Eddie, obeyed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

132 thoughts on “Eddie, obeyed

  1. @Lyn Gain

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

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

    He squibbed and had to play catchup.

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

  3. @Alan

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

    The man lacked acumen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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