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Rudd and Gillard to win

December 2nd, 2006

I’m backing Rudd and Gillard to win in Monday’s leadership ballot both in the sense that I think they will win and in the sense that I think they should win.

The remorseless logic of leadership challenges is such as to guarantee the defeat of the incumbent in most cases. By the time there are enough people discontented enough to call on a challenge, the possibility of a convincing win for the incumbent has just about vanished. And anything less leaves them mortally wounded, while the challenger is encouraged to wait for another go.

In this case, Labor can’t afford a mortally wounded leader and there’s no time for a second round. So the logic is that those who are concerned about a win have to vote for the challengers.

As regards the substantive choice, I backed Rudd in 2003 and again in 2005. Since then I’ve only given up more on Beazley. Like lots of others apparently, I turn off as soon as he starts talking, even if I agree with what he’s saying at the time. On the other hand, Rudd has put in a solid performance, and shows some actual signs of thought.

The case for a change is even stronger when you consider the tickets as a whole. Macklin has been invisible as deputy leader (not always a defect in a deputy, but a disaster when the leader is as inchoate as Beazley). Gillard usually has something to say, and can attract attention when she says it.

I don’t know how this will run electorally, but I don’t see any reason Labor should suffer much damage from a change, assuming the losers retire gracefully.

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  1. Hermit
    December 2nd, 2006 at 17:21 | #1

    Rudd is too pedantic and will hand Costello (if) the larrikin vote by default. I think the ALP should fast track a charismatic outsider like Shorten. Like many I agree with Howard on some things but I’ve had enough.

  2. December 2nd, 2006 at 17:51 | #2

    It is a dangerous position for Labor and the worst outcome would be a thin majority for Beazley. The second worst outcome would be a narrow victory for Rudd without a graceful acceptance of the situation by the Beazley forces.

  3. doosra
    December 2nd, 2006 at 18:16 | #3

    I think this is a vote for the future. Repeated polling is showing that the voters are interested in what the ALP has to say, but are not connecting with Beazley and Jenny (Who?)Macklin. Rudd and Gillard are their best hope. Both are intelligent, articulate and can hold their own in the House. Good luck to them; if they win, I look forward to QT next week … will be an absolute doozy!!!

  4. aj
    December 2nd, 2006 at 18:29 | #4

    John, I’m with you. I think that although Beazley seems like a hard worker, I turned off when he was voted in as leader, but decided to get behind Labor. I don’t think that this spill is such a bad thing, in fact I think it will be the making of the future Labor govt. It long needed a clean out of ministers that were for some reason or another, left in there positions, where the likes of Peter Garrett, Dr Craig Emerson, was left to warm the back bench. If the next leader puts the ministers that have been producing policy and voting profile on the front bench, then I think that Labor will be able to get some of their messages out. Now it’s only up to the factions, I hope they are listening to the people who voted them in. I think Rudd, with Julia can, and have been consistently getting their messages through, and reading some comments on the newspapers web sites, they are getting a lot of comments from people who will only change their vote to Labor, if Rudd/Gillard are the leaders.

  5. surdman
    December 2nd, 2006 at 19:27 | #5

    Rudd and Gillard against Howard and Costello sounds to me like a good contest. Shorten’s background as a professional union official is an electoral negative, and he’s no Bob Hawke,in terms of either intellect or personal appeal. If Beazley scrapes back, that’s unfortunate, but no disaster. R&G have enough time to take another crack at it. Remember Hawke rolled Hayden a month before the March 83 election and won. Australia is ready for a change of Government. The fact that Gerard Henderson was plugging Beazley on AM yesterday ought to clinch it for any Labour supporter.

  6. December 2nd, 2006 at 20:37 | #6

    Ah, at last an Oz blogger I can agree with this week.

    Rafe, you’d hope that this time Team Beazley will pack it in if they go down. Surely. Enough will have been enough already.

  7. Don Wigan
    December 2nd, 2006 at 21:11 | #7

    John, I think you’re right about people switching off whenever Beazley speaks. Paetly that is self-inflicted. He mixes far too much blather with whatever salient thing he has to say, And his idea of cutting through is to indulge in a bit of celeb talk. It is bad enough Howard getting away with that rubbish, We don’t need both major leaders doing it.

