Process biting Gillard on the bum?

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Ranting
Tags: , , ,
312061-nova-peris

Nova Perris with Julia Gillard – pic credit Kym Smith

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has taken a dangerous step. A long-standing Labour Senator in the Northern Territory, Trish Crossin, having won pre-selection for the top position on the Senate ticket with the NT branch of the Labor Party, has now been told to stand aside. The NT branch decision is to be overridden by the Labor Party Federal Executive at the express request of Gillard. The Prime Minister instead wants newbie, Nova Perris, to take that position, despite Ms Perris not actually being a member of the party.

Senator Crossin was only informed of the decision the day before Gillard took the unusual step of holding a press conference to announce an internal matter of Labor Party machinations. Seems like a bit of a kick on the teeth.

Senator Crossin - pic credit Kym Smith

Senator Crossin – pic credit Kym Smith

Perris is better known at large in Australia as being an Australian gold medal winner in hockey and then after switching to athletics, winning yet more gold at Commonwealth Games. She is also an indigenous Australian who has been working in various areas of social concern.

Parachuting a ‘special’ or ‘celebrity’ candidate into a ‘safe’ seat is hardly anything new from either side of Australian mainstream politics. The one that really sticks in my mind was that of Cheryl Kernot who, while leader of the Australian Democra

ts, was having an affair with then-Labor power broker, Senator Gareth Evans. Once that news became public, Ms Kernot quickly jumped ship into a safe Labor seat. Of course that had nothing to do with the fact that she and Evans had been bumping uglies together (cough cough bullshit cough).

This matter of parachuting Nova Perris into a pretty safe seat has all the hallmarks of being another quickie to grab a few more votes. Please bear in mind – I do not know Nova Perris nor do I wish her anything but the best. But has she been merely the pawn in a bigger game?

There are a number of potential scenarios at play here.

Could this be not just a Prime Ministerial whim but a move by internal party interests such as those which saw Gillard’s predecessor, Kevin Rudd, politically assassinated in order to slip Gillard into the top job? Is Perris possibly just a selection to give an appearance of greater equality etc within Labor ranks and nothing to do with her potential ability to do the job?

Is this a sense of tokenism, taking someone with a ‘good’ profile in order to see an indigenous woman in the Senate? After yesterday’s announcement, Ms Perris was ‘not available’ for genuine interview by the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio network this morning, yet someone still found time to have her appear on a lightweight morning television program. Regardless of Ms Perris’s abilities or potential, that development has a whiff of something that is a not much more than an attempted populist stunt.

Coming from another angle, might this be a reaction to a possible NT Labor Party branch potentially stuck in its own rut? One political comment on this morning’s ABC radio described that branch as having a sense of ‘once pre-selected, it’s pre-selected for life.’

The whole thing is starting to have quite murky overtones and Ms Perris may well find herself the one stuck in the middle, undeservedly copping the mud.

bonner

Liberal Senator Neville Bonner

Incidentally, I keep coming across media statements that this elevation of Nova Perris would see the first indigenous Australian in Australian Federal Parliament. Errr excuse me – anybody heard of Neville Bonner, an indigenous Australian from the Jagera people who was a Liberal Party Senator for several terms, largely beaten in the end by his maverick attitude of refusing to always toe the Liberal line? Ms Perris could be the first indigenous woman to be elected but not the first indigenous person.

It is a good thing to have greater indigenous representation in Australian politics? In my mind, yes – provided it is done for the right reasons and not quickie vote-grabbing tokenism.

What comes over even more strongly however is the process by which this has all been achieved. An existing, democratically pre-selected representative (by the Labor Party’s own procedures), who just happens to have been openly a supporter of Ms Gillard’s predecessor, Kevin Rudd, has been bluntly dumped by something done entirely outside of those same procedures. It seems that any branch of the Labor Party can have its desires over-ridden at any time by Prime Ministerial whim. One could be forgiven for thinking that a political party was more than just whosoever has their bum on the Prime Ministerial seat. But apparently not. Making things that much murkier, this makes a mockery of the Labor Party’s repeated public stance that it wishes to give more attention to the desires of the party ‘rank and file’ membership.

The fact that Ms Perris was not yet even a party member when Gillard took her to a national press conference, smacks of pretty poor judgement and timing. But there’s nothing new about that with this particular government. For example, remember the announcement of the ‘new’ deal to have refugees to Australia processed offshore in another country, only to have that country later pipe up and say ‘well we haven’t actually said yes to that.’

Wouldn’t it have been far better to have done this all behind closed doors, sorting it with some sort of due process rather than turning it into the latest ‘hey look at my new toy’ media circus?

Finally, apart from anything else, any stunt by Gillard or her cronies which gives Tony Abbott yet more political ammunition, increasing the horrific spectre of him as next PM, is to be roundly deplored. And there is no doubt that Jugears Abbott will be making hay with this matter.

Nova Perris – all the best and I sincerely hope it works out well for you. But Ju-li-ah – this could well end up a pretty nasty bite on that bum of yours that Germaine Greer is so fond of.

Ross sigVote the rant

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