Once you have the scent of politics, it is hard to get it out of your system. The longer you have been in politics the greater the shock when you announce that you are leaving politics. Literally, from that moment, your political life slowly drains away from you.
The ones who best manage the transition are the ones who leave politics voluntarily. The saddest ones are those who lost their seat and don't realise that they will never get it back. They end up in no man's land.
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Philip Ruddock announces retirement
Father of the House Philip Ruddock will retire at the next election to be Australia's envoy on human rights. Vision ABC News 24.
Former ministers Phillip Ruddock, Andrew Robb and Warren Truss will already be noticing that the phones have virtually stopped ringing. I am not cynical about the aftermath. But it's a good idea to be realistic. Everybody is quick to shake your hand including the ones who never liked you anyway and then the ones who are wondering if they might get your job. You are quickly becoming a mere observer.
The departure is a wrench but managing the shift is helped if you accept that abuse or applause is not worth much; the thing that counts is what you have done. It also helps to appreciate that there are a lot of good people in the Australian Parliament and most will tell you that being an MP is the most important thing they have ever done in their life.
Of course a promotion is a big moment. Malcolm Turnbull knows that; he is good at reshuffles and did a good job last Saturday. The only other option for Turnbull might have been to ask Robb to stay until the election. There is precedent for this approach and it can assist stability, as opposed to generational change.
While some are frustrated at having a reshuffle so soon after the last one, Turnbull had no choice. The positive outcome is that he has a lot of talent to pick from. Compared to Labor's union cadre, the Liberals are not just strong in the Parliament, they are lining up some first-class new MPs. In the seat of Berowra, Julian Leeser is an outstanding preselection candidate, who would be able to walk into a cabinet position. The same could be said of Georgina Downer, who took out honours in law at Melbourne University, honours at the LSE in London, has worked in foreign affairs, speaks Japanese and French and could take over from Julie Bishop (all in good time). And then Tim Wilson, running for preselection against Downer in Goldstein, who is first class on policy, very good on his feet, ex IPA and has had the guts to give up his government job and a fat salary to pursue his political ambitions.
The big issue for the government remains the need for a strong reform agenda. While Turnbull brought in plenty of new talent, the engine room of the government is solid. The team of Treasurer Scott Morrison, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Christian Porter, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and the well-connected Peter Hendy makes for a strong core. However, if you take out some time for Christmas and some necessary trips overseas, Turnbull has barely had three months to put a plan together.
The pity was that the Abbott government did little to address the longer term reform issues. Now people like Andrew Bolt expect Turnbull to rearrange Australia virtually overnight. At least Turnbull did well to put the GST plan back on the shelf. What he will do next is unknown. He certainly needs to persuade Labor to agree to reform of the Senate voting system. The current system allows for voters without knowing who they are voting for. This is not acceptable by any standard.
The return of Labor's negative gearing tax grab is a very welcome opportunity for Turnbull. Labor's plan would create a lot of uncertainty for many families. Worse still, there will be unexpected distortions in the market place which was one reason Paul Keating dumped a similar tax grab before retreating.
Shorten's blunder gives Turnbull room to be more ambitious with spending cuts while Labor is going to spend a lot of its election campaign on fighting off middle Australia who don't want to see the value of their house drop. It reminds me of Kim Beazley who put up the cost of four-wheel-drive cars in an earlier election. It became a symbol of why no one should vote Labor. It beats me why Labor don't throw in a tax on the family home as well.
Why they think that a distortionary tax grab will be well received leaves me lost for words. Given that the new tax will raise minimal revenue in its first four years the proposal seems nothing but a lot of political trouble with little benefit to anyone. The property industry will make the miners look like amateurs.
Peter Reith is a Fairfax Media columnist and former Howard government minister.