Tag Archives: ALP

Unfinished Business In The ALP

Gillard Wanted To Handball The PM Chair To Combet

I like Greg Combet. He’s the only politician I know of who has admitted to being a fan of Frank Zappa. He’s done now, but while he was around, I had hopes for the man. Perhaps these hopes were misplaced, given that the sort of man who likes Frank Zappa might look at Australian Politics and choose to walk away. I have to respect that as a voter, but it’s still sad. Maybe it got too hard to work in Parliament all week and go home and put on a Frank Zappa record and there is Frank singing “Keep it greasy so it goes down easy“. I’d imagine the cognitive dissonance might become unbearable. And so it is that he left Parliament at the end of his term at the 2013 election.

The news today – more like a non-news really – is that Julia Gillard offered to hand him the Prime Minster’s chair, just to fend off Kevin Rudd. This is pretty bleak material.

An embattled Julia Gillard secretly offered to stand down as Prime Minister in June 2013 and secure the leadership for then Climate Change and Industry minister Greg Combet in order to fend off Kevin Rudd, Mr Combet has revealed.

But dogged by months of ill-health, and unsure that a switch to a third leadership contender so close to an election would improve Labor’s position, Mr Combet declined the chance to be prime minister.

‘‘I was struggling a good deal personally by the time June [2013] came around’’ Mr Combet told Fairfax Media in an interview this week. ‘‘I was in constant pain with the problems that I was having, and the thought of taking on additional responsibility and not being 100 per cent fit to do it, in that febrile environment, it didn’t look easy.’’

This ALP factional infighting is pretty awful stuff. It partly goes with the terrain of the Westminster system, and over the years we’ve been made to be inured to its odd outcomes. The ins and outs of these machinations are way beyond the purview of the electorate, and are subject to influences from such things as the Unions and lobby groups. It’s just difficult to understand how they could have cocked up so many decisions along the way.

He says he remains convinced that former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley would have won the 2007 federal election and become a highly successful Labor Prime Minister if Mr Rudd had not dislodged him.

ACTU polling as part of the Your Rights At Work Campaign in the run up to the 2007 election left him ‘‘completely convinced Beazley would have won’’, which would have resulted in a ‘‘vastly more experienced, mature person as Prime Minister presiding over, for want of a better description, a really grown up government, avoiding all the mistakes’’.

‘‘Neither Julia nor Kevin had had a lot of experience in leadership roles and I think that impacted on their capacity to do the job’’ Mr Combet told Fairfax Media.

So at least we were right all along in 2007, that the Rudd-Gillard leadership was a balls-up waiting to happen. It’s a shame I can’t point to neither Kevin Rudd nor Julia Gillard as the same kinds of leaders as Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam before them. The tumultuous six years in government exposed all the problems of the ALP that went unsolved since Keating lost in 1996. The problem is compounded by the fact that neither Kim Beazley nor Simon Crean were able to restructure the party in the way it needed to be restructured, and Mark Latham’s turn was certainly hobbled by the same influences that replaced Beazley twice, that put in Rudd, removed Rudd, removed Gillard and essentially burnt the metaphorical house down.

Oh, and Ms. Gillard, I will never forget the slight you made when you said you were not a social democrat.

Here’s Mark Latham being particularly frank about it.

Faulkner’s reform plan, to be put to State Conference this weekend, is to allow ALP branch members to select the party’s upper house tickets. Having given rank-and-file members a say in the selection of Labor’s federal and state leaders, why shouldn’t they be empowered to preselect upper house candidates? Why doesn’t Clements trust the True Believers who staff the polling booths, who keep their local branches alive, who fight so passionately for the cause of Labor?

Far from restricting rank-and-file union involvement, democratisation encourages it. It says to union members: don’t allow union secretaries doubling up as factional bosses to make all the big decisions. Join your local ALP branch and have a direct say in how the party is run: in picking federal and state leaders, in selecting Labor’s lower and upper house candidates.

This is what Faulkner is trying to achieve: Labor as a membership-based party, rather than a narrow factional-based clique.

