Niki Savva: Gillard's success is assured
If I was a proper journalist, the above would be an appropriate headline that would be rigorously defended against all complaint. Remember, anyone who criticises any journalist for any reason is a wannabe authoritarian who would machine-gun little children in the streets were it not for fearless journalists and freedom of the press.
Success is assured only if the opposition obliges by getting nastier and dumber.
And you know they will.
JULIA Gillard said early on she wanted to model herself as Prime Minister on Bob Hawke, the ultimate consensus politician. Then she decided she would rather be John Howard, conviction politician. Along the way she morphed into Paul Keating.
I'm not sure that she ever said that she wanted to be John Howard: she was Deputy Leader of a party which beat him in the 2007 election. She spends the rest of the article denying that she's like Keating at all. This is a poor way to start an article: you go through it suspicious of anything she says.
She should have assumed full ownership of the decision by announcing it on her own or with her Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, and or the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, given she is trying to sell the tax as major economic and environmental reform. Surrounding herself with Greens and independents left her open to the charge that in this, her designated year of decision and delivery, she was delivering someone else's decision, a charge Greens deputy Christine Milne gleefully verified.
I'll give her that. When describing what's going on Savva is on firmer ground than when she takes flights of fancy: a bit like Glenn Milne in that regard. You get so tired of the flights-of-fancy that when it comes to a nugget of truth, you've pretty much consigned it to the bin of history (where the flight-of-fancy soon joined it).
[Gillard] failed to line up third-party endorsements in advance.
Yeah, that's true: Howard and Costello did that well too, and its absence has been keenly felt since. Public policy has to feel like it's bubbled up from the community in some form, it never works when the smart-alecs from Canberra have come up with new ways to tax us. Surely that's the lesson of Whitlam.
[Gillard] should have been on time for the Jones interview. It's live radio, not a make-up appointment. That is unless it was part of a cunning strategy to provoke Jones, which it did, but it did not help her.
Oh piss off, it was hilarious. She's the Prime Minister of Australia, he's a disc jockey who can run off at the mouth about anything. Alan Jones in the throes of a hissy fit is side-splittingly funny, it's just a pity you have to sit through so much drivel to get there. It helped her in showing people she wasn't kowtowing to the right for once.
Then, when confronted with her unequivocal declaration before the election that she would not introduce a carbon tax, she should have copped it sweet, not try to slug it out by arguing that what she said was different from what she actually said.
Costello used to do that shit all the time. It's only "infuriating" once you realise someone other than Costello is doing it.
Her promise to give as good as she gets was also ill-advised. Yes, prime ministers have to hold their own. They also have to be prime ministerial. Tony Abbott played rope-a-dope with her all week. He is no Muhammad Ali, but he knows enough about fighting to know that if you provoke your opponent enough and keep them swinging, they end up worn and rumbled.
Rubbish. Abbott leads a party badly divided over scapegoating Muslims and immigrants. Many more weeks like the period before the carbon tax announcement, and Abbott is finished. He has to go out hard: she is the one using the ropes and pulling her punches ("rope-a-dope" is such a pithy term, almost a cliche - but go and look at the Rumble In The Jungle, Niki, and see who's the dope and who's working the ropes. Use your cliches - they've got you this far - but you let yourself down when you flaunt your ignorance like that). Never mind George Foreman, Gillard has been more like Roy Asotasi in terms of restraint. If you keep swinging at a non-target you just end up looking like a boofhead.
What [the Coalition] doubt is her competence and her integrity.
Firstly, look at who is casting the doubt, and whether they can really dispel people's doubts that they're a competent potential government. They should have won the 2010 election in their own right, but lingering doubts saw them snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory. John Hewson used to go on all the time about how Keating had a glass jaw: fat lot of good it did him.
Howard released his principles for tax reform a full year before he and Peter Costello released the final package, and they used that time to make the case for the introduction of a GST, which they called a tax - not a pricing mechanism.
In other words, this is where the carbon tax-GST parallel falls down. It's where Savva's fury at both the similarities and differences between Howard-Costello send her around in circles. Which makes her angrier: where Gillard snatches the Howard-Costello legacy out from under Abbott's nose, or where she abandons it and falls onto her face?
