How Gillard can win for Labor

By resigning gracefully. If I were advising Gillard on how best to secure her place in history, I’d suggest waiting until the 1st of July and then making a speech along the following lines

The carbon price, legislated by my government is now in place. It will soon become obvious that the scare campaign run by Mr Abbott and the Opposition has no basis in reality and that our plan will achieve cost-effective reductions in carbon emissions, while making most Australian households better off. I am proud of my government’s achievements in this and other areas. Nevertheless, I recognise with sadness that I am not the best person to take this message to the Australian public. I have therefore decided to resign the office of Prime Minister and advise my Labor colleagues to support the return of Mr Kevin Rudd to this position. Mr Rudd and I have had substantial disagreements over matters of managerial style, but we are agreed on the need for a Labor government with Labor values, and on the need for action in key areas including the carbon price, the mineral resource rent tax and the successful management of the Australian economy. I will give the new PM my enthusiastic support, and work for the re-election of a Labor government.

Would this work? I’m not really sure. But given Abbott’s failure to achieve any popular support at a time when Labor has plumbed unheard of depths of popular support, it would have to be worth a shot. At a minimum, it would help avoid the Queensland-style wipeout that is currently on the cards. And if it worked, history would certainly look kindly upon a PM willing to give up the job for the sake of her party and, more importantly, in the best interests of the country.

73 thoughts on “How Gillard can win for Labor

  1. @Jack Strocchi
    Do you think the ETS will have as much effect on prices as the GST? I was out of the country for the introduction of the GST so I didn’t get to experience it. Clearly the negative effects of the ETS have been overhyped. Do you think the libs will get rid of Abbott before the next election? Surely his free pass will end eventually.

  2. If Labor were even marginally clever they would regulate to make the electricity companies include an explicit breakdown of the cost of the carbon tax in people’s electricity bills so consumers could see how much of their bill went in paying the for the tax. The numbers would have to add up to the numbers actually paid in taxes, and given all the hype and exaggeration by Abbott and co, the actual numbers couldn’t do other than help acceptance of the tax. It would also allow Labor to claim that they are being open about the cost of the tax.

  3. @Freelander
    Yes, if they were marginally clever they should do exactly that, but hey, if they were marginally clever they would have implemented at least some of the initiatives that Ken Fabian has been suggesting here.

  4. The unpopularity of Labor is surprising given the economy is strong. The incumbent party improves its vote share when economic growth is high and inflation is low.

    The shift in expressive voting from cheering climate change action in 2007 to booing it a few years later is a little surprising.

    In most cases, income and prices can explain most of the variation in voting on environmental goods – it is not essential to introduce non-economic concepts such as ideology and politics. The carbon tax is not unpopular because of low income growth.

    Geoff Brennan argues that the nature of expressive voting concerns is such that significant reductions in real GDP because of carbon taxes and carbon emissions trading are probably not politically sustainable in the long term.

    This suggests that much of the CO reduction action will be limited to modest reductions of a largely token character.

    Labor forget that there are many expressive voting concerns that politicians must balance to stay in office and the environment is but one of these. Once climate change policies start to actually become costly, expressive voter support for these policies fell away.

    Abbott’s big bad new tax rhetoric split away the working class and lower-middle class labour voters who worry more about bread and butter issues.

    The ALP must rebalance its expressive voting portfolio. Buying votes has not worked. Leadership is immaterial because it is the policies and competence that matter.

  5. While the situation for Labor doesn’t look good what could help in the next few months is a reality dose of Liberalism in the states. The developers changing the landscape in honour of the developers who contributed handsomely to their election campaigns and the threat to people’s job security.

    The Coalition has been able to instill a lot of fear into people about their own situations but if the PM keeps on getting better advice then it will help in the long run as it does take a while for people to change their minds.
    While I see that there are lingering feelings of warmth towards Rudd in his home state it is probably regionally limited. If it is true that Gillard has only managed to finish off what Rudd started that in itself is a huge warning sign of the inertia that existed under his watch.

  6. Jim Rose :
    The unpopularity of Labor is surprising given the economy is strong. The incumbent party improves its vote share when economic growth is high and inflation is low.

    The overall macro picture of the economy is all roses, but the problem is – at what social (hence electoral) cost? People are being pushed harder and harder thanks to globalization and “level playing field” trade policies. Job turnover has been high and that pisses workers off. Hearing their dear leader and her spokespeople publicly claim that the economy requires “restructuring” doesn’t quite cut it to quell their anger. Personally, I think a high dollar is a good thing, but that does put pressure on trade exposed businesses and the government has also been copping a fair piece of that grief as well; not helped by various trade union executives.

