The federal Labor Party may have its problems – but at least Simon Crean and Mark Latham worked through its system, senior sources will tell you. Or so it looked until this week. There were furtive looks in the corridors when Latham’s former senior policy adviser and local government colleague Alex Sanchez popped up with an opinion piece in The Australian on Tuesday. Liverpool City Council’s revenge, some wags dubbed it.
The last thing Labor wants is anyone noticing how one of Latham’s saddest legacies still remains – the B Team of parliamentarians prepared to serve in a shadow ministry with him after last year’s defeat. Kim Beazley let himself be drafted for leader under circumstances where he could say there were “no deals”. What this really meant was “no spills” – that Jenny Macklin would remain as deputy and every other frontbencher could keep their spot.
What has left many Labor watchers surprised has been Beazley’s failure to create two new positions in the shadow ministry for Lindsay Tanner and Bob McMullan – positions to plug the talent gaps. The Rooster Precedent – Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith’s moves off and back on to the frontbench back in 2003 – would justify such a measure.
Perhaps Beazley is afraid that they would show up Macklin. The job she did on Michael Wooldridge over health suggests that Macklin has everything it takes to be an OK minister. She just doesn’t add value as deputy – unless you’re a member of Emily’s List.
And value remains the big thing missing on Labor’s frontbench. Laurie Ferguson, Joel Fitzgibbon, Joe Ludwig, Kim Carr, Bob Sercombe, Tony Burke, Arch Bevis, Jan McLucas and Alan Griffin all shadow ministers – while Lindsay Tanner, Bob McMullan, Duncan Kerr, Peter Garrett and, yes, even Carmen Lawrence sit on the backbench? Puh-leaze! It’s scarcely a sign of a party willing to put factional differences aside and pick out the team that can lead them to victory.