Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

What Goes Around

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

What Goes Around

Article excerpt

SOMEONE asked me if I could recall such a torrid time in federal politics.

Yes, but not since Gough Whitlam got rolled by the Governor General in 1975.

Back then I was a young newspaper editor and Joh Bjelke-Petersen was pretty successful in creating his own controversial headlines.

None matched the spectacle of big Gough on the steps of Parliament House thundering those immortal lines:

"Well may you say, God Save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor General". Nothing would save Gough either.

It's reminiscent of the meltdown and rebirth of the Liberal Party, with Tony Abbott as the new leader after Malcolm Turnbull finally went down by just one vote. Whatever you think about Malcolm, no-one could call him a wimp and one of the better quips came from Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, comparing him to the Black Knight in an old Monty Python sketch.

"He loses an arm and says, 'It's only a scratch,' loses both arms and says, 'Oh, It's only a flesh wound'." (A YouTube clip shows Black Knight, minus all limbs, finally declaring, "Alright, let's call it a draw").

But the Labor Party has had its own bitter leadership battles such as when Bob Hawke deposed Bill Hayden before an election which Hayden later commented even "the drover's dog could have won," and when Paul Keating finally rolled Hawke a few years down the track. In NSW, Nathan Rees knows how it feels too.

What finally brought Turnbull down was not so much about leadership as the strength of people power. There was a groundswell against his support of Labor's rushed ETS, on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Summit next week.

Ask any Opposition MP and they'll tell you their phones didn't stop ringing off the hook, their faxes and computers were running hotter than the climate debate, telling them to postpone or defeat the ETS bill. …

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