery because it's such a hard question for Labor to answer, so anyone who asks it would be regarded as incorrigibly anti-Labor and any information flow to that journalist would stop dead. Oakes should use his standing to ask such questions, but he's just one of the lads see.

"There is, of course, more that Beazley can do", writes Oakes. "Here are three suggestions", a ridiculous position for a true but misunderstood leader. Do you think Bob Hawke in 1982 or John Howard in 1995 was jumping through hoops like this? Kim Beazley in 2006 won't either, but that's because he is no closer to becoming Prime Minister than he was in 1996. Labor have wasted a decade under a dithering and ineffectual leader, and they have nobody (not even "most political commentary" or even Julia Gillard) but themselves to blame for that.

Oakes does not explain what would happen if Beazley failed the ticker tests that he and Michelle Grattan have set for him. Kim Beazley doesn't need a break, he needs a rest. He's had his go. He's had more than a fair go, he's having someone else's go by now. Stick a fork in him, he's done.

When the Liberals were in Opposition, people like Wilson Tuckey and John Moore were regarded as men of significance, gatekeepers to the party's numbers and its chances of securing government. History shows that the Liberals returned to government only when these titans had become burnt-out husks. Could not a similar case be made for Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith? They form the stoppers in that giant gasbag that is Kim Beazley.