CHRISTOPHER DORE: If Josh Frydenberg wants to be prime minister, he must step up

Headshot of Christopher Dore
Christopher Dore
The Nightly
5 Min Read
CHRISTOPHER DORE: There are never any guarantees obviously, but if Josh Frydenberg wants to be prime minister, it is going to have to get messy, and he needs to get dirty.
CHRISTOPHER DORE: There are never any guarantees obviously, but if Josh Frydenberg wants to be prime minister, it is going to have to get messy, and he needs to get dirty. Credit: The Nightly Supplied, AAP

You want to be prime minister Josh, then take your shot.

The road to the Lodge is paved with the remains of those who tried and failed; and haunted by the ghosts of those who didn’t, who couldn’t. The political undead — those sad souls who waited, and waited, unwilling or unable to summon the courage, round up the demons, and seize the moment.

Josh Frydenberg needs to look no further than the limp and lacklustre leadership ambitions of Peter Costello, a fellow Melbourne Liberal with a lofty regard for his own talent, encumbered by destiny, incapacitated by debilitating desire and (at least) one major personality flaw: he was gutless.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Costello, kissed on the arse by a rainbow as Federal treasurer during the great boom, didn’t become prime minister for one reason — he didn’t want it bad enough. If moaning and whingeing and backstabbing the boss guaranteed succession, Costello would have been handed the crown. But in politics, being pathetically passive-aggressive doesn’t cut it against brutal, uncompromising ambition.

To the great amusement of John Howard, Costello never struck him down, didn’t even try. Howard waited for the day. It never came. Angry and entitled, Costello will never live that down, spooked by his own hapless brand of hubris. He had his chance. He baulked. Bad luck, champ. Seeya.

Unlike Costello, Frydenberg is loyal, insofar as it is a thing in politics. Loyalty can come in handy, but when everyone else around you has a different interpretation of its definition, it can get kinda perilous.

There are never any guarantees obviously, but if Frydenberg wants to be prime minister it’s gonna have to get messy, and he needs to get dirty. The Liberal Party, particularly the dysfunctional dilettantes who run the quaint old mob in Victoria, will also need to get real.

But first, he needs to get his seat back. He lost it to a teal, the insufferable blip in history, Monique Ryan. And then decided not to nominate this time, forcing the Liberals to select a successor, Amelia Hamer, for the upcoming election. But times have changed. Certain things have come to light, as the Big Lebowski’s Dude would say.

The idea that Josh Frydenberg, a relatively young, moderate, deputy leader and successful former Federal treasurer, should somehow cede to an inexperienced hopeful — articulate and educated as she may be — simply because she is a woman, is ridiculous.

Let’s be candid, Amelia Hamer might be a fine young Liberal prospect with limitless talent and a glorious future. But to suggest moving aside the untested 31-year-old, albeit with a great Liberal name, to make way for Frydenberg would somehow be a Liberal hate crime against women is absurd.

Best to be honest. Hamer is a nepo-baby, whose most defining feature and most talked about accomplishment to date is her Oxford education and her great-uncle’s stellar career running Victoria.

Former federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg
Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg has quashed talk of him ousting a preselected candidate in Kooyong. Credit: James Ross/AAP

Let’s not kid ourselves into believing that she hasn’t been gifted the chance to run as the Liberal candidate for the prized seat of Kooyong in large part because of her family name, totally legitimate as that might be. Who doesn’t love the AFL father-son rule and AFLW father-daughter rule? But there is no evidence that Amelia Hamer is Gary Abblett Jr, Nick Daicos or Erin Phillips.

Not yet anyway. Maybe. One day.

Hamer should not be untouchable because she went to Oxford. Or because she is a woman. Or because great-uncle Dick Hamer was once a legendary premier of Victoria, grandad David was a senator and great-grandfather Sir William McPherson ran the state in the 1920s.

Charlotte Mortlock, the self-appointed leader of the Liberal Party women’s movement, the Hilma Network, reckons Frydenberg had his chance and should bugger off.

“Amelia is the exact demographic we need to win back. She is a more competitive candidate.” Talent aside, according to Mortlock, Frydenberg, older male, should be sent to the scrap heap, not recycled, in favour of Hamer, a younger female, because well, demographics apparently.

Under the Mortlock era, poor old Robert Menzies, that other hopeless former, very old, male member for Kooyong, would have been kicked to the curb forever when he lost the prime ministership in 1941, eight years before returning to power to become the longest serving national leader in history.

Todd Fernando, Charlotte Mortlock and Osher Ginsberg discussing Peter Dutton. Picture : ABC
Charlotte Mortlock, the self-appointed leader of the Liberal Party women’s movement, the Hilma Network, reckons Frydenberg had his chance and should bugger off.  Credit: ABC

Frydenberg on Monday said: “I am not rushing back to politics”, his position on contesting the next election “remains unchanged”.

The reality is, that he would have likely run again had the Liberals waited for the redrawn boundaries to be released before choosing a candidate. They should reconsider all their pre-selections, and work out a way of finding homes for their best people. Getting Frydenberg back into Federal Parliament, without causing internal turmoil, should be the No. 1 priority. Peter Dutton can’t live with a leadership rival, but he also can’t survive without Josh Frydenberg.

Yet some other Liberals, presumably not factional allies of Frydenberg, reckon it would be a “terrible look” to ask Hamer to step aside as the pre-selected candidate in favour of the party’s former Federal deputy.

That is undoubtedly true, it wouldn’t look great. If that’s the way you look at it, it would also be a short-sighted, stupid and deliberately divisive way to look at it.

But how should Frydenberg look at it? Not that way, that’s for sure.

Politics is brutal. There are always winners and losers. There is always risk. There is never a perfect time. There are never any guarantees. Friends and allies, from one day to the next, will be indistinguishable from your enemies and arch-rivals.

Self-interest is the only guiding principle voters abide by, and it’s the only one politicians can truly trust.

Frydenberg would like to make history. To do so, he needs to be a part of history first.

As much as we like to think otherwise, time is never on your side.


Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 14-06-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 14 June 202414 June 2024

Tesla investors deliver Elon Musk an 11-cylinder salary.