What’s so good about Costello anyway?

OK, I give in. Can someone tell me why Peter Costello would be any good as Opposition leader (other than the fact the press gallery obviously like the idea, which I acknowledge is not something to be sneezed at when a party is deciding on leader)?

Some years ago, I remember endless media speculation about the condition of Tony Lockett’s groin and whether it might stop him playing in some crucial footy finals. It got a bit tiresome after a while, but at least everybody knew Lockett could kick lots of goals when he played in his preferred position.

The weeks and weeks and WEEKS of tea leaf reading about whether Peter Costello actually wants to take on the Liberal leadership has mostly ignored any meaningful consideration of whether he’d be likely to be any good at it.

Having been an electorally unsuccessful leader of a political party, I’m well aware of how easy it is to just have fun taking cheap shots at somebody and ignore the situation they have to operate on.  I also REALLY hate the way media focuses incessantly on personalities and internal party contests and intrigue. Apart from anything else, it diverts attention from analysing the substance of policies and the impact those policies will have on people in the real world.

I also don’t particularly care who the federal Liberal Party decides should be their leader. I am interested in their policies, and especially at how they vote on issues in the Parliament – and particularly in the Senate – where the decisions made actually affect peoples’ lives.

BUT, given the Liberals seem to have a different view from one day to the next as to what their positions are on many key issues, and also seem to have done nothing to stop literally months of empty gossip about what Peter Costello might or might not be doing in regard to their party leadership, eventually one has to look at what it is that people think might be so appealing about him (apart from not being Brendan Nelson, but there’s a whole bunch of Liberal MPs who fit that description).

I had very little direct contact with Peter Costello during my decade or so in the Senate. The portfolios I held usually didn’t touch directly on Treasury matters, and during the time I was party leader, if an issue was important enough, I dealt directly with the Prime Minister rather than his party’s deputy.  But the second hand feedback I got from a range of colleagues with more direct and regular contact didn’t give me any reason to see him as particularly capable compared to many of his own colleagues. Like many lawyers, he was fine at arguing his brief, but when it came to trying to taking on board different views or shifting outside the spin/brief and considering other angles, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly special there.

This was consistent with his occasional attempts to publicly stake out some views outside his Treasury brief, which seemed to me to be little better than B-grade talkback radio stuff.

Apparently, he used to be quite entertaining in attacking the (then) Opposition when countering their questions Question Time, but given that (a) Question Time is largely a vacuous piece of vaudeville which gives no indication of whether a questioner really has a grasp of policy detail (I can’t imagine why the Press Gallery find it so important), and more importantly (b) his party is now in Opposition and has to ask rather than ‘answer’ the questions, I’m not sure how that demonstrates sufficient merit for turning around public opinion about the ‘Liberal’ Party.

Given the immense difficulties and very hard slog of being in Opposition (particularly after a long period in government) some of the current Liberal frontbenchers have performed reasonably well doing what politicians have to do. It is the Liberal’s business who they pick, so I don’t pretend to give them advice. I must say I don’t greatly care in any case – I want to see their policies and actions, not jockeying or leadership. But whatever they’re going to do, I do wish they’d get on with it so we could more focus not only on their policies, but on some of the areas where the Labor government is falling short. Perhaps once the new Senate starts sitting next week, we’ll get a bit more focus on substance rather than sideshows.

PS I might add that I never really bought into the whole narrative that Peter Costello was weak not to challenge John Howard for the leadership. That view is bit too much driven by the ‘politics as combat sport’ narrative for my liking. Most people (not just the press gallery) love the drama of a contest, and Keating’s ‘crash or crash through’ approach had a lot of drama to it. However, it was high risk and generated a lot of damage, justifiable only because the Hawke government was flagging quite badly. The Howard government was never travelling that badly – except perhaps in its final year when a Keating style ‘two strike’ strategy wouldn’t have worked.  Costello never had the numbers (and nor did Keating first time around, and only just the second time around), and could only have got them by basically threatening to continue doing enormous damage to the party unless people eventually supported him. You could say he was weak for adopting that strategy, or you could say he put the stability of his government and his party ahead of his own personal ambition – I’m more inclined to the second view, even though it’s far less more dramatic and more boring. However, none of that applies to what he is doing now, which to me just seems to be letting his party continue to bleed while he engages in a bit of self-indulgent payback for his party not supporting him earlier.

