Maxine McKew MP and her high class problems: Public policy talent or shallow PR brand?
Topic: aust govt
All praise to Maxine McKew for winning her seat, and ousting PM Howard. The general political community are debating what the hell happened for her to pull it off. Allow for some shock even weeks later.
We sort of have the Maxine version via a journo insider Margot Saville (talk about Upper North Shore) at least in terms of extracts like this one in Fairfax of her book:
The Battle for Bennelong
We have the flippant and annoying version of the editor of the Canberra Times who put a way too leggy, avert your eyes, skirty image on the front of his paper causing mayhem in the comments section of Crikey.com.au and to the paper direct.
We have another version from John Valder of Not Happy John in the letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald today which reads just a little churlish:
Sorry, Maxine, but Bennelong could have been Labor's in 2004
At the risk of committing blasphemy, heresy, or even treason, can I be a plain old party pooper and have the temerity to qualify Maxine McKew's win in Bennelong?
In 2004, when I was preparing the "Not happy, John" campaign, the legendary ALP powerbroker John Faulkner told me in no uncertain terms that it would be a waste of Labor's time, money and effort to bother supporting its candidate, Nicole Campbell. So, with virtually no resources, all poor Campbell could do was doorknock, which she did relentlessly and effectively. So effectively that she and Andrew Wilkie, the highly respected Greens candidate - both strongly backed by a vigorous "Not happy, John" campaign - made such inroads into John Howard's hitherto comfortable majority that for the first time he was forced to preferences.
For some time I have speculated that Howard would almost certainly have lost his seat in 2004 if the ALP had bothered to put even half the resources behind Campbell that it has just put behind McKew.
McKew had several other significant advantages that Campbell did not have in 2004. The electorate had been redistributed in favour of the Labor Party, and McKew, while standing against an incumbent prime minister, also found herself standing against the most unpopular Liberal candidate in Australia. After all, Howard had become the principal election issue. And the ranks of unashamed Howard-haters had swelled to tidal-wave proportions that carried away not only Howard but the whole country, taking the Liberal Party with it.
In my opinion McKew should have romped in. Sure, she did win, thankfully, but only after an agonisingly drawn-out count. My theory is that she would have won much more decisively, even spectacularly, if she had deigned to get her hands dirty with a much more robust campaign than the softly, softly model she chose to pursue. Sorry, Maxine.
Congratulations just the same. But it was lucky for you that Faulkner and the ALP misjudged the 2004 election so badly. Otherwise you probably wouldn't even have had the chance to stand against Howard, let alone defeat him. And Peter Costello might have been adding to three years as prime minister. If only.
John Valder (former federal president of the Liberal Party) Bayview
Here's 'grumpy' John Valder earlier this year Sept 27:
We commented on Sept 30th in this way:
- We noticed page 5 of The Oz 3 picture splitting story (show above)about Not Happy John team getting a chill from charmer Maxine McKew in The Oz, who doesn't want the abrasive aspect to her outreach. This writer felt a twinge of criticism, but agree with the notion Howard Hating is no way forward for previous supporters of Howard because it provides no room for dishonourable disengagement from the Rodent. And the real point is as Silas once of NHJ and now of Get Up will tell you, Maxine has her own new 'NHJ' run by Brett Solomon/Evan Thorley et al. So dear John Valder it is time to focus on Wentworth where they enjoy a bit more biffo compared to Epping. Mind you Darling Point and Double Bay are very Epping too even if the white picket is more deck and balustrade than fence paling.
We conclude a degree of truth in all claims and more. We are profoudly grateful she did nominate, she clearly put her heart into it and that's worth a hell of alot because vollies take note, and proved a stable ship on the tempestuous sea and she did WIN. All the rest is baloney compared to that.
But given we quite like the odd baloney sandwich here's a few thoughts:
The darkish blue T-shirts (shown above) of the MK team looked mighty reminiscent of ... the Not Happy John colour scheme 3 years before. It also happens to mimic the royal blue of the Liberal Party. Convergent evolution or deliberate echo of NHJ? Who really cares given she won?
The ALP machine definitely made a big difference but then they had to decide to really put in, and that turns on who Maxine McKew is, all 30 years savvy media career woman, and the two-for-one other half who is no political slouch either. In similar vein our grabs on the crikey.com.au moderated comments board read:
How much is Maxine 'tv presenter' 30 years 'media style/PR' and how much is substance? How much is ALP machine cred as per tactics of Big Kev, MSG, avoiding 'vicious animus' of the HHaters, Albert in the mixed marriage? MK cred is unclear to me so far.
