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

Canberra watch: cutting deals « Previous | |Next »
June 25, 2010

The dust has settled in Canberra, Parliament has taken a longish break and the Canberra Press Gallery is beavering away exploring every nuance of the mechanisms behind, and the reasons for, the Labor regicide.

The justification that Rudd Labor had "lost its way" provides fertile ground for interpretation, especially when the coup was organized by the power brokers and machine men of the Right faction (in Victoria, NSW and SA). Their poll driven agenda is a much tougher line on asylum seekers, a more low key approach to climate change, and rolling over on the mining tax.


Gillard's style will be different from Rudd's --more team play, common courtesy, consultation and negotiation. More chairperson of the Board than a dictatorial CEO.

If Rudd's execution was about the ALP retaining power, then the question comes: Can Gillard and Swan turn Labor's electoral slide around? They need to raise the ALP's primary vote and that can't be done on personal popularity, even if great expectations and high hopes rest on Gillard's shoulders.

Policy issues will have to come into play to raise the ALP's primary vote. Is there policy substance and direction? Is there a reform direction?

Can Gillard, Swan and Ferguson cut a deal with the miners? Gillard will presene herself asa listening and consultative leader. If they can cut a deal, then Abbott has lost his favourite punching bag, and is in danger of losing his key issue, the mining tax. The coalition has gone out on a limb for the big miners--- no new tax on miners (its gouging and ripoff) because the miners stand for risk, enterprise and incentive and are necessary to develop this country. Do the miners actually want to negotiate and compromise?

Mentioning the phrase 'we need to price carbon' in a never never future will not be enough for green orientated voters to return to Labor. Some kind of policy is needed, given Labor's history of being captured by the coal industry and heavy polluters on the emission trading scheme. The latter have no interest at all in paying for their carbon emissions.

Stephen Bartholomeusz in Business Spectator says:

Gillard can’t ditch the tax and start again, nor concede the key changes to the tax demanded by the sector – in particular its retrospective application to past investment – without destroying Swan, which isn’t going to happen. Which suggests that, however genuine Gillard might be about wanting to negotiate, she actually doesn’t have any meaningful room to manoeuvre on the issues that really matter....Unless Gillard is prepared to negotiate both the headline rate and the retrospective nature of the tax she is boxed in by the political framework and the continuing presence of Swan.

Her desire to negotiate a compromise might be genuine but the practical realities of her position make that near-impossible.

Update 2
Leaks to the press (The Australian Financial Review) suggest that the federal government has approved a compromise offer on the controversial resource super profits tax (RSPT) and presented the plan to key mining firms for their feedback.The offer would reduce the impact of the RSPT by offering some exemptions on existing projects, as well as raising the level when the tax cuts in from the proposed six per cent. It would see an immediate write-off for new capital expenditure and allow for the taxing point to be set as close as possible to extraction.

Although the miners continue to say that the proposed mining tax threatens more than $23 billion in investment no major project has yet been scrapped and several have actually been advanced. The miners continue to threaten a restart of their campaign against the Gillard Government if they don't get what they want in a couple of weeks.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:21 PM | | Comments (27)


was Rudd the problem or was it Labor's policies? If it was Rudd (as many suggest), then does swapping Gillard for Rudd also address the flaws in Labor's policies and policy delivery?

In the Australian Peter van Onselen predicts that Julia Gillard won't just win the next election, she will increase Labor's majority. That's a brave call.

van Onselen says that if Gillard stumbles then his prediction stumbles with her. He argues thus:

She needs a good start to move on from the chaos of recent days.....Abbott wants to remind voters that it is the same failed government with a different leader. That argument only works if voters agree that Labor has been a failure. Yes they have had their problems, major problems, including with policy delivery.But the three biggest problems with Rudd's first term were his autocratic style, his sudden unpopularity and his unwillingness to consult. All three are now gone, so watch out Tony Abbott, I say.

Inside the ALP Rudd's autocratic style caused a lot of resentment. Outside the Canberra beltway it is Labor's policies---eg., the mining tax, asylum seekers and emissions trading scheme--- that are causing people to turn away from Labor.

On green issues, Labor fell for the prevailing tendency among greenies to put way too many eggs in the AGW basket. When Copenhagen collapsed, they had nothing.

It's still open to Labor to go back to a broader sustainability agenda, which could lend itself to more incremental policies - not just "ETS or bust". A clever strategist could use a series of moderate-scale initiatives in recycling, land reclamation, decentralised renewable power, control of invasive species, forest preservation etc. etc. to outflank the Greens themselves, who are too fixated on AGW for their own good. Labor could find itself owning the green agenda again.

But I doubt whether the ALP has the right policy people to do this.

