The ability to persuade is the most important part of the politician’s trade

I never know until the election whether I am in Melbourne Ports or Goldstein since I live on the cusp and, like the German border with Poland, it keeps moving back and forth. But what I do know is that one of the advantages Labor has over the Coalition is that the selection stream for getting to the top largely travels through the union movement. And among the many things that are learned by being a union official is how to address a crowd. There is always in every workplace someone who is a natural born agitator, but only some of these have political sense and even after that, only some of these have an ability to speak persuasively in public. It is these who rise to the top of the ALP. The policy packages they offer may be maximally damaging to the country, but they certainly can sell. Think Bob Hawke as the archetype.

On the Coalition side, there are few places for a candidate to hone their thoughts or learn the ability to speak in the face of opposition before they make it into Parliament. There are fewer opportunities to be tested in a real showdown, with ideological knives out and values on the line. It has always been a disadvantage to the right side of politics, and not just in Australia, that it does not develop the kinds of speakers that are so common on the left. Which is all preamble to the post by Andrew Bolt the other day on The Liberals need warriors, not worriers, where he begins his post with words I understand only too well:

The Liberals lack MPs who not only understand Liberal values but have the guts and skill to argue for them publicly. It needs MPs who can hold their own against the ABC and the largely Leftist media, and rally the public to their cause. How many MPs do you know like that?

The final three seeking the Liberal nomination in Goldstein are down to three.

The weekend preselection for Andrew Robb’s electorate of Goldstein is set to go down to the wire, with international relations expert and local favourite Denis Dragovic running neck-and-neck with high-profile former human rights commissioner Tim Wilson. Liberal insiders tip the preferences of a third candidate, party blue-blood and lawyer Georgina Downer, as crucial in the race.

You should read the post to see who stands for what and who might be ready for the ideological confrontations that will take place over issues that are not even on the horizon. Here I will only emphasise that among the high-level pre-requisites ought to be an ability to take up these various issues in a way that will get the message across. Tim Wilson and Georgina Downer are proven in this very tough field. To quote Andrew again:

The Liberals need public champions. It’s no good being a lion in the preselection room but a mouse in the ABC studio. And that is why I’m so puzzled. I mean no disrespect to Dragovic, but in all my years of public debate I have never come across his name before. He is unknown to me as a champion of Liberal values. And when I now go through his few articles in the media – almost exclusively on Islam, terrorism and the Middle East – I can understand why he has made so little impression.

Making an impression in the wider world by being a tough in-fighter in the hand-to-hand battles of Parliament and the media are what is needed. Without that, you are a mere foot soldier Parliamentary spectator, where others must take up the battles on your behalf. We will see by Monday who my neighbours here in the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Goldstein have chosen.

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