Home > Oz Politics > Eddie, obeyed

Eddie, obeyed

February 7th, 2013

As last year drew to a close, it seemed quite possible that the Gillard government could be re-elected. The polls were going the right way, the reality of the carbon price had discredited the apocalyptic scare campaign of the Opposition, and the various real or alleged scandals surrounding the government seemed to be fading. The carbon issue is still going the right way, but everyhing else has turned around severely since then: even before the disasters of the last week, the polls had turned bad, pointing to an uphill struggle.

Last week was bad for the government in all sorts of ways, but the Obeid hearings before ICAC were in a league of their own. I was aware of the scandal, of course, but the evidence of Obeid’s total control over the NSW Right, and therefore of the state government, still surprised me. Even more out of the blue was the involvement of two federal ministers, Conroy and Burke. While taking free accommodation from Eddie Obeid looks a lot worse in retrospect than it would have at the time, his dubious reputation goes back a long way.

It’s hard to see how Gillard can credibly promise to clean up this mess. Her long reliance on Thomson and Slipper, the role of the NSW Right in sustaining her power, and, fairly or otherwise, the old allegations about her own career, all count against her. At this point, as Bernard Keane says (h/t Nancy Wallace)

‘If only Labor had an alternative leader who was fixed in the public mind as someone profoundly at odds with Labor powerbrokers …’

Obviously, he’s talking about Kevin Rudd. While it’s late for a shift, the case has become stronger in many ways. Of the people strongly identified with the personal attacks on Rudd last year, Roxon has gone to the backbench, Conroy and Burke are now liabilities, and Swan’s failed surplus push has greatly weakened him.

A simple change of leader would not be enough. Labor needs to excise the tumour that is the NSW Right. If restored to the leadership, Rudd should immediately push for a full-scale intervention into the NSW Branch removing all the existing officials, and putting someone credible like John Faulkner in charge. The whole faction system needs to be reformed or abolished, starting with the dissolution of the NSW RIght. And those compromised by their association with Obeid, Richardson and similar agents of corruption need to be expelled or permanently removed from any positions of power.

I don’t know if it’s too late to stop the election of an Abbott government. But it’s evident that Gillard is not the right person for the job.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:
  1. Alan
    February 11th, 2013 at 15:45 | #1

    It’s just not an argument to say that supporting Rudd is supporting the Coalition.

    Gillard has been using that argument since 2010 and has got the ALP into the real prospect of electoral oblivion with it. Although the 2010 election was always going to be difficult after Gillard and Swan persuaded the government to abandon the ETS, the difficulties were made much, much worse by the relentless negative campaign that Gillard waged. She could not talk about the GFC because that would admit that Rudd was a good prime minister. So she talked endlessly, and ordered the candidates to talk endlessly, about WorkChoices. She then negotiated the mining tax into non-existence, adopted border polices harsher than Howard’s and relied on power-brokers like Eddie Obeid to retain leadership.

    I have no idea what else Julia Gillard can do to ensure a Coalition victory, but thus far she has shown extraordinary capacity at finding ways to give Abbot the government and I suspect she will keep on finding them while she remains leader.

    In politics you have to argue *for* something and endlessly repeating that supporting Rudd is equivalent to supporting Abbot does not cut it.

  2. Fran Barlow
    February 11th, 2013 at 19:00 | #2

    @Alan

    In politics you have to argue *for* something …

    Tony Abbott shows that this is not essential, and may even be counter-productive, especially if you have the media to ride shotgun for you.

  3. Fran Barlow
    February 11th, 2013 at 19:01 | #3

    FTR … I agree that in politics you should argue for something — ideally, how things can be different and better.

  4. Alan
    February 11th, 2013 at 19:08 | #4

    I am not sure it would be wise for the Gillard government to base their electoral strategy on receiving the same get out of jail free card as Tony Abbot.

  5. Fran Barlow
    February 11th, 2013 at 19:21 | #5

    @Alan

    Obviously not, though to be fair, they largely have themselves to blame for this. Since at least late 2009, they have been enabling the LNP and their media. They have never confronted this problem and are now paying a very heavy price for their lack of spine.

