I thought Crean did a useful job with the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. Gilllard and Roxon are definite assets and – pragmatically – the across-his-brief Kevin Rudd is still in place, despite less then total support for Simon. Craig Emerson, well.. let’s wait and see and Mark Latham is kind of interesting. I was a bit stunned at the shadow Treasurer call. Latham’s ability is unquestioned but his stickability, particularly in relation to the arcane detail of Treasury, is less obvious. Crean has also given him a pretty clear leg-up in the succession stakes over a certain Queenslander who just might fit Latham’s derogatory take on politicians, “who say the correct thing rather than what they believe;” and delivered a no doubt very satisfying two fingers to the former NSW Right powerhouse in so doing.
Then came last night’s Lateline. Latham was in full, thumbs-in-waistband, “look how well-hung I am,” swagger. Where does he get this faux, working-class hero persona from? The novels of D.H. Lawrence?
We got the usual rugged, plain-speaking bloke from Werriwa bullshit and then, despite his earlier assurances about not making policy announcements on day one, he made one. Negative gearing in the property market “hadn’t delivered” he said. It was on the policy rethink agenda.
I wasn’t the only person watching this bravura performance and some of them were quick to contact Crean. By mid-morning today, Crean was telling the media that the ALP had been there and done that with negative gearing policy variation “some years ago.” The decision then had been that the potentially negative impact on the building industry ruled out any changes. And that’s that.
By lunchtime Costello was purring like a mildly intimidatory tabby. “This,” he smirked, “is the problem with Labor. They can’t maintain a policy approach from Lateline to Lunchtime.”
Free kick to the Coalition. Latham needs to get a grip quick smart – and not where he usually does.