Monday, July 21, 2008

Anyone would think they were trying to lose Mayo

(It's really hard to blog about the federal electorate of Mayo in SA without making tired old knee-jerk vinaigrette, blue-cheese and Thousand Island Dressing jokes. Oops, I did it again.)

Ahem. It's official; former Foreign Minister, Howard man and sometime Coalition leader Alexander Downer is set to be replaced as the Member for Mayo by a 31-year-old called Jamie Briggs, who according to this morning's online Age is -- are you ready for this? -- 'John Howard's former WorkChoices adviser'.


Apart from anything else, if Howard was using people not yet out of their twenties to advise him at that level of seniority on anything apart from technology, yoof issues and popular culture, much less on something as contentious and as demanding of thorough knowledge about the history and theory of industrial relations as an, erm, industrial relations policy, then whatever happened to him serves him right in spades.

And so now we have an endorsed Liberal candidate for the upcoming Mayo by-election (which Labor is not contesting, much to the well-placed scorn of Bob Brown) who is younger than most of the offspring of most of the Liberal voters in Mayo and I should think, in many cases, than their grandchildren as well. Yep, that'll work.

From the report in this morning's online Advertiser, Briggs has started out in the true arrogant Liberal tradition by ignoring questions from the press, shepherded out of the room and protected from the naughty old journalists by SA federal senator and eminence toxic slime-green grise Nick Minchin, which suggests to me both how Briggs won and whose orders he's likely to be taking.

I saw Briggs on the teeve last night and he looks like a standard-issue boxed-set Liberal politician. It's a private-schoolboy look: bad haircut, smug simper, expensive suit, and plump pink chipmunk cheeks. They keep it till they're into their 50s, usually -- but compared to his predecessor Downer and his close runner-up Iain Evans, both of whom also have this look, Briggs really is barely out of school.


TimT said...

According to a report in the Oz on Saturday the Labor Party aren't going to contest Mayo, so maybe the timing of this announcement isn't coincidental.

Anthony said...

PC, you twice refer in your post to Briggs being now the 'member' for Mayo. With Labor not contesting the forthcoming by-election I agree he's very well placed to become the member for Mayo, but for the moment his status is that he has won preselection as the endorsed Liberal candidate in that forthcoming by-election.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Quite right, thanks -- another good reason not to blog first thing in the morning. I'll fix it at once.

Anonymous said...

Nah, they won't lose it, unfortunately. Don't forget how many people used to vote for (eg) John Olsen, despite his past as a used tractor salesman. They just hold their noses, and vote Liberal.

The Greens (who've put up a reasonable candidate) may give the Lib candidate some slight heart palpitations, but at the end of the day, this wet-behind-the-ears boy has been handed a job for life.


Caroline said...

"Rudd refers to it as "the team". And they are his most trusted advisers - two 28-year-olds, Alister Jordan and Lachlan Harris,"

Shit eh. In the Australian, via Eleanor Bloom. This does not make me happy, nothing against the young uns necessarily nothing that a few decades of hard slog and suffering won't remedy. Harris is a particularly obnoxious character apparently. For some reason I think it fine that Howard had young advisers, but for Rudd the spud? Nup. I'd prefer he had an octogenarian or two to proffer some tips.

Richard said...

Perhaps the Greens can finally pick up a seat?

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

I agree that Briggs looks like a disaster for the Libs, based on his involvement with Workchoices. However, I totally disagree with you on the age issue.

Fraser and Peacock were both in parliament by the time they were Briggs' age, as were many other Liberal luminaries (Kennett, Thompson etc). Howard wasn't much older. Ditto Keating and quite a few others on the Labor side.

And as for using him as an adviser, well by that age Einstein had solved special relativity, the photoelectric effect and Brownian Motion, Alexander the Great had conquered half the known world etc, etc.

Pavlov's Cat said...

FSH, do not get me wrong here. I love young persons, or at least some young persons. The one best known to me, who has not yet turned 21, has just done her first-semester third-year Aerospace Engineering exams and got 95 for Space Vehicle Design. This is someone I've known since before she was born. I am full of awe and reverence.

Nor was I dissing the notion of a young MP. Hooray for Kate Ellis and before her Natasha Stott-Despoja. What I am scornful of is the appointment of people not yet out of their twenties as senior advisers in fields where extensive, complex, slowly-accrued knowledge is absolutely crucial in an adviser role.

The advantage of age over youth is that the aged (*shakes walking stick in a threatening manner*) have experienced both states, and are therefore in a position to compare them. For example, I was pushed kicking and screaming at 32 into a job (editing the only national book reviews magazine that existed at the time) that I wasn't adequately equipped to do; I had many of the skills, I had some of the knowledge, but I made some incredibly stupid mistakes because I simply hadn't been playing with the big kids long enough to understand how it was done -- much less to be an 'adviser' to people three or four decades older than me.

Kel said...

as a resident of mayo , just before the nominated liberal candidate was announced, i recieved a very interesting call from someone doing research into perspectives, attitudes and preferences about mayo and its political representation in the wake of downers retirement. The 'research' appeared to be an attempt to garner a picture of the most politically expedient person for the job. Either it was the labour party working out possible support for a candidate or the liberals working out who to nominate.The briggs nomination is no surprise, just another example of how the Libs really have missed the boat on wider community preferences. unfortunately, Mayo is not representative of the wider community.

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

I guess I see the role of the adviser differently, particularly when they are advising a minister who is several decades older.

In such a circumstance I would think the adviser should be someone who has the technical knowledge, particularly being up to date with the latest thinking in the field. Someone in their late 20s is quite likely to be in this position - for example if they did a PhD in the area. Then it is up to the minister to temper this theoretical enthusiasm with experience gained with age as to whether these ideas will fly with the electorate and various stakeholders.