Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tasteless Doesn't Necessarily Mean Lazy

Last week, former Big Brother runner-up and shaggy political activist Tim Brunero launched “Lazy Pollie Watch”, a website he described as the first of its kind to expose lazy politicians.

His first target – unsurprisingly for a left-of-centre activist – is the very handsome federal Liberal member Jackie Kelly, who is currently taking what he describes as a “taxpayer funded break” trying not to shatter critical parts of her anatomy in the hilarious (in a laugh at, not with sort of way) Channel 9 B-grade celebrity extravaganza, Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice. Kelly was quick to respond to the website’s launch with a press release highlighting that all sponsorship money raised during her time on the show will go to Mamre House Sudanese Refugee Program, located squarely in the heart of her electorate in Penrith.

Now, far be it for me to defend a staunch Howard loyalist like Kelly, but there is a difference between electoral laziness and a tacky publicity stunt designed to increase a member’s profile and therefore, presumably, her chance of re-election.

Kelly’s fairly impressive electoral record, in fact, speaks for itself. Since winning the seat of Lindsay in 1996, in a victory few saw coming, she has either maintained or increased her margin at successive elections in an area that, until her win, was always solidly Labor voting. Although she has been assisted by a changing demographic – a voter base crammed with the so-called “Howard aspirationals” who have steadily abandoned Labor – presumably Kelly also has some kind of appeal in her electorate. Perhaps Dancing on Ice is a big hit with the residents of Kingswood; in which case, choosing to appear on the show is quite a shrewd move on her part.

I would never assume Kelly is a lazy politician in the way other members in guaranteed seats can afford to be. I’m not suggesting Malcolm Turnbull or Tanya Plibersek are lazy, for example, but the reality is their electoral security in safe Liberal and Labor seats respectively is a luxury Kelly can ill-afford – particularly when interest rates start to raise, as they have already begun to, and the aspiring voters Kelly represents wake up to the Howard lie that he and his government can miraculously keep interest rates low (or at least, lower than a Latham government, as they claimed at the last election) all by themselves.

So while I don’t disagree with the motivation behind Brunero’s website, I’m not sure Kelly is the most appropriate first target. Instead, how about Alan Cadman, 68-year-old member for the ridiculously safe Liberal, Bible-belt seat of Mitchell, who has held his seat since 1974 without ever rising to the ranks of government minister?

Jackie Kelly is making an arse of herself on national television. Isn’t that punishment enough?


At 25/7/06 8:23 pm, Blogger Andrew said...

Oh, this is a dangerous one. While a politician may never shine in public, they could be a hard working member for their constituants. Ever heard of Senator Judith Troeth until a few months ago? I approached her once of the awarding of community radio licence for a gay station and she was very helpful. It is sad that she is in a wrong party, but for many years she has been an extremely hard worker, tireless even. By all means lazy politicians should be crucified, but only after some decent research. Becoming a minister is not a measure to judge a politician.

At 25/7/06 9:46 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Fair enough call, Andrew. I'd still wager that Cadman's never had to work too hard - at least, apart from maybe the odd pre-selection challenge - to maintain a seat that has a 20% Liberal margin.

I mean, at least people outside of Lindsay have *heard* of Jackie Kelly!

At 26/7/06 10:38 am, Blogger Sam said...

I'd wager that Timmy picked Jackie simply because she IS on Dancing on Ice at the moment; picking a pollie who is currently in a recognisable state is likely to pull in more publicity for his website.

At 26/7/06 12:58 pm, Anonymous David said...

I prefer a lazy politician to a homophobic, sexist, racist, who is hard working.

At 27/7/06 8:24 am, Blogger comicstriphero said...

Cadman is a prime target for the website.

I don't normally like to admit it but I lived in his electorate for 20 years and even the residents in the electorate thought he never did anything.

Oh, except for attending RSL or Rotary afternoon teas

At 29/7/06 7:53 pm, Anonymous William Bowe said...

You refer to Turnbull's "electoral security" in a "safe Liberal seat". Not so. Under the current redistribution proposal (which is all but certain to be implemented with only minor changes), Turnbull's seat of Wentworth will extend into your very own "inner east Sydney pink ghetto" - Potts Point, Darlinghurst, Paddington - thereby cutting his margin to a very uncomfortable 2.6 per cent. Come the next federal election campaign, those who live in these areas can expect to be subjected to Liberal Party campaigning for the first time.

At 30/7/06 11:40 am, Anonymous Mitchell said...

Jackie Kelly hasn't gained at every election. She got a big swing against her in the last poll. A similarly sized swing this time, coupled with the redistribution of Lindsay into poorer areas to the east, would see her voted off the Parliamentary ice.

At 30/7/06 12:22 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Thanks for that William. I must admit, I'm probably cynical about Labor winning Wentworth because I honestly thought David Patch could win it for them at the last election with Peter King splitting the conservative vote. There's nothing I'd like to see more than Turnbull go down but honestly: Can you see the Double Bay/Bellevue Hill matrons accepting a Labor member?

Mitchell: Kelly had a first-preference swing against her in 2004 but the 2PP vote remained essentially the same, as I argued. But again, there's nothing I'd like better than to see her go out with a bunch of Libs in marginal seats, so I hope your theory about the redistribution is correct!

At 30/7/06 6:12 pm, Anonymous William Bowe said...

Sam, I do agree that Turnbull's position is less parlous than the 2.6 per cent figure makes it appear. For one thing, the Turnbull-King imbroglio probably subdued the non-Labor vote by 1-2 per cent in 2004. For another, the new "inner east pink ghetto" areas were previously in the electorate of Sydney, where the Liberals "run dead" in the hope of finishing third behind the Greens - in which case there is a chance the Greens candidate can defeat Labor with Liberal preferences (although it's never quite panned out that way). Now the Liberals will be campaigning there for dear life, and will do so with the help of Turnbull's considerable personal resources. Wentworth is still loseable, but the kind of swing required to knock Turnbull off would probably see the Coalition lose office. Same goes for John Howard in Bennelong.

Mitchell is also quite right about Jackie Kelly and the redistribution. Malcolm Mackerras calculates that her margin has been cut from 5.3 per cent to 2.9 per cent. There has been talk she might be retiring - she has her parliamentary superannuation sewn up and, Dancing on Ice notwithstanding, her career isn't going anywhere - although this was prompted by her hostility to Peter Costello and the prospect of him leading the party into the next election, which is now looking less likely.

At 16/8/06 3:39 pm, Anonymous Tanya Plibersek said...

Glad to hear you don't think I'm lazy!
I understand your concerns about people taking what are considered "safe" seats for granted. I can only speak for myself: I never have and never will.
Sadly I may be losing part of that seat to Malcolm Turbull though, as some of your contributers have pointed out, and it may lead to his margin slimming down. I reckon now is the time to start asking him a few questions. Does he support the supervised injecting room ? (Abott was raving in question time today that no Liberal government will ever support it. Over his dead body... that type of thing...) and does Turnbull support equal treatment under the law for same sex couples (and singles).


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