In any case, it still doesn’t answer the question about what evidence there is that he’s shown himself to have more capacity for the job than any of the other Liberal MPs in the Parliament.

Having said that, I’m not going to fall into the trap that I’m complaining about and go on and on about it. I won’t mention Liberal leadership contests again.

ELSEWHERE: Kim at LP vents her frustrations at the media coverage on the issue.

Piping Shrike’s view on the issue – from a few weeks ago, but just as current now

UPDATE (1/10) Another underwhelming Costello commentary

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  1. A couple years ago I read Shaun Carney’s bio of Peter Costello and that suggested he has the right sort of ideas.

    The media has been saying Costello said he will quit politics, not ever, has he said that, the media just interpreted his words that way. If you can find the original article, it will show that he did not say that.

    I have always believed he’s going to let the Libs run to the next election, if they lose and then put forward the challenge he hasn’t been game to at this point.

  2. Costello,Andrew has about 10 times more ability than you or I.He has the track record but I don’t know if he still has the passion.

  3. Yea, on one level it’s a mystery. I guess journos (and maybe Costello?) can’t let go of the idea that it’s his destiny to be PM. It seems mysterious – but I was talking to a milk bar owner last week and she was adamant Costello would win, because people have him to thank for the good economy that Labor is ruining. I’m paraphrasing her there – but it’s probably a representative view among likely Liberal voters. He has ‘something’ that appeals to the base.

    Historically, and perhaps a little ironically, leadership plays a very important role in the Liberal Party’s image of itself and its success/failure. Some might say Labor seems to have gone that way too.

  4. How can anyone come to a site like this and just dump on you themselves for this being called Costello!? I felt Andrew’s description of him was pretty good,and seeing no-one actually represents my views really in any House of Parliament it is refreshing to find someone who has been partially there and done that,actually still able to access real factual observational matters than hype.Costello attracts a certain type of following because he was able to access some parts of his personality ,that is not necessarily the basic skills of the man.When the ALP is noisy,the loudest voice gets the following,a now scientifically ascribed thing to how to achieve leadership in some circumstances.The more insistent and loud achieves the results of leadership.However it may not be the same for everyone else.I dont know wether Peter Costello would be better than me under some circumstances,but I’ll concede this, that he has achieved what he may of wanted to achieve in part,so that blinds many to the real factual account of wether or not the claims within the achievements are matters of personality alone.He psyched out Labor for a long time because Keating was the big noise.That was a easy challenge,and probably worth taking up,by anyone who couldn’t stand him.I guess when Gough goes,it will be Keating’s duty to always claim matters that are the distinct quality of claims and not much else.

  5. You may be right Arjay – but then neither you or I are being put forward as the alternative Prime Minister.

    All I’m asking for is what the evidence is to suggest he is well suited for that role, as I haven’t seen much to demonstrate it.

  6. I see Keating has been to a writer’s festival,recently new ground for the ALP in claiming some worthiness as intellectuals,that is books and writings.Latham, Keating the Beazer, Hawke,Rudd Carr,ah, the power of mind,from selected accounts to say and prove something about self ,whilst discarding others! And if you find some fault with the biographers,it is likely the book fanatisistsa have decided what they know must be discounted.So even Humphrey B. Bear could go to a Writer’s Festival and hand out little bits of himself and any subject,and if he was ALP pleasant applause would follow.So under Keating the amassed consumers learnt ,first hand, from the horses mouth that is, that Keating could of saved the world from Nuke Weapons accept a large percentage of the population voted them out,that is the ALP.What else do we need to know besides that,to safeguard ourselves from the timeline,where they didn’t feel his Godly intentions!?Perhaps Brack at a writer’s festival,answering questions of how come,someone like him can run a as Premier without computer skills,whilst people around the same age as him when Paul God was in power were erstwhile threatened to be booted off unemployment benefits!?

