Home > Oz Politics > Not with a bang, but a whimper

Not with a bang, but a whimper

January 23rd, 2012

Gillard’s abandonment of pokies reform means, as far as I can see, that she has reached the end of the set of reforms she promised as the price of independent support after the 2010 election. Most of the agenda she inherited from Rudd has similarly been either implement, or put on the road to implementation, (typically in a watered-down form) or else abandoned. A visit to the ALP website seems to me to confirm this impression. There are plenty of glossy pictures, but the ideas seem mostly to be taken from Rudd, though drastically watered down in most cases, for example, “School Reform” in place of “Education Revolution”. The only thing that sounds more like Gillard than Rudd is “Trade Cadetships” which reads like a rebadging of Howard’s “New Apprenticeships”.

Can anyone point to any genuinely new initiatives taken by this government (that is, not forced on it, or inherited)? It would be nice to think that there is something more on offer than “Not Abbott”.

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  1. Hermit
    January 23rd, 2012 at 17:50 | #1

    Short answer no. But it gets worse I have strong suspicion that carbon tax will be watered down by year’s end. On account of the economy or somesuch. No mention of the future economy in a buggered climate.

    A late thought on pokies if this is the right thread. If the Greens MHR puts up $1 bets and the Laberals allow a conscience vote we’ll know if individual members have any scruples. Then I’d like to tell my MHR ‘good onya’ or ‘you’re history’ as appropriate.

  2. boconnor
    January 23rd, 2012 at 18:15 | #2

    Maybe the National Disability Insurance Scheme but I’m not sure if it was put in train during Rudd’s time.

  3. January 23rd, 2012 at 18:18 | #3

    “Not Abbott”?? Be fair, they also rely a fair bit on “Not Howard”. Other than that, No.

  4. Oliver Townshend
    January 23rd, 2012 at 18:43 | #4

    Not Rudd as well. She’s got things done that Rudd promised to do, and he had a majority in the lower house…

  5. paul of albury
    January 23rd, 2012 at 19:27 | #5

    Rudd had no majority in the gang of four

  6. rog
    January 23rd, 2012 at 19:39 | #6

    A bizarre situation, with Thomson arguing the case against pokie reform on principle (improper policy making ) while denying evidence of allegations of impropriety.

    Gillard seems to be incapable of rising above the muck.

  7. January 23rd, 2012 at 19:49 | #7

    Pr Q said:

    Can anyone point to any genuinely new initiatives taken by this government (that is, not forced on it, or inherited)?

    Pr Q is again completely off-target in this criticism of Gillard and seems to be losing his political grip. Gillard’s government has been one of the busiest on record and not just busy-body busyness, despite having to deal with moronic liberals, both Left and Right. As the moronic liberal Chris Berg glumly notes

    More than 140 pieces of legislation have passed through both houses. And despite the gauntlet of Bob Katter, Adam Bandt and a motley crew of independents, more than 180 pieces of legislation have gone successfully through the House of Representatives.

    On the big picture issues it makes no more sense to separate Gillard from Rudd than it does to separate Hawke from Keating or Howard from Costello, Gillard negotiated the passage of two monumental new taxation reforms – CPRS and MRRT. Kevin “process not progress” Rudd was unable to execute, despite having a comfortable majority in the HoR and a sympathetic opposition leader. By contrast Gillard has had to deal with hung parliament, ansty independents, unprecedented media campaigns by cashed up lobby groups and of course the GREENs, who would try anyones patience.

    Gillard can claim the Malaysian solution to border protection woes as a genuine initiative, which would have worked given the chance. But as usual this sensible middle ground was scuttled by moronic liberals to the Left and Right. Thanks to Abbot and Sarah “accidents do happen” Hanson-Young we will be seeing plenty more asylum seeker boats heading for Davy Jones locker over the next year. Way to go to help “vulnerable people” Sarah!

    More generally, the population have been in a state of reform fatigue since Fightback, which was about 20 years ago. Big changes have been a hard sell ever since.

    Keating played around with Refugees, Republic and Reconciliation but that came to nothing and didnt stop his wipeout. Howard kicked the GST around for about five election cycles before finally mustering the courage to have a crack at it. He got such a scare from the electorate that he wisely concentrated on good government and the Culture War/Terror War from then on.

