Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Another Sad Day for Politics

Wednesday, 20 November 2002

Oz columnist Janet Albrechtsen takes a "plague on both your houses" line in her piece today on the appointments of Graeme Samuel as deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Jeff Shaw to the NSW Supreme Court.

On the Samuel affair, Janet reckons it's a case of NSW Treasurer Michael Egan dishing up a serve of gander-sauce to Federal Treasurer Peter Costello for this brilliant display of visual humour:

After a heated meeting over a $166 million compensation deal for petrol excise indexation, and with cameras rolling, Costello foolishly patted the diminutive Egan on the head. With that familiar smirk, Costello said: "Calm down, fella."

Most of you will no doubt remember this moment - it was too good not to make it onto the TV news. In my view it pretty much epitomises most of what passes for wit on the conservative side of politics. It shows the smug self-assurance which goes with knowing that you hold most of the power and that any anger you provoke on the part of the butt of the joke will only make them look foolish - regardless of whether the anger is justified.

On the issue of the Shaw appointment, Janet takes the NSW Liberals to task for suggesting

that his appointment was more a "clearing of the decks" by NSW Premier Bob Carr, keen to appoint people ahead of the March election.

Janet believes Shaw is just the right kind of judge who can be trusted to avoid the hubris of hero judges such as Lionel Murphy or Michael Kirby. I am in no position to comment on this as I am not familiar with Mr Shaw's career.

Finally, like Senator George Brandis she bemoans the fact that public servants (and some judges) are being used for purposes of political points scoring. I'm in complete agreement with her on that point.

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