Let’s get this show back on the road

Looking at the latest TV news I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m sick of the confected outrage surrounding the Australia Day incident. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to make the Labor Party realise they have to go back to Kevin Rudd, and sooner rather than later, then I suppose I can live with it.

120 thoughts on “Let’s get this show back on the road

  1. dear John Quiggin
    yes, that’s what i’m quietly hoping emerges.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  2. Good grief, JQ. Kevin Rudd does not have the charisma to win another election. When he starts talking people glaze over and start thinking about gardening. It is not that he is not capable, sincere or acting in the best interests of Australia, it is that his deliveries have the leadership qualities of an Anglican Sunday Sermon.

    Gillard is hitting more balls than she misses and is doing well enough to earn a second innings.

    The pokie thing was a huge mistake which I cannot fathom, and will be the backdown when it is reversed that I will welcome. Wilkie will win that battle, in due course.

    The rest of it is Abbott’s sour grapes, pure and simple. The man is a gutter snipe school yard bully with nothing of substance to offer, that is what Howard liked about him…Abbott made a lot of noise and offered no threat to his, Howard’s, political dominance. Abbott is the Peter principle’s highest achievement…in Australia.

  3. Bears pointing out that recent Rudd v Gillard (52/30) polling has him down from 60/26 last year and Labor voters split between the two. Regardless of how appalling Gillard’s tenure may seem the idea that a Rudd Restoration is a clear winner needs much closer scrutiny than it’s currently getting.

    Caucus antipathy aside there isn’t any guarantee that he has learnt anything (he’s forgotten nothing, that’s a given) apart from Don’t Listen To Arbib, particularly viz. his leadership and office style, both substantial contributors to Labor’s mid-’10 morass in their own right.

    Add to this the spectacle of another #spill, the policy shifts, his need to re-establish relationships with the crossbench (not to mention the possibility of a rush to an election to get past that) and there’s reason for wondering if it might not be better in the longer term to let Gillard take the party to a defeat (now a gentler prospect than in the 61-39 dog days) and do the bloodletting afterward.

  4. At #2 we see a classic Gillardism. Capability, sincerity and acting in the best interests of Australia do not really matter. What really matters is, drum roll, the rhetorical skills of a politician who cannot communicate in anything but cliché and whose speeches consist exclusively of a grab bag of bland recycled nostrums fuelled only the latest market research.

  5. Alan,

    Of course “Capability, sincerity and acting in the best interests of Australia” are all essential ingredients of high office, but winning elections is as well. I think that Gillard as enough political momentum up to breeze through the next election. But certainly a “a grab bag of bland recycled nostrums fuelled only the latest market research” is as affronting as a monotone lecture with endless detail. Gillard would do well to rethink her content, even get better speech writers, before the next election.

  6. How is it Gillard’s fault that one of her press officers goes rogue or that professional Aboriginal activists show their true colors by monstering her and burning the flag on the most spurious of justifications?

    Obviously Gillard has to go because she actually gets things done rather than engage in an endless navel-gazing exercise.

  7. I think “confected outrage” is pretty accurate – from what I’ve seen it was no more aggressive or unlawful than a few of the Murray-Darling scheme protests or perhaps Alan & Angry’s Excellent Carbon Tax rally at Parliament House.

    But seriously, Kevin Rudd? That schism almost killed Labor the first time.
    If he’s feeling unsatisfied, send him of as ambassador to the UN or the Vatican.
    Maybe they could disinter Keating, now _there_ was a Prime Minister.

  8. There is no link between the protests against Abbott and K Rudds salivations for PM.

    The Federal Police created the scene by dragging the Prime Minister through the crowd and not quietly out a rear entrance.

    Given that aborigines are continuing to be so mistreated by the Intervention you can understand their frustrations – for example:


    Would you work for $7 hr plus rations?

  9. There is a feeling about that Labor is now looking for a policy agenda for the next year or two, but what on earth gives people like JQ the impression that Rudd is going to help in that regard?

    Rudd came into power with an agenda that was obvious: reform the unpopular Workchoices; take climate change more seriously (as the world seemed about to do) and get a response going; apologise to aborigines; and be nicer to people arriving by boat (the public really did feel then that offshore processing and mandatory detention in the desert had become pointless and too harsh.) Otherwise it was merely a matter of him being as middle of the road as Howard, and his rise to popularity came via a smiley breakfast TV persona which it seems was always widely known by people who had worked closely with him as not reflecting day to day reality.

    Rudd’s own “big ideas” summit came up with little and was an unimpressive bit of posturing.

