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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the commentariat on ALP renewal « Previous | |Next »
December 11, 2006

I've been caught up in Melbourne and Canberra these last few days. I was without access to broadband in the Radisson on Flagstaff, and so there were no weekend posts. I was working amidst the heat and the smoke from bushfires currently engulfing Victoria's north and east east, and then in the Snowy Mountains on Monday. Both cities were engulfed in blue hazy smoke. The smoke had even extended to South Australia on Saturday morning when I flew across to Melbourne, and it entered the plane's air conditioning system as we flew into Melbourne.

I noticed that the weekend papers were full of commentary about the new ALP leadership team of Rudd and Gillard and new front bench. Lots of judgements were made about the significance of the new ALP front bench in which the "factional daleks" still had a significant say in selection. What was acknowledged is that Labor could no longer rely exclusively on its union base to win the next federal election, given the Liberal attack of 'different style same substance' (ie., Labor is contolled by the unions). It's early days:

Sean Leahy

Looking back from now we can judge that Beazley was underperforming, and there was an assumption that he would lose with his single focus on industrial relations. So it was time for change. This is the honeymoon phrase with lots of positive media coverage for the ALP. The problem is keeping the momentum going. So how do the commentators see the significance of the changes?

Many focused on industry policy and Rudd's comittment to retaining a strong manufacturing base in Australia to try and avoid Australia becoming China's quarry and Japan's beach. They tried to to pin an increased tariffs and protection policy, and picking winners on Rudd, despite his advocacy of competition, innovation and free trade.

Brian Toohey, writing in the Australian Financial Review, was more adventurous. He noted that Rudd was trying to get the ALP to be taken seriously in the battle of political ideas and values debate, where they were now where to be seen as a different voice. Toohey described this in terms of Rudd trying to achieve this goal by pigeonholing John Howard as a market fundamentalist, highlighting the opposition between Howard's family values and workplace reforms, and spelling out the clash between Howard's liberal 'individualism' and his conservative 'social cohesion'. Alas, Toohey did not do much more than describe what Rudd was doing. What was missing was the analysis of what Rudd was doing.

Update:13 Dec
Jack Waterford's op-ed in the Canberra Times gives us some analysis by referring back to Mark Latham. He rightly highlights the role played by the campaign team:

Latham's chief weakness, the lack of a coherent economic policy and a coherent economic message, went against his instincts and was pushed on him by his advisers political geniuses and personal enemies such as Stephen Smith and Wayne Swan, who seem to have an incredible capacity to become indispensable during an election campaign. And Simon Crean, not a Latham enemy, but perhaps, with the best will in the world, in no great position to help.

It's the strategy of campaign team that isi the problem not the leader. Waterford adds that the:
The campaign professionals have the appearance of knowing all about campaigning, and can manage, fix and arrange things such as liaison with party central, keeping everyone else "on-message", remaining a "small target" and not being "distracted" by ruses and diversions by the other side. But their tactics do not seem to work, least of all on voters. In each campaign, moreover, they have begun the 12-month lead-up to an election with the polls pointing towards a Labor win, and squandered it by election's end.

Is the ALP going to repeat this kind of campaign?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:38 PM |