Absolutely Crabb-ulous! – The political commentary of Annabel Crabb

Who she is

ABC’s chief online political writer. She is insightful, informed and frank, but her greatest asset is her wit, which makes the dry stuff of politics accessible and fun. Also brings her warmth and enthusiasm to TV on Insiders and The Drum.  Read her columns here.

What I love (feel the need to add “about her writing and commentary” before this gets creepy)

Her conversational style and bitingly funny, deadly-accurate pop-culture similes lay bare the absurdities, hypocrisies, challenges and, very occasionally, triumphs of the Australian Democratic system. On Julia Gillard:

“Where her predecessor ached to be popular, this prime minister has made unpopularity into something of a personal art form. There’s a compelling, almost cinematic quality to her determination; it’s like watching a slalom downhill skier deliberately hitting every peg.”

Tells it like it is. Keeps it real. Straight up OG (Observer of Government). Her style brings politics down a peg to a more engaging, honest level:

“that [the mining tax] did not apply to ordinary activity but only to the whoopingly, hilariously over-profitable kind, was not fully understood during the Mining Tax Massacre of 2010.”

And being such a clear communicator, one of her chief hates is obfuscation. As she puts it, “give me a clanger-dropper over a fudger any day.”

She is non-partisan. She loves the game, not the teams. This means she is free to recognise skills and stuff ups on both sides, and to take obvious glee at the gladiatorial spectacle.

But she has ideals. She appreciates good policy – well-executed, well sold, and in the public interest. And she strives to be objective. Maybe her best article everwas a clear-eyed reflection on the changing media environment.

She’s not a cynic. She believes that politicians have genuinely good intentions and sympathiseswith them, while recognising what a dirty game it is. It’s a refreshing change from the Andrew Bolt/Alan Jones I-could-run-this-country-better-than-that-pack-of-flamin-idjits-in-Can’berra bluster.

Her nerdish enthusiasm revives even the terribly serious regulars on Insiders. My favourite combo was Crabb – Megalogenis – Bolt for insight, conflict and LOLs (although Piers Ackerman and David Marr are also a hilarious comedy duo).

She boycotted lazy, hysterical commenting on the polls following the train-wreck that was the 2010 Federal election.

And she has shiny hair. Okay, now it’s getting creepy.

What I learned about writing

Clear, honest, accessible writing is a weapon against the dissembling language used by politicians and institutions.

Good political commentators – perhaps commentators on any topic – are more interested in understanding and communicating the complexities of their art than pushing an agenda.

The right simile illuminates, entertains, and boils an issue down to its ideological essence.

She attains humour by being overly-casual, blunt, or just plain inappropriate. She’s not above using nicknames: before being elevated to leadership of the Liberal Party, she branded Tony Abbott “People Skills” due to a moment of unguarded hubris. Now he is “the Budgie Smuggler”. But her she somehow manages to stay within the (admittedly generous Australian) boundaries of respect.

Stray thoughts

People who leave comments under her articles often accuse her of having a left bias. Now, getting reasonable analysis from the comments section is like asking an irate, drunk goat for financial advice, but there’s some truth in this. Her assessment of the leaders of the two major parties seems to be that Tony Abbott is a relentlessly negative hollow-man with no policy ideas, and Julia Gillard doesn’t receive credit for what she has achieved but leads a government that keeps kicking own-goals. If you think these assessments are not balanced, then you’d probably agree that she has a bias.

Ms Crabb’s collection of columns, Rise of the Ruddbot, was an unfortunate victim of the recent chaos of Australian politics when it was released at almost the exact time that Kevin Rudd was unseated, causing it to suffer a case or terminal ironic title syndrome. Typical selfish politicians putting the leadership of the nation above my favourite columnist’s book launch.

You can see that she’s something of an optimist and progressive, and her disappointment at the current state of politics seeps through. Reading some of her previous columns has reaffirmed my belief that, since Rudd’s unseating, politics has steadily descended into trivia and politics-over-policy.


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