MATCH-UPS: Club Fed dream teams for the 2010 Grand Final

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Since spilling the Nelson milk Tuesday last, much has been made of Malcolm Turnbull’s reshuffle of the Shadow Ministry. From the time elapsed between the concept and execution stages, to the composition of a group showing all the talent and promise of the Weimar Republic, to the free rein Rudd has given Turnbull by flying the coop during an important sitting week, the Liberals find themselves a focus of non-Costello related media attention to an extent not seen since election night. No pressure guys, and increasingly girls- no pressure at all.

Much has also been made of Lu Kewen’s stateside sojourn, and the greater prominence this affords Turnbull and his new line-up in touting a purportedly new, improved Liberal cleaning power formula that cuts through grease and cleans windows with no streaking, no Rudd-related Mr Sheen pun intended. In Rudd’s defence, notwithstanding the planning of the trip having been undertaken earlier this year, had he cancelled the trip, he would’ve looked craven- this isn’t like where a PM agrees with a policy initiative of the opposition where he might look statesmanlike or conciliatory, this would be a personal admission of defeat. Turnbull’s dithering over the selection of the front bench meant he had less time than he could have to show he and his team were focussed on the task at hand, namely the state of the economy.

Unsurprisingly, Turnbull’s new charges are looking a little skittish in their first outing in this spring sitting- are they mutton dressed as juvenile sheep, or more akin to the spring lamb on sale at the Canberra Centre’s Supabarn on Sunday? In the spirit of that bastion of considered reportage, we report, you decide. My advice? Get yourself a coffee.

Leaders: Gaius Julius v Gnaeus Pompeius?
The new main game, between the Members for Griffith and Wentworth, obviously ups the political ante. It is the political equivalent of changing the ANZAC day clash at the G from Collingwood versus Melbourne to Collingwood versus Essendon (VEXNEWS: For a favourable reference to Essendon, we’re offering Christian tenure). While Nelson did his best, he lacked the ticker to take the battle to Rudd in the period in which new PMs are most vulnerable. The Government, much like its predecessor at this stage of its life, is hardly out of the woods, that is, it is at the moment leasing the Treasury benches, rather than owning them. Rudd though, for all his faults, is looking increasingly comfortable in the job, even if some around him aren’t. Turnbull, the second consecutive Liberal leader to have sought a Labor seat, has a lot going for him. He is perhaps the most accomplished would-be Prime Minister in our nation’s history. His main problem is that everything about him and the way he carries himself suggests that he’s more than aware of it or all too fond of ‘persuading’ those not yet convinced. While the smart money must surely remain on Rudd for the foreseeable future, even if the economy tanks (in case of fire, call snap election), the emergence of a quality Opposition Leader not afraid to take the fight to the Government is not just good for the Liberals, but good for the Government too- it will keep them on their toes. The mainstream media, salivating at the prospect of Rudd slipping in the polls, would do well to remember that Rudd did what Andrew Peacock, John Hewson, Alexander Downer, Peter Costello, Paul Keating, Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, and Mark Latham could not; he knocked John Howard out of the political game, and Howard stayed down.

Treasury: Chancellor, Chancellor, pass me a tax
The new battle in the Treasury portfolio may prove to be the a spectacular fizzer. Thus far, Julie Bishop seems determined to prove her reputation amongst many in the Coalition as little more than well-preserved, well-groomed lightweight. She comes into the role at the precise time Wayne Swan is beginning to make his mark on it, and her gaffes serve only to heighten his comparative credibility. However strong Malcolm is on economic issues, the problem for him remains that he can’t talk about it all the time- he suffers from the same problem Rudd has with foreign affairs. Bishop is their economic spokesperson, so their fortunes in this critical policy area are tied to her performance to a very large extent. A yarn that has done the rounds many a time in ‘Berra amongst politicos is that in the not too distant past, Bishop, then Minister for Education, ‘forgot’ to put in her Department’s wish list for appropriations at the appointed time, ahead of the Budget. It’s likely to be an uphill battle for Bishop, and popularity in WA or deferring to the prerogatives of the Deputy Leader does not a credible economic management perception create. My money’s on Wayne, by a couple of lengths.

