06 June 2010

Entitled to your opinion III

This is the first time I've agreed with a Peter van Onselen article, and it feels as though I should go back and re-examine everything I've ever believed.

Yes, it's true that a bad day for Rudd does not mean a good day for Abbott - but that's one of the central themes of the journosphere, particularly the Canberra press gallery and particularly News Ltd. Van Onselen is breaking rule number one of the journosphere: don't buck the narrative. Good on him. He's also right about the Liberal Party's moribund moderates, and its even more moribund machine.

When the Coalition lost office in 2007 more than a thousand ministerial staffers who lost their jobs. Three of them have ended up winning safe seats, and if you took the top ten percent of those you'd still have one excellent staffer for every Liberal MP with a few left over to staff the secretariat. Loughnane, Credlin and O'Reilly are clowns and must be punted this side of Christmas: the fact that they are unemployable need not be the Liberal Party's fault.

The only thing I can fault van Onselen on is his assumption that a respect for policy development is exclusively the preserve of those who have been ministers. Those who aspire to be ministers might make mistakes that seasoned ministers might avoid, but it's still possible to make valiant, respectable attempts at dealing with stakeholders and coming up with serious policy worthy of governing the nation. This is what Greg Hunt is clearly doing, and it's equally clear that Peter "Future Leader" Dutton isn't.

Van Onselen recognises that the Liberal Party has to move on from Howard, but he hasn't reckoned on the idea that the next Liberal government will have to be different from the last, and that lack of ministerial experience need not be a crippling disability. Put it this way: in 1996, Peter Costello did not have ministerial experience, but John Moore did. Bruce Baird had ministerial experience and Bronwyn Bishop didn't, yet guess which one made it into the Howard ministry?

Van Onselen is so Canberra-centric that he doesn't recognise that the advent of Liberal governments in WA and NSW, and possibly Victoria and Queensland, will change the federal Libs (note to Will Hodgman: your path to government lies over the dead body of Eric Abetz). His puzzlement over state service delivery may dissipate once there are some Liberals doing the delivery (or not delivering).

Thankfully, though, the issues are clear when it comes to freedom of speech. First it was Malcolm Fraser, now Clive Palmer has also been granted an Entitlement To Hold An Opinion & Speak Freely by Chris Pyne. All is not lost!

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