This piece by Matt Price in today’s Australian was timely, because I too had been wondering about whether “rooster” was such a bad term of reference for a fellow Australian male. In the loose-limbed vernacular circles that I move in, it could almost be heard as affectionate – and I think we can all agree that you could certainly be called a lot worse by Mark Latham. And Kevin Rudd deserves to be after deciding that it would only be honourable to inform Crean about these naughty chooks sniffing around the Beazley roost after he inadvertently bumped into a couple of them at the airport. What a rooster he is……
Whatever, the game is certainly joined and the ALP will be in paralysis until it’s run it’s course – and “running it’s course” might not be just a simple matter of a leadership vote.
Crean is the most uninspired ALP leader since Arthur Calwell. He is the compromised, dynastic-scion embodiment of a faction-ridden, apparatchik politics. A politics which produces a leader on the basis of the sum total of his least negative qualities – rather than his most positive – and then querulously chides the electorate for it’s inability to appreciate him.
Comparisons with Howard’s unpopularity in Opposition are frequently made but don’t stack up in my opinion. Howard fought tenaciously for over a decade for the chance not just to lead, but rather to use the leadership to effect his conviction-based agenda. Crean hasn’t got a discernible conviction – let alone an agenda – other than that he’s the leader and that, presumably, is that. The rest is the stuff of platitudinous schmoozing balanced with the over-blown, reactive, “we’ll all be rooned” scenarios that every government initiative brings forth. I wonder that no-one stops to consider that the electorate’s political cynicism may, in no small part, be due to the brain-melting boredom induced by the utterly predictable “messages” conveyed as the armament of our tediously adversarial – and insultingly simplistic – machine politics.
Beazley is liked, Crean isn’t. But if Beazley wants the leadership he’s going to have to fight for it. In short, he’s got to be a Howard. I don’t think he can be. On the other hand, Crean can’t “win” – whatever way it goes. It’s going to be interesting.
The wider context is the federal ALP itself. The ALP currently runs State and Territory government in Australia precisely because the proximity of people/aspirations/politics force a more pragmatic engagement. In that sense, the states and territories are arguably the inheritors of Hawkeite labor – a pragmatic, business-like politics that panelbeats the vision into the lived reality and the aspirational into the achievable, reflecting Australians back to themselves in a familiar, vote-attracting way. The federal party is still reeling from Keating’s self-indulgent reversal of that dictum and seems irrevocably split about where to go from here.
For the next few weeks at least all the directional indicators are pointing to blood in the hencoop.