Sad sorry joke but nobody’s laughing


Sad sorry joke but nobody’s laughing

The Daily Telegraph
March 22, 201312:00AM

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GOVERNMENTS can be many things: right-wing or left-wing, good or bad, hard or soft. The best ones are often a combination.

But the federal Labor government is no longer any of those things. It is, quite simply, a joke.

The scenes that played out in Canberra yesterday were nothing short of farcical. It was more a primary school playground brawl than a serious political contest.

First we had the extraordinary declaration by Simon Crean that he was supporting Kevin Rudd for the leadership and nominating himself as his deputy.

This, it emerged, was made not only without Mr Rudd’s imprimatur but with the knowledge that he was not even Mr Rudd’s preferred candidate.

Furthermore it was made before question time, thus consigning Julia Gillard to the humiliating prospect of facing the opposition as a dead duck prime minister and pushing the whole government to the brink of a no-confidence motion that could have ended its life then and there. If that’s strategy then no wonder the Rudd camp didn’t win.

But perhaps Mr Crean’s real targets were Treasurer Wayne Swan and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, the Dumb and Dumber of Australian politics. Mr Swan’s appallingly implemented mining tax caused the death of one prime minister and his subsequent class war may yet cause the death of another.

It is astonishing to think that the great legacy of Hawke and Keating – the repositioning of the Labor Party towards the centre of Australian life and the abandonment of the “us versus them” mentality of militant unionists and undergraduate revolutionaries – has been not just squandered by Mr Swan but deliberately discarded.

What’s more it is hard to know if his Woodstock-era rhetoric is genuine or a cynical attempt to recapture the once rusted-on working-class voters who are now abandoning Labor along with everybody else. And it’s hard to know which is scarier.

And so one at least sympathises with Mr Crean’s frustration. No wonder he was prepared to go kamikaze when other Labor MPs seem equally determined to plummet to their political deaths.

Helping them of course is Senator Conroy, a man whose actions over the past fortnight make Wayne Swan look like Thomas Edison. His media reforms represented a nadir in this country’s conventions of freedom of the press and we can be thankful to the steadfastness of independent MPs Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Craig Thomson in saving this country from potentially crippling restrictions on our media and the public’s right to know.

Whatever their mistakes in the past, they deserve high credit for this one act alone.

But despite their impotence, Conroy’s napoleonic instincts also almost brought down his Prime Minister.

Which brings us to Kevin Rudd. After years of shadow-boxing and at times openly undermining his successor, the former PM failed to step up to the plate when his party and his country needed him.

Clearly he knew he didn’t have the numbers and felt the need to maintain his so-called honour in keeping his ludicrous promise not to challenge unless he’s carried into the caucus room on a litter.

Yet it is precisely this sort of vanity that got Mr Rudd booted in the first place and it is worrying that at a time when his country and his party need him the most he has refused to even stand up and be counted, turning what could have been a valiant defeat into a pathetic embarrassment.

It is now clear that the Labor party is incapable of resolving its own leadership in a way that remotely resembles popular will and so the Prime Minister should immediately call an election so she can discover it for herself.

She’ll soon realise who the real winner of yesterday’s debacle was. And it certainly wasn’t her.

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