Give the man another Walkley

hartcher II

Peter Hartcher (above) then:

“The numbers are coming to me, I’ve got the numbers,” [Malcolm Turnbull] announced to Julie Bishop that day by phone. His backbench zealots had been recruiting for him, but in the end Abbott and Credlin did the vital work for him. To the end, he didn’t need to bargain or plead for votes.

“Shirtfronted” Part V, published on December 3, 2015

Peter Hartcher now:

Said an Abbott loyalist who worked the numbers for the outgoing prime minister: “Malcolm would never have got the five extra votes he needed to beat Tony if not for the deals he made with conservatives.”

—  Published today, May 21, in The Age and SMH

Hartcher’s latest column, available via the link below, goes on to lament the deals with conservative Liberals that, five months ago, he insisted had never been struck, nor needed to be struck. Such pacts, he continues, have crippled the latest PM’s ability to present himself as a “transformational” leader, rather than a “transactional” one — a line of argument that draws upon the writings of the late US political scientist James MacGregor Burns.

Worth noting is that Burns, who once stood for Congress as a liberal Democrat, subscribed to the rather subjective view that broad-brush policies and agendas he supported were “transformational” by definition. Others might think his perspective somewhat flawed, given that he saw in both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama the makings of fine presidents. Their prime qualifications: the former for coming equipped with XX chromosomes and the latter by virtue of complexion:

Burns said that regardless of whoever eventually wins the Democratic primary, this will be remembered as a glorious year for the party, since it will offer either an African American or a woman as its presidential candidate. “We do think it’s time for a woman candidate. But, as I recently said to a group of local Democrats, I want both. I’m greedy,” he said.

MacGregor’s writing inspired an academic movement, one of whose local disciples, Monash University’s Professor James Walter, agrees that Turnbull would be a better man and leader had he stuck “to the sorts of things he’d advocated in the past.” And Hartcher? Well he won last year’s Walkley Award for “Commentary, Analysis, Opinion and Critique”.

That should tell you everything you need to know about both the ivory tower and the worth of Australian journalism awards.

— roger franklin


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