Rudd + Gillard = Rudd*

A couple of points that have emerged in the debate over the Labor leadership need a response

First, there’s the claim that there are no policy differences between Rudd and Gillard. This is often presented as if the two had independently arrived at the same position. In fact, as the equation in the post title implies, it’s because Gillard is a policy-free zone. Her independent ventures into policy making amount to a disastrous set of pre-election moves on carbon policy (no tax promise, consultative assembly, cash for clunkers) and a series of failed attempts to resolve the asylum seeker problem. Now that the Rudd agenda has mostly been passed or abandoned, Gillard has no policies whatsoever, a point I made some time ago. Her abandonment of the Gonski report, which she used as an excuse for doing nothing when she was Education Minister, is typical.

Second, and with somewhat more justification, there’s the fact that Gillard has been successful in getting policy passed where Rudd failed. The unusual circumstance of a House of Reps minority has led most people to overstate the relative difficulty of Gillard’s task. She has needed the Greens and three of five independents, normally being Wilkie, Oakeshott and Windsor. Rudd needed the Greens, Xenophon and Fielding, which was obviously harder. It’s true that Rudd made the mistaken choice of freezing out the Greens and trying to negotiate with the Liberals, which made no sense given that the Greens were bound to hold the balance of power sooner or later. A more comparable test is that of asylum seekers, where Gillard has done no better than Rudd, arguably worse.

*This equation was allegedly written by a notable, but somewhat obscure economist with his own name in the place of Rudd, and that of a better-known researcher in the same filed in the place of Gillard

159 thoughts on “Rudd + Gillard = Rudd*

  1. Chris Warren @ #48 said:

    Factions are the only way most rank-and-filers get to have a say.

    Factions themselves are not a hanging offence, although nowadays they have no basis in ideological principle and have degenerated into meaningless coalitions of mutual interest. The NSW ministerial round-robin and then the Rudd sacking showed that behind-the-scenes politicking has now become a law unto itself.

    I don’t think rank-and-file members of the ALP, still less members of the public, were having their say when the inner-circle pressured Rudd to break his promise to introduce CPRS and then, for his troubles, stab him in the back.

    Eh tu, Julia?

  2. @Jack Strocchi

    I was wrong

    Strange portents indeed; did the sun still rise in the East? I like your circular firing squad image – very apt. The last sentence, ‘I trust the people to keep him in line’ is a worry though, can they?

  3. What kills me is that all this passion is being invested in a conflict that has very little ideological consequence. When it comes right down to it, both Rudd and Gillard are managerial social-democrats who differ very little in policy substance, if not political style.

    If you combined Rudd’s political populism with Gillard’s professional ministry you would get one very good leader.

    If only the ALP and broad Left in general could get as worked up about Abbott whose reactionary program (Work Choices by stealth, Climate Change denial, tax breaks for oligarchs, Big Australia) would crush the prospects for mainstream working families.

  4. I hope the ‘atheist childless communist’ (or ‘that bitch’) wins tomorrow, holding Rudd to well under 30 votes.

    Let’s hope the useless idiots who support Rudd learn some lessons. But dazzled by opinion polls I doubt they will.

  5. Let’s hope the useless idiots who support Rudd learn some lessons.

    Kind of explains why the Gillard leadership has problems connecting with the electorate.

  6. @Alan

    Heh. The irony is that I think that Gillard is far less arrogant and assured of her own superiority than Rudd.

    Uncharacteristically, Jack’s been kind of on the mark in this thread. Obviously I wish that the Labor Party would show a little more gumption and conviction in pushing a genuinely progressive agenda by I don’t think a managerial leadership style allows them to do that.

  7. @ Alan

    Sorry – got carried away.

    But I find incredible that someone whose behaviour very nearly resulted in Abbott winning the 2010 election is thought to be worthy of support. The ego, the sense of entitlement, the boundless arrogance is breathtaking.