    But Beazley is now suffering the Crean syndrome, where listeners are turned off the moment he opens his mouth. Crean actually did some useful work in his last 6 months but he couldn’t engage. So too Beazley now.

  8. Pseudonym
    December 2nd, 2006 at 21:33 | #8

    “I don’t see any reason Labor should suffer much damage from a change”

    If you are dead in the water as Labour is, manning the lifeboats to avert sinking could be construed as the prudent thing to do.

  9. December 2nd, 2006 at 22:50 | #9

    Hard to know what to think. All of the leadership contenders, other than Julia Gillard, seem to have serious shortcomings, judging from “The Latham Diaries”, and even Gillard went along with Federal Labor’s support for the subsequenlty aborted plans to privatise Snowy Hydro.

    For myself – and I may not be the best judge – I find Beazley to be an effective speaker these days, particularly when talking on Howard’s “Work Choices” legislation, and I am impressed with his pledge to get us out of Iraq, particularly given his past reputation for being even more Hawkish than John Howard himself.

    Nevertheless we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today if it had not been for Beazley’s past “small target” strategy and countless instances of “me-too-ism”.

  10. Mark U
    December 2nd, 2006 at 23:20 | #10

    Beazley is now untenable as leader. But Rudd, as Labor’s main spokeman on AWB, has been unable to inflict any further damage on the Government over the AWB issue. If he is ineffectual on this issue, how will he go on issues where he has less expertise? Beazley may be verbose, but Rudd always sounds like a public service memo. And he appears to be a bit of a loner, which does not auger well for his leadership credentials.

    Short of the emergence of Bob Hawke II or an economic meltdown, Labor has no chance federally while John Howard remains as leader. Which could be beyond 2010!

  11. December 3rd, 2006 at 00:02 | #11

    It’s not Rudd’s fault that he’s not able to nail Downer and Vaille on this.

    Pretty much every single scandal that has afflicted the Howard government has demonstrated a complete moral bankruptcy. However, none of them have caused direct, verifiable pain to voters. And Howard has figured out that the best policy in a media-driven or Opposition-driven scandal is simply to wait it out and figure out if it’s actually resonating with people who might change their vote over it, and remarkably few of them have. Furthermore, the Liberals have become masters of the the art of avoiding the knowledge of inconvenient facts, making it impossible to land a killer blow. And the resultant stability of the frontbench makes the government look good, no matter how incompetent they actually are.

    That’s why IR is actually a potent weapon – while it’s not a scandal as such, it’s a policy that actually affects the mug punters.

  12. December 3rd, 2006 at 01:21 | #12

    Problem is, Robert, at the moment it is perceived to be affecting far more of them in a positive way (i.e. they are getting jobs) than it is affecting them in a negative way. One great point made about the protests was that, since WorkChoices came in, more have got jobs than attended the protests.
    I am not saying WorkChoices did that, but it is a good picture for the government to paint.

  13. December 3rd, 2006 at 02:01 | #13

    Thanks John for finding the words which come closest yet to how I think about the situation. I reckon Beazley has lost any power he (might) have once had to inspire. And that’s what’s needed. I personally don’t think Rudd has it (‘public service memo’ rings true) but his ability to think may attract the thoughtful. And Gillard appears to have it in her, having observed her effect upon some of the generally non-politically-expresive those around me last time she made a splash. So, perhaps because there is everything to lose, I too think they should win – in both senses.