Financial Services, Superannuation, and Corporate Law: Pearce v Sherry- Battle of the Titans

The former Parliamentary Secretary to Saint Peter finds himself pitted against Labor’s quiet Tasmanian Senator achiever, Nick Sherry. Make no mistake, Chris Pearce will be absolutely slaughtered in this match-up. More’s the pity that he and Sherry aren’t in the same chamber. Reform in these areas is critical, not least in the current economic climate, and garnered Labor a great deal of credibility in the financial sector ahead of last year’s federal election, given the manifest failure of the Coalition to reform the sector pretty much since the creation of APRA a decade ago. Pearce, long a federal MP entitled to a free car, fuel card, and Comcar (VEXNEWS: to enquire as to your eligibility for use of a chauffeured Statesman or LTD 24/7, anywhere in Australia, phone 131 847), recently put out a newsletter in his outer suburban Melbourne electorate of Aston speaking to his- nee the Department of Finance and Deregulation’s- experience of the crippling effects of petrol price rises. Labor will dominate this area because they made it their own prior to the election, and because Pearce is at best a time server. While of itself it’s hardly the most prominent portfolio, it is crucial for the Government to perform well in this area if it is to weave at least one narrative, that of sound financial manager.

Assistant Treasurer: Chris Bowen v Costello’s confidante
Bowen is rightly touted as substantially personifying the future of the otherwise flagging NSW Right. He is known to be conscientious, a hard worker, and manages his relationships with fellow caucus members well. Tony Smith, Costello cheerleader-in-chief and posterboy as Parliamentary Secretary to Howard of the ‘keep your friends close, and enemies even closer’ stratagem, inflicted nary a blow on Gillard during his tenure as Education Shadow, despite there not really being any evidence as yet of the uber urgent ‘Education Revolution’. Bowen will likely own him in this role, despite Smith’s not unimpressive ability to interject effectively, sadly, a talent increasingly rare in these bland Parliamentary days. Smith’s other problem is that, with Malcolm wanting as much of the oxygen in this area as possible and Bishop wanting the same, the likelihood of enough trickling down to him is scant. That said, he’s probably grateful he’s got anything at all, and content to spend his time imploring Yaweh to facilitate Saint Peter’s return to the pearly despatch boxes.

Trade, Transport, Regional Development: Mr. Carmel Tebutt v the Invisible Man
As much as anyone to the right of the Labor Left might consider Albo’s politics as unsound as the methods of the fictional Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, he remains the answer to anyone’s prayers seeking to bring back the biff. Some of Albo’s decisions thus far have been worryingly protectionist, such as protecting the flying rodent from increased competition (of even more concern is the fact that this was in keeping with Coalition policy). Other than that, he’s failed to make waves. His primary role is that of the Government’s chief Parliamentary tactician and spokesman on behalf of the Caucus. He acquits himself rather well in that role. His opposite number is Truss, in all his portfolio areas bar infrastructure, where Andrew Robb is likely to own Albo given Labor’s failure to do anything other than talk about its importance, and the rather less sexy shadow local government portfolio held by Scott Morrison. Truss is not the most impressive Parliamentary performer, and despite being Nationals leader, is easily outshone in the agrarian socialist firmament by his Queensylvanian compatriot, Barnaby Joyce. Truss has previously been Minister for much of this portfolio area, having inherited this seat at the Cabinet table upon John Anderson’s staggered retirement. Were he not Leader of the Nationals, it’s hard to see him landing such a role- like most Nationals, he is considered useless by members of both major parties. With respect to Trade, long a Nationals plaything, Truss lines up against the Minister for Junkets to China, Simon Crean. How many trips to Japan, other ASEAN countries, to India, to the states, to the EU has he made? All China, all the time for Zero Sum Simon. Happy hunting Warren.

Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy: Stephen ‘the’ Conroy versus Little Nicky
Along with the Rudd v Turnbull match-up, this is probably the most fascinating. Both are factional heavyweights, though it would be fair to say that in this respect, Minchin is somewhat of a falling star. Both have a reputation for surrounding themselves with good staff (with the notable exception of former Minchin staffer Simon Troeth) and mastering a brief. Both are likely to give as good as they get, aren’t afraid of a fight, and both are bright. While there has been some revisionism in the press gallery in recent days suggesting that Minchin’s move from Defence to Communications isn’t a demotion, it plainly is, although I’ll get to that later. The two are fairly evenly matched, and Conroy must deliver better broadband quickly, lest it go the increasingly non-core way of the Education Revolution. While his previous shadow Bruce Billson is rather brighter and indeed funnier than most give him credit for, for Conroy, having an opponent in the same House (Coonan prior to the last election) whose idea of winning an argument is not to simply talk louder (ibid) will no doubt present him with a new challenge. Both Conroy and Minchin need to deliver for their respective sides. It’s sort of like two taggers playing on each other.

Innovation, Industry, Science and Research: ‘Erica Betz’ v Kim, The Hon. Il Carr
There is something rather unsettling about both of these blokes. Eric Abetz exudes a sort of negative charisma that will remind younger readers of the ‘Stranger Danger’ warnings of yore. Kim Carr, a devotee of three piece suits and accompanying Pringle (either the savoury crisp or designer Scottish jumper, subject to availability), has nostalgic views on industry policy reminiscent of Black Jack McEwen’s. The decline of the manufacturing base in this country has occurred not because Australia has increasingly free, liberalised markets- rather, because Government didn’t do anything in the past decade in identifying or encouraging any sort of competitive advantage for various Australian industries, and considered R&D to be voodoo. Time will tell if Carr is any better beyond industries covered by his hard left friends, particularly the automotive industry, a fixture in Geelong and the northern and Western suburbs of Melbourne in his home state of Victoria. Abetz needs to hammer Carr in the same vein as Minchin, Truss, and countless other Coaliton Shadows must hammer Labor- he must point at the record of the Government as a progenitor of reviews rather than action, and must also make the Coalition more amenable to R&D through tax breaks in order to encourage greater domestic competitiveness and innovation, and development of emerging technologies. Business will love him if he manages it. Note- Abetz retained this portfolio, assigned him in the halcyon Nelson months.

Her Majesty’s Coalition Ship: Robb
Andrew Robb needs no introduction, and shadows no individual Minister, as Oppositions are wont to do. Robb’s blancmange of Infrastructure, COAG, and Shadow Assisting the Leader on Emissions Trading Design parrots Albo for Infrastructure, Faulkner for COAG, and partially removes responsibility for shadowing Wong on emissions trading from Greg Hunt. In some respects, it’s not unlike the mooted quasi-economic portfolio given Stephen Smith once upon a time. Robb is likely to smite Albo, albeit not necessarily by way of Parliamentary repartee. He’s more a darling of the media and policy than that, and will have an opinion piece or three on any number of issues in his new portfolio(s) at the ready. He should have been Shadow Treasurer, or failing that, remained in Shadow Foreign Affairs. However high the likelihood is that he will outshine his main opponent, Albo, Infrastructure is not something that captures the hearts of mind and voters, certainly not federally. Federal Governments, for instance, don’t build better public transport in Sydney, or a new tunnel in Melbourne. Likewise, devising an alternate ETS or proposing a different framework for fiscal federalism are less electorally relevant than, say, performing well in the Treasury portfolio. Further, for the foreseeable future, ETS-related issues will be for Labor not unlike healthcare, education, or public transport; no matter how badly Labor delivers it, voters are likely to prefer Labor’s handling of the issue by default. It’s too nuanced, particularly at this point in the electoral cycle, for someone of Robb’s ability to speak plainly and effectively, to be used in such a way. It is the political equivalent of allocative inefficiency. He’ll do well anywhere he’s put, but really should be doing something more useful.