    Its just harder to get big changes through the electorate these days, probably because everyone is contented with their bread and circuses. And perhaps understandably skeptical of politicians offering to make the world over, considering what disasters post-modern moron liberals have inflicted on us these past 20 years.

    Gillard has done a good job, far better than she is given credit for in the impossible to please populus and punditariat.

  8. Doug
    January 23rd, 2012 at 19:54 | #8

    A bit of straightforwardness, clarity and yes even a little courage would have gone a long way, but the leadership of the ALP seem congenitally unable to display those characteristics.

    What I am even more dismayed about is that it is now clear that a lobby group with enough money can scare a government into inaction even where there is potentially a reasonably large proportion of the population in favour of a policy.

    In the US you need large amounts of money to get elected. Here you can now buy off a government with a large, noisy advertising campaign that has little connection to the facts.

  9. wilful
    January 23rd, 2012 at 20:22 | #9

    >we’ll know if individual members have any scruples.

    hahahhahahah, good one.

  10. iain
    January 23rd, 2012 at 21:45 | #10

    @Jack Strocchi
    Apart from the wildly successful Malaysian solution did you actually identify anything, Jack?

    Gillard is already on record as confirming that the CPRS only went through because of the (patience trying) Greens.

    target calibration check much?

  11. m0nty
    January 23rd, 2012 at 22:41 | #11

    “Not Rudd” is actually a good thing to be. Rudd was all talk, no delivery. Gillard has delivered on most of the policies that Rudd could only announce. Gillard is far superior to Rudd as a governor.

    This post brings up a more interesting point, though: is 2012 just going to be a year of delivery, or is there going to be a new legislative agenda? One might argue that there’s so much to deliver right now that Gillard would be best served focusing the concentration of her ministers on implementing the existing set of reforms.

    The media aspect of this strategy would be tricky, though, as the press gallery wouldn’t have much to talk about other than the usual Ruddstoration bulldust. Albanese had such a great 2011, it would be a shame to waste his momentum as he lorded it over Abbott. Perhaps a slate of social issue bills?

  12. January 24th, 2012 at 03:11 | #12

    Shorter Strocchi: Gillard’s main achievements are to deliver what Rudd promised but failed to get done. She has been as good as her word on this, if nothing else.

  13. Socrates
    January 24th, 2012 at 06:47 | #13

    Jack Strocchi #7 your post refers to Rudd’s majority in the HoR but ignores the Senate minority that forced Rudd to have to constantly negotiate with Fielding and Xenephon. Regardless of your views of Rudd or Gillard, I don’t think you can imply that Rudd found it easier to get bills passed.

    Returning to JQ’s original question, I do not think there are any major ones. Cigarette packaging was flagged earlier too.

  14. Ikonoclast
    January 24th, 2012 at 07:06 | #14

    Hoist on your own petard, Jack S.

    Quiggin: “Can anyone point to any genuinely new initiatives taken by this government (that is, not forced on it, or inherited)?”

    Strocchi: “Gillard’s main achievements are to deliver what Rudd promised but failed to get done. She has been as good as her word on this, if nothing else.”

    What accounts for a lack of ideas? I mean this generally in the case of anyone confronted by a set of problems and specifically in Gillard’s case as she does seem to lack ideas. In my view, the lack of ideas usually comes from the lack of a philosophical and intellectual framework, the lack of schooling in any particular discipline or set of disciplines. The lack of ideas in politics might also come from some sort of paralysis induced by subservience to focus group populism or pandering to sectional interests. Gillard has all these strikes against her.

    In Gillard’s cases the Wikpedia tells us; “She graduated from the University of Melbourne with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees in 1986. In 1987, Gillard joined the law firm Slater & Gordon at Werribee, Melbourne, working in industrial law.”

    The modern B.A. usually contains no philosophical and little historical training and thus is close to useless on the above score. A lot of modern law graduates, like a lot of modern economics graduates get little in the way of the philosophy and history of their profession, different schools of thought within it and of the general history of society. Thus they are schooled in a way which inculcates just one strand of thought and produces ideologues not critical or analytical thinkers. A classical example (from economics) is the production of classical and neoclassical business-managerialist focused microeconomists; ideological thinkers whose ideas are fallacious and demonstrably so when compared to the real world behaviours of real economies. (By the way, David Hume, (b.1711 – d.1776) essentially nailed the fallacy which is a failure to observe the reality of “emergent behaviour” though the phrase in that form is a later invention I think.)

