The ‘C’ Team vs. the Shadow Cabinet. John Menadue

Jul 3, 2013

Tony Abbott has described the new Rudd Ministry as the ‘C’ team. He is very strong on one-liners, but is there much content behind them?

Laura Tingle in the Australian Financial Review suggests that the new Rudd team could be a serious election contender because it focuses its strength on the likely key areas in the run-up to the next election. So let’s compare what Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott offer in ministerial talent.

In Kevin Rudd’s team Anthony Albanese is a proven performer and will be much more effective than Stephen Conroy in making the case for the national broadband network.

Tony Burke, who successfully negotiated the perilous waters of the Murray Darling Basin Agreement, even though two states still have to sign on. will be more politically savvy in Immigration than his predecessor Brendan O’Connor.

Chris Bowen proved himself as the Minister for Finance, but his later administration of the Immigration portfolio was anything but successful. He replaces Wayne Swan as Treasurer.

With the combination of good luck and good management, Wayne Swan can take credit for Australia being one of the most successful economies in the world, particularly through the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath. Yet he was unable to convey that success story to the Australian public. He did not handle the mining tax well and allowed his commitment to a budget surplus to over shadow the strong performance of the real economy. Despite the government’s achievements in economic management opinion polls consistently showed that the coalition was believed to be a better economic manager.

Bill Shorten in the Education portfolio can use his undoubted communication skills to explain the government’s policies on improving opportunities for all Australian school children following the Gonski Report.

Mark Butler, a possible future leader of the ALP takes over the important but politically tricky area of climate change and carbon pricing.

The big loss to the ministry is Greg Combet.

Some renovation of the ministry was necessary.  In addition to failure on explaining the case for the NBN Stephen Conroy  failed to get even modest media reform passed in the parliament, This was despite the fact that there was a clear majority in both houses for sensible media reform. Rupert Murdoch and News Limited had so antagonised many members of parliament that reform was not only necessary but possible. Stephen Conroy missed the opportunity.

Brendan O’Connor made no progress in Immigration and his transfer out of that area was necessary.

Jason Clare and Kate Lundy promised much on drug reform in sport, but didn’t deliver.

Joe Ludwig, son of AWU powerbroker Bill Ludwig, has gone completely after the fiasco of the live cattle sales to Indonesia.

As Laura Tingle suggests, the ministerial changes are explainable in both political and performance terms.

But what of the shadow cabinet of Tony Abbott? Relying on winning government by default he does not seem to have given much attention to the quality of his team or policy development.

Clearly Malcolm Turnbull is a very strong performer and the most publicly acceptable face of the Liberal Party. The ALP must be hoping that it is too late for the Liberals to also make a leadership change.

Joe Hockey, the shadow Treasurer is showing recently a more positive approach.

Eric Abetz who is Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has suggested that some asylum seekers should be treated the same way as paedophiles. He led the abortive attack on the OzCar affair and said that opposition to wood chipping was akin to treason.

Scott Morrison the spokesperson on Immigration told us that asylum seekers are bringing disease and wads of cash. He spent the early part of his career promoting Australia as a wonderful tourist destination but now concentrates on telling people facing persecution what an awful country Australia really is as a safe haven. He dog whistles about the Muslim threat.

Christopher Pyne the voluble spokesperson on education does not seem to have any policy on education funding.

Greg Hunt, who is Shadow Minister for Climate Action offers us sketchy policies on direct action and ‘soil magic’ to reduce carbon pollution. Malcolm Turnbull described the party’s environmental platform as ‘crap’ that amounted to ‘an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing’.

Peter Dutton the Shadow Minister for Health is successfully keeping health policy a secret.

Kevin Andrews in the Howard Government was responsible for the “Haneef affair” which cost Australia a lot in reputation and financial compensation.  He is shadow minister for families, housing and human services.

Bronwyn Bishop who supported tobacco advertising has responsibility as shadow Special Minister for State and Minister for Seniors. She was suggested some years ago as a future Liberal Party leader along with John Elliott.

Barnaby Joyce is the Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water. He was criticised by the Governor of the Reserve Bank for suggesting debt default by his own country.

Then we have Sophie Mirabella, with responsibility for industry, innovation and science. She got her position from Tony Abbott by opposing Malcolm Turnbull on climate change. In announcing his retirement, Tony Windsor said that she was the Member of Parliament he would not miss.

And then there is George Brandis the shadow Attorney General

Time will tell but the signs are that the renovated Rudd Cabinet will perform better than a “c” team.

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