The idea for this exercise came from bloggers on The Poll Bludger a few days ago. They were giving scores out of ten to our senior politicians. I thought it might be of interest to visitors to The Political Sword to join in this attempt to evaluate the people whom we have elected to govern us almost two years ago, and twelve months after Malcolm Turnbull's ascension to leadership.
It is inevitable that judgements will be dominated by one’s preferences politically. You will have guessed mine. But in making my judgements, I’ve tried to be as objective as I can and have attempted to justify my position. [more]
The ratings below, out of ten, are made from observations of parliamentary functioning, performance in the portfolio or shadow position, writings, TV and radio appearances, and from the opinions of journalists, commentators and bloggers. As portfolios vary considerably in their degree of difficulty I have added my understanding of this as a rating, also out of ten. In a manner similar to that done in diving, the score is the product of the rating and the difficulty.
As league tables seem to appeal, I’ve rank-ordered my assessments with the highest scoring politician first.
Only the most prominent of the Government members are assessed.
Kevin Rudd – Rating 9 Difficulty 10
He is very well informed across the whole spectrum of Government business, politically astute, tough, decisive, articulate, a strong parliamentary performer, media savvy, a strategic planner, consultative, process orientated. He writes about political philosophy with discernment. He has ameliorated the effects of the GFC, and has placed Australia advantageously on the international scene. He is personable, genuine, and very popular in the electorate. His long replies in parliament and on TV and radio draw criticism and annoy some listeners. More succinct replies would find a more receptive audience.
Julia Gillard Rating 9 Difficulty 9
Despite criticism, she is coping with a complex portfolio made more stressful by the GFC and the rapid rolling out of the schools program, about which she has been attacked relentlessly by the Opposition. She liaises effectively with business and unions. A strong parliamentary performer, can be withering in her criticisms, has substituted splendidly as acting PM. Speaks slowly and often repeats herself; gives lengthy replies and in doing so may lose her audience.
Lindsay Tanner – Rating 10 Difficulty 8
I’ve given this rating because I cannot recall him ever having put a foot wrong. He is well across his brief, thoughtful in his understanding of the finance portfolio, well-informed about the GFC and what Australia needs to do, aware of the structural defects in the budget he needs to address and the need for budget cuts, balanced in his comments, articulate and brief in his responses in parliament and on air.
John Faulkner – Rating 10 Difficulty 8
Respected by all parties, has integrity and decency. He is careful, thorough, persistent and successful in carrying out his role as defence minister. He speaks slowly and clearly. I cannot fault his performance.
Wayne Swan Rating 9 Difficulty 8
The supposed ‘weak link’ in the Government, who was attacked unremittingly by the Coalition initially, has grown into his job and is well across his brief. His parliamentary performances that started tentatively are now strong, articulate and politically powerful. He has gained the confidence of business groups. He has, with Rudd, Gillard and Tanner, managed the GFC proficiently. Well respected internationally.
Stephen Smith Rating 9 Difficulty 8
Consummately diplomatic, he handles his complex foreign affairs portfolio with quiet dignity and common sense. He has established good relationships with his counterparts in many countries. His performance in parliament and in the media are articulate and clear, and generally brief and to the point.
Penny Wong Rating 8 Difficulty 8
Has a difficult job, is very persistent and tough, but sometimes seems stubborn and unwilling to compromise, is repetitive and often boring on media interviews and in Parliament.
Anthony Albanese Rating 8 Difficulty 7
He is rolling out a comprehensive infrastructure program, is well across his brief, a solid and at times an amusing parliamentary performer, a good manager of Government business.
Nicola Roxon Rating 8 Difficulty 7
Is a good performer in a difficult and complex portfolio. Has shown she can handle crises, such as the swine flu epidemic. Articulate in the media and in parliament, a strong performer under attack, and can hand it out as well. She is one of a dazzling coterie of female ministers.
Tanya Pliberseck Rating 8 Difficulty 7
A solid performer in the housing portfolio, concerned about the homeless, rolling out a large public housing program. Is a strong parliamentary player.
Craig Emerson Rating 8 Difficulty 7
An effective advocate for small business, a good media and parliamentary performer, liaises well with business.
