Crikey Awards: in a year of incompetence, Abbott was the best
Most years, deciding which frontbenchers have performed best and worst isn’t too difficult. But 2013 poses particular problems, not merely because there’s been both numerous reshuffles and a change of government, but because the new government has stumbled badly since getting into office, meaning there’s a Melbourne Cup field of incompetence to choose from — either from Labor, which lost office, or from the Coalition, which has made every post a loser in its first 100 days. But here goes …
Most effective minister: Jenny Macklin
Jenny Macklin’s success in establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, complete with partial funding from a tax increase, is one of the few uncontested legacies of the Gillard government, even if the Abbott government is making noises about reducing funding. After three years of bitter and febrile partisanship, that there was a major policy initiative that Tony Abbott scrambled desperately to declare his support for was remarkable, and Macklin, its co-author along with her prime minister, deserves credit in a period when few colleagues on either side distinguished themselves.
Special mentions: Joe Hockey — he worked out that he had to abandon his commitment to return immediately to surplus in favour of actual economic management, and led the way against more handouts to Detroit. But he also got rolled on GrainCorp and flagrantly breached the Charter of Budget Honesty. And Chris Bowen — copped it sweet and walked in March after the abortive Rudd challenge, then returned for a brief stint as treasurer to produce some quality savings, before doing an excellent job as interim leader post-election.
Least effective minister: Greg Hunt
History will record Greg Hunt as a blackly humorous footnote, a symbol of everything that was screwed up about the political and economic systems that led to massive climate change. An alleged believer in the science and a proponent of action to address it, Hunt’s first three months have been dedicated — unsuccessfully — to removing an effective, functional carbon pricing scheme, lying about its impacts and failing to do anything to advance his ludicrous Direct Action scheme, a policy he has had since January 2010 and on which he appears to have done precisely no work during that entire time. As Santa preps the sleigh for take off, we’re still waiting for his green paper on Direct Action, while Hunt’s own climate action budget has already been slashed, and the PM declared that even if Direct Action fails to achieve the bipartisan 5% emissions reduction target there will be no additional funding for it. Throw in approving sludge dumping near the Great Barrier Reef and the review of the Renewable Energy Target that is likely to see Hunt rolled by RET opponents and his stint as minister looms as disastrous.
Dishonourable mentions: Christopher Pyne — a near-run thing, Pyne’s Gonski debacle inflicted huge damage on the government, and established a dud policy as well. And Bob Carr — far from being the astute party elder he promised to be, Carr treated voters with contempt, treated taxpayers as mugs and managed to embroil himself in US politics. Good riddance.
Most effective shadow minister: Malcolm Turnbull
Regarded with ill-disguised contempt by much of the tech press, Turnbull still managed to nullify the electoral positive that the National Broadband Network was for Labor through a combination of attacks on its roll-out delays, an invented claim about a massive cost blowout (alas, later rejected even by his own hand-picked review panel) and his own policy that, for the first time, saw the Coalition finally accept the need for a government role in broadband networks. In government, of course, it didn’t work out so neatly — Turnbull has been forced to abandon his promises and the nightmare of the government acquiring Telstra’s mess of a copper network remains, but winners are grinners.
“Abbott has consistently demonstrated a capacity to adapt his political tactics to changing circumstances.”
Least effective shadow minister: Kate Ellis
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