Book Review-The Party Thieves

In August 2010, Australia went to the polls to decide between two leaders who were relatively untested, mainly because they had wrested power from former leaders who were classified as “party thieves”- Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull, whose leadership styles tended to ignore those of their respective parties to their detriment.

With the subtitle of this book being the Real Story of the 2010 Election, the election itself is almost an anticlimax to that which preceded it. The events leading up to the leadership challenge of both these leaders are outlined with a comprehensive analysis of the leadership styles of the Leader of the Oppositon and the Prime Minister.

As a self-confessed politics geek, I would have found it fascinating, but I was reading this in bed NOT to put myself to sleep. For a start, The Party Thieves is readable. Barrie Cassidy has a great writing style which engages you and makes you want to turn the page.

Cassidy has a wealth of personal knowledge, experience and contacts gleaned from years working in Canberra as a political correspondent, press secretary and political adviser for Bob Hawke and as currently as host of Insiders. This vast experience shows particularly when he compares the influence of staffers under Rudd had grown, at the expense of Cabinet, and how policies were increasingly shaped by focus groups, rather than simply being tested after their development.

It is this insider aspect which makes Cassidy’s  analysis of Rudd all the more perceptive. He paints the former Prime Minister as an authoritarian who wanted to micro-manage everything and alienated Cabinet and Caucus to the extent noone was sorry to see him go.

It also cuts through the hyperbole and analyses the role of the Labor factions and the impact of state politics upon the federal election result. It also looks at the impact that the change of leadership within the government also impacted upon the result.

It may be old news, but the changes it wrought upon the Australian political landscape were substantial, with Australia’s first female prime minister, a minority government with the balance of power in the House of Representatives held by independents and a member of the Greens. For this alone it is definitely worth a read.

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