16 July 2013

Sweetening the base

How is the Coalition responding to Labor's switch from Gillard to Rudd? They could be reaching out to voters who were upset or unsure about that change, in the way that Labor's changes to the Premiership of NSW in 2008 saw voters dump the party to a far greater extent than they did the leader. Instead, they have gone back to shoring up their base at the very time that Rudd is reaching out to uncommitted voters.

It's one thing for Abbott to dismiss Labor's approach to carbon pricing: he would do that, wouldn't he. His comments about carbon being invisible and not delivered to anyone were immediately condemned by the sorts of people who were never open to persuasion from him. Far more telling is the doubt they cast over the whole idea that carbon abatement by whatever means is a priority, or that carbon pollution causes global warming.

This article from Ben Cubby is very good at explaining why Abbott's comments appeal to his base. It does not explain, however, why Abbott is shoring up his base at this point. Even though it's their job to do so, Cubby's colleagues in the press gallery can't explain it either.

Abbott has sacrificed even the pretense that climate change is a real issue. Liberals who defend Abbott's sincerity about environmental and climate issues have now been abandoned by their own leader, another example of the futility of moderation in Abbott's Liberal Party.

The Coalition's Direct Action policy is now a joke. Today is Greg Hunt's last chance to quit in order to save some dignity and credibility for what remains of his career. It would be more honest for Abbott to disown it and contest the election from a denialist perspective, making the election a referendum on anthropogenic global warming and Australia's role in causing and abating it.

The current position isn't conservative hedging or even moderation, it's indecision and wanting to have it both ways. Abbott stands more of a chance as an unapologetic denialist than with the half-hearted, half-witted position he's in now.

Scott Morrison was a creature of the party machine, imposed upon his electorate. He has always known that his political career depends upon building a broad popular base as well as cultivating the powerful. The fastest way for a politician to build a popular base is to be populist, and Morrison has certainly done that.

Morrison bit off more than he could chew by wading into foreign policy. Before the Gillard government started sending asylum-seekers to Nauru he avoided anything more than urging the then PM to phone that country's President. After Malaysia, after meeting the Sri Lankan dictator and promising to return escaping dissidents to him, he now turns on the Indonesians and insists they do not mean what they say. You never look like a prospective government when you pick fights with foreign leaders, a lesson Mark Latham learned the hard way.

Morrison's insistence on abandoning desperate people at sea achieves the effect Labor had hoped: theirs looks like the middle-ground position while Morrison and Abbott look like they've gone too far. Even Morrison's imagery is wrong: what the hell is wrong with "sugar on the table"?

That image is one of sweet domesticity, and the conviviality of sharing a cuppa. It goes perfectly with Rudd's dull, reassuring public-servant image, with his own-blend tea and Iced Vo-Vos. It also reinforces the contradictions of a former head of Tourism Australia trying to discourage people from coming here.

If Morrison has a sugar bowl at his place it's probably only there for the cameras. Look at that image again: imagine Abbott's white-knuckled fist crashing into that bowl. Not hard to imagine, is it? Sugar only makes you fat anyway.

Politicians only retreat to their base when they're in trouble. Labor's switch from Gillard to Rudd made life difficult for Abbott and the Coalition, but by no means impossible; their own recent comments are the clearest sign we have that Rudd has rattled Abbott and the Coalition. Rather than reminding people why he leads a prospective government better than anything Labor could offer, Abbott & Co. instead make sure their base will stay with them, sitting on the furniture they are trying to save rather than labelling it for the Ministerial Wing removalists.


  1. Abbott is and always has been lazy, he seriously thought he would waltz into the lodge with nothing more than three word slogans and no policy apart from No to anything Gillard was offering.
    Credlin (the power behind the throne) has always struck me as being one dimensional (I'm sure given the multi-verse model of the universe there is a dimension nasty enough to spawn Credlin), it's obvious they've got nothing to counter Rudd.
    Personally I though Gillard was doing a fantastic job but the nasty tactics of Credlin undermined her to the degree that she couldn't recover. The fact is there is a very positive story to tell and even though Gillard is largely responsible for the last three years Rudd can claim enough kudos to counter LNP nasty...

  2. Andrew,

    Hockey was doing this last week as well (on Twitter esp but also his speech on Friday(?) where he complained about Rudd being so preoccupied with Abbott in his NPC speech that he mentioned his name 30 times (side note - Hockey mentioned Rudd's name 36 times in the speech and 12 of the 16 pages of the speech were about Rudd!). Hockey's twitter last week was so bizarre at times and so aimed towards the base that I had to keep checking it was his real account and not a fake one - I had to check twice when he linked to a Bolt blog post as support for an argument!

    Piping Shrike made a point of this last night on twitter and seemed to suggest this was more about internal politics - perhaps the leadership murmurings have a bit more to them but surely they couldn't be that stupid. My initial thoughts were that they had some internal polling that was scaring the fuck out of them but if that was the case, the polling must have been really bad for them to resort to appealing to the base in such a blatant way.

    1. I've noticed that too. Hockey has gone off the deep end. Though I don't think it is his fault, he is just being a team player and his leader has not been leading on policy - which makes him look stupid defending it and railing against good policy.

      You would think though there comes a point where one simply says enough is enough, a la Scott Morrison above, but Libs are not known for chucking public hissy fits and it will all come tumbling down after Abbott concedes the leadership after their their third election loss in a row.

