Au Revoir Amanda! G'Day Kevin?


Who’d be a pollie, eh!?

After 22 years in the Senate being laughed at by all of us, after almost 11 years as a Minister and eight as a Cabinet Minister being laughed at by her colleagues, Amanda Vanstone finally gets the old heave-ho, not from her constituents but from her fearless and ruthless leader.

I have to admit that my sympathy for Mandy at this difficult moment in her development of her CV is tempered by a couple of factors: firstly, the fact that her unemployment parachute will most probably include what’s being described as a ‘plum’ diplomatic job (god knows we can use her inimitable skill set overseas at the moment!): and secondly, that her job protecting our nation’s delicate racial cleanliness will now be the responsibility of the lipless man who brought us WorkChoices — Kevin Andrews.

It’s a matter of Kafka’s Choice really. Do we prefer someone in charge of the newly re-named Department of Immigration and Citizenship who is a bumbling fool or do we want someone who manages to make Philip Ruddock come across as funnier than Sacha Baron Cohen?

Actually, Ruddock and Andrews remind me of the Robespierre brothers, Maximilien and Augustin, whose clear-eyed, ideological purity brought us a previous time characterised by Terror with a capital ‘T’. How do such people sleep at night — Ruddock in his shiny Amnesty International pyjamas, and Andrews praying to a Catholic God somehow drained of compassion and fellow-feeling?

Oh, for an Australian Martin Amis to do what he did recently with his story ‘The Last Days of Mohammed Atta’. Now there’s a challenge for Australia’s authors to delve into the dark recesses of Ruddock’s and Andrews’s minds and explore for all of us the peculiar mechanics of self-justification and rationalisation they must use every day. And I don’t mean something easy like a caricature or a spoof, but a credible psychological portrait of these types.

Thanks to Paul Batey

In the meantime, every day brings more wonders and miracles if you’re willing to look in the right places. Having already accepted that we may have been wrong about Malcolm Fraser all along, some of us are now having to shake our heads and wonder about Jeff Kennett. On Monday, the former Victorian Premier, who still inspires deep loathing among inhabitants of the Soviet Socialist Republic of North Fitzroy, came out with a scathing attack on the Australian people’s indifference to David Hicks’s plight. Jeff as the new conscience of Australia! Pass the popcorn and keep your fingers off the channel-changer.

Not to be outdone, John Howard has now let the US Administration know that he is ‘unhappy’ about Hicks’s continuing incarceration without trial and has demanded that prosecutors at Guantánamo Bay find some charges to lay and do it before the middle of February. Nice. I smell a close Federal election coming on, and I hear the telltale sounds of decks being quickly cleared. David Hicks is the jetsam.

And over on the 7:30 Report on Tuesday night, Kevin Rudd was back from his honeymoon but the afterglow is still obvious. He came across as smart, committed, on top of tricky policy implications, articulate and, thankfully, free of the pomposity of Beazley, the edginess of Latham, and the greyness of Crean.

With a single gesture this week, Rudd has not only introduced an ‘Education Revolution’ into the policy mix, he’s managed to roll Beazley’s Knowledge Nation and Latham’s Ladder of Opportunity into an economic argument that we can all understand and can identify with. He’s managed to open up a front on Howard’s previously unassailable home turf (economic management) that highlights not only the decade of squandered opportunity under Howard/Costello when it comes to investing in Australia’s human capital, but also the deep well of silence that was Jenny Macklin.

The May Budget will, of course, be an exquisite exercise in undercutting, gazumping and pork barrelling. But maybe, just maybe, we have a real contest on our hands later in the year.

And who knows? Amanda Vanstone may have the last laugh, after all.

José Borghino

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.