It’s our party, and I’ll cry if I have to


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After the events of the last few days I realise I’m just about done with federal ALP. It’s been an unedifying and ugly spectacle watching as the minions of Gillard line up to take a swipe at Kevin Rudd. Clearly it’s intended to make him too unpalatable an option to vote for. It may work on that count, time will tell, but on a couple of other counts it has been a sheer disaster. Oblivious as they are of  the wider world this truth has passed them by in all too characteristic fashion.

What we’ve seen the last couple of days is political thuggery. That it has been a clearly considered strategy is without doubt, and once more calls into question the judgement of the PM and her cronies. In attacking Rudd as they have they’ve ripped to shreds the dignity and integrity of the Labor party. So intent on discrediting him they’ve overlooked how they discredit so much of what the ALP has stood for. Gillard may well win this vote Monday, which looks very likely, but her small chances of winning the next election have virtually disappeared in a puff of smoke. She may act all tough now – where has this been before? – but in the years ahead she may well become reviled as the woman who destroyed the ALP as a political force in this country. As you can tell, I’m pissed with her, and whatever respect I had is now forever gone. I wouldn’t vote for her if she was on fire.

I could say the same about her cronies. I’ve got nothing but contempt for them. These last few days they’ve come across as petulant and precious, more concerned with their hurt feelings than the greater good. So they don’t want to work for KRudd, well, tough titties. Here you are one of the elected representatives of the people earning a good living and theoretical respect of the nation, and instead you stamp your feet like a kid told to be nice to the clever geek who called you a nasty name. Do these people ever look in the fucking mirror?

Rudd is way ahead of Gillard in the popularity stakes, but I keep hearing how this isn’t a popularity contest. Well perhaps some of these people should listen up to what the people are saying, rather than the voices in their head. The people know a fraud when they see it, and they aint buying now, or ever. What these contemptuous characters need remember is that their responsibility is to the people of this country, and second to that the party which they represent. Their own wounded pride ranks a long way down the totem pole, and Joe Average doesn’t give a fuck.

As I said, I expect Gillard to win on Monday, and who knows what comes after that. Either Rudd gets drafted in some point down the track, or the party is ruined at the polls. I know I won’t be voting for them. In their present incarnation I’m a long way from ever voting for the Labor party again. Which means, unless Turnbull unexpectedly gets the Liberal gig, that I’ll be voting Greens.

The Labor party has been in decline from the day Gillard took office. If she ruins it now I’ll never forgive her. It’s our party, not hers.

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Reaping what you sow


Gillard V Rudd | Rudd Says Still Foreign Minister.

Shaun Carney, probably the best political commentator I read, has it down perfectly here. This is the reality that all those red faced Labor ministers huffing and puffing their outrage at Rudd. They stare so deeply into their own navels – and the navels of their advisers – that they fail to understand or even comprehend a world about them. They’re like those geeks who spend days playing Second Life or World of Warcraft before staggering out into the sunshine to find a real world exists as well. Except these guys are still in their imagined construct.

Hello guys, wake up. First, all this talk of disloyalty is enough to make your head spin. For fucks sake – weren’t you disloyal to Rudd, your Prime Minister of the time? Secondly, there is a world outside of Canberra, made of people who live – mostly – in reality. They know what happened. Furthermore they’re smarter than what you think, if only because they don’t indulge in the same wishful fantasies you do. No Second Life for them – it’s all first life and a stiff mortgage.

Frankly, I can’t believe how dumb the Gillard supporters have been. Crean making unprovoked attacks against Rudd in the media left, right and centre, as if that will do some good. No, it has the opposite effect where it counts – the people. To the public it’s the bizarre sight of a grown man doing battle with the invisible man. The foe may be real to Crean and co, but to Joe Public who’s not seen anything himself of the disloyalty they complain of it seems unreal.

Now Wayne Swan has joined the party, which is unedifying all round. He’s gambled his future on Gillard surviving, but it’s a poor bet I reckon. It’s like getting the family dirty laundry aired in public – it’s ugly to do and no-one really wants to hear it. Incidentally I reckon his outburst tonight means that Gillard will call a spill for the leadership next week. She’ll win it, as she’s counting on, but the wound she’s carrying will continue to fester.

