Friday, 2 November 2007
Gaffes only have an impact if they expose a reality that everyone knows is there.
Garrett’s comment that everything will change once Labor gets in is unlikely to make the electorate think Labor has a secret agenda. There are those who think Rudd’s me-tooism is a tactic rather than the political reality both parties are now operating under, but they are mainly confined to some media commentators and more deluded traditional Labor party supporters.
The only reality Garrett’s comment exposes is that he is a political amateur. This does touch on the only effective attack the government has made which is implicit in their charge that the Labor front bench is full of ex-union officials. It is not that Labor threatens union control. Everyone knows that Hockey was describing reality when he said the unions are finished (which is why they are looking for jobs in parliament) it just raises the question, now that Labor no longer represents the unions who actually are these people?
The trouble with the campaign so far is that while the coalition’s initial attempt to boost the morale of core supporters has floundered, Labor has yet to take the campaign over and answer that question. Although some may think this election is not significant and that Rudd is just a younger Howard, they are wrong. This election does mark a significant realignment in Australian politics reflecting changes in the international order and a more depoliticised role for government, both which underpin Labor’s lead. Labor’s problem is that Howard has done what he does well, fractured the campaign into technicalities and trivia as he did earlier this year. It may not do Howard much good, but at least it means Labor’s message gets lost.
A good example was Garrett’s previous gaffe on Kyoto. Rudd’s unimpressive performance on The 7.30 Report this week was because he got bogged down in the technicalities of Garrett’s blunder without being able to break through and get at the government’s vulnerability. There are only two things Labor needs to convince the electorate on global warming 1) they believe it and 2) they want to reconnect into the global agenda on it. If anything, Garrett’s gaffe confirmed the first and as for the global agenda, everyone knows it will be in the hands of the Foreign Affairs Minister (god help him/her working under the Mandarin) and not Garrett.
Everyone also knows that the reason why Howard didn’t sign Kyoto wasn’t because it wasn’t doing enough about climate change by leaving out India and China. He didn’t sign it because 1) it was Bush’s strategy not to and 2) the party of business is uncomfortable with its anti-growth message. While Rudd fussed about playing political games trying to pretend Garrett hadn’t stuffed up (he had) he could have broken away and do little more than reaffirm his act of faith (and Howard’s lack of it) that the global warming debate requires. The campaign getting stuck in this swamp won’t give Howard the momentum he needs to claw back Labor’s lead, but it could make Labor more vulnerable should external events upset the campaign.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 2 November 2007.Filed under Tactics