He can handle things! He’s smart!

HE isn’t dumb, like Michael Kroger says. He’s smart and he wants respect! Always described as a “Liberal power-broker” – which isn’t a compliment given the Victorian party is powerless – Kroger surprised me last week when he proposed an Occam’s Razor-meets-Fredo Corleone theory on why Anthony Albanese struggles with details: “He’s just dumb.” As Wayne Swan memorably discovered in 2010, Kroger’s contempt for Labor can be scolding but he doesn’t usually get personal. There is clearly frustration in Liberal ranks that the Opposition Leader’s mediocre campaign performance isn’t narrowing the race in polls or shortening the odds in betting markets.

On the importance of Albanese’s inability to remember all six bullet points of “his own” grand plan for reforming the National Disability Insurance Scheme – the proximate incitement of Kroger’s ire – there are two possible views. When I saw Chris Bowen handing a rescue folder to his bullet-less boss, I was reminded of the Hawke-Peacock debate in 1990. The mate-rivals were both charismatic but Andrew Peacock couldn’t match Bob Hawke’s talent for weaving prosaic minutiae into winning advocacy. It was said that one exchange in particular made this obvious.

Before my political time, I didn’t hold out much hope of finding this obscure debate between two now-deceased men conducted 32 years ago. Incredibly, however, the video exists in its entirety on C-Span of all places. I made stills (above) which show Peacock’s paper-strewn lectern and Hawke’s clean slate. At the 43:09 mark, the Prime Minister asks a supplementary question; while answering it, Peacock triumphantly holds aloft a sheet of paper like Neville Chamberlain. It was investment-related analysis prepared by Access Economics (now Deloitte Access Economics). “I just happen to have it here,” declares Peacock. “You’ve got a lot of things there, Andrew,” Hawke retorts, beaming. Did the exchange make a difference to the final result? Not really. Did any contender or incumbent bring files to such a bout ever again? No. The moderator of the Morrison-Albanese blab-fest on 60 Minutes last night made clear the combatants were not permitted to use any notes.

In Albanese’s defence, however, I once failed to remember Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points in a history exam. I expatiated on about five before combining the rest into an amorphous generality of presidential intent. Which, funnily enough, was the Labor Leader’s strategy when pressed on “the details” of his NDIS policy (as if any network would have run it had he nailed the obscurities). He would simply spend more money on the scheme, he protested. Since when has that not been close enough for government work? Arguably the most list-zapping, articulate party leader in Australian history was former Liberal Leader, Dr Brendan Nelson. He didn’t so much speak as read from the auto-cue in his mind. It didn’t do anything for his prospects in the long run – nor did the “detailed programmatic specificity” of Kevin Rudd. My head tells me the Opposition Leader is not ready or even psychologically suited to a prime ministership in this era. My gut tells me that fussing over how well he memorises a pamphlet isn’t going to make any difference at the polls.

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54 Responses to He can handle things! He’s smart!

  1. Franx says:

    The National Emergency Cabinet is still in play.
    Never forget.
    As Struth says, it’s not a done deal.
    Some never forget, and keep the faith.
    The freedom protesters are still out in the streets of Melbourne, I learnt last weekend, and not via any social media message but via the protesters’ real, physical, drum-beat accompanying and flag bearing presence. Their presence was a reminder that resuming some aspects of normality ought not preclude what was pledged as ‘never forget’.
    And I had forgotten, forgotten many things, for instance, that a Queensland woman last August/September – seems so long ago – was unable to return from Melbourne owing to, firstly, vaccine requirements, and then border closures. She had come to Melbourne to take home the body of her daughter, a young woman who had committed suicide some weeks earlier. The mother was trapped in Melbourne, that most liveable of cities, as was the cold body of her daughter.
    It’s not a done deal.

  2. Mantaray says:

    Not Trampis. When you write something, could you be a bit more precise. If you mean “Albo has performed well at ministerial level, something that Abbott never did” then why not write that?

    Defending Albanese’s waffling lack of clarity with more lack of clarity will lose every debate. Are you able to see why ALP supporters are thought of as none-too-bright, now?

  3. Boambee John says:


    I suspect that Non Mentis (Trampis) is deliberately loose in his writing, to give him a way to back away when his more ridiculuous statements are challenged by reality.

    My alternative theory is that he is a semi-literate moron who would find difficulty in achieving pre-school standard in any subject.

  4. Tel says:

    No one is going to vote for a Greens-lite party like yours, they want an alternative to Labor which you sure ain’t offering right now.

    There’s a lot of sympathy out there for environmental issues … but the problem is that the “Greens” have captured the marketing slogan of “Environment!” without having a single policy that does help the real world environment that we live in.

    There’s a lot of scope for sensible environmental strategy that would call out the “Greens” for being essentially Marxists under cover. For example:
    * Bushfires – having a small deliberate burn every 3 years is better for the cute and cuddly koalas than having an holocaust style accidental burn every 15 years at the worst possible time because no one was thinking about fuel loads.
    * CO2 – closing down coal fired power plants and leaving people without electricity will not make one single tree grow. Trees much prefer a slightly warmer, wetter environment with higher CO2 … that’s a scientific fact.
    * Pollution – open your eyes, because Australia has almost no pollution … China has pollution, India has pollution … if you want to fix bad air quality don’t dump more and more regulations onto Australians, go look at the parts of the world where the problem actually exists.
    * Barrier Reef – it’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it … one of a small number of things that Pauline Hanson got exactly correct.
    * Dams – somehow force the states to sell permits, and force Queensland to honour property rights of land owners … we don’t have a water problem, we have a storage and management problem. Ding! Ding! Ding! Leadership required over here!! Ding! Ding! Can I have some leadership please?
    * Agriculture – why hate on farmers? Anyone who owns a family farm, going several generations, they want their land as “sustainable” as possible in terms of passing something valuable to their kids.
    * National Parks – put a dose of salts through the “civil servants” who only have a plan for locking normal people out of the parks … they were intended for recreation and it’s your freaking job to make that happen. Fix up the fire trails and clear them out again, do some bloody maintenance.
    * Native title – offer titles but make sure they are proper titles, owned by small specific groups of people who have the choice to do something positive with the land, and don’t need to ask permission of white fella bureaucrats at every step … if in doubt talk to Bob Katter. Don’t allow yet another style of Marxism to take root here.

    Put the “Green Party” on the spot by asking them which Communist country has a good environmental record. They will freak right out.

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