06 September 2011

Issue of the week II: Julia Gillard death-watch

The media have decided that Prime Minister Gillard has pretty much had it over the decision to end offshore processing of refugee applications. However much of a consensus this might be among the press gallery, they've been caught in consensuses (consensi?) like that before which have ultimately proven fruitless. You'd think they'd learn, and ought to have no sympathy for them if they don't.

Many journalists have been employed to create low-value non-stories around leadership speculation, an unsustainable business model if ever there was one.

How many hectares of screen real-estate (or hectares of actual forest) were sacrificed to Howard-Costello speculation? It began in about 1997, when the novelty had worn off Prime Minister Howard and a few hacks had not quite adjusted to Life After Keating. It did not end for another dozen years: Costello never challenged Howard for the leadership, he didn't even challenge after Howard had lost his seat (when he would've had no opponents: some challenge) and was accused of plotting up to the very point that the exit doors in Parliament House hit his backside on the way out. Every bit of reportage on that issue was wasted.

Then, Kevin Rudd went from having the shine taken off him to being dead meat within a few weeks. The entire US State Department knew that Rudd had become hated by his party, and having read Machiavelli they knew what it meant for a leader to be hated. The Australian parliamentary press gallery had no idea until David Marr's catty Quarterly Essay (i.e. not a daily news outlet, like the one that actually employs him), and then most of the action took place over a single night. It was too late for the press gallery to be getting new insights at that point so they all wrote the same story, faceless men ooh-ah.

If you could sum up the political situation in a sentence, it would be: Labor people are concerned about their polling but nobody is scuttling around doing any numbers to depose Gillard. There. I've written the story so journos don't have to. Now, can we get some journalists in to dig around for some other stories using some actual journalism?

At some point Julia Gillard will cease to be Prime Minister. It may be that there will be real moves against her. Until then, it would be nice if the fearless sleuths of the press gallery found out what was going on at the same time as the US embassy.

As for this, Gillard needs to do three things:
  • Announce that refugees arriving here will be dealt with on shore, with full UNHCR input and access to those that want it;
  • Call Abbott out for proposing a course of action that's illegal and cruel. Conservatives can handle the accusation of cruelty, it was water off a duck's back with Tampa in 2001 and it still is today. The impracticality and illegality, though, that's how you hit conservatives where they live. They believe in following the rule of law and being practical, not airy-fairy, so for Liberal policy to be illegal and impractical will be devastating and demoralising; and
  • Say that she doesn't trust Abbott. Abbott says one thing and does another all the time, why should she negotiate with him? Call him a flake. Make that float-like-a-butterfly stuff count against him. Make herself out to be the responsible adult in this governing business, following the law and doing a difficult job under trying circumstances.
The Situation is not a given in Australian politics, he has to be cut down if the government is to be re-elected. If not, the government may not be re-elected. Now look at what the government offers, in its clumsy way, then look at what The Situation offers, and you tell me a) which is more important and b) why it's more important than education funding.

If, after all that, you're not as edified as billy-o, try one bogan from Adelaide picking on another, but without the beer and chunder. A man must have a hobby but I still think Hicks was stupid to alight on jihad; that said, for all his bluster, you know Kenny would snap like a twiglet after 48 hours in Gitmo. a) and b) above apply here too, in spades.


  1. A really excellent article, Andrew. You'd do a lot better at policy advice and PR than the...er...people that Labor has had for the last however-many-years.

  2. Labor's big error with Abbott is that it has allowed his strengths to stay as strengths when a modicum of savvy political management could have turned them into weaknesses via a few well turned phrases, the way Howard's 'ticker' comment did Beazley over permanently or Reagan's 'there you go again' sank Carter. For example, something along the lines of "is he too single-minded to be PM?", or "too much of an intellectual to be PM" would be a start. It only needs a couple of well crafted phrases like that repeated a few times - two years is plenty for a vein of corrosion to set in. But it takes serious and thoughtful analysis of Abbott's appeal as a political entity not just as the holder of the title 'leader of the opposition'.

  3. The comment about Abbott's untrustworthiness is a good one. I heard the bipartisanship proposal put to Bowen the other morning and rather than just say "you'd have to be a moron to trust Tony Abbott" he waffled on about ... something, I forget. Bloody hopeless.

  4. The ALP need to put the obvious fact that you can't trust Abbott in plain language. During recent parliamentary debate Albo laid into him well enough, but his big cutting remark was that Abbott was 'not a conservative, he's a reactionary'. Calling someone a reactionary might be a cutting remark in left-wing student politics, but its meaningless to most people. I constantly find myself wishing that Keating was dealing with this issue.

  5. What Rhiannon said - If only they'd take your advice, but the story today about offering Abbott a briefing makes me think that they will do a deal with the devil after all.

    I can't quite believe people are trying to draft Rudd again, I don't know anything about the inner workings of the party but surely he has about as much support now as he did when he was deposed? Foreign Minister was perfect for him because he could be a law unto himself and slink off overseas whenever the sh*t hit the sh*tsheets back home.

  6. Lachlan Ridge7/9/11 8:09 pm

    Yet another excellent price Andrew.

    I received a link to an interesting piece that, in part, discusses why the extreme right captured the votes of what are euphemistically called lower middle class voters in the US, what might be more accurately known as the working class:

    While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. To be sure, the business wing of the Republican Party consists of the most energetic outsourcers, wage cutters and hirers of sub-minimum wage immigrant labor to be found anywhere on the globe. But the faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations' bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let's build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it's evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.

    How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? - can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative "Obamacare" won out. Contrast that with the Republicans' Patriot Act. You're a patriot, aren't you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn't the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?

    there's a lesson in there somewhere for the ALP.

  7. Andrew - good piece. I find it vastly amusing that the right-wingers of my acquaintance keep telling me that Julia's gonna fall, gonna fall, gonna fall. They've been telling me this for months. And I keep saying to them: under what scenario can she fall and Labor stay in office? Then they just look blank (or, at least, blanker than right-wingers usually look).

    It is quite possible that in a few months after Labor has got some big legislation through parliament it will be able to throw off the do-nothing minority govt tag and starve the Situation of oxygen.

    Certainly, the way the libs are focusing so hard on Thomson suggests there are no more ideas in the locker (which was bare anyway).

  8. Lachlan, that's a great article you've linked to, thanks.

  9. It would be very nice of you if you recommend other resources concerning this theme of course if you know any.