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Leading article Australia

Day of reckoning

2 February 2013

9:00 AM

2 February 2013

9:00 AM

It is reassuring that in true Aussie style, the sensitivities of the football crowd trumped those of any given religious mob. And why wouldn’t they, in a modern, secular, sports-mad society?

As the Prime Minister admitted during her National Press Club luncheon speech, in which she took the unusual step of naming this year’s election date more than six months earlier than necessary, she was aware that 14 September is also Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Undeterred by any religious considerations that might arise (for example, strictly observant Jews may not drive or wear leather shoes on that day), the Prime Minister joked that the alternative was upsetting the football crowd. Heaven forbid! No religion can demand its holy days be disproportionately important in a religiously diverse society, but we trust the Prime Minister would be similarly blasé and dismissive about disrupting other religious observations, such as Easter or Ramadan.

However, for political junkies the date of Yom Kippur is not entirely without poignancy or irony. This is the day of the Jewish calendar in which sins are atoned for, and on which God weighs up and passes judgment on how an individual has performed over the preceding 12 months. The day is, in essence, a last chance to demonstrate repentance and make amends.

As a political analogy, it’s a pretty good one. There’s even what might be called a period of ‘fasting’; 48 hours during which all individuals must abstain from political advertising.

Passing judgment on the Labor government of Julia Gillard (assuming she is still in the driving seat come the spring) will prove easy for some. Certainly, this magazine has found much to criticise in those wielding power in Canberra. But elections should be about the future, not about the past. Although the ‘baseball bats’ phenomenon may be emotionally satisfying to some who enter the polling booths, the true purpose of voting is not about punishing sins but about rewarding vision.

Education reforms (as envisaged by the Gonski Report) and supporting an NDIS will be the twin issues on which the Prime Minister seeks re-election. Both are self-evidently worthwhile goals, and had Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan not frittered away John Howard and Peter Costello’s surplus on plaque-laden school halls and the like, both would by now be largely affordable.

To compete, the Coalition must offer more than just the guarantee of prudent economic management and ditching items such as the carbon tax. Although Team Howard is a great starting point (and we must congratulate Mr Howard for recently having been shown to be the most popular PM of the past five), Tony Abbott and his team need to demonstrate their own clear, proud, conservative and liberal values and vision for the future.

Or be found wanting in the balance.

Lying around

Perhaps it was Anton Emdin’s terrifying cartoon on our 12 January cover of former Labor heroes, including several state premiers, rising zombie-like from their graves. Or perhaps it was Barry Cohen’s insightful article on Labor’s habit of discarding talent way too early that caught the eye of ALP head office.

Whichever, one way or another it’s obvious that a copy of that edition of The Spectator Australia found its way to the bowels of Sussex Street, to be casually left lying around.

Under the headline ‘Bring ‘em back in’, former Hawke minister Cohen opined: ‘Labor can improve caucus by encouraging members to continue to serve or make a comeback. Labor has wasted an enormous amount of talent by getting rid of those who have been through the mill and replacing them with novices. They have gone for youth as if they were picking a team for the Wallabies.

‘I’m against executive preselections, but they could throw their weight behind the following and most would get up.’

He then listed, among others, ‘Morris Iemma (NSW) 51.’

How else to explain the sudden mooted return of the former NSW Premier, being touted as the ‘clear front-runner’ to replace Robert McClelland as Labor’s candidate for the federal seat of Barton, in Sydney’s south?

We wish Morris all the best, and trust for his sake that preselectors (and voters) are prepared to overlook his proximity over the years to Messrs Obeid and Tripodi, and the time spent wiggling his toes in the sands of Terrigal.

If any other state premiers are keen, we can still probably rustle up a few spare copies of Barry’s excellent article. Just in case you, too, wish to leave them lying around.

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