The Worst Minister?

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David Bradbury’s promotion to cabinet reflects Julia Gillard”s obsession with Western Sydney

There’s no denying that the Gillard government has got a rubbish crop of ministers insofar as communication skills are concerned. Stephen Conroy causes offense, Kate Lundy freelances on policy and Nicola Roxon just can’t decline a chance to score a political point and often tries to do so at inappropriate moments. But these ministers aren’t the problem, the problem is a plethora of government ministers seemingly lacking the confidence to deviate from focus group tested party lines. The effects of this for the governments is devastating. Ministers don’t appear to be well versed in the ins and outs of their portfolio and as such end up looking incompetent.  Wayne Swan, Penny Wong, Greg Combet, Chris Evans, Kate Ellis and Jenny Macklin all suffer from debilitating cases of the disease whilst Bill Shorten, Stephen Smith and Prime Minister Gillard herself often show symptoms. In fact the only ministers who seem immune to it are Craig Emerson, Tanya Plibersek and Chris Bowen.

But anyone who has watched Question Time recently could have no doubt that the worst communicator in the government is the Minister for Western Sydney and Stuff White People like Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury. Assistant Treasurer is not such a huge portfolio so Bradbury is not so big a weakness for the government as someone like Swan but on the other hand  while he bumbles his way through a portfolio far beyond  his depth some serious political talent lingers on the backbench.

The most obvious example is Andrew Leigh, the ANU professor of  economics is doing a far more effective job in selling the governments economic wares than Bradbury, despite having no ministerial post. In fact, since Lindsay Tanner bowed out of the parliament in 2010, Leigh has been the most economic policy oriented  member of either house. He speaks with authority, he knows his stuff and he believes in it. Julie Owens a former businesswoman is another talented and persuasive speaker with a firm grasp of economics. Elected eight years ago now her presence on the backbench is inexplicable. Then there are the former ministers who are languishing on the backbench, accomplished performers who sit twiddling their thumbs while Bradbury cocks things up. Admittedly appointing Kevin Rudd to Bradbury’s portfolio might have been a stretch but what about Kim Carr? Or Joel Fitzgibbon? Hell even Laurie Ferguson and Kelvin Thomspon have shown more verbal dexterity than Bradbury.

Bradbury’s commitment to a script is desperate. In parliament where he is asked Dorothy Dixars his performances are so anemic and the opposition doesn’t even bother to heckle. In an interview, his performances are dire. Desperately trying to air lift paragraphs of pre-rehearsed answers into the interview like he does is excruciating to watch and judging by his unenthusiastic delivery I think he kind of knows it too. Yet he clings to the script like he’s holding on for dear life and the effect is disastrous, so why is he a minister?

 

This Gillard government has an obsession with Western Sydney, it perceives blue collar, working class, anglo saxon electorates to be the embodiment of the Labor cause and devotes disproportionate efforts to retaining seats like Bradbury’s seat of Lindsay. The strategy is counterproductive at the best of times but by appointing him to the post of assistant Treasurer, merely because of where his electorate is, shows a reckless disregard for the governments perceived economic competence.  I think Bradbury, along with Wayne Swan, has indicated he would not serve as a minister if Rudd was to return to the Prime Ministership. In itself this might be a good reason to bring him back.

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