First, it was Bracks in Victoria handing over to Brumby. Now in Queensland, Beattie has given the reins to Bligh. I’ve only met Beattie once, but he struck me as somehow a characteristic Queenslander – straight-talking, enthusiastic, and decent. We were chatting just before he gave an after dinner speech. Beattie quickly picked up that my wife Gweneth was American, and politely swung the conversation onto things he liked about the US. I guess good politicians have a healthy dose of charisma, but it was nice to see it done in a context where Gweneth and I were probably the least important people in the room. He then stood up to give a speech about Queensland’s future,Â state politics, and federal politics. It was after the 2004 election, when Beattie had just gone public to say that Latham should quit as Labor leader.Â I recall him shrugging when asked about it, and saying something matter-of-fact like ‘it wasn’t fun, but someone had to swing the axe’.
I have a feeling Beattie made the right decision in never making the transition to Federal politics, as I’m not sure his style would’ve worked so well with suburban Sydney and Melbourne as it did in Australia’s most rural state. Also, I suspect he’s not enough of a policy wonk to make a good PM. Still, after he’s had a break from the limelight, I do hope Beattie finds an appropriate role in Australian public life.
Coda: In a perhaps-too-personal note, thinking about Beattie’s legacy makes me recall Moira Farrelly, a 30-something friend who worked as his IR adviser in the early-2000s. Tragically, she died of breast cancer in May this year. I remember Moira – who could spot a phoney a mile off – telling me how much she enjoyed working with Beattie. And I reckon she’d be impressed that he’s left the game on his own terms.