If you’ve been wondering why Glenn Milne is widely viewed as a paid-up member of the pro-Costello camp, check out this column in the Oz
today, berating John Howard for refusing Kim Beazley’s request to hold
a joint press conference to restore faith in the political system
after the Latham Diaries. He writes:

The one and only – and I mean only – good thing to come of
Mark Latham’s diaries and associated events has bitten the partisan
dust in Canberra.

It is my melancholy duty to say that its
demise even confirms some of Latham’s darker observations about
politics. The idea I’m talking about is a proposal by Kim Beazley for a
joint initiative with the Prime Minister to revive young people’s faith
in the political process following the battering Latham gave it in his
book.

Milne notes that: Beazley wrote to John Howard on October 4:

Dear Prime Minister,

Over the past few weeks unfortunate
and unhelpful comments have been made advising young Australians not to
pursue a career in politics.

To tell young Australians not to
get involved in politics is defeatist, wrong, disrespectful and
un-Australian. Telling them to turn their backs on politics is to tell
them to turn their backs on life.

While we obviously disagree
on many matters, I’m convinced we both share the view that to
invigorate our democracy we need young people with fresh ideas, new
perspectives, enthusiasm and drive.

After the recent barrage of
‘bad press’ which has damaged the reputation of politicians of all
persuasions at both state and federal level, it would be useful to lead
by example.

I propose we join together to send a strong, united
message urging young Australians ‘to have a go in politics’. I suggest
that, in the national interest, we make a joint statement and hold a
press conference together when parliament resumes encouraging young
people to get involved in public life. To convince them that Australia
is a great country because it’s been built on a strong, vibrant
democracy.

I look forward to your response to my suggestion.

According to Milne, “Beazley is still waiting for that response” so “yesterday I got one for him:”

“I think we can both speak for ourselves,” was Howard’s reply through a spokesman. “My position on these matters is well known.”

So,
that’s that. More’s the pity, because at some stages in the cycle, the
political class does have to stand up for itself, if only because no
one else will. It’s not about being self-serving, but of serving the
system. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, democracy isn’t perfect, but
it’s the best thing we have at the moment.

Say what? Is Milne really saying that Howard should have accepted the offer to be part of Beazley’s political stunt?

For
Beazley, writing a letter like this to Howard is a no-brainer. Either
the PM says no, and he can be portrayed as mean and small-minded. Or he
says yes, and Beazley, who as opposition leader is usually deprived of
oxygen, gets a big boost by appearing beside the PM. It’s a win/win for
Beazley, and he would have known it.

Howard’s
entirely within his rights to decline to respond – it would be poor
political tactics to do anything else. Milne would have known this
– and yet he plays along with Beazley and has a go at Howard anyway.

One
of Latham’s key assertions is that journalists like Milne are political
players rather than mere commentators. By attacking the PM for not holding a press conference to debunk Latham’s
claims, Milne demonstrates why they’re spot on.

Peter Fray

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