  7. Nah, I can’t see the appeal either. I’d imagine it’s all down to Liberal Party desperation that they’re considering bringing in Captain Smirk’n’Sulk, known for never having had the ticker.

    I still remember news reports from before the 2000 Olympics, before even the walk across the Harbour Bridge, where he’d promised to broaden his profile and speak out on issues he cared about. I gather it was all about positioning him a little bit closer to the small-l “liberal” stuff that appears in their party’s charter rather than the hard-line free market racist stuff Howard’s party was turning into. It vanished like a puff of smoke in a gale. When given a platform, he had nothing to say. I can’t see it being any different if he became leader today.

  8. If we were talking about Tim Costello I might get it but Pete didn’t put one policy to the parliament in his years as treasurer, he made no reforms of any kind and had not a clue about social policies.

    He believed what the short man told him without question and let the man with the eyebrows grow into a dictator. He thought locking up kids was fine and never went to a concentration camp to see for himself. He voted to murder Iraqis and I doubt if he ever met one.

    It’s funny that he seems to think he should be handed the job as if he lives in a monarchy in reality instead of just the constitution. As if he was Howard’s son or something.

    Can’t stand the man. He is a loud, crowing bully and nothing else.

  9. Marilyn: Seems that you liked neither the short man, the man with the eyebrows, fatherly John Howard, nor even the longest serving treasurer in the history of federal parliament.

    Not saying that you have feminist leanings, but you may need to draw comfort by watching Julia. By example, she’s doing a good job showing an absentee man how to lead.

  10. Andrew ,I have to agree with you to a degree.Costello has so much ability but often acts like a spoilt petulant child who does not want to do the hard yards.If he does not grow up,I don’t want to see him as PM.

    Like or loathe John Howard,he worked extremely hard and took nothing for granted.Everyone bagged and laughed at John but he grew into a significant leader.

    If Costello has the passion and shows humility in in both learning and formulating strong policies for the common good,then he will be the person to lead us in the future.

    I cannot even write Brendan Nelson off ,since have may have qualities/strengths that have yet to evolve.Brendan as a person is very likable,but is he a leader?

  11. Peter Costello will never be leadership material. I think they’re just using him to put the wind up Brendan Nelson.

    It’s true that he isn’t a patch on his brother, Tim.

    If they make Julie Bishop the party leader, I’m putting a bullet through the TV.

  12. I get the impression that he is “a good performer” in Parliament, which is probably why the press gallery like him. Being able to shout and make snide remarks about the people on the other side of the house is obviously an example of good leadership.

    From what I’ve read and seen over the years, I had the impression he was slightly more liberal than Howard on some social ideas, but I’m really not that aware.

    As to leadership potential, I think he’s had his chances – never once challenged for the leadership. Seems to want it handed to him on a platter. Unlikely I’d vote for him. But then, I’m not that likely to vote for Nelson, Bishop, Rudd … the list goes on.

  13. muzzmonster:

    “Being able to shout and make snide remarks about the people on the other side of the house is obviously an example of good leadership

    Certainly PM Rudd may have embraced the occasional bad habit from Mr Costello. At least Costello did not demonise the unborn in parliament (nor endorse killing them, if I recall the vote correctly).

    Don’t they say that “Peter Costello was the best treasurer Labor ever had”? Or was it that John Howard was the best policy maker that the ALP ever had.

    One or the other …. or both.


    So I take it that I can count you in for the big 1…. Muzz…………

    A man who has just been offered a $2.5 million a year job would not be hanging around unless he intended to stand for the leadership.
    He would have been well aware of the impending financial collapse happening overseas. (If we knew in August he would have known earlier). So would you jump into the cockpit (and push the captain out) of a bomber that had just taken a major hit of flak…… No I dont think so.

