10 of the best performing MPs of the year
It’s easy to attack politicians.
No better evidence perhaps than the bitchy list we compiled yesterday of MPs we think disappointed or just disappeared. But we’re not just a bunch of naysayers here at The Punch. Indeed we appreciate politics and politicians are great deal, otherwise we wouldn’t bother writing about it.
So here’s a list, in no particular order, of MPs who have tried and triumphed in 2010.
Well it’s been one hell of an effort by Tony Abbott:
Some of the Labor side laughed when Abbott became opposition leader leader a little over a year ago. As it turned out within six months he had the Rudd Government in such strife that Rudd had to be booted by Julia Gillard. He then pushed Gillard to the point where on election eve many on the Labor side had thought he had won it. As it turned out he didn’t win, but neither did Gillard which has left the new Government hamstrung by a lack of mandate. It hasn’t been pretty stuff from Abbott, at times shamelessly playing on fears around the ETS and asylum seekers, and has been decidedly short on policy ideas himself (except perhaps mental health and parental leave). But one man’s scaremonger is another man’s Prime Minister, and the idea of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister is one that doesn’t seem so laughable to many people anymore.
If something needs fixing just call Greg Combet:
He’s became the Rudd/Gillard Government’s version of Winston Wolf. If there’s a problem you call Greg, he solves problems. Need a hand cleaning up the Defence Department? Call Greg Combet. Need someone to takeover the shambles that became Labor’s ETS policy? Call Greg Combet. Combet’s even taking responsibility for cleaning up the mess left by the pink batts scheme. The benefit of having Combet in control of a carbon price is that being an ex-union leader and representing the Hunter, mine workers will be confident he won’t sell their interests out completely. That’s not to say he won’t sell their interests out, but Combet has a history of forcing good results in tight spots (like the waterfront dispute). Combet’s biggest problem is that he might be thought of as too effective, and end up getting tapped on the shoulder to run the entire show.
If patience is a virtue then Harry Jenkins is, well, a very virtuous man
The Speaker went very close to losing his job during the negotiations on the “new paradigm”, when for a couple of days Rob Oakeshott toyed with putting his own name forward in exchange for his vote and Julia Gillard looked like she might oblige. Happily for the Punch’s loyal band of Question Time tragics Harry survived to preside over the House of Representatives, providing endless entertainment and a refreshing dose of humanity. He’ll forever be remembered for the introduction of the euphemism “bow with a noise.”
The new and improved Julie Bishop
A year ago The Punch described Bishop as the “Stepford Deputy”, as she stood by and declared loyalty to her third leader in just over two years. She of the “death stare” is up against a formidable counterpart in the foreign affairs portfolio but proved herself deft at Question Time cross examination on the Government’s someone shambolic regional processing centre for asylum seekers. The fact that she went on The Chaser during the election campaign and took the piss out of herself also deserves points – and that she very effectively saw off a possible challenge to her job from Andrew Robb, without it all ending in tears.
You have to hand it to the Greens and Adam Bandt
They may have some ideas than are downright wacky, and some policy stances about as coherent as Miss South Carolina’s answer to a question, but the Greens have done what neither of the major parties were able to do: win votes through getting people interested political ideas. The Greens had a 4 per cent swing to them at the federal election, which was more than double the swing to the Coalition. While the Green vote continues to chip away mainly at the Labor vote, it was also the Greens vote that saved the ALP from electoral disaster. There’s no better illustration of this than the Greens win in the seat of Melbourne by Adam Bandt. Bandt gained the formerly red ribbon seat that was held by Lindsay Tanner, making him the first Greens Member of House of Representatives elected at a General Election, but did help Julia Gillard form a minority Government. You take the good with the Bandt.
You don’t get a more dignified effort than Stephen Smith
The West Australian has done just about everything he has been told to do well, despite not really wanting to do any of it. Smith always wanted to be education minister, but Gillard then Garrett (Garrett?) got a hold of that. He was told to be Minister of Foreign Affairs, which he did with aplomb, despite being constantly shadowed like an annoying mother in the kitchen by Kevin Rudd. When Rudd was rolled he was then told he had to move over in the Foreign Affairs role for none other than Kevin Rudd. Smith was then told he would be in charge of Defence, a portfolio that has claimed two ministers in Labor’s first term. Meanwhile Smith’s demeanour has been faultless as he attempts to take on arguably the toughest job in the cabinet. Mr Smith we wish you well.
We’re still not sure about Julia Gillard
If you missed the news story earlier in the year, Julia Gillard became Prime Minister after knifing her leader Kevin Rudd for the Labor leadership. She became the first female PM and the faceless men thought the earthy Western Bulldogs supporting red head would be the answer to their prayers. Well five months on how’s that experiment working? You can’t really say its failed, because outright failure would have meant an election loss. But you can’t really say Gillard has been a success because they didn’t win the election either, and the new Gillard Government has been stuttering, flat and is letting the Opposition set the agenda. Kevin Rudd’s major problem was he would over promise and under deliver, Julia Gillard seems to have cut out the middle man by just not articulating any plan. Still, it’s early days and she’s still the Prime Minister which is something. What we’ll be saying this time next year about Julia Gillard is anybody’s guess.
From faceless man to face to watch
Shorten might be regarded as a backgrounder and self-promoter by many in the Party - Kevin Rudd still won’t talk to him after his lead role in June’s leadership coup - but whatever his methods Shorten is getting ahead and fast. The former AWU chief was a key figure in the trio of faceless men, along with Mark Arbib and David Feeney, who installed Julia Gillard. Rudd had kept Shorten on a tight leash as PM in the Disability Services portfolio where, to spite his boss, Shorten not only showed a great policy mind but elevated the often-forgotten portfolio by working like a maniac. He was the most handsomely rewarded of the plotters, with Gillard promoting him to the positions of Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. The only real threat to his future elevation is the perception of mistrust.
Richo’s favourite pollie
It’s unclear whether Bob Brown was thrilled by the title but Graham Richardson reckons he’s the best politician in Australia. Off the back of a surging Green vote - fuelled by his standing as a conviction politician who, unlike Rudd, never wavered on climate change - Bob Brown became a kingmaker after the election. Not just in terms of helping to return the Gillard Government by forming a formal alliance, but in using his newfound clout to push Green policies onto the agenda. Like it or not, Brown has been phenomenally effective in forcing a re-opening of gay marriage and voluntary euthanasia and a formal parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. So much so that this week Treasurer Wayne Swan decided to chip the Greens for not focussing enough on the economy. Brown’s power will only increase after July 1 next year when the newly elected Green senators are sworn in.
Jumping the queue
Liberal moderates are often alarmed at his forthright language, and measure it against his stated Christian values, and the ALP increasingly regards him as a whatever-it-takes rabble-rouser on a massively sensitive issue. But for all the criticisms shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has been phenomenally effective in this vote-shifting portfolio, helping his leader - who is a massive fan - in cementing the “stop the boats” mantra in the psyche of many voters. A former director of the NSW Liberals, Morrison has done what that hapless state division hasn’t done for two decades - defined and stuck to a simple message, and made Labor own a very big problem, in the persisting view that the Government does not have a consistent position on border protection and no workable solution for offshore processing. Despite having just turned 40, seen as a future leader.
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