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

a quick execution « Previous | |Next »
June 24, 2010

Rudd's execution happened rather quick and it caught people by surprise, including me. I knew that Rudd was on the nose (in caucus and the electorate), that Labor (the backbench) was anxious about the bad polling, and that cabinet resented the overly bureaucratic Rudd as leader.

They resented Rudd's leadership style, the concentration of power in his personal office and the sidelining of cabinet and the factions and the caucus, but were resigned to it. But they feared going down with Rudd.

Ruddonwater.jpg

I thought that the media's talk of leadership challenge in the last week was speculation. I hadn't realized that Rudd's NSW rightwing faction had deserted him on mass because of his electoral unpopularity. Changing leaders, based on focus group polling, is the NSW Right's tactics par excellence.

Now Rudd's throat has been being slit without any blood being spilled (Rudd stood down) and close to an election--probably this October. Amazing how things change so quick. Sometimes it only takes a spark? Or the coup was long planned and Rudd's technocratic leadership had been under threat for weeks. He was damaged and increasingly seen as the hollow man. The factions judged that he had to be executed.

Will Rudd stay on in Cabinet? Will he return to the old position of foreign affairs? Was that his price for standing down and doing the right thing for his party?

From the ALP's perspective, Gillard is seen to provide the vital boost necessary to restore Labor's chances of victory at the next election. They have a better chance of holding government with Gillard that they would have with Rudd would have been their judgement.

I doubt that Labor will shift much from its pro-business and centre-right populist policies, even though Gillard is seen as the saviour of the ALP. We still have the dead hand of the NSW Right.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:20 AM | | Comments (31)
Comments

Comments

Interesting to note that the list of issues put up by the ABC's Lyndal Curtis on the ABC's site ("Leadership challenge: how has it come to this?")
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/24/2935409.htm
includes ETC, boat people, the failures of Fuel Watch and Grocery Watch, non-delivery of child care promises but only a very brief mention of the mining tax. Since this is admitted in the article to be a vote-loser, I'm surprised that it finished up at the end of Curtis' list of Rudd's problems.

Frankly, I doubt whether the abandonment of the ETS (which Curtis puts up front) is nearly as important as the mining tax, but maybe we'll never know.

Senator Mark Arbib, the former ALP general secretary, lead the NSW Right. He pushed Kevin Rudd to dump the key emissions trading scheme. He was fearful of the threat of a cost of living campaign as state electricity authorities hiked utilities bills in the lead up to the election.

Arbib was also been pushing for a change on aslyum seekers for months on the grounds that the growing number of asylum-seeker boats reaching Australian waters was hurting the ALP in key western Sydney seats.

The socially conservative NSW Right don't like the Greens.

Gary I'm not so sure Gillard will be a plus for Labor. She will turn off a lot of people who accepted Labor as a better government than the tired old Coalition because Rudd was seen as conservative and responsible. I know some people who despise Gillard purely on account of her voice and manner, and I can't think of anyone who would prefer her to Rudd to the extent it will change their vote.

This whole episode is manna from Heaven for the right, which now has abundant material to draw on in support of the parallel narratives that the unions run the ALP and Gillard is a mad socialist.

I'm afraid I've reluctantly decided the unions-run-the-ALP line is correct and the party now ranks with the Liberals in my estimation. The unrepresentative and dysfunctional nature of our two main parties is a serious concern for anyone who cares about the health of our democracy.

On thinking further about it, we might be in the middle of a natural experiment on the policy links to Rudd's dumping.

If I'm right and the mining tax is a lot more important than Lyndal Curtis (see comment above) thinks, we should see Julia dump the tax quickly. But if Curtis is right, and the ETS debacle was the determining issue, we should see Julia keep the tax and reinvigorate the ETS.

gordon,
it was the circuit breaker the ALP needed. It is now going to be tougher for Abbott and the Coalition to retain their electoral momentum and capture the centre. That's all that matters to the ALP at this stage--regaining the momentum to hang onto power.