  7. There is no sign in the figures published by the polls that support for Rudd is ‘probably regionally limited’, although obviously his popularity is greater in Queensland than elsewhere. The inertia during Rudd’s prime ministership is grossly exaggerated and in any case cannot possibly justify the present PM having produced a very limited number of policy ideas of her own, all of them failures.

    Really, the reasons to retain Gillard, in view of her dreadful policy and electoral performance, have to be better than wishful thinking.

  8. Rudds popularity is probably based on his not being prime minister and a change in that status, which isn’t going to happen anyway or day, would see that popularity vanish.

  9. Rudd as a hypothetical vs the actuality of Rudd heading a Cabinet and Government that don’t like or trust him – with the opposition and media critics well armed with ammunition to put dents in his shiny armour? Whilst I believe our host here is sincere in thinking Labor would be better headed by Rudd, the media simply love the spectacle and talking up Rudd – if only by endlessly polling the question over and over – is not. That there are Labor insiders that appear to let such polls guide their decisions is least edifying of all.

    Rudd’s drawn out attempt to unroll Gillard was not any more edifying to watch than the drawn out aftermath of Gillard’s rapid rolling of Rudd. Whilst a voluntary resignation by Gillard would short circuit the worst of that, the public witnessing another leadership change by any means will be bad for Labor.

  10. Abbot is one of the least popular opposition leaders we have had. A Keating or a Hawke would have eaten him alive.

    He also has the good luck to face the weakest Labor leader in memory. Arguing that any leadership would be bad for Labor does not have a lot going for it. Anna Bligh repeatedly argued that Queensland must not catch NSW disease, but her electoral results were worse than NSW. There is just no evidence for the all leadership change is bad theory and that appears to be all that the Gillard camp has left.

    Gillard’s own style is starting to create huge problems within the cabinet. Her transparently untrue claim not to know about the foreign worker visa plan cannot have added a lot to her cabinet liking and trusting her.

    Labor is in the unfortunate position of having a bad leader who is distrusted by the electorate. There is an alternative leader who is not districted by the electorate and has better policies on most issues.

  11. Rudd is gone for good. The leadership will never be his again. Look to the future, John!

  12. The Keating souffle, as we all know, was never going to rise twice and Hawke remained prime minister until 1996. The Gillard soufflé, by contrast, never rose at all.

  13. I can’t figure how this works. I ask myself again, wtf is WRONG with the public just now. It must know what he words “Abbott” and “Austerity” mean? Does it understand “GFC 2007-8”, “Tea Party” and “Cameron”?
    Down to the doc this morning for a rabies shot, obviously an epidemic.
    I think what the public needs is a bomb under it, not another leadership change in the government.

    Ok, JQ, you write on the above confident and informed that Rudd is reasonable fettle and finally mellowed enough for a return? Has he GENUINELY learned from his first run, now that he has cooled his heels for a bit? Even were Gillard were to step aside, would skirmishing and acrimony finally cease between the two and would they ever combine to buck the factions, which is what they should have done in the first place?
    It may be that it could work, if the public is not so mutton-headed that it repeats the Qld Massacre on fed Labor, which has offered nowhere near the provocation Bligh offered. Surely in getting rid of NSW and QLD Labor in particular, they sated their tabloid-inspired bloodlust?
    They electorate still likes Rudd, but would Gillard be in turned honoured by Rudd and would she be satisfied enough to embrace her next portfolios, gladly, with Rudd’s genuine friendship and encouragement, as a respected colleague.
    My suggestion for the near future, Rudd becomes a genuine consensus person, glad to listen others rather than staff lackeys, makes up with Gillard and co.
    Gillard has done as well as she can, kicking against the breeze Rudd kicked with and would be hugely embraced by the public if she ended the feud, even if this meant taking that step back and down.
    But what’s in it for the PM, if she only gets a kick in the guts, even for the things she has done right or when she tried to do right?

  14. @paul walter

    The electoral standing of the federal government is actually worse than the labor governments in NSW and Qld before their massacres. There is no sign of the boil getting lanced.

    In both NSW and Qld the collapse in labor support began with the privatisations. It was not a sudden burst of unexplainable madness, the electorate expects Labor not to privatise. The collapse in the NSW vote began when Iemma announced, contrary to his promises, that he would privatise electricity. Ditto Qld. The revolving door premiership cannot have been too much of an issue in NSW because the Labor result there was actually slightly better than the Qld result. Other factors like the personal standing of Anna Bligh, should have indicated a better result in Qld.

    While the Gillard government has not privatised anything the distrust issue federally seems to focus on the person of the prime minister.

    Gillard supporters are asking the ALP to face an election where the trust issue is paramount and where the leader has far worse standing in the electorate than Bligh or Keneally. Gillard supporters have repeatedly that argued that the polls would improve real soon now. They have maintained that argument since June 2010 in the face of an almost continuous downwards trend. Minor movements upwards are celebrated as the light at the end of the tunnel. Movements downwards are simply disregarded with blithe nostrums. The prime minister waves polls that show slight improvement across the table of the House and then answers unfavourable polls by claiming she pays no attention to polls. At some stage reality has to bite.

