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

Rudd: beyond me tooism « Previous | |Next »
July 28, 2007

Dennis Shanahan has an interesting op-ed in The Australian about Rudd's battle plan to become prime minister of Australia. It takes us beyond my me-tooism interpretation or Rod Cameron's avoiding the wedge. It is a plausible interpretation of the Rudd strategy.

Bill Leak

If half the battle is to get people to vote against the Government, then Rudd addressed this by turning the economic strength for the Coalition into a cost-of-living debate for Labor. Shanahan says that:

This was Rudd's first battle plan: convince voters not only that the Government was old and tired but also that it was not answering individual needs on expectations of material benefits, wasn't helping young people buy a house and didn't care about rising prices.

This is the mood for change strategy that creates doubts in voter's minds about the Howard government .

The other half of the battle is to tell people what the ALP stands for and to get them to vote for an ALP with fresh ideas. As Shanahan says:

Creating a negative atmosphere is crucial. It is necessary to cause doubt in voters' minds but it is more important to convince them to switch their vote from a known Government to an unknown Opposition. It is also even more difficult, having pursued people with unfulfilled expectations and ambitions, to then meet those expectations.

Rudd needs positive policies and fresh ideas about what to do about those unfulfilled expectations. That's the real challenge in the second half of Rudd's battle plan.

This implies that what Rudd stands for is not John Howard light.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:36 AM | | Comments (19)


Rudd has out manouvred Howard, and by extension Shanahan, every step of the way. It's like Howard and his adoring media fans are still playing checkers while Rudd has moved on to chess.

That Shanahan imagines he has even an inkling of what Rudd needs to do next is laughable.

I'd also argue that Shanahan totally missed the most effective parts of Rudd's campaign. Politics tragics bear no resemblance to your average Big Brother watching ordinary Aussie, which is something Rudd seems to understand. Shanahan, on the other hand, does not.

We now have a media meltdown.

Quick! find a new story!

aah the wisdom of the Canberra Press Gallery---that is, the government-defending section of the Canberra Press Gallery.

Being rooted in the Australian version of the Beltway media and political circles inevitably warps one's perspective.The media elites repeatedly represent their own conventional wisdom and biases as "Australian centrism" , and any deviation as "extremism" or "unseriousness" or even "lefty craziness." That is how they reinforce the Canberra Press Gallery orthodoxies.

But then we political bloggers are merely the clever sorts who opine daily and endlessly about journalism without doing any reporting aren't we? What would we know?

Shanahan would see himself as a "serious" commentator. He is one who works hard, furrows his professional brow from thinking, shows great reverence for government and military leaders, reflexively supports American wars and believes that muddled compromise and principle-free pragamatism is for the best.

Those not like this would be "unserious" and "immoderate". They are disdainful of those of those serious commentators who, unlike Shanahn, grant undue credibility to people in positions of authority or people of "moderate" political views. These unserious immoderate commentators offer their instant, unedited, opinions online.

apparently the "serious" professional commentators like Shanahan study the facts on the ground, study the history of an issue, take into account opinions on all sides and not just their side -- before they come to a conclusion. Or so we are led to believe by Canberra Press Gallery wisdom.

They also blindly trust the PM. Serious commentators like Shanahan would trust the PM even when the PM broke the law by okaying secret surveillance of the Australian people so as to fight the war on terrorism.

Of course, "serious" commentators, such as Shanahan, do admit that they do have momentary lapses of reason on issue such as interpreting polls.

While I'm not falling over with admiration for Rudd's policies I think his strategies have been brilliant. Unfortunately for the Canberra gallery, one component of that strategy has been to avoid them.

Can't imagine they're too pleased about that. It must be a whole new experience for them to find they're the last to know anything.

It will be interesting to see what they do from here. It seems to me they can either pick up their game and become the fourth estate they seem to think they are, or become irrelevant. At the moment, they seem to be going for the latter, which is a real shame.

Perhaps we'd be better off if our star journalists had limited periods of incumbency.

I'm not too crazy about Rudds' "positive" policies either.

