Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Meet the next former opposition leader of Australia

As a literary type of bloke I’ve been pondering on which author might conjure the name Godwin Grech as a key character. Beyond Roald Dahl and maybe Rowlings I’m flummoxed, it sounds far too contrived; a passionate but misguided soul, bound to bring himself undone by overdoing.

In fact Godwin Grech has starred endlessly in our headlines of late; the Australian Treasury official, neo-liberal tragic intent on returning to a semblance of the Howard years. Now considered a Treasury mole for the Liberal opposition contrived the ‘smoking gun’ designed to bring down the popular Rudd government.

The issue surrounded a quite proper attempt to ensure lines of credit for auto dealership floor stock in the wake of the global credit meltdown. If you cannot present autos for sale, there isn’t much point even building them, so jobs were at stake on a major basis. Grech had the responsibility of signing off on various support applications.

Actually it occurs to me that Bill Shakespeare might have penned this ripping yarn, it has all of his tragic hallmarks; Grech behind the curtain feeding lines to an overambitious princling, opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull and his hatchet man Senator Eric Abetz, both too consumed with the promise of power to read the tea leaves.

Having attended political primary school within the Australian Liberal Party I know there are older and wiser heads (OWHs) shaking their heads, muttering I told you so. Turnbull was intent on turfing Rudd at the next election, due next year, come hell or high water. Turnbull wants to be prime minister.

But the OWHs know that in the grand cycle of politics, save the intervention of the gods, not the Godwins, Rudd has a clear decade before him. Impatient pretenders do not last as opposition leaders and OWHs will be looking for a stable seat warmer, having lost the last one to Turnbull’s impatience.

Turnbull, merchant banker and barrister, is no doubt a highly intelligent man, but dumb as all get out! I blame (another literary allusion) the fact that his mother ran away from home when he was quite young. Had she stayed she would have warned him repeatedly, “Malcolm, don’t run with sharp knives!” As it is he has a bad habit of falling on his own sword.

He might have survived this latest indiscretion, might still or a while as the OWHs sort out the party’s future, but he is doomed. At a time when no less a master of political expediency is in North Korea doing a George Washington – “I chopped down the cherry tree..” Turnbull is claiming innocence; "The idea that a senior public servant would forge a communication like this and then show it to the Opposition is extraordinary.''

In fact the extraordinary thing is that Turnbull chose to attack Rudd because he might have represented the interests of a member of the voting public, ‘mate’ or otherwise. That seems, in my humble opinion, to put Turnbull and the Liberal’s in an invidious position.

Prime Minister, opposition leader or humble back benchers are elected as our representatives. If an elected politician refused to represent me because he knows me I’d be really pissed off. In this case, as is often the case now, MPs can lobby public servants, but the responsibility for a decision is the with the bureaucrats.

It’s a neat trick of good leadership; “I’ll refer it to the department for consideration” No problem about being “I’m just a guy who caint say no…” In fact why should Rudd bother to say yes or no on a deal like this? If his mate has a legitimate claim which stands up to guidelines he’ll get the support.

Sadly Malcolm Turnbull is less concerned with detail than he is with obsession, not a good look for a long term opposition leader or a potential Prime Minister. Sadly because a good opposition serves the country in as many ways as a good government. Rudd offered effective scrutiny of the Howard government even before he became opposition leader, that is what the Liberals should be doing now.


lindsaylobe said...

An excellent post to sum up the position very well!!

I don’t like the idea of clandestine meetings by opposition political parties with very senior bureaucrats who offer to provide sensitive confidential papers or information.

It is part of the political dirty system that has gathered momentum over the past few decades but that doesn’t disguise the fact such practices usually lack any integrity.

It seems to me they are all purely political driven and rarely, if ever, are for the public good.

What this incidence ably demonstrates - as you have ably ponted out, is a overly zealous pursuit at any cost to make accusations of serious impropriety based on misinformation.

Justifiably the whole episode has seriously backfired.

Best wishes

Cartledge said...

Lindsay, it is a sad situation indeed. To me it shows the true legacy of Howard, who finally emasculated our public service. You would never have seen this behaviour under Howard’s hero RG Menzies. A strong public service, coupled with a strong elected government might give cause for friction at times, but it produced proper safeguards.
I doubt we’ll ever see the likes of another Nugget" Coombs, or any of the Sir Whatevers. They might have been bastards, but they did stand by a proper code of conduct.