  8. @Mike

    Indeed you did. Labor was trailing before the leaks. Labor had already committed rhetorical blunders like ‘Moving forward’ and “yes we will’. Labor had already committed policy blunders like the citizens assembly. Candidates were already being instructed to say nothing about the GFC and talk about WorkChoices instead. It may be comforting to blame Gillard’s failures on leaks in particular or on Rudd in general, but the sad truth is that it is a theory unsupported by anything more than wishful thinking.

    The plain fact is that Gillard and Bitar ran a horrendous campaign and that Gillard supporters continue to blame the messenger rather than looking at their own candidate’s performance. They even have the gall to complain about the same media maltreatment they had no compunction at all invoking against Rudd.

    The nuclear option may well keep Gillard leader. It will ensure she does not stay prime minister.

  9. @Alan

    The plain fact is that Gillard and Bitar ran a horrendous campaign and that Gillard supporters continue to blame the messenger rather than looking at their own candidate’s performance.

    You left out “real Julia” — in essence acknowledging that hitherto she’d been “fake Julia” or “puppet Julia”. That says a great deal.

    The reality is that had they not rolled Rudd everyone at the top would have been more politically saleable. They could still have rolled him 3-months post-election, assuming they couldn’t get him to behave as they wanted.

    Of course, having him appear to junk the ETS was double-plus stupid.

    All moot now of course, but it scarcely supports the view that their poor performance was down to Rudd’s conduct alone.

  10. It is extraordinary to observe, to risk been repetitive, that ALP backbenchers would ignore the polls and have faith in Julia Gillard making up the deficit in an general election campaign. What other explanation is there, other than they are more committed to the fractional masters, than they are to their voters?

    Rather than slanging off at each other in a self-destructive way they need to dispassionately look at what has happened and what has to happen in a truthful and thorough way. This could be a opportunity to sort themselves out. For example, perhaps Julia Gillard had too many portfolios to be an effective deputy to an PM without previous ministerial experience.

    It won’t happen. The ALP will head for electoral disaster, and given their behavior they have no one to blame other than themselves. And furthermore they are demonstrating they are not fit to represent those who express an preference for them over the other crowd.

  11. The Rudd camp are looking desperate and having Maxine McKew on board won’t help Rudd. He got her to roll John Howard but she fell in 2010 and wouldn’t be inclined to blame Rudd when Gillard was in charge when she couldn’t repeat her success. Her opinion counts for something but the opinion of the elected reps from Queensland tells a tale. I wonder what Anna Bligh will be inclined to say after the election.

  12. got her to roll John Howard but she fell in 2010 and wouldn’t be inclined to blame Rudd when Gillard was in charge when she couldn’t repeat her success.

    And there goes the Gillard camp with yet another dog-ate-my-homework attempt to explain another embarrassment away.

  13. @Fran

    I think I keep trying to file ‘real Julia’ somewhere that my brain won’t find it too easily. The real problem with real Julia was not that she said it, but that having said it she changed nothing.

    We still got the deadly bureaucratic prose, the overqualified promises and statements, the focus-group driven policies, the robotic performance on camera. It could have been something along the lines of ‘I’m new to this and I’ve been listening to my handlers too much’. Instead it became ‘I’ll say whatever I think sounds good’.

  14. Mike
    “But I find incredible that someone whose behaviour very nearly resulted in Abbott winning the 2010 election is thought to be worthy of support. The ego, the sense of entitlement, the boundless arrogance is breathtaking.”
    Did you not see the Gruen Nation series on ABC during the 2010 election campaign? It dissected the Labor and Liberal campaigns with humour but also a professional eye. It highlighted so many ways in which the Arbib/Bitar campaign really was one of the worst seen in recent years. Although never published, a subsequent party review reached a similar conclusion, and Bitar left soon after. I think it is a massive rewriting of history to blame Rudd fot the result; the reality is a few apparatchiks with their jobs on the line had to pretend it, but let’s not assume anyone else would be dumb enough to believe it.

  15. I am afraid that in their rush to publicly dish out the dirt on their mates the front bench and others have smeared the entire govt with excrement. Policies shmolicies, no amount of soft soaping aromatherapy or pork barrelling will make this pong go away. Their only hope is that the Libs/Nats enter into their own civil war.