    His much promoted ability to speak Mandarin does not seem to have done much to impress the country. His quip in correcting the “most popular leader” comment at that international meeting was extremely cringeworthy.

    Rudd’s articles in The Monthly were not, I thought, particularly highly regarded as pieces of political or cultural analysis. Besides which, as John Howard (who spent little time outlining or analysing political philosophies in essay or book form) showed, the electorate tends to be more impressed with outcomes rather than the intellectual justification for policies.

    The only “up” for Rudd is that he is puzzlingly more popular with the electorate, at least for the moment.

    Is that what intellectual support for Rudd comes down to?

  10. I’m not at all convinced that Rudd has learned a whole lot. While he does have considerably more vision that Gillard (or Abbott), I think his personal style – both his wonkish public persona and his prescriptive, micromanagerial tendencies outside the public eye – is his Achilles’ Heel. If Gillard is to go, then I think Rudd would be a poor replacement. In fact, we already know how poor. And I like the guy.

  11. @BilB

    I assume you meant ‘breeze’ in the sense of ‘we breezed through the Battle of Gettysburg’ or ‘breezily establishing those Normandy beachheads’ or ‘we’ll just breeze down and grab those trapped sailors from the Kursk’.

  12. Dan :
    I’m not at all convinced that Rudd has learned a whole lot. While he does have considerably more vision that Gillard (or Abbott), I think his personal style – both his wonkish public persona and his prescriptive, micromanagerial tendencies outside the public eye – is his Achilles’ Heel. If Gillard is to go, then I think Rudd would be a poor replacement. In fact, we already know how poor. And I like the guy.

    Pretty much echos my thoughts exactly.

  13. Rudd was the only head of government in the world who got his economy through the GFC without going into recession. You either accept the Murdoch press spin that is was a hangover from Howard’s good government or you have to accept that Rudd has a significant achievement. It is worth recalling that Rudd’s stimulus measures were (at least initially) opposed by Gillard just as she opposed other measures like the original carbon plan.

    Nattering on about Rudd’s rhetoric and persona goes nowhere. If Gillard is such a successful leader, why is Labor facing electoral oblivion under her leadership?

  14. Given that Turnbull was indicating that the Opposition supported in large part much of the Rudd government response to the GFC, I find it hard to personally credit Rudd for what happened. There is also no doubt that the insulation scheme was a good idea with terrible implementation in the face of warnings from state based regulators of what would happen if you rushed in with a bunch of opportunistic fly by night installers. People who found they had to have foil insulation removed in a hurry due to fire or electrocution risk were rightly very annoyed, even if the rate of house fires caused (in retrospect) was not high.

  15. @Alan

    Yes, Rudd very sensibly took the advice of Ken Henry, and then totally mismanaged the PR surrounding the sensible taking of sensible advice. I don’t say this to denigrate the stimulus, which was a significant achievement on Rudd’s part – and, to be fair, the Coalition had left the nation’s balance sheet in good shape. But I think any half-competent government in a similar situation would have done the same (Geoff Gallop maintains the Coalition would have done the same), albeit maybe not as effectively. I think Gillard would have come around soon enough were she running the country, but if you disagree (and you want to argue she’s incompetent) you can have it.

    Incidentally, I think you mean ‘developed world’ (and in fact I think Canada avoided technical recession as well) but I guess I’m splitting hairs here.

  16. I’m no fan of the Murdoch press, but I’m quite convinced the primary things that held us in good stead was our financial regulations, mining boom revenue and a low public dept from the Howard era. Sure, the stimulus measures helped, but there was fortunately plenty of margin in spending capacity to pay for them. Was Costello the only ozzie MP to publicly predict the GFC beforehand?

  17. The Bank of Canada seems to feel they went into recession, but of course that could just be pro-Rudd spin. And for the record I do not mean the ‘developed’ world.

  18. @Alan

    From a different source, I believe that Canada did experience a mild technical recession, but as far as I can see what you posted talks about the effects of the global recession on Canada’s economy.

    And wait a minute: you think that every country in the world except Australia went into recession during the GFC? Evidence please.

  19. Just so people know: Despite being a routine supporter of the Coalition, and the Howard government, I have spent much of the last couple of years being hounded by the strange collection of people at Catallaxy as being a crypto-socialist because I was appalled, and remain appalled, at the opportunistic way Tony Abbott rode into the leadership on the back of dumb, populist campaigning of media climate skeptics, and how this issue has captivated the Right in Australia and the US. That the conservative side of politics has decided to wage a culture war on the back of bad science is a major embarrassment for it; compounded in the US by a weird revival of a form of voodoo economics that involves dealing with a serious deficit by promising both tax cuts yet the same or increased spending on things Tea Partiers want.

