Eleven years is a long time in politics. It was interesting to watch Lateline last night and to see Helen Coonan and Christopher Pyne as Tony Jones’ interviewees (not for anything they said, mind, though it was significant that Coonan appeared to say the repeal of WorkChoices – which all but a few diehards are running a million miles from – would not be blocked in the Senate). It was interesting because we’re still talking about the Liberals. They’re not the main game anymore. They’re in fact a leaderless rabble. Here’s a puzzle – who is the current leader of the Liberal party? There’s an answer, but the fact that the question can be asked suggests the total disarray they’re in. The media focus, and public attention, follow power, but I’m wondering if the old regime is proving just a little sticky. Costello was a big contributor to this with his petulant bombshell – which incidentally kept a lot of focus on him and his party rather than on the new government. Personally, I’d like to see the federal Libs get as much media oxygen as their Queensland counterparts – that is, just about zero. If state performance is anything to go by, they’ll be a lazy opposition and notable only for scandals and ructions and comedy value. So my vow is to resist the temptation to write about them as much as possible, and to focus on more important things. Writing in The Australian, Sid Marris is correct – they’re having their last moment in the sun for quite some time. I hope they enjoy it, but I’m much more interested in moving on.
That does raise one other issue about the coverage of politics. I have a feeling Kevin Rudd will continue to adopt the former PM’s habit of commenting on everything and anything. I hope he doesn’t, but as I say, the former regime was in for a long while and some of its characteristics become entrenched. But there was a clue to the new PM’s political persona in his victory speech on Saturday night – no rhetorical flights, but pedestrian and workmanlike. Because it’s not for the lack of decent wordsmiths in the Labor camp, I suspect he means to go on as he’s begun – to project an image of a serious and focussed hard worker in the public interest. The absence of wedge policy and a lot of the colour and movement we’ve come to associate with federal politics will be interesting in its own way – governing in this fashion from the ideological centre will be difficult to oppose if the new government is competent, and Rudd may make a virtue out of depriving politics of some of its excitement factor.