Monday, March 16, 2009

Paul Sheehan, John Hewson, Peter Costello, Dead Man Talking, Dead Man Walking, Poor Old Malcolm and the Liberal Party

Nothing like Paul "Magic Water Man" Paul Sheehan to induce a cheerful sense of fun in an autumn morning at loon pond, as he does in Resurrection of dead man talking.

First he spends para after para slagging off John Hewson as an epic failure, a dead man talking. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, since Hewson is a fine example of an ex-Liberal leader turned media loon, though I wonder if it might have been Hewson's failure to embrace magic water as a solution for all that ails ya that sticks in Sheehan's craw.

Then it's on to the fine work Peter Costello is currently doing to stabilise the Liberal party leadership and fix up on the Australian economy.

The economic decline of the past six months has been even more precipitous than it was at the start of the Depression in 1929-30. More major American and European banks have already failed than ever failed in the Depression. The debate is much deeper than political theatre.

Oh so that's why the Costello went for an epic walk around parliament house dressed in brightly colored plumage, reminiscent of John Howard in his finest days, dragging a horde of media along with him. It wasn't political theatre, it was a campaign to suggest fitness would be vital as we all went down the economic plughole.

Yet Costello does not want the leadership. He is not seeking the leadership. There is no lobbying, no challenge pending or planned. He has said it publicly. He says it privately. The political alchemy that would make Costello Opposition leader does not exist. It would require the economy to be in deep decline, Malcolm Turnbull to be floundering in the opinion polls, the party room demanding change, and the Government vulnerable, with an election pending.

Read that sentence again. The economy in deep decline. Tick. Turnbull floundering. Tick. The party room demanding change. Well some of them are. Half tick. The Government vulnerable. Well surely with St Peter leading the charge. Full tick. And an election pending. How about time to get into the saddle and prepare for the charge. Time flies over a couple of years while you're having fun dusting up that chook Rudd. Tick.

No, no, no, says Sheehan. Not one of these five elements is in place. Huh? But didn't you just say we're facing events of Depression importance, suggesting the presence of a fundie loon like Costello at the helm is essential? Lordy, lordy, incapable of consistent, coherent thought from one  paragraph to another.

Yep, according to the analytical Sheehan, this fuss about Costello is just a media beat up that's been cooking along for 14 months, ever since Costello decided to stay in government (in contrast to the many who pulled up stakes and left), and it's all Hewson's fault. Nothing to do with the man himself. Costello's just gravely worried about the world's mountain of debt, induced by a legion of lawyers (one of whom just happens to be Peter Costello, but never no mind).

And what's Petie boy going to do to save this disastrous world in the next year or so? Why renominate for the seat of Higgins, and sit on the back benches, warming them with his bottom, and doing everything you would expect of a back bencher to save the world. Three fifths of five eights of fuck all. Now that's a grand plan.

Well Costello will say savage words at the Ruddster and his socialistic, knavish government. And he will carelessly stab Turnbull in the back every so often just to stay in practice. But that's just jolly good fun amongst the chums. 

If he's so concerned about the world, so gravely worried, why doesn't he take a seat on the front bench? He's been offered one over and over and over again.

The absurdity of this kind of nonsense even penetrates Sheehan's thick noggin.

... (Costello) must adapt to the reality that the Canberra press gallery will only respond to his taking a prominent role in the great debate of our time by pursuing its fetish, its obsession with leadership struggles, the story that never dies, the race that never ends.

Cue Hewson's question then, and maybe the loon was actually on to something. Does Costello have the balls? What the hell does he want? Does he think making alarmist loonish calls from the back bench is helping either Turnbull or the Liberal party? Or the Australian economy? Or defeating Rudd, who is setting sail to be the most boring Prime Minister in Australian history?Or is this the ultimate act of political bastardy and pique, an epic sulk and payback that you'd usually expect from a two year old?

The only thing to emerge clearly from Sheehan's column is that he doesn't have a clue, and his cluelessness leads to a remarkably silly and clueless column. Still, it'll be fish and chips wrapping by the morn (oh wait they have digital versions that linger like a bad smell on the intertubes for months these days - what's a chappie to do?)

But here's the thing. So long as Costello sits in the back bench, not mounting a challenge, he's either being gutless, or he's deliberately and knowingly sabotaging Turnbull and the Liberal party for no particular reason. That's worse than gutless, that's criminal. So long as he stays on the back bench, and refuses to be a team player, he's just another obstacle to the Liberals regaining power.

What a pity Sheehan doesn't call out Cosello and call it as it is. Instead he begins to sound a lot like John Hewson, only from a different, bizarrely silly angle. Shoot the messenger, try desperately to ignore the message. Somewhere there's an irony in there ...

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