Mark Latham’s been made out to be a crazy person by the media which must be galling because he commentates in the media; and once upon a decade ago, he was the guy trying to put together a way back to office, when the party machine had run through both Beazley and Crean and found them wanting. It’s hard to forget those terrible years either, together with the terrible campaign and defeat that followed. And all that time, the likes of Mark Arbib and Paul Howes were fucking shit up from behind the scenes.

It’s really hard to forgive the ALP. Especially if you don’t want to vote for the right.

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Generation Change

The ALP’s Gen-X Crew

The Herald was making the point today that the ALP have gone Gen-X with their choice of frontbench. When you think about it, Bill Shorten is 46 going on 47 so that puts him at the older range of Gen-X, and Tanya Plibersek at 44, it’s true that the ALP have indeed gone Gen-X. I have a late Boomer friend who tells me that all this demographic stuff is just a construct not worthy of analysis, except I’ve been writing here under the banner of ‘Gen-X View Of The Universe’ for a good 5 years now. It obviously means something.

What could it mean?

The Generation X politician in Australia would have arrived at Tertiary education after the AUS was disintegrated by the likes of Peter Costello and Tony Abbott in 1983, Interestingly enough, Julia Gillard was the last President of the AUS when it collapsed in 1983. If you anted a model to the fractious politics of the Julia Gillard Prime Mininster-ship, you would have found it in the demise of the Australian Union of Students, with the same cast of late Baby Boomers thrashing and trashing institutions to make their political mark. What’s scary is that they’re still around aplenty in the Liberal and National party ranks, and they probably still don’t think much of indulging in that sort of ratbag behaviour. This explains the histrionic opposition style Tony Abbott chose to work with – because it is the method he used in his youth to destroy the AUS , headed up by Julia Gillard. Worse still, it worked again, so that may be why he’s so convinced he has some kind of mandate.

The demise of the AUS and the years where there was no student lobby until the NUS got up in the late 1980s allowed HECS to be brought in. Unlike the Baby Boomers, most of the Gen-X politician would have had to pay HECS. When they say education and the opportunities it affords are important, they know what they are saying. All these things are intimately entwined.

If there is one thing that I do think is encouraging about the Gen X ALP politicos is that they are of the generation that had to put back together the NUS and have the experience of rebuilding institutions. If the ALP under Rudd-Gillard looked positively fractured, then I think the current group might be able to start from scratch and build a proper agenda that suits the time. As I wrote the other day, I’m feeling fairly optimistic about the Shorten-Plibersek team, much more so than I felt about the Rudd-Gillard team when they first rose to the level of Opposition leader and deputy back in 2006. They’re not perfect human beings and they will make their mistakes. I just don’t think they’re as fractious and crazy as the generation of politicians who were forged in the dying days of the AUS.

Right now, the Coalition are the party of the Baby Boomers much more than Gen-X or Gen-Y by dint of the ageing population and makeup of the Liberal and National Party demographic. The fissure hasn’t been more stark than any other time since Mark Latham as late Baby Boomer was taking on John Howard who was born before the Boomers. That fissure sort of leaves the current ALP firmly in the Gen-X camp with the hope of picking up a big portion of support from Gen-Y.  The question then is whether Gen-X+Gen-Y interest is a big enough voting constituency to overcome the Baby Boomers’ interests in their twilight years.

Demographically speaking, Gen-X is small and shorter than either the Boomers before or the Gen-Y that follows. That being the case the duo may never make it. And if they did, they may be seen off by a Gen-Y politician. Consider the American experience. Bill Clinton was the first Boomer President, who was followed by George W. Bush who was followed by Barack Obama, all of whom are Boomers. All three Presidents won two terms, so the Baby Boomer reign will last 24years. If a Gen-X candidate won 2 terms after Obama, the next election after that will likely see a pair of Gen-Y candidates. It’s entirely possible there will never be a Gen X President of the United States.

Similarly, I don’t see any Gen-Xers knocking on the door in the Coalition ranks. If Abbott is replaced for some reason, it’s possible the leadership reverts to Malcolm Turnbull or goes to Joe Hockey – both of whom are Boomers. The longer the Coalition stay in power, the less chance there will be of a government of Gen-Xers in Australia.

So when you look at it through the demographic filter, that’s what we have with Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek: The one and only shot at Gen-X forming Government in Australia.

