We’re getting loads of good contributions on Queensland poltiics. Check out this Barry Bananas piece on Beattie’s constant references to the politically dead and a separate piece on Ross Fitzgerald’s soft column on his mate Wayne Swan. 

 Is Peter Beattie running an election campaign or a seance? The Queensland Premier on the make is conjuring up the spirits of the political dead, hoping to scare voters who might be thinking about giving Beattie a near death experience of his own.

He’s no ghost buster, he’s a ghost booster. “Wayne, are you out there, can you hear me, speak to us Gossie, tell us how you went from being our most popular somebody to complete nobody.

“Sallyanne, oh, Sallyanne, once invincible Lady of Town Hall, cut down by an unheard of nobody, hover over this campaign so that I might not suffer the same fate.”

The dead often feature in Queensland elections, usually by staging their own resurrection at the end of the campaign when they miraculously return to cast vote.

A week into this exercise in tedium and humbug, they are Beattie’s election platform. “I might lose, I might lose,” Queensland’s Chicken Not-So-Little warns. Thus far he has resisted the temptation to add: “So get out there, vote early and vote often”.

Too much of a reminder of the Shepherdson Inquiry perhaps, and the political dead it left in its wake.

A couple of ghostly spectres from that saga made an appearance nonetheless, when rorters extraordinaire Lee Birmingham and Warwick Powell were seen dining with dead Member walking Merri Rose, apparently offering political advice.

And why not? Say what you like about this pair of rogues, no one has ever doubted their campaigning skills. Some of them are even legitimate.

In happier days, Birmingham was the Labor Right’s organisor in head office, no less, a close colleague of Wayne Swan in many a political stoush. Powell was on Kevin Rudd’s personal staff back when the “Cartman” Kevin was Head of the Office on Cabinet.

Their reappearance was cast by The Courier-Mail as being another sign of Rose’s bad political judgement, as if signs were needed.

All a bit strange given that Mike Kaiser -,a much bigger Shepherdson villain in terms of criminal charges considered and sins of commission and omission while Labor State Secretary -can happily give advice to the whole State party without raising so much as a raised eyebrow from the State’s morning daily.
But then Queensland seems to operate under some weird and wonderful political theology when it comes to who can be rehabilitated and who must remain in purgatory. The great debaucher of the body politic Joh Bjelke-Petersen has been restored by Beattie himself.

Strange days, and all the more so because this election was meant to be about Queenslanders of the future, not those of the past.

Children. Remember them? Beattie claimed his unseemly rush to the polls was so that he would have a mandate to care for children when al he ever needed is the will, money and ideas. And a Minister up to the job, which counts Judy Spence out.

Nonetheless, given that this is the Kiddies Campaign, you’d expect some debate about new approaches to dealing with families at risk. How about a discussion spelling out how much money is needed and a version of Terry Mackenroth’s famous ‘Spendometer’ to tell us when it will come from and go to.

One week into the campaign, and counting, and the children have neither been seen nor heard. We’ll keep you posted.

Meantime Beattie better be hoping that invoking the ghosts of politics past does nothing more than remind voters of their power, and of the fact that life goes on even after someone seemingly politically indispensable has been killed off.

Ross Fitzgerald puffs up his mate Wayne Swan 

So Wayne Swan is feeling the cold winds of political isolation and wants to be brought back into the warmth of Federal Labor’s inner sanctum. That is the only worthwhile thing we learn from his mate Ross Fitzgerald’s column in “The Australian” yesterday.

In case you missed it, Fitzgerald selflessly gave over his column to give the young bloke Mark Latham some advice which Ross claims will bring the Federal Labor leader electoral success in his new role: bring back Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith.

For an emeritus (that’s academic for ex, as in has been) professor of history and politics, Fitzgerald shows a disturbing tendency to forget everything and learn nothing.

“Small target strategy” Ross? Does that ring a bell? Stand for nothing and hope you can sneak into office through the backdoor. Worked a treat. For John Howard, that is.

You should have a chat to Kim Beazley about it some time. It won’t be a problem getting together for one of your famous lunches. The big fella is not doing much these days.

Between courses you might also ask him about the two campaigns Swan and Smith ran to win back Beazley’s old job as opposition leader. They worked a treat as well. Made Mark Latham what he is today.

And if you are back up in Queensland some time, see if you can track down Wayne Goss. You must remember him. Used to run the joint. Was Australian’s most popular Premier going into the 1995 election campaign.

Swan helped run that one as a regular attendee at the morning meetings in the Executive Building of the Goss brains trust that put together the mother of all campaign disasters. Worked a treat though. Next thing you know a little known Surfers Paradise motel owner by the name of Rob Borbidge is Premier.

But let’s not be too hard on the history professor. After all, history tells us that clasping a viper to the breast worked for another political leader.

Of course Cleopatra wanted out, and having only just gotten in, it is safe to assume that ‘Iron’ Mark is made of stern enough stuff to want to hang around for a while longer, so maybe not in this case?

Perhaps the good professor absentmindedly overlooked mentioning that his thinking was guided by the Arabian proverb, “keep your friends close and your enemy closer”.

Might well be sound advice for Latham, but there is no hint of it in the column. So while it would comfort a kind heart to accept such options, the sad truth is that Fitzgerald, the silly old duffer, is a Swan rooster from way back.

In fact, as followers of Fitzgerald’s work can tell you, he’ll rooster for just about anyone or anything to do with the right wing AWU faction in Queensland. Crikey has already taken him to task for a “profoundly silly” column he wrote for The Courier-Mail suggesting that what the Queensland Labor Party needed to do for future success was bring back exposed electoral roll rorter Mike Kaiser.

See, it’s like that when you hang out with the AWU as Ross does. Always someone needing to be brought back, rehabilitated and Fitzgerald’s long experience on the Parole Board makes him the man for the job. That and his skills as a wise monkey who hears no evil, sees no evil and determinedly speaks no evil of the AWU.

Not that the faction is a mob of old lags mind, it’s just that after the Shepherdson Inquiry, if you were after setting up a penal colony somewhere, you could just about fill your First Fleet with AWU bruvvers, with Swan mates, from the faction he ran politically while Bill Ludwig took care of the union side of things.

Swan’s role in it must have all been innocent though, surely. No, he couldn’t have known anything about all those dodgy enrolments and nefarious deals that were so much help in boosting AWU numbers within the Queensland Party.

Led the faction politically, attended all those factional meetings, but heard no evil, saw no evil and spoke no evil.

That’s Ross and Wayne, just a couple of wise Queensland political monkeys, happily scratching one another’s genitals in public.

 

Peter Fray

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