Political leaders: the grades


So I was having a chat with my mate Garry tonight (of Far From Home fame) and we were discussing blogs and columnists and so forth, and I realised that, despite all my fanfare in my previous column about updating my website, I’d done nothing about it.

Once again, I was awoken from my website slumber with a familiar noose hanging around my neck: what the hell am I going to write about?  Then, looking over the past four articles on my website, I realised I hadn’t done a political one.

Oh sure, I mentioned politics in passing in the mailbag, but I hadn’t written anything about Australian/world politics since the budget.  Now, I guess it’s time for a little bit of a recap on how Kevin and Wayne have gone in terms of managing the economy since they cast us into the biggest debt since the Jurassic era.

The truth is, I have no idea how to separate fact from fiction here.  If you ask Wayne Swan, the Government stimulus was the sole reason that Australia avoided recession.  However, if you ask Malcolm Turnbull, he will point out that China’s better than expected growth plus the resiliency of the Australian economy (set up by the Howard Government) was the sole reason.

As always, neither side want to give the other a shred of credit.  Thankfully, that’s why I’m here.  So, without further ado, I’ll now award some pass and fail grades to the leaders and financial managers of both sides of politics for their performance over the past 5 months.

Kevin Rudd:  To start with, I’ll admit it: I’m not the biggest fan of Kevin Rudd.  He’s a media pretty boy and the left-leaning press gallery give him a free ride.  However, you have to take into account that Australia has avoided a recession.  And, like it or not, seeing as he’s the head of the Australian economy, some of that by definition has to reflect on him.

However, I’m not letting him get off that easily.  While the economy has survived, Kevin seems hell bent on passing a new tax on pretty much everything to stop a problem that I’m not sure even exists. 

Yep, the gloriously horrific Emissions Trading Scheme.  I think there’s more to this than so-called, ‘global warming’.  I think Rudd has realised that we’re so woefully in debt, that the only way to make the money back is to put in an ETS that will screw over a multitude of industries, not reduce Australia’s emissions by one iota, and send unemployment sky-rocketing.  However, it will give him some nice cash to start paying off our record debt, and by the time things are really bad – Kevin will be nicely retired sipping pina-coladas off the coast of the Maldives, which, by the way, won’t have sunk underneath rising oceans.

Grade: Pass-minus

Malcolm Turnbull: Let’s have a brief recap of how the last few months have gone for Turnbull.  There was Ute-gate.  There’s the ETS debacle.  There’s leadership speculation.  There’s Australia’s avoidance of a recession.  There’s the lowest ever rating for an Opposition Leader in the history of Newspoll.  There’s Peter Costello’s final “In your face!” shout ringing in his ears.  And finally, a leaked email from his office asking press secretaries to dig up dirt on all and sundry.  In other words – it hasn’t been the most pleasant of months.  You could even make an argument that Lindsay Lohan has had an easier few months than Turnbull (excuse the pun).

Where did it all go wrong for Malcolm?  The problem starts and finishes with Ute-gate.  He pinned all his hopes on a forged email and demanded that Rudd resign.  He fell into the problem that has trapped Richard Dawkins, Sam Seabourn, and many others before him – he didn’t check his sources.  In university, if you present evidence that is falsely sourced then you get a royal zero for your efforts.  In fact, you may even be expelled.

It’s the same in politics.  If Turnbull was prepared to risk everything to smear Rudd’s name, then he had to be prepared for the House to win.  He did, and he wasn’t.  It’s been downhill ever since, and he won’t be able to recover.  Labor will win the next election comfortably, but by mid 2011, people will start to realise Rudd is all spin and no substance.

Well, we can only hope anyway.

Grade: Fail

Wayne Swan: What is left to be said about the most out-of-his-depth Treasurer since John Kerin?  Well, I said rather a lot here.  However, since handing down the worst budget in political history, Swan’s been fairly quiet on the sidelines.  All the noise has come from Gillard, Rudd, Albanese or Tanner.  Swan has been mysteriously absent from political headlines for quite some time.

I think what happened is that Ute-Gate really scared poor Swanny.  His head was on the chopping block for a while there, and it was only because of Turnbull’s incompetence that he managed to survive.  Since then, he’s been overseas more than he’s been in Parliament.  He’s kept a relatively low profile (well, as low as a Federal Treasurer can), and he’s doing his best to keep his nose clean while he finishes reading “Economics for Dummies”.

Wayne: not a good time to disappear, mate - in the middle of a financial mess that is largely your fault.  Get with the program!

Grade: Fail

Joe Hockey: Chubby Joe is a hard man to put in a box (excuse the pun).  There are times when he’s in Parliament or on TV and you can’t help but think, “Yes, this man has got what it takes”.  Then, there are other times when he closely resembles a fly that flew close to the windscreen of a speeding Aston Martin.  He’s either burning hot or luke warm is our Mr Hockey. 

Take his appearance on 3AW the other week.  He admitted that he’d been sounded out for the job of leader.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being honest... but please.  That was just plain stupid, Joe.  Way to bring the media cycle back around onto the Leadership and off the Government’s ineptitude!

However, he went to a press conference the next day and came out with this pearler: “...the job I want is Wayne Swan’s job. I want to knock off Wayne Swan. He is the only guy I want to knock off and I’m doing it in the national interest.”


Now, Joe.  As someone who works in PR, I’m going to give you a little friendly advice: bide your time.  Malcolm is a time bomb waiting to explode.  Whether it’s at the next election or a few months after it, he hasn’t got what it takes to beat Rudd. 

Incidentally, Rudd knows this.  Watch some vision of him in question time before Ute-Gate and then compare it to after Ute-gate.  Before Ute-Gate, Rudd was careful and measured with Turnbull.  He showed him respect.  He was genuinely concerned that Turnbull may have what it takes.

Then, fast forward to now and watch the way Rudd deals with Turnbull in Question Time.  He’s casual.  He leans on the dispatch box.  He never looks directly at him.  As far as Rudd’s concerned, Turnbull is no more.  He’s irrelevant.  Not a threat.  It’s like the Borg walking through the Enterprise’s corridors – they know the crew don’t stand a chance, so why pay any attention to them?

I digress – Hockey needs to sit back and just let the next election pass quietly, and then harness his inner John Howard and go for the leadership.  You can bet on this.  Somebody email me in May 2011 when Hockey is the leader of the Liberals and has better popularity ratings than Turnbull ever did and say “Hey, you were right!”

Grade: Pass... just.

Well, there you have it.  Harsh grades perhaps, but turn on Question Time tomorrow and tell me I’m unreasonable?  You won’t be able to.

And that sucks

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Ahhh Parliament House. Such a
glorious theatre of entertainment.

Malcolm Turnbull has definitely
had better jobs
We haven't seen Swan too often
at the dispatch box
If Joe plays his cards right, he could be
leading the Libs by 2011