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. Weird how just before a leadership challenge everyone swears undying love and devotion to the leader, as Gillard did before deposing Rudd, and mere days later they are all swearing undying love and devotion to a different leader. In the immortal words of Beazley Knr on the Hawke challenge, ‘suddenly the unthinkable became thinkable’. Indeed I think it may have been Beazley who suggested Keating would best serve his party by leaving parliament.

  2. @Alan

    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

    That was true before the change to Gillard. Look at Rudd on refugee policy. They desperately wanted a deal on carbon pricing with the LNP. They were ditto on Afghanistan, the US alliance, and much else. Had Abbott not tipped Turnbull, there’d have been no RSPT stunt prior to 2010’s election.

  3. Alan :
    Weird how just before a leadership challenge everyone swears undying love and devotion to the leader, as Gillard did before deposing Rudd, and mere days later they are all swearing undying love and devotion to a different leader.

    Alan, I’m assuming you’re not from an AFL state, where it is just naturally assumed a coach is gone after the president comes out and publicly announces he (the coach) has the full support of the board.

  4. I still think Gillard should stay until the current version of CPRS(?) is bedded down, say six months into the 2012-2013 fiscal year. If her polls dont move to parity by then, then by all means dump her. That would give Rudd or whoever nearly a year to settle into the new job, plenty of time to run a devastating scare campaign against Abbott.

    Party political success in an election year is a function of:
    1. past economic performance
    2. future public policy preferences
    3. present politician popularity

    There is not alot the ALP can do to improve its position in regard to the economy and public policy as both are dependent on factors beyond its control. The economy’s performance as it is dependent on PRC-GFC. The public’s policy preference is a hostage to GRN support for carbon tax.

    So that leaves politician popularity. Of the three key factors this is probably the weakest. So Rudd promotoers should not expect any miracles.

    Personally I can’t stand the guy and almost everything he did went no where ie Apology, carbon price, mining tax. Also he is a “Big Australia” booster and exactly how do Left-liberals propose to reconcile this with concern for social equity or ecological sustainability?

    Yeah, I know, its squared circles all the way down.

  5. The other reason to choose Rudd is that the federal caucus does not want to repeat the unhappy experience of the NSW caucus which managed to burn though 2 potential leaders in as many years. The polls suggest Rudd has some chance of winning where Gillard has not. Electing someone like Shorten would just be repeating the NSW disaster.

  6. @Fran

    Rudd faced a hostile senate. In my view the better strategy, by far, would have been to call a double dissolution on the carbon issue. It is unclear how much caucus support there was for that strategy. It was certainly opposed by half the inner cabinet (Gillard and Swann).

    Once the idea of a double dissolution was abandoned there was no choice but trying to strike a deal with the Coalition. Gillard has the luxury of a friendly senate and a solid if narrow majority in the house. Of course, Gillard’s ability for too clever by half self-inflicted wounds like the Wilkie thing means the 1-vote majority will not necessarily last the life of this parliament.

  7. Alan :
    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.

    I understand your wish for real action on these issues. However, the Labor party under any leader will do very little on these issues. Labor and Liberal are Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We need to vote Green.

  8. Dumping Gillard would signal a victory for Abbott and give the opposition plenty of ammunition to fire. It was Abbott’s choice to run a negative scare campaign and he now appears to want to shake off his unfriendly image. Let Abbott wrestle with what is his very own issue without offering distractions.

    On 2pp the ALP just sneak one over the opposition.

  9. @Ikonoklast

    I agree completely, but for now we have only one party other than the Coalition with a shot at government and who leads the ALP does matter.

  10. I think the ALP needs to move beyond both Gillard and Rudd, although they have both been demonised way too much. The school hall funding was a fantastic success for everybody who sends their kids to state schools and it has made a big difference to many under-resourced schools. The fact that this was run in the media as a failure points to the sad reality that effective government is all but impossible in this country while it is dominated by the corrupted two-party system.
    I favour Greg Combet to take the leadership, the others are all try-hards.

