Paul Norton has a post at LP, summed up by the teaser
current poll support for the election of an Abbott-led Coalition government is soft and brittle. Yet it exists, and persists. And voter opinion of what the Federal Labor government has actually done is not all that unfavourable. Yet people don’t think the government deserves to be reelected. What are we to make of this?
I don’t think it takes a genius to work out that a sufficient explanation for this paradox is the personal unpopularity (among a large group of voters, detestation) of Julia Gillard. Other factors may be relevant, but most of them are exacerbated by the leadership problem. In particular, the Obeid scandal is made worse for Federal Labor by the perception that Gillard is beholden to the same machine operators (Arbib, Bitar, Conroy and ultimately Graeme Richardson) who put Obeid in a position to corrupt the entire NSW Party.
For the sake of argument, let’s grant that this is all the result of misperceptions and bad press and that Gillard is both likeable at a personal level and someone with a “steely determination” to get the job done for Labor. It’s obvious, by now (and regardless of marginal fluctuations in polls) that this perception is not going away within six months. In these circumstances, wouldn’t a leader who cared about her colleagues, or one who was determined to do the best thing for the country, decide that this was the time to talk a walk into the snow, and give the rest of the party a shot at survival?
119 thoughts on “I may be some little time …”
Because in this case they don’t measure what people who argue as you do, implicitly assume — that things can remain more or less exactly as they are with Rudd instead of Gillard in charge.
For a start, Rudd is far more popular with Liberal voters. The fact that people intending to vote Liberal prefer to see a sitting ALP PM dumped doesn’t really require much explanation. I note that Turnbull is also much more popular with ALP voters as LotO. The reason for that is obvious.
Even the ALP voters who prefer Rudd will vote for Gillard if she remains in charge. The sacking/deaprture of Gillard again in an election year, will demand an explanation and of course, there won’t be a flattering explanation. It might even be that the Murdoch press presents Rudd’s return as an admission by the ALP that they don’t believe the time is right after all for a female PM — that even policies they endorse and have said are good are only saleable by a male.
That would be hypocritical of course, but as the press are not held to standards of ethical integrity that point will be moot, especially since this is not something that they would raise.
Having claimed a second sitting PM, and having survived longer as LotO than almost every other one, Abbott could claim to be the most impressive LotO ever — an absolute genius. He really would be impregnable — and of course his style of campaigning — basically opportunistic rock-throwing — would become the established approach to political discourse by Liberals. Pardon me if that doesn’t sound like a very good outcome.
And of course the Mining Council, the Murdochracy and every other ignorant ranter would feel that their day had finally dawned. The Murdochracy would then turn the blowtorch on the regime, speaking of chaos and dysfunction. Pretty soon, Rudd Preferred PM and 2PP would be every bit as bad as Gillard’s — and he’d have to disavow her policies.
@Chris Warren labour primary vote up 3% to 34%.
Voters are surprisingly forgiving of corrupt politicians that are otherwise competent. Throw the rascals out is not the winning campaign slogan we might all hope.
Plenty are re-elected despite obvious corruption in the US. Politicians are elected after time in prison and even impeachment for judicial corruption.
despite the worst of Peterson and co., Goss in 1989 just got 51% of the primary vote. the nats and libs had 35 seats after 1989 and formed a minority government in 1995.
@Jill Rush ‘
ok. there’s nothing wrong with gillard’s ego. the problem is with her amoral super-ego. the one that says its alright to bump off the leader in a crisis he’s finally winning and then cave in totally to the miners demands. she furthered her career by selling her country short. you honestly think i despise gillard because she’s a woman? -a.v.
This may be a little O/T, but it is connected with leadership change – two Liberal State/Territory government coups in a week?
