Way back in August 2011 when it was announced that Arthur Sinodinos was to replace outgoing senator Helen Coonan the announcement was met with almost universal approval, a rarest of rarities in any democratic media. Sinodinos was smart, so we were told. He was credited with running the Prime Minister’s office with a combination of professionalism, geniality and political acumen unmatched by Grahame Morris, Alastair Jordan, Peta Credlin or Ben Hubbard, indeed many were prepared to anoint him the key to Howard’s success.
It followed therefore that when he succeeded Coonan the Liberal Party was widely praise for making an intelligent decision. Sinodinos had the runs of the board as a shrewd, talented and conscientious political operator and we were all supposed to be excited about how he’d apply his talents to parliamentary life. Other star recruits have failed to attract the warm reception that Sinodinos received, Bob Carr captured the excitement of the press but the conservative foot soldiers were out in force to shut him down before he’d began, so too Peter Garrett. Outside of the beltway Sinodinos was largely unknown but inside of it he was clearly respected, perhaps it was his lack of celebrity status that won him such acclaim, he was a star recruit without being a Prima Donna. Whatever the reason when he entered the Senate he did so with stratospherically high expectations of success and with an unprecedented absence of detractors.
Sinodinos enjoyed a honeymoon period like no politician since Kevin Rudd, when Tony Abbott announced that the new Senator would not be given a cabinet post just yet the press gallery let out a collective groan of disappointment, “what a waste of talent!” was their catchcry as Sinodinos slotted into the respectable portfolio of assistant treasurer, undoubtedly poised to enter cabinet at the first reshuffle. If he appeared on Qanda or Sky News Agenda commentators would queue up to explain justwhat it was that made his performance so effective. While the government and its ministers began to steadily slide down the opinion poll figures, the golden boy of the senate could do no wrong and then, with a puff he was gone.
The sudden demise of Sinodinos appears to have hit the press much harder than it has the Liberal Party or the general public. Having invested so much capital in deifying him, the news that Sinodinos might be corrupt has been humbling. No matter the findings of ICAC, no matter what prosecutions may flow from it, Sinodinos will never attract the ferocity that a Craig Thomson or a Joe Tripodi received and it’s not about political ideology, indeed much of Sinodinos’ appeal was that he was supposed to transcend ideology. He was supposed to have an intelligence and an integrity that was above partisan coverage. Journalists respected him, they liked him and he failed them. So we’ll see few recriminations, few aggressive hatchet jobs just flat, melancholic lamentations by those who have been left wondering what might have been.