May 01, 2007 | Graham

No longer show business for ugly people

The “enlist the ‘A’ list” trend in the ALP is proceeding apace with the decision to remove preselections from the hands of local branch members with the avowed intent of placing people like Greg Combet, George Newhouse, Colonel Mike Kelly and George Williams into key seats. It is further evidence for what I call the “corporatisation of politics”, and I’m unsure whether it is good or bad news for democracy.
While there is no certainty that local pre-selection councils or plebiscites will elect good candidates, the need to woo and win over locals ensures that candidates have grassroots political skills and decentralises power within party structures. It doesn’t prevent “star” candidates being preselected, but it makes their road a little harder, and it broadens the definition of who might be considered a star.
A centralised party undoubtedly is easier to manouevre. That might work in your electoral favour when a party’s administration is solid and skilful, but can condemn a party to a downward spiral when it’s not.
Whether or not it’s good for democracy, it does help to tip the media balance more in favour of Rudd. To get on an “A” list you have to be good at media manipulation, amongst your other communications skills. One of the factors in Wayne Goss’s win in Queensland in 1989 (apart from the Fitzgerald Commission!) was the perception that Labor had rebuilt itself and put good candidates into place. However, while some of them, like Goss, became stars I can’t think of one that fits the celebrity bill like some of the names being hawked around by Rudd.
Whether it tips the electoral balance is another thing. Lining up 100s of “A” listers to support the Republic was one reason the referendum went down. Australians only have to see a tall poppy and they’re itching to rev-up the Victa mower.

Posted by Graham at 8:57 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. democracy is not practiced in oz, the machinations of political gangs in oz more nearly resembling the middle years of the byzantine empire. none of them have the slightest interest in empowering the electorate.
    this suits the rich and well-connected, and the hoi polloi have been newspeaked into apathetic confusion.
    when ideology is gone and ‘product differentiation’ can only be through packaging, celebrity candidates are the logical next step.

    Comment by al loomis — May 1, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  2. The celeb. candidates have certainly dragged Australian politics down another notch.
    But, given the ones already there, many of whom Laurie Oakes describes as being unable to get jobs as speed humps, will we notice the difference? ?
    The problem for the voters is that we can vote only for the candidates that parties want – not who we might want.
    It’s a lose/lose situation for voters as usual.

    Comment by Leigh — May 2, 2007 @ 11:50 am

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