“NSW disease” is certainly fast-acting when it infects Conservative governments…
If you search the parliamentary debates at Open Australia for the phrase “business model of the people smugglers” you do not find a single speech or question where Rudd ever used that phrase. Rudd did speak of people smuggling 23 times compared with Gillard 45 times. If you look at users of the whole phrase you find the scores are:
Chris Bowen 23
Julia Gillard 15
Scott Morrison 12
No-one else gets over 10.
The phrase was first used in the parliament in 2010.
At the next Senate election, the numbers are:
I would count the DLP as a safe vote for the Coalition, Xenophon not so much. Xenophon, who almost got 2 quotas in his own right last time, will almost certainly be re-elected.
Antony Green has a detailed if somewhat outdated discussion. Putting the best possible face on it, and using the recent Newspoll figures, the 2PP under Gillard would be Labor 48/Coalition 52.The 2PP under Rudd would be Labor 56/Coalition 44.
Which of those sets of numbers do you think is likely to produce a Coalition Senate? How likely do you think it is that Labor will retain all it seats in NSW, QLD and WA where Rudd is most popular and Gillard is least popular?
The infuriating thing about this whole issue is the way in which people repeatedly aver facts that are simply inaccurate.
This seems to be pure revisionism, Fran. Rudd had his flaws, but one of his better points was undoubtedly the changes he wrought to asylum seeker policy after winning office, with Chris Evans as Immigration Minister. Those changes have now all been reversed, and more.
How can you possibly make this statement when Newspoll shows that the labor primary vote would increase from 33% under Gillard to 47% under Rudd?
Why would the Mining Council want to see the back of Gillard when she reduced the mining tax to a joke and then agreed to subsidise them by having the Commonwealth meet any increased royalties levied by the states?
And if the Murdochracy is going to campaign Rudd what new stuff do they have that is going to dent his electoral standing after Gillard has already thrown all the mud she could think of?
I suggest to you a simple and more rational analysis. Rudd is more popular because his profram is not a grab bag of ill-informed populist rightwing shibboleths like Gillard’s. Or do you actually think that inspirational policies like the motorway into the Sydney CBD are a good idea?
The Fairfax media has an opinion piece today which is on topic:
I find the comments on these pieces interesting and informative. At a rough guess – more than 60% of commenters are either one-eyed party faithful hacks or professional trolls.
Reading between the lines, the “talking points” for cheerleaders from the ALP & LNP are identical. They both seem to have been instructed to ferociously attack the suggestion that there really isn’t much material difference between the two leading political franchises on offer.
It’s like stumbling into a passionate argument between Coles and Woolworths shoppers about which is the best place to get Kellog’s cornflakes – surreal.
“Why do you think the polls are so consistently wrong? ”
I don’t think the polls are wrong I just don’t believe that they are in cement. The polls will inevitably tighten. Once the reality of an Abbott led government sinks in there will be a rush to Katter’s Australia Party, the Greens, Independents and others including Labor. Although the MSM will be slow to acknowledge that Mr Abbott is highly flawed there will certainly be a campaign of another sort waged by Labor to get this message across.
Now if Malcolm Turnbull were leader of the Opposition there would be no hope for PM Gillard. Since the Liberals will show the same antipathy to that change as Labor have to Rudd it will be game on and a contest will emerge.
While it is popular (especially in the monopoly press) to write the election off the volatility in the polls suggests that there are significant numbers that are there for the winning – perhaps not the misogynists and tea partiers who have crawled out of the woodwork in the last few years but fair minded people who may not like the dog whistling and bad policies but see an Abbott led government as potentially far worse.
alfred venison – you may not realise that you don’t like Julia Gillard because she is a woman but you betray yourself by criticising her for having an ego and for betraying the previous leader. Both of these things are very common in former PMs – the only difference is that she is a woman and stereotypically she is not meant to behave like that.
I am sure that like Tony Abbott you love women.
What volatility in the polls? They have been dreadful since shortly after the 2010 election. They lifted in the second half of 2012 and now they are reverting to the previous pattern. Meanwhile Labor has lost a string of state and territory elections, 3 of them by landslides that not only wiped out Labor but significantly reduced the Greens vote.