  14. George Hammersley
    December 3rd, 2006 at 02:33 | #14

    This spill may look like a solution to ‘the problem’, but I suggest not. Politics merely reflect the state of play in our society. We can see physical obesity, but the spiritual kind is more difficult to detect. Why Australian voters tolerate the thoroughly shagged-out major parties is no longer a mystery to me. We want a daddy figure to take our garbage out while we’re asleep. With such low expectations and base political morality, we have no right to expect better than the slops on the political plate in our times. We all go along with Howard’s lies because we’re still steeped in the Ned Kelly myth. And we see clapped-out and irrelevant Labor as a genuine contender in the political bear-pit. We all need a kick up the arse. Our Constitutional situation is the laughing stock of the world, and highly illegal, starting with a Head of State who’s a foreigner, an Australia Act that is unconstitutional, state governments that cost us $39b a year to make it look as though things are happening (like quality in hospitals and schools) when it it’s not and a host of tragic anomalies we simply ignore. And we’re looking at this latest movement in the ALP coffin as some sort of relevant event. I can’t see better evidence that education in our country has failed totally when we look at what we make of our society. Sport mad and brain dead – with sideshows like this to make it look as though we’re intelligent. We all need to get a life, then we might see something decent happening in politics. Consider these two anomalies: we get experts to fight our lawsuits, but mugs to make our laws. We hire creative people to make our TV ads, but get idiots to draw up our Constitution. The lesson seems to be that the more important something is, the less we give it credence: the more flippant something is, the more we can engage in it. That sounds like a recipe for a nation of losers. With sport off the table for a moment, what is it about being an Australian that could make us proud? I’m stuffed if I can think of a single thing. We’re boot-lickers in a way the Kiwis could never be. Think about it, and ask yourself why we want this God-bothering ponce from Queensland to take over from Howard. If that’s a political choice for the punters, God help us all.

  15. still working it out
    December 3rd, 2006 at 08:27 | #15

    A couple of people have mentioned that Rudd comes off as a bit of a public servant and suggested that’s a negative. I beg to differ. Two of the most successful politicians of the previous decade, John Howard and Bob Carr have/had the same problem. I really don’t think its a disadvantage. It makes it easier to seem credible and competent. They have both shown that people respond to politicians who carefully measure what they say.

    In that sense I think Rudd is an enormous improvement over Beazely. Beazely sounds alot more articulate than he actually is. If you listen and digest his statements carefully you come away with the he first choose words and phrases that sound good and then tries to fit a message around them. He always ends up sounding like a rhetorical windbag who has not thought through what he actually wants to say. Rudd does not suffer from that problem.

  16. December 3rd, 2006 at 12:14 | #16

    You are probably right John about incumbency in this situation (leadership challenge) being a source of disadvantage. In government however it is quite the reverse for the party in power and its leader. Is there is a simple message here – winners win, losers lose?

  17. Kevin Brewer
    December 3rd, 2006 at 12:23 | #17

    I find it interesting that people who contribute to this blog turn off Mr Beazley when he speaks. I wonder why intelligent and thoughtful people think polical and social ideas can be argued publically in a 10 second grab for tv or the radio. If you can say it in 10 seconds it is either wit, an aphorism, or not to the point. Kim won me when he appealed to the ‘better angels of our nature’, a quote from Lincoln’s first Inaugural address, when addressing Howard before an election. Of course Howard had no clue as to what Beazley was talking about, he was about to appeal to the little bloke sitting on the other shoulder, the one with the pointy beard and trident. I think Beazley’s problem presnt stem from his proximity to the Sydney ALP. At least if he lived in Freeo he would get out more. It will be sad to see him go, but I think he must. He can always run defence again.

  18. December 3rd, 2006 at 12:48 | #18

    Mark U wrote: Rudd, as Labor’s main spokeman on AWB, has been unable to inflict any further damage on the Government over the AWB issue.

    I don’t see this so much an indictment of Rudd as it is of the newsmedia. If they won’t ask of Government ministers the difficult qiestions and won’t demand of them an explanation as to why they should be considered fit to govern, then it should be no surprise that Rudd is having difficulty make anything stick.

    I think it’s time that Labor turned the spotlight back on the media. It is principally because of them even more so than it has been becuase of any deficiencies of Labor thus far, that Howard has been able to get away with so abysmally misgoverning this coutry.

    Could anyone seriously imagine the Whitlam Government, or for that matter, even the Fraser Government lasting more than a week if such a scandals had broken back then?

  19. December 3rd, 2006 at 13:26 | #19

    Re the AWB story, Rudd took this fight up diligently and strongly, and as a result there is a high level of articulate opinion to the effect that either/and/or the scandal is compelling evidence of government negligence or a result that was pre-immunised by the inquiry terms of reference. The problem with the politics is that this is a complex and therefore difficult story to make popular etc. And even insofar as it is understood, there are issues of electoral weighting – there have been innumerable instances of the Howard government being excused of malpractice because it wasn’t caught in the act live on film; this is just another in the long litany. And to what extent is opinion stifled by the ineffectiveness of the leader? The allegation that Rudd is somehow a failure because he has not sunk the government in the polls or at least taken a ministerial head via AWB is fanciful at best and moot at worst.

