Brad
Norington’s article in the Weekend Australian,
“Worried PM gives Andrews a
helper” has an interesting interpretation on John Howard’s decision to
form a taskforce headed by Andrew Robb to assist in selling his
proposed IR
legislation. The truth is,
Howard has a history of giving tasks to his back bench to keep the
ambitious
and the young busy. He had a GST taskforce and Telstra taskforce.

Norrington makes some remarkable claims on Robb’s behalf. Robb is elevated to “architect
of several Coalition election victories.” This is of course untrue. Robb was
only involved in two elections; one of which he lost and one of which Howard
won.

Robb of
course was the federal campaign director in 1993 when Paul Keating won an
election which Labor federal secretary, Gary Gray, was so convinced the Liberal
Party couldn’t lose that he refused to spend any money on advertising in the
last week of the election. Gray had
not reckoned on Andrew Robb’s incompetence. It was as they say, an unlosable
election for the Liberal Party. The liberal campaign strategy was disastrous
and its execution was wretchedly fatal. Robb supporters have ever since blamed
John Hewson for the defeat.

Howard’s
victory in 1996 is quite another matter. Robb takes all the credit for that result –
this in spite of the fact that Hewson played no significant role in the overall
or day to day running of the 1993 campaign while Howard micro managed his
election campaign on a daily basis. More
recently Robb spectacularly crashed and burnt as convenor and architect of the
Conservatives for an Australian Head of State. The most memorable contribution
Robb made to the referendum was to clasp Malcolm Fraser to his bosom.

Fraser, an unpopular relic from the past,
offended and insulted almost every Liberal voter and large sections of Labor
voters at the referendum by participating in a television commercial with
Whitlam which ended with Fraser turning to Whitlam and saying: “It’s time
Gough.” Andrew
Robb’s latest campaign excursion was his absurd and totally improbable proposal
for a change to the system of Senate elections by abolishing proportional
representation and replacing it with six regions in each state with each region
returning two Senators.

A knave or
a fool could see in an instant that this silly proposal would never receive the
support of the majority of Australians. Robb has
already displayed the level of his campaign talent in his new role. The content
of the newspaper advertisements which have flooded Australia in the past week might as well
have been a full page of scribble. This is the
man whom The Australian tells its readers “has a strong record in party
campaigning.”

Peter Fray

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