How is it possible that a highly accomplished, well presented person in the form of Julie Bishop has emerged as the biggest joke in Australian politics? Is this just another case of politics being absurdly tough and cruel?
The Sydney Morning Herald today stuck the boot in, reporting on dissatisfaction over her woeful performance as Shadow Treasurer. Yesterday, it was Steve Lewis in his nationally syndicated column in News Ltd. publications.
It might not shock you to learn that when scribes in the Gallery write these kind of pieces at the same time that there’s a co-ordinated campaign against her from someone determined to move her on.
PUSHY JOE UP TO NO GOOD
Bishop’s supporters – usually WA MP’s and a few who enjoy her flirting attentions – blame pushy Sydney spiv, Rudd’s one-time mate and Liberal Lefty Joe Hockey for hanging around the Gallery like a bad smell and trying to “white-ant” her.
But to be fair, he’s had plenty of material.
Liberal sources remind us that on paper, Julie Bishop should have been a tremendous success as Liberal Deputy Leader. A senior lawyer from a big national law firm (managing partner of Clayton Utz no less), she looks the part, reputedly an assiduous networker and serious internal political player in the West, a former cabinet minister, she has a very strong CV. On paper, she’s perfect.
In practice, she’s unfit to speak for the Liberal Party on economic matters. She’s just not up to it.
WELL COIFFED DUMB-ASS
She says stupid, ill-considered things. All the time.
Bishop said the government’s policy in response to the looming recession ought to have been to “sit and wait to see”. There is a huge issue about the timing of the stimulus. But that’s a pretty stupid way of putting it. It sounded dumb. A consistent theme, as we’ll see.
The former big law firm partner who probably parted with a job with a net present value at the time in the millions to go into politics most of the time appears like a total nuff nuff.
She acts inappropriately in the house, complete with catty hand gestures and face-pulling of a kind not even allowed in state environment minister Gavin Jennings office.
Her few questions in QT rarely trouble the government at all. Often times, she doesn’t ask anything. Her performance is so bad it apparently led one of the disrespectful surly Gallery bad-asses to ask:
“Are you a shadow Treasurer or a shadow?”
Nasty but fair in the circumstances.
We’re sure she’s smart – she couldn’t have been managing partner at Clayton Utz otherwise one concludes – but she acts so dumb.
TIME TO GIVE HER THE AXE
There’ve been more embarrassments than showing up to one of Danny Nalliah’s Catch the Fire services wearing pink hot pants. Embarrassments over on-again off-again strategies over Workchoices changes.
A disturbingly embarrassing performance on Good News Week where she admitted the following according to one observer:
Paul (McDermott) then asked Julie what’s the most embarrassing thing she will admit on TV and she told a very weird story about being the youngest sister and one day her 2 oldest sisters were on the swings and wouldn’t let Julie have a turn no matter how much she she cried or screamed so she went to shed and grabbed an axe and started hacking at the swings. Her mum came out and said “Julie put the axe down, girls get off the swings. This prompted Claire Hooper to say “I hope Malcolm knows this story”
An axe attack? Jeez and I thought my sister was mean to me… Hopefully the Shadow won’t fess up to any arson offences, in the current climate.
COPY-CAT’S NAUGHTY CORNER
Even sadder were the two outrageous incidents of plagiarism that Bishop and her staff engaged in and were caught within the space of a month.
She blamed her staff, that’s what good staff are there for, as Gordon Lennox could testify (insider’s joke there).
But if she can’t govern her small staff as Shadow Treasurer, how can she govern our $1.2 trillion economy?
In the Google age, plagiarism is so easy to detect and commit that it is becoming the exclusive province of the completely reckless or psychotic who want to be caught and punished. Learn to paraphrase, people, it is the lifeblood of modern journalism. Except here, of course. We are yet to find authors with sufficient wit and refinement worthy of giving our CTRL-X CTRL-V love to just yet. Enough about me, back to Barbie.
For a while, leaks were coming the Opposition’s way from Treasury. They’re drying up now. Did any of them get sent to the Shadow Treasurer? Nope. According to Liberal sources, they say not one went her way. They clearly don’t ever anticipate her ever being their Minister anytime soon.