    The polls also show that 38% identify as Labor but only 31% intend to vote Labor. Something needs to give to get that 7% back. And its not going to be, as has been claimed repeatedly, when the carbon plan details are announced, when the legislation is published, when the legislation is passed, when the compensation si announced, or when the legislation goes into force. The solution to the carbon price problem is a leader who actually believes in it rather than one who opposed it as deputy prime minister, promised not to have one, and then suddenly got struck by lightning on the road to Damascus.

  15. I’ll tell what you what Alan, SA Labor is becoming a classic example. It’s been in a long time and barely survive last election after coming down with thud during its second term, on its aggressive development policies. The animus is great against them, but the government is controlled by the right faction which is wed to ecorationalism and continues to regularly turn up with unpopular policy announcements that further aggravate an inflamed animus in the community.
    I still maintain the public is wrong to be quite so down on fed Labor. Be critical, yes, but the sense of proportion is lacking, inflamed by media bias, we remain one of the most comfortable countries in the world in which to live.

    A brief comment for Prof Quiggin. As a former Adelaide western subs lad he may have not heard that former Eagles champion Bob Hank passed on, at 88 yo. Time passes quickly.

  16. Back to Labor. Where I come from, there has been a vexed issue for some time concerning transport corridors and TODs in Adelaide’s west. Now it seems that current economic conditions have stalled some of the initiatives involved, such as rail electrification.
    It seems that St Clair park might not be needed in the short term and given Labor’s unpopularity in Adelaide, I would have thought the smart thing to do would have been to announce that the park being turned over to tower block housing be deferred.
    We just learn that the Labor-right stacked Charles Sturt Council is going to get round the issue by zoning the park as housing, completely deaf to the continued protest against the move.
    Is it arrogance? Out of touchness?
    What is it with the Labor Right faction that has it so utterly determined to absolutely antagonise traditional Labor voters, or any one else who would consider voting for them?

  17. Rudd and Gillard have been given no respect by the media, whereas even in his dying days as Prime Minister Howard was given no disrespect.

    Abbott has pithy cut-through lines but no real idea on what to do once in power. He holds too many contradictory positions and the media treats them as gospel presenting them as alternatives to the Prime Minister instead of cutting him down for the fool he is. And I used to like the man as Leader of House/Opposition Business- whichever it was – that he was good at.

    Whilst a Rudd return would boost the Preferred Prime Minister for Labor in the polls, it would not boost the TPP for Labor.

    I really don’t know what they could do to get the statistical faith restored in Labor other than Gillard winning a majority next election and putting more reforms that benefit all Australians in place. Even then I don’t know if that will work because I have certainly lost all respect for Gillard as a person given the way she replaced Rudd.

    However, if Rudd was going to be replaced anyway, Gillard was a better choice than Swan, Smith and whoever the other potential candidates might have been.

    At this stage without Gillard, the only other choice of Labor leader is Rudd – this is one case where there actually is no alternative is she is/was to be replaced.

  18. The “economy is strong” line is unfortunately true only for some. The last growth figures released showed that in the resource rich states of QLD, WA and NT stellar growth was experienced. Even up to 7%. Likewise, the rest were on one leg with growth in some cases at 0.5 to barely 1%.

    Averages don’t really show the true picture. Joe punter feels this. Tony knows about it as well. I suspect Julia does too but can’t or won’t explain it.

    The one thing I find baffling is the insistance that the carbon tax will do our bit for reducing greenhouse gases. There is nary a mention of the possible business investments in newer technologies as a result of the price signals caused by elevated costs to consumers for energy. Complaints abound to the fact that “We don’t make anything anymore” or “made in China”. Now an opportunity to innovate, invest and grow new industies is kept secret.

    Don’t mention the war.

  19. Whilst a Rudd return would boost the Preferred Prime Minister for Labor in the polls, it would not boost the TPP for Labor.

    This thread has repeated re-interpretations of the polls that range from the probably regionally limited theory to preferred PM but not TPP. The only time the TPP under a Rudd leadership was tested, last September, the TPP moved from a disastrous 58/42 in favour of the Coalition to 52/48 in favour of the Labor Party. This new theory is as substantial as the regionally limited theory.

    It should also be remembered that a fraction of people who identify as Gillard supporters actually identify only with the Labor leadership. They would identify as Rudd supporters if Rudd returned to the leadership. This is part of the explanation for the surge in support that most challengers receive.

  20. Hahaha, to still a Simpson quote “it’s funny ’cause it’s true”, I am esp. referring to the part about changing of leadership to a person who represents Labour values

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