Gary,
Well, maybe you're right. But the mining tax was a big plus for the ALP as far as I was concerned, and if Julia abandons it (as I forecast she will) I'll be voting Green/Independent, with ALP a long way down the preferences. Not that that will make a huge amount of difference; I don't live in a marginal.

At the ABC's Drum Annabel Crabbe says:

Kevin Rudd's influence within Caucus always depended entirely on his popularity outside it. When the latter collapsed, so did the former - with a savagery that is barely believable. The speed of his demise is a graphic demonstration of how shallowly he held power over his own colleagues, and how few of them, in the end, were inclined to extend to him the benefit of the doubt.

A fair assessment. Crabbe says nothing about the possible policy shifts under a Gillard/Swan leadership though.

gordon,
it will make a difference for the Senate--if there is a green senate. The Rudd government did have a clearly progressive agenda at its core – to address the growing inequality – of both outcome and opportunity but it was undermined by the NSW Right to to block any push by the Left to make the to make the country fairer, better and more sustainable.

gordon,
I don't really know about the policy shifts at this stage. Wayne Swan was a strong defender of the Resources Super Profits Tax. My gut feeling is that they will modify the transitional arrangement more quickly than would have been the case.

They had succeed in deflecting the Coalition's attack on the RSPT in Question Time. But that is not the same as the electorate, which is evenly divided. Not doubt the ALP's electoral campaign will be strongly focused on the marginal seats as was the case in SA.

Gillard will be more inclusive, more consultative and more in line with normal Labor tradition.How does she differentiate herself from Rudd whom she has worked closely with?

It is unlikely that the ETS will return as an election platform. Gillard was part of Rudd's decision to back away from the ETS on the advice of the "kitchen cabinet" – the Prime Minister, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Gillard and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner. The only one against that move was Tanner, not Gillard.

Mark Davis says that here was deep resentment with Rudd amongst his cabinet colleagues because they felt they were frozen out of important policy and political decisions by Rudd's centralised approach.

They resented being ushered into the cabinet suite opposite the Prime Minister's office and asked to rubber stamp a folder containing minutes of decisions taken by the cabinet's strategic priorities and budget committee.They also argued that the one-man band was increasingly playing a chaotic and cacophanous tune.For all the talk of evidence-based policy and a managerial approach to decision-making and policy implementation, the view from inside the government was of a Prime Minister's office veering from one decision and one message to another.

They had argued that the Rudd office's centralised processes and the erosion and trivialisation of the cabinet system would lead to poor decisions.

An emotional and shattered Kevin Rudd at his press conference in Canberra late this morning says that he will seek re-election as the member for Brisbane and he is willing to serve in what ever capacity his party decides.

His declining popularity since late November was accelerated by dumping climate change. The end came quick. The numbers were 80 out of 112 in favour of Gillard. Unlike Turnbull and the emissions trading scheme Rudd was not assassinated over any great policy question. The Right had been demanding a tougher stance against asylum seekers. Rudd had refused.

Gillard says in her press conference that the ALP had lost its way. Me? Labor panicked.

Gillard says that she is open to negotiation and not just consultation on the RSPT---she will drop the Government’s taxpayer-funded pro-RSPT ads but the mining companies need to pull their adverts to show their good faith.

Revenge of the Factions.

Gillard may make a good PM but coming in on the back of the geniuses who gave us the NSW Labour Government is not a good start and does not bode well for the future.

Kevin Rudd says that he had broken the power of the factions when he appointed his own cabinet. Rudd's execution is the factions' revenge. The (right wing) factional bosses still rule in the ALP.

Lindsay Tanner resigns and will not contest the next election for genuine personal reasons. The seat of Melbourne becomes more contestable for The Greens. Adam Bandt could well be the new member.

But Green support does fall after Labor leader changes.

