A remarkable 24 hours in Federal politics has continued this afternoon with Labor stalwart, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, announcing he will not contest the next election at the conclusion of Julia Gillard’s first Question Time as Prime Minister.
Tanner is one of Labor’s greatest talents, a political veteran with a substantial intellect – he is the author of a number of books – and a caustic tongue that has made him one of the Rudd Government’s deadliest combatants and most effective communicators. He was one of the most substantial figures during Labor’s long years in Opposition in the communications and finance portfolios, and was crucial to Labor’s bid for economic credibility in the lead-up to the 2007 election as it navigated the Howard Government’s incumbent-friendly election costings rules.
He will be sorely missed on the Labor frontbench and from Parliament. Moreover, his departure almost certainly means the Greens’ Adam Bandt will take his seat of Melbourne at the forthcoming election – Tanner was widely considered before this to be in trouble given the Government’s decision to abandon its emissions trading scheme and the high Green vote in his inner-city seat. Tanner emphasised to the Chamber that his decision had been made well in advance of today’s events, and in fact he had been scheduled to tell Prime Minister Rudd of his decision this morning.
Gillard’s first Question Time as Prime Minister – her predecessor, sitting at the back of the chamber next to Whip Roger Price, stayed for nearly an hour – was comparatively sedate, and rather quicker than the epics we had become used to under Kevin Rudd. The Opposition tried to home in on the issue of loyalty, and suggest that the RSPT remained in place, but the sort of dominance of the chamber that made Gillard such an effective deputy to Kevin Rudd looks, at least on this very preliminary evidence, set to continue in her new role as leader.