That's right but Fairfax never gets told up so and - well, they don't tend to share our stories with us. And I think the interesting thing, though, about the Punch and Judy Show, and it is this, and I think this is the damning indictment on both major parties, is that in each of them, Labor and Liberal, you have a person who is overwhelmingly, in poll after poll after poll, judged to be the most capable, competent, desirable and visionary person to lead the party and in both cases that is the one bloke who in no circumstance will ever be allowed to lead that party out of personal envy and spite for purely personal political - personal political reasons and that is, of course, Kevin Rudd in Labor and Malcolm Turnbull in the Liberal Party and they're being locked out of the leadership out of pure spite, when they are clearly the most well equipped to lead either party.
- Joe Hildebrand, Q And A, ABC1, 31st May 2011
On Monday night's Q And A on ABC1, Joe Hildebrand made the above comment which I think is basically sort of true. As it stands neither Rudd or Turnbull are allowed to lead their respective parties because of something as petty as personality and factionalism.
Political parties in the modern sense didn't really start to make sense until about the time of George Canning and Robert Peel in the 1830s. Members of the cabinet were selected on the basis of their ability to do the job.
Such an idea in today's parliament would be unheard of, and when you have factions within parties, it becomes even more convoluted.
Of course this then begs the question who who the best theoretical people are for the various portfolios, assuming you could install any member to any position you wanted. I thought about this and came up with the following:
Kevin Rudd - Foreign Minister:
Kevin Rudd is the best communicator in the Parliament. This is the prime reason why he was made Opposition Leader going into the 2007 election, and has been displayed again and again during his time as Foreign Minister.
Clearly Kevin is the sort of chap you want to project the character of the nation. Now whether he does that better in the capacity of Prime Minister or Foreign Minister is debateable, but the point is that if you want someone in a position of vision rather than minutae, Kevin is your man.
Malcolm Turnbull - Finance Minister:
If you look back over his career we find that he's been chairman of OzEmail, Goldman Sachs Australia, Axiom Forest Resources, FTR Holdings Ltd and is the only politician on BRW's 200 richest list. He's been Treasurer before which begs the question why would I have him as Treasurer again.
Here I think it's a case of what's best for the country, and one of the remits of the Minister for Finance is reviewing governmental spending programs, tendering, and government financial accountability.
As the best political brain in the parliament and also clearly the sharpest head for business, Turnbull is the person you want if you want to ensure the viability of government programs.
Wayne Swan - Treasurer:
Swan proved himself more than capable during the height of the global financial crisis, and though the $900 "cash splash" was seen as perhaps wasteful, it did mean that Australia was the only country in the OECD not to go into recession during the GFC.
His book "Postcode: The Splintering of a Nation" (2005) is a pragmatic but chilling sort of read which suggests that this rather understated man, not only has the mind for being Treasurer but he's also concerned for the well-being of the citizens of the nation; that is so incredibly rare amongst politicians, that it would be scandalous to waste.
Julia Gillard - Minister for Health and Education:
I think that Ms Gillard is in a curious position as PM. Somehow I think that a major reason why she was placed there was because her opposite number in parliament is Tony Abbott. Before the 2007 Julia was Shadow Minister for Health; again as opposite number to Tony Abbott who was the minister. During the First Rudd Ministry she was also Minister for Education.
Gillard is basically a creature of the Labor left (which is odd considering that she was installed as PM by the Labor right); as such, she'd be best suited to a position also of the left. Health and Education are portfolios of social policy and since this is about finding a fit for the job, Ms Gillard is best suited there.
Which leaves the position of Prime Minister itself vacant. Does there even need to be such a position? The phrase "First among equals" is a good way to describe the Prime Minister and the Constitution doesn't even define the position at all.
It makes logical sense that there should be a chair of business, and ideally such a person should have some force of personality but it's also worth noting that the Prime Minister is a minister without portfolio, so it might be best to find someone who has a broad view.
Of the current crop I'd pick...
Joe Hockey - Prime Minister:
For the budget reply speech it is usually customary for the Shadow Treasurer to deliver the reply, but this was done by Tony Abbot and not the Shadow Treasurer Joe Hocker nor the Shadow Andrew Robb. Why the heck would I pick Hockey for PM then?
The best response I can suggest is the words of Mr Hockey himself with regards leaked emails from the Liberal Party whips:
"I would say to people they should put their ambitions for the nation ahead of their own ambitions.
This is not about individuals, it is about giving Australia real leadership and, from my perspective, I believe the best way to do that is as a team; to put aside individual aspirations and focus on what is in the best interests of the team."
Now of course you could suggest that this is just Mr Hockey trying to protect the interests of the party but isn't that what you want from a leader of the nation, someone who'll hold the cabinet together?
I think that Joe Hockey has a similar sort of character to that of Robert Menzies who if he wasn't Australia's best PM, then was No.2 behind Curtin.
Hockey is certainly more conciliatory than Tony Abbott ever will be and has a robust understanding of political history in Australia as this shows:
So for my money Joe Hockey would be the PM, though given "envy and spite for purely personal political reasons" which seem to be endemic of the house at the moment, I don't think it likely in the short term and certainly with the conditions I've just stated, it's impossible.