    If he is as smart as they say, he will wait until this blows over, and when the government has taken the bomber down and is about to finish crashing though the brush, he’ll take the controls. Pushing the wounded captain out the chair, in time to take the medal.

    Everyone will call him a hero, and he may even get to live through a couple more raids before taking the enevatible hit or retiring with his pension.



  15. Marilyn

    “If we were talking about Tim Costello I might get it but Pete didn’t put one policy to the parliament in his years as treasurer, he made no reforms of any kind and had not a clue about social policies.

    He believed what the short man told him without question and let the man with the eyebrows grow into a dictator. He thought locking up kids was fine and never went to a concentration camp to see for himself. He voted to murder Iraqis and I doubt if he ever met one.

    It’s funny that he seems to think he should be handed the job as if he lives in a monarchy in reality instead of just the constitution. As if he was Howard’s son or something.

    Can’t stand the man. He is a loud, crowing bully and nothing else.”

    Indeed! Couldn’t have said it better himself. What’s his philosophy on anything? Why didn’t he speak up about these issues? Motivated by financial aspirations and power! What has he said or done since November?Part of his contempt, is to now bludge & sulk because the ’spoils’ have been removed. How dare he be voted out of office?The divine right to rule is still evident by the conservatives!
    GZG “At least Costello did not demonise the unborn in parliament (nor endorse killing them, if I recall the vote correctly).”

    Funny how I didn’t hear him speak out in defence of the woman from China who was 8 months pregnant, and sent back to her & her child’s predicted fate,that many, including me fought against!Abbott didn’t speak in her favour either!Just us tired ‘lefties’ of questionable? intellectual ability?These wonderful upholders of family values, these examples of being raised in good Christian homes? You obviously have a ’selective’ hearing/reading malfunction that ignores the oppression of the vulnerable and weak in this country;that includes asylum seekers and the unborn in Iraq & Afghanistan too! We just won’t mention that Costello supports even harsher legislation re WorstChoices?

  16. Andrew I agree with your point here. The question in the media is does Peter Costello out perform Brendon Nelson in a poll on leadership. The question should be would Peter Costello ever be preferred Prime Minster to Rudd and would he lead the liberals to a policy and marketing position where they would out poll Labour and win at an election.

    It’s possible but unlikely. Maybe Julie Bishop. Malcolm Turnbull will probably never be able to conect with mum and dad voters.

  17. Peter Costello is yet another proof that there are no talents among the Liberals.
    Peter is arrogant and yuppy. An empty drum. Puppet on a string. He has no communication skills even if he tries. Remember ‘Lambada’?
    I did attend some of the meetings with Costello. He would never answer a single question.
    The worst thing he did, in my opinion, was to sell our gold reserves. Crazy. And I could not stand the lies about our taxation system in general and the GST in particular. The stupidity of the Liberal government never allowed for any development or maintenance of infrastructure. Cronyism and nepotism were rampant. And they spent my money on junk militaria, undeclared wars and inhumane treatment of humans.
    It is good, Andrew that you raise the issue of the Lib. leadership. Costello is a textbook example of a puppet politician who can only act in the shadow of a senile autocrat. He is also a vivid proof that no lawyer should ever touch a national treasure chest.

  18. If anyone is interested, according to the nine msn poll, 3/4 of the people want Brendan Nelson gone – quite stupid considering there is no one worth replacing him with.


    I don’t see how you can continue on with this hype about the rights of the unborn in Iraq and Afghanistan, while you continue to support the deliberate murder of unborn Australian children by their own mothers.


    Your comments on Peter Costello seem like a pipe dream to me.

  19. Andrew, have you bought the book yet? Or are you going to boycott the book as it represents free political communication to the masses?