It is a sin tax, just as alcohol and cigarette taxes are, except all passive users will pay. If you pollute, or partake of the fruits of that pollution, you will pay.
Like fuel taxes, really. Savva tries to diminish the proposed carbon tax by likening it to petty imposts like those on ciggies, which is a contrast to Abbott's Great Big Scare Campaign but it can't be both at the same time.
Swan's attempt on Sunday to argue it was not a tax because it did not take money directly out of people's pay was feeble.
Yep, she can have that too.
On second thoughts, Gillard is best to keep him out of the debate altogether and get Combet out there as often as possible, even if that creates other problems later.
No, Swan should wear himself out this time next year. The Treasurer who steered us through the GFC, the mining tax and a carbon tax; a great reformer in hindsight perhaps but not a strong advocate. Gillard is keeping him out of his depth: I think Combet will end up looking better too, and I just hope that Paul Howes doesn't inherit Swan's seat.
I have written quite a bit about the Howard-Costello tax reform process in my book [which is pretty poor] ... As Costello's press secretary then, I have vivid memories of it including all the accusations that it was going to kill people, literally, and wreck the economy.
Before the package was released the Howard government was running 10 points behind in the polls. Nervous backbenchers urged Costello to move against the prime minister.
The parallel flatters Gillard. Having chucked two leaders in three years, the Liberals weren't going to roll Howard and Costello wasn't the man to roll him anyway.
Brian Loughnane, then chief of staff to a cabinet minister, offered to help organise a coup.
Savva is so hot-and-cold in terms of getting it right that I will give her this, particularly as Loughnane is a dipstick.
... your old mate Hawkie ... thinks you're not up to it.
Hawkie didn't think Keating was up to it. He didn't think Howard was up to it, nor Crean nor Latham. He was wrong about Beazley being up to it. As soon as the polls turned against Rudd, Hawke was dumping on him. Hawke thinks there was only ever one PM who could really cut it, and that was Hawke himself. When you've been around politics as long as I have, you'll know that's just Hawke.
Sorry, just quoting.
See, now you just sound catty. The obligatory reference to make-up (thanks Grog) undermines the cool perspective that behoves an insider and makes it look like a bitch-fest.
The release of the package in August 1998, with its 10 per cent GST coupled with huge tax cuts, generous compensation package, the abolition of 10 other taxes and all fully paid for with the budget still in surplus won widespread endorsement and reversed the Howard government's fortunes.
Translation: Howard had to compromise and back down on a few issues, most notably food, where media outlets like The Australian blasted him for looking weak. It was enormously gruelling, and Savva is wring to skip over it blithely (and blast Gillard by comparison).
Howard raced off to the polls on the back of euphoria, which gradually evaporated. He had a pretty good head start, but his majority fell from 18 seats to five. At least he had fat to spare, which Gillard most definitely does not.
Thirteen Coalition MPs and a couple of Senators: "fat", were they? Only arrogant staffers and beef-witted journalists would dare take that attitude (especially when you consider that Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan were among the 13 Labor candidates who carved out a chunk of Coalition "fat" for themselves).
Remember also how the then Opposition Leader shook his chubby fist and engaged in old-school Labor fightin' rhetoric, promising to "roll back" the tax? Remember how he got 50% of the vote? History - never repeats but it sometimes rhymes.
Abbott has to be ready when they are for the alternatives to this and other policies.
Can't be done. Abbott won't have anything to propose: he'll hope that the focus stays on Labor and will wilt under the klieg lights of serious scrutiny.
If she is to make it through, Gillard has to observe a few basic rules: stay dignified, don't treat people like idiots, be upfront, road-test all your arguments, then make sure you know the answer to every question because you can't afford to get one little fact wrong. It will either cost you your job or a lot of money.
Consider both Gillard and Abbott, known quantities and people with both qualities and flaws. Which of the two is most likely to observe Savva's basic rules? Put it this way: pick any one of those rules, ad ask yourself whether you could trust Tony Abbott not to breach it for a whole week.
Now, imagine you were real newspaper editor, rather than the meat-puppet occupying the job at The Australian. You'd start with that last paragraph and make her write the whole damn thing again (and no more bitchy crap about make-up!). It would be a very different article and a better one, one that gave experience as a journo and a staffer a depth and gravity Niki Savva clearly lacks.