Sweet FA: Heavyweight Champion Stephen Smith v Featherweight Amateur Helen Coonan
I am probably not alone in thinking that during Question Time, there’s a fair chance the Member for Perth is the smartest man in the room. His intellect and forthrightness are a testament to the fact that there are quality people willing to accept a comparatively modest stipend in politics. He was a highly capable Shadow Education Minister, which more than made up for his sadly lacking performance as Shadow IR Spokesperson. Save for the shit sandwich given him through the continued to refusal to sell Uranium to India (fine to sell it to China, not averse to giving nuclear materials and technology to Pakistan) and the half-cocked, putative Asian Union, both ill-considered millstones originating from the now PM’s office; Robb had begun to get a bit of mileage from the former. Other than occasionally good performances on Lateline, Helen Coonan is fairly unimpressive. While a passable Minister for Revenue/Assistant Treasurer, her Parliamentary career appears to have been typified by her propensity for upping the volume whenever she (regularly) finds herself in a tough position. Compared to both her predecessor, Richard Alston, and successor, Labor’s Stephen Conroy, she was at best a passable Minister for Communications. Her catastrophic failure at managing the Government’s relationship with an increasingly assertive Telstra destroyed any credibility the Coalition had in this policy area. Notwithstanding a few bad policy apples, Foreign Affairs will be a lay down Misère for Labor.

Tanner v Hockey: Finance, Deregulation, and a partridge in a pear tree
Unsurprisingly, Hockey made little no impact whist Ni-Cola Roxon’s shadow. Health is not the Coalition’s strongpoint, and his role as Manager of Opposition Business arguably took precedence. Again, this likeable Liberal will probably struggle to get much of the limelight in view of the need for Turnbull to talk himself up in this area, and for Bishop to do the same. His association with WorkChoices, even as its noticeably softer face, is, like, so 2006… Tanner, a self-espoused thinker regrettably not given to adopting a Rodin pose, is all over his portfolio. If Hockey isn’t made to focus solely on the Opposition game of Question Time Chess, he’ll hold his own. If not, Tanner, not just on account of his ability but the fact that he’s not on a limelight leash, will walk all over him.

Consumer Affairs and Competition Policy: Deja Bowen and Hartsuyker
Unlikely to be much of a contest- not simply because Bowen is rated highly, but also because the Nat many Liberals refer to as ‘Heartsucker’ is not. That said, as anyone watching the election coverage will remember, he’s been written off prematurely before. His other problem is that, particularly with respect to competition policy, this is another area where Labor has more runs on the board than the self-ascribed natural economic managers in the Coalition.

Energy and Resources: Marn v Macfarlane
Mr Personality, the ever-eloquent Martin Ferguson, is now pitted against the arguably demoted Toowoomba MP who lost Trade to Truss. Notwithstanding the Left sub-faction bearing his name, the lode-bearing ice beneath Ferguson remains wafer thin following his role in the FuelWatch debacle earlier in the year. Other than a recently discovered fondness for geothermal power, I’m not quite sure what the non-marvellous Member for Batman has to offer; anyone can take a trip to China and talk about how great it is that we’re increasingly close because we have something to sell that they want to buy. His opposite number, Ian Macfarlane, hardly sets the world alight, but has a better track record than Ferguson does. This is a portfolio that has the potential to be increasingly germane to the Australian polity, as power prices inevitably rise in the near future. Macfarlane to win this one.