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Fear Of The Known

They Believe In Their Own Bullshit

What really frightens me about the Liberals and the Nationals is no not just what they will do, but just how much they believe in their own utter bullshit about how they are better managers or that they are better managers of the economy. It’s true that they’re not going to come out and say “hey the ALP did a great job in riding through the GFC” but instead it’s been this huge diatribe about government debt. Well, there are two things bigger and scarier than Federal government debt in Australia and that is local council debt and private sector debt.

Here’s the vaunted Economist magazine’s Global Debt Clock page. yes, that’s Australia in red there, and the thing is Australia’s public debt is high. Yes, it’s true, but if you look at it, the figure sits at 27.1% of GDP. As of 31 August, the Federal Government component of it is 11.3%. It’s not comparable to places where the debt is sitting at 78.3% of GDP (the USA) or for that matter 232% (Japan). You should check out what other countries in red are suffering. It is true that the Federal budget position is worsening as revenue drops, but it is hardly the kind of crisis the Liberal is talking us up into. If after all that spending and all that alleged mismanaging, the debt is 11.3%, then hooray to the ALP.

More to the point, there’s something like 16% of GDP sitting on the shoulders of local councils – and nobody really knows how they’re going to pay that back. But I guess that’s not really a Federal issue to win votes so  you don’t see the Libs and Nats running around talking up that even bigger public debt.

Private debt is another matter entirely, and nobody wants to touch this because the economy is a house of cards built on confidence. Nobody wants us to lose the confidence we have in our economy but quite frankly we’ve not really made it through the property bubble and prices are heating up again in major cities. We’re nowhere near digesting the debt tied up in mortgages across the country, and we’ve started to look at housing as the next engine of growth after the mining boom tapers off. Except you don’t hear a peep out of the Libs or Nats about this too because they like the wealth effect of having inflated asset prices on people’s ledgers. They won’t be repealing negative gearing any time soon. They like inflated property prices, low disposal income. They like being asset-rich cash-poor, even if that ends up hurting growth prospects for the economy.

It’s a joke that they’re out in front with such shoddy economic thinking that even a novice can see is bullshit, but there they are believing in the self-flung shitstorm of bullshit. Somebody help us out here. We’re about to vote in the party of the property bubble again. And they haven’t learnt their lessons at all. They’re coming at us with the same rhetoric they came at us in the first place. If it’s the personal failing of Tony Abbott, that’s one thing but it’s not – the whole lot of the front-benchers are trotting out this bunkum. Their back-benchers? Staying out of the spotlight as much as they can so as not to put their foot in it.

So this is it. The inevitable moment when the born-to-rule club comes back into power to run their austerity program which will inevitably hurt the economy. Good grief Charlie Brown.

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Goodbye Julia Gillard

Cognitive Dissonance As A Way Of Life

I never warmed to Julia Gillard as our PM. I felt bad right through the 3years and 3days that she was Prime Minister of Australia. I found myself mourning for Kevin Rudd’s time in office, which is overstating my affection for Kevin Rudd, but all the same I never found anything that comforted me about Julia Gillard being Prime Minister. This is alarming in hindsight given her considerable accomplishments in a difficult, minority government she had to run as a result of a hung Parliament. The thing about these accomplishments is that she had wonderful way of putting a grey cloud on every silver lining. None of the things she accomplished were the full glass of water. There always seemed to be something glaringly wrong with the picture.

Take the ETS and carbon price she is so proud of. Initially, she went to the election promising not to do it. The hung Parliament forced her to negotiate with the Greens, who made her commit to it, even though it went against her election promise. As history has shown this was a crucial point that lost her much support. The resulting ETS sported a fixed price of $25/ton of carbon, which had nothing to do with the market, and taking the rising Australian dollar, ended up being over-priced and counter to the notion of a market.

The Mining Tax renegotiated turned into a tax that hardly raised any money, much to the ridicule of the opposition. In the crucial negotiations, they locked out treasury officials from the room to get a deal, and of course it turned out she and Wayne Swan lost their shirts at the negotiation table.