If we grant with Shanahan that Rudd's negative strategy has worked---he's created enough doubt to make him competitive, then the forest policy must be seen as moving in to the positive strategy --good policies and fresh ideas.

So what were the fresh ideas in the conserving forest v economic development issue? None as far as I can see.

And Indigenous issues? Where are the fresh ideas there? They just follow Noel Pearson

Note that Lyn has forgrounded the seriousness of brow-furrowing at upper echelons of the commentariat. Harvey, Milne, Kelly, Laws, Ackerman, Sheridan, Oakes; so on. The magnitude becomes intense in basso-profundo with raised eyebrow; not a single skerrick of reason will be retained by the intimidated viewer/reader/listenership in the face of performances of such unmitigated sound and fury in full flight.
Those yet without unequivocal feelings of inflamed rage toward those usually unidentified recalcitrants designated "terrorists", "union thugs", "do gooders" and "tree huggers" for example, will surely be righteously foaming at the mouth after a single exposure to desk-thunping hot air bellowed forth from the pack of miserable old farts.
I don't beleive ANY of then have EVER apologised.
They are more likely to do what Kevin Andrews did tonight on the departure of Dr. Haneef and try to bring their victim down along with themselves with a parting shot of spiteful, curmudgeonly innuendo.

It was only several months ago that Kevin Rudd wrote an essay for the Monthly magazine on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the outstanding Christian figures of the 20th century. Bonhoeffer was a German, a Lutheran minister, who as a theologian and moral philosopher.

Rudd's essay was a defence of a Christian approach to politics that is separate from, and possibly at odds with, the politics of fundamentalist Christians. The essay contained statements on the environment, which people in Tasmania opposed to what is happening in their state would identify.They are concerned about the environmental and aesthetic impact of the mill in a tourist area; and the integrity of the process whereby the proposal has been pushed through.

It said with that "the fundamental ethical challenge of our age (is) to protect the planet". Rudd also talked about truth-telling and "the Prime Minister's now routine manipulation of the truth".

Rudd's defence of Gunns is that he would govern in the national interest and to govern in the public interest, not to govern in the Greens' interest."

So Gunns woodchipping is equated with the national interest.


I read the Monthly article and understand that as part of introducing himself to the literati, which was an intelligent early strategy in my mind.

I also read the article on Gunns in a later issue and was disgusted by it, so when Rudd made his trees announcement I was dismayed. His nominal support for the Northern Territory and Terrorist Haneef shock and awe exercises were less than inspiring as well, but he's got an election to win and letting Howard set the agenda is not the right way to go about it.

The point I'm trying to make is that even though Rudd's policies so far have been either absent or disappointing, his PR strategies have been brilliant.

I've been attending a health reform conference in Old Parliament House Canberra this week and Nicola Roxon presented yesterday afternoon. It was based on Rudd's fresh ideas for health

Here's their Fresh Ideas Future Economy health policy document, which does favour a strategic emphasis on primary care and prevention.

The impression that I got from Roxon's performance and the questions afterwards was that a Rudd ALP will not rock the boat against th evested interests too much--in this case the AMA which has captured the federal Department of Health and Ageing and the Health Minister.

Smoother and more efficient governance is what a future technocratic Rudd government is interested in.

Not surprised by that at all Gary. I have the impression things would stay pretty much the same under Rudd, with some of the rough Howard edges smoothed off.

My impression is that the biggest difference between them is that Howard thinks the nation is an economy while Rudd thinks it's a people. Though I'm happy to be proven wrong on that.

The vested interests have become so heavily vested that nobody could substantially change anything in the short term.

We can only hope that smooth and efficient governance will eventually involve reducing the levels of vestedness, if only to make governance smoother and more efficient. To use your health example, it can't be easy to run a health system if the AMA keeps insisting on making it difficult.

Re your comment

The point I'm trying to make is that even though Rudd's policies so far have been either absent or disappointing, his PR strategies have been brilliant.

