Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why Labor will lose the election

Watching the Labor party tear themselves to bits over the last 3 years has not been a pretty sight.  Alarm bells sounded for me when I listened to Kevn Rudd's election night speech in 2007 - I thought he talked too much, didn't thank enough people and was too focused on himself.

In government he did OK for a while.  The apology to stolen generations of indigenous Australians was a high point.

However the Australia 2020 Summit became just another talkfest with all the usual suspects invited.

The Rudd government's action on climate change was at first encouraging, but the climate change white paper and green paper signalled a direction towards emissions trading.

But the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, pushed hard by Penny Wong, was fatally flawed.  It included several policies that the Garnaut Report had specifically advised against, including gifting free emissions permits to polluting industries.

All this time, Kevin Rudd refused to talk to the Greens.  Instead, he stitched up a deal with Malcolm Turnbull (then leader of the opposition) to pass the CPRS.  However, when Turnbull was rolled by Abbott, this bipartisan support evaporated and it was game on.

Rudd lost his nerve though and shelved his CPRS, an action he himself had previously castigated Brendan Nelson for.  Rudd's public support dropped.  When he wobbled on the Mining Tax after a barrage from the mining industry, his support dropped further.

This wasn't why he was deposed by Labor as Prime Minister though.  He was voted out of the job by the Labor Caucus because it had become apparent he was very difficult to work with and not capable of delegating to or even trusting his ministers.  He was operating as a cell within the Labor Party, surrounded and informed by a close advisers, but disconnected from the rest of the Party and presumably a lot of the Executive arm of government too.  Rudd is now running the election campaign in a similar manner.

Julia Gillard replaced him as Prime Minister and immediately did what Rudd could not - she formed a minority government by negotiating with the 4 independents (Katter, Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie) and Adam Bandt from the Greens.

The Gillard government was one of the most successful in Australia's history in terms of passing legislation through Parliament and much of it was good.  Putting a price on pollution provided incentives for Australian industry to reduce carbon emissions (which happened!) and also provided funds to invest in clean renewable energy.

But Gillard sound dull and wooden to the electorate.  She made a few big mistakes too, like "ruling out a carbon tax" during the 2010 federal election, drastically reducing payments to single parents and significantly cutting funding to Universities - a measure that Gonski had not recommended and in fact opposed.

Tony Abbott relentlessly criticised and attacked Gillard and had considerable success tarnishing her government's reputation and her personal integrity.  Tony Abbott turned the Australian Parliament into the Punch and Judy show.

Gillard was also undermined by Rudd and his supporters for her entire term of office.  She may have lost the next election without this undermining, but it certainly did not help matters.   Much of this played out in public, with open shows of disloyalty by ministers like Joel Fitzgibbon and Kim Carr, who were then demoted and went to the back bench.

The Australia Democrats had a similar period of brawling in public and they were decimated in the next election.

In the end, Labor's poor polling and continued destabilisation by Rudd resulted in the Labor caucus vote him back in as Prime Minister, and Julia Gillard out.

But Rudd is not the messiah, he is just a naughty boy.

Rudd's acolytes came in from the cold and were rewarded with ministries (e.g. Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Joel Fitzgibbon).  But many of quality people have stood down from leadership roles including Greg Combet and Craig Emerson.

Rudd has won the booby prize - an election that cannot be won - with his previous destabilisation and leaks a major contributing factor to their now inevitable loss.

Labor is now deeply divided and has lost of lot of good people.  It will be hard to see them bounce back after what is likely to be a large defeat.

Tony Abbot will repeal the carbon tax and slash funding for clean energy.  He will sack thousands of public servants so government services will suffer.  It is likely he will further reduce funding for government schools.  He will not "stop the boats", but he will continue to trash Australia's international reputation on human rights.

I think political parties have had their day.  No political party truly represents its own members, and their elected members don't even pretend to represent everyone in their electorate.  Democratic representation is a farce.  No independent candidate can match the resources or funding of party political candidates.

Things apparently have to get worse before they will get better.

Post script:
While the environment has not featured much in the election campaign so far, 61 per cent of Australians believe the Government should do more to tackle global warming.  Coalition Australians want more action on climate change, split along party lines 82% Greens, 71% Labor, 24% Coaltion.

Vote Compass: Australians want more action on climate change - ABC News

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