As for Rudd, he’s been masterful. He called their bluff and pulled the trigger. So clever. In the first instance he gazumped them. All those clever apparatchiks must have looked at each blankly when they heard the news and thought “oh shit”. They had all the running and thought they had the game all figured out except he did the one thing they hadn’t thought of. He turned on them.

In doing that he acted, he showed the intent which Gillard never shows because she’s too ponderous, or busy checking the polls. Once more he showed the wit and judgement that seems foreign to Gillard.

He took the high moral ground, pulling the rug from under Gillard – admittedly quite easy as she stands there stolidly oblivious as you tug and tug at the Persian. He was the one calling things to order. He was the one bringing things to an end. He was the one claiming others had been disloyal to him. And he was the one reminding Joe Public that those accusing him were those who had stabbed in the back. He was not a coward like that.

This is what will happen. Gillard will call a spill and win it with somewhere between 60-70% of the vote. Rudd will go back to the back bench. He’ll sit their biding his time until the next stuff up, and once more his name will be mentioned. There may be a clamour for him. No hurry though. Short of a miracle Gillard is cooked for the next election. As that bleedingly obvious reality dawns upon the mutton-headed Labor numbnut he’ll start shuffling nervously at the sight of the polls and begin to look at Kevin Rudd longingly. Others will do the same, “we need to talk about Kevin…” they’ll mutter. And the man himself will give them his cheesy Cheshire cat grin and put his arm around them, “comrade…” he’ll say, “let’s talk.”

That’s what I reckon. I may be wrong about the spill, in which case I think Rudd will go quietly to the backbench and scheme. I’m pretty certain he’ll end up in the top job, if only because it’s physics. I can see it, the numbnuts can’t. Yet.

He should be leader too, for all the reasons I’ve said before, and one other, very important reason. If he becomes Labor leader then the Libs must act. They’ll get nervous, and figure out that while Abbott is good enough to beat Gillard, he’s no match for Rudd. And maybe then they’ll up the ante with Turnbull. Now that’s a win-win for Australian politics, and a great positive for the country.

Wikipedia: World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game by Blizzard Entertainment.

Them’s the facts


English: Kevin Rudd (right) and Julia Gillard ...

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It seems inevitable that sometime soon there will be a leadership challenge to Julia Gillard by Kevin Rudd. It’s been brewing for months as Gillard has lurched from one botched situation to another. In the last week it’s come to a head. Something has to happen now, and sometime in the next month I think. It should too, if only to get it out of the way and to enable the government – whoever that is – to get on with the job of governing. For my part I hope that’s Rudd.

I’m not especially fond of Gillard, but I have some respect for her personal qualities. She’s clearly a strong character, and without the scrutiny of press and media is said to be very personable and sincere. She’s a smart woman too, and in many ways she’s a good operator. What she isn’t though is a leader, not if you define leadership as being someone who will take hard decisions and communicate a vision for the future. Unfortunately at key moments she has failed the small tests set her, preferring to act on the flawed advice from her support staff – staff whose main concern is her political wellbeing, rather than the good of the nation.

Perhaps her biggest failure as Prime Minister has been her inability to sell to the Australian public the great narrative of the Australian economy – robust still, a success story in a world where great nations are failing and many of the strongest have become weak. As I speak we are either the wealthiest, or second wealthiest country in the world, depending on what you read. While there are challenges, we are still well ahead of our traditional partners. None of this is by accident. We are resilient because of good economic management, years of it from Keating through Costello, but also by Rudd during the GFC, when he acted decisively and with intelligence. Few of the people know of this, because no-one has told them – least of all the government. Instead they have allowed the opposition to manage the agenda and control the conversation. How this is even vaguely permissible I don’t know, but the lack of a firm hand at the tiller has wrought a huge cost.