  20. I haven’t bought the book and don’t intend to. I may try to read it one day if I’ve got the time and can borrow a copy.

    If you call that a “boycott”, then you have a very strange understanding of the word. But then again, you have refused numerous times to condemn censorship, let alone more severe human rights abuses. You seem to reserve your attacks for anyone who criticises censorship instead.

    Unlike you, I’m all for free communication to the masses. That’s why I have this blog, and why I criticise governments who seek to hinder it – unlike you.

  21. I wonder how paying $45 (discount price) for a book represents free political communication. Of course he’s entitled to write what he wants.

    I’m also confused – as with Andrew – as to how not reading a book represents a boycott. By this logic, it sppears that by nor reading the thousands and thousands of books released every year, I have made a political stand against all of them without even knowing anything about them.

  22. Borrowing the book from a library would be free, so Andrew can save his $45 (discount price).

    In staying on the topic of ‘What’s so good about Costello anyway?’, Andrew should be able to answer this question by reading the book.

  23. Censor This:

    I think you have a very strange set of ideas on what freedom entails.
    Costello wrote the bloody book!


    Yes, that’s an excellent way of putting it.

  24. So far 31 libraries have acquired and catalogued Costello’s book: roughly 1/4 of Public Service Department libraries, (including Dept of PM & Cabinet) and the rest public libraries. None so far of the over 25 University libraries in Australia have catalogued it – shortage of staff at this time of year? or lack of interest given their miniscule bugets? or just lack of interest?

  25. On the day the book was launched, by late afternoon the price had dropped markedly. I read the SMH bits, but wouldn’t even bother borrowing it from my library – if they have it? Costello portrays himself, by his own words, as a lazy, gutless person. He didn’t think he had to ‘fight’ for the leadership like most others do (of all political persuasions, but certainly the major ones), that it should have been handed to him on a platter – his due, his entitlement, almost his birthright, and bad mouthed his colleagues who didn’t fall into line. Even when they met and felt Howard should go, Costello didn’t have the guts to take him on! A wimp at best, and after all his bagging of people who are “job snobs” because they won’t take the job that’s offered (regardless of other legitimate claims, like transport & child care needs) and has stated publicly, that Worstchoices didn’t go far enough?. He’s just taking up space in Parlt and writing his memoirs on my time, and using my money to pay for it – then he asks a pretty incredible price for his book? Arrogance?

  26. Actually, that isn’t an unusual price for a hardback book these days – there was a time when we in Australia didn’t pay high taxes on books but since the GST they have been taxed as never before in our history. Sorry to bring this up, Andrew, but that deal was incredibly poorly negotiated as far as students, libraries, and the general public are concerned.

  27. That’s OK Dolphin. I’ve said much worse things than that about the adequacy of those negotiations, especially given the incredibly strong hand the Demorat negotiators had at the time. It was pretty much unprecedented for a small party to have such a strong hand, which made it all the more disappointing to have given in for so little, especially given the obvious damage to the party’s support that would occur as a consequence.

    Having said that, there are factors other than the GST that create such high book prices.

  28. Naomi:

    Actually, I think it was more a case of NO ONE wanting to take the fall instead of Howard, than Costello being gutless or expecting the top job to be handed to him on a silver platter.

    He and other contenders were very wise to let Howard stew in his own juice and lose his own seat after the rubbish he dished up to all and sundry.