When Gillard formed a minority government in 2010 the crucial “country independents” (used pejoritavely by the media and LNP) forced some changes to parliamentary procedure – Abbott, reportedly, agreed to those.
They pretty much got them in place and it would be hard to argue that we are worse off for it.
The Greens settled for a bit more access to the PM’s office (she screwed them) and protection of some old growth Tasmanian wilderness (she screwed them, again).
Wilkie, the guy who risked his career (and possibly his life – if we look at Bradley Manning or Julian Assange) to call BS on Howard’s Iraq war lies, only asked for a bit of restraint on pokies in return for support. Not abolition, just a trial of some limits to how much a pokie addict can throw away in a night (she screwed him, too).
Blind Gillard fans forget all of this but out here in real world people form opinions slowly but hold them tightly. She is simply untrustworthy. No wonder the puppeteers of the knuck-draggers honed in on the idea of “Juliar” – she handed it to them on a silver platter.
Indeed. She also agreed to the creation of a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, effectively a federal ICAC, as an item on the agreement with The Greens and with the country independents. The government has done nothing and refused a hearing to the bill moved by Adam Bandt.
And having promised more independence for the speaker Gillard proceeded to knife Harry Jenkins to get Slipper’s vote, then declared eternal loyalty to Slipper and then knifed him in turn. There are rather a lot of bodies lying about the floor of the house.
its not her sex, its that she sold her country short to further her career. she is an amoral careerist. vid. tanner. there is more socialist conviction in one fibre of rudd that in the whole of gillard.
For God’s Sake, Let Her Resign!
Indeed, in his resignation speech he warned about what was going to happen.
Lets not forget that the crisis that initially spurred the leadership spill (dumping the CPRS) was Gillards idea.
While Rudd had to pay attention to the faceless men such as Bitar and Arbib, Gillard is owned by them.
I tend not to drop many responses, but i did
a few searching and wound up here John Quiggin
“Even the ALP voters who prefer Rudd will vote for Gillard if she remains in charge.”
Then even the ALP voters who want to stick to Gillard will vote for Rudd too.
This is exactly the reason why there should be a change back to Rudd. Hardcore Labor voters will always vote for Labor (even if you put Eddie Obeid there as PM), but that group has shrunk to historical low levels now around 30%. The reason Labor under Gillard is in such dire straits is soft Labor voters, lots of Green voters and soft Liberal voters just don’t warm up to her, and it is not hard to understand why (citizen assembly, east timor solution, real julia, opposition to gay marriage despite living in a unorthodox relationship herself, the Israel vote in Cabinet, the questionable association with union crooks in her earlier years, coddling of Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper, the crass exploitation of the 457 visa issue …… the list goes on). I think a lot of these voters are the ones who switch their votes to Rudd when given the option in the news poll survey. This probably explains the personal unpopularity of Abbot. These voters dislike Abbot but they also dislike Gillard more, so they grudgingly park their votes to the Coalition waiting for some change.
And it was hypocritical. Alan may be right in that he never used the ‘people smugglers’ business model’ phrase, but he did call ‘people smugglers’ the scum of the Earth in April of 2009 and later (2011) put his name to a statement invoking the ‘people smugglers business model’ meme. He was the guy in charge of the Pacific Viking matter.
Rudd had a chance to correct the Beazley error of 2001 and failed to do so, presumably out of the desire to pander. He was as much an author of what we have now in theis area as Gillard.
Let’s also not forget that he tried to game the ETS to wedge the Greens to his left and the Libs to his right — and then got cold feet and dumped it entirely. He dumped on things he ought to have praised. Then he tried to claw back by a crash through or crash attempt at RSPT. He precipitated the crisis that led to his ouster. The man lacks both acumen and integrity — much like his successor, though in her case, she has actually got some modestly useful things done (plain packaging, carbon pricing, maybe NDIS, NBN) in a hostile parliament along with some real nasties (asylum seekers, Newstart).