For all that there are two main reasons I think Gillard should be usurped. In the first place is her supreme lack of judgement. She has no nose for prevailing conditions, and so on a regular basis does just the wrong thing. I wonder if it is a lack of confidence in her own judgement which sees her instead defer to the faceless advisors who live in high, windowless towers with no contact with the public. I imagine they think they are being clever, but the public sees through such charades – they’re not as callow as these minions believe. Still these mistakes continue, most recently the shoddy mishandling of Andrew Wilkie to the ridiculous decision to appear on Four Corners last week. Just dumb really, made worse by an evasive performance on screen when something more candid might have touched some sympathy in the public. She has a tin ear Gillard, and makes these mistakes again and again. It’s hard to have confidence in someone like that.

The second lament is that I’m pretty certain that Gillard is a person without deep belief. She has often admitted as a virtue her pragmatic qualities, but that pragmatism is also a vice. As leader of a Labour party in government she is also the inheritor of a tradition, much of which has been disregarded or even trashed during her reign. It’s a bitter reality for the die hard Labour followers, and is also the source of great disappointment in the more moderate liberals (of which I count myself as one) who have leaned traditionally to the left of the divide, and to Labour. That’s changed. Changeable policies based on political pragmatism rather than ideology has seen many – if not most – of those moderate liberals shift their support to the Greens. I suspect that if you looked deep into Gillard’s eyes you would see little of real meaning. She’s an able Lieutenant, but no leader. That’s tough for her, but it’s tougher still for the party she leads, for she is leading them into a wilderness from which they may not return.

To me it’s a no-brainer: Gillard has to go. I think given a level-playing field this would be obvious to every Labor parliamentarian. What prevents them from seeing it is a persistent animosity towards Kevin Rudd through large swathes of the party. They resent him, they fear him, they dislike him. To which I ask: would you rather be out of power with a leader you like, or in power with a leader you dislike? No doubt many fear personal scores will be settled if he gets back in, but the reality is that it’s all pretty childish. With Gillard as leader Labor have about a 5% chance of winning the election; with Rudd it’s 50:50, and it improves if the Libs keep Abbott as leader (Turnbull is a much better candidate).

Rudd is the only viable alternative to Gillard. I don’t like him especially myself, and I was bitter towards him when he was rolled because he’d lost his bottle (and would have survived had he kept it). He’s smart though, the smartest option on either side of the political fence. He has beliefs, even passions, which he swept us all up in during the first 12 months of his rule. I hear the criticisms that he wouldn’t delegate, that he was a tough task-master, even that he was a bastard. Well I’m not going to say who cares, but I might say grow up. Politicians can be awfully petulant: there’s a sense of entitlement that comes with the office which occasionally makes them churlish schoolchildren. If Rudd becomes leader I hope he holds true to his promise of having learned from his mistakes. We don’t need recriminations or dysfunction. We need a clear direction and a strong voice. As Australians we need someone to believe in. Above all we need someone to turn the tide of negativity that Abbott and his cronies spout day in, day out. Gillard is defenceless to it; Rudd is clever enough to turn it back on Abbott and smart enough to confound him.

I’m by no means certain of Rudd, but I’m hopeful. Gillard is gone, and has been for a while. Time to accept that. And to all those hypocrites accusing Rudd of disloyalty, best you first remove your knife from his back. It has to happen, and happen soon. With Gillard the Labor party is doomed; with Rudd they have a chance.

No idea


Julia Gillard - Caricature

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One of my major beefs about Julia Gillard as Prime Minister is her deeply flawed sense of judgement. How can I support a leader who misread the tea-leaves so poorly again and again, and makes one poor judgement after another? She has her virtues – honest, tough, fundamentally decent, personally capable – but her management of people and issues is generally hamfisted.

The latest example of this is the cabinet re-shuffle this week. As an observer outside of government you can only watch what’s happening and think Julia, what are you doing?

There is some justification for cabinet promotion. I don’t think much of Bill Shorten personally, but he’s capable and a good communicator. Tania Plibersek is very capable, and Nicola Roxon is generally competent and a good news story as the nations first female Attorney General. As for Mark Arbib, and the other sundry movements? Meh.