  6. Jim Rose
    February 12th, 2013 at 05:43 | #6

    @John Quiggin Australian policymakers from at least 1971 viewed inflation as not a consequence of their monetary policy decisions. When did Canberra policy makers accept that inflation was a monetary phenomenon?

    There were repeated references by them to wage-price spirals and both unsuccessful (1977) and successful attempts (1981) at wage freezes.

    The prices and incomes accord from 1983 onwards was just another 1970s wage tax trade-off. An Incomes policy attributes inflation to non-monetary factors, as did Fraser and Lynch regularly.

    • It was not until 1980 that the Fraser government’s monetary policy became genuinely anti-inflationary. With a lag, these changes halved inflation to the mid-single digits by 1983. The implementation lag on the 1975 Monday conference programme must have been long and variable and lasted for a three year window!? Three years out of 20 is hardly a monetarist hegemony!

    • Australia had lower CPI inflation in the 1980s than the 1970s, but this was marred by rebounds in 1985–86 and 1988–90 to near 9%.

    The monetary policy regime change in the late 1980s was triggered by factors besides rising inflation: a demonic view of currant account.

    After several years of high interest rates, the budget papers forecasted a moderate slowing:
    • The budget GDP forecast for 1990-91 was 2% with an actual of minus 0.4%; for inflation the actual and forecast were 5.3% versus 6.5%; 1989-90 inflation rate was 8% with GDP growth of 3.3%.

    • In 1991-92, the budget GDP forecast was 1.5% with an actual of 2.1%; for inflation the actual and forecast were 1.9% versus 3.8%.

    • In 1992-93, the budget papers forecast for inflation 3% for an actual of 1%.

    • In 1993-94, the budget forecast for inflation 3.5% for an actual of 1.8%.

    The monetarists in the Treasury, entranced as they were by Friedman’s 1975 visit, still had not clicked to the link between a tight monetary policy and low inflation as late as 1993.

    Australia pursued a stop-go monetary policy from 1971 to the early 1990s.

  7. Will
    February 12th, 2013 at 11:57 | #7

    Jim Rose :
    @John Quiggin Australian policymakers from at least 1971 viewed inflation as not a consequence of their monetary policy decisions. When did Canberra policy makers accept that inflation was a monetary phenomenon?
    There were repeated references by them to wage-price spirals and both unsuccessful (1977) and successful attempts (1981) at wage freezes.
    The prices and incomes accord from 1983 onwards was just another 1970s wage tax trade-off. An Incomes policy attributes inflation to non-monetary factors, as did Fraser and Lynch regularly.
    • It was not until 1980 that the Fraser government’s monetary policy became genuinely anti-inflationary. With a lag, these changes halved inflation to the mid-single digits by 1983. The implementation lag on the 1975 Monday conference programme must have been long and variable and lasted for a three year window!? Three years out of 20 is hardly a monetarist hegemony!
    • Australia had lower CPI inflation in the 1980s than the 1970s, but this was marred by rebounds in 1985–86 and 1988–90 to near 9%.
    The monetary policy regime change in the late 1980s was triggered by factors besides rising inflation: a demonic view of currant account.
    After several years of high interest rates, the budget papers forecasted a moderate slowing:
    • The budget GDP forecast for 1990-91 was 2% with an actual of minus 0.4%; for inflation the actual and forecast were 5.3% versus 6.5%; 1989-90 inflation rate was 8% with GDP growth of 3.3%.
    • In 1991-92, the budget GDP forecast was 1.5% with an actual of 2.1%; for inflation the actual and forecast were 1.9% versus 3.8%.
    • In 1992-93, the budget papers forecast for inflation 3% for an actual of 1%.
    • In 1993-94, the budget forecast for inflation 3.5% for an actual of 1.8%.
    The monetarists in the Treasury, entranced as they were by Friedman’s 1975 visit, still had not clicked to the link between a tight monetary policy and low inflation as late as 1993.
    Australia pursued a stop-go monetary policy from 1971 to the early 1990s.

