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Beazley beaten!

June 17th, 2003

Of the many commentators in both print and blog media who’ve written their views, I think the most accurate were, Margo Kingston and Ross Gittins. My main views:

First, the poll-driven choice of Beazley as the anti-Crean candidate turned the ballot into a referendum on the ‘small target strategy’ run by Beazley (advised by Swan and Smith) in 2001. My waning hopes for the Federal ALP have been strengthened slightly by the fact that Beazley was so thoroughly beaten.

Second, having positioned himself as the ‘policy’ candidate, Crean now has to actually deliver on this. In particular, , he has to decide whether he’s for lower taxes or higher services. At present, as Ross Gittins points out, Labor is the ‘denial of opportunity cost’ party. Of course, this is true to some extent of all opposition parties.
Given the absence of any serious policy initiatives from Labor for the past seven years, and the sporadic attention of the government to anything more than triumphalism and wedge politics, a serious policy program could make a big impact.

Third, and assuming he meets the policy test, Crean’s position has been strengthened by this episode. He called Beazley’s bluff, faced him down and beat him decisively, and, in the process, acquired some sort of identity. I don’t know whether this will be reflected in the polls, but it should be.

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  1. June 17th, 2003 at 16:14 | #1

    the sporadic attention of the government to anything more than triumphalism and wedge politics
    I think that the liberated people of Timor, Afghanistan & Iraq might murmur a demurral at that.

  2. June 17th, 2003 at 16:34 | #2

    They are only in a position to comment directly on outcomes, not on the dynamics of Australian politics that contributed to those outcomes; there, they have to make inferences just as much as the rest of us (if it matters to them, which it does to us).

    For what it’s worth, only East Timor of those three actually got liberated. The other two got invaded and occupied. Any liberation there is still a matter for the future.

  3. June 17th, 2003 at 20:04 | #3

    P.M.Lawrence accuses Howard of imperial conquest:

    The other two got invaded and occupied. Any liberation there is still a matter for the future.

    Presumably you think the majority of both jurisdictions would vote for the Taliban and Baathist party?
    they might like the US out, but then they would be complaining about the absence of utilities, amentities, securities etc
    As well as the presence of fascists and fundamentalists.
    some people are never satisfied

  4. cs
    June 17th, 2003 at 21:35 | #4

    Well picked John. At the outset, I would have bet Simon was gone … primarily because the ‘feel’ in my rarefied circles was just as bad as the polls (and, I guess, because, unlike most people in the same said circles, I’m personally fond of the Big Bloke).

    Nonethless, Crean’s now gathered a crowd of explicit supporters through this, i.e. I completely agree that “Crean’s position has been strengthened by this episode. He called Beazley’s bluff, faced him down and beat him decisively, and, in the process, acquired some sort of identity. I don’t know whether this will be reflected in the polls, but it should be.”

  5. Homer Paxton
    June 17th, 2003 at 22:17 | #5

    to start out with 35 votes and finish with 34 votes after 10 days shows the ‘machine men’ of Smith and Swan are hapless water buffaloes as my favourite Australian philosophers would say.

    This has to be one of the worst leadership battles I have ever seen. Reminds of some Liberal battles in the 80s.
    It is just as well Beazley lost!

  6. derrida derider
    June 17th, 2003 at 22:26 | #6

    I couldn’t disagree more with this post. Crean is unelectable – he looks and talks like an ex-union hack who used his inherited contacts to rise in the party. Policy aint gunna save him – if he comes up with good new ideas, little Johny will quickly rebadge them and call them his own (that’s what shrewd governments do). If he comes up with bad new ideas, they’ll be ripped to shreds – Crean is not the sort of pollie (Clinton?) who can convince the punters that black is white. And if he recycles old ideas, it’ll make no more impact than the much-derided small target strategy (which, BTW, worked fine for Howard in 1996 and would have worked Ok for Beazley in 2000 except for bad luck).

    The ALP has become more focussed on sharing the spoils of opposition rather than doing what it takes to win government. One reason they’ve fared worse in seats than they have in overall votes in the last two elections is because they insist on choosing their candidates for marginal electorates on the basis of factional politics rather than electability (they had some real losers last time). Now they’ve extended this principle to the leadership.

    It looks like we’re going to be saddled with some more years of coalition government.

  7. June 18th, 2003 at 09:13 | #7

    No doubt inadvertently, JS is using some of the rhetorical tricks described in Thouless’ classic “Straight and crooked thinking”.

    I did NOT “accuse Howard of imperial conquest” – that’s an exaggerated position, of JS’s invention. Further, there is a bait and switch, substituting a different question (imperialism) for the original point.

    There is an increased amount of the same lower down, where JS makes out that I should be in favour of all sorts of unpleasantnesses.

    In actual fact, I merely pointed out that to talk of liberating was to count chickens before they were hatched, and I very carefully reserved my position on whether the US etc. were doing good since I didn’t want to compare evils; in isolation Baathist and Taliban conduct has nothing to do with whether those countries are better off for what has just been inflicted on them, since it doesn’t compare everything. Yes, I know we can’t compare properly just yet – that was my point.

  8. June 18th, 2003 at 19:09 | #8

    John – don’t you think you should say that the choice is between lower taxes or higher public services. Non taxed money is still spent somewhere, and with potentially higher levels of efficiency and no cost of taxation it is not obvious a priori whether higher taxes would lead to higher services in total.

    I think Crean will be strengthened from this… but it doesn’t matter whether he or Beazely was in power. Either Howard will win the next election, or Howard will lose it. The ALP can watch, try to play a straight bat and just hope the bowling goes astray.

  9. John
    June 19th, 2003 at 06:41 | #9

    24601, I wrote it the way I did mainly to avoid being too ponderous, but I think it’s defensible. Given that both parties favor a balanced budget, if they disagree on the aggregates one must favor lower taxes than the other, which must favor higher expenditure. Labor has to decide which of these positions too take.

  10. June 19th, 2003 at 17:44 | #10

    I agree with your point, but disagree with your language – which I believe is intentionally biased in a way that leads a reader towards preferring government action (by implying that only the government can provide services).

    Personally, I think the ALP should argue for more spending. Not because I agree with that position, but because I think that would be a politically smart position for them to take at the moment.

  11. Steve Edwards
    June 25th, 2003 at 14:43 | #11

    Sure, Labor can argue for more spending…so long as they are prepared to cut all that rhetoric about the “highest taxing/spending government” in history. To backflip on that claim and then call for more spending will look very silly in the short term.

    Anyway, the ALP don’t deserve to be in government for at least another four years. Particularly on foreign policy. After seeing Simon Crean, Kevin Rudd et al claim before the war that Iraq definitely had weapons of mass destruction and must be disarmed “peacefully” through the UN (leaving aside how Simon thought he might achieve that), it is quite sickening to observe these gutless opportunists crowing about “where are the WMDs?”, “defective intelligence” and the the like. They have absolutely no leg to stand on.

    They must be kept in opposition in their current state, and if that means four years of brutal wedge politics then so be it.

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