Ultimately, this ought not to be a beauty contest because that is no longer the key thing. The key thing is for the ALP to show some spine in the teeth of fierce aggression by the MBCM.
Anyone who is ‘parking their vote with Abbott’ is not someone the ALP wants to pitch at. Such a person is by definition, ignorant, deluded or reactionary. No person whom one could describe as thoughtful or in some insistent way attached to social justice and equity could contemplate such a course. That would be acting as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Under those conditions, while waiting for enlightenment to occur across Australia, it sounds like you would prefer the very slightly more progressive party to disappear.
You’re a Naderite.
So you admit that the asylum seeker policy under Rudd was different from (and better than) that under Howard and Gillard.
I’m not sure how you get that conclusion. While I assumed that rudd would be as hostile to workers as Howard was, I was modestly hopeful in November 2007 that Rudd would be better than Howard on asylum seekers and climate change policy.
When it became clear that he was no better in either of these areas, it was a blow, and I was embarrassed at having given him too much credit.
“Anyone who is ‘parking their vote with Abbott’ is not someone the ALP wants to pitch at.”
If we don’t pitch at those parkers, then where else exactly will we get those votes to get across the 50% finishing line? Pitch at the Liberal base?
I’m not sure to whom “we” refers above. If it’s the ALP, then the the party’s first task is to reinvent itself as a party, if not of progress than at least not of xenophobia and rightwing populism.
It needs to try to change the conversation so that a substantial number of those supporting the Liberals in ignorance and delusion and misanthropy abandon ignorance and delusion and misanthropy and seek out instead enlightenment and insight and authentic community. It’s success in doing that will be measured in people declining to “park” their votes with parties openly spitting on enlightenment, insight and authentic community merely because the person in charge of a party only doing it in a weaselly dogwhistling kind of way happens to be not all that personally appealing and also the subject of hostile media coverage.
as due to Gillard is a mistake. What you are missing is the fact that, in general, the direction of a ALP government is driven by the Parliamentary Caucus and Cabinet. While there is no record of Caucus decisions, presumably all of your 1 to 6 would have been exposed in Caucus and therefore supported by a majority or consensus.
While the PM has great influence, changing leaders would not produce significant change in Caucus. It would only produce different policy within limits if different Ministers are appointed from different tribes within factions.
To get different policy outcomes from the ALP, you need to change either the ALP itself or preselections.
So you think the abolition of Temporary Protection Visas, the cessation of the detention of children and indefinite detention were of no significance whatsoever?
http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2013/03/could-western-australia-deliver-the-coalition-control-of-the-senate.html has a great post showing that the WA Nats could win the 4th senate seat in WA. Libs should get 3 quotas, and Labor 2.
in 2010, the greens and Christian democrats fought it out for the last seat!! the Christian democrats are separate from family first.
The rise of family first, Christian democrats, DLP, WA Nats and Katter’s mob suggests that the greens are for a decline.
These parties will end up with the balance of power because they appeal to social conservatives and economic nationalists across the spectrum.
The greens are cannibalising the Left Labor vote and a protest vote that second preferences the liberals. 20% of green voters second preference to the Liberals.
The cessation of TPVs was matched by reinstatement of Christmas Island as a full scale detention centre. Some 522 children were in detention under Rudd in April 2010. The assessment regime at Christmas Island was and is opaque, and those deemed ‘security risks’ need not be told the information relied upon to assess them.
Rudd did nothing at all to attack the paradigm in which irregualr maritime passage applicants were seen as a threat to Australia. The bulk of those ‘people smugglers’ he tarred as ‘scum of the Earth’ (IIRC 483/493) turned out to be poor unsophisticated fisher folk from rural Indonesia — some of them children.