... only to contrast Roxon, Gillard, Christine Milne, Lee Rhiannon, Margaret Simmons (!) have more cred to me this early. Yet out doing Howard is a massive entre, much gratitude here, and a big act to follow up like a no.1 hit first release.
I kno this is dangerous turf, and yes sexist photo, but here's the thing: Sexy tv presenter does not a serious public policy talent make, which is a Q now after knocking over the PM. To me the photo is the (bad taste) metaphorical question: MK+time = ?
The more presidential the PM, the more free media nationally, which all gets loaded onto Howard's PR reach in his own seat . Yet Bennelong still voted him out, so big cred to Max the Axe Woman. To quote the statewide average is foolish, pure coincidence.
Yeah, nah. Can't compare even neighbouring seat swing. No other candidate had the PR reach of 'the PM' free media (esp Ruddock in Berowra - nil). And 2004 was a serious try (refer Oakes), but the last 2-3% was probably exponential hard to get. Max Axer.
But Maxine McKew also symbolised female energy like Granny Smith herself that neutralises the tub thumping alpha male paradigm, not just the PM, the ALP machine too.
As to the cross cultural aspect of bilingual daughter with Hong Kong Chinese Australian son in law Albert Tse back in May 07. Soon after in our obsessive reader analyst way we noted the dirth of coverage of multicultural Albert. We have no doubt this was to avoid the wrath of the red neck 5% 'One Nation' vote, but we wrote somewhere (stay tuned), probably our Sunday Talkies weekly column that Albert might help deliver Bennelong. This now seems prescient. Back on May 6th we were writing about Peter Costello and his leadership travails drawing a parallel with new movie Spiderman character Peter Parker (enjoy the laugh) and isn't that like 1,000 years ago?:
Picture: Images from Spiderman 3 trailer: “How long can any man fight the darkeness … before he finds it in himself?” Is our Treasurer “Peter” caught in his own political web and desire for revenge? Will he break free with a heroic budget? Will he get to say “Everyone loves me”. Will he triumph and get the girl … err top job? Or will an evil sand man (John Howard/Kevin Rudd) still destroy all electoral hope? Come see the longest running most expensive Hollywood movie ever made, roughly 5 months duration and $240 billion expenditure. It’s a blockbuster! It could reverse the polls by 10 points or more!
As we know the Sandman (Rudd) did get him. And we wrote this about marvellous Matt Price RIP, in harsh terms, without fear or favour, back on May 6th 07, not at all knowing the real truth of his fatal illness, God forgive me:
Media Backgrounder: - Matt Price, The Australian
What happens to talented journalists who work for News Ltd? Does the money and the capitalist greed finally get them in the end? Or do they just get an infected foot and start blathering and missing the obvious?
With dancing bear Greg Sheridan one assumes he sold out a long long time ago, revealed by his own admissions of dedicated hatred of the Lefties on his university campus. Was it the ultra Right Bulletin or Quadrant that gave him a start? Same thing really.
But what about Matt Price? He has wandered around pretty badly this last week. Late on Friday he blathered on to Jennifer Byrne on ABC 702 radio about Howard stock standard election year “listening” backflips and terrible comments by Bill Heffernan as to Julia Gillard’s childless fate. But not once did he say what everyone else in the political community knows – it was a Heffernan dog whistle to the ultra right, not least the Assembly of God/Family First fruitcakes.
The cartoon in the Herald covered it so well here:
Was it just a cavalier late Friday arvo blather from Price, you would expect in workplaces nationwide? Well no because he wrote a column along the same lines in The Australian the same day May 5th: Budget for more bile as desperation rises | Matt Price | The ... The article was a study in fence sitting: “For all her talents, Gillard is an extraordinarily defensive politician” followed by a determined sledge of Medicare Gold, while the Coalition Govt sits on $15.5 BILLION surplus. So unrealistic eh, Matt?
Indeed The Australian played along with the bury the lead re Heffernan's obscenity here: p4 2/5/07 postage stamp bottom left far corner by Samantha Maiden “Libs stick to barren gibe”. Everyone else went big including Ch10 Meet the Press tv talky today 6/5/07.
No mention of Big Heff dog whistling by their gun commentator Price. That’s quite an omission there Matt......[sledge of colleague at The Australian Sheridan here] ... Don’t go down the Sheridan track Matt Price, baffled by your own bullshit. They can’t pay you enough."
