Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Shutters Up

Clearly, I haven't been updating as much as I'd like to, but my lack of time and new job are leading me to question whether I'll be able to keep maintaining poor old Modia Minotaur at all (sniff ... ), and certainly, to consider new ways of keeping the show on the road in the meantime. I have asked a guest blogger to step in for the moment. He should be up and posting within a few days - please make him welcome.

Monday, April 16, 2007

One Baird In, One Baird Out

Veteran Liberal MP Bruce Baird has announced that he plans to retire at the next election. His announcement comes a matter of weeks after his son, Michael Baird, took the seat of Manly from independent David Barr and followed his father, a former Deputy Leader and Transport Minister, into NSW politics.

Baird must be confident in two things - firstly, that Peter Costello is unlikely to assume the Liberal leadership any time soon, given that Costello's ascendancy would have given him his best chance of attaining a Federal ministry after fourteen years on the back bench.

Secondly - and he seems quite open about this - Baird suspected his pre-selection would have been challenged before the election. This is notable in that Baird is acknowledged as the senior statesman of the Liberal moderates and, as such, first in the firing line of pre-selection challenges. As pre-selections take place in the next few months, it will be extremely interesting - and telling - to observe who else is either subjected to such challenges or steps down in anticipation of them; including Judi Moylan, Marise Payne and perhaps even Baird's neighbour in the seat of Hughes, Danna Vale (who, when she isn't digging up Gallipoli, occasionally has some sensible and reasonable things to say). Vale and Baird hold their seats by comfortable margins, but that's rarely the point when such pre-selection challenges take place.

Petro Georgiou is a notable absence from the above list - but let's not forget that Georgiou, considered at severe risk of losing his pre-selection to former Alexander Downer staffer Josh Frydenberg, ended up romping in over his young turk challenger.

It's entirely possible that a number of young and ambitious locals are currently drumming up support amongst influential figures in order to challenge the moderates.

Howard has previously been very talented at painting the Liberal Party as a `broad church'; at letting dissidents such as Vale and Georgiou off the leash every now and then (in the phenomenon American political observers are now referring to as `catch and release' ). A monochrome party makes for a church that is decidedly less broad, with a support base likewise.

Whether such pre-selection will be nipped in the bud, or encouraged, or successful - as occurred in the NSW election - may say a lot about the character of what could be the next government (and yes, despite the current euphoria over Labor's polling, we can't lose sight of the notion that the government may still win after all).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Farenheit Rises

Quentin Dempster's interview with new NSW Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell is a good demonstration of the truth behind The Chaser's mock headline - `Iemma Supports Debnam in Leadership Battle' (you'll have to wait to read the interview - Stateline has clearly become slack once more, but once it comes online it's well worth reading).

The fact that O'Farrell has not been elevated to the leadership before now just goes to show exactly how bloody minded the factional battles within the party are - fortunately, the new Shadow Cabinet suggests that the influence of David Clarke et al may be waning.

Despite the numerous moderates supplanted by Clarke-backed candidates in pre-selection, only one has made the shadow cabinet, in former Deputy DPP Greg Smith, who was named Shadow Attorney General, as was widely tipped. The other two debut MPs to make the shadow cabinet are the woman who almost missed out on a seat in parliament because of Smith's successful battle for Epping, Pru Goward; and Michael Baird, the son of Federal MP Bruce Baird. Both are acknowledged moderates.

O'Farrell has long been acknowledged as one of the best parliamentary performers - he's clear and forceful and, increasingly important in the current political climate, he doesn't give the impression that anyone else is behind him pulling the strings. Hopefully, he'll keep the government on its toes - not a bad thing.

Sunrise and False Dawn

When Kevin Rudd became Opposition Leader, I expected he would instantly step down from his long-running role on Channel 7's `Sunrise' - or, if he did not, that he would politely be asked to do so. Two representatives of two political parties doing a regular informal discussion is one thing; one of them being the leader of one of those parties is quite different. Nevertheless, Rudd kept his place in the cult-like organisation known as the `Sunrise family' (while its rival, Channel 9's `Today', duplicated the successful formula with a regular tete-a-tete between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott). Holding on to this role was always ill-advised, and now, much like the Paul Gibson controversy (I'm glad I didn't have time to blog that, it was all just too depressing), someone has found a loophole.

A press gallery backlash is common when politicians refuse to make themselves as available as journalists would like. We saw exactly the same thing with Mark Latham, who was notoriously choosy about who he spoke with. The fact that Rudd was always so well known for being at the media's beck and call makes any reduction of access or excess media management all the starker.

Rudd's decision to join Sunrise was always an extremely canny move, as I've said before. It is both easy and foolish to remember that while you might be able to get meaty policy across on the 7.30 Report, the sort of people whose vote will change based not only on your policy, but by whether or not they actually know who you are, don't watch the 7.30 Report. Neville Wran was one of the first leaders to recognise the impact of the mass media, while Paul Keating was the first to use talkback radio as a tool of connection with the public.

However, Rudd's continued participation on the Sunrise show was risky not only because of the potential for such controversies as the one that is currently raging, but for Channel 7 itself - it risked the implied support for one party over another. As for Rudd, the notion of dedicating your early morning media time, by default, to one channel, is quite extraordinary when you think about it. Did the leak about the alleged false Dawn Service in Vietnam emanate from other members of the media from opposing organisations? Almost certainly.

My two predictions for the near future - first, Walt Secord, famous for heavying the media on behalf of Bob Carr and now Rudd's senior media advisor, will be told to change his heavy-handed style, or even ejected altogether in the long term. Second, Rudd will exit the Sunrise family, or at least become only an occasional guest.

Wow, What's The Time?

Logging on to my blog today, I had a bit of a Rip Van Winkle experience. I imagined the period after the election would be much more relaxed - it proved to be quite the opposite, what with a new job and the final semester of a Masters. Hence, the lights have been off at Modia Minotaur. I'm thinking of asking some guest bloggers to step in for the moment - but in the meantime, I apologise for my silence!

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Casualties

Peter Debnam has finally decided to step down from the NSW Liberal leadership, allowing Barry O'Farrell to stand unopposed.

The surprise is that it's taken this long. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who expected Debnam to step down on election night (it's becoming somewhat of a tradition amongst State Opposition leaders). During his leadership, Debnam managed the uncanny feat of focusing attention on his own ineptitude and lack of scruples at a time when the government was dealing with what otherwise may have been an election-losing scandal in the form of the arrest of Milton Orkopoulos. More recently, he witnessed a large proportion of his shadow frontbenchers lose their pre-selections. In clinging on and then being tipped off at the last minute, he ensured that the perception of his leadership carrying little authority, and that turmoil in the NSW Liberal Party is worse than ever, remained intact.

All known puns regarding Speedos have since been used, so there's not much else to say.

Meanwhile, Morris Iemma has sensationally delayed the swearing in of Paul Gibson as a member of his new cabinet, pending a police investigation whose details remain unknown.

And what can you say about that? Just shake your head with a bewildered expression, like I did.