I remember writing on my own blog back in 2007 that Rudd appeared to have a long view of the future of the ALP: one in which the party had such a solid base of support from the centre that it no longer needed to worry about keeping the unions happy. Maybe I was correct, and we've just witnessed the unions' pre-emptive strike that ensures it will never happen.

Unions? What unions? Surely this was desperate backbenchers doing anything to hang on to their jobs.

Meanwhile, the minute Gillard becomes PM, the stock market prices for mining companies skyrocket. The right-wingnuts of the ALP admit their involvement in the coup.

Not co-incidence.

I'm not expecting climate change or super-profits resource tax improvements from Gillard unless she bites off the hand that fed her - a second time.

Unbelievable day.

Rudd and Tanner both out. Andrew Forrest blaming Ken Henry for Rudd's demise was probably the funniest bit.

Gillard will be VERY good at the role of PM.

gordon,
I have read that the move against Rudd was initially organized by Paul Howe of the AWU --they and the Victorian Right (eg., Bill Shorten) put the wheels in motion after the leadership was offered to Gillard by NSW Right faction power broker Mark Arbib early on Wednesday morning.

They concluded Rudd's leadership was terminal. They decided he could not be resurrected and they were not prepared to lift a finger to save him. Rudd had little support in the part at the end.

dave,
the Federal Labor Party of late has looked as if it is increasingly suffering from the affliction that NSW Labor has long suffered from: --of not standing for anything except staying in power, of being too focussed on media management and risk-aversion rather than using power to achieve reform.

Can Gillard turn that impression around? She does have a strong policy focus but the NSW Right's culture---short-term, poll-driven, contextless thinking ---is now deeply embedded in the federal Labor Party.

The AWU and the Sussex Street factional heavies, who orchestrated Rudd's downfall, seem to believe that Labor can win the election by only by attacking the Coalition from the right.

They want to go to the right of Abbott?

les,
yes Gillard will be very good in the role of PM---but the factions - and the unions (AWU) - are back in control of the Labor Party

Nan,
Those union guys like having the numbers dont they.

I will be interested to see how long it takes for her relationship status to become an issue. A P.M thats a women and has a boyfriend. What will Family First make of that? And what will Garrett's new job be? Minister in charge of having a bucket on his head?

Gary,
You may well be right about the mechanism of the coup, but I still think the motivation was backbench fear for their jobs. The mining industry ad. campaign has been very effective.

gordon
re your comment: "the motivation was backbench fear for their jobs. The mining industry ad. campaign has been very effective."

I agree. For once Dennis Shanahan in The Australian is right when he says:

senior Labor ministers and strategists know that if the party faced an election now with a primary vote of 35 per cent it would lose.That Labor's factional leaders and numbers people came to this conclusion and that a majority of Labor MPs, particularly those in marginal seats in Western Australia, NSW and Queensland, also came to the same conclusion was the reason Rudd was replaced. Purely and simply, most Labor MPs formed the view that if they did not replace Rudd with Gillard they faced certain defeat.

Most of the members of the Caucus did not trigger the coup. It was a few faction leaders and some union heavyweights that set things going with background prodding from the australian and the mining industry.

Will the Government now become even more risk averse give this background?

There are reports around that it was this same bunch of geniuses who advised Rudd to pull back on the Emmissions Trading Scheme.

The poverty of ABC political commentary. Rudd made mistakes.

The rest is superficial fluff that takes the plotters at face value. Why would you--a hard bitten experienced political journalist---do that?

The more I reflect on this the more I come to round to the point of view that Rudd's execution was the exertion of power by the factional bosses who used the ALP's low primary vote as an excuse to get their revenge on him for being anti-faction.

It was not over policy. Abbott is quite right about that.

Julian Glover reflects on ex-prime ministers in the UK in the Guardian. But the remarkss apply to Australia as well: eg.,

Prime ministers implode in an instant. The wreck is total and the tradition is unchanging.... Leaders are driven out either by their party or the country; and either way are left haunted by a sort of ignominy
The job of prime minister traps you for life, however briefly you hold it.