  16. Rig,

    You are right, a Liberal civil war is THEIR biggest hope, but not ours. If the factions successfully circle the wagons and see off democracies intrusion into their fiefdom even after this fiasco, the rest of us are stuck with a lousy government no matter who wins in 2013.

  17. Not “a dog ate my homework” but a realistic assessment. It was always going to be hard to hold that seat – even before Rudd began his leaks during the campaign. He is sacrificing Anna Bligh too.

  18. @Sam

    The other point I wanted to make is that Rudd’s “big ideas” John talks about are actually from things like the Henry review, and think tank reports. Gillard can read these reports as well as anyone, and actually implement them.

    Precisely. She’s been in for 18 months and has access to all the reviews commissioned by Rudd, the Gonski Review she sought herself and lots of other options. And, as a result, she’s adopted and implemented policies (other than those left over from Rudd) such as … well nothing really.

  19. “This is the final struggle. Let us group together” (it sounds way better in Polish but you know where this phrase is from).

    No commentators have so far mentioned that the “struggle” or rather duel is not between “Real Julia” and “Kevin 07”. This is a conflict between probably an authoritarian and a bit tainted but quite popular leader trying to introduce the Western way of doing things and the faceless apparatchiks of the Party whose emanation is Julia Gillard. I am sorry but she would find herself very happy surrounded by Suslov, Kosygin, Andropov and Gromyko.

    I am sorry again but in that very familiar to me context I can only repeat – “????? ? ?????!” (down with Julia!) – for the sake of democracy – for 2 reasons.

    One is quite obvious and mentioned already by other commentators – people who are not associated with the ALP do not care whether some APL members like Kevin Rudd or not. They say “it is not Big Brother” – I say “it is not Facebook”. You don’t press the “Like” button in politics. By voting for my local MP in 2007 I voted for a certain program and a certain person as the PM. If members of the executive of the organisation usurp themselves rights to override my choice I can withdraw my support to that organisation. They will not blackmail me that “there is no alternative”. It is not that a bad leader must never be replaced for good reasons for example in an emergency. But there were no good reasons, there were just bad reasons. I felt betrayed by the ALP. I wanted the mining tax to be implemented and I liked some aspects of Keynesian policy implemented by Kevin Rudd in 2008/2009 not the “surplus at any price in 2012 to beat Joe Hockey”. I don’t really care about the great tradition of ALP and the class struggle from the 1920s. You don’t “Like” my vote? I will not vote again…

    The second reason is again obvious – in the current situation created by the last round of dirt-dishing Julia Gillard confirmed as the PM tomorrow almost guarantees the ascent of the Coalition to power – maybe sooner than we think. I have to honestly admit that if it was Malcolm Turnbull or Brendan Nelson I would not care at all and would not waste time writing these comments and upsetting professor Quiggin by my lack of political correctness.

    So what is going to happen and why am I concerned after all? Let me put things in a wider context.

    Is ALP still a modern left-wing or progressive party? I dare to question this. ALP is a party which pretends to be left-wing (this is what the spin-doctors say) but as a whole it is essentially almost as neoliberal as the Liberals. It was Paul Keating’s government which destroyed the last remains of the social-democratic order by introducing the superannuation reform (1992). This was one of the elements seeding the housing bubble and unchecked growth of the finance industry. Do I need to list all of his “reforms”? True, the rhetoric of ALP seems to be a bit leftist but this is it.

    Who cares about the carbon tax when mining companies are encouraged to increase the output? Big Australia or Little England? Net migration is supposed to be 200000 p.a. until 2015 anyway. I can go on… obviously John Howard was far more right wing but it was a quantitative not qualitative difference. We barely noticed a change when ALP was replaced by the Coalition in NSW.

    So what is going to change if or when Tony Abbott becomes the next PM of Australia?

    There are 2 possible scenarios – one quite benign one quite dangerous.