Out is Kim Carr, perhaps not the most charismatic of cabinet ministers, but immensely experienced and capable. He deserved better treatment than this, and not just because he knows his stuff. Robert McClelland likewise is no great shakes as a communicator, and just an average minister, and though you can justify a move from the attorney general role it might have been managed much better. Others have been shuffled around, with spurious and insubstantial ministries created for them rather than rock the boat too severely. It’s a bit laughable really, and ultimately only goes to demonstrate even further Gillard’s complete lack of authority.

Gillard has promoted her supporters, some of them deserving, and demoted those who where more borderline, some unfairly, to a raft of superficial portfolios.  As Gillard sees it she has rewarded her supporters, and weakened her arch-rival Kevin Rudd. In theory at least.

I wonder at that. In the first instance shuffling them around like this makes her appear weak, as if she had something to fear, and dues to pay. On top of that I don’t know that it really weakens Rudd. In fact I think it makes it certain that he’ll challenge again for the leadership next year. Rudd has little to be proud of in his arch manouevrings from the side, but there is little now to stop him from going on the attack. He has been sidelined, his disfavour made plain, and his supporters demoted. What has he to lose?

Far cleverer of Gillard had she made subtle changes made solely on merit. Shorten deserved his promotion, so fine. Carr should never have been demoted. Combet is smart, but is faction is being played. Arbib deserved nothing more than what he had (Sport), if that. As for the rest, some firm handling would have been more productive. You’re either in the cabinet or not, don’t inflate it with phoney portfolios just because you don’t have the balls to make a tough decision. As for Rudd, if you believe him to be de-stabilising and disloyal then sack him as a minister. Don’t muck around with coy phrases and the back-handed ploys removing his supporter base. Gillard would gain a lot more respect if she did the tough thing for once, rather than checking the numbers and pulling her punches again and again. Voters want to respect their leader even if they disagree with them. That takes authority, decisiveness, bravery.

Ultimately this is what makes me shake my head, and doubt Gillard. Is she so poorly advised that she can’t see the truth of this? I don’t have confidence in her for a bunch of reasons, but central is her lack of judgement. For a leader so concerned with public opinion she has a dud nose for it. With so much she does she’s always at least half a beat off. So much easier, and more honourable, to have a position and decisively act on it. Her failure is that she has no position, no centre as such, and hence without that foundation no authority.

This is just the latest example. For the first time this year she had Abbott on the run. The government has some good wins on the board (though dreadfully sold). The carbon tax is excellent legislation. The super tax is deeply compromised, and hence flawed, but better than nothing. Gradually as the year wore on Abbott’s shrill negativity was wearing thin on the electorate and the government gradually claimed territory. This silly re-shuffle though has negated much of that. It’s terrible and unnecessary timing. Why you wonder? Why? The public are smart enough to see through to the truth. They know, and Gillard pays.

I thought she might survive, might even make it through and win against Abbott in the next election (though don’t be surprised if Abbott gets rolled mid-year). Now I’m certain that Rudd will challenge her sometime in the first half of next year. I don’t know if he’ll win, but despite my antipathy to him he’s a better option than Gillard. And it’s all because of your fuck-ups Julia.

Wikipedia: sniper definition: to shoot at exposed individuals (as of an enemy’s forces) from a usually concealed point of vantage.

Don’t mention the carbon tax


en:Primorye Power Plant in Luchegorsk, Primors...

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Finally we have a carbon tax proposal on the table. It’s not yet passed into legislation, but, hopefully, that should be a formality. After months of bluster and ballyhoo it’s here, and it’s a better package than I expected.

It’s no secret I’m sceptic when it comes to government credibility. I think they’re weak, indecisive, and much too easily led by woolly headed advisors and the whims of public opinion. On top of that they have been continuously and embarrassingly manhandled by Tony Abbott who continues to rule the airwaves and the agenda. In this he has been aided and abetted by large sections of the press, namely the Murdoch press, who seem determined to bring down the government. It’s a bit of an evil loop as the Murdoch press contains the tabloids that the common folk of Oz read, and sadly, if Andrew Bolt tells them something is a bad thing then most seem happy to nod their head in agreement without thinking any deeper than that.

