06 March 2007

A bird in the hand, and other cliches

After reading this article, the biggest scandal I can see is the tangle of cliches and the descent of a once-respected journalist into Koutsoukis-dom:

  • "real-world land" (you can see it from Canberra, can you Steve?)

  • "And after failing to land a blow ... the Government isn't about to let go" (Boxers don't grip each other when landing blows, Steve)

  • "As the ALP's peak organisational body met in the Sussex St head office of the NSW Labor machine, the Liberal Party federal executive was discussing election tactics 300km away, in R.G. Menzies House in Canberra." (and you thought the ALP and the Liberal Party would discuss tactics in the same room?)

  • "Rudd's loss of grace" (this is no small thing for a committed Christian like Rudd. Having met with a committed felon doesn't strip away redemption from the Lord God, whatever impact it may have had with the press gallery)

  • "Howard and his senior team are hoping the fallout from Burke will have a more lasting impact" (yes, and if not? Howard, Costello and Downer may well be able to smell blood, but is that blood Rudd's? Analysis please Steve. In this paragraph alone Steve compares members of the government to riders, hard men and baying hounds)

  • "Rudd had been mainly sure-footed since defeating Kim Beazley on December 4 in the Caucus ballot." (right, but we're talking about events pre-dating that, aren't we?

  • "But the Prime Minister is banking on voters backing his experience (the Government celebrated 11 years in power yesterday) when he calls the election later this year. Central to his campaign is undermining Rudd's credentials for national leadership" (not reinforcing his record as one of achievement, one with a future? Just because this is the strategy, does that mean it's a sound one?)

  • "It has been the Coalition who has been on the defensive in recent weeks, as Labor targeted Howard over Iraq, interest rates and nuclear power." (so they're just the Coalition now? Just a bit of moral equivalence, tit for tat? I thought they were the government, and that Labor was holding them to account, answerable to Parliament and all that)

  • "But cheapjack populism only goes so far" (eleven years and counting, Steve)

  • "The shadow of the Panama hat grows wider" (any new revelations Steve? Do tell)
  • "Rest assured, though, the L-plates are being removed from their containers." (do you think that treating Rudd and Latham the same is a sound strategy? Really? What are the ramifications if it isn't, Steve?)

It's interesting that conservative commentators like Lewis and Gerard Joseph Henderson have only started referring to the leader of the Opposition as "St Kevin" after, and not before or during, his early honeymoon as Labor leader.

It's interesting that the lawyer of choice for Perth spivs in the early '90s, Julie Bishop, has kept very, very quiet, and managed to rise through Perth political circles without ever meeting Burke or Grill. If Bishop's opposite number, Stephen Smith, isn't busy with the research on Bishop then he's more useless a politician than I think he is. Until further notice, let us praise the sole remaining Cabinet minister from anywhere west of Adelaide: hosanna in the highest to St Julie.

The original St Kevin was famed for his modesty and patience, qualities that inspired poetry but not found much in Australian politicians (of all people, Gerard Joseph Henderson has no excuse for being ignorant of this). Having met with a convicted felon some time ago is the only bird-in-the-hand that Howard has to go on in the way of attacks on Rudd.

If the polls show anything less than a double-digit decline for Rudd and the ALP, all the ebullience and baying that Lewis describes (and reflects) will have been for nothing. If you walk a thousand roads you're bound to tread in some shit. Beazley visited Burke in prison, and he portrayed it as sticking by his mates. Rudd has supped with the devil of ambition, took a long spoon and stood up to the media until they ran out of questions: what if it ends up humanising this antiseptic man (Rudd, I mean)? Since when has the Australian public voted for saints, Gerard? Really.

Howard has to assume that Rudd's patience will give out and that public preceptions of the government's record remain sound enough to build momentum for credible policies going forward. Rudd has to keep his nerve and keep plugging away at Howard's record, rendering it best a nostalgia trip that can be safely left behind. What will come of St Kevin's nestlings, and where will they fly? Where will they nest? These are questions that can't be answered now and journalists do themselves no favours by hyping their projections.

The blinkered media pack do readers a disservice by their double failure, both to put this story into its proper perspective and to investigate other stories. This is the sort of thing that would help bury any perception that the fastidious Rudd cuts corners on the way to the top, and would serve to blunt continuing attacks. After AWB, if Downer and Howard aren't modest enough to shut up then they should be ignored. Cliches and mixed metaphors are signs of sloppy thinking, and Steve Lewis can take no comfort in claiming that all his colleagues are equally giddy over this non-story.

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