  11. @Ikonoclast

    ‘We need to vote Green.’

    I think most people on this forum already do. But – let’s be real here – the Greens are not going to form a Commonwealth government in their own right any time soon. So the extent and nature of their influence comes down to how they and the major parties, particularly the ALP, deal with each other. I promise you that the personality of the leader of the ALP is a crucial piece of this equation.

  12. @Michael

    I am reasonably sure he will be leader of the party one day and would be quite a good PM – he’s a real person and a great problem solver. Stephen Smith is also a talented guy who has managed not to mess up the terrifyingly crisis-prone Defence portfolio.

  13. Any gains from installing Rudd would be lost by the process of installing Rudd. Any leadership change will be a self inflicted nail in Labor’s coffin, just clear proof that it’s disunited and has no backbone.

    Having to compromise with Independents and the Greens isn’t half so damaging as the compromising that goes on within Labor’s own ranks. I don’t even believe that they are seriously committed to the climate policy they’ve worked so hard to get through. It’s like they’ve been forced to have in order to get The Greens onside and but for a hung parliament there would’ve been no serious climate policy. Since then they’ve failed to show the kind of belief, enthusiasm and commitment to it that it needs and they’ll lose even the bit of support that achievement ought to have got them. Rudd won’t help.

  14. @Ken Fabian
    Both major parties are experiencing significant internal tensions at the present time. Fun stuff.

    I vote a dickatorship with Dick Smith has our dear leader [tongue half in cheek]

  15. Every compromise and backdown just makes things worse – any expectation that bending to popular opinion wins votes is an illusion. Doing so to reinstall Rudd or dump Gillard for someone else will only make things worse.

    The whole climate issue seems like something Labor is doing it’s best to avoid bringing to the public’s attention, as if that will ease the pressure. I can’t figure how they could imagine that will help. I’d go the opposite way – make a big fuss of talking to the Chief Scientist, the head of the CSIRO, inviting leading climate scientists to big events and bringing the seriousness of the problem to the fore; most recent science has (according to the Royal Society and US National Academy of Sciences) shown that the amount of warming to take us from dangerous to extremely dangerous climate change is lower than previously thought, emissions growth has exceeded earlier projections for worst case scenarios. Heightening voter appreciation of the seriousness of the problem makes electoral sense for a government that’s spent so much effort and bet so much electoral success on it. Better than trying to welsh on it. As a bonus it might reveal the shortsighted, amoral self-interest of the mining lobby in sustaining a boom that will end up bringing serious future problems down on us and our descendants.

    More importantly, without appreciation of it’s seriousness and urgency effective action on emission and climate won’t have the needed public support. I don’t think I’m alone in being very dismayed at the prospect of an Australian government that supports fossil fuels to the point of denying science based reality to further the sector’s and their own interests.

  16. Every compromise and backdown just makes things worse – any expectation that bending to popular opinion wins votes is an illusion. Doing so to reinstall Rudd or dump Gillard for someone else will only make things worse.

    What is the evidence for this? I agree that compromises on principle, right back to the initial abandonment of the carbon plan under Rudd lead to the loss of votes. I think it’s an incredibly long stretch to then say that keeping Gillard leader no matter what is seen by the electorate as a principle of the same order.

  17. @Ken Fabian

    ‘Heightening voter appreciation of the seriousness of the problem makes’… people feel helpless to the extent that they bury their head in the sand. I’m not here, this isn’t happening, etc.

    Have you read Clive Hamilton’s latest book?

  18. John, you’ve got to be kidding. Simon Crean got it right – Kevin Rudd is an autocratic control freak and no team player – he will never lead the party again.
    So we’ll probably lose the next election – well, shit happens.
    I’d like to see the PM use the time remaining to push through more reforms, and while she’s at it, stop playing so nicely and speak a few home truths about Abbott & Co, and quite bluntly too.