Community Services, Housing, Families, and Indigenous Affairs: Mad Macklin v Mad Monk
Abbott is the de facto Shadow of Macklin, with his junior Shadow being former Liberal NSW director, up-and-coming first term MP Scott Morrison, who has carriage of Housing. While Macklin was an astonishingly average Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, she has shown herself to be a perfectly capable Minister, albeit one in many respects outshone by her Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, the Member for Maribyrnong who is pimping is occupational cloud with silver- making the absolute best of his lot. Abbott’s heart simply isn’t in this policy area, and like Robb, he is probably wasted, albeit for different reasons. He has no real scope for the sort of combat he seems to yearn for in this area, as there isn’t a whole lot of daylight between the two major parties at this point in time. He gets bored, and makes stupid comment on a Daily Tele blog. He likes a fight, not really caring so much what the subject of the stoush may be. Abbott instantly loses this contest, on account of asphyxiation caused by a rare case of concurrent bi-pedal foot-in-mouth.

My Kingdom for a House: Plibersek v Morrison
Plibersek is in trouble, however presentable a performer she may be, because Scott Morrison is no shrinking Belinda Neal. Morrison is an amiable, hardworking and conscientious MP who will go far.
Labor needs to do more to look after its flock in an area that is traditionally one of its core social concerns, an issue that is particularly prevalent in the present housing market.
Special Minister of State & Cabinet Secretary: Ronno, in the Estimates room, with the Butler
Michael Ronaldson really isn’t that bad a bloke. Any polly who regularly flies in Economy without complaint and isn’t 100% caught up in the lifestyle of being an MP is well on the road to recovery. The fairly cutting remarks about Rudd in Estimates have set the tone for Ronno this year- he’s bound to excel, in language the punters can understand. His opposite number, John Faulkner, was considered by some a confidante of Rudd’s, but is rumored to have joined an increasingly long and distinguished list of those to whom the Rudd no longer listens as much as the jilted party would like. Faulkner is quite experienced and capable, although for many, his eagerness to conduct the Latham experiment and bizarre pursuit of staff and other entitlements cuts are cause for considerable concern. Both are likely to perform well in their roles, although Ronno is certainly better at a grab.

Human Services: Ludwig v Scullion
No contest- while ‘colorful’ NT politicians make Canberra pubs and bars all the more interesting, Joe Ludwig is a highly competent individual who rests not on the family laurels (papa Bill is the highly influential Imperator of the AWU) who will wipe the floor with the NT CLP deposed Nationals Senate Leader. That and it’s really not an issue that the Coalition handle all that well. Scullion’s main claim to fame is his fondness for Russian strip clubs, and being photographed in them sans clothes, and tied up.

Climate Change, Environment, and Water: Greg ‘we didn’t start the drought’ Hunt, Wong, and Garrett
Along with Gillard and Smith, Wong is probably the best Labor performer on her feet, mastering detail with ease. Hunt is Shadow to both the Senator for South Australia and the gaffe-prone Garrett. A Yale alumnus, Hunt is a quite sharp, but like his Leader, suffers from an appearance of being overly convinced of his own self worth. His propensity for running his own policy agenda is reminiscent of Malcolm Turnbull’s tax-related undermining of Peter Costello. With Robb now responsible for the ETS legwork, it is conceivable that Hunt might stick to doing what he’s told. Garrett, never comfortable as the technocrat, has been a much better performer since the demerger of the portfolio responsibilities with Wong. While Hunt is perfectly capable, Garrett, provided he stays on message, is too. The issues attendant to the water component of the portfolio can’t really help the Coalition, given their tendency to proclaim until last year that water was a problem the States failed to resolve, and is now something that Canberra must urgently fix. The best the Coalition can hope for is probably a draw, and even then, probably only if the perception of Labor inaction takes hold.

Health: Roxon to meet her match in Dutton
Nicola Roxon, beloved by all, has looked shaken amidst the first challenge she’s faced with the rejection of the Government’s Medicare plans by the Senate. Overall, she’s performed a lot better than most would’ve expected, generally acquitting her role with minimum fuss. That said, her former Shadow, Hockey, hadn’t really gone her since Nicola became Honourable. Peter Dutton, the ambitious and very nearly former Member for Dickson, is as capable as Gellibrand is safe, and as aggressive as the thinning of Phillip Coorey’s mane. Roxon finds herself opposed by a Shadow as hungry and capable as she was in that position, and it will be interesting to see who wins out- for a Liberal ‘win’ in this area, all they really need to do is look competitive. Dutton in a possible upset draw.

