Leadership watch – Rudd at the launch

Thursday, 15 November 2007 

Messages are cheap.

Rudd’s under-spending was possible because attached to it was a message of the future, hope – bringing youth and technology together in the schools and fear – renewable energy and climate change. The main external impact of the launch was to highlight that Howard had simply thrown money at the hole in his program. Rudd’s comment that Howard thinks computers are ‘exotic’ was also a cheeky well-aimed stab at Howard‘s age that he inadvertently reveals every time he rolls his eyes when mentioning laptops and You-Tube.

But the external impact is secondary, it is striking how much these launches have become internal affairs and Labor’s even more than the government’s. The speakers use of ‘friends’ in addressing the listeners, which appeared even in Rudd’s speech, suggests that outside the three minute soundbite for the evening news, they were more talking to the party than the voters. This is one reason why the launches are now being held later in the campaign. Not just for financial reasons, but because they are less about setting the campaign agenda, but more to explain to their own parties what exactly it is that they have been up to for the last month.

Rudd emphasised Workchoices to reassure the party and give them the illusion that they were winning because the country was swinging to traditional Labor values. In reality this election is not about Labor but the growing irrelevance of the Liberal party for the running of government at both state and federal level. There was implicit recognition of this by the lack of triumphalism (even less than the faux rally in September) that meant Rudd was not allowed to raise his arms, leaving him on the stage making little bobbing hand movements to the crowd and looking a bit silly.

Like the Liberals’ rally, there was reconciliation of past foes. Instead of Janette and Tanya’s hug it was Bob and Paul’s raised clasped hands. Both reconciliations indicate a period is coming to an end. For the Liberals it indicates the end of Howard’s use of Costello to manage party tensions as he loses power. For Labor, the Hawke/Keating rivalry was ultimately about where to take the party as its historical role came to an end. Keating’s higher profile this launch, compared to 2004, signals the party has become more comfortable because they are finally starting to move on from where he left them. Where to is suggested by the presentation of the Labor leadership which was solely focussed on Rudd and Gillard. While there were plenty of shots of Rudd’s family, the shadow ministry was hardly anywhere to be seen. It is not only the country that will be finding out what New Leadership means on Saturday week, so will the party.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 15 November 2007.

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