While in both cases, the margin in federal and state Parliament is wafer thin, it seems very unlikely Labor would lose either seat, meaning there’d be no change to the dynamic in either lower house.
John Brumby has had a good innings and in our view was a top-notch Premier and state Treasurer. So responsible an economic manager was he that he refused to commit to spending promises that werenâ€™t properly costed and deliverable without blowing the stateâ€™s AAA credit rating. His opponent wasnâ€™t nearly that careful â€“ apparently even promising Victorian teachers would become the highest paid in the nation â€“ and will no doubt end up with more broken promises and broken hearts than Julian Assange left behind bedded and betrayed once-admiring Wikileaks female undergraduate groupies who thought they were the only one.
But JBâ€™s statement to caucus colleagues that he plans to stick around for the full four-year term is a mistake for him personally. So too is it a mistake if rumoured efforts on his part to influence the preselection of his successor in his safe seat of Broadmeadows are correct. Conspiracy theories abound about this including plots relating to celebrity candidates, defeated MPs, local warlords, golden parachute-seeking state secretaries and so on. Itâ€™s a â€œleadership seatâ€ some say (because two previous Labor leaders occupied it). Brumby is a legendary mind-f*cker and political game-player. He loves it, insiders say, even just to watch nervous-nellies jumping around in fear and awe. And while thatâ€™s fine, we worry that itâ€™s not really of much use for a man who â€“ like Kennett before him – deserved a better election result than he got and now deserves a peaceful, prosperous retirement. Caucus observers tell VEXNEWS he didn’t exactly seemed thrilled to be there the other day and the imminent one-day session of Parliament on December 21st Â will hardly be the happiest occasion for him.
Whatever happens with his succession in Broady, fans of JB think he should be moving on and looking forward not worrying about his political legacy but worrying about the first day of the rest of his life. We have been tough in our criticism of Brumbyâ€™s crew in the past but the truth is they left the state stronger, safer and more prosperous than it was when they started and thatâ€™s certainly more than the previous Labor regime did. And they managed a strong record â€“ as Kennett did â€“ without all the disruption and carnage (and fast-ride thrills it must be said) the Libs sometimes laid on under the crazy-brave Jeff Kennett.
And those dumping the criticism of election disappointment on the campaign and campaign strategists or even on Brumby personally are only half-right. All the data supports the conclusion that voters felt it â€œwas time for a changeâ€ after 11 years in government and that was clearly the single biggest factor in unseating Brumby. If just two seats and a few hundred votes went the other way, the interpretation of exactly the same phenomena would be radically different from what currently prevails in political know-all circles.
His opponent promised the world. And any salesman knows itâ€™s easy to sell anything if you exaggerate the benefits of what you’re selling as long as you donâ€™t care about the backlash after the deal turns sour. And thatâ€™s the Liberal challenge now, to manage down expectations, draw on the goodwill and tolerance of the community and hope they get away with it. Many Liberals we know are not optimistic about this.
In Canberra, Rudd remains a distraction and a nuisance. This week, we were reminded powerfully of his best and worst, courtesy of the Wikileaks leaked US diplomatic “cables”.
His private views on the world are essentially the same as ours. Rudd is a patriot. His encouragement of the US to prepare for the worst with China was bold, brave and wise. The Chinese people are a great force for good in the world; their unelected regime is a menace, a threat to its neighbours and something the world’s democracies need to manage carefully.
But as sound as you can hope for in modern politics, Ruddâ€™s also a neurotic bully who while standing for good things appears not to be a good man.
He knows China well. So well we doubt there could be a better person in the West to inform us how to deal with them.
But his inability to play nicely with others alienated and presumably still alienates those who should be Australiaâ€™s and Ruddâ€™s closest friends and allies.
The subtext of those Wikileaks leaked cables from US diplomats about Rudd is that heâ€™s a complete bastard, even if he appears to be a mostly US-sympathetic bastard.
Itâ€™s far from the ideal situation for Australiaâ€™s Foreign Minister to be in. Heâ€™s the friend youâ€™re scared to have.
And many in Canberra wonder why he persists. His former staff think they know the answer: he actively plans to be leader and PM again.
A bizarre and weird notion, weâ€™ll admit, but they are adamant thatâ€™s exactly what the deluded undiplomatic diplomat has in mind. Even though during his PMship he treated caucus members in the most abusive way they’d copped since the psychotic Doc Evatt split the party, he has resumed his charm offensive on some caucus members, recently hosting a drinks in his office for some and generally making nice with that small section of the caucus he hasnâ€™t pegged as traitors or plotters against him. He still gives the silent treatment to many of his most senior caucus colleagues, we are reliably told.
Itâ€™s all rather agonising and demeaning though. Heâ€™s about as welcome in the federal caucus as a fart in a sleeping bag. Everyone wishes it wasnâ€™t there but they are desperately afraid of the consequences of releasing the foul scent.
Realistically though, would his seat fall in a by-election? Probably not, even in this messy political environment. We suspect the government could enter into an arrangement with independent MP Bob Katter to protect supply during the by-election period and possibly afterwards too. Katter likes Rudd apparently and would probably be open to assisting him to depart with dignity. In terms of holding the seat of Griffith (which Rudd won from the Liberals initially), Labor could make the argument that a vote for the Liberals is a vote for yet another federal election. With that argument, they could win in a landslide, no matter how much damage Anna Bligh has done to Labor’s reputation in Queensland.
Would Rudd do a Latham, write a nasty tell-some book that squared-up with all his enemies and then follow the PM around with a Nine Network camera crew and a Xanax-carrying producer in tow? Probably not, heâ€™s a wealthy man with plenty of internationalist enthusiasms he could pursue to keep him very busy. And while heâ€™s clearly a vengeful chap, he might not be so keen on being seen to be so at his local Anglican place of worship. If Latham worships anything other than himself, it probably has horns, so he hasn’t felt the same conflict.
Politics is addictive. The stakes are high. It is important. Some canâ€™t get enough of it, a fact proven by the very existence of this increasingly popular online publication.
But itâ€™s time Rudd and Brumby moved on. Both have made a substantial contribution to public life and it would best for them and best for the country they so devotedly served that we focus on that and not a painfully slow, tricky and self-indulgent departure.