Ageing: May v Elliott
Margaret May, who in the last five years of the Howard Government rose to the stellar heights of Chair of the House Standing Committee on Procedure, cannot possibly be worse than Justine Elliott, the most bumbling steward of the Ageing portfolio since Bronwyn Bishop, scourge of Comcar drivers and bathing nursing home residents everywhere. Elliott is a fairly obvious chink in Labor’s armor. Given the paradox whereby both Labor and the Coalition maintain a Health and Ageing spokesperson and a supplementary Health spokesperson, perhaps Hockey will go for Elliott’s jugular, given May seems a most unlikely protagonist.

Defence: Joel Fitzgibbon v David Johnston
Joel Fitzgibbon will be thanking his lucky stars that Nick Minchin has lost the Shadow role to David ‘let’s put a camera on every street’ Johnston. Fitzgibbon, despite having had some senior staffing issues throughout his term, and who remains unsound in the eyes of most in the Right given his association with the former Labor leader that joins his fellow traveler John Hewson in the pages of the Fin Review, has been relatively gaffe-free in his time as Minister for Defence, with the obvious exception of the jaunt with his mate on RAAF aircraft. Johnston, a fan of (non-Chinese) CCTV cameras while briefly Minister for Justice and Customs, is a lightweight, who has thus far insanely suggested that Australia blindly acquire the F-35 JSF at a cost of $20 billion plus on the basis that there is no other option. Anyone that knows anything about defence knows that this is not the case. Those on the Labor side seething that Fitzgibbon occupies such a plum post would do well to remember that Howard went through Defence Ministers in his first couple of terms like a hot knife through butter, and that they were particularly capable of stuffing up. There’s nothing wrong with coveting Fitzgibbon’s post, but his performance post-Latham, unlike other fellow travelers like the Crean, has actually been quite good. Johnston is a bit like Ronno without the ability to tone down the ego and speak plainly (at the same time), and will struggle to cut through, not least because this is an issue that punters hardly follow in the first place. I would never have contemplated saying this a year ago, but Labor is probably likely to own the Coalition on Defence for the foreseeable future.

Defence Science and Personnel: Warren ‘Scores’ Snowdon v Blob Baldwin
Snowdon, like Elliott, is considered by many a lottery winner on an untold scale. Blob Baldwin doesn’t belong on the Coalition front bench, beyond the obvious space benefits it affords the ample gentleman. Any exchange between these two will probably be like watching two one-footed seagulls squabbling over a crust. Remember, the ‘l’ is silent.

Veteran’s Affairs: Alan Griffin v Louise Markus
Griffo had done well with his portfolio up until the point that he suggested Long Tan veterans pay for their medals. Nice. One half of the prospective Dancing with the Stars Griffin-Jennings duo that is struggling to perfect the soft left waltz, Griffo is capable but needs to perfect his technique. Perhaps he’d rediscover it by frequenting, once more, his Canberra liquid haunts of yore. Louise Markus, a former Social Worker elected to represent Greenway as a result of the Latham-related Liberal high water mark, has a reputation as a hard worker. Griffo’s battle to lose, although given the failure of the Coalition to treat many Veterans- particularly many in the Vietnam Vet category- it is difficult to readily identify how Markus would have much to say in the near term.

Education, Apprenticeships and Training: Gillard v Chrissy Pyne
This will be a non-starter. Christopher Pyne thinks this is a role a step-up from Shadow Justice and Customs, a key position in the big game against Gillard. Let me be clear- Gillard is likely to win this battle by a margin reminiscent of the Battle of Midway. Pyne’s shrill manner will make him look weak against the plain-speaking, measured, effective Gillard. He has opted out of the frying pan of Shadow Outer Ministry relevance deprivation syndrome, and is not just into the fire, rather, he is surely now envisioning himself being spit roasted. His only hope at saving face is to question the extent to which Labor’s perceptible rollback of the urgency of its ‘Education Revolution’ will continue, and what concrete improvements in this area they’ve made thus far.

