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Aug 20, 2012

Government lacks real people

Image: By Pickering

How good God has been to poor old Gough [Whitlam]. He's actually lived long enough to see a government that makes his own look honourable, decent and upstanding. - Philippa Martyr (Quadrant Online)

Just as Obama has been a Godsend to Jimmy Carter in making people, if not nostalgic for his administration, then at least thinking that he wasn’t all that bad; Gillard has definitely improved the opinion of Australians toward the Whitlam government from back in the 70s. It is not quite that simple here though.

That is because the Fraser government followed the Whitlam government. While Fraser started out looking promising as opposition leader, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief to see the back of Gough for the last time, he turned out to be the Liberal Party’s version of today’s Tony Windsor, the ‘conservative’ independent who did a deal to keep Labor in power. Mal would have been more at home in Labor, being a devout centralist and authoritarian interventionist.

About the only political nostalgia that arises from the 70s in Australia is that back then we had some real characters in politics rather than the generic functionaries we have now. They were people of character; they may have been incompetent, they may have been corrupt, they may even have been complete idiots, totally out of touch with reality; but they were real people who resonated in the minds of the public.

Today there are no real personalities with the possible exception of Barnaby Joyce, who are not afraid to be themselves.

Love them or hate them, people like Whitlam, Barnard, Frank Crean, even Lionel Murphy were real. The other side had people like Ian Sinclair, Jim Killen, Howard, and Doug Antony. In Queensland we had the rather wildly eccentric Joh Bejelke Petersen, Russell Hinze, and Vince Lester, and a complete Vaudevillian cast of characters, but at least they were characters.

Today’s politics really lacks that.

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