Gerard Henderson makes some odd observations of the former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, his new book Sideshow, and its conclusions.

Lindsay Tanner is not the first to have gone from privately educated schoolboy to university student socialist . . . and on to a career in the trade union movement and Labor politics before settling into semi-retirement as a gentleman farmer.


I’m sorry, are only people who aspire to join the Liberal Party allowed to become Pitt St farmers? Or is this some coded message about dalliances with ‘The Left’ being a diversion between school and adulthood? I don’t recall Gerard reviewing Peter Costello’s book by saying “Costello is not the first to have gone from the social justice message of his youth` and on to a career in the law and Liberal Party politics before settling into semi-retirement in obscurity.”

But let’s move on from the man, how about the message?

Gerard takes issue with Tanner’s argument voters are tired of trivia that last year’s election outcome was akin to Australia voting “none of the above”:

Last year the Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, won about 43 per cent of the primary vote. For Labor, under Julia Gillard’s leadership, the figure was about 38 per cent. The Greens gained close to 12 per cent. In other words, more than 80 per cent of electors gave their first preference to one of the two major parties. That neither party won a majority of seats was merely a reflection of the closeness of the vote.

The figure does not support Tanner’s assertion that voters wanted neither Labor nor Coalition.

Just because people stuck with the only two options that they’re told by the media are a reasonable choice, doesn’t in any way change Tanner’s central point that the electorate are often at the mercy of the way that the media wants to present political stories, in fact it rather reinforces it.

Gerard’s counter point is that Barry O’Farrell won a huge election victory in NSW without playing to the media circus, although considering that the entire Sydney media, including the paper that Gerard is published in, spent almost three years actively working to unseat the Government that’s probably not a very good comparison.

Gerard concludes:

Sideshow makes a lot of valid criticisms of the impact of the cult of celebrity on modern politics. But Tanner has not discovered a new iron law of politics. The O’Farrell experience demonstrates politics can still be essentially about good government.

I think Gerard is missing the point, he may believe that “government became dysfunctional under Rudd” but the way that Australia avoided the GFC and the fact that a number of headline policies like the NBN have progressed defies his observation. Politics certainly seemed to become dysfunctional under Rudd, but that’s exactly the point that Tanner appears to be making.

Tanner seems to be articulating the same issues that Tim Dunlop highlighted almost twelve months ago about the “politics-media death spiral”, while Gerard to be obliviously participating in same.