Dec 11, 2014

Faulkner’s retirement a loss across many fronts

Labor Senator John Faulkner's retirement marks the end of an era in Australian politics.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Labor senator John Faulkner, it feels like, has been in the Senate forever; in fact, it’s only 25 years, which is long enough, from the Hawke era to the Abbott — if it deserves the title yet — era. Four Labor Prime Ministers, ten (by my count, I might have missed one or two) leaders, a variety of ministerial positions, mainly in the defence and environment/miscellaneous portfolios. But his finest work was as Kevin Rudd’s special minister of state, in which, however briefly, Australians got the sort of commitment to transparency and good governance that all governments should embrace and which all parties promise in opposition, but which none, ever, deliver.

By that point Faulkner had morphed from a respected warrior of the NSW Labor Left into Labor’s elder statesman. During the long years in opposition, he had become, with Robert Ray, a machine of forensic scrutiny at Senate Estimates. His mere appearance at the table served as a warning to bureaucrats that the normal tricks and games by which public servants shielded their ministers and avoided exposure would not work; Faulkner would sit there, staring icily at them, almost always civil to a fault, but relentless in his questioning. After 2007, many a Coalition senator sought to emulate Faulkner and Ray, but none of them came even close. They did, however, respect Faulkner, and still do, probably more than many on the NSW Labor Right do.

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10 thoughts on “Faulkner’s retirement a loss across many fronts

  1. Steven Grant Haby

    Senate Estimates will never be the same.

    A sad loss to the ALP.

    Hopefully Doug “Dougie” Cameron can step up and fill the good senator’s shoes as a frank and fearless perfomer in Estimates with his own inmitable style.

  2. GF50

    Thanks BK; you have nailed the loss from JF’s departure to Australia.

  3. Yclept

    A sad loss to us all…

  4. zut alors

    Alas, sorry to see John Faulkner finally making his well-deserved escape after 25 years of parliamentary service.

    Lindsay Tanner & John Faulkner in the ranks lent gravitas to the ALP.

  5. Neutral

    well that’s it then …L1 & L2 should just merge, monopolise and save us the pretense and expense of elections…

  6. Desmond Graham

    Brilliant standard of journalism Gold Coast Bulletin report -best Prime Minister we never
    experienced :-
    ‘Senator Faulkner wished Bill Shorten and his “caucus colleagues” well and thanked his staff.

    But when asked who he thought was Labor’s best leader, he promptly answered: “John Curtain”, sidelining Shorten, Julia Gillard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.’

    Well so much for the erudition of modern journalism.

  7. jmendelssohn

    Before Faulkner was a politician he taught disabled children. I always wondered if that gave him both a sense of perspective as to what really matters in life. And the skills to deal with those of his colleagues who lacked life experience.

  8. Norman Hanscombe

    Steven Haby, if you think Doug Cameron has the intellectual capacity to fill Faulkner’s shoes, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise.
    John’s choice of Curtin as our best Federal Leader ever is a good one, but we’re possibly fortunate he didn’t give second place, because it’s likely Shorten, Gillard, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating [mentioned by one poster] might still not have received a place.

  9. K.D. Afford

    Indeed, I will miss his quality, no doubt the dogs in opposition are clapping, but they are all diseased with failure!

  10. K.D. Afford

    Sorry, I mean, in government, I only see them in opposition, to everything fair and democratic. Wait for them to howl at the moon in the new year and continue to blame Labor for their own inabilit to govern!

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