    Go the Ruddster …

  20. still working it out
    December 3rd, 2006 at 15:30 | #20

    Rudd has been very effective on AWB within the confines of the strategy that labour set for itself, or perhaps stumbled into. The strategy itself was dumb.

    The correct strategy, in hindsight and I think in foresight too, was to play this as a matter of competence by the government and build a case against ministers based on the see no evil hear no evil that was already public. The government itself made Iraq a central issue with its unquestioned support for the war. For them to not notice that they were having lunch with one of Saddam’s biggest source of funds would have made it easy to play various ministers out as simple fools. If it turned out that they really knew what was going on, so much the better.

    Instead Labour made the assumption that at least someone knew what was going on, perhaps based on an overestimation of how competent the government actually is, and have been left looking like the boy who cried wolf for constantly claiming the scandal was worse than the evidence has shown. This has damaged their own credibility and allowed the government to avoid the incompetence tag.

    It was a dumb strategy, and if you could find out who was responsible for it and replace them with someone with a bit more political acumen you might go a long way to getting Labour elected at the next federal election. Labour’s almost constant failure to play out issues with a well thought out and disciplined strategy must have Howard both very thankful and scratching his head and is indicative of something wrong with Labour decision making. Despite the fact that Rudd was point on AWB for Labour there is a fair chance he did not choose this strategy. It may have been Beazely or someone in the back room that Beazely lets make decisions for him. If so, and assuming Rudd/Gilliard understand Labour’s problem on poor performance at the political tactical level, then electing Rudd/Gilliard might make a difference. If Rudd was responsible for this failed strategy then his election to opposition leader will change nothing.

  21. December 3rd, 2006 at 17:08 | #21

    Three years ago Professor Quiggers was kind enough to let me have this guest post on the topic. I pretty much hold to everything I said then (including the last line in brackets) but it can’t be denied that Beazley’s weakened authority in the party has become a perhaps insurmountable problem.

    The whole thing is exacerbated by a poor understanding of opinion polls and preferential voting,
    not just by Dennis Shanahan, but other journalists and of course Caucus members. They would prefer a leader to get high approval and low voting intentions, like Ted Bailleiu in Victoria (whose final Newspoll approval rating was 49 – very high).

    While Rudd is no Latham (I mean that in a good way!), Gillard unfortunately
    is, and I reckon Labor’s chances will be inversely proportional to the amount of
    involvement she has in strategy. (Tanner would be a much better prospect.) Let’s
    hope we don’t see much of her and do see lots of Kevin.

  22. December 3rd, 2006 at 19:17 | #22

    I’m a former Beazley staffer. I gave up on Kim and the Party’s continued push of his “small target strategy” a long time ago. I even left the party, and have been a campaign manager on some Greens state campaigns since.
    What Labor needs is hope. The Curtin/Chifley kind of hope and inspirational leadership.
    If Rudd can provide it, then the Party has a future in the next five years. If not, then I, like many true believers, will continue to walk the darkness seeking a new light.

  23. December 3rd, 2006 at 20:53 | #23

    Spoken like a Green. I assume you’ll preference Liberal ahead of Labor?

    Neither Curtin nor Chifley ever won an election from opposition. They became ‘inspirational’ only with the authority of office. The case with most politicians.

  24. derrida derider
    December 4th, 2006 at 10:21 | #24

    swio is absolutely right. I remember wondering when JQ posted this in January why Beazley wasn’t saying exactly these words in public:

    “Based on past experience … we can be pretty confident of the following
    * Both Downer and Howard knew that the AWB was paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime
    * This information was transmitted in a way that preserves deniability, so no conclusive proof will emerge
    * No government minister will resign
    * Endless hair-splitting defences of the government’s actions in this matter will emerge from those who have previously made a loud noise about Oil for Food.

  25. December 4th, 2006 at 10:35 | #25

    You got your wish. Let’s see how they go. Given the supporters’ history (they elected Latham) I am not too optimistic.
    Good government requires an effective opposition. Despite swio’s position I think that Rudd would have had a fair say in what course was taken on oil for food. I hope he chooses better over the next 10 or so months.

