Among the abuse showered on Julia Gillard during her prime ministership many avoided the cheap shot that her electorate, Lalor, was home to Melbourne’s little boys’ and girls’ room, the Werribee Sewerage Farm. Now the ALP appears content to cover itself in effluent over Gillard’s successor in the seat.
Amid Kevin Rudd’s self-serving calls to reform the ALP comes a political wannabe who effortlessly personified all that has gone wrong with Labor.
Lisa Clutterham, 29, an Australian diplomat to Papua New Guinea, has emerged as a likely pretender in the increasingly crowded contest for Lalor. She has the backing of Victorian ALP powerbrokers to succeed Gillard. But in the context of the late Speaker of the US House Tip O’Neill’s maxim ”all politics is local”, Clutterham is the ultimate blow-in. She’s a South Australian. She joined the ALP only on June 20. She neither has any Melbourne connection nor a relationship with Lalor.
Scratch that: she told ABC radio host Jon Faine that her partner when he was a child ”visited Werribee on many Christmas holidays”.
Most Melburnians would not touch Werribee with a barge pole. The nearby sewerage farm makes the suburb so redolent that motorists driving past on their way to Geelong habitually negotiate the journey with closed windows.
But Clutterham seemed incapable of smelling a rat or anything else as she presented her credentials. ”I don’t have a connection with Melbourne and that’s not something I’m shying away from. I’m in the camp of a majority of Australians, 99 per cent of whom are not members of political parties,” she told Faine.
Such a gormless sense of entitlement has either outraged or bemused many in Melbourne. But will it be enough for her to join Mal Meninga in the lexicon of the world’s shortest political careers? More than his on-field achievements, the Queensland coach will be forever remembered for his 2001 decision to quit politics during a radio interview to announce his candidacy for the ACT Assembly.
Clutterham’s arrival on the political stage has made a nonsense of Rudd’s quixotic call to lessen the power of factions in preselection ballots. Lalor is already shaping up as a free-for-all. Apart from Clutterham’s late arrival, three other candidates have emerged to show that factionalism and nepotism is still alive and well in the ALP.
Joanne Ryan, a primary school principal, has the backing of Gillard and her predecessor in Lalor, former science minister Barry Jones; Kimberley Kitching, who runs the Health Services Union Victoria No.1 branch, has the support of Education and Employment and Workplace Minister Bill Shorten; Sandra Willis, general manager of Oz Opera and daughter of former federal treasurer Ralph Willis, is favoured by Lalor local and former Victorian premier Joan Kirner.
For that matter, behind Clutterham are the powerful Right players such as David Feeney who had Gillard’s backing and prevailed over a female candidate in the preselection for Batman. Clutterham entered the fray at the behest of Rudd acolyte Richard Marles, who was named the Trade Minister after the change of prime minister.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.