And we had this back on May 20 about the fate of Captain Jack (John Howard):
Picture: Will Capt Jack Howard be eaten by electoral fate? Will he go down with the Liberal ship as APEC meeting of the world's pirates ...err leaders comes to Sydney Sept 07? Images from YouTube trailer of Pirates 3 World's End movie out May 24.
Picture: The govt definitely has whiskers on it now with polls suggestive of a Davy Jones Locker result next election, the question being do Australians really want an economic pirate for a Prime Minister (Howard/Costello in the alternative)?
Picture: is that the ship sinking, or the sea rising? Refer world class climate scientist James Hansen quotes in Media Background above re 5 metre rise in the next 90 years.
But what we wrote about Albert Tse appropo McKew's run in Bennelong was on 14th May 2007 as follows (!):
Monday, 14 May 2007
Ruddy son in law to campaign for Maxine McKew in Bennelong?
Topic: election Oz 2007
Picture: Actor Dule Hill at top right was a standout character in the West Wing tv series for the racially charged North American society it was made for.
Is the real life Australian equivalent of Charlie Young going to help take Bennelong off PM John Howard?
Charlie who? Charlie Young is a character from the West Wing tv series played by Afro American Dule Hill. And not just any coffee coloured gentleman but a dark skinned man. Distinctly racial casting choice. A very fine actor. A dramatic juxtaposition who in the script loves in the biblical sense the President’s youngest white bread daughter.
It’s pretty racy stuff right?
But what’s that got to do with Bennelong?
Ruddy’s daughter just got married. If I’m not mistaken her husband is an Asian Australian chap. Who knows, he may end up being like that 3rd richest dual Australian citizen solar energy entrepreneur like Dr. Zhengrong Shi of Suntech (featured on SBS Dateline in a story called 'The Sun King' back in March CNN here, local Sydney Morning Herald and Labor eHerald) or some other world beater. But it's also clear as day the daughter is a living example of cross cultural sophistication including in life choices. Like her dad.
We are reminded of a highly flattering feature story about Rudd’s working life in China for Foreign Affairs that ran in the Sydney Morning Herald recently: Rudd's long march to Asia's heart - National - smh.com.au by a smart writer there Hamish McDonald with Mary-Anne Toy..
These are the most sensitive cultural matters. It’s life as melting pot for real.
It’s the Charlie Young factor. In Sydney, and likely all of Australia, this plays very well in the Asian Australian community. Sydney is the home of the Unity Party represented till recently by an Upper House Dr Peter Wong in NSW Parliament.
It’s where the local edition of the Epoch Times is published with an emphasis on South East Asian coverage as well as general news, and strong slant against the Chinese dictatorship government.
All this is a sensitive mix of cultural and racial undertones but with 6 months to run in a grinding election campaign every area of right, left, bigot and enlightened social policy will be flushed out. We say better to have it out in the sunlight amongst the grown ups.
From our media watching we noticed a real under emphasis in the presentation of the good bride’s new husband. But the Asian Australian community in Bennelong must have noticed surely, or will do so. In this sense they are likely to shift their vote to the ALP as a more tolerant leadership for harmony and multiculturalism to the detriment of John Howard.
On the other hand the ultra right ‘One Nation’ type 5 % dedicated racist vote is out there and do play a role in Australia more generally, also counterbalanced by the Asian Australian Bennelong factor too.
All of this becomes very relevant demographics given the outstanding very early polling results in favour of candidate McKew as reported in the press yesterday as here: McKew would win Bennelong: poll - National - smh.com.au
McKew needs 'miracle' to beat Howard in Bennelong. 13/05/2007. ABC ...
Meanwhile John Howard is going down scale talking about school bullies from the height of his Prime Ministerial office. That's a little weird. And he sounds like a shouting sergeant major on the radio just now.
At this rate the election campaign may yet turn to a macabre procession for 'honest' John. No post budget polling bounce, no ecological credibility, captured by white supremacist leanings a la Alan Jones et al. It could get very grim indeed.
# For our review of the West Wing tv series based on a marathon sitting of the first 5 series, go here and scroll down to 4th January 2007 (one of the first stories on Sydney Alternative Media micro news website aka SAM.)
So for Valder to say the ALP machine done it, and 3 years late, is no argument really, as MK/faithful Bob Hogg brung 'em, while doughty Nicole Campbell of the ALP (who is actually very pretty by the way on all those korflutes in 04) couldn't.
