WITH the exception of the lookout on the Titanic, being recognised as the first to raise an alarm has generally been a very sound career move. Consider the sacred geese of ancient Rome, who upstaged the city's sleeping dogs by quacking a warning that barbarians with ladders were clambering up the Capitol's walls. For centuries thereafter the ceremonial first duty of every incoming censor was to budget for the welfare and feeding of those vigilant creatures' descendants.
Barbarians took up residence in Geelong quite some time ago, so it is far too late to be raising alarms about the social engineers who infested large parts of the city with public housing and social workers ever ready to make excuses for the inhabitants' inclination to stab each other. Still, a goose is a simple-minded creature, and the notion that credit might be wrung from honking predictions of doom would appear to be hard-wired. Look no further than the suddenly talkative Darren Cheeseman, who is both the member for Corangamite and, as of last night, one of the first to go on record with the view that Prime Minister Gillard would do everyone a favour by stepping down. The fact that Cheeseman holds his seat of just 0.3%, one of the slimmest margins in the current House, probably had a little to do with his brave and sudden candour.
Maybe, just maybe, if he can be remembered as the voice of decency, he might, just might, win enough local respect to survive the next election. If that is Cheeseman's hope, a related wish must also be that voters' longer-term memories will prove faulty, as the man now sounding his klaxon about the sleaze, confusion and incompetence that have marked Gillard's leadership has a little dirty dealing of his own he must wish best forgotten.
In what was one of the most obscene efforts since public schoolboys ignored the Head of the River to cop their feels with gals from MLC, Genazano and Ruyton behind the trees beside the Barwon*, Cheeseman left some very nasty smears all over his 2010 Liberal opponent, Sarah Henderson. All the whispers dealt with Henderson's romantic history, and they were peddled with ruthless enthusiasm to anyone who would listen, most often with the advice that Cheeseman, by contrast, was the very picture of the faithful family man. At one point, according to the word in Liberal circles, the only thing that stopped the slurs being re-produced on the front page of a Melbourne newspaper was the pre-emptive threat of a massive defamation action against its editor. The paper backed off, but the slurs continued to circulate, as anyone prepared to do a little googling will quickly ascertain.
Cheeseman went on to take Corangamite by 700-odd votes. How many of those were garnered on the strength of that dirt campaign can never be known, but if Cheeseman is to be recognised for his consistency then his next round of comments about his current leader's inability to lead will also need to mention the musky aroma of Gillard's very own soiled sheets -- from ending the marriage of cabinet colleague Craig Emerson to that $17,000 Town Mode shopping voucher which the ne'er do well Bruce Wilson left on his young and naive doxy's dresser.
If Cheeseman has not been gagged overnight and stomped to a pulp by Gillard's enforcers, expect him to denounce her dubious liaisons. It is, after all, no less than you might expect of a brave, fearless and consistent goose.
UPDATE: Workers fearing for their jobs at Geelong's Ford and Alcoa plants might want to consult their lopcal member's predictions of the wonderful things his current leader's carbon tax will do for employment. Not only will it save the planet, he says, but "the modelling" establishes that increasing employers' overheads will create more jobs. Tune to the 19.30 mark of the interview (below) to hear that gem of analysis and prediction.