Political aspirations can often be read by having a look at whose bust dominates a politician’s personal office space.
Winston Churchill, William Morris Hughes, Robert Menzies, John Gorton, Gough Whitlam – they each have something that makes them worthy of shelf space, but which of them would we find gracing Daniel Andrews’ shelves?
Karl Marx would seem an obvious choice, followed by the dictatorial Lenin or Stalin. Unless, of course, Andrews chooses to acknowledge a more contemporary Labor leader…
Perhaps we should look no further than the politically impervious Peter Beattie, Queensland’s Teflon-coated ‘terror’ who ruled from 1998 to 2007.
Beattie perfected the mea culpa when you weren’t actually having a mea culpa, which sounds something like, ‘I’m premier, it’s all my fault, I take full responsibility and I apologise, so move along now, nothing further to see here!’
Not that he and his deputy, Jim Elder, were averse to leaving a few bodies on the steps of the forum, as they say.
A relentless self-promoter, Beattie released his first autobiography Making a Difference in May 2005, in which he described his upbringing, political life, and views on key issues, including health, education, and social reform.
The book was more manifesto than memoir – a sort of CV exquisitely prepared.
Beattie said the reason he released the book while he was in office, rather than after politics, was because no one would want to read about him if he was not in the public arena. Which boldly assumed many Queenslanders actually wanted to read about him to begin with.
History may be kind to those who record their own legacy, as Churchill knew only too well and Boris Johnson may yet exploit to the annoyance of his political cohort on all sides of politics.
Beattie may prove to be the exception to that truism.
Nor did Beattie shirk from accepting a lucrative appointment as Queensland’s Trade Commissioner to North and South America based in Los Angeles. Los Angeles isn’t quite as desirable as New York, but hey, the weather’s better and you can use the opportunity to purchase a two-bedroom apartment near the Empire State Building. It is the sort of thing that ambitious former politicians long for.
In the political game of Snakes and Ladders, it has since been more serpents than seraphims for relevance-deprived Teflon Beattie, with a failed tilt at federal parliament and a less than ordinary period as national Rugby League chief.
The one thing Beattie did understand was when to step aside. You can only absorb so much blame, and those who ignore the lessons of history are bound to repeat them.
Andrews seems not to have grasped this, with his sights set on a more than possible third term as Premier of Victoria.
Perhaps a bust of Beattie may not be the most appropriate symbol for whatever time Andrews has left in office.
With apologies to Percy Shelley, it might be another statue that portends the future as November’s poll approaches.
‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, survive, stamped on these lifeless things, and on the pedestal, these words appear:
“My name is Daniel, look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.”’
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of their political lives.
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