Best of Australian politics 2007

Sunday, 23 December 2007 

Best political moment – Rudd’s censure speech 12 February

Good political moments are those when the fog suddenly clears and a shift in the balance of forces is revealed. Such a moment came on 12 February with Rudd’s censure motion over Howard’s Obama comments. In a devastating speech (once he found his notes), Rudd made clear that Howard could no longer rely on the War on Terror to hide a government with an empty agenda. At the same time he flagged to his own side that the long nightmare of being on the wrong side of international events was over and it was finally on its way back to power.

Part II, Part III

Best politician – Kevin Rudd

No surprise here. He had his off moments but when he was good in 2007, he was very good, especially when he was tapping into anti-politics sentiment that confounded Howard and caused the press gallery to under-estimate him. Gillard is runner-up for maintaining her left-wing credentials and attack on Workchoices while campaigning for the most anti-union agenda in Labor’s history.

Best political paper – The Australian

This may be a surprise given the troubles of its political correspondents but its close government ties meant it was fully involved in the confusion that descended on the right and it remained an essential read in 2007. Columnists like Overington, Albrechtsen, Milne and Shanahan all became news themselves in 2007, even if not for the best of reasons. Given their inability to keep up with the new Labor party that has taken power, keeping relevant may be a bit harder for the paper in 2008.

Best political journalist – Matt Price

This has nothing to do with his sad and untimely death but the fact that he was one of the best at keeping up with the change in political landscape in 2007 while being one of the most readable as he did so. His high point came in May when he was one of the few journalists not to believe Costello’s last budget was the circuit breaker that the rest of the press gallery did. It probably helped that he injured his leg at the time and so was temporarily out of the circus that so disorientated the rest of the press gallery in 2007.

Best political interview – Keating on Lateline 7 June

The reappearance of Keating was one sign that the days of confusion were coming to an end and in this masterly performance he at last starts laying to rest the myths of the Howard era. In exposing not only the fallacy of Howard’s economic ‘reforms’ but also the sham debate over IR and Workchoices he didn’t win friends on either side of the political class, but entertained the rest of us. Tony Jones didn’t have to do much in this one but probably a runner-up where the interviewer did the best carve-up was Kerry O’Brien’s last interview with Howard. It is fun watching Howard trying to stop it from being a valediction and defend himself as O’Brien exposes the little fraud. The winner of the worst interview category is a toss up between any interview with Rudd over the Scores episode and the Howard/Costello love-in on Today Tonight.

Part II, Part III

Best political article – ‘Mortal Fears Exposed’ Peter Hartcher SMH

This excellent piece of investigative journalism in September exposed the implosion of the leadership at a time when others were still mistaking it for a Costello challenge. By the time Downer did his big ‘revelation’ after the election, we already knew everything we needed to know.

Best political ad – Confused?

It was not a great year for political ads. A good ad should spell out what we already secretly knew, something we didn’t get much of in the campaign with both parties conducting a sham IR debate. We have to go back to before the campaign for this neat ad which Labor brought out in September immediately after Howard’s retirement announcement. It was a good break from the usual boring Howard-hating ads and showed his faltering grip on power and the implication that Costello was being duped. What a shame it took two months for Labor to find a focus group to tell them to use Howard’s retirement plans again.

Best political cartoon – Howard’s farewell, Mark Cornwall Crikey

Unsurprisingly, given the Australian political class’s periodic lapses into farce, Australia’s political cartoonists are some of the best in the world. However, they were generally ham-strung by the same myths of the Howard era that hampered the journalists in 2007. This one by Cornwall hit the mark just after the election when suddenly everything became clear and Howard’s Don Bradman moment was spoiled by the rest of his party running amok on defeat.

Best political photo – Rudd and Wong, December

This is a great power photo that sums up the regime change in Canberra. The rise of Penny Wong signals that this will be a very different Labor government from what has gone before. Someone who had already made a mark as the leader of Rudd’s anti-politics attack while in opposition, she is now responsible for setting up an anti-politics agenda on a national scale using the issue of climate change.

Farewell 2007 – Comment thread open

This is the last post of 2007. Many thanks to all the e-mails, hopefully most were replied to. Back in 2008. Until then the comments thread is left open if there are any alternative thoughts on the above.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Sunday, 23 December 2007.

Filed under State of the parties

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12 responses to “Best of Australian politics 2007”

  1. Peter J. Nicol on 24th December 2007 12:49 am

    Shrike, yours has been my favourite political blog all year.

    Your analysis is certainly the most interesting and a sort of meta-commentary Australian politics this year.

    Hopefully you will continue in the next.


  2. charles on 24th December 2007 7:30 am

    The sad thing is, I’m starting to think your right, and if your right their really is not much hope for the Liberal Party.

  3. Az on 24th December 2007 6:59 pm

    I love your blog and I want see more!
    Keep up the good work in 2008.