I agree completely that changing the ALP is a dire necessity. The most immediate way to effect such change is to deal the factional oligarchy a defeat from which it will never recover. That defeat’s initials are KR.
It really is extraordinary to read arguments that the way to change the ALP is to support a member of the factional oligarchy on the basis of an insupportable claim that she is somehow to Rudd’s left. The strangest of those arguments is taxing Rudd with the ETRS (which he did in an act of deep folly) when abandonment of the ETRS was forced upon him by one Julia Gillard.
Fran, I wasn’t aware of the statistics or detailed facts regarding the continued detention of children under the immigration system in various forms, despite it being official government policy not to detain them, and law that they be detained only as a last resort.
Sadly, it seems that you are correct, and the comparatively high-minded changes announced by Rudd and Evans in 2008 have not really been implemented in practice.
I’m yet to hear anyone but you make that claim, even to ridicule it.
You make that claim, Fran, among others, although not in those terms. Your defense of Gillard has involved a series of claims representing Rudd as having exactly the same polices as Gillard although those claims, when tested, often prove to be inaccurate.
It is true that at the end of Rudd’s term children were agin in detention. It is also true that according the >a href=”http://www.immi.gov.au/managing-australias-borders/detention/_pdf/immigration-detention-statistics-20121231.pdf”>current statistics are that 1222 children are in detention. Solving the asylum seeker criss was one of the Gillard’s 3 signature issues. Her solution is the same populist grab bag of detention and deterrence as Abbot’s, with the significant difference that Abbot at least accepts the terms of the Refugee Convention.
I did ask if you thought last weeks motorway to the CBD was a good die or not. Somehow you have not answered. I also wonder what you think of basing US troops in the Northern Territory is a good idea. Or voting with the US and Israel at the UN? Or demonising the 457 visas as a flood of foreigners taking Aussie jobs? Or declaring Assange a criminal without bothering to establish if he had actually committed any crimes?
You apparently don’t want the votes of anyone prepared to vote for the Coalition, but you want the leadership of someone almost indistinguishable from the Coalition.
There are 1,983 children in detention as of 1/3/13 “under” Gillard – 998 of them under lock and key, including on Christmas and Manus Islands, and 985 in “community” detention (effectively the same thing).
Unlike most commenters, I’m not raising this to make some pointless “lesser of two evils” argument for/against Rudd/Gillard – the point is that ALP is the Govt. and are going to get slammed on September 14 for abandoning the key reasons they were elected convincingly when Howard got turfed out.
I’m not getting this one-eyed support for Gillard coming from people otherwise critical of ALP.
Or, put honestly, I don’t make that claim.
Or, put honestly, in the course of my non-defence of Gillard, in which I explain why ousting her right now, especially in favour of Rudd would be a bad idea even though there’s not a struck match between the two of them in nurturing hatred of asylum seekers …
Which is quantitatively worse but qualitatively the same as with Rudd. The numbers are immaterial and really not in the power of either to vary greatly without a substantively different policy. In any event, as I’ve noted repeatedly, which of them is more egregious hardly matters when that is not germane to the argument at hand, even in your opinion. You seem to be arguing that Rudd’s return will improve the ALP organisationally.
Because the question was silly and not germane and not even a fair description of Gillard’s policy. It was a trolling question which didn’t deserve an answer in this topic, which is about the merits of ousting Gillard in favour of Rudd. I don’t know that Rudd has a view on it, but even if he did — so what?
Doubtless Rudd would favour it. The US alliance is a sacred cow with the ALP. They started it. They aren’t handing that to the Libs. Again though, this is not germane to the question — and certainly not until Rudd camapigns against it.
Oh … FPS … see above.
I don’t seek the votes of fools, misanthropes, hypocrites, tantrum throwers and oddballs, no. I see that as tainting the integrity of voting. Relying on such people can only taint the party and make them part of the problem.
