Friday, 28 January 2005

Beazley Wins – ALP Not Completely Stupid

Kim Beazley has had the easy win he needed. Notwithstanding the two poseurs who pretended they were after Labor’s top job, this was no contest. The survival instinct saw to that. The overwhelming majority of Caucus members realised that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are not yet the kind of people that the voters they need to attract are attracted to.
Kevin Rudd smugly gets his face on television and speaks in contrived 15 second grabs that television journalists like because they need so little editing. Yet the subject matter of his comments is irrelevant to winning elections. Foreign policy is not what Labor needs to be worrying about. It is a hindrance rather than a help to have Kevin Rudd available at the flash of a microphone. It creates the impression that the Labor Party is more interested in the dilemmas of Iraq than the housing prices at Blacktown. Over the next year or so Mr Rudd will best serve his Party by virtually disappearing until he gains a new shadow Cabinet position talking about money matters where he can show if he really is a serious leadership contender.
The one thing you can say for Julia Gillard is that before Mark Latham’s second bout of pancreatitis she was a virtual unknown to the eyes of the vast majority of Australians. Now many will recognise the red hair and the grating voice but whether they will like what they see (surely they will not like the voice they hear!) is another question. With prominence comes scrutiny and Ms Gillard’s only test when it comes to a matter of substance was the disaster called Medicare Gold offered at the last election. She escaped the blame for that piece of stupidity because people did not know who she was and the Government found it convenient to paint Mark Latham as the fool. It will not be so next time.
My guess is that the Labor Leader after Kim Beazley will be neither Mr Rudd nor Ms Gillard. The fact that both avoided a formal leadership vote is compelling evidence of a lack of support. When you pull out beforehand you can try and kid people that you were just a little short of the required number. When the numbers are actually cast and counted the truth is clear for everyone to see.

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

Avoiding Boredom on the Back Bench

Most members of Parliament – certainly those not in the Ministry or the Shadow Ministry – have little say in how the country is run. They turn up in Canberra but their opinions are rarely sought and even more rarely listened to.
Which is why the selection of a new leader was such an excitement for so many of the Labor lot over the last few weeks: for once they had a role that might even get them interviewed on the radio and their name put in the newspaper. Now that the choice has been made it will be back to anonymity and the discipline of the factions until the next ballot for positions.
For those in the Liberal Party things are probably worse. The only election they get involved in is for the Leader and with John Howard firmly in control there have not been many of them in recent years.
Liberal backbench boredom is behind the talk of reforms to the taxation system which is getting a bit of an airing in the Murdoch press but that issue is unlikely to amount to much. Neither PM Howard nor Treasurer Peter Costello needs another inquiry to outline the options. When Parliament resumes the backbench stirrers will be reminded of the reality of Liberal Party politics. It does not pay to upset the present and future leader because they alone decide who gets promoted.

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Find a Speech Therapist - Julia Gillard's voice

A quarter of a century ago Labor had a leader with a voice that grated on many who heard it. Whenever Bill Hayden got a little excited and raised his voice, his pitch went up and it sounded like he was whining. A bit like the howl of a drover's dog really.
During the 1980 election campaign Bill had a bad case of laryngitis which temporarily solved the problem becaused he physically couldn't raise his voice and people started saying how much better he was performing. That encouraged him to seek a permanent solution by employing the actor/director George Ogilvie to give him some voice training.
If Julia Gillard is serious about ever becoming Prime Minister she should follow Bill Hayden's example. Her accent is appalling and would surely turn-off voters in droves.

Friday, 14 January 2005

Age and Experience the Pre-Requisites

Mark Latham does appear to have inherited something from his mentor Gough Whitlam - a dislike of having his summer holidays interrupted. In 1974 Prime Minister Whitlam was most reluctant to return to Australia from Europe when Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin and even when he came back he did not hang around for long before resuming his overseas sojourn.
In 2004 Opposition Leader Latham was well enough to play for an hour or two with his kids in the swimming pool at a holiday resort but not able, apparently, to phone his press secretary to put out a few token few words of sympathy for the victims of the Asian tsunami.
There is perhaps a touch of arrogance there and it is providing Mr Latham's detractors with new ammunition to fire at him. The airwaves are full of breathless journalists quoting unnamed sources in the Labor Caucus predicting his downfall. Those that are not dwelling on the absence of words of sympathy are claiming to be concerned by their leader's pancreatitis.
My own view on the Labor Leadership is that even an extremely sensitive and gifted man of Mr Latham's age would have difficulty in winning an election. The Australian people have a history of choosing leaders they have grown familiar with over a long period. Study the table in the piece Eight Out of Nine A'int Bad which I wrote just over a month ago.