Thursday, February 23, 2012

The wizards of Oz

I love Aussie politics – it’s my favourite spectator bloodsport. The SMH had an excellent live feed from the Gillard press conference this morning; the Australian has astonishingly detailed reporting, regularly updated on the website. As it’s a Murdoch publication most of the best stuff is behind a paywall – but fortunately there is a promotion running at the moment whereby you can have a month’s access for free. Brilliant timing.

The photo above shows Kevin Rudd leaving his Washington hotel to fly home for the contest. I wonder how many people he is waving to. Possibly none, for at that Washington press conference:
His audience was a handful of TV cameramen and a couple of reporters, but he looked around as if he was addressing the United Nations. [. . .]
He would take no questions, he said, leaving the room. “I have much, much to do.”
 Peter Smith writes on Quadrant’s website:
Apparently it is okay to put Australia’s foreign relations in the hands of a man held in such disrepute. What harm can he do? So what if he calls the Chinese “rat fuckers”; presumably they can’t understand English.
How do you follow leaders who you believe are deranged and psychotic? Well why not throw in one who combines a unique level of incompetence with an aversion to telling the truth. And there you have it; a Labor Party incapable of electing to leadership someone of sanity and integrity. Maybe it is because they have no-one? The “Mad Monk” looks pretty sound and centred compared with the lot the Labor Party has given us.
None of this would matter if they were running a Labor Party branch somewhere out in suburbia. They are running the country and seem determinedly bent on wreaking havoc; not deliberately, of course, but out of sheer unbalanced bloody-minded incompetence.
 He would say that, wouldn’t he – Quadrant is conservative. But he is not alone. Political scientist Peter Chen of Sydney University calls a plague on both their houses:
“Rudd can’t win over his own party and Gillard can’t win over the public. The pair could have been a great team but regardless of who wins this spill, neither can win the next election.”
Mr Rudd was an egoist with a massive sense of grievance, said Dr Chen, an expert on the former prime minister’s political history.
“If you look at his speech this morning, it was the most egocentric speech I’ve ever seen,” he said. “[He was saying] only he can save the Labor party, only he can save Australia. Anybody looking at that who is wavering would think ‘This guy hasn’t changed at all’.”
The Gillard government had been more effective at getting things done than the Rudd government, but they were terrible at communicating their achievements to the public, Dr Chen said.
“So they are both screwed.”
Which brings us to George Frideric Handel, whose 327th birthday it is today and of whom Beethoven said: “Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.”

Here is the late great Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in Handel’s oratorio Theodora, which was first performed on 16 March 1750. This is the 1996 Glyndebourne production, with Dawn Upshaw and David Daniels, and William Christie conducting. The aria is “As with rosy steps the morn” and the recitative preceding it begins:
Ah! Whither should we fly, or fly from whom?
Which is what a lot of Australians must be thinking.


Craig Ranapia said...

The “Mad Monk” looks prettysound and centred compared with the lot the Labor Party has given us.

Of course he does - and you can't blame the man for looking more than usually smug. Every day the ALP spends turning I Spit On Your Grave into a French bedroom farce, is one more day nobody spends looking at Doctor No's gaping policy voids and perverse genius for being a classless berk.

A British friend of mine used to say Tony Blair's biggest electoral asset was the Tories. Whenever things were bad for Labour, you could always rely on the Conservatives to implode, projectile vomit far-right vileness or stage an unedifying internal knife fight in public.

Now I can't help but wonder if Gillard will go down in history as Australia's answer to John Major. He was a decent man and a better Prime Minister than he's often given credit for. But he won a leadership ballot - and still ended up leading a toxic party into the jaws of an electoral rout.

Stephen Stratford said...

John Major was also surprisingly (to me, anyway) attractive to women. An actress friend of a certain age who lived in England at the time, let's call her Bridget, said she fancied him rotten, She didn't know why, she just did and so did a lot of her women friends.