Oh dear, I’m going to Canberra…

Politics & Technology Forum with Matt Bai, Canberra, 25 June 2008

… for Australia’s inaugural Politics & Technology Forum on 25 June. It’s being sponsored by Microsoft, and I’m going as their guest. Apparently I continue to fool them.

The keynote is by Matt Bai, political writer for the New York Times magazine, followed by two panel discussions.

Panel 1 is on “Blogging, social networks, political movements and the media”, with Brett Solomon from GetUp!; Annabel Crabb from the Sydney Morning Herald; Peter Black from QUT; spin doctor Mark Textor of Crosby Textor, who ran the Howard government’s failed re-election campaign; and the editor of Crikey Jonathan Green. It’ll be nice to finally meet my editor!

Panel 2 is “Politics 2.0: information technology and the future of political campaigning”, with Joe Hockey, the Liberal member for North Sydney; Senator Andrew Bartlett of the Australian Democrats; Labor Senator Kate Lundy (ACT); and election analyst extraordinaire Antony Green. Very scary indeed.

At this stage it looks like I’ll be heading to Canberra on 24 June and staying overnight. If this is of interest, please register as a stalker in the usual way.

A pre-election meditation

Most of my Saturday mornings start with a quiet, reflective time. ’Pong has gone to work, the cats are fed and have finally shut the fuck up and gone back to sleep. It’s not yet time to join the Snarky Platypus for our regular gym, lunch, shiraz and sarcasm session. I’ve got a couple of hours to sit, still unshaven and often in my underwear, sort through the newspapers and my notebook, turn them over in my mind, and see what emerges.

What emerges this morning is laughter. About John Howard.

Not a belly-laugh, though, nor that loud, pointing, “Haw haw haw! Hey Charlene, will ya just look at that!”

No, it’s a quiet chuckle. A roll of the eyes and a slow shake of the head which says, “Oh, you bloody idiot.” And this moment of amusement is certainly helping to make up for the anger of the last fortnight.

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Oops, that should have been “miserable toad”

One of the choices in this week’s poll is “slimy toad”. Of course that should have been “miserable toad”, as this commentary on Kim Beazley‘s farewell speech to parliament indicates.

You might have thought the Prime Minister could have made the effort to be there for his adversary of 27 years standing, but he did not. John Howard remains a miserable toad. The rest of the Howard ministry took their cue and also absented themselves — Robb and Nelson the exceptions. And know also that when Beazley finished speaking and sat down, and those in the public gallery got to their feet to join the applause of Beazley’s Labor colleagues and most of us in the press gallery, Andrew Robb and three of the Liberal backbenchers applauded, too.

Brendan Nelson did not.

I always liked Kim Beazley — which, you should note, is not the same thing as saying he’d make a good Prime Minister. He was a strategic thinker and a good orator, both skills lacking in modern politics.

I meant to say it at the time: the articles by Alan Ramsey (which I just quoted) and Annabel Crabb are well worth reading — if for nothing else than the historical snippets Beazley dropped.

The Leadership (Non)-Challenge

When I returned to focus on politics after a busy morning yesterday, I discovered that not only was John Howard still PM, but also that there was never a leadership challenge. Really. How can this be?

I happened to read Crikey first, where Christian Kerr wrote:

Nothing happened in Canberra this morning. Nothing in a Samuel Beckett sort of way. A nothing that means plenty. A nothing that is quite profound.

You’ve right there, Christian! Every newsroom and every politics junkie in the country including myself arced up — prepared, as I said, for the biggest political story in a decade. And then come the time, Howard et al strolled out of the party room meeting as if nothing had happened.

Finally, at 12:45, Tony Abbott appeared. There had been “full and frank discussions”, he said, but there was “absolutely rock solid support for the Prime Minister”.

Continue reading “The Leadership (Non)-Challenge”