07 July 2010

In defence

Michelle Grattan lets her bias slip:
[John Faulkner] is an effective backbencher but, really, what's the point of remaining in Parliament in that role?

Got something against representative democracy, have we Michelle? Wouldn't piss on anyone under Parly Sec? Familiarity breeds contempt, eh?

there's been some backsliding on advertising rules

No, such rules as there were are completely buggered, and if you had the experience of Michelle Grattan you'd point that out.

Defence confirms its role as the death seat of Australian politics. It requires both a genuine vision with lots of complex, interlocked, supporting and negating elements, as well as the need for micro attention to detail. It gives politicians the willies: by the time they have squirmed up through the major parties they can't handle a job that is pretty much bipartisan, hard to get right but easy to screw up.

For an issue that is supposedly a conservative lock, there has never been a conservative politician in Australia who was anywhere near a great Defence minister. Labor have had Beazley, Ray and Faulkner in recent years, even Whitlam's Defence Minister Bill Morrison was the least bad minister in that government, and Dedman during World War II was exemplary in making the best of a bad lot in keeping supplies coming (notwithstanding the hated wharfies' union).

By contrast, Malcolm Fraser was competent in that portfolio during wartime, though he should have done more for the veterans. So should Killen, rather than getting caught up in brass-salutes-and-bullshit like Menzies-era predecessors like Paltridge and Townley: but he stands as Churchill alongside McLachlan, Reith, Hill and Nelson. When Grattan quoted Minchin on Faulkner it was all very nice, but would Nick Minchin know integrity if he saw it?

Who is Abbott's defence spokesperson? Who cares? Hopefully the next Defence Minister will be someone who can handle the portfolio, not just another duffer in the departure lounge with a hardware fetish and a susceptibility to the marketing budget of Northrop Grumman.

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