  29. LORIKEET – Costello states in his book, and others in the Cabinet also said (Downer was another) that even though Howard asked for their opinion, when it was given, he preferred to go by the “advice” of his family, to stay on. In fact, Costello (apparently) asked him why he even bothered asking for his colleagues opinion, if he wasn’t going to take notice of it. The point is, that Costello claimed that he was told Howard would hand over, and didn’t, and Costello kept waiting for others to recognize his ‘supreme capabilities’ his ‘natural selection’ for the job of PM, but he wouldn’t challenge Howard over those years. Gutless! He believed it was his as a right – not do any hard ‘tasks’ to get it. It’s true, that after Howard stated his intention to stay in ’07, those in the party room went on to talk of other things. (Costello’s account as in his book).Quite amazing! At that point, none of the others wanted to stand up to him IN PUBLIC (caucus room).Howard had run the show for 12 yrs, and many in caucus owed him their seats in parlt. Now they’re in opposition, and still trying to run the show – they still think they’re entitled – the born to rule mentality? Their indignation, that the Rudd govt won’t cowtow to their will? I just turn them off now! Enough of the neo-cons!
    Costello ranted about ‘job snobs’ He declared that there should be “mutual obligation” re unemployment benefits and job search, and denigrated people who wouldn’t move from state to state taking any job offered?How many others can sit /stand at a job-be paid (very well – by us) while looking for something better to fall in their lap, and write their memoirs on the boss’s time? He’d assert, that they’re bludgers and should be sacked – and lose entitlements, and have no right to unfair dismissal protections either? Bloody hypocrite! And the media think it’s OK too? Only read 1 journalist(Leslie Cannold, The Sun Herald21/9/08) who raised these points and who’s critical of his arrogant stance?

  30. Naomi:

    I asked Peter Dutton (federal Liberal MP) to replace the Work for the Dole scheme with a Work for Pay scheme a number of years ago. There was no response, so I assumed the coalition wanted people working for slave labour rates of pay. I don’t think I was wrong.

    Now the Liberals have made the same stupid idiot Shadow Minister for Health. Perhaps he is now working on “patient heal thyself”.

  31. I can just imagine the groans when that pice of correspondnece arrived at the then Ministers office! Just shows things go both ways Lorrikeet

  32. Ken:

    I didn’t realise you were in favour of slave wages, or did someone just feed you a bunch of sour grapes?

    I returned one of Peter Dutton’s surveys, and added a couple of comments I thought would help both the self-esteem and financial status of the unemployed (regardless of age, I might add).

    I try to be forward thinking. I cannot help it if others have been left behind.

  33. Andrew, you are correct: not being bothered to getting around to doing something is not a boycott. It’s being lazy.

    Did you ever get around to reading Cheryl Kernot’s ‘Speaking for Myself Again’?

  34. Costello was no economic marvel. All a treasurer has to do is keep a budget in balance and thats about it really. He was no hero. I wouldnt have his book if it was given to me.

  35. Censor This:

    I have no idea why you are trying to “sell” us all of the books written by people we might not even like. Cheryl Kernot turned most people off before she even got into federal politics.

    Why should anyone waste his/her time reading biased BS anyway?

    Would I put money into royalties for Costello and Kernot? Absolutely not!


    If the treasurer’s job is that easy, why don’t we all apply? I’ve heard the money is excellent.

  36. I’m with Lorikeet about this not reading books business. I readily acknowledge that there is an extemely large number of books worty of reading, music worthy of being listened to, movies worthy of being watched, concerts worthy of being attended, public lectures worthy of listening to.

    The fact that I (and others) don’t do so isn’t because I’m lazy, but because I only have so much time in our lives. Personally I’m yet to be convinced that Costello’s memoirs are worthy of my precious time.

    Anyway, probably enough talking about this – it’s not that important, is it?

  37. Cheryl Kernot biased? Say it ain’t so.

    The Democrats were meant to be impartial, unprejudiced and objective.

  38. The Libraries Australia website shows that as of this morning 64 libraries at least now own Costello’s book – interestingly, only 3 universities and one TAFE have so far catalogued it. Most are public libraries, so it would be possible to get it in from another library if yours does not own it. 115 libraries own Cheryl Kernot’s book, so it is not so much a matter of giving them royalties as it is of being informed. Of course there are many competing demands on our time and to be honest I’ve just requested David Day’s biography of Andrew Fisher as my performance bonus from work … apparently most people just accept the bottles of wine routinely offered, imagine that … and will be using the time I could have spent with Costello learning a bit more about our nation’s early days and that fascinating early Prime Minister instead. I don’t think Costello is interesting enough to waste that much time on, and I resent his use of the privilege of being elected to Parliament as a holding bay while he trails his coat waiting for a better offer at my expense. I notice that the remark about Kernot’s book was made directly to Andrew, and possibly less in an attempt at bibliotherapy and more to needle him about his former colleague. I see Ms Kernot as a different kind of Sarah Palin … we have many male duds in politics, it stands to reason that women can disappoint feminists in similar rations.