The fiscally and socially conservative, narcisisstic, xenophobic, Murdoch promoted putative autocrat Rudd or the fiscally and socially conservative, xenophobic, Murdoch-opposed putative autocrat Gillard?
I’d like neither thanks very much. They are, as Humpty Dumpty reportedly said ‘much of a muchness. ‘ For better or worse, I’m not being asked to choose, but it seems to me that Murdoch would love to knock off another ALP leader, much as he knocked off Rudd in 2010. I’m even less well-disposed to him or his Liberal catspaws than Gillard or Rudd — and therein lies my position.
Yes I agree, but I do not think that factions are the problem – they may be the solution.
Although I well understand the arguments of those who are working in and with the Greens.
Whether Rudd, or whether Gillard, really misses the point.
You do a fabulous parody of them then. I really believed the performance. Thanks for setting me straight on that.
I don’t agree that’s clear at all, but if it turns out that way, I will call that tragic in a Greek or Shakespearean sense. Rest assured, neither your opinion nor mine will measurably affect the outcome. More powerful forces than us are at work.
Well you’re certainly not getting it from me.
I have both my eyes open and she and Rudd both look repulsive. As I’ve said elsewhere though, there are worse things than political parties losing elections — particularly, as you note, when they have done serious things wrong.
At that point, ethical insightful people must be able to step forward and explain to those ready to think and learn, how the whole sorry mess arose. It seems a lot of people are not yet ready to think and learn. I suppose we will see on September 14.
Why so snarky?
The “Gillard” children detention figures were quoted in direct response to this sentence of yours:
To be clear: I despise Gillard/Rudd/ALP’s policies and their effects (as at March 2013) pretty much equally.
As you find both Gillard and Rudd repulsive – why so defensive of Gillard, particularly, in this case? I’ll be surprised to be wrong, but I’m fairly sure that the Federal result for Labor this year will look a lot like the last State elections in NSW & Qld, and for much the same reasons and with much the same complete lack of reflection or introspection afterwards.
I suppose I should make myself clear. The current factions are divorced from any real ideology and essentially function as employment agencies for their members. Factions that actually argued policy would be a viable model.
I cannot see a new factional system emerging under the present deeply centralised oligarchy where, among other bad practices, executive intervention in pre-selections is so common that plebiscites are almost entirely a thing of the past. I do not say that making Rudd leader would democratise the party overnight. I do think it would open the way to change that is clearly closed at the moment.
I don’t think we should continue this exchange. Neither of us are being particularly respectful and fisk and counter-risk is not a useful dialogue.
Fran, is this an Ancient Greek Thing? You know, a tragedy…
I suppose I’m a touch miffed at being insistently verballed by some of those apparently urging a change in the ALP leadership. Me a ‘one-eyed’ Gillard supporter? Good grief!
You and Alan assert that I’m ‘defending’ Gillard but really, I’m not. I’m saying that the status quo is almost certainly going to work out no worse for the ALP in the short run, and less worse for the ALP in the long run. It’s mere coincidence that the status quo is Gillard.
I said the same thing when Rudd was in charge, in 2010, and on exactly the same grounds. It had nothing at all to do with their alleged relative merits at the time.
It is kind of a Greek-style tragedy. When they ousted Howard in 2007, they had a chance to press the reset button and rewrite the parameters of political discourse in favour of something that would have laid the foundations for a substantially more just society and in ways that would have marginalised the Beazley-Howard consensus.
Instead, they governed as Howard without Howard, and invited the mess they are in now. At state level Bob Howard Carr’s proteges finally took the final logical step and imploded in a last days of Rome-style binge and handed the Feds a huge mess. QLD did similarly after doing their best to imitate the worst of NSW.
It is dreadfully frustrating and tragic — if not for the ALP, then for those of their supporters who continue against the evidence to believe that their party is connected in some way with the idea of progress towards social justice.
