While I have less than a glowing view of Alexander Downer’s performance as a parliamentary representative and indeed as a Foreign Minister, I feel I should echo Senator Penny Wong’s comments on Downer’s imminent resignation from parliament today. Downer has been a member of parliament for almost 25 years; since 1984 to be precise. Assuming a basic level of faith in democracy, one would have to think that if the voters of Mayo have deigned to endorse a candidate at the polls on so many consecutive occasions, the candidate must be doing a fairly good job of representing them. I may not agree with that endorsement, but I can certainly respect it.
What I don’t really respect, on the other hand, is Downer’s fairly drawn-out loitering on the parliamentary backbenches over the past eight months, as he evidently waited for some suitably plum job opportunities to come along. It was always assumed after the election that he would leave parliament rather than stay to fight on until 2010, and Downer has certainly foreshadowed his departure quite often in recent months. I am sure that at least in part Downer has sought to shield the fragile Nelson leadership from a by-election by his hanging around, but I am afraid that really isn’t a good enough reason for him to sit around on the taxpayer’s coin like so much dead lumber waiting to be carted off on a truck somewhere.
I would like at some stage to write a more ruminative piece on Alexander Downer’s contributions to public life over the last quarter of a century; a figure of his prominence deserves as much. For the time being though, I wish him well in his new mooted role, am pleased that he is leaving Canberra, and very much glad that the foreign policy of the Commonwealth of Australia is no longer in his hands.
ELSEWHERE: Janet Albrechtsen and Jamie Walker have a bit of an up-beat political obituary of Downer in The Australian. The soon to be former Member of Mayo does seem to be leaving the door ajar for a possible future tilt at South Australian politics, and manages to make himself sound like an ass with respect to smoking laws. What part of “cancer-causing second-hand smoke” do you not get Alex?