    Scenario 1 is just an extension and continuation of John Howard’s era and policies. These policies were built on solid foundations prepared by Paul Keating. Except for a change in the colour of the lipstick on a pig not much would change. Tony will introduce a “Job Guarantee” aka “work for dole”. He will flog already dead trade unions (only 18% of the workforce are members) . Does this really matter that much? The casualisation of labour will continue. Wasn’t Yulia doing the same (maybe at a a bit slower pace)? The destruction of the environment may accelerate but probably / hopefully not too much if the Greens are able to block stupid bills in the Senate.

    The real reason why I am writing this comment is that another less benign scenario is possible.

    Tony Abbott is not just a garden-variety conservative liberal, He is most likely a closet Catholic integrist. Suddenly the sleeper may be activated and he will be a man on a rather politically suicidal mission. He may start pushing his (or rather Joseph Ratzinger’s) vision of the “reformed” 21th century society. The vision is actually the 12-13th century Christian Universe revolving around god. Abortion rights, In-Vitro, Catholic education, more money to religious organisations, the “presence” of god in public life – these are possible topics of the new cultural wars…

    You may say that I am mad. No I am simply a Polish liberal atheist who came to Australia sick of similar “reforms” implemented when communism was replaced by another universal doctrine in 1989. I hope I am wrong… Obviously the main difference is that Australia is a very pluralistic country. Tony Abbott may try raising certain issues but he will not be able to impose his medieval religious views on the society where the majority support gay marriage.

    Anyway we may have a lot of fun quite soon as the fate of the ALP for a very very long period of time seems to be sealed…

  20. John Quiggin @ #19 said:

    And, as a result, she’s adopted and implemented policies (other than those left over from Rudd) such as … well nothing really.

    This manages to over-state Rudd’s contribution to policy and under-rate Gillard’s leadership style.

    The so-called “Rudd agenda” (actually the Ken Henry agenda) was the collective product of the Kitchen Cabinet (SBPC commitee), of which Rudd was an utterly dysfunctional member. All reports from the first term show that his impossible management style was sabotaging rational policy formation and implementation. Why is this so hard for Rudd supporters to concede?

    Also, whatever the state of the Kitchen Cabinet the first term agenda (CPRS, MRRT, federalising health, education and water) was very ambitious and really needed two terms to get through the public and parliament. There was enough on the plate without heaping more on, particularly when political capital had been dissipated through reliance on GRNs and INDs. Never mind Abbott’s relentlessly negative campaign. Priorities people!

    This was a moment for a leader to focus on details and delivery, you know the things that a good leader is supposed follow through on. Gillard said she was going to do it, she did it and it got done.

    I want Rudd to be re-elected leader on grounds of political pragmatism (he might beat Abbott) and philosophical principle (to revalidate the legitimacy of democratic political populism over apparatchik political elitism). But there is no point in retrospectively air-brushing his faults and failures out of the record whilst overlooking Gillard’s most obvious strengths.

  21. Here’s my latest FB status:

    ‘Is it possible to be fascinated by yet completely apathetic to something? Because that’s how I feel about tomorrow.

    Here’s the Dan Wrap: an impossibly difficult man with some good ideas scuppered by neoliberal third-way managerialist tendencies is deposed by a non-impossibly difficult woman whose neoliberal third-way managerialist tendencies scupper any good ideas she might have otherwise have had. Then impossible man maybe has another stab at it, but probably not yet.

    Yawn. Vote Green.’

  22. @Adam (ak)
    “obviously John Howard was far more right wing but it was a quantitative not qualitative difference.”
    Adam, I don’t see this as the case. The great raft of middle class welfare generated through the howard years as well as record levels of taxation in terms of percentage to GDP tells me that the coalition being a right leaning party is untrue.

  23. @21

    Except that in several cases things need doing now and they are specifically not being done. The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists says of the Gillardised draft plan:

    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.

    Australia has a basic problem with adopting large infrastructure projects. We are developing a significant backlog of such problems, including maintenance for existing infrastructure. Gillardising these problems in the way the MDB plan has been Gillardised would move us quite quickly in the direction of decaying infrastructure and services.

