Asking leadership questions is just like asking “Does my bum look big in this?” There’s only one answer. So as Kim Beazley deals with a deluge of queries on his future and the future of his frontbench, he might like to refer his interrogators off to the example of the Prime Minister.

When the PM is asked about his plans, all he can do is answer that he is staying – and answer unequivocally. He has Tony Blair as a terrible warning of what happens to the wobblers. When the PM decides to pull the plug, he will do a Nifty – make the announcement and go.

Likewise, the answer has to be “no” when leaders from either side are asked about reshuffles. Saying anything else is an invitation to the media to decide the timing – at least. It might even allow them to influence the choices, too, through speculation and direct lobbying.

Savoir c’est pouvoir, as the saying goes. Knowledge is power. Give away knowledge and you give away power.

The media knows all this, of course – but gets all hoity-toity. It feigns ignorance, demands that these sorts of questions get answered “honestly” and then rights up any eventual action as a “backflip”.

Hoity-toity and self righteous. This is an acceptable view only if the media really believes that it has the right to dictate the timing and direction of such decisions.

While it might be old-fashioned, there’s a strong argument that elected representatives should be responsible for making these choices – and deciding when to take them.

Peter Fray

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