Good post , again, Gary but I'll quibble about this:
" Can Gillard and Swan turn Labor's electoral slide around?"
Look at the last 4 Newspolls.
ALP 2PP of 49, 50, 51, 52.
ER has them around 51/52.
Morgan has them 51-53+ with their best result just before the coup.
In all of these however bad Rudd's numbers were Abbotts were worse by a large margin.

"More chairperson of the Board than a dictatorial CEO..."

But it's not just about the management style, is it? These are no hard-and-fast rules about HOW things should be run. It's also about WHAT the person is presenting to the Australian voters.

I mean... JWH was known for his dictatorial style, but his party seemed (mostly) happy for him to run things.

Yes Rudd was the problem just like Howard was. Yes Gillard can turn it around if she plays it right. Its going to take a re-invention of the mining tax,some new faces on the front bench,and most importantly no new stuff ups.
Bob Brown seemed happy to see the back of Rudd so finding some common ground with him would the place to start.

Its a new ball game for Abbott now so he's going to have be a real player from this point on.

some have argued that the figures you mention (Labor trailed the Coalition 35 per to 40 per cent on the primary vote, but was ahead 52-48 after preferences).

However, Labor’s internal polling showed the weak primary vote meant a raft of regional and outer metropolitan seats were at risk to the Coalition, including eight in Queensland alone, where Green preferences could not be relied on.) did not warrant the execution of Rudd, and that Rudd Labor could have gone on to win the election with the 2PP. If Labor did get 52 percent after preferences across the country they would almost certainly win.

Without disputing these figures I would say that it all depends on what is happening to the 2PP in the marginals. I don't have much info on that --but it sounds bad for Labor in Queensland (a rout?) and the marginal seats in NSW (they'd lose 5 seats there) WA , from all accounts, continues to turn blue.

Presumably, the ALP would know from its private polling. From what I can gather Labor’s internal polling showed the weak primary vote meant a raft of regional and outer metropolitan seats were at risk to the Coalition, including eight in Queensland alone, where Green preferences could not be relied on.

My interpretation of the ALP's actions is that Rudd was dumped because the election was too close to call and Gillard can increase the vote etc etc. Okay let's accept that and explore increase 'can Gillard increase the primary vote'.

Firstly, can Gillard bring back more to bring more blue-collar men to the ALP from the Liberal party? Aren't this bloc of voters anti-ETS and hard line on asylum seekers?

Secondly, can Gillard bring back enough Green voters to increase Labor's primary vote? How can she do that when she says that ‘international conditions are not right for putting a price on carbon’.

nope it is not just about the management style. That is the story being told by the factional heavies for dumping Rudd. The palace coup pretty much occurred without the cabinet and caucus knowing about it.

The tipping point for the coup (bad internal polling, Rudd's chief of staff sounding out Labor MP's ) etc doesn't matter that much--this coup had been planned by Bill Shorten of the Victorian Right + the SA Right for some time. The strategy is wait until the leader's position is so brittle it just needs a quick panic and the deed is done.

The ALP Caucus reckoned they were facing certain defeat and judged that Rudd would not adapt the way he did things in the new circumstances. Rudd wouldn't or couldn't make the needed adjustment.

Yep mars08 has nailed it there.


"The justification that Rudd Labor had "lost its way" provides fertile ground for interpretation..."

Indeed it does.

For some voters (myself included) Rudd was often seen as a JWH-Lite. Pandering too much to the fears of the "aspirationals".

Yet I'm sure some Australians saw him as a terrorist-loving, anti-business socialist.

So which of those two groups was behind this coup?

Peter Beattie said that Julia is the best communicator the ALP has, which will make a huge difference.

Hopefully we'll have a package of good policy and good communication.

My impression so far is that Julia wants to do more to prepare the country for an ETS before that's reintroduced. It makes sense to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels before we start raising the cost of them.

I'm very much looking forward to the Abbott/Gillard election campaign. The debates should be a hoot.

I understand that Mark Arbib, the powerbroker of the NSW Right, was constantly on Rudd's back to dump the ETS from January 2010, straight after Copenhagen.

What these power brokers care about is retaining power. They have no commitment to shifting Australia to a low carbon economy. They are, to all intents and purposes, opposed to such a reform.

It is up to Gillard to counter the NSW Right's culture of policy being secondary to politics. I don't expect too much from Gillard---politically less damaging reform at best. No big picture stuff.

For what it is worth Rudd says that he held the line against the big push by the NSW Right to dump policy for a politics tailored to the aspirationals in the outer suburbs.

I'm sure that there was feeling within the Labor Party that if Rudd had of won the next election he would of been more impossible to deal with than now.
So it was a bit like when the mother cat stops feeding the kitten that has the bung leg and pushes it away. Cruel and sad for a little while but better for the pack in the long run.
Of course the media did a hacket job on Rudd too when they saw him limping.

Yep, pretty much in agreement with what you say but I reckon the ultra right fellas panicked, believed the Murdoch mafia and over interpreted ambiguous polls.

