It’s quite common for a person to move from state parliament into the federal parliament. It’s not even uncommon that a former state Premier is running for the federal parliament, but it is somewhat unusual to do so at the age of 60, having been retired from state parliament for six years.
The case of Peter Beattie is worth considering because a move such as his candidacy for Labor in the Federal seat of Forde isn’t undertaken out of the goodness of one’s heart.
In terms of winning elections and huge majorities, former Premier Peter Beattie is arguably Queensland’s most successful Labor leader.
To some in the Labor party he’s a political Messiah, and there was confusion when he pulled the pin and retired while on top, and relatively young?
There remain questions regarding that decision, but it’s not for me to advance gossip. However, it should be noted that Beattie’s great electoral success doesn’t necessarily mean success in managing affairs of state. Peter Beattie is seen as having left Queensland in a mess, and his decision for Anna Bligh to replace him was also somewhat dubious.
I bumped into Peter Beattie briefly a couple of times during the 1998 Queensland election campaign. He is, as one might expect, affable and a classic example of a “Hail fellow well met”. That, combined with a record that shows him to possess ruthless political cunning, highlights his strengths as a politician.
Mmmm, “Ruthless and Cunning” – makes you think? Well, no-one should be under the illusion politicians are by and large good or nice people. Sadly they’re not, and if they weren’t pretty ugly going in, with few exceptions, that’s what they become.
Apart from my own wide-ranging experience in politics, my Uncle Ted was an MP for 15 years. When my Dad was approached to stand for Parliament, Ted, his brother, warned him off. He said, “Bill (Dad), it’s the ugliest, rottenest business you could get into, stay out of it if you can”. My Dad took his advice. That was a long time ago and politics and politicians are much worse today.
So why has Kevin Rudd resurrected Peter Beattie after so long, and despite it being well documented, he and Kevin wouldn’t likely enjoy a beer together?
For Kevin Rudd, it’s a sign of his desperation and for Peter Beattie, I suspect he’s bored and misses the limelight – he is widely quoted as having referred to himself as a “media tart”.
Every seat that might be won counts, but Queensland in particular is Labor’s primary show in this election. Forde is a tight marginal seat held by the Coalition by only 1.6%. If Labor can’t win Forde, they have no hope of winning the election.
Peter Beattie is a Big Gun and Labor using him in Forde is indicative of how really bad things are for Labor’s re-election prospects – Rudd is lucky to have Beattie for this task.
That said though, Beattie is not a resident of Forde and might successfully be painted as a blow-in opportunist dragged from the vault of political artifacts.
An interesting choice here for the Coalition, does Beattie’s arrival change the game in Forde to such a degree that resources are directed elsewhere, or do they seriously take him on? Polling will make that decision for them.
Now to the incentives for Mr Beattie, boredom alone isn’t going to drag him out of a comfortable retirement. So there is the question of what’s in it for Beattie? Obviously a ministry of his choice, but which one?
There is also the matter of finances – given his age leaving state parliament, Beattie most likely took the parliamentary pension rather than a lump sum. That would mean he’s already pocketing more than a federal MPs salary and now he’s over 60, that money is tax free! If elected, that tax free $200,000-plus stops until he leaves the Federal parliament.
Financially, it’s a lot to give up – Mr Beattie will be effectively close to the equivalent of doing the job for free.
So what else is in it for Mr Beattie? There’s no real money in it for Beattie and he isn’t going to get a shot at being Prime Minister down the track, but Beattie likes to travel well and he’s enjoyed living very well overseas for years, courtesy of Labor Government appointments.
Let’s say Bob Carr shouldn’t get too used to being Foreign Minister because after this election that’s probably coming to an end one way or the other.
If Labor lose, it’s back to being Senator, not Minister Carr. If Beattie wins the seat of Forde and Labor wins the election, I suspect we’ll see Foreign Minister Beattie flitting around the world making useful post career contacts, living well courtesy of you and me, and being overseas a lot, he’s out of PM Rudd’s way.
Remember, Carr was enticed by Gillard as, “The Captain’s pick”, with the incentive of the only thing that Carr wanted, the Foreign Ministry.
Rudd owes Carr nothing and doesn’t need him at all – Beattie on the other hand… the need for him is obvious, as indeed is Rudd’s other requirements, to have Beattie satisfied and mostly out of sight when the election is over.
Beattie’s profile wins Forde, but Labor fails to secure enough seats in Queensland overall and loses the election. Beattie is elected as a nobody in relative terms, representing an electorate far from where he lives and he’s seriously out of pocket. If Labor loses the election, Beattie is better off not winning his seat!
Carr is now in Opposition and at the most sees out his Senate term. Kevin Rudd, personally reviled by a lot of his own party is faced with timing his departure depending on a gig with the United Nations.
Julia Gillard, looking like she’s spent the afternoon sucking lemons, is heard to loudly proclaim, “I told you so!” Indeed, that is precisely how this sorry saga, that has now enlisted Peter Beattie, could end.