  3. If Abbott was sincere he would refute both climate change and our obligations under the refugee conventions. But he isn't. Abbott is now hiding, Morrison is barking mad and Barnaby is on the loose - what a disaster for the LNP. The last three years when they should have been developing policy has now come unstuck - what no health or education policy? Where is Andrew Robb? Without Gillard as a pinata they have nothing. Both parties need to review where they are and what they have to offer. Greg Barnes tried and lost. Neither have much to say re global finance, the rise of China, pacific rim fta etc, but Rudd must have the edge. The boats - is it really a vote changer. All these people have really contributed once they are here.

  4. It's like we're living the noughties all over again, what with asylum seekers and global warming now the main two issues - even John Howard and Tampa have been resurrected in the last couple of weeks.

    We've all moved on as a nation, with many reforms and achievements pushed through over the past 3 years, and yet the pollies are treating the public as if it's 2001 and 2007.

  5. Mr Abbott and Scott Morrison behave like the love children of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump combined...

    Its sickening to watch Andrew...

    Adore your blog and i spread the love near and far...



  6. Another excellent analysis Andrew. You always provide an angle not seen in the mainstream press that puts everything in proper perspective.

  7. Andrew, re your criticisms of the press gallery, and Hartcher in particular for helping to bring down Gillard, I find it quite interesting that you never mention that Hartcher is basically the only journalist in Canberra who wrote about the real reason Rudd got the boot - the desire of the union powerbrokers to maintain control of the party. Everybody else on the gallery swallowed all the rubbish about Rudd being dysfunctional, etc etc etc, yawn, yawn and Hartcher was the only one who got to the heart of what was really going on and who was promoting Gillard. Indeed, recent events have shown how accurate he was. And that makes him biased?
    Further, out there in voter land, they don't really pay much attention to the press gallery. They saw Gillard on TV and didn't like what they saw. You're being a bit Canberra-centric, aren't you?

    1. My criticism isn't that Hartcher brought down Gillard, because that would be bullshit. My criticism is that Hartcher was Rudd-centric, and wrote every story favourable to Rudd whether it was true or not. I don't know what basis you say working with Rudd wasn't some sort of dysfunctional nightmare - even people with that experience who didn't care much for Gillard said the same thing.

      Hartcher stuck to Rudd because he had no choice. He was a mid-ranking hack until Rudd made his career. For Hartcher to write an article critical of Rudd would be an admission that the past ten years have been a sham for him. Now he's the recipient of all the inside goss again, hooray hooray hooray for Hartcher. Is that the effect you wanted?

      People who are Canberra-centric use terms like "voter land", Fred. That's how you tell.

    2. Andrew, you don't answer my point that Hartcher was the only one on the press gallery who exposed the real underlying union forces that deposed Rudd, while the rest were running around dealing with superficialities.
      I'm also surprised that you say Hartcher depended on Rudd. When Rudd got the axe and became a back-bencher, what did he have to offer Hartcher? The rest of the Gallery were swarming around the PM's office wanting to be put on the A-grade drip (as Paul Keating called it). Rudd couldn't even offer a D-grade drip. Maybe Hartcher just thought he was onto the right angle. Who knows?
      The recent shenanigans with the unions desperately trying to protect Julia has proved Hartcher totally right. Maybe you should stop delving into Hartcher's psychology (to which you don't have access) and just look at the facts.
      P.S. I haven't lived in Canberra since I was five.

    3. Oh, yes, and I should note that I have never met Peter Hartcher, so his motivations are a complete mystery to me.

    4. Yes, because a story of Rudd v. The Faceless Union Men of the Labor Party really does Rudd a disservice.

    5. Fred, I read Hartcher's piece in the SMH yesterday, and he refers to Australia's 'carbon tax' and Gillard's 'broken promise'. Both statements are untrue. Australia does not, and never has had, a carbon tax, and Gillard broke no promise about it. Hartcher knows both of his statements are lies (or, at the very least, disingenuous), but he still can't resist swiping at Gillard. How is this not biased?

    6. Hartcher wasn't the only one. I thought Paul Howes did a pretty good job of that on 'Lateline' on the night of 23 June 2010, and others did it too. Look it up yourself.

      The point about Gillard is that nobody got the A-grade drip. She is the first PM since McMahon to have gotten that job without having lunched Laurie Oakes, buttered up Michelle Grattan on her birthday, and otherwise made the press gallery feel like important elements in the political system. Hartcher felt that he had to stick with Rudd and tell his story, and his record reflects that. You don't have to know Hartcher to know his output.

  8. When Abbott and Morrison prattle on about stopping the boats before and if they are given free reign they will stop the boats again are they intending to sabotage boats in Indonesia again. It would appear this was the cornerstone of the Pacific Solution.
    What's required is a Royal Commission into the sinking of the SIEVX which would reveal the venerated Howard policy in all its glory and put an end to this disgusting blight on our national polity...

    1. Rocket Surgeon20/7/13 9:18 pm

      Jesus H Christ. We don't need a Royal Commission into SIEV X or anything to do with refugees. We need to just get over it. Stop wasting so much energy on the method of arrival of 10% our immigrants, there are far more important thing for us to deal with.

    2. Beautifully said RS.


  9. Mr Abbots base is....?

    Cashed up bogans

    Racists prats

    Far right people over fifty years old that are Anglophiles

    Young liberal fascist turks that haven't worked a day in their life and are still living their student political life in their thirties...kinda naff to me!

    Political nerds and junkies that have no life sadly.