    Well, there you have it.
    a) Government policy can be effective
    b) There is a significant lag until implementation of government policy
    c) There is a further lag until the effects begin to be seen in the economy ( b) and c) are inside and outside lag)

    But only for conservative politicians of course.

  8. derrida derider
    February 12th, 2013 at 12:15 | #8

    @kevin1 “I never understood why the ALP grownups … could not be bothered to cajole [Rudd] into improved workpractices”

    Believe me, plenty tried. Why do you think he went through staff at such a ferocious rate?
    Lets just say he is not a good listener.

  9. Socrates
    February 12th, 2013 at 12:33 | #9

    I find the arguemnts about Rudd’s work practices about as weak as Craig Thompson’s defence. This is not to excuse Rudd – his nature was very well known after his stint as head of the Office of Cabinet in the Goss government in the early 90s. He was not liked then. But so what? These people are supposed to be professional politicians. You have to work with people you don’t like in every field. Those who cannot do so are rightly seen as emotionally immature.

    Indeed, this is why I find the attitude of the Labor right so extraordinarily niaive. They undertake the most appalling character assassination of their former political ally, which even if true, reflected very badly on THEIR character. They can’t blame the media for that.

  10. February 12th, 2013 at 13:49 | #10

    Socrates: the stories his former ministers told were not just about them disliking the way Rudd treated them – they were about a dysfunctional way of running a government. (A wall around Rudd preventing access; his micromanaging things; ignoring warnings on matters like the insulation scheme.)

    Revisit some of the post Rudd stories and try telling me this was sound leadership and government:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/rudd-undone-by-the-enemy-within/story-e6frg6z6-1225887059051

  11. Socrates
    February 12th, 2013 at 14:50 | #11

    Steve

    I have worked in State and Federal governments before and if the public service act did not threaten people like me with jail for commenting, similar stories could be told about almost every government I have ever worked in. Would you suggest there have been no similar stories under Gillard or Howard? Howard was unbelievably controlling, with every cabinet document going through the PMC under Arthur Sinodinos before it went anywhere.

  12. Alan
    February 12th, 2013 at 15:13 | #12

    The Rudd horror stories come exclusively from Gillard and her supporters and they all postdate the Gillard coup. In fact most of them long postdate the Gillard coup after it had become obvious that the original justifications for the coup had gone down like a lead balloon. The problem is that they can be tested against the record.

    When the GFC hit it was Gillard and Swan who dithered while Rudd argued for and then implemented a response that, uniquely, kept Australia out of recession. And, contrary to the tough-as-nails great negotiator claim, Gillard’s actual record is extraordinary policy timidity and such triumphs at negotiation as the $126 million mining tax.

  13. David Irving (no relation)
    February 12th, 2013 at 15:20 | #13

    steve from brisbane, just reflect for a moment on where you read those stories, as in, “Is that true, or did you read it in The Australian?”

    That said, I suspect Rudd was pretty disfunctional by the end of his time as PM.

  14. February 12th, 2013 at 15:28 | #14

    Socrates: on the one hand you claim “You have to work with people you don’t like in every field. Those who cannot do so are rightly seen as emotionally immature,” but when handed a lengthy article listing the ways people assessed Rudd’s handling of situations and people to be emotionally immature, it’s all “well, bad luck that’s what you have to put up with.”

    Frankly, I just don’t believe your relativism of “all governments/politicians are like that.”

  15. February 12th, 2013 at 15:34 | #15

    David Irving: Oh God yes, The Australian, being one arm of the ABC (the Australian/Bolt/Catallaxy collective) has become a truly terrible paper. But still, not every single report is going to be wrong. That article obviously had multiple sources covering many incidents and read to me as balanced for that type of reporting. And it’s not likely they were doing it to help out the Gillard government, is it?

  16. Fran Barlow
    February 12th, 2013 at 15:52 | #16

    @derrida derider

    Kevin1: never understood why the ALP grownups … could not be bothered to cajole [Rudd] into improved workpractices”

    DD: Believe me, plenty tried. Why do you think he went through staff at such a ferocious rate? Lets just say he is not a good listener.

