A rocky start

The Abbott government has had the rockiest start of any newly-elected government I can recall[1]. Opinion polls are already showing the government trailing Labor, even before the election of a new opposition leader.
The failure has two main elements. The first is the consequence of gaining office on the basis of slogans and personality politics rather than any coherent set of policy proposals. ‘Stop the boats’ was a great vote-winner for the LNP in opposition, but in office it’s a hostage given to fortune. Maybe the boats will stop and maybe not, but bombastic rhetoric will have no effect one way or the other.
The implication for Labor is not to respond in kind with wrecking and cheap slogans. Rather, it’s to make the point that, however dysfunctional the previous government may have been terms of leadership, and whatever the problems of implementation, it was in the right (or at least better than the LNP) on all the major policy issues[2].
The implied political strategy is to defend and extend the key policies of the Rudd-Gillard government, with the exception of the mistakes driven by short-run political exigencies (the archetypal example being the withdrawal of benefits from single parents, and the associated failure to do anything to improve the treatment of unemployed people in general).
That means treating the Abbott government as a temporary interruption a program of reform that includes carbon pricing, the NBN, NDIS and Gonski reforms. The only big gap in Labor’s program is the absence of a credible plan to finance these policies in the long run, while allowing state governments sufficient revenue to do their work. Labor needs to use the time in opposition to break with the low-tax rhetoric of the past, and work out a coherent plan to increase revenue. In practice, there’s no real chance of increasing the rate or coverage of GST, so the options will have to come on the income tax side. More on this soon, I hope.
The second factor in Abbott’s poor start is the ‘born to rule’ mentality that we’ve already seen in Queensland. Newman and his ministers have been shameless in grabbing more and better perks, giving jobs to their mates and so on. Abbott has started in the same vein, with examples such as the sacking of Steve Bracks, and his rumored replacement with a mate such as Nick Minchin. The contrast with Rudd, who left Liberal appointees in place, and gave plum appointments to well qualified Libs, is striking. Although the travel expense scandals now coming to light date from the past, they fit into a pattern that is already evident.
Of course, Labor is hardly innocent in this. But the isolated examples that have come to light, and the near-total absence of ministerial scandals in the Rudd-Gillard government suggest that this is not a case of ‘everybody does it’. Labor should join the Greens in pushing reform of the entire system.

fn1. The arguable exception is the Labor minority government that emerged from the 2010 election. But this wasn’t a new government or a new PM: Labor had a couple of years on top after 2007 and Gillard had already had her honeymoon period in the immediate aftermath of the deposition of Rudd.

fn2. ‘Better than Abbott’ was a pretty low bar when it came to refugee policies. But Labor did at least increase the refugee intake, while Abbott has cut it.

83 thoughts on “A rocky start

  1. @Ronald Brak

    It can’t actually be cheaper. Because if it was, we would only be building wind farms. I’m a fan of renewables, but if it was that simple, we’d have already done it.

    There is also the ITER project to make fusion power a reality. One way or another, we’ll replace fossil fuels in the next 30 years.

    And its worth noting that we won’t be cutting our individual energy consumption much to do it. Its just that the energy will be generated without emissions.

  2. Here is what the apparently “Socialist Left” Alan Griffin secretly told the CIA about his selling out of a long time mate (at his funeral – classy) to appease the extreme right, presumably:

    In light of the current asylum seeker challenge in
    Australia, which he believes will not be an election issue
    for the Rudd government, Griffin relayed a story about the
    funeral of one of his long-time friends of Tamil extraction.
    Griffin was asked to speak at the funeral and only noticed
    when he approached the coffin that it was draped in the Tamil
    Tiger flag. He quickly modified his televised speech,
    acknowledging that he and his friend had a long-term
    friendship, but “often disagreed.” Griffin also noted the
    disturbing possibility of Tamil Tiger members being among
    Tamil asylum seekers destined for Australia.

    Any questions about why I have nothing but deep contempt for the faux-left ALP?

  3. @Ronald Brak
    I think wind power prices should add the LGC subsidy currently about 3.4c per kwh. I accept that at some point unsubsidised new wind will always be cheaper than combined cycle gas as the gas price continues to escalate. However there must be enough standby on-demand generation capacity or energy storage to cover protracted lulls. Rather than dictating the percentage of wind and solar we should just have a CO2 cap and reserve margin rules and let the players sort it out.

    I can’t see home batteries getting to anywhere near the numbers of rooftop PV owners. There may be no rebates years from now. New designs would have to be wall mounted not require floorspace in a locked shed. I know formerly cashed up people living off-grid who bought a battery bank and now don’t have the $20k to replace it. Like owners of heated swimming pools I expect urban battery users will be few and far between. I doubt it is practical to charge an electric car and also use it as a home battery.

