For many folk, I suspect, Kim Beazley was the erudite, often eloquent Prime Minister we for some strange reason never had. Despite his faults and his occasionally eccentric verbosity, one always got the sense through his speeches and the way that he communicated that he cared about the nation and firmly wanted Australia to be a fairer place for the less fortunate. His record speaks for itself in electoral terms, but in a slightly different time, perhaps, Kim Beazley would have been the sort of Prime Minister who brought conservative Australia and progressive Australia together under the one umbrella. He was often criticised by the left for being on the wrong side of certain emotive issues (e.g. asylum seekers in particular), but all the same, he was rarely accused of having his heart in the wrong place.
I certainly did not agree with Kim Beazley on every issue, but my first instinct upon reading stories suggesting that he could be our next (and last?) Governor-General was that it would be a great choice, and wonderfully apt given his years of often thankless public service. That thought was immediately followed by a pretty obvious political realisation: the Rudd Government would be committing political suicide by making such an overtly party-political appointment. One of the strongest and most convincing arguments against the government that the Rudd Opposition took to the polls in November last year was that federal politics was mired in cynical sludge. The Howard Government’s WorkChoices policy package was rammed through without a specific mandate from the voters, and backed by millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded propaganda. The AWB scandal reeked of incompetence, for which nobody from the government was willing to take responsibility. Rudd had effectively promised to restore an air of decency to public life in Canberra not observed for some time. The appointment of someone like Beazley – until recently one of the most visibly partisan political figures in the country – to any position of repute would have completely and utterly undermined this approach.
I am therefore not surprised at Rudd’s fairly brusque dismissal of the whole idea reported in today’s press, and am pleased that the Prime Minister has not been inspired to indulge in some forbidden fruit on this occasion. The government is currently is carrying with it a considerable amount of good will, owing of course from its election victory and the lack of any seriously embarrassing or controversial decisions made so far. This sort of political capital is not easily replenished, and the government would be loathe at this stage to squander its good position on such a triviality. On related news, it was good to hear Foreign Minister Stephen Smith appoint two career diplomats to represent Australia in France and Ghana a couple of weeks back. Long may this professional and diligent approach to public appointments continue.