  4. Anonymous on 24th December 2007 9:32 pm

    This has been a brilliant blog – thank you so much for your commentary, thoughts, perspective, research, observation and truths this year.

    All the best and I look forward to 2008.

  5. trin on 24th December 2007 11:58 pm

    Compulsive reading throughout 2007 I think you’ve just been awarded Best Political Blog by your readers.

  6. Graeme on 30th December 2007 4:52 pm

    Easily the most incisive and original blog or column. Thanks P. Shrike.

    Will continue to beg to differ on WorkChoices. Yes, it was unnecessary hubris on Howard’s part, and yes this new Labor (where the dropping of the ‘u’ is even more evident than in Keating Labor) will only partially undo the reforms. But electorally, IR was significant precisely because it symbolised inevitably vital key opposition themes like ‘govt out of touch’. Also because most people understand the world through their own lives more than through seemingly diffuse and vast threats like global warming.

  7. The Piping Shrike on 31st December 2007 12:33 am

    I know of the emails I got this year, the view on Workchoices was one of the most contentious. I think it was politically significant, which is why I kept raising it, just not as electorally significant as was being claimed, but more internally within Labor to rally the party together. Ironically, I think it will now be significant internally that much of it is being kept in place through most of Rudd’s term – a real symbolic slap down of the unions.

    On global warming I think the issue comes down to how much international politics effects Australian politics. I think one of the curious things about Australian politics is how much effort is normally taken to detach the Australian political scene from what is happening internationally. I think this government will be unusual in the way it will hitch the domestic agenda much more openly with the climate change agenda.

  8. Ralph on 3rd January 2008 10:46 am

    I also agree with other readers that your blog has been the most interesting political blog I have come across. Your analysis went deeper than any other and really got to the underbelly of what was going on. Truly fascinating reading.

    I think you are right in that the political landscape has changed in Australia. If the past is any guide, Labor should have about 10 years in power while the Liberals figure out what they stand for. It will probably also be that long before there is a change in international circumstances.

    I agree that workchoices was probably not a huge issue, but it did help re-inforce the it’s time factor.

    I look forward to reading your blog into 2008.

  9. Invig on 4th January 2008 5:42 pm

    Don’t mind your blog, Mr Shrike, although the Matt Price column had no real commentary on the Costello budget that I could see. Look forward to reading more of your stuff this year.

  10. the piping shrike on 5th January 2008 7:53 am

    Yes Mr Invig, looking at that Matt Price piece again it was a lot more about his foot than I remembered. I did what I often get accused of and selectively read it to the comment on the last para. It was a throwaway but he was the only journo (I remember) who didn’t think Costello’s last budget was a stroke of genius.

    What I liked about his articles in 2007 was his flip style meant he didn’t get caught up too much in the rules that seemed to throw all the others, and so seemed better at getting the dynamic. Especially given the paper he was writing in had Shanahan’s ‘insights’ from the bunker and Megalogenis’s politics-by-numbers nonsense.

  11. invig on 5th January 2008 1:06 pm

    Yeah Matt Price was a champion. Though always seemed to be suffering some kind of inner turmoil for mine. Hope he’s happier wherever he’s ended up.

  12. Riccardo on 6th January 2008 11:37 pm

    Piping shrike is one of the few who can do the ‘over the horizon’ standard of analysis. I suspect Rudd is writing his own narrative the same way.

    You see that with Keating in his interview – he knows.

    People criticised him for moving on to identity issues but fail to see that Keating knew the economy was finished as an issue for govt interveniton, he was ready to move on. But he was ahead of the electorate.

    You see it with Hawke and his published works – his metastory was that Australia was heading down the Argentina/Chile road with tribal conflict that the inherent reselience of the system could not keep sustaining. The ‘consensus’ stuff wasn’t a means to an end, it was the end.

    Piping Shrike also has a ‘Nixon in China’ theme – that leaders’ job is to restrain their own supporters – knowing they have more credibility in doing so. Hence Rudd/Gillard following the Hawke-Keating program of emascualting the union. Far more effective than bashing from Howard.

    Unions were ‘organisations designed for conflict’ and wither in low conflict environments – and were not something the labour movement wanted – it was forced on them by turn of the 20thC politics and by the constitution (S51.35) and now that the High Court has confirmed that the Corporations Power can be used by the Govt to set minimum wages – there is nothing left for the Unions as the broader Labor Movement have direct access to wage setting.

    I have emailed Piping Shrike that I will be interested to see the Howard narrative being written – will it become clear that he wasn’t fighting Rudd, or Beazley etc, but was fighting Chifley – his psychological anchor being his deep fear of the Labor Movement caused by his experience of the 1950s with his father owing a business. But those Labor days are gone, and he was fighting ghosts.

    The public finally woke up that the Al Qaeda was just the same Red under the Bed bogey man, the unions were feeble and even the threat of 8 Labor Governments was regarded as no problem because they are now all just service providers, might as well get some efficiencies from the logic of the market.

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