It’s this kind of self-defeating thing that just kept coming up with all of her government’s achievements. The Gonski reforms might be great, but to fund it, she cut funding to tertiary education. Tertiary education and the pricing of degree remains a huge problem in this country, but no, she just robbed Peter to Pay Paul. The NDIS, which is universally lauded and passed with bipartisan support, is also un-costed. The Fairwork Australia act, for all the trumpeting has contributed greatly to the drag in productivity in Australia. And these are the big things. Then there were the little things, but they really aren’t what I want to be writing about.

The Gillard ALP government doesn’t really have a bad record, but closer scrutiny of these bigger reforms bring you the sense that they got a lot of things done in a half-arsed way under Julia Gillard. And while it might have taken a good deal of negotiation and administration, in the end she piled up as much red ink as black ink. Clearly she was ambitious, purposeful and driven, but also in an awful hurry. She sure didn’t wait long to metaphorically knife Kevin Rudd in the back to get the top job, and this was possibly her worst mistake. As Paul Keating observed at the time, “it was only one bad poll.”  She, along with the faceless men, jumped the gun in ridding themselves of Kevin Rudd at the first opportunity. They were careless because in democracy you cannot kill the king, and the exiled king has now returned. In the worst way possible, Julia Gillard’s own narrative got coloured by this Shakespearean Lady Macbeth sort of narrative. Perhaps this was even unfair, but it was her own doing.

There might have been a Gillard government born in due course when Kevin Rudd’s historic mission had ended. Instead she sort of inserted her 3year narrative into the interrupted narrative of Kevin Rudd’s mission in history. In other ways, Julia Gillard was a very backward looking politician. In the dying days of her office it was abundantly clear she was the champion of the unions, above all else. Her declaration that she is not a social democrat, and not a progressive, but a labor Prime Minister did more to narrow her appeal than expand it. Similarly, her presentation of the gender war, the class warfare and so on cut her own base ever narrower with the ‘us-and-them’ rhetoric. In that sense her 3 years represent a rearguard action for the waning powers of the union movement. She is just as retrogressive as Tony Abbott who is forever chasing the 1950s as a Golden Age.

Compared to the slice-and-dice rhetoric of Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd’s ‘us-and-them’ rhetoric is a lot more inclusive. Just watching him last night made you wonder at all the missed opportunity Julia Gillard had to speak for all ALP supporters, social democrats, progressives and the greens alike – but didn’t. Instead she kept dividing and segmenting the people – women here, disabled there, elderly here, students there; all the while running caveats about how she’s not one thing or another. In hindsight, it’s easy to see the one thing she wasn’t, was somebody who was for all of Australia. The Australia she talked to was very different to the Australia as the electorate understood it.

There is already discussion about how she will be viewed in history as Australia’s first woman prime minister. Indeed, this is the essence of her time in power. She was the first female prime minister of Australia, (which is a good thing) but she was a mightily disliked one (which is bad). The black ink and the red ink, side by side. The hung Parliament, caught in the balance. The deals, the agreements, the less than optimal outcomes. The dislike that was directed at her was at times totally unpalatable sexism and irrational, hateful contempt. Yet, at the heart of that dislike that came back from the electorate had a lot to do with the way she came to power. It wasn’t that she was a woman that was the problem; it was that she had deposed a popular ‘man of the people’ to grab power. All the attempts to deflect the electorate from this understanding failed her, and with it went her office.

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And In The End…

Long Live The Donkey

Long time readers would know that I was dreading the upcoming Federal election. Given the choices of parties and leaders, I couldn’t see myself a way out from donkey voting. I’d even given myself a handle – Don Quivote – in large part so I could tell as many people of my great political discomfort at the choices being offered.

Thanks to the ALP Caucus finally dumping Julia Gillard as their leader, I am spared of the need to donkey vote.

I imagine there will be much parsing of the nuances and events that led to the spill that ousted Julia Gillard, our first female Prime Minister. When I think of her accomplishments, I have to say that they are a decent amount of them and that I had no issue with her policy positions in most part. If anything my great dissatisfaction with Julia Gillard was always the manner in which she couched the issues. I have written of those things at great lengths so I won’t rehash them here. I am however surprised that Julia Gillard tried to smoke out Kevin Rudd with the challenge and forced the loser to quit – which in the end has sealed her own fate.