  26. Hal9000
    December 4th, 2006 at 11:06 | #26

    “If you are dead in the water as Labour is, manning the lifeboats to avert sinking could be construed as the prudent thing to do.” 8

    Surely if a boat is dead in the water the prudent thing to do is to get it under way. Looks like Caucus is of the same mind.

  27. Bring Back the Currency Lad’s blog
    December 4th, 2006 at 12:04 | #27

    How can an inanimate object be dead in the water

  28. December 4th, 2006 at 12:32 | #28

    Metaphorically, it can be. A boat is always said to be “dead in the water” if it has no means of propulsion. In this case it looks like the ALP has judged a beached whale as causing it to be dead in the water. Perhaps if the ship was a whale we could see the ALP in that light.
    Metaphorically, I think I have my knickers in a knot.

  29. Ian the Old Radical
    December 4th, 2006 at 12:53 | #29

    Ever since Tampa.

    That’s when Kim Beazley lost me. I don’t care if the back-room boys thought that it would cost votes; any position that countenanced the appalling dishonesty of the Howard government was unacceptable. Better to go down fighting than to go down a political coward.

    I’m too old to change my voting habits now, but it really has gone against the grain to have to vote for a Beazley-led ALP since Tampa. For me, any change is for the better.

    Oh, if only we had an ALP that was still at least fractionally left of centre. The ‘middle ground’ seems to have slipped into the realms of proto-fascism.

  30. December 4th, 2006 at 14:37 | #30

    Great result, at last.

    Cheers John.

  31. Razor
    December 4th, 2006 at 17:09 | #31

    The most relevant question now is how long will these two last after they lose the next election?

  32. Robert
    December 4th, 2006 at 18:36 | #32

    Rudd & Gillard, creating a political first: the bloke’s haircut gets more mentions.

  33. Seeker
    December 4th, 2006 at 19:01 | #33

    I am pretty happy with today’s outcome for Labor. In particular they managed to avoid the catastrophe of a close vote, either way.

    I am also pretty sure that Howard et al would have strongly prefered Beazely. Wouldn’t surprise me if Howard stepped down soon, explaining it as a noble self-sacrificing handover to the next generation of leaders.

  34. December 4th, 2006 at 20:27 | #34

    Prof Q
    I have to agree with your assesment. Some twenty years ago I was peripherally invoved with Kim Beazley through work and politicking. While I found his message was often good he did not have the capacity to fire the masses. He always struck me as being a very good manager but not a good leader. Be that as it may I hope that history will remember him as a leader who, like Neil Kinnock, should have won an election but didn’t but in any event held together a dispirited party during its lowest ebb and helped rebuild it for eventual victory.

    And what of Howard and the conservatives? I cannot see Howard stepping down any time soon. However, if he continues to fail to articulate a succession plan he may hurt the conservatives in the long run. Given the benefits of incumbency he probably will win the next election but it is quite plausable that it may be at such cost that the aura of invincibilty that suurounds him will be irretrievably damaged, and with it his authority. This could in turn lead to a sucessful spill, or a bitter resignation once even he realises his political mortality. In such case any failure to establish a clear sucession plan may haunt the conservative for years to come. I would suggest that such a scenario is by no means impossible; in 1988 Thatcher was invincible. Two years later she was history, without any proper leadership the Conservative government limped along for far too long before the British public put it out of its misery.

    Anyway Kim, best of luck for the future. Unlike Thatcher I hope you accept the change in a magnanimous and graceful fashion, and that your talents will not be lost to the Australian public .

  35. Razor
    December 5th, 2006 at 13:03 | #35

    Cpl said – “And what of Howard and the conservatives? I cannot see Howard stepping down any time soon. However, if he continues to fail to articulate a succession plan he may hurt the conservatives in the long run.”

    Unless something significant has changed and I have missed it, I am pretty sure that the Leader of the Liberal Party is an elected position. In that case Howard can’t have a succession plan. When Howard finishes, however that may be, then those that think they can win a ballot for the leadership put themselves forward and the party room votes.

    Talk of a succession plan is almost complete detachment from reality.

  36. Jimmythespiv
    December 6th, 2006 at 12:32 | #36

    ……as a commonwealth public servant, I want Rudd to win the next election and beef up massively the size of the public service….oh, the rent seeking opportunities !