Early Childhood Education, Childcare, Women and Youth: McKew, Plibersek, and Ellis v HRH Sophie Mirabella
Sophie is so capable that Labor needs two Ministers and a Parliamentary Secretary to take her on. Three against one. And we all know who will win this contest. The very model of a Wangaratta homemaker, Sophie will take the fight to McKew, only a Parly Sec but crucially positioned in DPM&C, with her new found expertise in the childcare-related areas. The Women part of the portfolio has Sophie shadowing Tanya Plibersek; fear not, Sophie is no feminist, and will ensure that women receive no special treatment. She’s gotten there not because of her lipstick, but because of a generous application of elbow grease. As for Kate Ellis- well, I’m sorry Kate, but you’ve met your match. Truly, Sophie is the unchallenged Venus of the House of Representatives, and her fondness for youth has manifested itself in her determined, leading advocacy for Voluntary Student Unionism. With Sophie, the only way is up.

AG: Not just German for Public Company- Robert McClelland v George ‘call me SC’ Brandis
Like Eric Abetz, Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis exudes an unsavoury vibe. Robert McClelland, who installed an unwelcome level of nuance to Labor’s foreign policy platform when Shadow FA last year (think Bali Bombers and the Death Penalty), has generally acquitted himself well as Attorney-General. The appointment of the new Chief Justice, Robert French, decided at Cabinet level, was reportedly not the course McClelland wished to take. However bright Brandis is, like so many other Shadows, he is very much convinced of his own self-worth and acts as though he is in Government. For McClelland, perfectly capable of delivering the lines he’s given, the number one question mark over his future is how long it will be before Victorian silk Mark Dreyfus garners the factional and KRudd support to match his obvious ability in this policy area, and the extent to which geographical and factional quotas remain in play.

Home Affairs/Justice and Customs: Debus gets a Ley
Bob Debus knocked off Howard’s Chief Government Whip Kerry Bartlett at the last election, and has held eleven NSW state portfolios, including Arts and Emergency services twice, with seven years as NSW Attorney-General. At 65, it is unlikely Debus will contest the next election, or failing that, put his hand up for the portfolio once more. The Albury-based Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, traded Shadow Housing and Status of Women for the Coalition’s more orthodox take on the portfolio, Justice and Customs. Debus is highly competent but isn’t setting the world alight. This is a quintessentially low-intensity portfolio. Ley is presentable enough, but isn’t really on Debus’ level. In the eyes of those on the Treasury benches, her main claim to fame one way or the other is her staunchly pro-Palestinian views, just the message Malcolm will want to send to the good burghers of Wentworth. She has received the Alan Ramsey seal of approval for her opinions, which is surely a political kiss of death.

Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry: Tony ‘Skywalker’ Burke and John ‘Corn on, the’ Cobb
Tony Burke is considered by many to be the great white hope of the NSW Right. Increasingly, his colleague Chris Bowen is seen as a contender for that role. Either way, Burke is a highly intelligent and engaging Parliamentarian who excelled as Shadow Immigration Minister. Cobb, a Nat, moved from his seat of Parkes to contest Calare following a favourable redistribution in that seat, formerly occupied by the late Independent Member, Peter Andren. Said to be a decent bloke, he was demoted from successive junior Ministries in the dying days of the Howard era to ‘Assistant Minister for Environment and Water Resources’, a Parly Sec position by any other name.

