Back on the trail again. Kevin Rudd is right to be acting as if he is still in an election campaign. He is. For old timers like me the attitude of the Coalition parties in this first week of Parliament is reminiscent of the way things were back in 1973. Liberals and Nationals alike cannot believe they should be on the opposition benches. There is no acceptance that the people actually rejected their policies. Obstruction is going to be the order of the day with the numbers in the Senate already being used to frustrate Labor. When economic conditions get really tough after another couple of interest rate rises to take the gloss off the new administration, the Opposition will get bolder. Minor parties too have every reason to put a double dissolution on the agenda. Half the quotas at such a poll guarantees them success.

Brendan’s mistake. Brendan Nelson made a mistake in being sucked in by the emotion of the day in agreeing to take part in a “cabinet of national unity” to deal with Aboriginal affairs. It is bad politics to put in the position of being a party to decisions. The votes in Aboriginal matters come from people who do not care at all about anyone saying sorry and even less about money being spent to help solve the problem.

Give the secretaries the sack. When the press secretary becomes the story, the press secretary can no longer do the required job. The Kevin Rudd team who aided and abetted the crowd in King’s Hall turning their backs on Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson are now in that category. They should say farewell.

Where working families come from. A kind reader has enlightened me on the origins of that phrase “working families” which I mentioned yesterday was in the campaign rhetoric of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It apparently originated in the US with trade union consultant Vic Fingerhut who came to Australia specifically to advise the trade unions on their anti-Work Choices campaign including introducing the use of “working families”. Kevin 07 was nothing more, apparently, than the latest plagiarist of a term that has been around in US politics for a while. It has got a run in other places — most recently in the provincial election Ontario with the NDP last year.

Rating the maiden speeches. William Wilberforce is making something of a comeback. For the second day in a row the old abolitionist Christian was nominated as the favourite of a Liberal MP delivering a maiden speech. Scott Morrison the new member for Cook declared himself another proud Christian and added Bishop Desmond Tutu to Wilberforce as an inspiration (like Stuart Robert yesterday). Mr Morrison’s “vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous: strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.” 6 out of 10.

Bill Shorten: Labor, Maribyrnong—Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services. Revealed himself as a keeper of the middle way – a believer in “the native Australian gradualism and pragmatism.” 7 out of 10.

Greg Combet: Labor, Charlton—Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement. Had the unusual experience of members actually interjecting during his maiden speech – the boys could not control their guffaws at a mention of “the shock and outrage over the nude scene in the rock musical Hair”. Clearly a serious man who believes “very strongly in a fairer distribution of wealth and opportunity.” 7 out of 10.

Gary Gray: Labor Brand—Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Northern Australia. Committed himself “to unwavering support for the human, physical and financial infrastructure which allows our economy to grow”, a sentiment of which father-in-law, the former Labor Finance Minister Peter Walsh, would approve. It was reassuring to learn during the standard thank-yous that form a major part of maiden speeches that the broader Walsh families, are, “by nature, much more forgiving than the former senator.” 6 ut of 10

Melissa Parke: Labor, Fremantle. Politics is a war against indifference for this former United Nations official who worked in peacekeeping and reconstruction in Kosovo and humanitarian affairs in Gaza, helped establish the UN Ethics Office in New York and was part of the UN commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. We can expect Ms Parke to play a prominent role in debates about the direction of Australian foreign policy. 7 out of 10.

Luke Simpkins: Liberal, Cowan. A believer in the removal of children where necessary from the threat of dangers of crime, drug addiction or illicit drug use. A former army officer with the “strong view that the only path is to work towards a life without illicit drugs.” 5 out of 10.

Maxine McKew: Bennelong—Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Childcare. A polished and well delivered speech as could be expected from a new MP who is no newcomer to public life. “What it is, this stirring in our souls,” she told the House, “is a realization that our famed egalitarian spirit is more talked about than real. This is the paradox of modernity: alongside the exceptional economic prosperity the country has enjoyed, we are also seeing what Professor Fiona Stanley calls an increase in the social gradients. When we look at the key indicators for the development, wellbeing and health of our children and our young people, the gaps are not shrinking; they are widening.” 8 out of 10.

The Daily Reality Check

Pay rises for politicians are always a favourite read but no pay rise for politicians not so much so. News of the wealthy Kevin Rudd determining that there should be no increase this year only made it on to three of the 10 internet news sites Crikey surveys. A sign that there might yet be a backlash against saying sorry comes from the Melbourne Herald Sun site where “First compo claim launched” made the top spot.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Tax cuts on way – and higher rates – Tim Colebatch, Melbourne Age
Rudd moves to cap wages growth – David Crowe and Geoff Winestock, Australian Financial Review
Coalition tactics stall end of AWAs – Malcolm Farr, Sydney Daily Telegraph
Victoria’s first stolen generation compensation bid – Carly Crawford, Melbourne Herald Sun
MP Denies then Admits Assault – A Liar and a Thug – Steven Wardill, Brisbane Courier Mail
Razor Gang – Labor may dump pandas – Kim Wheatley, Adelaide Advertiser
Division hits ‘war cabinet’ – Patricia Karvelas and Simon Kearney, The Australian

Peter Fray

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