Modia Minotaur

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Taking One For The Team

Forgive my silence. Despite there being so much to blog, spending all day, every day working on the State Election has left me pretty wrung out and not particularly willing to spend my leisure time writing about what I do all day, every day.

The Brian Burke affair cuts through this. It's been a slow-burning issue - it could be said to have started the moment WA Premier Alan Carpenter unwisely lifted the ban imposed by his predecessor, Geoff Gallop, on his MPs meeting with Mr Burke - and it's an unsual one, growing and mutating from a parochial state issue to one of deep Federal concern. At first, it claimed a series of WA Ministers - for one of whom, it is alleged, the ban was specifically lifted. Then, as we all know, it was touted as the end to Kevin Rudd's honeymoon - every political honeymoon cruises for such a bruising, be it this or Mark Latham's pledge to bring troops back from Iraq by Christmas. Now, it has claimed a Federal scalp - not of a Labor figure, but in the person of Ian Campbell, the former Environment Minister.

Campbell's movement to Human Services was widely viewed as a demotion, and he remains - or remained - one of the last moderates in the Howard cabinet; perhaps as a Minister whose career had peaked and was now on the wane. Following a bruising week of questioning for Kevin Rudd, who admitted meeting with the digraced lobbyist several times, including appearing at a dinner he had hosted, Campbell admitted to a lesser interaction - a single meeting - yet has been showered with praise and regard by the government for `retiring with his honesty and integrity intact' - in contrast, it is implied, to Rudd.

The Burke scandal has been the only productive line of questioning against the resurgent Opposition since Parliament commenced this year. To implicate the successful new leader in such a scandal must have seemed manna from heaven for the Government. So too would the revelation of Campbell's involvement to the Opposition - the issue was not Labor's exclusively, but for all those politicians who had met with lobbyists (which must surely be nearly all of them). Campbell's involvement was completely minor - probably minor enough for him to have survived the scandal.

Campbell's resignation has allowed the government to take the high moral ground. The phrases that an Opposition would use - that Campbell has `fallen on his sword' and the like - have already been co-opted. The Opposition, faced with what may have been an opportunity to turn the situation onto the government, are sent back to square one.

Is it possible that Campbell took one for the team?

As a senator falling out of favour, his parliamentary days are numbered. Was Campbell - perhaps on the promise of some post-parliamentary position - asked to be the fall guy to ensure the biggest threat the Government has faced remains inside the box in which it had finally been locked? His departure allows the Government to renew their attack on Rudd, and only at the expense of a Minister who may have been fairly willing to get out of the game anyway?

All speculation, of course. But interesting to think about.

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