For me it’s a bizarre and compelling proof that the elite are not by and large, nearly as collectively clever as they like to pretend nor even are they cleverer than the populace or any more ethically coherent.
Were I minded to serve Australian capitalism, I could do a far better job of running their party and keeping it in or near to power than they could, and I’m just a lowly school teacher.
I was completely with you at comment #8 (above).
Then at comment #38 this:
You must be aware of the “no media allowed” cosy meetings between Gillard (and Abbott and anyone else who might have any influence for that matter) and Murdoch’s executives at his Surry Hills HQ?
You can’t believe Gillard is any less of a Murdoch construct than any PM we are likely to have. She and her faceless men are the “Free-Market-Musketeers” from hell.
Still can’t work out how you think Gillard is the ‘best of a bad batch’. I don’t get your reasoning. Margaret Thatcher was a woman, but she wasn’t very nice.
You’re misreading. I was speaking in the passage above not of Gillard’s leadership but of the opening after a loss — one which would almost certainly end Gillard’s career — for a re-examination within the ALP of its usages and relationships with the MBCM.
There is already within the ALP a palpable sentiment that the MBCM is another quasi political rival, alongside the LNP. A loss in such circumstances as September 14 would surely let slip the dogs of change if not outright war on the Murdochracy. One saw some of this in the remarks of Gillard herself at the NPC in June of 2011 (?). Unconstrained by the fear of loss of government, one can believe people would stop biting their tongues.
Yes, changing the ALP also means changing the factions.
Sorry, still not following.
The time for “war on the Murdochracy” would have been the window that opened with the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone and will inevitably close with the impending ALP defeat. The ALP have “used” that window to give Murdoch more power and to toady to him even more than before.
Conroy’s current stunt is designed to achieve precisely nothing of substance in fixing our media and is a charade to show the ALP ‘standing up’ to Murdoch without taking one iota of power from him. Halving the rego fees for Murdoch’s Channel 10 and Stokes’ Channel 7 is just an added bonus.
Good analysis Fran Barlow.
There’s been some talk above (and very widely elsewhere of course) about the pernicious role of “factions” in the ALP — and if one reads Faulkner et al, “sub-factions” too.
There does seem to be a tendency however to treat “factions” as a self-evidently bad feature of party life, but it’s probably worth reflecting on what constitutes a bona fide faction (as distinct from a clique) and what the drivers of party policy would be if there were either no factions or those that existed were merely cliques.
Factions, in a healthy party develop around sets of coherent ideas. They are an attempt to win the party for some related and wholistic vision, typically in circumstances where there is a substantial disquiet within the ranks about party policy or its implementation.
It seems to me that the ALP’s factions do not at all fit this description. Most obviously, the factions are permanent rather than conceived to realise a specific set of goals, and are composed of people not bound by a common vision but merely an interest in positions within the party organisation or the public serrvice bureaucracy or parliament. Thus makes them not really factions but cliques. Cliques are signs of an unhealthy organisation, and the existence of cliques within cliques, especially so. The spectacle of someone like McDonald being ‘of the left’ when his position ended up being supported by the right underscores how far from factions within a healthy party what goes on in the ALP is. The idea that thwese cliques and sub cliques can successively bind their members does sound a lot like a rotten borough system, and seems an obvious example of inauthentic power.
That noted though, one can at least say of factions and cliques that they are composed of definite people and in theory at least, accountable for their conduct. They are at least, composed of party members. One might well ask — who would in practice determine ALP organisational life if there were no factions or cliques? The question is silly at one level because any large organisation without a clear vision of its purpose grander than some purely instrumental goal will tend to produce cliques, official or unofficial.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that if the ALP lost its cliques or they were seriously weakened, then power would move rapidly to power sources outside the party. To a large extent, this is already so, because the ALP, like the Liberals, isn’t in any meaningful way independent of the boss class, but depends on momentary alliances of fractions of it, who insinuate themselves into party life through its connections with government and its usages. The cliques, to use a physiological metaphor, are something like the connective tissue or the synapses in the ALP for boss class influence over policy and conduct. This is probably why there will always be cliques — they exist not because the ALP is a healthy vibrant party but because the boss class, or fractions of it need the party and a mechanism for directing it. In a very real sense, folks like Arbib and Richardson and Roozendale and Obeid are merely expressions of the wider usages of the boss class. The problem for the boss class is that if these cliques are to do their job effectively, they have to appear not merely as catspaws but as being a legitimate part of party life and thus may not always give the bosses exactly what they want.