However, they may have been pragmatically correct as the 2 polls released yesterday show a strong improvement in the ALP numbers, Greens going back to their 'core' number [8-10%] and Gillard outscoring Abbott comprehensively.
I just reckon there were alternative paths to this objective.

"I'm very much looking forward to the Abbott/Gillard election campaign. The debates should be a hoot"

We've already had a preview of that.
Julia handled Kerry O'Brien with ease on the 7.30 report a couple of nights ago.
Left him floundering.
But in strong contrast O'Brien had Abbott tied up in knots, flustered and blustering and admitting, once again, that he lies.
Its worth a look at the video and the transcript.

Gillard is far superior in her presentation than both of these fellas.

As Paul Daley points out in The Age the irony of Rudd reluctantly agreeing to dump the ETs under pressure from the Right+ Mark Arbib is that in the end, even though he capitulated to the likes of Arbib on climate change, they did him over anyway.

No doubt the NSW Right would have threatened Rudd's leadership if he did not back down on climate change.

And Gillard is going to change all this? She was a strong advocate of dumping the ETS because it was political baggage that the ALP could not afford to carry into an election.

"Gillard is far superior in her presentation than both of these fella" [Abbott and O'Brien]

Under Gillard it will be policy corrections, not new policy directions. It is a new and better salesperson, with a smarter politics and a consensus style; a leader who accepts the authority and power of the factional and party brokers.

I think that when the lipstick, hair and smile are removed we will be left with a Thatcheristic style.

though Gillard is reputed to have been opposed to rule by factions in the ALP she is now tainted by an association to the faction bosses and unions she opposed.

Will Gillard challenge the faction bosses who have little by way of a policy agenda, and who identify Australia with western Sydney?

according to William Bowe at The Poll Bludger internal ALP polling reportedly showed Labor headed for a net loss of 18 seats. Purported details of such polling were provided by a party insider to Andrew Bolt, and they tell a believeable story.

Included are Labor seats on less than 5 per cent and Coalition seats on less than 1.5 per cent – about 40 all told. The broad picture is of Labor facing swings of 4 per cent in New South Wales and Queensland and as much as 8 per cent in South Australia, but no change in Victoria or Tasmania. In Western Australia, Hasluck would be lost, but no swing can be determined as Brand and Perth weren’t included in the poll. Also said to be a lost cause for Labor was Darwin-based Solomon.

Twenty-one seats in all were identified as Labor losses against three gains, which coming off 88 seats notionally held by Labor would leave them five seats short of a majority.

I am going to watch what Gillard does on climate change very closely. I hope for some good policies before the election abut fear the worst (inaction) other than saying stuff to ensure Green preferences.

Gillard says that she is working towards a lasting and deep community consensus on climate change action with a price on carbon. What does "consensus" actually mean when coal-burning to generate power rose again in the last 12 months?

"You have to take the community with you when you make deep and lasting changes" is the Gillard answer so far.

Which community is that? The climate change deniers? The NSW Right in the ALP? The polluters--heavy energy users? The coal industry? The environmentalists? The community is deeply divided, so it cannot be all of them.

With electricity generation a major contributor to emissions, the national abatement goal-----Rudd's abatement target requires greenhouse gas emissions to be 5 per cent below the 2000 level by the end of this decade--- can only be reached if some of the coal-burning plants in South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland are shut down.

Is that going happen when demand for electricity in the eastern seaboard and Western Australia is increasing rapidly?

Gillard won't introduce a carbon tax in the near future.Too risky. So what can they do to address climate change?

Regulate pollution? Spend more on renewable energy?

I didn't realise that Labor only has a nine-seat margin. I thought that it was more than that. 9 seats is not much of a buffer.

Some say that the internal ALP polling showed that Labor could lose up to 23 seats.

The argument is that "secret Labor polling" would see Labor "devastated at an election". We never saw that polling--and we have to trust the leaks to the Australian's Glenn Milne.

The only information we citizens had to go on was Newspoll, historically accurate about electoral prospects, and the other published polls. These were showing the start of a movement back towards the Rudd government.The inference was that the fall had bottomed out.

Paul Kelly in The Australian has access to the internal ALP polling. He says:

A fortnight ago Labor headquarters summarised the results of the party's latest research. This documented a minimum loss of 23 seats (nine in Queensland, eight in NSW, two in Victoria, two in Western Australia, one in Tasmania and one in Northern Territory) and another nine seats in doubt (two in Queensland, two in NSW, one in Victoria, one in WA, two in SA and one in Tasmania).

He adds that the campaign professionals believed that Labor would lose, the rot was deep, seats would fall like dominoes in Queensland and NSW and there was no apparent turnaround strategy under Rudd. Any 2010 election defeat would become a historic low mark for Labor, a humiliation that would endure for a decade.