  24. @John Quiggin
    Well she had to clear a long backlog left over from the Rudd era. With the means-test of the health rebate, that’s now basically done (though she got precious little thanks for any of it). If the government went full term with her at the head, who knows what else she could accomplish? Based on her record over the past year and a bit, I’d be betting quite a lot.

    Changing tack a bit JQ, how would you want a Labor PM (whoever it turns out to be) to spend the rest of the term? What reforms do you think should be prioritised? What would you like to see come out of Gonski? What should be done about the Murray? Are you keen on fast rail?

  25. @sam

    According to The Guardian, when Cameron first proposed changing the royal succession Australia, out of all the Commonwealth realms, was the only one opposed, because the government was concerned that changing the succession would re-open the republic debate. Apparently even Gillard’s vestigial sense of the ridiculous kicked in eventually and we now support changing the succession.

    There is no point eagerly debating a policy shopping list. Just ain’t gonna happen.

  26. @Alan
    I’m not trying to derail the thread with a progressive wish list just for the sake of it. John’s main argument is that Rudd would attempt new reforms, while Gillard has run out of steam (and ideas). The reason I asked JQ for a “shopping list” is because I am curious what specifically he thinks Rudd would (try to) do that Gillard won’t.

  27. crocodile @ https://johnquiggin.com/2012/02/23/rudd-gillard-rudd/comment-page-3/#comment-170397“>#23 said:

    The great raft of middle class welfare generated through the howard years as well as record levels of taxation in terms of percentage to GDP tells me that the coalition being a right leaning party is untrue.

    Right as far as it goes. The Howard-L/NP was, in social equity politics a triangulating Centrist, with progressive fiscal to compensate for regressive factoral.

    In cultural identity politics, it was obviously Right-wing, generally sotto voce promoting a very luke-warm version of Occidentalism (Caucasian race, Christian religion, Constitutional regent – see the street hoardings of the accommodation-education complex) whilst running around putting out fires started by the Idiot Left.

    In national security politics it was pragmatic Machiavellian, just did what had to be done (Bougainville, Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq) to preserve regional stability and the global alliance. And did it competently.

    The contrast with Abbott-L/NP will, I fear, be stark.

  28. Pr Q given your own calculations suggest the carbon price should be $50 I wonder if Rudd is the man to make it happen. All the indications are that if re-throned Rudd would cut the price from $23.
    http://www.westernadvocate.com.au/news/national/national/general/budget-risk-in-carbon-tax-review/2468015.aspx
    I’d speculate $10 because that is what China is talking about but implementation appears to be some years away. I seem to recall Rudd saying this was an urgent matter back in late 2007. Evidently not.

  29. $10 would undercut Abbotts proposal.

    If Rudd is not returned voters will have to wait until the next election to dump the ALP.

  30. progressive fiscal to compensate for regressive factoral.

    Occidentalism (Caucasian race, Christian religion, Constitutional regent

    I do not like it when undergraduates learn a few words, and then throw them up in any irelevant context.

  31. The polling summary shown on Insiders yesterday (a rare day where Piers Ackerman was bearable, because everyone could agree with him for once on the only topic being discussed – just how crook is Kevin Rudd) tied Gillard’s loss of popularity clearly to the carbon pricing scheme.

    The public’s perception of this policy will depend on a few things that are not within Labor’s control: whether the international economy stabilises; the outcome of the US election (a Republican determined to do nothing will again raise the question “why us first”?); and whether the currently heat limiting la nina ends. Actually, a new record low in Arctic ice this summer would help too.

    Regrettably, the public seems hard to convince on global warming as a long term trend and problem unless they actually feel hot in summer.

    Anyway, my point is – Gillard’s big popularity killing policy may not be seen by the public as such a bad idea in 18 months time, depending on how these matters line up.

    Those supporters of Rudd who not only said he was their “best chance” but went the step further and said it was impossible for Gillard to win were the ones who made the most foolish statements in the last week.

