I am becoming increasingly tired of seeing, hearing or reading in the media, former Prime Ministers or politicians struggling to retire from political power and influence with dignity.

Sinking to a whole new low

Anyone with even a modest interest in politics could compile a substantial list in just a few minutes. Think Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Pauline Hanson, Peter Beattie, Bob Carr, Cheryl Kernot, Jeff Kennett, Mark Latham, John Hewson, Peter Costello, Graham Richardson and Peter Reith and you will have just started. Why don’t these ex-pollies just put the kettle on and relax?

Then of course there is deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who is suffering the “Kath and Kim “ syndrome: “Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Rudd recently accused Graham Richardson of suffering from Relevance Deprivation Syndrome, a phenomenon coined by former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans in a press interview shortly after his retirement.

Evans defined the term as lamenting the sudden feeling of social impotence that confronted him when he was no longer privy to the inner workings of Parliament, long years of increasing oblivion stretching ahead and he was feeling totally lost.

The media are forced to seek opinions from former politicians because the current elected crop seem to collectively suffer from the inability to link more than ten words meaningfully together on any topic unless they are fed a script by a minder via some electonic device. 

Because prominent ex-politicians are courted by the media so regularly, they fall into the trap of feeling they are still needed. In that delusional state they start offering unsolicited advice even when they are not asked.

Former national leaders and politicians are treated differently elsewhere in the world.

US Presidents are automatically retired after eight years and are favoured with an instant place in history and the ongoing trappings of office including security and bullet-proof limousines for official use.

African and Middle Eastern countries either execute them or send them into exile. European nations award pompous titles and include them on invitation A-lists for social events. In Australia we just turn them into media hacks.

David Owen, a former Foreign Secretary in the UK, wrote a book about political leadership and sickness and included two chapters focussing on the intoxication of power.

He called it the “Hubris Syndrome”, an excess of pride and self confidence in their own ability and an exaggerated importance on how they appear in public situations.

Such politicians often only turn up to events which they believe will enhance their career but generally they maintain an overwhelming contempt for others.

Owen pointed out that ex-political leaders continued to experience huge doses of daily adrenaline and were in a perpetual state of post-traumatic stress disorder.

They maintained the fantasy that they would one day be “called back” to save their countries.

Simon Jenkins, a UK political commentator, said recently that there is no animal in the political jungle more awful in its misery than an ex-prime minister or politician full of resentment, hopelessness and revenge, out of touch with reality and intent on winning glory for themselves.

I urge all former Prime Ministers and politicians to adopt the famous World War I phrase and apply it to themselves. “Retired politicians never die, they should simply fade away!”

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    • acotrel says:

      05:27am | 21/10/11

      Keith Hamilton and Pat McNamara were both on the ABC talking about Julias meeting with HRH.  Keith told Pat three times what the ptocols were for meeting the Queen. Pat repeatedly said he didn’t know what the protocols were, but finally after a lengthy discourse, grudginly admitted that Julia had probably done it right. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Pat wanted to construct a lie.  He wanted to create the impression that Julia had snubbed the Queen, and he substantially suceeded.  I’d never thought of Pat as being a poisonous bastard, but where do these guys get off with this stuff? All he had to say was ‘if Julia observed the protocols, and acted with proper decorum, she didn’t snub the Queen’ !  But wouldn’t that be just too bloody much - it’s always ‘make every post a winning post’ ?
      The LNP and its supporters show some really bad form, and it won’t go unnoticed if the thing is reported overseas, and the Poms see it !

    • Super D says:

      05:29am | 21/10/11

      Interesting that you used a photo of John Howard even though he (quite rightly) didn’t make the list.  I actually think Howard has been pretty much spot on in terms of his post political publicity - he did a lot while promoting his book - the best selling political autobiography in the nations history - but you never see him as a panelist on sky news or Q&A.

      Perhaps there is an inverse relationship between actual political career success and post career self promotion.

    • Nathan says:

      06:11am | 21/10/11

      Super D
      Not everything is an attack on the LNP. If someone can tell me what the great Howard’s legacy is i would love to hear it. I some how don’t think i will agree

    • acotrel says:

      06:20am | 21/10/11

      Howard got on TV a couple of weeks ago saying ‘Julia Gillard has no authority’ .  That in itself tell us something about the man. - That he is authoritarian in his own leadership style.  He might eventually come to understand that’s why he got the flick ! - We live in a democracy !

