10 of the worst

If a week is a long time in football, then ten years is an epoch when it comes to politics. As John Howard creeps up (and creep being the operative word) on his tenth anniversary as Prime Minister, it's worth thinking about the ministers who have served under him. Sure, there are the old faithful ones, like Downer, Ruddock, Vanstone and the Eternal Bridesmaid Costello. But what about the less significant ones? The ministers who, for reasons of laziness, incompetence or the circumstances of the time, had no impact in the job, or worse.

So to remember those lesser-lights of Howard ministries over the years, here's my top 10 list - in order of chronology - of the worst ministers in the Howard years (thanks to Malcolm at AustralianPolitics and the Parliamentary Library for the trip down memory lane):

1. Senator Jim Short (1996-1996), Assistant Treasurer. Costello's first Assistant Treasurer, and one who got caught up in the application of Howard's Ministerial Code of Conduct. He was the first to go, caught up in a conflict of interest scandal in the issueing of bank licenses, barely six months after being appointed. Soon after, he took a rather cushy job in the Eurocracy in London.

2. David Jull (1996-1997), Minister for Administrative Services. Jull has 30 years experience in the parliament, but just 18 months of it as a minister. This was an important time for the public service, as Jull along with Howard and his right-hand man Max "The Axe" Moore-Wilton removed the vital organs of many public servants. Evidently Jull lacked the intestinal fortitude for the job, and he was forced to resign after a travel rorts saga.

3. Geoff Prosser (1996-1997), Minister for Small Business and Consumer Affairs. A WA Minister who was also caught up in scandal. Incredibly, almost a decade after leaving the ministry, he still keeps a seat warm in the House of Reps. Prosser was another minister caught up in a conflict of interest.

4. Andrew Thomson (1997-1998), Minister for Sport and Tourism, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Sydney 2000 Games. Briefly was a leading thinker in the Howard Government, before losing preselection in Wentworth in a nasty little tussle with Peter King. What goes around, comes around.

Handy Andy Thomson

5. Alex Somlyay (1997-1998), Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government. Alex has spent many a year snoozing on the backbench, but at one stage he managed to rise to the heights of the outer ministery.

6. Warwick Smith (1996-1998), Minister for Sport, Territories, Local Government, Family Services. Before Eric Abetz put Tassie on the Ministerial map, Wariwck Smith, the in-out-and-in-again member for Bass, was given this oddball collection of portfolios.

7. John Sharp (1996-1997), Minister for Transport and Regional Development. Sharp got his teeth stuck into the early part of waterfront reform, although the fun part was left for Peter Reith. Oh the irony of a minister for transport who loses his job in a travel rorts saga, this one after he tried to make a secret $9000 payment to cover his tracks when the heat was on (the late) Senator Mal Colston.

John Sharp - Who?

8. Jackie Kelly (1998 - 2001), Minister for Sport and Tourism. A mumblingly bumblingly lightweight performance from a minister who was completely out of her depth. As a minister whose job it is to spread small bundles of cash far and wide throughout the land to sporting clubs and tourism operators, it's hard to go wrong. Somehow, she did.

9. Danna Vale (2001-2005), Minister for Veteran's Affairs. A minister with her foot permanently lodged in her mouth, Vale found her core constituents - namely, veterans - failed to warm to her. Also, displayed her sycophancy toward Alan Jones in her "Stay brave and true" stray fax saga.

10. Senator Kay Patterson (2001-2005), Minister for Health and Ageing, then Minister for Family and Community Services. Patterson had the tough job of selling the government's cost cutting in health, and just couldn't make it as a saleswoman. No particular scandal occured under her watch, but time and time again she failed to stand up to the department, doctors, private health insurers, the office clearer, or anyone else who put up a fight. Was replaced by the ultimately attack dog, Tony Abbott.


Anonymous said…
Peter Reith would have to be on my list, I reckon. Ruddock is doing his best to paint himself as a demon in recent years.
Anonymous said…
I'd probably have tried to lever Michael Wooldridge in there as well. Michael's work with the "Scan Scam" scandal and the GP House switcheroo would make him a certainty in any other field. Yet there is such a rich seam to mine here - I can't think who I'd elbow to make room for Woolly. Probably Patterson or Vale. They were incompetent, but not nessesarily damaging, unlike Reith and Wooldridge.
Anonymous said…
Only 10 on the 'worst ever' list?
How can you choose only 10 from so many contenders.
Reith and Wooldridge definitely deserve a place.
As does Costello, exspecially for declaring a few years ago that the drought would have no effect on Australia's economy and then going on to blame everything from the ballooning current account deficit to Howard's growing bald spot on that same drought.
What about a 'best ever' list. That should be even shorter.
Anonymous said…
prosser was a highly competent minister who resigned over a matter that was not part of his ministerial rsponsibilty.Retail shopping tenancy legislation is a state mater not a federal matter. His business interests were known to all since the day he entered parliament that so why he was appointed minister forSmall Business
Anonymous said…
My favourite!!! Bronwyn Bishop. I think she is just he bees knees.
Anonymous said…
Richard Alston deserves a spot. Flogged off the family telecommunications silver, to its owners, at an inflated price. Then went manic about 60+ moments of perceived bias from ABC radio's AM. Is he the Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain now? Breathtakingly thick hide is a common theme amongst this list.
Livewire said…
A small matter, but Alston also got that big screen TV from Telstra...
Stephen said…
Love the NK photos.

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