“Last moments in the sun”

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.

Posted in federal election '07, media
26 comments on ““Last moments in the sun”
  1. Bingo Bango Boingo says:

    A lot of the “colour and movement” surrounding federal politics was generated by the shrill reaction of Teh Left to Howard’s program. With Rudd installed as PM, much of the visceral and instinctive opposition to fundamentally neo-liberal policy will simply fall away (of course, thoughtful lefties will continue to critique the ALP). The rhetoric that traditionally surrounds a conservative government (things like “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”) will lose their currency, even if they have not become more inaccurate. Thanks Christ for small mercies, I suppose.


  2. mbahnisch says:

    BBB, I’m not sure that’s the case at all – except perhaps in certain sections of the blogosphere. But, yep, there will certainly be scope to be critical of the Rudd government. But I’m looking forward to being able to focus more on policy and its impacts rather than smoke and mirrors and electioneering tricks. A government that will actually govern rather than sit on its bum most of the time while distracting everyone with constant denunciations and wedges and self-congratulation will be a welcome thing in my view.

  3. aidan says:


    A lot of the “colour and movement” surrounding federal politics was generated by the shrill reaction of Teh Left to Howard’s program.

    You are being disingenuous. Alot of Howard’s program was designed to generate a shrill reaction. That was his MO. I hope we’re well rid of it.

  4. Paul Burns says:

    I’m waiting to see a few things before I make up my mind about Ruddbot.
    Exactly what will he do about AWAs and how quckly will he do it.
    Will he accede to the Xmas Islanders’ reqwest to get rid of mandatory detention.
    Will Labor resume its former lick-spittle attitude to Indonesia.
    Will he get rid of the more repressive aspects of Aboriginal intervention in the NT.
    Will he tepeal the GST on books.
    Will he get rid of the whole Howard Welfare to Work schmozzle.
    Wll he shake up DIMA and Centrelink?
    I could think of lots more, but that will di for now,

  5. Paul Burns says:

    As fore the last moments in the sun. I get a great overdose of schadenfreude watching the Howardistas disintegrate. I’ve waited 11 years for it and I’m enjoying every second of it.
    And why is the little runt and Mrs. runt still in Kirribilli House? Get them out now! Its not as if they haven’t got a cottage in Wollstonecraft to go to,

  6. Gary Lord says:

    I suspect Rudd is happy to be out of the media limelight for a few days while he organises his agenda, moves house, and pulls together a cabinet (and probably catches up on some R&R).

    But I think he will be on TV regularly as you suggest – after all, his regular public appearances on Sunrise TV are the main reason he is now PM. Rudd was the only Labor pollie to match Howard in that medium, and he has reaped the reward for his hard work.

    And on that note, I don’t think it’s so much a case of “projecting an image as a serious and focussed hard worker” – I think he really IS a serious and focussed hard worker! But power corrupts, they say…

  7. Alex says:

    I know that there are many Labor hacks who contribute here, and whilst I respect their choice, I really am hoping that this place doesn’t turn into a spin machine.

    The ‘blogosphere’ has never really operated whilst a federal Labor goverment has been in power, so i’m interested to see what transpires.

  8. I don’t think so, Alex. I don’t think LP has been uncritical admirers of the Labor state governments, for instance…

  9. Paul Burns says:

    I think a lot will transpire. We have to keep Labor true to their principles. I’m hoping the bloggocracy will prevent any great swings to the right, so that never again will it be said ALP stands for Another Liberal Party.It would be wonderful if the bloggocracy became the keepers of Labor’s soul, so it never again was allowed to lay the groundwork in the policies it adopts for another bout like the Howard years.I’ll think and write about this more, because you have raised a very interesting perspective.

  10. Katz says:

    It may surprise Alex to learn that the Left is more heterogeneous than the Right. In fact, the fratricidal feuds of leftism are legendary.

    Why should the ascendency of a cautious, Christian policy wonk suddenly change a tradition of leftist mutual contempt that is over two centuries old*?

    *I date the beginnings of this mutual hatred with the Jacobin/Hebertist battles of 1793-94, but I’m prepared to accept that there may be earlier examples.

  11. tssk says:

    I think Howard and Co will be allowed to stay until after New Year’s. That would enable Mrs Howard to run the parties hse’s had planeed without any difficulty.

    I think Rudd was very clever and charitable about this.

    After all, he’s had first hand experience of forced evictions.

  12. Klaus K says:

    I’m looking forward to some fierce criticism of Rudd around these parts, but we’re going to have to give him the chance to do something wrong first. Personally, I have no special commitment to the ALP or it’s ‘soul’. Also, as Mark suggests, it will be good to finally get into the meat and potatoes of actual policy. The blogosphere is going to have to work harder under Rudd, the coalition rhetoric made them an easy target.

  13. murph the surf says:

    Katz wrote – “In fact, the fratricidal feuds of leftism are legendary.

    Why should the ascendency of a cautious, Christian policy wonk suddenly change a tradition of leftist mutual contempt that is over two centuries old*?”

    Why indeed.
    With the new government the temptation to excuse shortcomings must be strong here at LP. Elation can fuel selective vision surprisingly well but the old tradition of elitist/van guardist and judgemental thought on the left will reemerge soon enough.
    The risk then will be that certain views will be excluded and ridiculed and the LP comments policy won’t stand up to the pressure.
    The LP comments policy includes “Excessively frequent comments, where the effect of such comments is to discourage the participation of others or turn a debate around into one about themselves. “

  14. Philg says:

    I’m wondering what will be left in the cellar when Kirribilli House is finally vacated. My guess is very little.

