Christian Kerr writes:


Since the
post-World War II economic consensus shattered in the 70s, Australia has
had two standout leaders prepared to tackle the challenge of reform – a prime
minister, Bob Hawke, and a premier, Jeff Kennett.

Sure, Hawke and
Keating had Peter Walsh. Kennett had Alan Stockdale. But the buck stops with
the boss. They give their names to the governments, to their period of rule. They give their names to history.

Jeff Kennett was
arrogant – but he gave Victoria a new sense of purpose and a new sense of life. He lost government
– but only on the caprice of a populist independent after a protest vote that
went too far. That is the
Kennett legacy as it stands. And now Jeff Kennett is putting it all at risk.

If Kennett is to
return as Liberal leader, what will his pitch be? That Steve Bracks and Labor
have squandered the benefits of his reforms? Probably. But how would he keep
the reform agenda going? Return to the policies of 1999 that exacerbated the
protest that pushed him out of power – privatisation of some health services,
for example? That wasn’t a winner in government. It’s an impossible ask for an
opposition. And it’s exactly what Labor would charge him with.

The Victorian
Liberals are irredeemable. And Kennett must know that. He’s had his fun. He’s
shown his pulling power. He’s put on a great show of ego and bastardry. Very
Jeff. But he won’t return as leader. If he does, he faces two options.

Either he runs on
his record and loses. Not only does that mean he will have to deal once again
with opposition. It will mean that voters have repudiated his legacy – firmly,
this time.

Or else he can
repudiate his own legacy. He can front up and tell voters he was wrong. Come
off it. Can anyone imagine Jeff Kennett ripping the pages that praise him from
the history books?

And they’re just
the Jeff factors. What about the Victorian Liberal Party dynamics?

The party is in
chaos. It would be in an even bigger mess if Kennett lead it to an election
loss. Andrew Bolt is
spot on in the Herald-Sun today:

Jeff Kennett is getting calls from Liberals pleading for him to come
back and lead their devastated party. So which bits of their joint didn’t he smash up enough the last
time?

That the state Liberals are in this God-awful mess – with leader
Rob Doyle yesterday quitting in despair – shows precisely why Kennett is not
their salvation.

How mutton-headed must that man be to have first led his government
to defeat in 1999, against all the odds, and then skipped out in a snit,
forcing a completely unnecessary by-election?

So disgusted were the voters who knew him best – the ones of his
once-solid seat of Burwood – that they’ve picked a Labor politician every
election since…

Does Jeff want
that to be the Kennett legacy? It’s what he’s risking.

Don’t do it, Jeff.
Don’t do it.

Peter Fray

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