Still, the ‘tax’ – as it has been reduced to (thanks Tony Abbott) – looks a fait accompli, and I suspect will die as a major issue within 18 months.

I won’t argue how necessary it is. I think it is a no-brainer (which roughly corresponds to the mental capacity of many critics). I don’t know of anyone credible who now disputes that climate change is a reality. Given that as a fact then clearly something must be done about it. There are no magic wands in government and things just don’t go away when you wish them too. There’s always going to be pain for someone when it comes to limiting our carbon excesses – and in many ways that’s the point of it. There must be incentives – or dis-incentives – for this to work. If you pollute you get penalised. If you turn to alternative options then you won’t.

It’s not about the money. The government isn’t trying to line it’s coffers – evidenced by the pretty generous rebates on offer to most folk. It’s all about the reality that the great majority of big business will not change their ways unless they are forced to. A ‘tax’ forces that. Ultimately it’s cheaper for them to look at the alternatives to produce more cleanly, which is the other great benefit of this. I work in that business, and I know that innovation thrives when necessity demands it. I would hope that from this a lot of clever solutions will be found, and many previously unconsidered short-cuts will now become reality. Long term the environment benefits, but so to does society and business. I may sound like a bit of a pollyanna, but that’s the experience of history. I don’t see why it will be any different this time.

The one question is whether this change is too little, too late for the environment – particularly as the rest of the world must come to the party. I think it’s inevitable that we’re in for some climate pain. The best we can hope for I think is to mitigate, or minimise that. And that really puts this whole conversation into a scary perspective. Tony Abbott may get up on his soap box and rant about the impost to the Australian people day and night (disgracefully so); and the Murdoch press may push their poisonous agenda, but it’s not really about a few dollars here and there. It’s about the future of the planet. Repeat that after me: it’s about the future of the planet.

We’re at a critical point in history when we can choose to act, or not. If we don’t we risk consigning our children and their children to a world a lot harder than the world we live in today. This is our decision, and it must be made now. At last we have acted on it, and if there is a cost then it is negligible against what we risk losing. Do I mind taking a few dollars from my pocket to make a better world? Of course not.

Unfortunately perspective is the first real victim of party politics, but to be so loose with it is irresponsible and unforgivable. Hopefully we will soon be past that.

Poor form Tony


Tony Abbott. Crop from another upload to commons.Image via Wikipedia

Has there been a less credible opposition leader than Tony Abbott? God knows I'm no great fan of Julia Gillard, but she's way ahead of Abbot. You could pretty well train a parrot to do the job Abbott's doing.

Have to seriously question his judgement also.The government may be unpopular, but Gillard is still the preferred PM by quite a margin. The Libs may wake up to the fact one day (though I doubt it), that if they had a reasonable and thoughtful leader they would be way out in front. Abbott has his rusted-on, blindly unconsidered supporters, but he continues to alienate the more reasonable members of the electorate by his hard core opposition, stupid comments and silly actions.

In short Tony Abbott is the best thing the Labor party has going for it. Drop Malcolm Turnbull into the role and it's a totally different ball-game. I'd certainly vote for him, as would thousands and thousands more of the generally disenfranchised electorate.

Yesterday's performance by Abbott was pretty typical. After putting the frights into everyone about the so-called carbon tax – his standard gambit – and calling for a 'people's revolution' – once more pretty typical – he then was obliged to front up to the very motley bunch of protesters landing on Canberra's doorstop.

You really have to wonder why the Lib powerbrokers continue to support him; or at least don't try to moderate him a little. He has hits, but also has a lot of misses – and the misses are ugly. Yesterday was the essence of ugly.

Whipped up by the right-wing shock jocks across the land a bunch of misinformed bigots rolled up to Canberra in their chartered busses and began wielding placards abusing Gillard – often on grounds of gender – Bob Brown, and others generally seen to be of liberal (not Liberal) bent. It was an embarassing, cringeworthy backdrop to which Tony Abbott was forced to appear.