  15. Paul Burns says:

    Graeme Morris reckons He Who Shall Never Be Named Again only had $30 bottles of wine in the cellar, as opposed to Keating’s hideously expensive Grange. Doesn’t say whether the Exes drunk allthe Grange soon after they moved into Kirribilli. He also said the prawns were good at Kirribilli and the Lodge.
    Prawns! I can’t afford prawns on a pension!

  16. Cliff says:

    Personally I’m very keen to see what happens to the Liberal party… the noises being made by Nelson and Turnbull at the moment give cause for hope that we actually have a ‘Liberal’ party in opposition. I doubt they will be go the way of the State oppositions… in their current state they can no longer afford to. I think the party will become receptive to change. But first they need to exorcise the ghost of Howard and combat the right-wing of the party. In fact both parties need to keep their radical flanks in check and shoot for the center. That will be easier for Rudd with a hostile senate imposing discipline… we all know that Howard’s senate majority was instrumental in his downfall. It will be interesting to watch the National Party also… I think they need to define themselves as an independent party and it will easier for them to do so now that they don’t have a Government to defend. Rudd should find it easy to drive a wedge between the coalition parties on economic issues. All in all, I’m hopeful, not just for the Government but also for the future of the Liberal party… they have a long march ahead of them but it will give them cause for reflection and serious remodelling.

  17. Enemy Combatant says:

    Tin-Tin’s refusing to be trifled with by the likes of Nicholls Minchin;

    from ABC online:

    “Are the Liberals still so out of touch with working people in Australia that they think they have a mandate to retain WorkChoices?

    “Is that the sort of arrogant statement we’re hearing from the Liberals two or three days after an election?”

    A shadow has passed in front of their sun.

  18. murph the surf says:

    Not that he is an unknown but Nick Xenophon will soon be enjoying his “moment in the sun” – the full strength blast of media and public scrutiny.
    With regard to Minchin foreshadowing a possible lack of co-operation in the Senate here’s a link to some of Mr Xenophon’s policy ideas.


  19. murph the surf says:

    In the interest of maintaining the new non partisan tone here is a link to Family First’s Senator Mr Steve Fielding’s policy outlines .


  20. Peterc says:

    There will be a few people stamping on Howard’s political grave, like this piece in The Age today:

    Howard told to quit a year ago http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/11/26/1196036811719.html?page=fullpage

    “According to a source who saw the campaign from the Liberal bunker, Mr Howard made it impossible for the government to win the election. He “ran his own race — he was running his own race for a year”, the source said. “He took advice when he wanted to — he didn’t follow any coherent message.””

    So Howard did a Latham! He ran his campaign from a cell with the Coalition (as Latham did with Labor) and took nobody’s advice. It is interesting to put the pieces together after the fact – and survey the depths of the coalitions demise.

    Next week they will be forgotten. I couldn’t be bothered watching Coonan and Pyne. Lots of blather; words are cheap and they weren’t saying anything interesting. I concluded that Labor have more important things to worry about now.

    When the Liberal leadership is settled they will slip into oblivion.

  21. David Rubie says:

    A shadow has passed in front of their sun.

    That’s only Piers Akerman on his way to the pie shop, Enemy Combatant. He’ll be back soon.

  22. Andrew says:

    “When the Liberal leadership is settled they will slip into oblivion.”

    Oh I doubt that…. the Libs will be in the wilderness for a few years but they’ll be back – hopefully more moderate than the drift to the right they went through in the past term of government. They’ll be out for at least two terms – but perhaps three or four if Rudd can prevent the ALP from drifting back to the left. The ALP today is almost indistinguishable from the Coalition of 1996 (which is why I voted for them).

    These things go in cycles – and it’s not healthy for the country to be governed by one party for too long (one of the reasons I voted ALP this time).

  23. Craig Mc says:

    “A government that will actually govern rather than sit on its bum most of the time while distracting everyone with constant denunciations and wedges and self-congratulation will be a welcome thing in my view.”

    I remember Frank Herbert’s “Whipping Star”, where:

    “After suffering under a tyrannous pure democracy which had the power to create laws so fast that no thought could be given to the effects, the sentients of the galaxy found the need for a Bureau of Sabotage (BuSab) to slow the wheels of government, thereby preventing it from legislating recklessly.”

    A government that sits on its bum most of the time is fine by me. It’s less likely to screw up the country that way. What I want from government is benign indifference.

  24. media tracker says:

    Mbahnisch – I’d hope that Rudd WOULD be first off the block to comment on most issues – after all that’s how the Howard Government was able to cement the major myths of their invincibility and entitlement to longevity in office. I’d also hope that the media was tackled more often for endless repetition of what the politicians have fed them – where was the kind of analysis that policy positions need to have extended to them in their genesis? Perhaps some of the academics and others who have meekly sat on the sidelines allowing a few to carry the burden of subjecting Governments to examination might now just as meekly once again raise their heads above the parapets.

  25. David says:

    BBB lefties are notoriously big on in-fighting. I predict 2 months before election hysteria wears off and all the radical lefties will decry Kevin Rudd as “no different” to John Howard. But more importantly, I think there is a lot of middle ground between saying he is no different to Howard and saying he is the embodiment of utopia. I think more or less all non-radical lefties will sit in this intelligent middle zone. In fact, they already are.

  26. derrida derider says:

    “I date the beginnings of this [intra-leftist] mutual hatred with the Jacobin/Hebertist battles of 1793-94, but I’m prepared to accept that there may be earlier examples.” – Katz

    Try the Putney Debates of 1647.

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