04 October 2006

Bored stupid with poor opinion pieces

Every 18 months to two years you find a story like this. The journalist had nothing else to write about, and his well-cultivated sources had nothing to feed him but how they were as bored as he was. Thankfully, he left it to the end of the article to make the feeble ejaculation: "it's sure to be interesting watching all the Coalition hopefuls trying to get the PM's attention as they jockey for position", a claim that would be false advertising had it been up front.

A real journalist would have interrogated his sources a bit more carefully. Look at all those identified as promising talent: too many Victorians (no bad thing for Age readers perhaps), but think about it people: there is no good reason why the country would consent to be governed by Victorians, and anyone on that list with genuine political talent would see that. If they're so hot, maybe some of them should go into state politics, eh? Surely that great sucking vacuum on Spring Street should draw a few of them in.

What would be better for your political career: cruise around Canberra whinging for the next ten years, or do the hard yards in bringing down a Labor Government, become an actual Minister in a realm not dependent on Howard, and switch to Canberra with a bit of substance behind you? Worked for John Fahey. John Brumby was quite a promising backbencher in the Hawke government; he never had a chance of becoming Federal Treasurer, now he's Premier of Victoria in all but name. An ambitious politician could do worse, and it seems many are.

"What we don't lack is talent," one ambitious backbencher told The Sunday Age last week. "To be fair to Howard, though, the best line-up does not necessarily include the brightest people, and over the years he has managed to balance state interests effectively, and justly reward the hard workers who have held on to difficult seats and basically delivered us government.

"But that doesn't mean I am not sitting here getting mightily frustrated thinking about what could have been, and I am not the only who is thinking like that."

So, the consequences of promoting others have led to a decade in government, while the consequences for leaving you where you are ... see? This peanut is crying out for a bit of career advice and poor Jason treats him/her like a martyr. Piss off and do something else. You too, Koutsoukis. What about one o those million-dollar CEO jobs you benchmark yourselves against?

So Jim Lloyd's boring, eh? It's folk like him who are holding the ramparts of exurbia for the Coalition, which is more than can be said for Michael Ronaldson in Ballarat (and who would win a dull-off between Ronaldson and Lloyd? Would you want to be there? Let's send Jason Koutsoukis in there to tell us all about it, he obviously has nothing better to do). Lloyd is Minister for Local Government and Roads, for goodness sake. It's not like he's in charge of T3 or WorkChoices or the Budget.

As for the other 'talent' named, Mitch Fifield could smug for Australia but other evidence of his ministerial talent is not overwhelming (if it is, Jason, show us where we might find it). Sophie Mirabella is prone to mad outbursts, a political accident waiting to happen. So is Guy Barnett and he's a Bible-basher - wait for Minister Barnett to put the boot into publicly-funded abortion or institutions that protect pedophiles and we'll see how much 'talent' he has. Michael Keenan and Marise Payne have about as much future beyond this election as Bob Sercombe (unless they switch to state politics, q. v.). Chris Pyne and David Fawcett come from a small state with too many ministers as it is (Federal ministers, that is), and Pyne is not a personality you put in front of swinging voters. Malcolm Turnbull has raised the media profile of national water issues, but you'd expect he'd have some other, actual achievements by now (apart from spiking the Toowoomba recycling initiative)?

It's not good enough to say the natives are restless. In fact, it's not even adequate. If you're going to do an opinion piece, don't just be a cypher. Would Australia really be governed differently with these guys up front? Would it be governed better? Why are they being paid more, to shut them up?

"[Environment Minister Ian Campbell has] gone native," said one Liberal Party insider last week. "Almost barmy. I'm expecting we'll soon have to send in the rescue team to bring him back to civilisation."

And what would the 'rescue team' find once that happens? Real problems that Liberals prefer to gloss over, can't be arsed about, or fear having to defend in front of mining lobbyists? If this can happen to Campbell - a long-frustrated backbencher himself a few years ago - maybe it could happen to anyone in that job, except perhaps that goose from Darwin.

Health Minister Tony Abbott is clearly out of sorts and would surely benefit from a portfolio where his own personal moral beliefs did not interfere to such a degree with his day-to-day decision-making duties.

Um, like what?
  • He's not a detail man, so Attorney General, Treasury or Defence would expose his weaknesses too cruelly.

  • He's no diplomat, so no job involving foreigners: Foreign Affairs, Trade, Immigration, Defence.

His whole political position has been about social policy and its place in the culture wars, so now we see a social policy job is too much for him? If only Liberal preselectors had seen that sooner.

  • Family and Community Services? Nah, kicking Aborigines and single mothers.

  • Education? He'd get sidetracked by student politics and serious issues like trades training and scientific innovation would be too hard for the boy (then there's all that stuff about bioscience and the Vatican again!).

The Nats have got Transport to themselves. Bugger! There's only one thing to do: stick a fork in him, he's done. David Clarke won't have him in State politics and he'd consider it beneath him anyway.

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