    Modern law, going by its exponents who become politicians, teaches above all narrow-focussed, self-interested opportunism; the seeking of the narrow win without concern for any overall public interest import. Gillard is a great exponent of this technique. In summary, I think Gillard has no over-arching understanding nor any real interest in genuine political economy, nor in genuine social democracy nor in genuine macro-economics. Thus neither she (nor her team) can come up with any real, apposite ideas.

    It is said that politics is the art of compromise. Yes indeed! Follow that path and everything is compromised.

  15. socrates
    January 24th, 2012 at 08:07 | #15


    Regarding Gillard, education and the imparting of some philosophical understanding of subjects that is sadly true. When I did economics at UQ in the late 80s the economic philosophy subject was not even offered. I note Alan Duhs has restarted it in recent years.

    That being said, I don’t think the education system entirely lets most modern political machine-people (including Gillard) off the hook. Abbott went through Uni at a time when philosophical debate was strong, but he was still just a bully boy then and now. The same is true of many in Labor I have met.

    Overall though I agree with you Ikonoklast; we see a lot of political leaders who have no new ideas or vision because they are incapable or uninterested in providing them. They are just administrators with more power.

  16. Dan
    January 24th, 2012 at 08:38 | #16

    This is the stuff John Ralston Saul talks about in The Unconscious Civilisation and Voltaire’s Bastards – the conflation of leadership and management, and the rise of a technocratic/managerial class where our leaders should be.

    For all Rudd’s faults, for a bureaucrat he had considerable vision. I have no idea what Gillard’s vision is, quite possibly because there isn’t one.

  17. Catching up
    January 24th, 2012 at 08:48 | #17

    “The modern B.A. usually contains no philosophical and little historical training and thus is close to useless on the above score. A lot of modern law graduates, like a lot of modern economics graduates get little in the way of the philosophy and history of their profession”

    Might I suggest that Mr. Keating done very well without as

    The PM dertainly has a dream for education of our children, regardless that some may think her efforts misgyuded.

    What philosophical views or understanding of history, except for his love of Mr. Santa Maria, does Mr. Abbott have. If he has any, he has kept them along with his intellect powers well hidden.

  18. Ikonoclast
    January 24th, 2012 at 09:25 | #18

    Santamaria and Abbott would claim to be Christian Democrats. They look more like Christian fundmentalists and absolutists to me.

  19. duke
    January 24th, 2012 at 09:33 | #19


    “Modern law, going by its exponents who become politicians, teaches above all narrow-focussed, self-interested opportunism; the seeking of the narrow win without concern for any overall public interest import.”

    That has much more to do with the people who become politicians than the teaching of law.

  20. Dan
    January 24th, 2012 at 09:37 | #20

    Abbott is a Rhodes scholar and just yesterday I was hearing from someone from the progressive side of politics whose opinion I (and many others) value that Battle Lines is an eye-opener.

    Being underestimated is Abbott’s stock in trade and most powerful weapon.

  21. Catching up
    January 24th, 2012 at 09:51 | #21

    “Being underestimated is Abbott’s stock in trade and most powerful weapon”

    My point, but why would one present themselves as an idiot unless the Rhodes Scholarship is suspect.

  22. Dan
    January 24th, 2012 at 10:17 | #22

    Because populist idiocy plays well with the electorate.

  23. Tim Dymond
    January 24th, 2012 at 10:21 | #23

    The Fair Entitlements Guarantee for worker entitlements if a company goes out of business originated in the time of the Gillard government. It is to replace GEERs. A second term Rudd government with Gillard as a Minister might have implemented it as well of course.


  24. paul walter
    January 24th, 2012 at 12:57 | #24

    A current initiative seems to be to keep Abbott’s Cameronist Tories from getting at the Australian public. If this be the case, I loudly endorse.
    Even do nothing is preferable to vandalism

  25. Gaz
    January 24th, 2012 at 14:00 | #25

    “Not Abbott” may be all that Gillard has to offer but, frankly, it’s a heck of a lot better than nothing.

  26. Dan
    January 24th, 2012 at 14:13 | #26

    What a washout.

  27. John Quiggin
    January 24th, 2012 at 16:37 | #27

    Rhodes Scholars aren’t necessarily all that bright. There’s a big emphasis on being an all-rounder, captain of the rowing team* or similar. You need decent grades but at places like Sydney, being captain of the rowing team helps with that.

