A column about Iemma v Debnam

I don’t often have cause to say this, but politics is fascinating right now. Brian Burke, the infamous former WA Premier who’s known for his dodgy lobbying and even dodgier fashion sense, has Kevin Rudd in trouble for the first time, and is seriously embarrassing many a Liberal as well. Human Services Minister Ian Campbell has resigned because of Burke, presumably only until immediately after the election. Although I’m not clear whether his crime was having a meeting with the former jailbird or temporarily derailing the Prime Minister’s attack on Kevin Rudd.

The Rudd affair always seemed to me like a storm in a teacup. What, you mean pollies occasionally meet with dodgy lobbyists? Quelle horreur! So I wasn’t especially shocked that it’s largely backfired, with voters reacting by putting Labor even further ahead in the polls. I even feel a little sorry for Rudd, to be honest. Sure, he was at a dinner with Burke where he flaunted his leadership credentials. But really, do you think it’s possible for him to have a dinner with Kevin Rudd where he didn’t flaunt his leadership credentials? The opportunity to talk himself up is, surely, like crack for the Opposition Leader. I certainly wouldn’t have expected him to have been able to resist.

Really, if this is the best hit they can make on Kevin Rudd, then he’s got the election as good as won. So, Federal politics has been lively lately. As opposed to that other thing, what’s it called; ah yes, the State election.

The contest, if you can call it that, between Morris Iemma and Peter Debnam is the dullest I can remember since the last series of Australian Princess. And there isn’t even a narky former butler to put them through their paces.

On the one hand you have a government that should surely be voted out on its record, led by someone who was so obscure when he became Premier that Labor had to run an ad explaining how to pronounce his name. Below its bumbling head, the government has been absolutely decimated by scandal. And the best it can do for a campaign slogan is to virtually apologise, and claim to be heading in the “right direction”, wherever that is. If there was any viable alternative, the Iemma Government would be facing annihilation.

But instead there’s Peter Debnam, who, according to a Labor ad that seems to have been copied verbatim from one of the ones that worked so well against Mark Latham, couldn’t even run a squash court. (Although, come to think of it, could Morris Iemma?) He’s promised to cull 20,000 public service jobs, but won’t say which ones – meaning that absolutely anyone who has a family member in the public service won’t vote for him.

Then there are his crime policies, which seem largely to involve locking up people who are children, Muslims or both. It’s a cynical exercise in votemongering, only it isn’t working.

Iemma’s policies, by contrast, are extremely dull, and align with a ‘State plan’ which has been rightly criticised by Nicholas Cowdery, QC for blurring the line between governing and electioneering. And sold by a raft of publicly-funded ads in another trick stolen from the Howard Government.

Fortunately, the brief interruption that is the State election will finish soon, and we can turn our eyes back to what promises to be a fascinating contest between Rudd and Howard. I only wish Brian Burke had met both Iemma and Debnam, forcing them both to resign. It’s the only chance we have of electing an even slightly inspiring Premier.

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