It sent press gallery hacks diving for dictionaries, where they learnt that “prolix” meant long-winded, interminable, laborious, ponderous or verbose.
Beazley was indeed a windbag, if a likeable one. Those required to get used to listening to him took to musing that he was so prolix he talked himself out of winning elections.
Now it is Albanese’s turn to find a way to lead Labor back to the light. A quarter-hour into the first of his two press conferences and a speech to the caucus with cameras present, all in a single day, the thought occurred that prolixity might be his handicap, too.
He had called this first press conference to try to get us accustomed to the exotic idea that South Australian career factional broker Senator Don Farrell and NSW frontbencher Ed Husic had voluntarily stepped away from what is left of Labor’s limelight to ensure the shining star of Kristina Keneally could rise in their stead.
“The deputy Senate leader [Farrell] came to my office and we had a discussion,” said Albanese.
“He indicated to me that he was prepared, even though he had substantial support of caucus colleagues, he was prepared to step aside as Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate on the basis that he understood that I had made it clear that my view was there … be gender balance in Labor’s leadership team.
“Don Farrell is well-liked by his colleagues. He is respected by me and by all of our team. That respect goes up even more today.
“I thank Don Farrell for putting aside his own personal interests for the interests of our great party, as he has always done.”
Having thus windbagged his way past an explanation of how things are actually done – lord, how many longer-term deals must the well-liked and respected Farrell have wangled in this selfless moment of putting aside his own interests? – Albanese moved on to the even more heart-warming tale of how Ed Husic came, entirely unprompted, to his own decision to leap from the frontbench.
“Ed Husic is one of my best mates in this place,” said Albanese. “He has taken a decision voluntarily without anyone talking to him. He had a look at what was going on and made a decision to step back in the short term from the shadow ministry.
“He will have an important role to play in any party that I’m the leader of and, if I am successful in government, I will want Ed Husic at the most senior levels of our party.”
Albanese, having thus talked himself into a near perfect circle, might have been better advised to hasten in reverse before uttering those revealing words about his bestie, Husic, choosing self-sacrifice after having “had a look at what was going on”.
What goes on when you study the entrails of the NSW Labor factional system is often blind terror.
At least Albanese didn’t say Husic had reached his decision by osmosis, which would have been a dead giveaway, prolixity-wise.
Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.