    * I don’t know what Abbott’s sporting accomplishments were at uni, but obviously that’s one aspect he’s carried on successfully.

  28. Catching up
    January 24th, 2012 at 16:49 | #28

    Boxing I believe.

    I believe he was in the position to get the necessary references.

  29. Dan
    January 24th, 2012 at 21:41 | #29

    Yes. Nonetheless I must defer to the opinion of a very bright man who has read Abbott’s book.

  30. Catching up
    January 24th, 2012 at 21:50 | #30

    A book I believe that Mr. Abbott has already moved away from what he wrote.

    How does one know who helped him write the book.

  31. Jill Rush
    January 24th, 2012 at 21:53 | #31

    [email protected] the NDIS was part of the Rudd Government and more particularly Bill Shorten who has drive, intelligence and the ability to communicate. He is the intelligent version of Tony Abbott but with more compassion. Gillard flunked the pokies test. even her Education Revolution under the Rudd years were about buildings. Her reforms in the curriculum – when we’re they first mooted? No matter how much she talks about Education that is where she put Peter Garrett and has introduced impersonal feedback mechanisms – introduced by a Department, which has undertaken no policy training, or much else since the Howard years. Under Rudd there were plans to re-introduce a less political public service which is overwhelmingly based in Canberra, an odd and isolated city unlike any other place in Australia.

  32. Dan
    January 24th, 2012 at 22:21 | #32

    If Rudd clawed way too much onto his plate and Gillard chose to deal with what was there rather than take another serve, is the absence of said second helping any sort of metric for measuring her (lack of) success? I would say probably not.

  33. Alan
    January 25th, 2012 at 00:42 | #33

    Those quoting Gillard’s implementation of the carbon scheme should recall that it was her opposition to it that contributes largely to Rudd’s failure with it. They should also recall that Gillard (at least initially) opposed the measures to avoid the GFC. Rudd acted quickly, decisively and effectively on the stimulus over opposition from the neoliberals in his own cabinet. While promoting Gillard’s managerial competence they shoulder recall that BER, within her own portfolio, was not free from allegations of waste and bad process.

    Rudd certainly had problems with process, but there is also a lot of Gillard spin and when it mattered Rudd could be decisive. When Rudd did act decisively it was generally not to surrender to whichever lobby had most recently tried to scare him off.

  34. rog
    January 25th, 2012 at 06:08 | #34

    Both Rudd and Turnbull have been awarded the tick of authenticity which Gillard can’t match.


  35. Chris Warren
    January 25th, 2012 at 07:43 | #35

    Gillard has been weak-kneed here.

    By giving in to Clubs scare mongering, they are now offering $38 million to the ACT for a mandatory pre-commitment scheme.

    How expensive can it be? All common-use photocopiers in libraries have mandatory precommitment cards, so the technology has to be cheap and easy.

    When I get on public transport – I use precommitment cards.

    Pokie machines earn more than enough revenue to cover conversion. Probably needs a change in a printed circuit board, plus a common card reader.

    Whats the problem? – the greed of capital over the rights of society?

  36. TerjeP
    January 25th, 2012 at 08:27 | #36

    “I heartily accept the motto, — ‘That government is best which governs least.’” – Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

    Gillard got rid of Rudd. For that accomplishment she deserves a knighthood.

  37. TerjeP
    January 25th, 2012 at 08:29 | #37

    p.s. for telling fibs to everybody she deserves to lose the next election. It is hard to see her winning.

  38. Dan
    January 25th, 2012 at 08:48 | #38


    My understanding is that Rudd came back from Copenhagen quite paralysed.

    As for the BER, it was always going to be wasteful – you simply can’t get that much money out the door that fast without some waste. I think you can 20:20 hindsight it a bit but it was the right call and the next time the circumstances are like that, there will be waste again – and it will still be the right call.

  39. Troy Prideaux
    January 25th, 2012 at 09:11 | #39

    @Chris Warren
    “Whats the problem? – the greed of capital over the rights of society?”

    Of course. The whole precommitment trade-off was purely a tool to allow the clubs to propagandize and in turn destroy any notion lowing bet limits. Even so, it’s interesting that the government’s costing on the implementation of precommitment technology aligns closely with that of the clubs, but vastly different (read: MORE) than all the independent studies from the Australia Institute and Monash Uni Academics.

