False alarm on lobbying ban. Presumably federal cabinet has changed its mind about imposing a ban on officeholders in the Coalition parties acting as lobbyists. Either that or Alexander Downer is about to step down from his role as a consultant in the Adelaide-based firm Bespoke Approach.

For Downer, it seems, is the unanimous choice of the various factions of the South Australian Liberal Party to become state president. That title should help persuade potential clients that his firm is capable of providing that “discreet, strategic, corporate and political advice”.

Chris Bowen proving his credentials. I am eagerly awaiting the apology that Stephen Conroy will surely deliver any day now to his colleague Chris Bowen. It was Senator Conroy, you might recall, who declared early in September that Labor would look like a laughing stock if it did not have a leader for up to eight weeks because of new party rules that were a “farce”. The ALP, Conroy argued, was spending time “gazing at our own navels” and not taking the attack up to the Abbott government while it went about the business of conducting an election by the party’s members. As he told Sky News:

“These rules that have been put in place will make us an absolute laughing stock. We’ve got no leader, no front-bench, no shadow spokespersons who are able to lead the debate for us. And this will descend into complete and utter farce.”

As things have turned out, the interim measure of having the most senior member of the defeated government not contesting the leadership ballot as an acting leader has worked extremely well. While Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten proceed with their gentlemanly debates, Bowen has shown that further down the track the party would work well with him in charge. His calm and measured manner has kept Labor on television screens in a way that suggests the party actually could be a viable opposition.

Chief executive responsibility. In political life there used to be a concept called ministerial responsibility whereby the person at the top took the rap when something went terribly wrong, whether directly responsible or not. It has faded into virtual nothingness these days, in politics and elsewhere.

A wonderful recent example is the reaction in the financial community to the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, recently handed out to JP Morgan. Should the chief executive of the bank, Jamie Dimond, be allowed to keep his job? You will find an interesting difference of opinion in this video clip:

One panellist said: “I think that any time you’re looking at the greatest fine in the history of Wall Street regulation, it’s really worth asking should this guy stay in his job. In any other industry — I can’t think of another industry. If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say ‘Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.’ ”

Another said: “The company continues to churn out tens of billions of dollars in earnings and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. How do you criticise that?”

News and views noted along the way.

Peter Fray

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