Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on Susan Devoy’s appointment, and the Gillard non-coup

March 22nd, 2013

It is hard to tell which aspect of Susan Devoy becoming Race Relations Commissioner is worse. Was it the selection of someone who plainly has no skills for a job requiring tolerance and empathy – or was it the rationalisation offered by Justice Minister Judith Collins, who said that Devoy would ‘tone down her views” once she was behind the desk? Memo to Collins: the prime quality required in a Race Relations Commissions is not the ability to learn on the job how to avoid embarrassing the government by speaking your mind. At least part of the requirement should be having a mind that doesn’t need to have its contents “toned down” in order to function properly.

No doubt, Devoy’s negative comments in the past about Waitangi Day protests and the wearing of burqas in public – “disconcerting” – are views shared by quite a few New Zealanders. Many listeners to talkback radio probably hold them. And that snooty comment I just made is probably the real purpose that Collins appointed Devoy to the post. Collins wants to stir up the elitist, out of touch commentators and academics, while scoring her government a few extra points among the “real people” who think that this race relations, Treaty consciousness stuff has got a bit out of hand. Sensible Susan will sort that nonsense out. We will see. For now, it probably doesn’t bode all that well for race relations in this country that our current Justice Minister is prepared to turn the appointment of our next Race Relations Conciliator into a form of political trolling.

Gillard survives
For months, it has been pretty clear that Labor is going to lost the next election in Australia, and that any leadership issues atop the Party are merely about minimising the losses. Yesterday’s events were a debacle for all concerned. Kevin Rudd had been taunted only 12 months ago by the same Simon Crean to show his hand and stand as leader to resolve the leadership issue for once and for all – and then got soundly thumped when he did, and was despatched to the back benches.

So when Crean triggered another leadership spill yesterday and – this time – pleaded with Rudd to stand, you could forgive Rudd for counting the numbers, and realizing he still risked defeat by people who hated him beyond any rational assessment. So Rudd declined to stand, and Gillard and her deputy Wayne Swan won an empty endorsement. With the iceberg in sight, it is full speed ahead on the deck of the Titanic.

What we were left with was some pretty hilarious commentary in the Aussie papers, most of it directed at the hapless Crean. This column by Tony Wright in the Sydney Morning Herald for instance, notes that Crean began the day as Minister of the Arts, and ended it with his arts handed to him on a platter. More of the same:

Simon Crean believed the Labor Party needed something approaching a bomb to blow a hole in its thin facade as a competitive political outfit. He could hardly have imagined that instead, he would become a suicide bomber, abandoned to wander down a lonely alley and detonate himself, leaving the party he has served for a fair slice of his adult life a smoking ruin.

Wright dismisses the notion that Crean was a Judas goat being used by Gillard to lure Rudd out to be slaughtered. Crean’s subsequent fate – he’s now joining Rudd on the back benches – bears that out. Gillard didn’t want this test. The whole point of calling the election date well before time was supposed to give the campaign time to focus on the unpleasant reality of Tony Abbott, not on the awful death throes of the Labor Party. This being Australia, Rudd comes in for some stick too, for allegedly not having the “bottle” to stick his neck out again.

After the election, Rudd will inherit a smoking ruin. It being Labor, the remnants of the caucus will blame him as much as Gillard – for committing the sin of being more popular with the Australian voters than she was, and for not using that popularity more adroitly to somehow save their skins. As Wright concludes with his bomb analogy:

Poor Simon Crean’s…legacy is that he indeed managed to blow a hole in the Labor Party’s facade. The problem is that it revealed frightful writhing things within.


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    1. 6 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on Susan Devoy’s appointment, and the Gillard non-coup”

    2. By Lan on Mar 22, 2013 | Reply

      Having worked 10 years in Western Australia as Gough Whitlam was thrown out by the Governor General etc (goodness as young academics then we just had to rush out and hire a telly) I would not be surprised if Julia Gillard leads the Labour Party back into government at the next election. This stuff goes on all the time in Oz. Makes NZ seem tame stuff. With economic changes and pressures a soft and sneaky govt like that presently incumbent in NZ wouldn’t stand a chance.

    3. By Joe Blow on Mar 24, 2013 | Reply

      This latest with Susan Devoy makes me wonder if Judith and Suz went to school together or often schmooze at centre-right get togethers.

      Is this just another form of Collins picking her husband’s mate as director of human rights proceedings?

      Cronyism… if it’s not cronyism this time it’s down right stupidity… Collins couldn’t make an appointment decision requiring insight and sensitivity if her life depended on it! I guess the characteristics of sensitivity and insight required for such decisions do not mix well with crushing things…

    4. By R Walker on Mar 25, 2013 | Reply

      Why not wait and see how the new Race Relations Commissioner handles the post ? Do you know more that I do ?? Doubt it

    5. By Rafe on Mar 26, 2013 | Reply

      Susan Devoy is a political appointee pure and simple. With Key’s glib, ‘ordinary joker’ persona, Devoy will play well on the cover of Womans Day, New Idea and Womans Weekly portraying his ‘team’ as being just the kind of pragmatic Kiwis needed in times of crisis and in the leadup to an election.
      Could anyone have imagined a better (or worse) catalyst for all the vitriol bottled up inside the ‘average’ Kiwi than a Race Relations Conciliator in possession of such a commanding backhand for imagined enemies, Maori and the liberals and lefties?

    6. By Delia on Apr 3, 2013 | Reply

      Don’t you just wonder who else applied for the job?

    7. By R Walker on Apr 6, 2013 | Reply

      OMG and I thought that I was a sexist , not a touch on RAFE

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