When I think back I can recall that the first incarnation of the Rudd-Gillard teaming in opposition was a great compromise in order not to blow up the ALP in opposition as it sat there without a clue as to how to remove the monolithic Howard-Costello government. Riddled with factional warfare the ALP had the option of going with the popular but tether-less Kevin Rudd or the party apparatchik (no pun intended on chick by the way) Julia Gillard. The compromise as it were, was to run with Kevin Rudd as the leader and win the election and sort it out later. It’s not surprising then that the sorting out bit turned out to be the Rudd coup and installation of Gillard as Prime Minister, which obviously put the same conflict back in relief.

Julia Gillard has complained that this infighting has been the hallmark of her time as Prime Minister, but when you think about it, it has been the hallmark of the ALP after the demise of the Keating government, and you can count luminaries such as Simon Crean, Kim Beazley, Mark Latham as well as the first Rudd office as participants and victims of this factional brawling. And really, the division has never healed. Although one imagines the whole NSW Right getting found out by ICAC in NSW has sort of lent a helping hand in blurring the factional lines quite a bit. How can you go around being a bossy-boots NSW Right faction member after it gets found out that the leaders of the factions were only in it to line their own pockets?

Isn’t the meltdown in NSW poll numbers essentially related to the disgust with the ALP? Doesn’t the Rudd coup fall under one of the things the electorate deeply resents about the Gillard-led ALP?

All that being said, there has been a long standing feeling that Kevin Rudd’s mission in politics was incomplete, while Julia Gillard’s historic mission as Prime Minister might have seen its last day partly as a result of the Gonski reforms passing the Senate late this afternoon. It’s easier to understand the last three years as the years Julia Gillard decided to get her bit in – but now she is done. It looks as if she burned all of her political capital in 3 years to make her mark and now all she has is the legacy of her minority government in the history books – oh that and a fat superannuation pay out, but they all get those.

The big surprise today was Bill Shorten who looked like he swallowed a poison grenade and holding in the explosion as he announced he was backing Rudd. One imagines that must have  been quite uncomfortable given his wife’s support for Julia Gillard as well as his role in installing Julia Gillard as PM, knifing Kevin Rudd three years ago. I guess he’s had his public humble pie moment. The recognition there might be that the Rudd project had not run its course, and that in fact he was mistaken in having moved against Kevin Rudd back in 2010. That his personal animosity towards Kevin Rudd didn’t amount to a hill of beans. One imagines these would be really tough things to get one’s head around.

When you line it all up, it’s not entirely clear if the divisions can be healed by Julia Gillard leaving politics. Or will Kevin Rudd fill that vacuum left behind with his vision for Australia? To do that, he still needs to win the next election. It will be interesting to see what the next polls are going to say.

It sure has been a heck of a day. At last I get to retire my donkey.

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Terminal, Interminably Terminal

There Actually Is No Cure

The business of the ALP Leadership has gone beyond a farce – it did that back in March this year when Kevin Rudd refused to contest the leadership. Since then it has veered towards the kind of tragedy the Ancient Greeks thought was cathartic, and if things go the way they’re going it will indeed by cathartic when the ALP government get flushed out of office by an angry electorate.

This morning’s leading news was that Julia Gillard’s primary vote support had collapsed to 29%.

In a finding certain to ratchet up pressure on the Prime Minister’s besieged leadership, the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll has found Labor’s standing has continued to slide, led entirely by a 7 per cent exodus of men, while failing to lift substantially among female voters.

According to the monthly survey, the ALP’s primary vote now has a psychologically devastating ”2” in front of it with less than three months to the election on September 14.

Ms Gillard also has gone backwards as preferred prime minister, giving her the lowest approval rating in a year.

Which, when you look at it, means that Julia Gillard has more chance of being run over by a bus than being Prime Minister on 15th September this year. The word still, is that she’s not quitting; that Kevin Rudd isn’t challenging; and that Bill Shorten is being leaned on mightily to do *something*. Then of course we learn Mrs. Shorten is sort of a cheerleader for Ms Gillard.