Malcolm Turnbull has kept emphasising the benefits of bipartisanship. Bishop when asked about it said bi-partisanship was “over-rated.”
Malcolm Turnbull says not unreasonably there’s no evidence the cash splash before Christmas for pensioners created a single job. Bishop told Laurie Oakes though that she thought giving them money “would stimulate the economy, that’s true.”
Perhaps she’d be able to shine in a less demanding portfolio than Treasury. She only seemed to take the gig in the first place to prove that she was a serious player. All she proved is how unforgiving and cruel public life can be.
Despite having everything going for her, she looks totally out of her depth.
She is the Liberals most senior woman and will therefore always be compared with Labor’s most senior woman Gillard, who we say with little enthusiasm usually appears like the most assured, confident and competent of all the ministers.
Partly that’s a function of her choosing her portfolios well.
She basically chose everything she was interested in and had a strong background in, industrial relations, education and various do-gooder policy areas called social inclusion.
She stuck to her strengths and looks so masterful in Question Time, it’s almost Thatcheresque. (High praise, at least here)
She didn’t feel the need to prove her manhood by taking on Treasury, a portfolio that made even Paul Keating look a bit clueless in his first six months, it is said.
He went on to become the most radically reforming economic minister we’ve probably ever had of course but what he made look easy is clearly beyond most of us mere mortals.
Wayne Swan is one of the smartest people in Canberra and Treasury has tested him, especially initially. Time will tell whether he’s got it right.
TIME TO CHANGE
But Bishop has been nothing less than a rolled-gold, absolute disaster from the start. And she’s got progressively worse and more embarrassing with each passing day.
Hockey has been agitating for the gig, so maybe that means he’ll miss out.
He’s also from Sydney so appointing him might make the Libs look a little Sin-City centric with both Mal of the eastern burbs and Joe of the north shore taking on the two most senior roles.
Conventional wisdom says Andrew Robb, but he’s such a dour and ordinary chap in our opinion. And he has a weird hair-cut that we believe has been in part inspired by an episode of the Monkees, a show mercifully no longer televised.
Robb is a safe bet in a way but we think – well we admit we usually always think – it’s time for a gamble. Go hard or go home.
We say that if you want someone with the hide of a rhino, an occasionally adept turn of phrase and a slightly chilling Aryan appearance that might scare Labor straight, Turnbull should turn to the rising star Tony Smith.
Smith worked for Peter Costello for a very long time and knows the Treasury gig like the back of his hand. He is indeed the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, a rather pointless role for him unless it’s to prepare him for something bigger.
Bishop has to go. If Cossie doesn’t want it and of course he doesn’t, he wants to be Leader again when Malcolm stumbles, then the answer is Smith.
A younger pugilist than prize fighter Swan, he’s not afraid to go low to win while looking all pious and serious while doing so.
In fact those who know Smith’s mongrel well say that a Mike Tyson style ear-bite wouldn’t be completely out of the question. He’s bad to the bone.
With an election potentially as early as this year, a looming recession that at this stage perversely appears to be helping the incumbent and polls showing the Libs could go backwards even in the large Labor crater left in NSW by an unpopular and occasionally sadly farcical ALP regime, it might be that Turnbull needs to skip a generation to find some people with real hunger to snatch government back right now.
He probably won’t – he demoted Smith last reshuffle after all – but he should.
The biggest risk is not to take any.
And if he doesn’t or can’t or won’t get rid of his Bishop, he’ll end up looking like a hopeless pawn constrained by a narrow party room win in an Opposition that still hasn’t processed that real pain and sacrifice is almost always a condition precedent to victory, in any pursuit.
Shortly after being elected Bishop told the ABC’s Insiders that she’d just moved into the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s office:
MICHAEL BOWERS: Well look, it’s been a great pleasure talking to you this morning. Thanks very much for taking the time and letting us in. It’s a bit minimalist, I’ve got to say. It feels like you haven’t sort of moved in properly yet.
JULIE BISHOP: I’m getting used to it, but only for a short while.
Possibly prophetic words. For all the wrong reasons.