15 June 2006

Standing up for the powerless can make you powerful

About time too - one of the sloppy, knee-jerk laws Howard rushes into place as caffeine-for-the-polls has been caned by a Senate Committee exercising an actual proper review function.

The decision to oppose the bill that would detain maritime sea-arrivals offshore was a strong and principled move for politicians bullied into lockstep with a dumb reactionary leadership. Senators Payne, Mason, Trood and Scullion have done far more important work than any loyal line toe-er in the Howard Government in putting a clear, researched case for changing the direction of government policy. So too, those who stood up to Howard over immigration last year and are stepping up again in their different ways to halt the backsliding: Georgiou, Moylan, Baird, Broadbent and Troeth, God bless you all. But for a critical mass of such politicians we would actually have a Liberal government that honoured the name.

Maybe all this fuss will subside. Maybe they will cave or be done over later. A few bright sparks in the darkness doesn't necessarily mean dawn is imminent.

The latter group tend to be thought of as feather-dusters, but this is unfair and not necessarily accurate. The Little Australian will reward people who stand up to him. He rewarded Malcolm Turnbull after his republicanism, his knock-down-drag-out turf war in Sydney's eastern suburbs and his idle imitation of an ideas politician - true, Turnbull had to eat a lot of crow, but he got there ahead of a conga-line of, ah, loyal Howard choristers. Julie Bishop knocked off Howard's best mate and she made it to Cabinet. They should stand as examples of how Liberals can stand up to Howard, and do well by doing good (well, haven't heard much from Turnbull lately - especially over the Snowy - but it's about time this blog gave someone a break). Hopefully Senator Marise Payne won't lose preselection over this, but I bet she does.

She and the others cited three pars above, those who stand up and cop the shivs from the skulking thugs who made the Howard Government as tired and as stale as their own imaginations, they're more than just exemplars - they're inspirational to a jaded liberal who dared not imagine such spirit animating the nation's government.

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