For Whom The Bell Tolls: ALP MPs Jump Ship

FOLLOWING this week’s replacement of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister by Kevin Rudd, Labor MPs are dropping like flies; walkouts from the ministry are almost at double figures, with many opting to leave politics altogether. It is mostly childish, and exposes others to a charge of extreme gutlessness.

Over the next few days — as Kevin Rudd’s regurgitated government takes firmer shape — we will be speaking in greater detail about the direction Rudd seems to want to head in, and how he’s shaping up.

The early portents are hardly promising; his insistence Tony Abbott’s policies would ignite a war with Indonesia being an irresponsible and petulant hint that despite his protestations to the contrary, he hasn’t learned anything in the three years since he was first deposed.

But tonight I want to take a look at those who deposed him, and — more importantly — things that were said about Rudd subsequently, particularly around the time of his failed leadership challenge of February 2012.

The one aspect of any return to the Prime Ministership by Rudd that was always going to be entertaining to watch was the kids in the sandpit packing up their bats and balls and going home, with some — petulantly — ensuring they could never return.

And so, as the days pass, it has increasingly proven.

In actions guaranteed to assist Tony Abbott to rip Rudd apart a second time as Prime Minister (and remember, had Abbott not taken him down in the first place, Rudd would never have been vulnerable to a coup in 2010), Labor MPs have expended a great deal of hot air talking about what a dreadful piece of work Rudd is.

He’s not a Labor man. He has no Labor values. He’s a maniac. He’s a psychopath. On and on it went, all gleefully stored in the Liberal Party vault for use in the runup to any election Rudd might subsequently lead Labor into.

Such an election is now approaching, and the first shot out of the locker has proven potent. For those who haven’t yet seen it, check this out.

With no irony intended, the chickens seem to be coming home to roost; and whilst not meaning to revisit the deliberately farcical effort from Liberal HQ earlier this year (OK, all right…you can view it here if you haven’t seen it) it seems clear that the queue at Labor’s exit hatch will take longer to clear, even now.

The latest departure is Climate Change minister Greg Combet; having resigned from the ministry immediately after Gillard’s loss of the leadership on Wednesday, he has added today that he will not contest his Newcastle-based seat of Charlton at the coming poll.

Combet’s retirement is said to have been coming for several months, although his support for Gillard was open and it is no secret he has little time for Rudd; even so, Combet himself admitted that the leadership change was “probably a catalyst” for his decision to quit.

I thought we would quickly run through who’s resigned from what thus far, and who — by omission — is glaringly obvious.

  • Julia Gillard — dumped as Prime Minister, retiring from Parliament
  • Stephen Conroy — resigned as ALP Senate leader and from the ministry
  • Craig Emerson — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Stephen Smith — serving as Defence minister until election, retiring from Parliament
  • Greg Combet — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Peter Garrett — resigned from ministry, retiring from Parliament
  • Wayne Swan — resigned from ministry, contesting parliamentary seat at election
  • Joe Ludwig — resigned from ministry, remaining in Senate
  • Nicola Roxon* — resigned earlier 2013 from ministry, retiring from Parliament

So far, names such as those of Tanya Plibersek and Kate Ellis – trenchant Rudd critics whose continued presence in any Labor ministry would appear grossly hypocritical at best — are mysteriously absent from the gaggle of MPs refusing to serve under Rudd.

Finance minister Penny Wong — a staunch Gillard supporter — is not only remaining in the ministry, but has accepted election as the ALP’s Senate leader, replacing Conroy; and Jenny Macklin, another Gillard supporter (and someone this column has a fair bit of time for) simply wishes to remain in Parliament and do her job as a minister.

Overall though — what a cesspool.

And as obsequious and contemptible as Rudd might be — and if anything, the free character assessments so freely offered by his colleagues collectively amount to a massive understatement — he is probably entitled to the clear air the stampede out of the ministry should give him.