Employment and Workplace Relations: Gillard v Keenan
Keenan, a second term WA Liberal MP, has done so well out of the Liberals being in Opposition they’re likely to charge him with war profiteering. From backbencher twelve months ago, to Shadow Assistant Treasurer, to shadowing the Government’s most impressive Parliamentary performer, Keenan is taking it all in his stride. Keenan appears rather less self absorbed and is certainly less effete than Gillard’s other Shadow, Christopher Pyne, and will probably perform substantially better than his South Australian colleague. There is much to be said for seeking a clean skin Shadow, around which a new policy façade can be erected. My prediction- Keenan to land the occasional blow on Gillard, with a new Liberal policy platform to be prepared no later than early next year (possibly released later than that), ahead of a prospective federal election in the third or fourth quarter.

Employment Participation, Training, and Sport: Brendan O’Connor and the Gorton experience featuring Andrew Southcott
Southcott, the Member for the Adelaide seat of Boothby, has his Chairmanship of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties as his main claim to ‘fame’. Brendan O’Connor, Minister for the imaginatively titled ‘Employment Participation’, is a former Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union and Gillard ally, and was quite active as Gillard’s Shadow Parly Sec prior to the election, but has been comparatively quiet since. Southcott’s stuffy but bright, and Brendan’s bright but hasn’t been given much limelight. Southcott shadows Kate Ellis in Sport, an area in which the driven and photogenic Member for Adelaide will walk all over him.

Immigration and Citizenship: Chris Evans v Sharman Stone
Chris Evans in a landslide. In the entire time Stone was a Minister, I can’t recall her even answering a question once, maybe twice. She is reported not to be overly staff-friendly. Evans, Leader of the Government in the Senate, is a star Labor performer, and has been particularly active in his portfolio. Not entirely sure why Stone is in the Shadow Ministry.

Small Business, Independent Contractors, Tourism and the Arts: Craig Emerson v Steve of Ciobo
Steve Ciobo gets to Shadow Craig Emerson in Small Business and with Independent Contractors, Marn Ferguson in Tourism, and Garrett in the Arts. Unlike many of the overly self-confident Liberal frontbench, Ciobo’s abilities and estimation of himself are on a relatively similar plane. While Emerson will master him in policy debates, Ciobo may well score a few hits in Parliament. Given the location of his electorate of Moncrieff, he has every chance of making Tourism his own- Marn can’t be everywhere. As for Shadow Arts Minister, not really sure what you have to do for that. Attend cocktail parties and munch hard on taxpayer funded canapés. Chubby Ciobo is well suited to the task.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “MATCH-UPS: Club Fed dream teams for the 2010 Grand Final

  1. Anon.

    Days late and nothing insightful to say. What did U bother?

  2. Anonymous

    Only person that’s bothered to analyse the outer cabinet matches- v. interesting.

  3. i suspect pyne will be a little more clever and strategic than u suspect, christian. julia’s “education revolution” is a big juicy target.

  4. Lex

    No mention of the AG’s enormous gaffe after the first verdict in the terror trial? Sure, he can “deliver the line” he’s given, the point is, does he understand it? Dryfus runs rings around him.

    Also no mention of the shadow AG’s admirable fight within his own party to pass the Kirby superannuation reforms.

  5. Anonymous

    just to set the record straight- queen’s birthday is collingwood v melbourne, ANZAC day actually IS collingwood v essendon

  6. Anon

    1355, think the point might have been that it’s now back to being a good game.

  7. Little Pete

    Tony Smith was up against Tanner on Ten News this morning and it’s bloody eery how much he speaaks, acts, breathes like Costello.

    Polly want a cracker?

  8. Jim

    Truss has a keen attention for detail, he will run rings around the inarticulate Albanese who hasn’t been to the dentist for yonks. That’s why Malcolm saw fit to give him an extra portfolio.

  9. A few more matchups please

    What about the parly secs. I see some new faces on the Liberal team…can you tell us anything about them?

  10. Reality cheque

    You’re right. Truss has such a keen attention to detail that he’s managed to conceal this ability from most of his Coalition partyroom colleagues over the years.

    Yeah. That’s why Malcolm saw fit to give him an extra portfolio.

  11. Aged Care

    There has to be a quota from the Nats. Giving airhead Warren an extra portfolio might keep him so busy he can’t cause any more harm.

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