"No talking in the back row..."

It's only 11 days into Howard's fourth term of government, and already the ALP are in a mess. Despite the predictable calls on election night to take a calm and considered approach to the election outcome, and the need for collective responsibility, it seems that exactly the opposite has occured.

Tuesday it was Lindsay Tanner's turn to spit the dummy and head for the backbench. He'll have some good company to whisper smart-arse remarks to during question time, with former front benchers Kim Beazley, Bob McMullin, Craig Emerson, whilst over on the red leather back benches, John Falkner will be filing his nails and writing his memoirs. Why? What is to be gained by relegating oneself to the backbench, other than to show your inability to play a team game. If you've got the talent to be a frontbencher, then you owe it to your colleagues to stay there (unless your name is Dana Vaile or Geoff Prosser - remember him? - then you are the exception to the rule).

In the logic of the free market, it is the existance of competition which keeps all participants on their game. In politics, this means having a strong, robust, cohesive opposition. At the moment, the opposition is none of these things. The need for an effective opposition is particularly high when the government has such a comprehensive stranglehold on power. The Senate in the last couple of terms kept the government accountable when the opposition was in disarray. Not any more, it won't.

Latham is the man to lead the party, and there is absolutely nothing to gain through recriminations and backstabbing. It is fun to watch, though.


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