  37. December 7th, 2006 at 08:04 | #37

    I hope that Howard loses the next election. Any lingering sympathy I may have with him on cultural conservatism has dissipated in his nasty over reach on IR.

    But I wish it could be to some one other than Rudd and Gillard. They appear to have learned nothing over the past decade about the follies and rorts of the cultural constructives. Looks like we will have to re-fight the Culture Wars all over again.

    On a more general psephological point, this election appears to be a critical test of the punters v polls hypothesis. THe punters still seem to think Howard can win, as show by Centrebet giving the Coalition $1.50 to ALP $2.50. Yet the polls have consistently shown that Howard will lose, to any half-way decent ALP leader.

    Its not entirely clear what has caused Howard’s fall from electoral grace. A mid-term slump combined with the periodicity of the electoral pendulum come to mind. But the two IRs – industrial relations and interest rates – have probably got a bit to do with it. THey are unlikely to turn around any time soon.

    If the punters are right and LN/P are returned then this will be a strong proof of Efficient Markets hypothesis. If the pollsters are right and the ALP win then EM will be reduced if not refuted.

    My educated guess is to slightly back the LN/P to win by a reduced margin. Where polls and punters disagree I go with punters.

    But I think Howard did his chances no good by ramming through IR legislation. In retropsect the L/NP winning the Senate was being handed a poisoned chalice. THe power went to their heads, same as Bush in Iraq.

  38. Bring Back the Currency Lad’s blog
    December 7th, 2006 at 08:33 | #38

    Jimmy the spiv obviously isn’t a public servant otherwise he would have know that little Gough has increased the public service at growth rates not seen since big gough.

    given the leadership was going on over the weekend that Nielsen was going on and everyone was saying Rudd was going to win that poll could be interpreted as the punters not only wanting a change of government but a change of ALP leadership.

  39. wilful
    December 7th, 2006 at 09:41 | #39

    jack, $1.50 to $2.50 is hardly lock it in favouritism. And given that we’re still a long way from the election, I would be very surprised if the pool for that tote is very large at all. If I was a betting man (which I’m not) I would still reserve my judgement on the likelihood of a change of Government until much much closer to election day.

    I was incredibly heartened by Rudd mentioning Howard’s 22% interest rates as Treasurer on the 7.30 report the other night. About bloody time!! While interest rates are a foolish distraction, and houses are currently quite unaffordable, at least he’s fighting fire with fire.

    I think Howard will look tired and old by the time the election comes around. While Costello has shown he hasn’t got much in the locker when it comes to new policy ideas or charisma. I think Rudd has an excellent chance, but I’d like to see him in action for quite a few more months yet.

    I will predict that the News Ltd. opinion writers will be particularly awful in the next period.

  40. December 7th, 2006 at 21:29 | #40

    wilful Says: http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2006/12/02/rudd-and-gillard-to-win/#comment-99799

    McMullan, not Rudd, should have been made ALP leader.

    If I was a betting man (which I’m not) I would still reserve my judgement on the likelihood of a change of Government until much much closer to election day.

    Ahh but then you might not get such good odds.

    I think Howard will look tired and old by the time the election comes around.

    He is already looking a bit torn and frayed around the edges. But he will probably have a big sack of goodies to hand out around election time, targetted tax-cuts and spending give-aways.

    I will predict that the News Ltd. opinion writers will be particularly awful in the next period.

    Possibly although these days its getting harder to tell the difference between general and particular awfulness in that quarter, for some of them at least.

  41. December 7th, 2006 at 22:19 | #41

    I too am intrigued by the betting market. And I’d also love to know the size of the pool. I suspect it is quite large. I think it is a disgrace the bookies are not required to advertise the pool in the interests of a fair go for the honest punter. The TAB always says what the pool is, but these online pirates seem to be operating according to a different set of laws. (Who writes this stuff?)

    Anyway the odds have quickly come back to $2.40/$2.50, where they have sat for a couple of years, after a brief spike to $2.80 or so.

    I have a savings plan where I tip a couple of wage units into ALP 2007 each month. Hence my jubilation at Rudd’s accession to the throne. Nothing like a stake in the political future of yr country.

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