  19. I heard Gillard’s speech at the PMs Science Awards last year on “The Science Show” and was impressed. She seemed like a different person from the one I see on the news, which I guess is the point. Unfortunately, competence behind the scenes and eloquence in small forums do not necessarily make a popular leader: witness the reverence for Ronald Reagan despite his obvious failings. Rudd and Turnbull both have tried and failed – would either party return to them? I agree with Gaz, this is depressing, and I can’t see a way out. I’d vote for ProfQ though!

  20. The problem is not Gillard, the problem is Labor insists on following Abbott down the rabbit hole.

    What is the saying, never argue with a fool, they drag you down to the same level.

    Ok, abandoning pokies reform wasn’t smart and getting yourself dragged around by the keystone cops wasn’t smart, but that aside.

  21. @Charles

    Charles :
    What is the saying, never argue with a fool, they drag you down to the same level.

    I think it’s something like : “Confucius say: never argue with an idiot – they drag you down to their level then beat you with experience.”

  22. After Menzies’ first government collapsed in 1942 (over almost identical issues) almost the entire political establishment ‘knew’ that he would never be prime minister again. They used equivalent words to ‘autocratic control freak’. They were of course absolutely correct. Menzies never founded the Liberal Party or served the longest unbroken term of any prime minister of Australia.

  23. Ken Fabian wrote: Heightening voter appreciation of the seriousness of the problem makes electoral sense for a government that’s spent so much effort and bet so much electoral success on it.

    Maybe: but wheeling out Tim Flannery to help do that was a Gillard mistake; he was already (however unfairly) “damaged goods” to too many of the public, and frankly, he’s just a climate science populariser. I would much rather have actual climate scientists with thick enough skin to take on the job.

    I tend to think that those on the skeptic side of the fence who only half pay attention to the debate are not going to be interested until we get an unambiguously hot summer again, which will probably take another El Nino cycle. Some further “weather weirding” might also do the trick, but it would have to be pretty big.

  24. @steve from brisbane
    “Maybe: but wheeling out Tim Flannery to help do that was a Gillard mistake; he was already (however unfairly) “damaged goods” to too many of the public, and frankly, he’s just a climate science populariser. I would much rather have actual climate scientists with thick enough skin to take on the job”

    To be fair, they wheeled out a panel, not just Flannery in an attempt of direct (interactive) public education. There were experts across a broad, but topical range amongst them including Will Steffen IIRC who can be considered a reputable climate scientist I suppose.

  25. @sfb

    Every scientist is damaged goods to the denialists. It is frankly ridiculous to think either that scientists should be selected on the grounds of their political credentials or that any legitimate scientist who is not already ‘damaged goods’ would not become ‘damaged goods’ within about 5 minutes.

  26. Alan, yes, I tend to agree.

    I wonder if we have any equivalent of the handful of US climate scientists (not skeptics) who approach the topic from a Republican or evangelical background. (Katherine Hayhoe, but also Barry Bickmore and Kerry Emanuel.) Then there is that high ranking Navy guy who started a sceptic but was converted.

    Maybe you need a climate scientist population as big as America’s before you can find any that are inclined to conservative politics or religion, though!

    Anyway, this is drifting off topic.

    How did Gillard’s speech go today? Abbott’s was vague and all half baked promises on the never never.

  27. @Alan

    Rudd faced a hostile senate. In my view the better strategy, by far, would have been to call a double dissolution on the carbon issue.

    In practice, that would have been unnecessary. At the time (mid-2009) the LNP were essentially nolo contendere on the issue. All Rudd had to do was to say that he intended to fully implement the Garnaut report and he expected the then Turnbull-led LNP to back his legislation with at most minor technical changes, which they would have perhaps four weeks to outline. After that, he expected that they would pass the bill and everyone would move on. If they didn’t, he would use the s57 provisions to break the deadlock as soon as possible in order to test the mandate of 2007. The LNP would have been terrified of such an election called with the ALP well in front and Rudd’s popularity at record levels, and would have rolled over. Abbott, you will recall, was backing giving the regime what it wanted. Turnbull would probably not have been rolled. They could then have repeated the dose with RSPT in 2010. The subsequent election would not have been close. In the unlikely event of a DD being called, (perhaps in November of 2009) the LNP would have been crushed. Minchin’s career would have finished early, and RSPT and Private Health Insurance rebates could then have been argued and won by a government well in command of the timeline and the numbers.

