You win some, you lose some


The pre-election exodus continues, mostly from the Liberal side of politics, as senior and not so senior MPs decide that spending three, six or nine years on opposition benches just ain’t worth it to stick around for. The latest ones to pull the plug: Queensland’s Steve Ciobo and South Australia’s Chris Pyne, both former Cabinet ministers:

“After 17 years in parliament, I have taken the decision that it’s time to move on to something else,” Mr Ciobo told The Australian.

“I’ve always said that politics is a means not an end,” Mr Ciobo told The Australian in an exclusive interview which has ended weeks of speculation.

“I have had the extraordinary privilege of serving my country as trade minister and the contribution I got to make, in particular with the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Indonesian Free Trade agreement.

“But now is the time to do something else.

Mr Pyne — who was first elected into parliament over 25 years ago — will continue to serve as Defence Minister until the next election when he will leave the parliament.

Pyne is expected to make the official announcement tomorrow.

As I wrote a year and a half ago:

Christopher Pyne has been in the federal parliament since 1993, or my second year at university. I only vaguely remember the “GST election” of that year, since it was only later that year I got caught up with a bad crowd and got involved in the right-of-centre politics; in other words it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. This means that Christopher has been in representative politics for 24 years. He was a minister in the Howard government, spent six years in the shadow cabinet as a consigliere and part of the praetorian guard for two leaders, Malcolm Turnbull and then Tony Abbott, and by the time the next election comes, he would have spent another six years in the cabinet, again as a consigliere and part of the praetorian guard for Tony Abbott and then Malcolm Turnbull again. Most objective observers would say that Christopher has had a pretty good run in his quarter of a century in Canberra, surfing through a variety of senior positions and across many crucial portfolios, most recently as the Minister for Rat-fucking the Defence Minister, I mean the Minister for Defence Industry. The Defence Minister, Senator Marise Payne, it should be recalled, is one of Christopher’s oldest friends and factional allies.

Most objective observers would probably also say that having had a pretty good and long run, Christopher should perhaps bow out on the high point of his career and give someone else a chance to fill his Sturt shoes (his predecessor, Ian Wilson, whom he rolled in a preselection when 25, has been in the seat for 27 years). Like everyone else who has given so much time and energy to federal politics, Christopher too deserves a chance to spend more time with his family and his hobbies.

I’m not shedding many tears for Pyne, a man undoubtedly gifted with many political talents but also a single-minded and Machiavellian drive for self-advancement, ultimately committed and loyal only to himself. I’m more saddened about Ciobo, though not surprised by his decision. His retirement puts to an end The Daily Chrenk’s low key campaign from two year ago, “Ciobo for PM”:

Steven has traditionally been on the left of the party, but unlike most of today’s moderates he’s always been economically dry. He’s not a trendy who gets off on an occasional grudging good word from Fairfax or ABC; Queensland tends not to produce these sorts of politicians – thank God. Of Italian background, he’s a stylish, polished and well-presented; a solid media performer. Why he’s longer odds than Sussan Ley (FFS!) [to become the Prime Minister] and neck-and-neck with other deflating members on the way down like his neighbour to the north in Fadden, Stuart Robert, is a mystery to me. Steve has been an overnight success story as a Trade Minister some 16 years in a making; he would be my choice well ahead of Christian Porters and Josh Frydenbergs of this world even if I didn’t know him personally.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Steve, having known him almost as long as Christopher has been in Parliament. I helped Steve roll the incumbent Queensland Young Liberal Policy VP, served as a VP during his presidency and worked with him briefly in politics. I was happy to see him get preselected and eventually get to where he got to in government. Unlike with so many of his colleagues, you always knew where you stood with him, whether as a friend or a foe. I wish him and his family all the best in the more relaxing life after politics.

All these retirements will make the opposition quite an intriguing time for the Liberal Party in Canberra, virtually guaranteeing that most survivors will be guaranteed a shadow ministry spot – for whatever it’s worth. The only remaining question is who these survivors will be. We have a reasonably good idea about the Senate, where those number one or two on the ticket would be reasonably confident of getting enough votes, barring some unforeseen disasters. The House is a different matter; the swing will decide, even if the only certainty is that it won’t be at all even from seat to seat. From what I can see so far I’m not very optimistic about the next season of “The Liberals” and not particularly confident that the new additions to the cast will do much to revive the flagging ratings.