Though many metaphors can be used - and journos like Matt Price have tried just about every one of them - the metaphor I'd use to characterise it is that of a tightrope walker... perhaps a team of tightrope walkers, each walking simultaneously across parallel intellectual tightropes, forgive my acrobatic digression. The objective of the Opposition is to destablise the minister/tightrope-walker, whilst the government members seek to provide as much support, and just as importantly confidence, to the minister. Invariably, most tightrope-walking ministers manage to make it to the other side, although just occassionally there will be a struggle.
On Tuesday I watched QT from the cushy comforts of the Speaker's Gallery. There was a definate lack of focus amongst the ALP MPs, with the questions scattered across a number of ministers, most of whom revelled in the opportunity. At one stage, Handy "John" Andy, the esteemed deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister, seemed a little out of his depth, struggling to justify how it was that the first time he was aware of an internal Customs report into security weaknesses in Australian airports was when he read about it on the cover of that morning's Australian newspaper. Ando has plenty on his plate, keeping a gaggle of Nats quiet, being the deputy PM, remaining a Gay Icon and being a Minister. Perhaps he's not quite as on top of his brief as one of Her Maj's Ministers should be.
A few quick snapshots on other ministers copping questions on Tuesday:
- Kevin Andrews, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations is a smooth operator who will be well placed to sell a difficult message come July 1. The changes to IR are monumental, particularly the hostile take-over of responsibilities from the States, and Andrew seems like the right, largely non-antagonistic, salesperson.
- Warren Truss, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is looking a bit long in the tooth. Look for Truss to be pushed aside in a Costello ministry.
- Gary Hardgrave, Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, looks and sounds like a salesman. Hardgrave had a background in TV, and there's some of the Eddie McGuire style charm still evident in his presentation skills. Did some beautiful verbal gymastics in managing to bring a totally unrelated question back to the ALP's refusal to pass the tax cuts. Charming but not slimy.
- Peter Dutton, Minister for Workplace Participantion, is one of the young turks in the Ministry, and needs to stop sounding like a traffic cop scalding an errant motorist. Perhaps his days as a Queensland cop are harder to shake than he realises.
Just a quick observation about the seating arrangements in the House of Reps. Immediately behind the Labor dispatch box are two of the youngest and most attractive members of the House since Bronwyn was a girl. When the cameras are aiming that way, it is hard to miss the new member for Adelaide, Kate Ellis, and the Member for Ballarat, Catherine King. Both are significantly more attractive than your average Labor backbencher, and both project and image of youth and vitality in a way that their older (and, let's face it, male) colleagues fail to. A clever little move by the ALP.
Which Labor backbencher would you most like to stare at? (I do, of course, acknowledge my gross hypocracy in all this. Checking out my mug-shot at the top of the page, I look a heck of a lot more like Kim than Kate.)