One would have to surmise there’s no way Bill Shorten is going to be that trigger to “lance the boil”.

All of this has had me thinking about what this means and basically it is this: the ALP as a party that represents a significant portion of the electorate is finished. The great alliance of interests that rallied for Gough Whitlam and then Bob Hawke and Paul Keating is now gone. It has been whittled back down to a bunch of Unionists who have essentially captured the castle, and they’re not giving it up. This would explain the expressed desire on the part of Julia Gillard to disavow being a social democrat or a progressive, and stake her position around unionism.

The immense popularity of Kevin Rudd is also vexing as it is fascinating as it seems to hold so much hope. But then again it did the same in 2007 and somehow we’ve ended up where we have ended up. This suggests that Kevin Rudd is probably nowhere near as good, as he is widely believed by the electorate. Or maybe it is the instant nostalgia for 2007, a year before the grinding Great recession and a term well before the frictions of the hung Parliament and minority government. I am suspecting that Kevin Rudd wasn’t all he’s cracked up to be. I had my doubts back then and in many ways I still have my doubts now.  Of course if I could choose, I would still choose Kevin Rudd over Julia Gillard.

Whatever the case, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a coup to oust Julia Gillard, which means the electorate has made up its mind and it’s going to be Tony Abbott who is going to be Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, there are many people who are rolling their eyes at this prospect, and some are even looking for their passports. The ALP is holding out hope that all the people who deserted it in the polls would actually vote for them, even if through preferences, once it comes into sharp focus that it is Tony Abbott who will be Prime Minister after the ALP lose on the 15th September. My own view is that a lot of people would take a dim view of such blackmail from the ALP. After all, the ALP has resisted its own constituents who have asked for Kevin Rudd to be brought back. How can such insults be repaid but with a ballot for the other party?

So little is known of Tony Abbott’s policies apart from stopping asylum seeker boats ad towing them back to Indonesia, repealing the carbon tax and taxing top companies to fund maternity leave. Just as it is the case every time the government changes, it is important that the new Prime Minster is just not the previous Prime Minister. The years that the ALP spent in opposition were actually quite terrible and humiliating. By the time Kevin Rudd won, there was only Simon Crean left from the previous ALP government in the lower house. This change of generation and shortage of expertise prompted Kevin Rudd to hold a short leash and tight rein, which of course led to the coup.

If one thing is certain for the Rudd coup plotters is that the vast majority of them won’t be part of the next ALP government, if that day ever arrives. If they are ministers now, they sure as hell won’t be back, because it’s going to be a long time before the ALP can rebuild the Labor brand. If it becomes even more captive to the interests of the unions, it’s going to be nigh impossible to build a broader agenda.

To be strictly honest about it, I don’t see how the ALP can continue being the major party that represents the progressive left. If John Robertson’s Labor Party in NSW is any indication, they won’t even begin to be relevant once they lose office this September. It’s going to be a very miserable and humiliating time for Gillard, Rudd and Shorten after the coming election day. The chorus of “I told you so” is going to be thick and fast.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 12/Jun/2013

The Search For Donald Mackay

This is surprising.

“A search is under way today on a property near Hay as part of an ongoing investigation,” a spokesman said.

Australian Federal Police, local police and members of the Unsolved Homicide Squad were seen buying hundreds of dollars worth of shovels in town before heading to the property on Maude Road, outside Hay.

Tents have been erected and an excavator was brought in about 4pm to assist with the search.

Father-of-four Mackay went missing after leaving the Griffith Hotel on July 15, 1977, where he had been drinking with friends.

They might just find him after all this time, although I don’t know what else will be dug up with his body. The whole disappearance of Mackay is tied up with all kinds of strange dealings in the shadows of the international drug trade. Goodness knows what kind of metaphorical skeletons are going to come out with Mackay’s body.

Gender Wars: Attack Of The Clowns, Revenge of the Feminists

Where does one start with politics this grubby? First, there was Julia Gillard talking to a cohort of the usual suspect saying  that an Abbott Government would be tough on women and that Abortion would be on the issue thanks to Tony Abbott being a Catholic and all. It might be true. It likely is true on some level, but really, one really wonders if this is this the way the Prime Minister of Australia wants to proceed? Even proper Feminist-credentialed people (read female journalists) are not entirely convinced this is the right way to open an attack on the obvious boys-own-club, old-school-ties Coalition. I guess, if one were the Prime Minister, one might look at the contest as trying to extract as much differentiation, but I sort of wonder if there are enough men – blue collar, union types at that – who would be happy to take the free kick in the pride and still support the Prime Minister.