    The real problem with this, we now know, was the Sussex St cabal. They managed to remind Rudd that he was there on sufferance and he blinked. He should have simply tossed his poll numbers onto the desk, subtracted 15 points from the ALP primary and asked them how they’d like to contest an election in those circumstances, and promised that if he was rolled, he would make Latham look like a good sport. Your choice he could have made clear. If I can’t be PM and have my way, he could have added, then I’ll make damned sure than none of you ever will be. Start briefing against me and I will sack people or if needs be, resign and demand an election. I don’t think for a second they’d have wanted to run that risk. They’d have rolled over too. After all, the main rationale for having him was his saleability as front man, and he was way in front. Even they aren’t going to toss in a won hand.

    Of course, that would mean that in practice he would have been impregnable and gone on to win in a canter in 2010. Even the spivs would have admired that.

  28. Given an unsympathetic Media – and that’s how it looks to me – any chance that a change of leadership will be portrayed as positive looks unlikely. It’s clear that a lot of Labor insiders don’t want Rudd so that will be a constant Media focus. If Labor can’t pull together behind Gillard, I don’t believe it will pull together behind Rudd. I can’t help believe it’s the lack of backbone, to fight for their policies in difficult circumstances, that is a major contributor to their lack of popularity. If Labor can’t back it’s leader through a single tough term, why would I think it’s fit for another turn?

    As for voter appreciation of the seriousness of the Climate problem leading to feelings of helplessness and heads being buried in the sand – I can’t see how burying our heads in the sand about the seriousness of the problem can ever lead to solutions. The solutions aren’t beyond us, nor are they likely to impoverish us despite organised, well funded efforts – supported by the influence of senior business, religious and political figures – to persuade us otherwise . Surely facing reality head on with eyes open is not merely more likely to result in solutions, it’s an essential prerequisite.

    And from a purely political point of view, surely the Right’s ongoing denial of science based reality is a profoundly immoral position as well as a weakness that needs to be shown for the extreme danger to our future it actually is and attacked at every opportunity. Opportunities don’t need to be waited upon, they can be made by a pro-active Government. That’s if they have the backbone and aren’t intent on burying their own heads (and the community’s) in the sand. Ultimately those sands will run out.

  29. @steve from brisbane
    “How did Gillard’s speech go today? Abbott’s was vague and all half baked promises on the never never.”

    A lot of what you’d expect, (to paraphrase) “yeah, there’s been lots of job turnover, but we need to restructure the economy” – don’t we just love hearing that “restructure” buzzword…
    Said some stuff that I’d (personally) agree with eg. the high dollar is a good thing generally for the economy.

  30. @Ken Fabian

    ‘I can’t see how burying our heads in the sand about the seriousness of the problem can ever lead to solutions… Surely facing reality head on with eyes open is not merely more likely to result in solutions, it’s an essential prerequisite.’

    Well, indeed. I’m taking it you haven’t read Clive Hamilton’s latest, then.

    Essentially, catastrophic climate change is already a done deal. The climate science community clear that we’re looking right down the barrel of 4C warming and are holding conferences on how to adapt to this. 6C is far from out of the question. 2C well and truly is.

    The best we can hope for is mitigation and adaptation – and no effort should be spared in pursuing these ends – but at the moment we’ve got a lot of people, particularly on the Right, who are are saying ‘I’m not here, this isn’t happening’. Unfortunately a lot of these people are in positions of influence.

    Then we have people (like yourself?) who think it can just be ‘solved’. Yeah – in 1985. Are you seeing my point?

