|Issue No 108||24 August 2001|
Andrew Lloyd-Webber look-alike Michael Wooldridge waltzes into the Tool Shed this week for his bravura performance in exploiting Kim Beazley's daughter to accuse Kim Beazley of exploiting his daughter.
It was a ploy that had all the subtlety of some his soul mate's work in turning literary classics into popular dross. Think the Bible, think TS Eliot, think a podgy little pollie under pressure for his mismanagement of the health portfolio flailing around manically looking for something to fire at the enemy. After all, when you have no ammo, you throw whatever is lying around him.
Wooldridge had been copping a hammering in Federal Parliament all week over his neglect of the public health system, throwing buckets of money to advertising agencies to promote private health cover, while Medicare withered on the vine. It's an obvious weak spot for Howard and one that Labor has in their sights. So when comments Beazley made to the ALP Caucus and distilled to the press through the ritualized Chinese whispers of official spokespeople was misreported by those who failed to seek clarification from the Big Fella's office, Wooldridge saw a way out.
He leapt onto Beazley with all the restraint of a poodle on heat. You see, Kim had told Caucus about the troubles his daughter had faced in receiving treatment for appendicitis. This was not a line Beazley ran in the media - but within the Caucus. It is a version of events that Beazley's daughter has now backed. But when the hospital defended its performance - while conceding lengthy delays were 'normal', Wooldridge turned this into a Beazley lie. More bizarrely he used Kim's daughter to accuse Kim of using his daughter. With all the mock indignation of a man facing the political gallows, Wooldridge was the one who made Hannah the story.
This is the sort of logic that appeals to composers of light musicals - dramatic, illogical and destined to end in farce. It is also the sort of fare that grips the nation's media - and young Hannah was soon catapulted onto the front-page. All the media ran the yarn, but from differing angles. The SMH ran the "Daughter Defends Beazley' line, acceptoing her version of events. The bullish Daily Telegraph in contrast went in boots and all - "Keystone Kim" swallowing Wooldridge's line that it was all a stuff-up.
Wooldridge will probably see this as proof of his own ability to play the media like song. But while he might look into the mirror and see a maestro, those who have anything to do with him can only see a runt of a man whose idea of negotiation is to attempt to browbeat people into submission.
All of which would just make him a regular Tool, until you take a deeper look. Because when you look at Wooldridg's career as a body of work a more sinister pattern emerges. The stuff-ups, the blow-ups, the bust-ups and dust-ups read like a Lloyd-Webber anthology. Here's the line-up:
There's the old favourite Cats(cans). Loose-lips give way to the biggest secret in town. Wooldridge lets slip details to a group of radiologists of changed tax arrangements for the purchase of MRI devices. This leads to a run on the sale of the equipment before the announcement of the changes, giving the select group of specialists a massive tax boon at the expense of the general public. Wooldridge shrugs it off as tax relief for the needy. .
Then there's the dramatic Evita The story of powerful women and the man they trample. Wooldridge plays the doormat, a man who shakes when confronted by an adversary in stilettos. It's said that when he passes opposite number Jenny Macklin he trembles. When he confronts AMA chief Kerryn Phelps he is overcome with apoplexy. When his boss forced him to dine with Phelps he doesn't realize he's on the menu. The Short Man Syndrome in all its pathetic glory.
And who could forget the ground-breaking Jesus Christ Superstar where Wooldridge let's his God complex run free? There is his legendary decision to personally call a constituent who had raised issues of concerns - leaving an abusive message with said constituent's spouse to the effect that said constituent was a dickhead. But if you need further evidence look no forward than Wooldridge's own website - http://www.wooldridge.aust.com.au where he shares his childhood photos - perhaps the only federal MP to find this fluff worth sharing with the world. This is a man who fully expects to rise on the third day.
Finally, the the old favourite Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat where Wooldridge works his way through his not inconsiderable wine cellar. As Matt Price wrote so eloquently when describing his parliamentary performance in this week's Australian: Wooldridge is a wine buff. When he arrived at the dispatch box and soberly began defending the Government's record, his complexion resembled an unremarkable dry Riesling. But soon the Health Minister's cheeks had progressed through fruity chardonnay to pink champagne. Before long, his face was a fresh Beaujolais on its way to an overripe merlot, and by the time Wooldridge had finally vented his spleen at Labor he was a full-blown, if slightly bitter burgundy Just like the musical!
You get the drift? The parallels are too stark to be coincidence. Andrew Lloyd Webber is an irritating little Tory with a penchant for melodrama. Michael Wooldridge is an irritating little Tory with a penchant for melodrama. Devoid of inspiration, Wooldridge relies on Lloyd Webber to chart his every move. And currently he's waiting for the next West End production for guidance on where to go now. For our part we can only hope it's the musical version of "The Weakest Link" - starring our own Health Minister as the one who takes the Walk of Shame.
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Manusafe chief Andrew Whiley explains why employers have nothing to fear from the entitlements trust fund.
E-Change: 2.4 The Skeptic’s Response
In this round-table discussion, Noel Hester leads the charge against the argument that globalisation and change are inevitable.
Politics: No Hand Idle
Whitlam Institute director Peter Botsman finds much to agree with in John Howard's social coalition for welfare delivery.
Unions: Slavery and Struggle
A battle with all the elements of the infamous waterfront dispute is being played out in Charleston, South Carolina:
International: Postcard from Santiago
The CFMEU's Phil Davey meets up with Communist Party cadres in Chile who led the underground resistance to Pinochet.
History: Race and Australian Labour.
Australian unionists have long been questioning notions of a “White Australia”, even before the colonies united with it as the central feature.
Economics: Global Regulation
Public sector unions from around the globe are taking the first steps to work internationally against the deregulation agenda.
Satire: Niche Identified in Left-Wing Publications Market
A marxist-feminist activist has discovered a gaping hole in the lucrative left-wing publications market.
Review: The Fight for Equal Pay
In this extract from her new book, Zelda D'Aprano looks at the contribution Kath Williams made to the struggle for equality.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005