    • Super D says:

      06:55am | 21/10/11

      @Nathan - I didn’t see it as an attack on the LNP, just that Howard was pictured yet didn’t make the list in the body of the text.  It was just an observation, nothing more.

      @aco - Howard will be remember as amongst the nations better PM’s, Gillard the worst.  Suck it up.

    • Big Jay says:

      08:35am | 21/10/11

      Agree with Super D above, to be fair, John Howard has done a good job of keeping out of the discussion on public affairs, he did carry himself well on an interview with Tony Jones a few months back. I guess he has ICC bid to keep busy for a while!

    • AdamC says:

      09:18am | 21/10/11

      I agree, Super D. Though I would submit that the exception that proves your rule is Malcolm Fraser. While an unremarkable (even bad) one, he was a Prime Minister, and PMs seem usually to enjoy a dignified retirement largely out of the public eye. Hawke, Keating and Howard exemplify this - they know when to comment on things and do the media rounds, and also when to just be quiet. Fraser, by contrast, simply can’t shut up! It is so irritating, especially when he seems, inexplcably, to have it in for his former party.

    • Peter says:

      09:39am | 21/10/11


      Howard was on 7.30 promoting the return of workchoices and slagging the greens.
      He said it was inevitable that the liberal party would have to support workchoices as a policy.

    • Super D says:

      10:32am | 21/10/11

      @Peter, way to miss the point mate.

      The point was that for some reason Howard was not listed as a media whore (quite accurately) yet was pictured - it shouldn’t have been too hard to find a picture of one of the media whores that were mentioned in the article.

      This is not to say Howard hasn’t been in the media since losing office nor will be again.  He hasn’t however needed to reinvent himself as a talking head - nor have Keating or Hawke.  So yes he was on the 7:30 report and while he did not say we would move back to workchoices he did say there would be changes to workplace laws - which at some point in the future there will inevitably be, and yes he did bag the greens as extremists though fools would have been abetter descriptor.

    • acotrel says:

      04:42pm | 21/10/11

      ’ Fraser, by contrast, simply can’t shut up! It is so irritating, especially when he seems, inexplcably, to have it in for his former party.’

      Perhaps Fraser has grown a conscience since he’s been out from under the control of the spin doctors ?

    • acotrel says:

      04:45pm | 21/10/11

      It’s not a matter of Howard being a media whore.  He doesn’t understand that everyone is jack of his cynical little ways !

    • acotrel says:

      04:58pm | 21/10/11

      ‘Howard will be remember as amongst the nations better PM’s, Gillard the worst.  Suck it up. ‘

      Only if the LNP can create a lot more spin !

    • S.L says:

      06:04am | 21/10/11

      I’m pleased to see Paul Keating not on your list. He only gives an opinion when asked these days and can still cut deeply with his all too rare comments.

    • Dan says:

      09:34am | 21/10/11

      Agree, I loved his sumation of the GFC on Lateline in 2008 - it was brilliant and completely understandable… and at times funny.

    • acotrel says:

      04:49pm | 21/10/11

      Paul Keating - sadly missed, rest in peace in retirement !  I wonder if he’s an organ donor, -  he might donate his brain when he dies?

    • Labor is Toxic says:

      09:13pm | 23/10/11

      And today he is an articole for the Australian

    • Raptorlicious says:

      06:31am | 21/10/11

      John Howard needs to buy a caravan and do his SAD trip (See Australia then Die)

    • acotrel says:

      04:50pm | 21/10/11

      And hurry up about it !

    • acotrel says:

      04:52pm | 21/10/11

      I wonder if he’ll have a cork screw shaped coffin ?

    • Seamus says:

      07:06am | 21/10/11

      I’d like to see all their perks and rorts removed once they have left office.  That would be a good first step in shutting them up.

    • Super D says:

      08:45am | 21/10/11

      Disagree.  I’d rather pollies weren’t worried about who was going to be paying them when they’re done.  That being said once an ex pollie earns a certain income they should have no further claim on taxpayer resources.