Which is why those who were happy to engage in a character assassination of Rudd whilst he was on the backbench should probably now take their own places there as well.

Swan — a surefire loser in his own seat of Lilley under Gillard — has, curiously, announced his intention to stand again; to me this smacks of the lowest form of pusillanimity conceivable: Swan was to some extent the leader of the pack against Rudd, and now Labor has hope of stemming the anti-Labor tide, Swan is going to try his luck at the polls.

Another Queenslander, Graham Perrett in the highly marginal seat of Moreton, is another who has been flushed out as a fraud; his threat to immediately quit Parliament and cause a by-election were Rudd restored to the Labor leadership (seemingly to bring the government down) has amounted, predictably enough, to nothing.

And it warrants mentioning that of the 102 Labor MPs who voted on the leadership on Wednesday night, 45 voted for Gillard; by my reckoning — taking into account the nine who have left the ministry already, and including the odious Roxon, that leaves another 32 potential tantrum throwers to go.

Politics is politics, and what has transpired this week is mild compared to some of the things that this country has seen over the years.

But the ones who were all talk and no action when it really came to it are symptomatic of a culture that, in the end, stands for very little.

And the continuing torrent of resignations — and be assured, there are more to come — will simply feed the perception that far from taking steps to get its house in order, Labor remains little more than a directionless rabble at the mercy of competing whims and egos.

*Nicola Roxon included on account of her vociferous and vehement anti-Rudd outbursts despite the fact her resignation from Parliament was announced earlier this year.

Headless Chooks: If It Weren’t So Serious…

THERE’S a new TVC out today from the Liberal Party, and it’s a beauty; good for a laugh, but stripped of the mirth it’s actually a pretty sad reflection on the Labor Party and what passes for government in its current form. And, yes, if it weren’t so serious, it’d be funny.

If there’s one aspect of election campaigning in which the Liberal Party has had it all over Labor in the past ten to fifteen years, it’s been in the quality of its television commercials; it’s an area in which the party’s output has evolved into a major strength, with its hard-hitting and precisely targeted messages.

Late last night the Liberals released their latest TVC, and after I’d had a bit of a giggle over it I realised that it really is an indictment of the Rudd-Gillard government that something like this neatly sums up, in a pinch, everything that has been wrong with six years of Labor in office.

And it’s sad that a cartoon featuring the Oktoberfest Chicken Dance — of all things — is an apt descriptor of any federal government in this country.

Readers can view the TVC here.

I’d make the point that as much as was wrong with the Whitlam and Keating governments in the end, it’s difficult to imagine either of those gentlemen allowing the situation to arise whereby their governments could so readily be caricatured using headless chickens.

Certainly, Whitlam had Rex Connor, who acted against the law and against the specific directives of his Prime Minister, and Jim Cairns, who was more interested in his secretary than in his job; Keating had Brian Howe, whose escape from a testing press conference into a cupboard must rank as one of the most cringeworthy and symbolic moments in recent Australian political history.

And those divisive, inept governments, in turn, did considerable damage to Australia economically and — despite their self-congratulatory rhetoric about “social justice” — fostered deep resentment within the silent majority of Australians, with their emphasis on minorities and elites at the expense of the mainstream.

But even then, it speaks to just how bad this government is — indeed, I believe the worst in the country’s history, and far worse than Whitlam’s and Keating’s — that its track record can so easily and so farcically be pilloried.

The message of the “Headless Chooks” is deadly accurate.

If it weren’t so serious, it’d be funny. And if that’s the out-take from someone like me, what sort of message is this government sending to our friends around the world?

A visit to www.headlesschooks.org.au is also well worth a look, to meet “the chooks.”

See you all a little later…

The Horror Of Craig Emerson: Idiot Of The Week!

One of the most bizarre — and ridiculous — press conferences of recent times took place in Canberra today; this cretinous, toe-curling, blood-curdling horror movie makes Craig Emerson The Red And The Blue‘s Idiot Of The Week. And it’s only Monday!