Julia Gillard batted on today with this stuff.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of ”a pattern of behaviour” that would lead to ”a lack of respect for women littered throughout all of his government’s policy document”.

Ms Gillard has also slapped down government MPs who criticised her for raising the issue of abortion in her speech to the ”Women for Gillard” event in Sydney on Tuesday.’

‘Neither [Stephen] Jones nor [Ed] Husic were in Parliament when Liberal Party women rebelled when Tony Abbott was health minister, so concerned were they about the attitude that he was taking to RU486,” Ms Gillard said in Perth on Wednesday.

”Well, I was in Parliament, I was shadow health minister. I saw those Liberal women rebel again Tony Abbott as health minister and consequently I think Mr Abbott’s conduct at that time and the fact that many in his own political party felt the need to rebel tells you something about Mr Abbott’s attitudes.”

Ms Gillard defended her decision to question the attitude a Coalition government would take to women saying there was a ”pattern of behaviour” displayed by conservative politicians.’

‘Mr Abbott has personally gone and stood next to signs that describe me in a sexist way,  we’ve had the Young Liberals hosting a function where jokes were cracked about the death of my father,” Ms Gillard said.’

‘And now we have (shadow treasurer Joe) Hockey and (Liberal Party candidate Mal) Brough hosting a function with this grossly offensive menu on display. Join the dots.”

Ah yes. There’s the menu thing, yes. The breaking news of the day was that there was some fundraiser dinner where a menu was allegedly used wherein the Prime Minster was denigrated.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Liberal candidate Mal Brough should be disendorsed after a menu that made lewd and offensive jokes about her anatomy was used at his fund-raiser.

Ms Gillard slammed the menu as ‘‘grossly sexist and offensive’’ and criticised Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for standing by Mr Brough.

‘This is Tony Abbott’s Liberals,’’ she said. ‘‘This is what they’re like.’’
The menu, used at an event in March, lists ‘‘Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail’’ before going on to describe it as ‘‘Small breasts, huge thighs & a big red box’’.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek agreed with Ms Gillard, saying she thought Mr Brough’s position as the candidate for the Queensland seat of Fisher was ‘‘untenable’’

Except by the end of the day, the restauranteur came forwards and claimed it was an in-joke that got out. As jokes go, it’s pretty bad; it’s mean-spiritied and particularly nasty in a partisan way that makes you squirm – not for the politics itself but for the ugliness of attitude and idiotic brazenness.

And this is what I mean by grubby. Contrary to the starting point where Julia Gillard kicked off with talk about Abortion and women’s rights none of this actually has anything to do with policy. It’s just a kind of slanging match to try and paint Tony Abbott as this kind of Neanderthal Knucklehead (which, as far as we can tell, he is). Doubly, the problem is that whatever shade of Neanderthal Knucklehead Tony Abbott might be, there those who stand behind him who are deeper and darker in the shade of reactionary unreconstructed male chauvinism (as evinced by the the joke menu – even as a joke it says far more about the people that enjoyed it).

It’s a bit like Julia Gillard gets to call Tony Abbott a moral idiot, because he is one, and in fact he is the leader of a party of moral idiots. He may indeed be the biggest moral idiot amongst a great throng of moral idiots. Except the moral idiots wear their moral idiocy as a badge of pride, so there is absolutely no point in indulging in this exchange of idiotic remarks.

I guess it takes the attention away from the leadership speculation; but it sure as heck does not improve my regard towards Julia Gillard as leader of the ALP. It’s hard to feel for any of these bastards.

Talk Is Cheap, But It’s Fun

This business of Kevin Rudd lurking and stalking Julia Gillard’s position is getting out of hand again. It was only 3 months ago that given the chance – handed to him on a platter by Simon Crean – Kevin Rudd decided not to contest. Since then, Julia Gillard’s support has stayed decidedly low, thus casting a long shadow over the ALP’s prospects for retaining dignity, let alone government. What seems to escape the strategists in the ALP is just how powerful and entrenched the resentment in the electorate happens to to be.

