Friday, December 12, 2008

When Barry met Nathan at the Sackville

[Belated entry from an old journalism assignment. There's a nice observation about Rees which DH hopes is worth saving for posterity. ]

"Where else but in Australia", I overheard someone above the din in Balmain's Sackville Pub, "could you get your political leaders turning up to face the rabble without anyone bothering about security?". Had to agree, it's pretty cool that here in Oz, our pollies are this accessible. So there we were in hecklers' paradise as the new Premier of NSW, Nathan Rees, went head to head with the Leader of the Opposition, Barry O'Farrell. And where else but in Oz would the moderator feel sufficiently laid back to refer to the august Leader of the Opposition as "Fatty O'Barrell"? The Coen Brothers couldn't have done better. All that was lacking was some tub-thumping from the Soggy Bottom Boys, Arbib, Bitar, Costa and Iemma, but they'd either been run out of town or kicked upstairs.

This is going to be short on content because you know you could fill in the details in your sleep, so why should I bore you? Be assured that Rees and O'Farrell traded all the requisite economic rhubarb: responsible economic management, accountability, the possession of sound policy in contrast to the other side's lack thereof, and they even shook hands on political donations.

Young Labor and Young Liberals were out in force. The former keeping up a steady catcall: "Where's yer plan, Barry? Show us yer plan! ". A bit dispiriting for those of us in Ageing Labor. Where did we go wrong??? How come our kids are dreaming of Master Planning rather than Barricade Manning (and Womanning of crse). How quickly are the lessons of history forgotten!Why, it seems these young people have never even heard a Socialist 5-year plan joke! See one below: If you believe in Planning... Reassuringly, the Young Libs were still true to tradition, hooting and hollering at nothing in particular, and clueless as ever.

The "Friends of Callan Park" contingent turned up as usual and were promptly ruled out of order by the moderator, Louise Milligan, but not before Rees promised there'd be no selloff of Callan Park to commercial interests. This couldn't have been a huge impost as the Callan Park act precludes it, and Sydney University, who look set to take over, is not a commercial interest.
But what was interesting was trying to divine Nathan Rees' character. Now that we're beyond ideology, character's got to mean a lot. You want someone batting for you who's intelligent, tough, flexible, responsive, can roll with the punches, reliable, up with the detail, and a sense of humor is essential. The times need gravitas: this is no time for clowns or comedians, but the glimmer of dry humor has to be there, proof of quick thinking and guarantee against megalomania. I know we're supposed to be cynical, but I thought Rees fit the bill.

There was one moment that stood out from the predictable argy-bargy. Barry O'Farrell, carried away by the bonhomie of the evening, suggested why not have a series of half-a-dozen of these town-hallers across the state in the lead up to the next election. Instinctively I felt that this is not something Rees would want in a pink fit. But how was he gonna get out of it? I held my breath. How would I have got out of it? Me, a people pleaser, I would have caved, wouldn't want to be seen as lacking in bonhomie. Then I would have gone home and kicked myself and got my staffers to dream up excuses later. But Rees' response was, I thought, forthright and strong, and drew a line in the sand: "No thanks. Barry can run his campaign his way, I'll run mine my way".
Good one!

And another plus for Rees to which one cannot be entirely insensible: he looks like a footballer and has a literature degree: Yess! A sensitive Alpha male at last! What more could a woman (in her capacity as voter of course) want?

But the shock ending was a sign of the times, another sign that the old Balmain was gone. O'Farrell won on the vote. Maybe not on the numbers, but certainly on the volume. The Young Libs are scenting victory and baying loudly for it, while Labor's barrackers lack all conviction.

Maybe the vision of the Glorious Master Planned Dawn just doesn't quite galvanise the masses.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary - couldn't make it on the night. Sounds interesting.

Andrew Elder said...

"Now that we're beyond ideology, character's got to mean a lot. You want someone batting for you who's intelligent, tough, flexible, responsive, can roll with the punches, reliable, up with the detail, and a sense of humor is essential."

See, that's why people vote for George W. Bush. Given the choice between ideology and character, take both. I hope you were marked down for unfounded assertions expressed in the passive voice but I suspect not.

DH said...

Didn't think we had a choice! What ideology do you recommend? Didn't get marked down - it was a pseudo-blog exercise.