February 11, 2004 | Peter

The Boys Are Back in School

I watched Parliament Question Time yesterday on TV to see how new boy Mark Latham did. He played it straight on a day dominated by the FTA, and governemnt gloating. It was definitely Mark mark II, careful and calculated.
John Howard is worried, you can tell from the hyper-aggressive body language. He jumps around like a rat on speed. I’m always amused when people talk about Howard as a great parliamentary leader – he just behaves with the confidence almost anyone would after three decades working in the same place. He has a bag of tricks he pulls out to avoid any real debate, and his contempt for Parliament as a real place of debate is obvious. Can he maintain any pretence of caring if he wins the coming election?
The real contest is now between Latham and Costello, who seems to hate Latham nearly as much as he does Howard. Is it just the old ‘born to rule’ stuff, or something more? Perhaps he sees the similarities between them.
Latham and Costello are both vehement men, with a take no prisoners attitude, but at least Latham is honest about being a ‘hater’. I suspect Costello is particularly annoyed than he will have to face a new, energetic adversary, probably from opposition. As I don’t see him hanging around if the Libs lose a couple of elections, he may be thinking that Howard has denied him his chance at ultimate power.
One thing is for sure, I thought as I watched the two young Turks stare at each other, this will be the ugliest pair of leaders in quite a while.
As for Parliament, and especially Question Time, it is a mess. Again, the interchange was so puerile and devoid of genuine content that it might have been talkback radio. As I said in a recent blog entry, changes have to be made to Parliament, and soon. Latham actually brought up the matter of public cynicism about politics, and he should do something about it. Neither Howard nor Costello will, because a dysfunctional parliament suits the modern Liberals most of the time.
More and more, Parliament resembles a boys’ school where the most aggressive rule. Maybe this is why Bronwyn Bishop seems to be the only woman remotely comfortable there.

Posted by Peter at 12:37 pm | Comments Off on The Boys Are Back in School |
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