    • acotrel says:

      04:54pm | 21/10/11


      ‘I’d like to see all their perks and rorts removed once they have left office.  That would be a good first step in shutting them up.’

      That would be alright, if they were paid like corporate executives when in office !

    • Bob Stewart, the Elder says:

      07:36am | 21/10/11

      As I was reading this,the weeping sickness of Mike Rann’s month long wake of departure almost has me in tears until other politicians spoiled the scene

    • mick says:

      08:33am | 21/10/11

      You got Peter Reith but forgot John Howard who has made several comments in resent times.  Both are peppering the Australian public up for the next round of Work Choices.  Its coming.  And we’ll then have the US style working poor.  Voters need to consider that the top 1% of the US owns 40% of the wealth. 
      About time the media began laying off our unlikeable PM and began showing the Opposition leader for what he really is so that an easily led Australian public does not buy the current ‘sack Labor’ campaign and fall into the hole being dug for it.

    • nafe says:

      10:23am | 21/10/11

      I’d be suprised Mick if that percentage was much different here already. But who cares what someone else earns. As long as you can live, house, feed your family and have fun, who cares who earns what.

    • Ben says:

      12:34pm | 21/10/11

      You’re not a member of the MUA are you Mick? The Workchoices boogeyman conspiracy theories are getting a bit old.

    • gobsmack says:

      08:39am | 21/10/11

      Libya won’t have to put up with its ex-pollies.

    • acotrel says:

      05:20pm | 21/10/11

      Perhaps we should buy a nice brand new guillotine ?  The old one used a few centuries back in France, must be worn out by now ?

    • Anna C says:

      08:41am | 21/10/11

      “African and Middle Eastern countries either execute them or send them into exile ... In Australia we just turn them into media hacks.”

      May be we could round them up and just ship them off to some island somewhere. Australia has 8222 lovely islands to choose from. 

    • Joan says:

      09:25am | 21/10/11

      “Retired politicians never die, they should simply fade away!”  Agreed. You can’t change the past , you had your time, stop meddling. - what makes you think we want more?

    • acotrel says:

      05:24pm | 21/10/11

      We need more John Howard - good for the LNP ! ! !

    • OMG says:

      09:50am | 21/10/11

      These are the nation’s most experienced public administrators.  Once freed of the rabid party savagery of parliamentary combat, they are able to speak more freely and introspectively.  Why gag them?  We should at least hear the voice of experience and make use of what they have to offer - no matter what their career political alignment was.  We only need to hear - we don’t have to heed.

    • Joan says:

      10:26am | 21/10/11

      Howard on doozy lightweight giggly chat show is hardly the way to learn anything serious from Howard or anyone else.

    • Big Jay says:

      10:33am | 21/10/11

      One ex-politician I’d prefer to be silenced is GEOFF GALLOP. He spends lord knows how long trying to become Premier of WA, gets there, then finds it too hard and quits citing depression. Now, he writes opinion pieces for another media outlet, and presumably gets paid a tidy sum for this and likely gets a parliamentary pension too. He was in a position of power, with vast resources (which would have blown up if he stayed in power) to make the changes he saw fit, but took the soft option now takes potshots and offers advice from the safety of the sideline. Why anyone should care what he thinks about anything is beyond me.

    • Max Redlands says:

      10:49am | 21/10/11

      I don’t see a big problem with it. As OMG points out they have the experience upon which to base their comments and can often provide more honest and useful insights once they are above (or out of) the day to day cut and thrust of politics.

      To use a sporting analogy: I’d give a lot more creedence to Alan Border’s views of australian cricket than those of a professional commentator who has never played the game at the top level.

    • pdr says:

      03:24pm | 13/11/11

      Super D and Big J are right Howard has shunned the limelight compared to Fraser Keating and Hawke not to mention plenty of others. Besides it must be hard to stay quiet when your legacy is being trashed daily by Labor party goons. Compared to them he is a man of honour and would probably have gone to the backbenches in keeping with Westminster tradition had he not lost his seat. How about being balanced Ian Wallace? You did not even mention Keating in your list of ex leaders who just refuse to shut up, when he is probably the worst of the lot, that fellow would talk under wet cement and seems to think we value his input when most would prefer it if he just disappeared.


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