  4. @Megan

    Any questions about why I have nothing but deep contempt for the faux-left ALP?

    Yes, I have a couple of questions.

    1. Referencing your source is especially important here, so who reported this and what were the circumstances? eg. was it a CIA source (their truthfulness you wouldn’t trust in a fit otherwise, but here it suits what you want to believe). And do you feel any reservations about intruding your interpretations on an event (where I presume you weren’t present), and involving a complicated personal relationship (which I presume you have no firsthand knowledge about.)

    2. according to your judgement about Griffin, this incident somehow implicates the “faux left ALP” as guilty by association – Plibersek, Albanese, who else? Come on, name names or tell us what their “sins” are. Are they also part of a grand CIA conspiracy against Australia?

    Do you acknowledge that this mode of attack is ugly – the politics of smear? You should put up some evidence or withdraw.

    Now, if you really want to attack the ALP (and I do), here are some issues for comment:

    1. it’s been reported that Albanese never aimed to be a serious contender, but this was a “show trial” to get media attention, demonstrate unity, galvanise the party; hmm, maybe true.

    2. Bracks on telly tonight talked about how the process was a stimulus to internal party democracy – what a revelation! Hey Steve: pushing for action on your 2010 report (with Faulkner and Carr) might have brought it on earlier (but the party is full of followers not leaders).

    3. Shorten’s role as the kingmaker in Aust politics – Rudd, then Gillard (and the GG if he chose). And what happened to the LGBT representation? Playing to the internal membership for vote harvesting? We won’t see that idea again.

  5. @kevin1

    1. Source is Wikileaks cables (of course they only tell us what faceless men told them – doesn’t mean it’s true, Griffin may have made it up to impress his perceived US masters. Doesn’t really make it any better for the stooges, does it?).

    2. I see you decline to cite a credible source for the Albanese stuff (Mind you, search Albanese in the cables! “It has been reported” is usually code for “Rupert says”).

    3. You want to “attack” straw persons, not the ALP or any other power structure.

    4. You incorrectly use quotation marks when referencing my comment. The ALP, in its entirety is “faux left”, not just some pretend grouping within it.

    Unless I’ve got you completely wrong, I accept that you are the most rusted on of ALP supporters – it might be that you want your team to be better than it is.

    I despise both ALP/LNP based on their track records. I have no historical link or sentimental attachment to either of them. That may make me unfortunate or lucky. Who really cares? I refuse to perpetuate a failed system and I am free from ideological shackles.

  6. @Megan
    I saw this secondhand gossip about Griffin as being possibly unfair to him, and certainly inadequate to judge the ALP: “any stick to beat a brown dog” just because you despise them can be below the belt. However I admit being a bit excessive myself at times, so best I just shut up now.

    I’m not rusted on Labor, though there are times when the left criticism goes too far IMO, and a false equivalence is made. I’ve just been reading Troy Bramston’s 2011 book Looking for the Light on the Hill, and he interviews Karl Bitar soon after he left the ALP Nat Sec job. Bitar says he worked with 100 ministers and the system promotes risk-aversion, lack of controversy and marching to the official drumbeat which is no surprise I guess. The system dumbs down and wears out smart people often of high principle, and Labor is unlikely to change it. So often people in political life seem to take the truth drug after they step down when it’s too late, not when they’re doing the job and can change things!

  7. This probably belongs in a “Weekend Reflections” or “Sandpit”, but here will have to do.

    The “Bikie” “laws” are astounding. Nobody in the bland world gives a flying hoot, but these laws criminalise everyone for anything at the whim of the executive. I’m not being a weirdo, this is extremely serious. The laws (and the myriad amendments to several dozen other Acts) mean that any group of 3 people can be declared criminal and any of them deemed to be some kind of leader MUST be jailed for an extra 25 years if they commit one of the crimes chosen by the executive.

    Jarrod Bleije did not draft these extreme laws by himself. Several test phases have been run through the High Court to get to this version, MK III (?).

    In essence, this will be applied to CSG protesters, anti-austerity protesters, first nations activists, “occupy” protesters, environmentalists and so on.

    The Qld Police are already shaking down anyone with tattoos, a history of riding motorcycles and many other groups (some serious googling will throw up examples).

    This is absolutely terrifying for democracy in this state.

    Of course, the ALP “Opposition” (all 7 of them – as if it would have killed them to take a stand) wholeheartedly saluted and proudly backed Newman’s draconian laws this week. Without a squeak. Without even demanding a pretend shred of proper oversight.

    The ALP’s gripe was that the laws weren’t as harsh as they would like!

    Before attacking my comment, do what I’ve done and read the entire Hansard from Tuesday.

    You ALP supporters make me sick.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s