Warren Mundine must have been choking on his cornflakes.
The former President of the Australian Labor Party quit the party last year after his Senate hopes were dashed as Bob Carr strode into Federal Parliament, Senator-elect for NSW and Foreign Minister-in-waiting, following the resignation of Mark Arbib and the failure of Kevin Rudd’s challenge for the parliamentary party leadership.
Today, Mundine came out in support of the Prime Minister’s decision to endorse indigenous Australian, Nova Peris OAM for the party’s number one Senate ticket spot in the Northern Territory.
“Righting a wrong,” Mundine said.
While Peris waited for her party membership to be approved by the party’s National Executive (which does not include a member from the NT), a few others let fly.
Let’s start with the closest thing to a Scottish rocket launcher known to man, Senator Doug Cameron.
After he’d recovered sufficiently from choking on his porridge, Cameron kept it classy by invoking the ‘night of the long knives’ to describe the dumping of the incumbent, Senator Trish Crossin.
A “brutal exercise of political power,” Doug called it.
Despite receiving calls from the Prime Minister to prevent them choking on their Weeties, Senator Crossin, and her would-be preselection challenger, Marion Scrymgour, both had a vent.
Crossin, who has sat on the red benches for 15 years, issued a statement yesterday, pointing out the bleeding obvious – that she was facing a long walk off a short plank – but would not comment further until she had spoken with and consulted NT branch members and her colleagues.
Consultation, negotiation, input, trust, respect. All carefully inserted into five paragraphs. Very deft. I feel the hand of Rudd guiding the keyboard.
Former Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Marion Scrymgour, was less guarded, shall we say:
“At the end of the day, yes the Prime Minister has her way,” she said.
“But she had her way with Warren Mundine, she had her way with Kevin Rudd.”
The Territory’s former deputy leader, Syd Sterling, labelled the move, ‘an appalling overreach of power by the Prime Minister’.
Being late to the party, I asked the Twitters what was going on. One of the replies (since deleted) attributed the move as a way of circumventing some nutcase (or words to that effect) from winning preselection. I don’t know any of the players, but assumed the unwanted would-be candidate was Scrymgour. Having once held the highest office of any indigenous MP in the country, Scrymgour was variously promoted, demoted, quit the party then returned. She wanted a crack at Crossin, now dismissed as yet another timeserver on the backbench. True enough; then again, most MPs spend the bulk of their time on the backbench. If you’re a Senate backbencher, that’s pretty much what you do for your term, especially if you’re in Opposition. As I said, I don’t know any of the players. I really have no idea whether Trish Crossin does a good job or not. I sometimes watch Senate question time and think, ‘who the fuck is that’? That made the subsequent spouting of, ‘nothing to see here, move along’ quite interesting:
“Doubt 1 in a thousand cares who the NT ALP Senator is. Classic beltway obsession overcoming news values.” tweeted Channel 10′s (and former ALP staffer), Stephen Spencer (@sspencer_63).
‘Beltway’? Canberra’s roundabouts do not a Dupont Circle make; and while one in a thousand people might not care who the NT Senator is, holding a Prime Ministerial press conference to announce a candidate is newsworthy. See ‘Carr strode into Federal Parliament’. That was a bit of news, AMIRITE? It’s the delivery and interpretation of news which bothers people – left, right, and as more than one in one thousand people feel, left right out.
There are many people of merit, or lacking it, who have been ‘parachuted’ into Parliament by all sides. In NSW, the ‘N 40′ rule was regularly exercised over the ALP’s rank-and-file membership by the Administrative Committee to exorcise deadwood, sometimes for more deadwood. There are some cracking people who have entered politics with a little help from the backroom. Nova Peris may prove to be one of them. I hope that if she is elected, she serves the Northern Territory with distinction; but the way this has been handled plays into the tired narrative of the Prime Minister’s prime ministership from critics within and without. Perception matters. The narrative could have played out differently had Peris been a member of the party before the presser was held, for a start. That’s just dumb.
We should strive to have better people represent us in Canberra. If that means people get the arse when they don’t want to, or the ambitions of those who think they deserve a shot at the title are thwarted, so be it. I’m tired of political ‘dynasties’, personal fiefdoms and people who think they are owed something because it’s their ‘turn’. No, not so much. So, go for it Nova. Get stuck in and make a difference. Christ knows, we need it.
Meanwhile, on Sydney’s northern beaches, Tony Abbott’s Nutri-Grain may have been momentarily lodged in his oesophagus, but it quickly turned to a shit-eating grin for an unpopular leader under considerable pressure and scrutiny. After all, the Liberals and Australian Democrats have, or had, indigenous Australian representatives in Federal Parliament. The ALP was playing catch-up.
“It’s terrific that Labor might finally be getting its first Aboriginal representative in the Federal Parliament, so I’m all in favour of that,” he told Fairfax Radio.
If he has any sense, he’ll shut up and let the ALP’s latest fizzing and spluttering Catherine Wheel spin like topsy. Give it oxygen, Tony. Don’t suck it in with your blowhard ‘try’. That’s where you turn small victories into the dull thud of loss.