To the extent that it is remembered at all, Simon Crean’s two-year stint as Labor leader is notable solely for the protracted and indulgent internal debate over union representation within the ALP. At one point Crean was depicted in caricature on the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph holding a magnifying glass to his navel under the blunt headline Get On With It.
The headline captured the sense that the party should better busy itself with the business of producing policy, rather than rabbiting on endlessly about itself.
At least Labor was in Opposition at the time. Fast forward to 2012 and the party has again meandered into a lengthy external discussion rather than holding a swift and decisive internal debate about its relationship with the Greens.
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An email was sent to almost every politician in Australia this week saying that someone should cut off Julia Gillard’s head and s**t down her neck. Politicians receive emails like this quite often.
They are also sent to those of us in the press. On any given day I would receive 20 to 30 emails from people I have never met who are really angry about something.
They range from people who are obsessed with the apparent fiction of climate change to others peddling filth about the prime minister’s appearance or her private life, sending in photos with stupid captions, and so on.
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“I’m sorry I’m late, but I have piles.” With these immortal words, the former member for the South Australian seat of Mallee, rogue rural Liberal turned independent Peter Lewis, apologised for his late arrival at a scheduled press conference on the steps of State Parliament from North Terrace.
Coming from anybody else the words would have caused shock. Not so in the case of Peter Lewis, a man who made the word maverick seem somehow inadequate to capture the bizarre nature of his unlikely life in the public arena.
Lewis not only looked like Yosemite Sam, he acted like him. In an all-night conscience vote on euthanasia in the mid-1990s, the socially conservative Lewis surprised colleagues by rising to support the legislation on the grounds that, while working as a mercenary in the Thai jungle some years ago, he shot dead one of his fellow soldiers in a mercy killing after he had been mortally wounded by Marxist guerrillas.
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Bob Brown should be first to chip in to Rob Oakeshott’s swear jar which the independent MP says needs topping up any time someone says the Labor government has a mandate.
The Greens leader appeared to contradict Oakeshott when he wrestled with the mandate question on Lateline last night. Asked what he thought of the member for Lyne’s view that the Gillard government shouldn’t be claiming to have a mandate, Brown replied:
Well it’s got - we got a proportional mandate, and it’s got the biggest mandate amongst the make-up of government, ah, and it’s certainly now got a stronger mandate than the Coalition.
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On Friday my daughter turned 2. By the end of the month, she may have had more Prime Ministers in her life than birthdays.
That said, the result on Saturday night was a victory for the people. As much as the two major parties don’t like not knowing if they get the keys to Treasury, this is a great outcome for all Australians.
Throughout Australia, at the state level, we’ve been through this a few times more recently than the last time this happened federally. In Queensland – my most direct experience with hung parliaments – it started in 1995.
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