The latest rumour from the insiders is that the seekers after a leader for the Labor Party are looking to advance Steve Smith as a foil to Kevin Rudd. I've been casting my vote for Steve in federal elections since 1993 and, although I haven't always given him first preference I have never seriously considered putting him last.
That's not going to be the pattern forever and it will change around about the time of the next election. Two things have led to this; exasperation with the Greens and a recognition that Steve and I have developed some irreconcilable differences.
The Greens have proven, to my disgust, that the Coalition had them correctly pegged as ill-judged wreckers. Bob Brown has shown that, when given real power, he can't deal with the tough questions and obligations that come with it. His attacks on News Ltd are perfect proof of this. He has ample opportunity to expose flaws in their arguments, if there are flaws. Resorting to polemical slogans is not proving anything. Failing to answer practical questions from journalists who are prepared to give him a fair hearing is a final proof that he's out of his depth. One example: Why can't he explain his position on the coal industry? Efforts to obtain an explanation as to how the industry is to be wound down without catastrophe to the Australian economy meet with relentless evasion. Bob seems to be taking refuge in Micawberism, believing that something will turn up, even if he can't remotely guess what it might be. That doesn't give cause for faith in the Greens' pet project, the carbon tax. I never have believed in it and nothing coming from Bob's crew is likely to change that. Green preferences got Steve Smith over the line in the last election and they'll be the second-last on my list of preferences. A vote for the Greens is a vote for Steve. More importantly, a vote for Steve (or any Labor candidate) is a vote for the Greens.
Steve hasn't lost my support by personally doing anything too unconventional. In fact it's his adherence to the conventional that has done it; loyalty to Cabinet decisions (no matter how foolish), keeping up the tradition of sycophancy to Israel, persisting with the folly of Australian-built submarines when it's obvious that we can't design or build them worth a damn. His defence of Carmen Lawrence doesn't recommend him to me either. I think he's had a very fair go - eighteen years worth. He hasn't demonstrated any great initiative, courage or insight in that time and is definitely a follower, not a leader. He probably won't mind losing my vote and I wouldn't enjoy seeing a Liberal take his place, but enough is enough.