  39. I agree Dolphins – if one wants to use spare time reading political biographies, I think there is a lot to be said for reading about political activists and leaders from earlier eras who we are likely to know a lot less about.

    I’d be surprised if a remark about Cheryl Kernot would be aimed at needling Democrat supporters – a lot of Democrat supporters from that era are more likely than most to be leading the criticism. (Mind you, its rarely worth paying much attention to anything Censor This writes – he just enjoys stirring for the sake of it, along with excusing censorship and human rights abuses of course.)

    Personlly, I think a lot of the criticism of Cheryl is overblown (such as equating her to Sarah Palin). Cheryl made some mistakes, as most people do, but she cops far more criticism than she deserves in my view. It’s always easy to take cheap shots, especially once the media have done their mauling, bt it does’t hurt to look at people’s achievements, where in her case were many – at least when she was with the Democrats.

  40. Here are two excerpts from the Latham Diaries (surely Labor folk are unbiased) concerning Cheryl Kernot:

    30 January 1998:

    The highlight of the night was an appearance by our star recruit, Cheryl Kernot, who looked very uncomfortable just sitting in the crowd, having to listen to Beazley do the talking. This ain’t the Democrats baby- get in line and do your apprenticeship along with the rest of us poor, suffering fools. I must say, I’m not a convert to the Kernot strategy. Labor culture is so unique and demanding that she is going to have a terrible time adjusting. If anything, we debase our culture by looking for a quick fix from outside the Party. This new Labor face is a soft option, helping the leadership group avoid the need for new Labor policies.

    6 June 2001:

    A conversation with Cheryl Kernot today: she’s as downcast about our situation as I am. She says her proposals to assist social entrepreneurs were ranked last by the PRC (Priorities Review Committee of the Shadow Cabinet). So much for Beazley’s enthusiasm for community-building. Crean said to fund the policy through the REDOs. Cheryl laments the lack of reform energy and drive. Poor woman, she thought she was getting herself into a dynamic social democratic movement. But all she did was join the ALP.

  41. Re the Palin/Kernot analogy – I was too terse – what I meant was that Kernot probably did some good things but disappointed people as well … it’s hard being a trail blazer, but she is only one person, not a representative of all women in every way. Not sure what good things Palin may have done, but the spotlight is really on women once they get up to a certain level and since they are only human, too, they are bound to turn out not to be plaster saints. Now there are Macklin and Gillard and a throng of others on the Labor side, Bishop The Younger and others on the Liberal side, all following on from Stott Despoja and Kernot, Haines and others I can’t think of just now …Enid Lyons and Margaret Guilfoyle even … the focus on female politicians as specimen women may drop back a bit and we may be allowed to see them as people … I think myself that O’Chee, Ridgeway and Neville Bonner, and of course the mob in NT, have done a lot for indigenous politicians in Canberra, showing that unavoidable range of abilities that politicians in any place, of any background, are bound to show. Biographies and autobiographies, whether full of “truth” or waffle, give us an insight into how people see the world, or want us to belive they see the world, which is one way we learn about others. The more we understand how politicians see the world, in my opinion, the better we are able to asess them and their fellows who want our votes, and that goes for the dunderheads and buffoons as well. In that vein, I believe there is a book on the Downer Dynasty being written, but an unexpected author, and, much as I detest the current representative and all he stands for, I’ll be reading that one, for an insight into how that mob have operated through the generations. And no, the author is not Alexander.

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