Not going to dinner. I think I now understand what Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been trying to tell us about his relationship with Brian Burke: “I didn’t go to the dinner arranged by Brian because I felt uncomfortable about it but I am a sneaky bloke who does not tell people what I actually think. I invented an excuse to get out of the awkward situation I created because of my ambition to ingratiate myself with anyone who might be able to help me get a vote in the Caucus. When I became aware that the former Premier of WA might lose me votes instead of secure them I did not want to tell him I did not want to consort with him just in case he was able to use his grubby tactics to influence a few of my West Australian colleagues to support me instead of Kim Beazley. In short, I am a just another politician playing the game that politicians play if they want to be successful. I will pray for forgiveness at St John’s on Sunday.”

Exposing a weak man. What a weak man Peter Costello is now exposed as. If he had any regard for his place in history he wouldn’t have demeaned himself by being interviewed for the Four Corners program aired last night but kept his counsel. No wonder John Howard reached the conclusion that the best thing for the Liberal Party was to continue as Prime Minister. Just imagine if Costello had actually led the Liberal Party at the last election. Surely Tony Abbott is right in thinking that the voters would have punished the Coalition even more severely than they did. And if by some miracle Costello had won, the reality of the economic mess of inflationary spending he condoned would have even the Howard haters by now praying for Howard’s return to replace a spineless character incapable of leadership.

Biting Malcolm back. Mocking Treasurer Wayne Swan for not giving a definition of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment will surely be for Malcolm Turnbull one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. He has now set himself up for every smart alec interviewer in the country to turn discussions with the shadow Treasurer and aspiring party leader into an economics examination. For every NAIRU that Malcolm does know about there is sure to be a concept or two that he has never heard of. I cannot wait for one of those eager ABC morning show presenters to begin the inquisition.

The pathway to politics. A glance at the little summaries below of MPs making their maiden speeches is all you need to know the pathway to success as a Labor Party MP: become a trade union official or work as a political staffer. Of the 10 from the party who spoke for the first time yesterday, eight have that background and one is herself a former Senator married to a state Labor MP who used to the the secretary of the Party. The solitary exception is Mark Dreyfus QC. Perhaps the Liberals are right not to remove those trade union faces from their web site.

Out with fluffy symbolism! The sentiment expressed by the National Party member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, that “the presidential style of today’s politics does this country no favours” with “greater importance placed on fluffy symbolism and 30-second news grabs than on the hard work of the 150 men and women who sit in this House” is a reason we at Crikey are at least reading all the maiden speeches of new members. Mr Coulton, as a former Mayor of Gwydir, not surprisingly firmly supports “a more equitable method for funding regional local government.” Perhaps one day he will find himself as a minister in a government able to promote the inland Melbourne to Brisbane railway of which he is a keen supporter. 8 out of 10.

Jodie Campbell, Labor, Bass: Very politically correct with a mention first up of the “traditional owners of the land we are meeting on”. A proud trade unionist, she told us, who quoted Ben Chifley’s Light on the Hill speech saying “I try to think of the Labor movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody prime minister or premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people.” 4 out of 10.

Yvette D’Ath, Labor, Petrie: Another former trade union official with the AWU who has come to Parliament “enthusiastic at the opportunity to be part of a government that will bring fairness back into the workplace.” 4 out of 10.

Mark Butler, Labor, Port Adelaide: Yes – 15 years as a union official. Outlined his experience on the South Australian Government’s Social Inclusion Board. Whose “idea of a multidimensional approach to serious disadvantage completely eluded the former government” while the results “of such an approach, however, are on the record.” 5 out of 10.

Mark Dreyfus QC, Labor, Isaacs: “Three strands of my experiences on the way here seem likely to be influences on what I do here … Those experiences relate to working for and with Indigenous Australians, loving the environment of this fragile and beautiful continent and puzzling over the planning of our urban environments.” 7 out of 10.

Julie Collins, Labor, Franklin: A former staff member to several Labor politicians, hers was a somewhat parish pump kind of speech, full of references to the electorate. Little evidence here of a major influence on public life to come. 4 out of 10.

Jason Clare, Labor, Blaxland: Former staff member of NSW Premier Bob Carr. He described Blaxland as “the mortgage stress capital of Australia” so rising interest rates will clearly be an interest during his first term. 6 out of 10.

Richard Marles, Labor, Corio: An ACTU official with a special interest in Papua New Guinea who believes that “non-Indigenous Australia, from the very beginning of European settlement, has been beset by a sense of insecurity.” For him “there is no more important issue for the future direction of Australia than to face up to these insecurities.” 5 out of 10.

Amanda Rishworth, Labor, Kingston: Ms Rishworth is “passionate about social justice, about opportunity and about a fair go” which she fought for as an official with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. 5 out of 10.

David Bradbury, Labor, Lindsay: A lawyer and former political staffer who has got a good way with a cliché! Tells us of a considerable interest in education and training. 5 out of 10.

Belinda Neal, Labor, Robertson: A maiden House of Representatives speech but not her first in Federal Parliament because of a former stint as a Senator. A very extended set of thank yous and a concern about Australia being at “a crisis point” in a lack of infrastructure. 6 out of 10.

The Daily Reality Check

I have mentioned before the tendency for the Fairfax websites to take on a somewhat tabloid flavour but this little gem from this morning’s most read list probably justifies repeating the message that when it comes to the internet The Age readers are a long way from the broadsheet image of serious souls: “C— does not have to be the dirtiest word“. The writer, Larissa Dubecki, is part of a growing tendency at the Melbourne daily for women columnists to put a bit of s-x into things as Gerard Henderson drew attention to in his Sydney Morning Herald column this morning. Not that Gerard’s words of wisdom rate in the top five most read on the Herald site. He could not compete with an account of a former Perth chef accused of murdering young British model Sally Anne Bowman not knowing his victim was dead until after he stopped having s-x with her corpse despite finding her in a pool of blood. Culture wars are pretty dull compared with that. When it came to political stories it is amusing to see the differing takes that Michelle Grattan in The Age and Dennis Shanahan in The Oz have on the popularity ratings in the latest Newspoll. The hard lady accentuates the negative with Brendan Nelson as Mr 9% while that softie Dennis prefers to praise Kevin Rudd as Mr 70 per cent.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Rudd threat to call election over AWAs – Mark Kenny, Adelaide Advertiser
Howard switches off to tell Nigerians how to switch on – Tony Wright, Melbourne Age
Rudd is Mr 70 per cent – Dennis Shanahan, The Australian
Mr 9% – Brendan Nelson’s parlous poll position – Michelle Grattan, Melbourne Age
Public pays for Kevin Rudd babysitter – Maria Hawthorne, Sydney Daily Telegraph

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW