Saturday, March 08, 2008


Red News Readers,

Some very enjoyable Alan Ramsey!

Jenny Haines

Alan Ramsey, smh

March 8, 2008

Another jolly week in national political life. Kevin Rudd in Port Moresby, John Howard in Washington, Mark Vaile in the Middle East, Peter Costello in solitary, Alexander Downer in denial, Malcolm Turnbull in pursuit, Brendan Nelson in Chatswood at the Red Cross blood bank.

Take Rudd out of the mix and what are you left with? As miserable a bunch of thumb-sucking sooks, layabouts, boneheads and delusional revisionists as ever you could find. Hopeless.

Nobody more pathetic than the Toad.

The smartest thing our ex-prime minister did after losing the lot on November 24 was to go home and keep his mouth shut. Howard said his say on election night and that was that. While his former colleagues queued to blame him for everything, Howard stayed silent. He got on with the business of fitting back into real life, however he sees what that might be after 32 years in public life and almost 12 years of unfettered political power.

Of course, it couldn't last.

The silence, I mean. Three months turned out to be Howard's limit.

Invite him back to America, give him and Janette first-class return tickets, put him in a room at a "gala dinner" with another milling flock of exs, used-to-bes and also-rans, this time in Washington, let him speak for an eye-glazing hour, give him a crystal bauble in "honour" of an obscure corporate extremist of the American right almost none of us have ever heard of, and John Winston was returned to his delusional best.

There he was spruiking away on the other side of the world, utterly repudiated in his own country, only the second Australian prime minister in more than a century of nationhood to lose his own seat at the same time he lost government, and yet you'd have thought from what he was saying that he'd walked away of his own accord, loved by his people, a true prophet in his time, a man who'd done so much and would continue to do so much more.

Consider this bit of his speech: "From our election in 1996 we pursued reform and further modernisation of our economy. On the social front we emphasised our nation's traditional values, sought to resurrect greater pride in her history, and became assertive about the intrinsic worth of our national identity. In the process we ended the seemingly endless seminar about that identity which had been in progress for some years.

"When we left office in November last year, Australia was a stronger, prouder and more prosperous nation than it had been 12 years earlier. Of particular note economically were our economic reforms to the taxation system, the complete elimination of net federal government debt, and changes to our labour market laws which produced a freer and less union-dominated system …"

And this extract: "As the most powerful force for good in the world community, the United States remains the ultimate guarantor of the way of life most of us in the West wish to continue to enjoy. Those who hold to conservative values continue to face a major ideological battle. The left-liberal grip on educational institutions and large sections of the media remains intense.

Global warming has become a new battleground. The same intellectual bullying and moralising, used in other debates, now dominates what passes for serious dialogue on this issue.

"That having been said, the past 25 years have seen striking conservative gains. It was Ronald Reagan's strength and determination, nourished by his positive and optimistic view of freedom and American life, that brought down the evil empire. Margaret Thatcher's transformation of Britain was, ironically, to be vindicated by Tony Blair's embrace of her changes to Britain's labour laws … On a smaller scale, in my own country, a number of the more conservative social policies of my government have been endorsed by the new Australian Government. The sincerity of its conversion with will be tested by the experience of office …"

Howard never "left" office, nor did his government.

They were thrown out because we were sick of the buggers.

We might have been "stronger", we were definitely greedier, but we certainly weren't "prouder". And 10 increases in housing mortgage rates in five years, plus two bequeathed to the Rudd Government's first three months in office, only emphasise how profligate was Howard's government in its desperation to retain power and how wilful, in those last half-dozen years, was its management of the economy.

So, too, Howard's flippancy about global warming, his deification of the brutal Reagan and Thatcher years, and the calculated ignorance of his audience as to how fatal his government's "changes to labour market laws" ultimately had proved at the ballot box, despite the many millions of public money he'd spent trying to sell them to save himself.

By any measure a toad for all seasons.

And what has he left behind?

Well, apart from disconnected political layabouts such as Costello and Downer, out hunting for some corporate patron or other to take them off the public tit, we've got the likes of the shameless Vaile, the Nationals' former tractor salesman from Taree who became deputy prime minister, God forbid, in his last years in government, taking "personal leave" so he can duck off to the Middle East to give a spot of advice to the corporate patron who's in the process of working out a permanent consultancy arrangement, even while Vaile is still taking the taxpayers' shilling.

We know this because the company involved issued a press release saying so. And Vaile does all this, without a word to Nelson, his new Coalition leader, and when he gets sprung on the front page by The Daily Telegraph's Steve Lewis, Vaile issued his own wheedling statement, through his office, seeking to explain himself. It said, in part: "During my personal leave, I have been away from my constituents for a total period of four working days visiting the Middle East, looking at one of Australia's rapidly growing company's [sic] there, ServCorp, and advising them with regard to the future growth of their business. My air fares and accommodation were not paid by the Australian taxpayer. Consulting work is nothing new among those who serve in Parliament. I recall many Labor, Liberal and Nationals MPs over many decades undertaking very similar advisory roles both during and after their parliamentary service. Tony Burke might even wish to look back at the register of members' interests to reflect on the hypocritical nature of his [radio] interview this morning …

"When the Coalition lost government last year, I stepped down from the leadership … to shoulder some of the blame for the defeat, to allow me to spend more time with my family, and to ease the burden on on my health after a serious bout of cancer which continues to be monitored …"

What a grub. Vaile gets caught fair and square bludging on taxpayers while he does a spot of "advising" overseas for his intended next employer, without telling his Coalition leader, and seeks to hide behind his family, his health and the behaviour of other MPs to excuse himself.

The sooner Vaile resigns the better.

Which leaves Brendan the Brief to think upon the words of Malcolm the Money after Turnbull was twice asked about Nelson's leadership on Thursday.

First there was this exchange on the Seven Network's Sunrise program after Turnbull had been spinning his take on the latest interest rate increase:

Q: "All right, last one before I let you go this morning. Brendan Nelson's approval is now 7 per cent. How low will it go? And yes or no, will you challenge?"

Turnbull: "Well, Mel, I never comment about the leadership. But I'd just say, just so to be clear, I mean, Brendan's approval rating is higher than that. The 7 per cent is preferred prime minister, when he's being compared to Kevin Rudd [at 73 per cent]. Now look, that's not a good number. He doesn't like that. He's said he's locked in [the] underdog status. I know Brendan will work very hard to get out of that underdog position and, you know, become more competitive."

Q: "So are you ruling out a challenge?"

Turnbull: "The only thing I'm ruling out is ever making a comment about the leadership. There is nothing I can say that would be helpful or constructive."

Later Turnbull told Sky television: "Brendan Nelson has my complete support, as he has the support of the party room. He must be given a fair crack of the whip, a fair go."

Well, not really. Nelson will get only what he deserves, which in the end, whenever that is, will be the boot.

Ask John Howard.

It was Andrew Peacock 24 years ago who dubbed Howard, his deputy at the time, "the Rodent", because he felt Howard was always gnawing away at his leadership. That was in the early 1980s. Howard in those years constantly refused to give pestering reporters a categorical "no" that he wouldn't challenge Peacock, who would resign the leadership in 1985 only after his colleagues wouldn't back him to replace Howard as deputy with John Moore, a Peacock ally.

Ironically, after Peacock regained the leadership in 1989 by ousting Howard, with Moore's help, before losing the 1990 election, Moore would eventually become defence minister in a Howard government in 1998. Such is politics.

Turnbull now adopts the Howard gambit. He refuses, sensibly, to be pinned, yes or no. He'll wait until the leadership falls to him by right, as inevitably it must. Brendan the Brief is way out of his depth.