  31. @Dan
    Dan, we still retain an enormous potential to make the consequences much worse as well as potential to avoid catastrophic climate change. There can be delay with serious ongoing efforts to develop emissions reductions strategies or delay tied to maximum effort to entrench long term markets for our fossil fuels whilst undermining public acceptance of the seriousness of the problem. Delay is enabled by getting enough people to throw up their hands, look the other way, or to assume the ostrich position. Sparing no effort towards adaptation is still dependent on that same widespread appreciation of the seriousness of the problem.

    I think that very conclusion – that it’s a lost cause – is a product of a decade of well organised serious climate science denial and opposition to action that followed on from the previous decade of ‘lets wait and see if the scientists could be wrong’. What I’m seeing by the enthusiastic embracing of opposition to action by the LibNats and surrender by Labor are the most appalling breaches of responsibility and trust from our elected representatives.

    There’s enormous momentum built into the problem but I’m disappointed that people who acknowledge it’s seriousness can argue against renewed efforts to heighten public awareness towards greater support for urgent action.

  32. @Dan
    “The best we can hope for is mitigation and adaptation – and no effort should be spared in pursuing these ends – but at the moment we’ve got a lot of people, particularly on the Right, who are are saying ‘I’m not here, this isn’t happening’. Unfortunately a lot of these people are in positions of influence.”

    And the tragedy is – many of those don’t need to worry about it. There are so many parallels to the GFC here. Those with power money and influence will be the least affected. They’ll have the tools and resources to adapt and even maybe prosper from it. The weak and vulnerable will be most affected as those in Africa and some pacific islands are already realising. As can be clearly demonstrated with the GFC, the corrupt US political system must bow to the interests that feed them – the banks, pharmaceutical, petrochemical etc. It’s depressing I know. Something significant has to change!
    A good and very clever friend recently said to me: “When Jo and I talk about what we could do to make the world a better place for Jessica, a big inheritance seems to trump everything…”

  33. @Ken Fabian

    I think at some level everyone already gets the extent of the problem (ie. catastrophe) – you just have to look at how far-fetched the deniers’ claims are to think, ‘are they convinced by this?’ – but are lodged firmly the denial stage. As such I really don’t think that you’ll get the result you expect from further exposure of the issue. Anyone with Google (or a backyard below sea level) can see what the climate science is saying, yet a lot of people are not seeing it. That does not bode well.

    Troy – your friends are quite right.

  34. @Dan

    Yea, unfortunately this may be right.

    There is no reason why life should necessarily exist on the earth.

    If the present inhabitants keep pushing methane and CO2 into the atmosphere, and the rate of increase, increases, it truly is all over.

    The problem is that corporations and billionaires such as Rinehart can manipulate public consciousness for their own private short-term advantage.

    You cannot supposedly:

    heighten public awareness towards greater support for urgent action

    [Ken Fabian]

    unless you deal with the media storm funded by commercial interests.

    The fact is, that protecting the environment requires less growth and less population. The fortunes of capitalists rest on more growth and a constantly expanding population.

  35. The limitations of the biosphere: a natural barrier to production, as old mate Karl would have it. More difficult to get around than most.

  36. Ken Fabian wrote:

    “It’s clear that a lot of Labor insiders don’t want Rudd so that will be a constant Media focus. If Labor can’t pull together behind Gillard, I don’t believe it will pull together behind Rudd…. If Labor can’t back it’s leader through a single tough term, why would I think it’s fit for another turn?”

    I think that’s spot on, and is why I am puzzled as to how JQ or others can think otherwise.

    The counter argument is “a wrong would be righted”, but the polling this week showed that a large portion of those wanting a Rudd return were Coalition voters (and I doubt they are going to change their mind over carbon pricing if he is reinstated) and Labor voters were evenly split. Surely a large percentage of those are taking the pragmatic view that it is worth trying Rudd again because of his (puzzling) popularity amongst the public (who have never had to work with him.) But that’s a dubious reason for going back to a leader deposed because his colleagues (for the most part) found him and his office difficult to work with.

    In other words, those who think Rudd should return because of his inherent skills in developing and implementing solid Labor policy are very much in the minority.