Also you might think McKew has earned quite a deal of grace for withstanding reported death threat: We note our observation dated 4th March 07 here:
Lastly by way of preface, just as The Greens candidate in 2004 federal election Andrew Wilkie experienced death threats for running against Howard in Bennelong, and famously Maxine McKew in the last few days has apparently suffered same, as noted by Ch10 coverage of the newspapers this morning: As a driver for the Not Happy John democratic exercise in Bennelong in 2004 we too experienced violent menaces - on the main road through Ryde: A hotted up car revved and flashed lights in slow traffic on the highway within inches of my rear bumper bar. It really was nerve wracking, though I do enjoy the odd dramatic thrill too.
I jammed the brakes on in my dumpy old car, knowing they had a lot more to lose with a front end collision to their pride and joy. Then in reaction the outraged aggressor drove alongside the passenger seat to swing at the panels at least 3 times before racing hard leftward towards Epping. I did report it to the police. On another occasion in West Ryde/Broadmeadow light industrial area one nice fellow delighted in tearing up my NHJ leaflet in my face aggressively. So yes there is an underbelly of menace in the PM’s electorate.
We wrote of this at the time on Sydney Indymedia self publishing site (around October 2004), which may or may not be available in their records, and copied it to top NHJ organizer John Valder, former President of the federal Liberal Party and signed up ‘Howard hater’ over the PM taking us into the Iraq war unlike say Canada. And I continued with the democratic work, as Maxine McKew can and must, and win the seat also.
And yes the Greens are right to claim their crucial preferences via Lindsay Peters, as well as honourable 'unrusting of Howard' work with Wilkie and NHJ in 2004.
We wrote earlier that MK has some serious high class credibility challenges: Is she a one hit wonder? Like a no.1 hit record off a first release to then disappear in the serious public policy stakes? Overtaken by the quiet achievers like Wong, or even Hunt? We doubt it. She's got 30 years of depth and contacts to draw on, lots of time, and some serious cut through like the reference to "vicious animus" of the Howard Haters being counter productive in weaning folks off their voting habit. Another winning insight - Bennelong the historic figure, is buried in Bennelong. She spoke of this on abc radio recently (Fran Kelly) and quite moving it was too. Stay tuned on the Indigenous front. Lots of accounting still to be done as here [first posted May 27 07]
As to sorry day one cannot go past this movie Australian Atomic Confessions made with funding from the NSW Film and Television office by our Friend Greg Young and others in 2005 how Blacks were effectively murdered to do nuke weapons tests in the 1950ies in Australia under the Australian Government of Robert Menzies Liberal Party. [Declaration - we donated Greg Young's airfaire to a film festival screening in Taiwan in 2006 partially re imbursed by the festival organisers.]
And notice this backgrounder on Cape York travails, dated 10th June 07:
A stark contrast is here [first posted 28th June here on SAM]
"Bininj culture really strong. You have to look after country. For your grandfather country, like mother country, take care." Yvonne Margarula, Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner.
Including this "Over to Gavin Mudd here 27th June Using children to nuke Aboriginal land rights"
Second, is MKstereotyped now as the 'sexy high profile tv presenter for 30 years' thus no expectation of fresh, important or profound policy contribution, rather a derivative PR product or brand, just as the younger telegenic Cornes in South Australia was (badly) treated and who grew in stature? (If only there were more shots of Cornes in her 'matron in control' mode in the national media she might have got less of the young dizzy dolly bird treatment?)
Well I think McKew has a degree of control over this second stereotype. She is going to have to be the change she wants people to believe in. She's not a reporter now. She's part of the government with real power and responsibilities. A high class problem she asked for and now she's got. She's going to have to start dressing like a pollie too, whatever that actually means. We are no fashion adviser but even we noticed Gillard improved her presentation as befits a deputy PM, not a tough woman on the factory floor (with all due respect to them too). In McKew's case it may mean dressing down.
So we say good luck from humble SAM website, anyone who can knock over a PM like Howard has got our respect. Nice to have high class problems really. Here's another problem in Bennelong for her [first posted Sept 16 07 here on SAM]
Picture: Protesters at Premier Morris Iemma's election launch in early 2007, concerned about a state govt overdevelopment in the sensitive seat of ...Bennelong. Meanwhile Howard swears to stand by Bennelong
Posted by editor
at 4:20 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007 1:25 PM EADT