Little John stands down

The fact that Ando's days as National Party leader were nearing their end was perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in Canberra, but it was still a bit of a shock when it all become official:

After carefully weighing the interests of my party, my family, and my health, I have decided that the time has arrived for me to step down as Leader of the Nationals, and return to the backbench after the winter break.

So after nearly six years as National's leaders and Deputy PM, what will his legacy be? For starters, Anderson will be remembered as a nice bloke, who brought some level of civility and decency to political exchanges. He had the permanent look of a young dad, constantly trying to do the honourable and decent thing with all of his kids watching. Anderson never seemed entirely comfortable with the adversarial nature of party politics. Watching Anderson in Question Time, it's hard not to sense that he doesn't quite feel like he belongs - whilst Costello, Abbott, Nelson et al all sink the boot into the ALP with reckless abandon, Anderson seems more restrained. Perhaps he's just too gracious to lay a punch.

Anderson can claim some credit for the National's broadening their voter base. The number of farmers, who used to make up the core of the Nat's voter base, is now dwindling at the Nationals have had to diversify to survive. Under Anderson, they have steadily reached out to other regional communities, particularly coastal towns, in a way that gives the party some sort of a future. True, last year they lost the seat of Richmond - dominated by large towns - to the Labor Party, but you'd have to give Anderson credit for realising the problem his party faces and doing something about it. Continuing this revitalisation is a major challenge for his successor.

As for his policy achievements as a minister, in true Nationals style here's how Ando described them:

I step down feeling that I have made as great a contribution as I have been able to ensuring that Australia has a world-class water policy framework, and the basis of a proper national land transport plan. The National Water Initiative and AusLink respectively are now well and truly in the groove and can only advance from now.
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The strengthening of the Marriage Act was a decisive blow in favour of families and children.
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Agriculture Advancing Australia set Australian agriculture on a much more self-reliant, forward-looking course, with programmes such as FarmBis and the Farm Management Deposits. Drought has cruelly interrupted that course, but we've been there doing all the assistance heavy-lifting through Exceptional Circumstances.
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Aviation safety concerns used to splatter across the front pages of our newspaper regularly. Now, a reformed CASA has global standing.

All sound fair. Though he'd never be indiscreet enough to admit it, he'd probably want to put the fact that Telstra remains in partial public ownership on his list. He could never play a really free hand on that one, but you got the feeling that he lacked any of the enthusiasm for this great privatisation project that Costello and Howard had, and was happy to see the breaks put on it.

Sounds like Anderson has plenty to be proud of. Next step: getting rid of the pain in his arse (and I'm not talking about Barnaby Joyce).

Comments

John Lee said…
it'll be interesting to see what effect Vaile will have on the Nationals' fortunes within the Coalition and in the country at large

different background to Anderson entirely: no boarding school-educated outback gentry here. I can't see John Anderson at the table beating out free trade deals with Chinese and US negotiators, you have to be pretty hard-nosed for that.

anyone see Tony Jones grill Vaile over China and human rights a few nights back? every time this sort of issue comes up, you get the impression the interview really thinks that this time they'll get lucky and trick the pollie into giving an answer
Pete B said…
I reckon Ando stood down because he knows his party room will now lean more toward the Barnaby Joyce end of the spectrum - and truth be told he probably is himself but is too joined at the hip to Howard to make the break.

I'm looking forward to the an amusing senate term, should the natonals decide its time to shift a little further left than their coalition "buddies"!

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