Flanking Tony were the parties ritual fascists Brownwyn Bishop, faced forever frozen into the mask of an evil grandmother, her body preserved in formadelhyde and stuffed full of horse hair; and Sophie Mirabella, the parties frantic attack dog, the cocker spaniel nipping at your heels with the surprisingly vicious teeth.

There it was then, Tony Abbott amid a crowd of bogan extremists accompanied by the Liberal party's SD members. If it's true that you get judged by your friends then this is the final, damning indictment of Tony Abbott as leader – and as a man.

And to think I once liked him.

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Dumb politics


I swear sometimes the only possible way I can remain sane during an election campaign is to undergo a voluntary but reversible lobotomy for the duration of the campaign. That, or possibly parachuting onto a deserted island far from alleged civilisation. Neither of those options seem terribly feasible right now so there’s every chance I may be found banging my head against a wall in the very near future, a slobbering, incoherent wreck – not much different really to many of the candidates running. 

The latest source of angst is the ridiculous idea of a fucking citizens assembly. Julia, what are you thinking? I almost groaned audibly as I heard the news this morning. The idea apparently is to put together this random group of 150 voters to advise the government on matters of public opinion, most particularly when it comes to climate change and the carbon tax

I have many objections to this. In the first place it makes explicit what most of us have known for a long time: that the government – any government – governs by opinion poll. Which brings into sharp relief the real and basic objection.

We elect a government to make decisions on our behalf. In theory they are our best and brightest, the best minds and sharpest intellects who are to act as our representatives in the decision making process. As the electorate our responsibility is to perform our democratic duty by making our selection and casting our vote,  but that’s where it ends. We can protest, we can make our displeasure or disagreement plain, which is what we should do if we feel strongly enough, but in voting we have effectively delegated the responsibility for our decision to the candidate we have elected. And if we don’t like it then we can vote him out next time. 

That’s how it should be, but the modern trend is for leaders to defer their leadership obligations. I remember Keating criticising Hawke for his consensus leadership, which was perhaps the beginning of this in Oz. Keating claimed, rightly I think, that a leader should be out front showing the way, breaking new ground if necessary – not trailing public opinion to understand what direction should be taken. 

It’s soft-cock politics and it’s a stupidity which highlights the very deep issues with public discourse in this nation. Too many issues are hijacked by public opinion and given the oxygen they don’t deserve. Public opinion is a mob; the collective intelligence of voters is less than the individual. The strong leadership which is needed to put things straight is absent from all sides of politics. Instead aspiring and incumbent leaders pander to the passing whims of public opinion, afraid of standing for something and risking the wrath of that great mass of unthinking opinion who vote for them. 

So here we are faced with what many people claim is the greatest crisis of our time and Gillard is proposing to go to the public for guidance. What do you think people? Should we have a carbon tax or not? Show of hands please. Well fuck that, I cast my vote with the expectation – or hope at least – that those clever people in Canberra will make an informed decision, and if I want an expert opinion I'll look to the scientific community and not the green grocer down the road. I don’t want the rabble reading Andrew Bolt deciding if the earth has a future or not. 

For Gillard I think it is poor politics. I’ve been disappointed in her. Rudd’s support declined when he backed away from the issues he had so strongly identified himself with. The public – yes, the public – saw in that a weakness of purpose, and a kind of intransigent betrayal of what he had previously stood for. Whether they agreed with him or not most now found good reason not to trust him – and fair enough. If he was not good enough to stick firm to what he believed then what more would he betray?

Gillard is a more pragmatic politician and has been clever enough not to be attached to any particular ideological position. Still, people want their leaders to represent something. They may superficially welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate while they secretly scratch their head knowing that it’s not really the way it’s meant to be.

It used to be that above all the electorate respected strong leaders whether they agreed with them or not. I think Gillard is a strong person, but she is showing little leadership and no real strength in any of the issues, and won’t do until she stands for something independent of what the polls dictate.

I've given public opinion a slap, but I actually think that it's smarter than it's played to. Give it a chance, it may not agree with you always, but it will respect your opinion, and, I think, is willing to be convinced.

That's not happening. Just dumb.

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