14 September 2010

The match-ups

First of all, there's this, the funniest story out of Canberra in a long long time. Macfarlane is a laughing stock, Robb less so; at least he offered, and took one for the team.

Second funniest was Gary Gray as Minister for Integrity.

Let's look at how the Government matches up against the Opposition:
  • Macfarlane in Energy and Resources, up against Ferguson: at least Ferguson can count.
  • Stephen Smith will have his work cut out in Defence against David Johnston, except Johnston will go after him in a pettifogging, lawyerly way rather than put any serious consideration into what Defence means for Australia into the future: what gear do we need, what people do we need, who do we work with (and against). Michael Ronaldson will be worse than useless in Veterans' Affairs except as a fountain of cant.
  • Tony Smith has had his head handed to him and he's slunk back to being work experience boy at Treasury. There is no hope at all that the Liberals will participate in tax reform to the extent they did in the 1980s. I hope Billy Shorten winkles him out and kicks him around for sport, and Matthias Cormann too.
  • Penny Wong was the wrong choice in Finance and I suspect that Andrew Robb will give Wong a real run for her money. Both can drone on about the detail but Robb has the sharper political brain.
  • Scott Morrison has the potentially interesting policy mix of Immigration and Population, but he'll do bugger-all with it (boat people! boat people! boat people!). Chris Bowen will run rings around him long after (boat people! boat people! boat people!) has gotten really tired, where Tony Burke will finish him off.
  • Burke is an odd choice to front what used to be the Environment Department. I doubt he's ever camped out overnight and people who really care about this river, that frog or some other creature of creation will spot that a mile off. Diligence will get you a long way though - the same applies to Greg Hunt, but his leader is much more likely to nobble him.
  • Burke is Minister for Communities while Macklin is Minister for Community Services. The Opposition have been too stupid to demarcate that too, while going after waste & duplication.
  • Speaking of Macklin, she'd be in real trouble if she weren't up against proven dud Kevin Andrews. Similarly, there is an argument to be made against Anthony Albanese in Transport & Infrastructure, but not by Warren Truss.
  • The very idea of making the Senate spokesperson on environment and immigration, and Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations, Eric Abetz - all Chris Evans need do is appear reasonably even-handed and he can make Abetz look like a nutter. This suits Abetz fine, as being a leading nutter creates a following for him among mouth-breathers but doesn't help the Liberal Party shake off the reasons why people just couldn't vote for them in the last two elections.
  • Simon Crean will run rings around Barnaby in RARDALGA. He'll do the slow and patient work on the rustics, coming through with infrastructure while Barnaby just jabbers. The all-talk thing will turn bushies off Barnaby, especially as he's starting to believe his own publicity and go for verbal stunts like his great work on Katter and Oakeshott.
  • Carr-Mirabella: both idiots. In Industry and Innovation, of all places, two of the dullest minds in Melbourne, Canberra or anywhere else.
  • Robert McClelland is a complacent and second-rate Attorney General, but with George Brandis on his tail he's safe.
  • Chris Pyne has the most solid team in the Opposition around him, while Education is fragmented in government ranks. It's a pity that Pyne will not be able to devote any thought whatsoever to this area and its contribution to the country's future, being fully occupied having to throw his weight around and load some gravitas onto his naturally honking voice.
  • Rather than simply demolish Conroy in Communications, Malcolm Turnbull will probably outflank him and one-up Conroy, and take off some of the gloss he built up against the non-competition of Tony Smith.
  • If you must promote a Victorian after their role in costing Abbott government, why not Kelly O'Dwyer? Why a non-entity like Scott Ryan? Why has that bright young prospect Teresa Gambaro landed the sort of role that should have gone to O'Dwyer or someone with substance and promise (if any)?
  • Most telling was the appointment of Igor to Abbott's Dr Frankenstein. Rather than have someone to compensate for Abbott's shortcomings, he's chosen Cory Bernardi.
  • Swan-Hockey: two second-rate politicians in a role that should be reserved for first-raters only. Not since Leslie Bury squared up against Frank Crean have we seen such a lacklustre competition.
  • Same with Roxon-Dutton: here I was thinking that the pressures on this policy area would force up the quality of debate and hence these two jokers would drop out: sadly, no.
  • Abbott's "holding the government ferociously to account" sounds a lot like Rudd's commitment to work harder at the same old same-old rather than change tack at all. Gillard was impressive in negotiations but the allocation of portfolios have been a dog's breakfast. Game on indeed.


  1. Agreed on O'Dwyer, my local member, but for her silly focus on issues that belong with the local town council...

    Turnbull v Conroy... The Lib most lefties have a soft spot for tackling the ALP guy most lefties hate. Lefty me is hoping Malcolm beats Conroy into bloody pulp, but Turnbull in Reps and Conroy in the Senate... what a shame.

  2. Environment used to be an important Ministry to handle well for electoral reasons. But the environment has been subsumed by Climate Change as an issue.

    My analysis is that for the first time since the Telstra sell-off, natural resource managment spending is projected to decline in real terms. As a proportion of revenue, the natural resource management spending has halved over this period.

    So the people who know this frog etc are long passed being pandered to.

    So in some ways this is a demotion for Burke. I look forward to his non-report on Australia's population though.

  3. Why so positive about David Johnson in Defence?

    The Libs have not undertaken any strategic thinking in response to the White Paper and couldn't lay a blow over the continuing stuff ups in hardware acquisition.

  4. Dave, you overestimate the extent to which debates are played out in Parliament.

    Tim, I thought Johnston was quite effective in committees at some point, and I've heard him speak on government procurement issues. True, he's been a non-event in Defence, but I'm stumped if I can think of a Shadow Defence Minister who made a blind bit of difference to anything. I admit it would be hilarious to see Chris Pyne in the role, but only for a couple of days.

    As to Environment: the people you speak of start with concern about frogs etc before moving on to the hard stuff (climate, nuclear, etc.). A parish pump politician who can go around and do this sort of thing can shore up the vote.

    Keep in mind that it will be in the next two years or so that the pulp mill in northern Tassie will fall over, then we'll see how small scale this portfolio is.

  5. Jason Wilson16/9/10 10:41 pm

    The scene depicted in Bishop's office is most amusing. Makes you wonder if anyone in the Liberal Party can do numbers. Abbott tin-arsed it last year while Hockey and Turnbull did a good impression of Laurel and Hardy climbing a ladder. Many of these people like to depict themselves as hardarses.