A challenge without a challenger

Wednesday, 18 July 2007 

Bring back Malcolm Fraser. He’ll know what to do.

Because before he became Australia’s National Conscience he was one of the most ruthless hatchet-men in the Liberal party, dispatching two of his own leaders, John Gorton and Billy Snedden, before his equally ruthless coup de grâce against Whitlam.

Roll forward thirty years and we have an ageing leader taking his government to what looks like a massive defeat, who is so vulnerable that a couple of comments by backbenchers are enough to set off leadership speculation in the media – but with no challenger in sight.

Usually when a prospective challenger claims that he is fully behind the leader, no-one believes them and looks for the signs of plotting. This time when Costello says he is not looking to challenge, everyone quite rightly believes him. The reply of his supporters is the rather pathetic excuse that he cannot sell himself in a few months. So here is a man with the possibility of a few months at the top job so he can pitch for a full term, who would prefer instead three years (at least) of opposition.

It doesn’t matter how long Costello has to sell himself, he has nothing to sell. If he did, he would have been hawking his wares already. Given that the PM stands for very little these days, the market-place is hardly crowded. But Costello’s budget had no big idea except for a different way of funding education and Julie Bishop was claiming even that one had been pinched from her.

Meanwhile, Howard, having only one initiative that has gained any broad support, is now forced to take what is already a highly risky strategy up another notch. The Australian government is now threatening to invade another part of its own country by pressuring WA with a military intervention following the recent arrests in the Kimberly. However, while the puppet regime in the Northern Territory caved in with barely a whimper, the sovereign state of Western Australia is looking more resistant. As Brough carries through the logic of his intervention, and uses the military to pitch tents for social workers, he is at risk of the WA government exposing the impractical, and partisan political, basis of this entire venture.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 18 July 2007.

Filed under Political figures

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