No Style, No Principles, No Spine
Apparently it’s been a year since Julia Gillard ousted Kevin Rudd. It’s remarkable how time flies in politics and in that time since we saw an election that hung the parliament an a 17day marathon negotiation to form a minority government, not to mention a Senate where the Greens will hold the balance of power from 1 July. Kevin Rudd went on to be Foreign Minister and has been jet-setting ever since. In the mean time, Julia Gillard has now clocked a fifth bad poll in a row – one more than Kevin when the factional heads moved in – and she is now the last popular PM in a long time. 27% is pretty bad. There are even noises from the electorate that suggests it wants Kevin back (his support is 60%).
You wonder about the electorate if it basically said it didn’t want Rudd because he walked away from an ETS, but when Gillard moves towards a Carbon Price regime to lead into an ETS, it gets up in arms about whether a minority government should be allowed to pass such legislation. It’s either the case that you want the ETS or you don’t, and if Rudd’s fault is that he walked away from it, then Gillard’s fault as such shouldn’t be that she wants to negotiate her way to one.
A lot of this kind of confusion owes to Tony Abbott running around trying to scare up as much fear as he can, but when you think about it rationally, he won’t be able to repeal any of it because it’s going to be immensely retrograde as well as expensive. The reason the original ETS – as proposed by the Coalition itself – came into play was because essentially the big end of town needs some kind of clarity as to what the government was going to do about controlling emissions, and by extension how they were going to arrange investments. Once the carbon price is in and the businesses make their investments accordingly, they’re going to be very irate with Tony Abbott if he comes in an repeals it.
The worst aspect of all this is that neither Gillard nor Abbott seem to be able to talk some sense into the electorate. Gillard can’t because the left wing of the ALP has taken leave to the Greens and won’t be coming back any time soon while Abbott has decided the best thing he can do is to side with the lunar right fringe of the conservatives, so in short, he chooses not to talk sense. It’s a shame because this kind of fractious politics over something that once had bipartisan support hurts our polity in the long run. If Australian politics is heading towards an extreme polarisation, then it won’t be long before we allow in extreme voices from the far left and far right. A good example in history is none other than the Weimar Republic that gave rise to the Nazis.
And I don’t say this lightly because the more fractious and confrontational and polarised we become over issues that are essentially in agreement such as the ETS, then we’re simply opening the door to populists and demagogues – and heaven only knows there are plenty of those on the radio waves doing talk radio. Basically, our public seems to be getting dumber and less well-advised about our options as a society. If we use our harshest language for the most trivial differences, then how are we going to confront true evil when it walks into the room presenting itself as the final solution? Or maybe Tony Abbott would welcome that? Or maybe he wants to be that fascist hero? He sure seems like an opportunist enough.
Yet, it’s not all about Tony Abbott and his inflammatory two-faced rhetoric. The ALP and Julia Gillard also have to cop a lot of blame in letting things get out of hand. In Julia Gillard, I think we have one of the least media savvy politicians in a long time. It’s not that she doesn’t present well on camera or has no sense about words or culture; it’s that she has no sense of how to stand up for her office of Prime Minister first. I guess she *is* the first female Prime Minister of Australia with no previous model to work from, and we are egalitarian; but she needs to confront the media with the weight of the Prime Minister more, not less. She needs to run the “how dare you address the Prime Minster that way?” a few times at some of these media cohorts. Part of the reason her support has dropped is because she keeps trying to be reasonable. Well, neither Bob Hawke nor Paul Keating were reasonable. John Howard less so, even though he liked to be seen as a genial sort of bloke. Now that it’s been a year since the Rudd-removal and there’s been an election as well, she should tell the electorate to get over it. Were stuck with her.
Maybe she doesn’t feel the legitimacy much, but if she is going to survive, she needs to throw her weight around as the Prime Minister more. After all, if she fails, then the ALP are going to be forced to look at taking back Kevin Rudd. And if that is such a bad idea, they need to work a lot harder to restore their standing.