    I think that Abbott has risen above his natural level of competency, and can’t really see the Coalition regaining much in intellectual credibility until the hard climate skeptic rump is cleared out. (Which, unfortunately, is likely going to take the next El Nino, which has been slow in coming around!)

    So, I criticise Rudd from a position of respecting the seriousness of his intent on at least one issue, but I just think he displays intellectual pretentiousness generally and poor implementation of policies even if they are worthy.

  20. I’d be happy for Rudd to return as long as it’s not the same focus-group-driven Rudd that abandoned the CPRS, along with the ALP’s credibility, and as long as he stops listening to the idiots that advised him to drop the CPRS in the first place. That’s when the ALP’s popularity slide began, virtually to the day, when it showed pandering to fiocus groups and shock jocks was more important to it than, you know, actually trying to do the right thing.

    I mean, if Rudd wants to be the leader that;s fine, as long as he acts like one.

  21. I don’t understand why anyone from the left would want Rudd back. Rudd was and is an excellent politician in the short term, but was a terrible governor and would be terrible again. Gillard is an excellent governor, but has significant flaws in her political nous because she plays the long game and does it rather passively. Ideally you’d have Rudd for the election period and Gillard for the rest of the term, but you have to pick one. I know which one I’d rather be backing: not the one who announces everything and delivers nothing.

    Apart from anything else, Gillard has had the added burden of a millstone around her neck in the form of Rudd himself and his Machiavellian backers, something Rudd didn’t face (until he was suddenly turfed). Rewarding the constant white-anting of the Ruddstoration putsch would be bad for the party. The NSW Right needs to die a well-deserved death, lest the party turn into Weekend at Bernie’s.

  22. dear labor party hq
    labor under gillard is in trouble because gillard is not really a socialist. i’ll be out with it. she is an amoral careerist who’s career has peaked. it peaked when rudd stood firm on the resource super profit tax while enduring the relentless pressure of murdoch (and his sex-less lapdog the abc) and kloppers & hooke & the other corporate oligarch/bludger.

    gillard’s career peaked when she didn’t resist this pressure, like rudd did, but instead, like rudd did not, acquiesced to & colluded with certain labor right figures & allowed herself to be placed at the head the treacherous cabal to topple rudd, jettison rudd’s resource tax & replace him with herself (is it any wonder?). the rest is history: one damn thing after another and now we’re here.

    talk of low polling at the time is incomplete imo. as i recall those times rudd was beginning to turn it around (public opinion) on this issue when he was toppled by his deputy & that cabal of foreign-interest serving toadies (australian-american friendship society, in-bloody-deed).

    you want her to “stand by her man”? they mock with veiled reference to tammy wynette. well, actually, yes indeed, when “her man” is under enormous pressure from foreign based interests to jettison the resources tax that will benefit the country into the future, that’s precisely what i expect. it was a coup d’etat by proxy & gillard’s amoral careerist acquiescence in it advantaged the forces of international corporatism at the expense of the country. its a zero sum game & australia lost because of her decision. she has to go.

    gillard has, and communicates, no vision, because she has none and she has none because she’s not really at heart a socialist. she is a conservative without a cause save advancing her career, and it shows. tanner bloody knew. rudd at least as a christian socialist is a socialist. amoral careerists are empty ciphers available for filling in by the next power broker working on behalf who pays the piper picks the tune.

    i like rudd a lot & i for one want him back. and before the queensland election, too. the handling of the gfc was brilliant & the resource super profit tax idea was brilliant and if she’d stood with him, a united front, instead of participating in the shameful coup d’etat by proxy, i’m convinced it would have carried. she didn’t stand by him on that one and i think i know why i sure as hell judge her by it.

    put that in your pipe and smoke it labor party strategists if you’re reading this.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  23. mOnty wrote: Rewarding the constant white-anting of the Ruddstoration putsch would be bad for the party.

    Quite. Let’s not forget, right from the election campaign, with the famous “I just can’t make eye contact with her” photo with Gillard, there hasn’t been a strong sense of Rudd giving it (the Gillard leadership) his best shot.

    It’s a real tragedy for Labor that she didn’t win with a handful of more seats and have been in a position to just show an unhappy camper the door.

  24. It may that Gillard has run her race, altho I’d dispute that she has been any worse than any other politician about the place the last ten years. The country has fallen into a deep crisis since she became pm?
    I’ll bet most other countries, including the USA at the moment, would dearly love to be experiencing what our tabloids confect as “crisis” and the end of all life as we know it, here in Australia.