Ross Gittins has an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald in which he says:
In his battle to defeat John Howard, Kevin Rudd is saying "me too" on all those issues where he believes Howard is on safe ground, but fighting on those issues where he thinks Howard vulnerable: Work Choices, climate change, housing affordability and the cost of living. His critique is weakest on the cost of living.

He goes through the price rises and falls then adds that 'When it comes to the cost of living, you can always find a few big increases to bitch about. But to do so you have to ignore the great majority of prices, which are well-behaved.The cost of living is the least of the country's problems.

does this new ALP educational policy according to Paul Kelly in The Australian ease your disappointment? Kelly says:

The real difference between Latham in 2004 and Rudd-Smith in 2007 is not abolition of the private school hit list. This list was just a symptom of the policy. The real difference is the funding model, and this reflects a new ALP view of the politics and philosophy.
The The Rudd-Smith message is that they want an excellent public school sector and an excellent private school sector. This is their basis for school policy. Smith's April 13 speech to the Independent Education Union of Australia provided a guide to their thinking:
"Our overriding principle will be that Labor will not cut funding to any government or non-government school, nor will we disturb current average government school recurrent cost indexation arrangements for schools funding.

Kelly says that the extra federal government funding of public education means that Rudd and Smith can re-order internal priorities according to needs and disadvantage. Smith identifies the latter as government primary schools, indigenous education, rural, regional and remote education, special education and early childhood.

I cannot find the speech But there is this June interview.

What do you reckon? Fresh ideas? Give them a tick? Ease your disappointment?


I'm not sure I understand where you're coming from. To be honest, since the introduction of the non-core promises concept I'm not entirely convinced that policy means that much any more, regardless of which side announces them. It's the campaign strategies I find fascinating.


In a total contradiction of what I've just said to Nan, yes, I do like the direction Rudd's version of Labor is taking on education. Giving brainy but economically disadvantaged people a real chance at contributing to society is one of my pet topics. I think we need to get over the public/private divide and start considering the waste when we lose talented people to a preferential education system which distributes preference solely in economic terms.

I think it's worth the risk to publicly fund nine losers on the off chance that the tenth will turn out to be Einstein. Or even Warhol. Or the Bobby Fischer of campaign strategy simply for my amusement.

my post wasn't that clear. I lose my train of thought sometimes in making comments. This blog demands a lot. It's hard work.

Where I'm coming from is that I'm watching one of the better commentators trying to make sense of what Rudd is up to. I'm not much interested in the polls or the race per se this far out.

Gittins misses the significance of the cost of living stuff. This resonates in the electorate and it weakens Howard and Costello's claim to be great economic managers. The micro household budget drip drip drip eats away at them.

In your language Gittens concentrates on the policy per se and misses the strategic politics.

policies can be seen strategically--as helping to shape the terrain of the conflict and to give momentumin the to and fo of the battle.

Thus Tony Abbott hits back at Nicola Roxon's plans to prohibit the use of licensed characters to sell junk foods to children.

In doing so Abbott finds himself isolated. Poor Tony.

The Coalition's counter attack on the health terrain is here.


The incoherent comment thing is something I understand. In my experience it's not so much about losing your train of thought, as it is about your train of thought moving like an express train rather than stopping at all the stations other people tend to need to follow where you're going.

Maybe you can content yourself with the knowledge that it's a common problem among gifted people and lateral thinkers.

Meanwhile, I agree with you. The media is as guilty of losing touch with the electorate as Howard is accused of being, although he seems to be catching up fast.

interesting comments. I've been thinking about them. I'm not a lateral thinker.I just struggle to make sense of what is happening in the ebb and flow of the election battle. It takes time and energy to cut through the dirty tricks, spin doctoring and endless bunting contests.

I've got as far as seeing it as a battle rather than a horse race, but I have trouble putting my finger on the strategies as opposed to the day to day events.

My sense is that politics is shifting in an underground way, but it is difficult to find any account of this in the mainstream media. The punditory remains the same. I have a sense of having heard it all before and that it is going to be endlessly repeated in the future.