Another honeymoon ends

Thursday, 29 May 2008 

The Liberals’ euphoria is understandable.

They are so self-absorbed that they seriously believe a leaked cabinet submission and the normal sort of jostling from departmental bureaucrats is a mirror of their own divisions. Anyone comparing Ferguson’s apologetic self-flagellation with Turnbull’s egotistical manoeuvrings at the press club will see which is a result of a bureaucracy yet to be disciplined (and a party that already appears to be) and which is a sign of political decay.

The media’s mis-reading is a little harder to understand. Leaving aside Shanahan’s rather hysterical enthusiasm, even the normally more sanguine Grattan seems to believe the government has suffered a serious embarrassment.

Over what? Disagreements over a glorified consumer campaign? That the government didn’t think of handing tax cuts through the pump? There is no serious political point at stake other than that the political class is not yet ready to accept that Rudd wants to make their impotence public knowledge (the backflip over carers’ bonus was much more revealing of government weakness).

If Rudd is making one mistake at the moment (besides perhaps being too indulgent with the bureaucracy) it is that he is being too defensive over not guaranteeing to bring the cost of living down. Instead of constantly clarifying what they said before the election (so long ago!), they should revive the attack they were making then, namely that Australians are tired of the old politics when it can no longer deliver. Rudd’s problem is that he has stopped acting like an opposition leader. He may have won the election but he still has a political class to put in its place (although Chris Bowen is a rising star in this task).

Then again, if Rudd did go for the kill, he might spare the Liberals from the mistake they look as though could soon be making as a result of their new buoyancy. Seeing Hockey transform from loveable Shrek to bully boy, one senses that the old leadership is again starting to be more confident that November really was an aberration, that the government is vulnerable and the Nelsonian age of the wimp is over.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 29 May 2008.

Filed under Tactics

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