    This was the thing I always found hardest to understand. If they were willing to roll him and had the numbers to do so, surely they could compel the behaviour they wanted from him? It seems clear that he was willing, under pressure from those hwe was allegedly antagonising, to abandon the idea of a S57 DD, and to defer the CPRS indefinitely. Agreeing to respect reasonable work processes and to adopt respectful and collegiate practice sounds a much smaller concession than that. My impression was that he valued his position far more than any matter of principle and would have been amenable to pressure as a consequence. he would have to have become a god listener.

    That he was allowed to act as he allegedly did reflects very poorly on the people around him, who, if we believe the reports, allowed a bad situation to fester without trying an intervention until it was much too late not to pay a price for it. My best guess is that they weren’t ready, in 2009, to replace him with Gillard — possibly because they weren’t sure they wanted her either — and perhaps she wasn’t all that interested at that stage, and so did nothing.

  17. February 12th, 2013 at 16:03 | #17

    Fran, I expect there would be some people who have worked with Rudd who would find a great deal of mirth in reading your “well, why not just make him change his personality and all work practices” suggestion.

  18. Tim Macknay
    February 12th, 2013 at 18:48 | #18

    … he would have to have become a god listener

    If I remember correctly Fran, he already was a “god listener”. ;)

  19. Alan
    February 12th, 2013 at 18:49 | #19

    steve

    The problem with the Rudd-as-autocrat theory is that it is plainly contradicted by the historical record. This rigid and unbending autocrat let Gillard and Swan talk him out of a double dissolution and the ETS. That just does not match the claims being made about Rudd’s decision-making habits, even when they are supported by any number of anonymous senior bureaucrat quotes. The anonymous senior bureaucrat has been happily leaking whatever their masters tell them to leak since about the time of Ramses the Great.

    I suspect, regrettably, the true answer to Fran’s question is there was never a delegation asking Rudd to get his act together for fear that he actually might and the coup would become impossible. There were such delegations to Hawke, Hayden and Whitlam. Gillard admits there was not to Rudd.

    ‘Oh but if I had tired to talk to him to would have been mean and sworn at me’ is not really a convincing excuse for not trying to resolve what is supposed to have been a pressing matter of state. Cabinet ministers, particularly deputy prime ministers, have a job if the prime minister is messing up and Gillard, by her own admission, did not do it.

  20. Fran Barlow
    February 12th, 2013 at 19:16 | #20

    @Tim

    If I remember correctly Fran, he already was a “god listener”.

    I knew there was a reason to avoid the string “good”. As far as I can tell, there’s no semantic connection between it and “god” but instances like this invite me to wonder. ;-)

    @alan

    Quite.

  21. alfred venison
    February 12th, 2013 at 19:20 | #21

    the talk about rudd’s governing style is a crock – that would explain why lindsay tanner resigned after the coup, would it?

    rudd was removed because he would not back down on the resource tax.

    after the mammoth public relations campaign failed to dissuade rudd, multinational resource extraction corporations leaned on their tool, the governing party’s right wing, and the tool called its thane with the burning ambition, and the thane did what the magnate’s public relations campaign couldn’t – secured the removal, between elections, of a leader who was unpopular with international capital, and whose success, in raising gov’t revenue at the expense of multinational corporate profit, would have set a dangerous example to other countries struggling for cash, while multinationals score windfall profits.

    people on this blog have heard me rabbit on before, but this happened in canada, too, only a few months before rudd’s removal, when the popular premier of alberta called on multinational resource extraction corporations to pay long deferred royalties they owed. the multinationals leaned on his party establishment, which withdrew its support so he couldn’t contest the next election.

    so, within months of each other, two popular leaders in first world countries, each trying to get better deals for their people, were removed from office following pressure from multinational resource extraction corporations brought to bear on their party establishments.

    it is blinding obvious to me that rudd’s removal was a post-modern coup d’etat – coup d’etats that are engineered to appear like internal party machinations, but which are the result of extraordinary pressures brought to bear by multinational corporations on party establishments. no more messy occupations of the town hall or the radio station, no more tanks on the streets, when you can get your tool to summon its thane & secure the same result while projecting all the time the appearance of business as usual. with a slack media, that doesn’t analyse & thinks its a player, its easy to spread the myth that no one unpopular with international capital has been removed from elected office, no, its just a party room brawl. meanwhile the biggest component of the canadian gnp is running a deficit budget and australia is cheated out of its rightful share of the record breaking profits made out of its minerals.