  25. Bringing back Rudd would confirm in the minds of voters the assiduously cultivated Coalition characterisation of Labor as hopeless power-hungry back-stabbing liars. Gillard is unlikely to win another term, but Rudd has no chance.

  26. I’d argue that returning Rudd to the leadership would be seen as a principled act, precisely because it would be an admission by the factions that they blew it when they installed Gillard. Electing someone else to the leadership would not have this advantage.

    Australia is definitely not in a state of crisis. It is a measure of this prime minister’s political incompetence that it is widely believed that we are. It is also a measure of her unwillingness to talk about economic management (apart from her obsession with the surplus) because that would mean pointing at Rudd’s actions during the GFC, actions which she initially opposed.

  27. Can you explain what the difference is between Gillard and Rudd?

    All major parties and leaders look as different as Coles and Woolworths to me.

  28. @Alan: Australia is definitely not in a state of crisis. It is a measure of this prime minister’s political incompetence that it is widely believed that we are.

    Rubbish. It’s a media meme pushed along by the same right wing pundits that got Abbott the top job and whipped up a frenzy about a “broken promise” on the carbon pricing.

    Gillard did handle herself poorly and equivocally during the campaign on that issue – I’ll grant you that. But she deserves a fair bit of credit for getting through a package that (as far as I can tell) most people say is better than the original Rudd scheme.

    As for the political credit or pain she (or Labor) will reap from that – I think it will depend largely on factors beyond their control. If the international economy really tanks, the “this is the wrong tax at the wrong time” line of the Coalition will bite harder than it should.

  29. @Megan

    The important exception ts that the Coalition, if elected, will enact policies resulting in the redistribution of a shitload of wealth upwards. That’s an important difference. It mustn’t be ignored or forgotten.

  30. @steve

    Labor leaders can expect a rough ride from the media. That’s not fair but it is a fact of life and good leaders find ways to deal with it. This leader has not. She ran the worst election campaign in living memory and has not improved since.


    Gillard’s focus seems to be neoliberal ‘efficiency’ with very little regard for fairness. her statements on education, for instance, imply that the education system is the only vehicle available for achieving a fair society.

    Rudd is much less populist on refugees. His record in government shows that he does not regard the Washington consensus on economics as holy writ. He was considerably more adept at foreign relations and would not have committed howlers like the Malaysia non-solution. I doubt he would have just opened uranium exports to India, for example, without seeking any concessions at all.

    The legislative record of the Rudd government was not inconsiderable, specially when you recall he faced a hostile senate, which Gilalrd does not.

  31. @steve from brisbane
    Absolutely! If you only followed the mainstream commercial television news for example, you would be under the impression that all our polies do is argue in question time and deliver witty humorous one liners or soundbites outside.
    I’m as sick as anyone of the typical towing-party-lines BS responses, but there appears to be little attention span for policy details out there.
    Interesting, hers and other politician’s popularity swings so sharply (for the viewing audience) to the positive on shows like Q&A where actual policy and ethical discussions are heard with sensible explanations.

  32. dear labor party hq readers
    like Alan said in reply to Megan, and … rudd would not have squandered decades of patient diplomatic work, by successive administrations, and abandon the “abstain” vote on palestine/unesco. where does australia go now with that one? further up amerika’s ass? a little less latitude to move in response to emerging situations – that’s her legacy on that one, the loss of a modicum of independence.

    nor would the diplomat in rudd have countenanced cutting of wilkie, who is now, as it were, a “free radical”, definitely not bonded to or beholden to labor and bearing a bent shulder-load of resentement.. remember rudd assiduously cultivating relations with independents when it wasn’t needed for numbers? wasted now, flushed down the toilet by a shallow opportunist. will any of them now trust labor while she’s in charge? i sure as hell wouldn’t

    rudd was at least heartening on refugees & had the churchies working with him. gillard is not heartening, and she bumbles it. and that after the earlier neo-colonialist insult that was the east timor solution.

    and as for gillard’s statements on education, just one thing: the morphing, under her leadership, of the department of education science & training into part of education, employment & workplace relations says a lot to me. rudd has a greater regard for, and understanding of, the role universities play as centres of excellence, in teaching as well research in depth, and the necessary support required to keep that in sight, as might be expected from someone who did a higher degree program in a foreign language & international relations.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  33. Apart from anything else, Gillard has had the added burden of a millstone around her neck in the form of Rudd himself and his Machiavellian backers, something Rudd didn’t face (until he was suddenly turfed).

