Glenn Milne
doesn’t like Crikey much. Ho hum. It’s a free country. The feeling’s
reciprocated. We don’t like Milne and his all too obvious willingness to act as
a one-man SMERSH for whoever’s he’s out to brown-nose week-to-week.

Yesterday,
he offered a particularly egregious example of this wet work in his column:

Labor colleagues of federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley are openly
questioning whether he is suffering a serious illness after a series of public
memory lapses.

There have been murmurs about Mr Beazley’s health for several months
but, after a gaffe during a radio interview last week, some members of Caucus
fear he may be suffering a recurrence of the serious brain illness that struck
in 2004…

What’s the story? Memory lapses seem to be common in politics – think of
all those “I don’t recalls” from Mark Vaile and Alexander Downer and even the
Prime Minister from the Cole Commission. It’s not just oldies like Kimbo who
get struck. That young aspirant Peter Costello struggled with memory problems
when Karl Stefanovic asked him to name all the Liberal Senators from Tasmania on Friday.

If Milne wants to do something interesting, he doesn’t need to
assassinate anyone. All he needs to do is challenge them.

If you look at Beazley and Cossie and the embarrassment of, well,
embarrassments at Cole, surely the biggest question to ask is “Can politicians
cope?” – cope with the demands of their jobs and the legitimate demands we have
as the people they should be answerable to.

Dead men tell no tales. Milne’s actually copping out, doing
assassinations rather than interrogations. He’s doing a job that requires less
finesse, less attention to detail. Much easier to blow someone away than think
about them, to engage with them.

Whether we’re talking about ministers mute before Cole – or the patchy
patter poor pols offer when they can’t provide the right response to shock
jocks and breakfast TV hosts – this is surely a question journalists should be
asking. Yet Milne isn’t.

The greatest political novels in the English language are surely the
books that make up The Pallisers cycle, written between 1864 and 1879. If any
of Anthony Trollope’s Whigs and Tories were to find themselves, 150 years and
13,000 miles away, in our house on the hill, in a Cabinet meeting, they’d
recognise within moments what was going on.

The peak of our political power structure is a Victorian construct – yet
politicians are constantly talking about competition, about world’s best
practice, about staying ahead of the game.

Want to really make them feel awkward, Glenn? Corpses feel no shame.
It’s been a little ironic to read about “press gallery journalist Glenn Milne”
since your yarn appeared. Toady and lackey, more like. Can politicians cope? More
to the point, can Glenn Milne?

Ask them to justify their existence and the existence of the structures
that sustain them. Don’t shoot them dead. That’s the easy way out. Justify your
own existence.

Peter Fray

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