  37. It is at least equally clear that many who support Gillard in their response to opinion polling either do so because she is the Labor leader or would immediately switch their answer to Rudd if he became the Labor leader. The claim that Rudd is supported by Coalition voters needs, at minimum, a cite.

    People do not, contrary to the Gillard spin, generally die in the ditch for a leader, any more than those MPs now swearing eternal fealty will not switch their support in an instant. The sad history is that once a leader starts needing fealty declarations it is time for their rival to start measuring drapes for the Lodge.

  38. Alan, the issue is not really whether the current 30- 34% first preference Labor voters are going to desert the ship because of Rudd’s return: it’s the issue of whether the switch is going to help it regain an above 40% first preference vote.

    Look, there may be a slight swing up after the re-installation of Rudd from those who really took his de-throning to heart, especially in Queensland. (I always think Queensland voters are the most fickle and unpredictable in the country.)

    But for the reasons people have outlined, it would paint a bad picture of a hopelessly split and unstable parliamentary party that would harm it at the next election and beyond. It would be the Peacock-Howard wars of the 1980’s re-run, except with a damaging government benefiting instead of a reforming one!

  39. Dan, I find the “yes it’s serious but serious efforts are pointless” position the most insidious. Outright denial has been given the stamp of respectability by the Right but it’s not half as dismaying to me as hearing that it’s too hard and the battle’s lost from people that know better. I don’t believe most people really do get it; going by McMichael et al in Lancet the death toll from climate change is probably already well past the million mark. It leaves out the factors that are most likely to do the greatest harm in the future, like famines, forced migrations and conflict. No political party should be putting it into the too hard basket. Actually supporting organised efforts to oppose action on climate represents both acceptance of probably hundreds of millions of excess deaths through this century and denial of all responsibility goes beyond ordinary negligence. Instead of hounding them Labor appears to be backpelling. The whole issue appears to be bringing out the worst in our mainstream politicians.

  40. Gillard’s not going to be on the right side of history unless she shows that the Clean Energy Future is something she’s proud to fight for rather than something she’d been forced into it by circumstance. Without renewed emphasis of the seriousness to Australia of the consequences of failure on emissions the policy won’t look worth it to a jaded voting public. Not that I think most people really do get just how big a mess we’ll be in by entrenching delay as the appropriate response to the climate problem.

  41. And yet a poll before Christmas reported precisely that result when respondents were questioned about changing to Labor if Rudd were leader. The primary vote not only went over 40% the 2PP went to 52%. I don’t have the link so I am relying on memory.The parliamentary party is hopelessly split now and the electorate is quite aware of it.

  42. Regardless of the outcome of the current Labor leadreship tensions,I really do not buy this “Rudd was a control freak disliked by caucus meme”. It is irrelevant. Yes Rudd was a control freak. This was well known even back in his time as head of the Qld Office of Cabinet under the Goss government. If caucus couldn’t accept that they never should have made him leader in the first place. Ironically, Rudd’s worst mistake as PM – dumping the CPRS and not going to a double dissolution – was precisely after he listed to Swan and Gillard.

    By comparison John Howard was also (accurately) reported to be a control freak, but his party smiled and accepted it as long as he kept winning elections.

    So really, this is all about polls and perception. On that basis, there is only one choice for Labor to make. Gillard won’t win the next election. Rudd may not either, but Labor will take less damage under him than any obvious alternative. Rudd was a far better campaigner in 2007 than Gillard was in 2010.

    Looking deeper, I think a return to Rudd would also reduce the power of the dominant neo-fascist faction in the Labor Party. Clearly, Gillard is completely dependent on them, even though they appear to have no insight into how repgnantly they are regarded by the electorate. Continuaton of this dominant influence of the neo-fascists will doom Labor, no matter who is in charge.

  43. @Dan

    It is a lot easier to be unified when the polls are moving in the right direction. While I wouldn’t call the vat creatures of Sussex St ‘neo-fascist’ I agree with him that a Rudd return would weaken their power and that would certainly be good both for electoral standing and for future policy.

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