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

self sabotage « Previous | |Next »
August 22, 2007

We haven't seen much in the way of discernible campaign strategy from either side of federal politics this week. Not directly anyway.

Howard hasn't been able to do much about Rudd, so he's taken Textor's advice and is apparently running against the states instead. Naturally the states are unimpressed, but it would be interesting to know how the state opposition parties feel about being frozen out of the nation's political future.

I wonder what they think of the prospect of being demoted to local council status? Or being made redundant altogether?

While the superficial level of things had a field day with Rudd's little accident, Howard was putting the finishing touches on a set of quite strange ideas. Who is his target audience here?

Among other things, political leaders are important symbolic figures for what we're accustomed to call ideologies. The need support from other public figures to build and keep momentum. No matter what we may think of Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Kevin Donnelly or Christopher Pearson, they've all contributed to Howard the Movement in their own ways. They've also put some distance between Howard the politician and themselves recently.

One by one they don't amount to a lot of influence, but in aggregate their loss is quite substantial.

As Gary pointed out, the bigger ideas in this latest announcement are recycled old ones. Preaching to the converted on economic management.

Meanwhile, Howard has effectively told his state coalition partners to start updating their CVs. Not the sort of thing that's calculated to encourage his supporters at a state level, or the constitutionalists who've been so important to him over the years.

Nobody worth their marketing degree would suggest that ordinary Australians will start calling themselves aspirational nationalists anytime soon. Unless they were joking. So he's not pitching to his usual battler demographic.

The pork barrel initiative is a tried and true strategy for both sides that usually serves incumbents very well. But it's not an overly bright way of keeping your issue focused buddies onside, or those state-level friends with medium or long term futures in mind. Marginals might get you re-elected, but if leadership of something substantial is your goal, surely you'd want to keep that something relatively intact?

| Posted by Lyn at 4:15 PM | | Comments (6)


The editorial in today's AFR is equally critical:

Needless to say, overflowing coffers are no guarantee of good policy making--quite the opposite.The government's hit and run approach to federal-state relations is proof of this.

Howard's direct funding of hospitals, medical technology, school buildings, technical colleges, universities and the threat of a federal takover of ports will not yield the big productivity gains that a coherent national plan to drag all these services into the 21st century could. That is what is lacking.

The editorial concludes by saying that, by abdicating their responsibility to lead the nation in making federalism work better for the benefit of ordinary people, Howard and Costello are leaving the way open for Rudd to seize the opportunity.

My judgement is that Rudd's already seized that opportunity firmly. He is working with the states in continuing competition reform from where Keating left off.

In terms of electoral strategy I guess that Howard has little choice to ramp up the conflict. He's been backed into a corner by Rudd and the states working co-operatively on this and that, and so he's had to come out throwing punches left right and centre.

Howard looks like some drunken sailor promising all the girls in each port big presents. Since he then leaves the port he doesn't have to actually spend anything. So he looks to be a good boy fiscally.

Neat seduction trick.


There is a whopping big opportunity here for Rudd to work with the states against Howard on the big picture. If the money men at the AFR are unimpressed, Howard is undermining the supporters of his own credentials. Nuts. Where's the logic in that?


The trouble with the seduction trick is that it only works on some of the chicks some of the time. It's only really effective if you can actually produce the odd box of chocolates. Meanwhile the girl in question has influential friends and rellies telling her to beware of drunken sailors.

Unless of course she conforms to the bimbo stereotype, in which case friends and relatives get to say "told you so" later on.

Either way the influential friends and relatives live to tell the tale.

My rellies in Davenport say the seduction worked a treat. He's such a nice man, a real charmer. He charmed the rellioes and then listened and understood the girl's deepest needs as well as her wants. There was no need for chocolates. He saved her from a fate worse than death.

They are waiting for the oh so sexy and human, all to human, Tony Abbott to bring those specially gift wrapped chocolates that a girl desires and deserves.

the AFR crowd are policy and governance wonks.They want economic reform so business and Australia can flourish and prosper in the global market place. Hence the need for a consistent national regulatory framework to co-ordinate major (national) infrastructure investment.

Howard doesn't care about policy during an election and Costello is hostile to the CoAG (co-operative federalism) process.

Will the states deliver on what the AFR reckons the nation needs? Alan Mitchell, the economics editor of the AFR, acknowledges that the states are now committed to building a national regulatory regime on a co-operative basis. His scriticism is that history shows that this could be a frustratingly slow and problematic process.

Mitchell's solution? Keatings, suprsingly. A more active leadership role by the commonwealth in which money is exchanged for reform by the states. That was how National Competition policy worked. It is also what Bracks and Brumby in Victoria want.


That's pretty depressing. It's interesting though, how Howard has achieved that hero-on-a-pedestal status that Labor is so often accused of doing with its own leaders.

Sexy human Abbott. Ew.


So they're not impressed with either the prime minister or his replacement? That's even worse.

The AFR people must be stuck between loving the IR stuff and loathing the aspirational nationalism stuff. Have the Libs wedged their own supporters?