Normal service resuming …

Saturday, 3 March 2007 

This year looks to be the year when some of the underlying trends in Australian politics, obscured and partly suspended by 9/11, now come to the surface in a way that may challenge some assumptions of the last few years. These assumptions seem to be based on the view that the post-war political alignment is still basically in place, but with the added touches of:

  • an incumbency factor
  • voters tactically not wanting the same party in power state and federally
  • the political astuteness and personal following of Howard.

The first event that may challenge this orthodoxy is the NSW election this month. In a way the election will repeat some of the features of last year’s Queensland election – an incoherent crisis-riddled government that defies expectations to crush an even more incoherent opposition. The overwhelming dominance of NSW Labor, as in Queensland, must raise questions that the post-war political order is still in place. Once again this may be explained as the ‘incumbency factor’ but the weakness of that argument is likely to be exposed with the second more important event, of course, the federal election.

The last 11 years has seen the Liberal Party attempt to fill the vacuum created by the exhaustion of the Hawke-Keating reform programme, but not very well. The traditional slump in government standing, occasionally to almost record levels is not to be ignored in this blog’s view. It reflects a government that has failed to create any serious consensus and that only stays in through a combination of a politically exhausted opposition and the brief benefit of 9/11 and the War on Terror, which is now fading. The resurgence of the ALP under Rudd is largely reflecting the fading of the 9/11 effect than any particular attributes of Rudd, although he seems to be handling the process fairly well.

In fact this week could be a sign of how well he is handling it by his approach to the Burke episode.

This blog believes the Coalition has got this more wrong than commentators think. There is a major problem in the personal nature of the Coalition’s attack that could back-fire and the Campbell resignation now offers a window to pursue it. Costello triumphant is old politics and tactically Rudd has an opportunity to pose ‘a different approach’ to the old mud-slinging of the past by focusing on the issues. Gillard seems especially effective at this and they should pursue this. I notice that R&G saved their defence for the press conference not parliament. The main game is the media and they may know that the image of Costello gleefully attacking Rudd may not have played as well on the TV as the Coalition thinks.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 3 March 2007.

Filed under Key posts, State of the parties

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