    I would also that those who took that line did not really spend much time on praise of Kevin as a leader: it seemed to me more of a case of “well, we just have to do this because the public hates Julia.”

  32. One can only hope that a few Ruddites realise they have been led up the garden path, and that it is more important that unity is the outcome. Possibly therefore they will switch their vote and so block any Rudd-dreams of a second challenge.

    best case scenario -> Rudd, 2 : Gillard, 100.

  33. @Chris Warren

    “Some party hack decreed that the people
    had lost the government’s confidence
    and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
    If that is the case, would it not be be simpler,
    If the government simply dissolved the people
    And elected another? ”

    Bertolt Brecht, 1953 (wikiquote)

  34. The ASX share index (All Ord) was down at opening. After the announcement of the ALP leadership decision at around 11:30, the index declined by about 10 points.

    I’d love to know whether the proponents of the EMH believe this price reaction “efficient”. (I know they can’t prove it.)

  35. Kevin Rudd’s behavior over the last week, especially his disingenuous denial that he has been surreptiously undermining the govt since before the last election, has finally demonstrated to me that his colleagues were entirely justified in dumping him back in 2010.

    Until a week ago I was prepared to consider his return, but it is now clear that his megalomania knows no bounds and he has been putting his own ambitions well ahead of any considerations about the govt’s future. If he had genuinely copped it sweet when he was dropped, and wholeheartedly supported the govt, we might now be in a very different position in the opinion polls.

    And re defeating Abbott at the next election, when did you last read a commentator recalling that Ms Gillard has already defeated Tony Abbott at an election?

  36. I hope this puts to rest all the “faceless men” stuff. When Gillard first replaced Rudd, there was every opportunity to put the change to caucus, but Rudd chickened out. This allowed him the luxury of a delusion that the decision was unpopular among his colleagues. We’ve now had the ballot we should have had over a year ago, and his luxury is gone. Hopefully the election-time cabinet leaks will now be gone too.

  37. @Dan
    “She was merely more flexible and less arrogant and ideological than Abbott after an election.” Yes, quite true, but if I may try my hand at an equation: PM Gillard + Opposition Leader Abbott = Gillard defeated Abbott.

  38. Ernestine, you are assuming that the All Ords fell because of the news of the vote.

    However you also must then explain why the Japanese Nikkei 225, the Singapore Straits Times and the Hong Kong Hang Seng all happened to fall at the same time.

    I think the markets were demonstrating their inefficiency by reacting to something other than the ALP vote.

  39. Ernestine Gross :
    The ASX share index (All Ord) was down at opening. After the announcement of the ALP leadership decision at around 11:30, the index declined by about 10 points.
    I’d love to know whether the proponents of the EMH believe this price reaction “efficient”. (I know they can’t prove it.)

    Reminds me of an old joke:

    An econometrician and an astrologer are arguing about their subjects.

    The astrologer says, “Astrology is more scientific. My predictions come out right half the time. Yours can’t even reach that proportion”.

    The econometrician replies, “That’s because of external shocks. Stars don’t have those”.

  40. well thank goodness that’s over and done with.

    comments have been good stuff during the kerfuffle.

    i couldn’t help picturing in my mind when trying and failing to read the endless waffle, the kind of waffle that would have been broadcast if the conservatives had been in the crosshairs.

    i suspect there would not have been so much stuff shoved down the public throat.

    as far as i can see the whole thing has been pollies being pollies.

    it’s what they do.

    now kev and alby.quit sooking and get back to work.

  41. More damage from the Ruddites.

    Mark Arbib now quits, which technically means NSW parliament will replace his Senate place with a ALP nominee. But we all remember how Bjelke played silly buggers in a similar situation, appointing Albert Field over the ALP nominee.

    Barry Farrell won’t dare play games – will he?

  42. @Sam
    Yes, he did squib at the first one. So it was like catchup or ad traders like to say, “filling the gaps.”

    On the radio this pm, one alp insider (sitting mp) saying that it was like a divorce and this has been stressful but cathartic. The analogy is apt.

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