    Umm no. We know from Wikileaks that Gillard was canvassing the numbers a year before she finally succeeded. The reality is that Rudd had to govern with a deputy whose principal goal was replacing him and whose conservative instincts led directly to the abandonment of the carbon bills.

  34. Alan: Googling up that story again, it seems the US embassy reported one claim that Gillard was “campaigning” for the job – even if true (and this is, after all, a matter of chinese whispers again) turning that into “was canvassing the numbers” may not be the most accurate way of putting it.

    In fact, the complete surprise to the media that met the actual removal of Rudd suggests that if Gillard was doing any self interested “campaigning” for 12 months before the event, she was pretty brilliant at keeping it secret.

    Contrast the deliberate de-stabilisation by Rudd forces since the election, which Rudd obviously refuses to call off.

  35. Rudd or Gillard, are basically the same “difference”. Both do whatever it takes for their own personal agenda. It is Labour as a party that need to make a change. Under Rudd and Gillard apart from doing what they want they have thrown so much money away that the word Billions is used so often that it does not seem like a big number anymore.

  36. @steve

    Umm, no. The US embassy quoted Mark Arbib directly. It is hard to imagine that the embassy was engaged in pro-Rudd spin (which they never expected to see the light of day) or that Arbib was making it up.

    I have not seen a lot of deliberate destabilisation since Gillard became prime minister. I have seen a number of leaks in both directions and I am not suggesting that either Gillard or Rudd is lilly-white. When governments start crashing in the polls these sorts of things happen.

    As to secret campaigns, it is hard to forget the embarrassing moment when a Labor MP denounced the ABC as ‘losing all credibility’ for reporting a leadership challenge hours before the Gilalrd takeover.

    Since 1970 three prime ministers have been sacked midterm (that is actually a very high stat for comparable countries). The Gorton and Hawke sackings were preceded by months of public questioning and clear political explanations of the reasons for the challenge. The Gillard takeover was almost as much of a surprise to the caucus as to the people and there has never been a coherent explanation offered for why it was necessary.

  37. @ alan

    Umm, no, you need to re-read the cable, and not just run on memory. Farrell’s comment in para 11 is ambiguous (certainly, your describing it as “canvassing the numbers” is simply not justified) and Arbib’s comment is in the same paragraph means even less:


    If you go back to para 2 of the same cable, you’ll also note this:

    “Labor insiders speak admiringly of her ability to understand issues quickly and of her negotiating toughness. Unlike Rudd, however, whose brittle temperament and micromanagement have come under fire, Gillard is seen by most we’ve spoken with as a good manager. She oversees one of the better-managed offices in the Government and her staff seem very loyal.”

  38. dear may
    i like to fly beyond the van allen belt, too, but that one’s a bit oblique even for me.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  39. I don’t thyink there’s much difference between Rudd and Gillard, and if your only metric is “likelihood of winning in 2013” I’d be surprised is there was much between them. Rudd might be worse, since his restoration would mean that Abbott could be seen as having defeated two ALP PMs in successive terms. It ould indeed make it seem that the ALP was concerned merely with appearances and lust for power rather than matters of substance. Since this is the reality, that’s deadly PR.

    At a purely personal level (i.e. not a political one) I find Rudd a lot less egregious. He seems as if he has troubled to become broadly educated. He seems like he might be interested in ideas. He probably has a good mind. None of these things helped hoim as PM, so that’s not a basis for supporting him now, even if he should not have been dumped. That really was the most stupid thing the ALP did, but they are stuck with it now.

  40. As far as I’m concerned Rudd’s capitulation on the ETS was unforgiveable so there is no going back. Alas I fear Gillard will do a major cave in on carbon tax by year’s end, for example regarding electricity price rises in Victoria. While unprincipled Gillard is more circumspect than Rudd. On poker machines I fear Rudd would have rushed in at 100 mph and it would have ended up as big a schemozzle as home insulation.

    Therefore I give Gillard til Xmas to restore her credibility. If as I suspect there is another lapse of nerve then my preferred PM would be neither.

  41. As usual, we get a great long thread about personality politics. While people fixate on personality politics and not substantive issues, we as a people and nation will make no headway on the real problems facing us. The real issues are climate change, environmental preservation, sustainability and correcting the economic malaise by ditching neoliberal economics for MMT (Modern Monetary Theory).

  42. It is climate change, environmental preservation, sustainability and ditching neoliberal economics that makes me support Rudd. The Gillard leadership has given us two parties with almost identical agendas. We need one major party with a different agenda and that will not happen while Gillard and those she leads in the ALP remain in charge. Gillard acted on climate change only because it was the price of Green/independent support.

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