Monday, August 18, 2003

The next Labor PM in Australia will be a female baby boomer (Jana Wendt?)

I have absolutely no insider knowledge of politics generally, much less Jana Wendt’s career aspirations or political affiliations. I mention her name because it springs to my mind as the best-known of the “type” I have a hunch about – apart from being a female and a baby boomer, Australia’s next (or next +1) PM will have had a strong media background.

My hunch is based on drawing together two observations, one historical and one recent. The former is that the last two new-broom Labor PM’s (Whitlam and Hawke) have been “messiahs”. Whitlam, but not Hawke, rose up through the parliamentary ranks – but this seems an anachronism in the age of spin. Loudmouth policy-itinerants such as Mark Latham and Lindsay Tanner may think that their time-serving alone is going to pay off, but alas, it won’t (except – and here it’s alas for the taxpayer – in their superannuation). The next Labor PM, then is almost certainly not a current MP, but will be sat in a safe Labor seat in due course.

The other, quite recent Labor political phenomenon is that of Claire Martin, head honcho of the Northern Territory. Although it is unwise to draw too much from an election whose voter enrolment is smaller than some city councils, Martin’s August 2001 victory is striking for the paradox of its messianic tones – coming after 26 years of Country Liberal Party rule – and yet the ultra low-key figure of Ms Martin herself. Once her media background is known, however, this apparent paradox becomes much less so.

Extrapolating this – there must be a national equivalent to Claire Martin, waiting in the wings* somewhere . And if my hunch is to come true, the ultimate triumph of “PM Claire Martin II” will be to follow in the footsteps of the NT’s Claire Martin – she use her messianic mandate to change almost nothing of importance that her much more conservative predecessor had implemented. Like Tony Blair’s UK government then (and also the NT under Claire Martin), this will be a regime of pure spin and tabloid-pandering.

All this aside, I’m nowhere close to tossing my next vote at Howard as an act of despairing resignation, as Jack Strocchi seems to advocate.

* The only weak point in my theory here is that Claire Martin can be regarded as a Labor time-server herself, albeit at the lower end of the scale – she entered the NT parliament six years prior to becoming Chief Minister, by winning the seat of Fannie Bay at a by-election in June 1995.

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