  40. Alan
    January 25th, 2012 at 09:12 | #40

    I agree completely about the inevitable waste and in fact with stimulus spending waste is pretty much irrelevant.

    I have heard the Copenhagen paralysis theory. It does not accord with the reality that Gillard and Swann both insisted the CPRS legislation be abandoned in the inner cabinet, but it does suit the government that lost its way narrative. We have a pervasive myth that Rudd was incapable of action and Gillard was a brilliant manager. The reality seems to have been quite different.

  41. rog
    January 25th, 2012 at 09:30 | #41

    In what context is spending on education wasteful?

  42. Dan
    January 25th, 2012 at 09:38 | #42

    When you can get better value for money, and when schools (albeit a handful) get a facility they don’t really need when there are facilities that they do need.

    It’s telling that in NSW, where the program was rolled out quickest, there was the highest rate of complaints about build quality and appropriateness.

  43. Dan
    January 25th, 2012 at 09:43 | #43

    I did a little bit of work on the Stimulus Achievement chapter on the BER Taskforce’s so-called First Report (first, not counting the interim one).

  44. Dan
    January 25th, 2012 at 11:03 | #44

    Can someone give Jack a tap, he’s stuck again.

  45. rog
    January 25th, 2012 at 15:51 | #45

    I am still not convinced that the BER was a waste of money and the evidence against appears to be anecdotal and partisan.

    There were two aims to the BER, to help with education and boost the economy.

  46. Dan
    January 25th, 2012 at 16:19 | #46

    Of course it wasn’t a waste of money.

    ‘to help with education’ – the bit that may have kind of worked;

    ‘boost the economy’ – the bit that definitely worked.

  47. rog
    January 25th, 2012 at 16:47 | #47

    Well it is either a waste or not a waste.

  48. Alan
    January 25th, 2012 at 16:52 | #48


    Why? A ‘wasted’ dollar still goes into the economy and still increases aggregate demand. As far as I know there is no way the macroeconomy can tell naughty stimulus dollars from nice stimulus dollars.

  49. Oliver Townshend
    January 25th, 2012 at 16:53 | #49

    Oh come on, there are degrees of waste. 97% of Principals were happy with what they got in the BER. By your logic, its 0% or 100%.

  50. rog
    January 25th, 2012 at 18:33 | #50

    There are degrees or amounts of waste; not all the BER was a waste so why now say it was “always going to be wasteful” when the forecast failed to eventuate?

    When people say “you can get better value for money” they fail to say when, where and how.

  51. Dan
    January 25th, 2012 at 19:34 | #51

    Hence my point about 20:20 hindsight. If the program rolled out again tomorrow, I would imagine/hope it would be done a fraction better, and again the next time, and so on.

  52. Jill Rush
    January 25th, 2012 at 23:03 | #52

    The BER is a great success as it provided facilities in schools which can make a huge difference to education and what is possible for teachers to achieve. This aspect has been completely undersold – however it was devised under Rudd and was more about keepng people in work. The legacy under Gillard has been uninspiring and this thread shows how true Prof Q’s contention is that Gillard lacks a coherenct vision. The big mistake that Rudd made and following on from that Gillard was to miss the opportunity to reshape the public service to better reflect the community it serves. By handing out billions of dollars for the states to spend, the Federal Government lost control and the kudos.

    Even the changes to the Health system were planned under Rudd. My prediction is that Gillard will be gone by mid year unless she can do more than shore up shaky positions which please corporations but not citizens. People who supported her are losing patience and certainly have no belief in her as the lead citizen of the nation. She hasn’t grown into the job as we could have expected.

  53. Alan
    January 25th, 2012 at 23:29 | #53

    Let us not forget the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which has been watered down (sorry) to the point of uselessness according to the Wentworth Group:

    This good work has not been capitalised on by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to develop a comprehensive and transparent Draft Basin Plan. Instead the Murray-Darling Basin Authority ignores much of the good work and has instead produced a draft Plan that manipulates science in an attempt to engineer a pre-determined political outcome.

    We have a prime minister whose sole idea of governance is ‘Don’t frighten the horses’.

  54. Charles
    January 27th, 2012 at 20:35 | #54

    Gillard got it through, Rudd talked about it, that is the differene

  55. Alan
    January 27th, 2012 at 20:55 | #55

    Gillard got it through? Like pokies reform? Like the basin plan? And Gillard does not have to deal with a deputy prime minister who opposes anything that moves.

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