    i despise gillard – i hope rudd topples her – given the opportunity, she put the satisfaction of her overweening ambition ahead of her country’s interests. no wonder tanner resigned.
    alfred venison

  22. Fran Barlow
    February 12th, 2013 at 20:09 | #22

    @alfred venison

    rudd was removed because he would not back down on the resource tax.

    True but misleading. He only proposed the RSPT at the moment he did to stave off being removed and staunch his sliding popularity after he had squibbed on climate change. He needed a new issue in a hurry.

    The reality is that he was a very poor leader, even as ALP leaders go. He had held a brilliant hand in mid-2009 and contrived to squander it, trying to make a game out of climate change policy, and squaling like a stuck pig over “people smugglers”. He then spat on the BER and HIP, sacked a minister without cause, and then dumped climate policy onto the never never.

    The man simply lacked the acumen to run even a right-of-centre government. He didn’t understand his own caucus and how they worked, but began, like Desai, metaphorically drinking his own urine — and a little of that of Beattie — without the latter’s comparative charm.

    The ALP was silly to let him get that lost and stupid for removing him when they did. I was appalled because it was read as weakness and encouraged every nutbag reactionary to try their luck — but the fact remains that Rudd was largely the architect of his own downfall.

  23. Alan
    February 12th, 2013 at 20:26 | #23

    Like Fran, I think Rudd was less than brilliant at managing his government. But he did have a history. he was a truly dreadful local MP when first elected and taught himself to campaign and deal with his electorate. Unlike many politicians Rudd has a significant record of learning how to deal with his weaknesses. You can tell how well Rudd learnt to campaign by comparing how MPs react when offered a campaign visit by Rudd or Gillard.

    Actually, the MRRT was in progress long before Gillard and Swan were in striking distance. The MRRT played a major role in Rudd’s removal for two reasons. (1) The tax as first proposed was quite different from what Rudd and Swan had initially agreed. The states were not on side. One of the three big miners not on side. The expected revenue was already committed in the May budget. (2) The tax allowed Gillard and the gnomes of Terrigal to work on the government-in-chaos theory.

    The weirdest part of that whole incident was that BHP was initially prepared to talk to the government, then stopped talking without any explanation, then resumed talks the instant Gillard became prime minister. I have no idea what this means but it was very, very strange.

  24. Lyn Gain
    February 12th, 2013 at 20:33 | #24

    I don’t think you’re rabbiting on Alfred – I think there is a lot of truth in what you say. But I don’t think the multinationals pressure was enough in itself. The other motivation was Rudd’s refusing to bow to the factions, especially the right. I have maintained consistently from the beginning that the RSPT was an electoral winner, as far as the voting public was concerned, and I don’t agree with Fran that he proposed it because of his personal falling popularity. I think he believed in it and thought it was achievable and would win them the election, which it would have been if his colleagues had (a) any guts, and (b) not wanted to get rid of him.
    Nevertheless, I’ll stick with what I said in my original post – the thought of the confusion in the public’s minds and the appalling reporting we are likely to see from the mainstream media, makes any leadership change at this late stage unlikely to be a winner.
    Re the mainstream media, interesting to note that Lenore Taylor, the only reasonable journalist left on the Herald, has been poached to become political editor for the Guardian.

  25. alfred venison
    February 12th, 2013 at 20:42 | #25

    mitch hooke & marius kloppers & andrew forrest were largely the architects of rudd’s downfall.

    their cronies in the labor party right wing were its enablers – gillard was their instrument.

    the rest is background noise they hide behind.
    a.v.

