Rudd’s glass jaw (Part I)

Friday, 13 April 2007 

With Labor’s recent dip in the last Newspoll, and everyone assuming that a landing to more normal levels is inevitable, there has been speculation about how Rudd’s ‘glass jaw’ would react to a decline in his popularity.

Assuming that the parties’ polling will inevitably become closer because that is what has happened before is unjustified and ignores the current unprecedented political conditions in Australia. On the ‘glass jaw’, however, they do have a point. There is a fragility to federal Labor’s lead that is reflected in its leader. The source of that fragility is the changing international situation.

The fascinating feature of Australian politics is its high dependence and vulnerability to international political trends but translated in a way that appears parochial. The critical change that is making this electoral cycle different from that of 2001 and 2004 is not Rudd but the falling apart of the US’s War On Terror agenda. Much has been made of Howard’s resilience to the political problems of the Iraq fiasco compared to Bush and Blair, but the difference lies in the way Australian politics translates international political trends compared to countries like the US and UK where it is much more direct.

The US and UK governments can be reasonably upfront about international events because they have some control over it. To be blunt about it, it is in the interests of no one in the Australian political class to expose how subservient they are to other powers. Howard’s slip-up in prompting Democrat candidate Obama’s to slap him down publicly by dismissing Australia’s commitment to Iraq, is something that no-one in Canberra wants repeated.

While the failures of the US’s War on Terror are still not really directly impacting Australian politics, the global agenda being pushed by US rivals on climate warming certainly is. Lower than average rainfall in Australia’s south-eastern pastoral districts (offsetting the higher than average rainfall in the north-west) combined with poor water infrastructure is now being interpreted through a global prism of climate change. The translation of a regional issue into a global agenda is the opening Rudd needs to let the ALP fulfil its historic role, adapting Australian political institutions and alignments to changing trends in international politics. [Continued]

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 13 April 2007.

Filed under International relations, Key posts

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