Sunday, March 13, 2011

50th Post Anniversary: Some Political Favourites Recalled

It came to my attention the other day that I had achieved a signficant milestone with this blog: 50 entries. Which makes it about the longest running project of my entire life.

So the importance of this milestone is not to be underestimated. And I feel like I've come along way in the past 6 and 3/4 months, since it was pouring rain one Sunday afternoon and the Foxtel had gone down and my girlfriend was out of town and I had nothing better to do but rant online. Well, I should say, we've come a long way on this journey together, as I wouldn't want the 14 people who regularly read this stuff to feel left out.

So to mark my 50th post, I thought I would give a kind of brief (it's kinda sunny today and nice outside) recap of some of favourite moments in Australian politics, during my time as an observor.

I'm from New Zealand originally and when we moved to Australia in 1986, Australian politics was dominated by the long, and bizarrely coiffered, shadow of Bob Hawke. Among a number of achievements in public life, he is now perhaps best remembered as the wearer of the most spectacular jacket in Australian political history:

Although I also think of him as the teller of the perhaps the greatest joke in Australian political history:

Hmmm... the greatest joke in Australian Political History? It's hard to say. I mean, it's a tough call. There's a lot of competition:

In any case, Hawke worked a very effective double team for a few years with Paul Keating, who served a lengthy apprenticeship as Treasurer, Deputy Leader and Principal Head Kicker. Keating would eventually grow tired of playing second fiddle and have Hawke removed in a fairly bloody coup, which left him to take up the fight against the then Opposition Leader John Hewson. Hewson had been riding high in the polls against Hawke, but found the going harder against Keating, who quickly moved to attack him on a variety of fronts as the 1993 election drew close: (the good bit starts about 2.50. Sorry, I didn't have time to cut it down):

History, of course, shows that Keating did stage a remarkable comeback and defeat Hewson at that election, although it was probably hard not to feel a little sorry for the Liberal leader. Next to Keating, he was left looking a little insipid:

Hewson's defeat would, eventually, pave the way for the return of Mr 17%, old 'Lazarus with a Triple Bypass' himself: John Winston Howard. Howard had suffered at the hands of Hawke in the 80's, but Keating was never as popular with the public as the Silver Bodgie and Howard sensed his chance. Gearing up for the 1996 election and his final tilt at the top job, Howard's thirst for power was the same, only this time he came armed with a secret weapon; He could sing:

Howard, of course, became PM and just like some parable out of the Old Testament, darkness settled over the land. A darkness that lasted for about a thousand years... or at least 12. There was no singing.

I lost my interest in politics for a bit around this time. The years 1996 - 2003 are largely a blank in my political mind, as Howard and his acolytes took over and did their best to make Australia into a small country town circa 1950, while Kim 'Marshmallow' Beazley drove lots of people like me out of Labor Party forever.

In this dark time, right thinking people opposed to Howard were very much in the minority, and had to take solace in things like this:

But in 2003, a ray of hope appeared again, in the form of Labor leader Mark Latham... Yes, I know, in these enlightened times that sentence seems to make no sense, but there it was. Labor had a Keating-esque leader again and for the first time in seemingly forever, looked likely to be competitive at the 2004 election as Latham took the attack up to Howard:

But a little of this sort of thing can go a long way. And in an election where serious issues like the Iraq war, middle glass welfare and Australia's brutal treatment of refugees seemed to be largely ignored, Latham found himself getting jeery thumbs-down signals for this trivial moment:

Some pundits even went so far as to say that this overly aggressive handshake may have cost Latham the election, which is so unlikely that it may well be true.

The 2004 election marked something of a generational change in Australian politics as younger, fresher faces made their way into Parliament and began to make their presence felt. They also showed some of the older hands some new moves:

Although Costello's mimicking of Peter Garrett's dancing in that last clip is undoubtedly a payback for this (quite possibly my favourite political moment from the last 20 years):

Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning Live At Olympics... by ZapMan69

Gumption on an important issue on a very public stage. Let's hope the current ALP takes note when trying to sell their carbon pricing policy.

From the new crop, Labor would also find their next leader. A man who's unlikley culinary tastes would make him something of a global internet sensation:

Kevin Rudd was, perhaps, the unlikliest leader the Federal Labor Party has ever had. Quite apart from the ear wax thing, he was a man only 9 years in Parliament, without a lot of personal support in caucus and without strong links to the trade union movement, all of which should have been fatal handicaps. Nevertheless, when Kim Beazley was finally, mercifully, taken out and put down, this was who the ALP would turn to. And who would, even more surprisingly, lead the ALP out of the wilderness by defeating Howard at the 2007 election. Howard, less surprisingly, did not take this occurrence well:

Rudd was a new player on the national stage and was largely unknown to the general public when he took office. He would very quickly move to establish his own unique style, one which included asking himself an awful lot of questions:

'Do I look like I'm interested in answering your question? No I don't.' A motto that all politicians seem to live by.

Rudd's idiosyncrasies would soon bug the population very badly, so much so that his cabinet colleagues would have him replaced before his first term as PM was even up. Which proved a boon for the advertising industry, if no one else:

Rudd's replacement would be Julia Gillard who, after a promising first 5 minutes, would quickly end up emulating all of his unpopular traits. I was going to post a clip or a photo of this, but searching for something just proved too depressing.

So we should probably just move onto Julia's opponent, the one and only Tony Abbott, who generates that much oddball media he should probably have a highlights package of his own. Now when people think of Abbott at the moment, they probably think of this:

But to think only about this truly bizarre moment, where the first time round you're really not sure if he's going to punch the journalist or spontaneously combust, is to forget about some of his other hits. And we wouldn't want that to happen. So how about the time he denied and then confirmed a meeting he'd had with Cardinal George Pell, all in the space of 8 seconds:

Or the time he accused a dying man trying to get justice of conducting a 'stunt' by trying to meet with him:

I mean, I said 'Say what's on your mind Tony,' but Jesus! And then there was the time he swore at his shadow opposite number:

And the time he tried to explain how we shouldn't necessarily pay attention to everything he said. I mean, not to go assuming that he meant all of it:

The upside, of course, is that Abbott is a young guy, and so there should be plenty more material for me to use, when I recap the next twenty years.

And, just very quickly in small print, can I thank everyone who's had a look a look at this so far and given me feedback.

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