  26. Fran Barlow
    February 12th, 2013 at 21:47 | #26

    @Lyn Gain

    I don’t agree with Fran that he proposed it because of his personal falling popularity. I think he believed in it

    Doubtless he did believe in it. My point was not that a profits-based tax on mined resources was wrong or put forward disingenuously — but that it was proposed at the time it was due to panic on his part. Had he simply spoken of ‘achieving a better return on Australia’s mineral resources for the people, offering ‘a fairer distribution of Australia’s mineral wealth’ based on a model similar to that in Henry, there could have been no counter-campaign because there’d have been no target. He should have gone to the election on getting carbon pricing done — and that in November under S57 if necessary, facing Turnbull — based on Garnaut. He’d have won handsomely.

    He squibbed and had to play catchup.

  27. Alan
    February 12th, 2013 at 22:03 | #27

    The weird thing is that if Rudd the Autocrat had simply told Gillard and Swan that he was going ahead with a double dissolution on the ETS that would have been the end of them. As it is they are not going to get very kind treatment in the history books, specially if, as seems most likely, their foolish and grubby coup cut the prospect of a decade of labor governments to 2 terms ending in electoral oblivion.

  28. Fran Barlow
    February 12th, 2013 at 22:09 | #28

    @Alan

    Or even better, if he’d made clear that he was implementing Garnaut in its original form in August 2009 and invited the Libs to oppose it twice, that would have been that. They’d have caved. If he’d refused to appoint the Libs his examiners on A.S. and simply processed onshore, again, they’d have had nothing. If he’d stood up for HIP and BER he’d have made them look stupid. He could then have campaigned on sharing the wealth of the mining boom without saying how that would be done — (he’d be consulting) and he’d have won the 2010 election in a canter. He could then have got that done in the next term, along with health reform.

    The man lacked acumen.

  29. alfred venison
    February 12th, 2013 at 22:11 | #29

    @Lyn Gain
    pressure from multinationals & conflict with factions go hand in hand. standing up for the tax meant standing up against at least the right faction within the party, while standing up against the multinational corporations outside. it was a big ask at any time but more so, especially given his deputy, who also had committed after ’07 to reforming the factional system, was in fact colluding with the factional system, which was itself responding to pressure from multinational mining interests, to bring him down.

    had rudd been able to successfully stand up to the multinational mining corporations, it would have rocked the alp factional system & they knew it. especially the right faction with its crony links to mining interests. the image of a national leader, who had stood his ground, for the national interest, and won against odds, would have carried them through the next election and on to serious reform – including reform of the alp faction system – with cash to fund it. it would have been a blow to the faction system & an example to other resource rich nation states that may be facing rising societal needs & declining revenue & multinational corporations that “repatriate” profits off shore. -a.v.

  30. Alan
    February 12th, 2013 at 23:02 | #30

    @Fran Barlow

    Lacking acumen may be true, but was not his major problem. His major problem was a deputy prepared to do whatever she could to destabilise the government.

  31. Jim Rose
    February 13th, 2013 at 05:38 | #31

    A key to stopping corruption is competitive elections on fair boundaries. Topology software in the U.S. can gerrymander in a way unimaginable 10 years ago.

    Half of Australia disgraced itself when it voted down the fair elections referenda in 1988. It was a fair constitutional amendment unlike Fred Daly’s crude attempt to entrench population-based malapportionment in 1974.

    Federalism divides power in general and control of law enforcement in particular.

    FDR federalised local corruption because he did not want to take the heat for local chicanery in new deal programmes. Australia could do with similar laws.

    A powerful upper house elected with proportional representation is the next step. In South Australia alone, family first and no pokies have 2 MLCs each. NSW upper-house is a mosaic of small parties. There are Green MLCs. The DLP made its comeback as a Vic MLC. There is now a DLP senator. Katter’s mob will be next. They are all parties full of cantankerous types.

    Small government is the next step because there are fewer toll-gates to patronage and preferment if there is little regulation and few government spending programmes

  32. Alan
    February 13th, 2013 at 09:29 | #32

    Now that the Minerals Council has threatened that all bets are off if the MRRT is changed in any way, Julia Gillard must immediately call for a change of Labor leader under the Gillard doctrine of 2010. This is clearly a good government that has lost its way.

Comment pages
1 2 3 11317
Comments are closed.