Simon Crean Rating 8 Difficulty 7
Handling his trade portfolio successfully. Articulate and a good communicator.
Jenny Macklin Rating 7 Difficulty 8
Working conscientiously in a very difficult portfolio, to which she brings much empathy. Patient, but frustrated by the slow progress she has been able to make. Does not speak much in parliament but when she does, it is done proficiently.
Harry Jenkins Rating 7 Difficulty 8
Has an arduous job controlling an unruly House of Representatives, but is doing well.
Robert McClelland Rating 7 Difficulty 7
He is handling the Attorney General portfolio sensibly and competently.
Chris Evans Rating 7 Difficulty 7
Is handling the immigration portfolio competently.
Martin Ferguson Rating 7 Difficulty 7
Doing well in his resources portfolio.
Peter Garrett Rating 7 Difficulty 7
One of the most impressive speakers in parliament and in the media; suffers from his past life in the conservation movement, but doing a sound job.
Kim Carr Rating 7 Difficulty 6
Handling the industry portfolio well, but runs into criticism for his protection of the car industry.
Chris Bowen Rating 7 Difficulty 6
Well informed on financial services, diligent, articulate, good parliamentary and media performer, personable.
Tony Burke Rating 7 Difficulty 6
Well informed about agriculture, articulate, good parliamentary and media performer, personable.
Greg Combet Rating 7 Difficulty 6
Good negotiator, developing quickly as a parliamentary and media performer, helpful in the ETS debate.
Stephen Conroy Rating 6 Difficulty 7
Has engendered angst over Internet filtering, but has received much support for his recent stand on Telstra and his NBN work.
Mark Arbib Rating 6 Difficulty 6
Learning rapidly but still has much to understand about Canberra politics and parliamentary procedure.
Maxine McKew Rating 6 Difficulty 6
Not very visible, but when she is, speaks well and assertively. Hard to know how well she’s doing in her backroom job.
Bill Shorten Rating 6 Difficulty 6
Progressing well in his disabilities and bushfire portfolios.
Only the most prominent of the Coalition members are assessed. As he leaves today, Brendan Nelson is not listed. Because Coalition shadow posts are less important than the corresponding ones in the Government, the difficulty ratings are lower. It is also recognized that it is more difficult to score a high rating in Opposition.
Listed in rank order with the highest scoring first.
Andrew Robb Rating 6 Difficulty 6
Has the difficult job of formulating a policy for an ETS against opposition from the Nationals and some Liberals. Senior, sincere and experienced, but has a dour almost depressed demeanour on TV. Quiet in QT. Would have been a good choice as a nightwatchman leader until after the next election; he would likely lose less seats than any other leader.
George Brandis Rating 6 Difficulty 6
Arguably wrote the best chapter in Liberals and Power, edited by Peter van Onselen that showed he has a good sense of political history. As shadow Attorney General is well informed and able to argue logically. Has an acerbic tongue. Fairly low profile.
Tony Abbott Rating 6 Difficulty 5
He is one of the better thinkers in the Coalition and has written a sound chapter in Liberals and Power and a new book on Liberal philosophy Battle Lines. He is a willing participant in media interviews and argues his case well. He managed Opposition business well in Christopher Pyne’s absence. He irritates with many points of order in parliament. Seems bored with his shadow portfolio and feels he deserves a higher post. Sometimes uses unseemly language.
Warren Truss Rating 5 Difficulty 6
Leader of the Nationals, quiet, decent, but relatively ineffective as a leader. Overshadowed by Barnaby Joyce.
Nick Minchin Rating 5 Difficulty 6
Leader of the Liberals in the Senate and high profile, experienced, articulate and well informed in his broadband and telecommunications area, but carries baggage in this regard.
Greg Hunt Rating 5 Difficulty 5
Earnest, but always looks and sounds immature. Tries hard in his shadow climate change post, but is relatively ineffectual.
Barnaby Joyce Rating 5 Difficulty 5
As leader of the Nationals in the Senate he is quasi leader of the Nationals. Outspoken, a media tart, and extravagant and colourful in his language, he commands more media attention than any other National.