Everywhere Kevin Rudd goes, he is popular and people call out to him, asking him to come back.The point is, Julia Gillard has no traction because nobody wants to give her the traction. it doesn’t matter what policy victories she achieves in a difficult hung Parliament. The hung Parliament itself represents the great disaffection the electorate had for the ALP in 2010 – and the polls say things have gotten worse since then.

You’d hate this if you were watching it in ALP headquarters because you just want him to go away like Mark Latham did. Instead he’s likely to be last man standing in Queensland. You’d hate to be Wayne Swan. but we know Julia Gillard is stubborn and she won’t walk away, which means she is going to lead the ALP right over the waterfall.

So the only question now is will somebody who supported Gillard in 2010 when ousting Kevin Rudd, now withdraw that support and swing that support back to Kevin Rudd?
Enter Bill Shorten. This is going to be a long quote, but it’s worth reading through as it shows just why the situation is coming to a head again, a mere 3months after the last rattle of the cage.

The catalyst for this devil’s choice is recent internal Labor polling, and more from the ACTU, that has ignited fear and loathing in the breasts of ALP members and senators across the country.

An almost bearable resignation had settled across the party for many months about its loss of support in NSW and Queensland, where Labor voters had never forgiven the party for tossing aside one of their own, Kevin Rudd, for a southerner, Julia Gillard.

Labor MPs and the union movement knew it was serious – and in Western Australia, too – but they had little idea of the scale of the catastrophe down south until internal polling and research undertaken by the ACTU in Victoria began returning figures in the past couple of weeks that flabbergasted the most hardened.

The definition of a marginal seat had to be rewritten. Electorates on what might normally be considered comfortable margins of 8-10 per cent were suddenly facing wipe-outs, according to those professing to be in the know. There was barely a Labor seat in outer-metropolitan Melbourne or an industrial or migrant-dominated area the ALP could be sure of holding.

More polling showed South Australia had joined the rush, with the likelihood of the Labor Party losing almost two-thirds of its 11 seats.
Victoria and South Australia were supposed to be relatively reliable Labor strongholds. Further south, all Tasmania’s five seats were considered in great jeopardy.

Thus, when Kevin Rudd journeyed to Geelong, an industrial city with two ALP seats facing disaster and was mobbed by voters crying ”come back Kevin”, the TV cameras whirring, lightbulbs began blinking among panicked Labor MPs.

They needed someone, somewhere, to do something. Quick. In the absence of a better idea, the fallback was Shorten, whether he liked it or not. Some of his colleagues, knowing Shorten’s own polling figures in his seat of Maribyrnong had taken a big hit, too, sensed he might be up for it.

To this point, however, he’s not. Shorten is smart enough to know he alone could not persuade Gillard to blink. It would need a posse of her supporters, or a declaration by an authority like Bob Hawke.

The Labor Party’s last desperate throw of the dice is this: how does a federal government persuade itself and voters it is a sensible or even halfway attractive idea to change leaders twice in three years?

The deeper dilemma is even less digestible. The choice is whether to remain deeply unpopular or to hope that the party might emerge from a leadership change as simply less unpopular.

The options, then, are all negative. They are choices that will be made from a position of weakness.

You would very nearly pity Shorten if you were prepared to forget he’d already played the Grim Reaper with another Labor prime minister almost exactly three years ago.

You shake your head in incredulity at how these ALP party apparatchiks can’t seem to get their heads around a simple fact: Kevin Rudd is still the electorate’s choice. No amount of packaging and branding and bow-tying ribbons around Julia Gillard is going to get her over the line with the electorate. So once again, as it was clear 3months ago, and for 29 straight weeks in a row, we can reaffirm that Julia Gillard is headed for an epic fail.

You get the feeling this isn’t going to work out the way the people of Australia are hoping. Bill Shorten is hoping to pick up the pieces after the electoral demolition job. I wonder if he seriously thinks that would make him a popular man – popular enough to become Prime Minister.

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