Readers will, I’m sure, excuse this indulgence; as most of you know I am too time-challenged at present to post as regularly or as comprehensively as I would like.

Nonetheless, there is still time to dish it out to morons like the Minister for Trade and “Competitiveness.”

Watch this, with thanks to Brisbane’s Courier-Mail (it’s better than any YouTube clip I could have chosen).

There’s nothing spontaneous about a stage-managed stunt; by the same token, there’s nothing effective or hard-hitting about something as contrived as this.

The music doesn’t cue for several excruciating seconds; and when it does, Emerson contorts into one of the most ridiculous “dance” routines seen this side of a prepubescent disco — imbecilic grin at the lips — and proceeds to “sing,” out of sync and out of key, an abominable bastardisation of the lyrics from “Horror Movie” by 1970s group Skyhooks.

“This is the mood in Whyalla,” Emerson states as he waits for his carefully rehearsed (and painstakingly mangled) little choreography act to kick off to the music.

There might not be a “Whyalla wipeout right there on the TV” but the temptation — for the poor suffering journalist — to wipe the smirk off Emerson’s face must have been almost irresistible.

Politics is politics, and both sides in Canberra are playing theirs pretty hard at present; it’s obvious who is more effective at it, judged by the huge lead the Liberals currently hold in the polls.

And is it any wonder, when this is the sort of thing the ALP serves up as a serious contribution to debate.

Whatever linguistic atrocities may be served up in political debate at present — and an asseveration that Whyalla might be “wiped off the map” if a carbon tax is implemented certainly qualifies (sorry Tony) — these pale into insignificance beside juvenile and puerile japes such as that performed for national TV by Dr Emerson.

As a senior cabinet minister, he should know better; as a member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle, he should have had more brains. And as an MP defending a marginal seat likely to be lost to the LNP in next year’s landslide, he should have thought twice before making himself a laughing-stock so publicly.

If I lived in Whyalla — even if I thought Tony Abbott was full of the proverbial and that the present government was the best thing since The Wombles — I’d be at least moderately disgusted by this performance.

And not least, to put it bluntly, because Emerson has now forever tarred the fine town of Whyalla with the mentally retarded stupidity of his antics.

No, Craig, it’s not funny. It isn’t a joke. But you certainly are.

Dr Craig Emerson, folks: Idiot Of The Week!

What a dickhead…

AND ANOTHER THING: This all comes in the same breath as reports that former New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally feels “hurt and distress” at being compared with reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian due to Kardashian’s “negative reputation.”

Such was the substance of a complaint made by Keneally’s husband to the Australian Press Council (which dismissed the complaint), citing among other things the sex tape Kardashian once notoriously made with her boyfriend which catapulted her to international stardom.

Kristina Keneally is a highly capable and — by all reports — exceedingly charming woman. She is reputed to be a very tough operator. Coincidentally, she is also very attractive.

For all that shrewd toughness, something rings hollow — especially when the targets of the Keneally complaint just happen to be a former Liberal Party staffer and, indirectly, the Liberal Premier of NSW.

Blessed with her renowned resilience and astute mien, perhaps the pretty lady could have deployed a more subtle weapon: feminine guile.

After all, she has been compared to arguably one of the most beautiful women on the planet in Kardashian, the apparent lack of brains on the part of the latter notwithstanding; how much more effective (and so very deflating for her opponents) to smile, laugh, and accept “a well-earned compliment.”

A generation ago, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used a mix of female charm and dominance to steamroll the most implacable of male opponents; there was nothing gratuitous, demeaning or tokenistic about it — after all, it was Thatcher who was the perpetrator.

She showed women in public life the world over how to beat men at their game; and in this case, it may have been far more effective for Kristina Keneally to channel the spirit of a Thatcher than the letter of an ambit complaint.