There is a theory – a story, if you like – that Churchill was always able to “prove” that he was always on the side of decency, fairness, high-mindedness, and principle by quoting from his Cabinet submissions, newspaper articles and speeches from his long career as a Minister and Prime Minister.
According to this theory/story, Churchill was able to cite those self-serving quotes because he began every second paragraph with “On the other hand…” After all, he did say that “History is written by the victors.”
Eighteen months ago PM Gillard recruited the former NSW Premier to the Senate vacancy and he immediately got the plum job of Foreign Minister. Now, having served less than six weeks after being elected for a new six year term from 1 July next year, he has resigned.
This is the same Bob Carr who, when he was appointed, described himself as a “natural Senator” – which is probably true because you don’t have to bother with the little people like constituents – and that he wanted to stay forever as a Senator.
“I’m going to beat Strom Thurmond”, he boasted. Thurmond, who served in the US Senate for forty-eight years, died in office aged 100. Carr is 66.
On the other hand, he also said, “Bob’s here for a good time, not a long time.”
We know now which was true.
At his farewell media conference he bought the wisdom of the ages when he reflected upon the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Governments.
Firstly, and with a confected self-deprecation, he admitted that his solemn vows to stay as a Senator until hell froze over were the products of “irrational exuberance”. Every Abbott Government Minister should keep that handy comment with their Question Time briefing papers if promises don’t quite work out as hoped.
He told the media who hung on his every utterance that, “I did notice a lack of calculation, careful political instinct from 2007.” Good heavens above, it appears St Bob was suggesting that virtually five minutes after Rudd was elected that the ALP Government was losing its way.
Back in March this year, Carr flatly denied that he had lost confidence in PM Gillard yet he disclosed at his media conference that he had supported Rudd’s Second Coming. With friends like that, Gillard had no hope at all.
He realised, he said, that the Gillard Government had “lost its way” when he turned up for a Cabinet meeting expecting a discussion on coal seam gas only to be confronted with a bulky submission about media reform.
We all remember it was Gillard who said in 2010 that the Rudd Government was “losing its way” – and it seems that this pithy little comment has far greater currency among Labor folks reminiscing about their own governments that, say, silly platitudes about “The light on the hill.”
Other gems of retrospective insight included the view that the ALP in government showed “a lack of caution, cunning – canniness is probably the best word” and that it should have been “friends with everyone” a year out from the poll and “cooling controversy, not creating it.”
Minister Conroy’s so-called media reforms – dumped without any notice on the Cabinet table according to Carr – got a special mention in this regard and, certainly, they provoked a firestorm. Conroy is now Deputy Leader in the Senate and part of Bill Shorten’s inner leadership group so his appreciation of tactics, if accepted, will be a Christmas gift for the Abbott Government.
The NSW ALP has opened nominations for the vacancy and already Deb O’Neill, the defeated MP for Robertson, the very one who terrorised the elderly about a rising ocean sweeping all out to sea, has put her hand up. In an amazing display of shameless self-promotion, she intoned that she wanted to return to Parliament “so I can continue my work to serve the people of Central Coast and those across New South Wales.” No matter that her electorate gave her a well earned sacking.
A somewhat less-than-impressive 34.8% of Robertson voters at the election wanted her to continue her work, whatever that was. But a chance to keep one’s nose in the trough overrides all such pesky matters, it seems.
Another defeated MP, Mike Kelly who lost his Eden-Monaro seat has also indicated an interest although he really wants to win back his old seat. No doubt warming a seat in the Senate until 2016 would be a very comfy way of waiting for the people of Eden-Monaro to come to their senses. Free passage to the Senate seems to be a “Labor rejects” natural progression—a birthright.
Carr has announced that he will “reinvent” himself as a guru on Asia with nice little jobs at both Sydney and New South Wales Universities. It’s a crowded field, what with K Rudd Esq tying up that market amusing his Asian audiences that are too polite to snigger at his smattering of jerky, Chinese lingo.
And, meanwhile, Maxine McKew – the one-time Labor hero who unseated Prime Minister Howard in 2007 but who only served one term before being defeated herself – has written another chapter for her memoirs.
McKew, who spent part of the 2013 campaign travelling with Rudd and cronies, said the then PM was “off his game”, had advocated idiotic policies and had introduced a “perverse and cruel” asylum-seeker regime that she “couldn’t stomach”.
Rudd, she wrote, “went off the deep end” saying that he favoured tax breaks for companies re-locating to the Northern Territory and that Labor’s “already diminished credibility was practically shredded” when senior public servants disowned the government’s claim that they had verified a “black hole” in the Coalition’s policy costings.
You get the feeling that there won’t be a lot of two-way Christmas card deliveries between the comrades this year.
It is also patently clear that the Australian Labor Party has learned nothing from their mistakes and seem to believe they have made none. With that attitude in play Labor will assign itself to the political wilderness until the elites within learn how to be a servants of the people, not the reverse.