Tony Smith Rating 5 Difficulty 4
Performs better than many other young Liberals in his assistant shadow treasurer role, but is overshadowed by Joe Hockey.
Christopher Pyne Rating 4 Difficulty 5
As leader of Opposition business he is often on his feet in QT irritatingly putting countless petty points of order. He is antagonistic to Julia Gillard. He seeks more responsibility but may not have the talent for it.
Peter Dutton Rating 4 Difficulty 5
An inadequate shadow health minister who always finds fault and looks constantly offended. He will need to lift his game to gain respect.
Sharman Stone Rating 4 Difficulty 4
As shadow minister for immigration she made a lot of noise about asylum seekers earlier this year, but little else has been heard from her until yesterday when she was prompted to ask a question in QT.
Michael Keenan Rating 3 Difficulty 5
No match for Julia Gillard in workplace relations. Quiet in parliament, asks few questions, and is ineffectual.
Peter Costello Rating 6 Difficulty 2
Has a strong record of financial management, is a good parliamentary performer and off-the-cuff speaker. Many Coalition supporters would have wished he had stayed on as leader after hearing his farewell to Brendan Nelson on Wednesday – warm, humorous and articulate, in contrast to Malcolm Turnbull’s stilted thanks. But because he puts party unison ahead of personal ambition, has never attained leadership. Some put this down to lack of the necessary courage.
Helen Coonan Rating 4 Difficulty 3
Relatively ineffectual as shadow finance minister.
Steven Ciobo Rating 3 Difficulty 4
As shadow minister for small business has very little to say and asks very few questions in QT. Not up to his task.
Joe Hockey Rating 2 Difficulty 6
Shadow Treasurer is an important and responsible post, but Hockey, after showing promise as a potential leader earlier in the year, has performed poorly recently, arguing the Coalition line that the GFC was not as big a problem as represented, that less stimulus was needed, that the stimulus used was ineffective, that interest rates are more important than jobs, that the most important reason the country has survived a recession is the state in which the Howard Government left the economy, that the debt and deficit incurred will be a burden for years, and that the G20 is a centre-left cabal. Originally considered jovial, he has become angry, bellicose and loud-mouthed in parliament.
Andrew Southcott Rating 3 Difficulty 3
He doesn’t seem to do much in his role in employment participation.
Eric Abetz Rating 3 Difficulty 3
His reputation was tarnished with the Godwin Grech affair, but at least he apologized afterwards.
Ron Boswell Rating 3 Difficulty 3
Is noisy and ineffectual, an opponent of an ETS.
Wilson Tuckey Rating 4 Difficulty 2
Makes himself very visible, is probably more of a nuisance to his party than a benefit, but at least is consistent in his ideas no matter how antediluvian they are.
Malcolm Turnbull Rating 1 Difficulty 9
Arguably the worst party and Opposition leader in living memory. He seems to have a poorly defined political philosophy, he lacks political nous, makes elementary mistakes repeatedly, is too arrogant and self-absorbed to listen to advice, and is disingenuous in most of his attacks on the Government. He is an ineffectual leader who has lost control of his party. Since becoming leader of the Opposition a year ago, he has not improved on Brendan Nelson’s ratings, and the TPP is the same. He is there only because there is no alternative.
Kevin Andrews Rating 3 Difficulty 2
Was a poor performer in the Howard Government, low profile now. In charge of policy review, but no outcome is yet available.
Philip Ruddock Rating 1 Difficulty 2
He carries a lot of baggage and is almost totally non-contributory. He is of no value to the Coalition.
Julie Bishop Rating 0 Difficulty 5
Although occupying the important deputy leader’s position and shadow foreign affairs spokesman, there is nothing I can recall that warrants a positive rating. She outsourced to a staffer her chapter in Liberals and Power amid charges of plagiarism, she was an ineffective shadow Treasurer and was forced to retire from this, she was in charge of policy development but produced nothing, and in her shadow foreign affairs post she behaved inadvisably by stirring up diplomatic difficulties in the Stern Hu affair. She behaves angrily in QT. She is a liability to the Coalition.
These are my assessments, and subject to any bias I harbour.
What do you think? Please add your own views.