If these cliques were to disappear though, it would be because the boss class, perhaps through the media or some other agency outside the party would control it at arms’ length.
It seems to me that ‘abolishing the factions and cliques’ isn’t, within the context of a fundamentally flawed and moribund party, not all that useful or progressive a demand for those interested in a healthy pro-social polity, even were there someone capable of carrying it off.
Me, I think Labor’s election chances are nil, but not for the reasons people think. 52-48 six months out should be manageable, but once the ALP looked like it might win that hypocrite Rudd would do what he did in the last election to make sure his enemies don’t triumph (his enemies, of course, not being the Opposition). Gillard stepping aside for him would be no good either – there would still be a bloody fight as much of the caucus looked for an “anyone but Rudd” candidate. If he did get into the leadership his enemies might even do to him in the 2013 campaign what he did to Gillard in the 2010 campaign.
As for the stuff about Gillard’s irreedemable personal unpopularity in the electorate, I think JQ has mistaken noise for substance. For a start, John, don’t forget you’re in Qld and Qld popular opinion on Rudd vs Gillard is not the same as Australian opinon. There’s more than a hint of “southern selectors dudding our team – again” up there.
Yeah, you can find plenty of people who hate her with a vengeance but then you could always find people who similarly hated Howard personally. Its true some people have never forgiven her for 2010 – but then they haven’t forgiven her colleagues either. That’s not really about Julia’s personality. Besides her approval ratings have always been better than the government’s and consistently better than Abbott’s.
“It seems to me that the ALP’s factions do not at all fit this description. Most obviously, the factions are permanent rather than conceived to realise a specific set of goals, and are composed of people not bound by a common vision but merely an interest in positions…”
I just read parts of the book Betrayal by Simon Benson, a Daily Tele journalist, about NSW Labor written in 2010 before Rudd’s demise, which reports the internal fights about …. well, bragging rights for winning battles for something. I presume most of it is largely true, based on first-hand accounts from Iemma, Costa, Keating and Unsworth. A grubby story which makes you feel like taking a shower afterwards, but interesting to find out the personal background of the various characters and speculate on what drives them. Benson claims the Rudd powerbase in NSW collapsed as a result of the Obeid-Tripodi group ascendancy over Arbib-Bitar-Albanese.
Anyway, my point is that I agree with you that factions are a just a human trait, and can be purposive and progressive. But it is this NSW faction, till now seen as permanent and disabling, that Alan and others have said needs to be smashed, and KR is the only one who might do it, and now, while Obeid is under pressure. Gillard barrackers don’t want to talk about anything which might lead to voter desertion, but that elephant in the room looms large and needs decisive action.
The latest Gillard gaffe, being her comments on 457 visas, not only reinforce the opportunist image (now Hanson is on board) but make her look foolish. The whole concept of 457 visas is that it fluctuates with the ups and downs in the economy, yet her stupid advisers make misplaced comparisons between rates of 457 increase and rates of employment increase, and she also can’t understand the simple maths involved. Respected demographer Peter McDonald has called her comments “extreme” and the problem is only in the order of 3%.
Prioritising the denial of another scalp to Murdoch’s gang is an indulgence, when compared to avoiding some big steps backward by defeating Abbott. Those of us who see Rudd as a sidestep not a backward step, think it is worth having someone who can increase the chance of that.