Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Rudd’s appointment of Nelson as ambassador was supposed to be bad news for Turnbull, but actually it isn’t that great for the rest of the party either. After all, this was someone who the Liberal party had chosen to lead them until just over a year ago and only then a narrow majority wanted to change. Now he will be working for the Labor Prime Minster he was supposed to be trying to defeat.
Such cross-political appointments were not totally unheard of in the past, of course, although it is hard to think of a former party leader being appointed by his opponent. But this is not just one of the cross-political appointments, like Fischer getting the Vatican post, which Rudd has been using to set out his non-partisan style. This is an appointment where the recent leader of the Liberal party will be going directly in to bat for Labor in a crucial political arena. In fact, just in case Nelson didn’t get the point for whom he would be working, Beazley, at the same press conference, spelt it out in his usual bombastic style:
I thoroughly recognise that I’m there to represent the Australian national interest and represent that through the instructions that come to me from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. I therefore recede from endless expressions of opinion to being in the foreign policy equivalent of what Speaker Lenthall was in the House of Commons: I have neither eyes to see, nor mouth to speak, nor ears to hear except as the Commons directs me. In my case that applies to the Australian Government.
Nelson will be toeing the Labor line not just on climate change, as has been widely noted. If at any time in the future the Liberals want to criticise government policy in the growing fiasco that is Afghanistan, then it might be a little more difficult when their former leader is arguing Labor’s case for it.
It is classic Rudd. Not just making a mockery of what was supposed to be the fault-lines of the Australian political system, but locking the opposition increasingly into the international framework that is setting the domestic debate. And, of course, it is on climate change that the jaws of the vice are really being applied.
Labor’s ‘Double Dissolution’ threat that is supposedly being put to the Liberals doesn’t really exist. As the latest Newspoll showed, while the electorate support climate change action, it doesn’t want an early election about it. But nor does the electorate want it to fail because of Liberal/Labor intransigence. This seemingly contradictory stance comes from the anti-political component of climate change – this is a too important issue to play politics over. It shows the way that the climate change agenda delegitimises the old political system, just as politicians around the globe are looking to it to give them a new sense of purpose. At the end it means Labor must get a deal. Besides, as Costello points out today, not only does Labor have little interest in putting the 2007 Senators up for re-election, it need be in no hurry for an early election at all, Swan’s next Budget will be no more of a ‘horror’ than the others.
Yet while there is something hollow about Labor’s threat it doesn’t mean it won’t cause damage making it. The coalition have chosen an issue to define their values that only make them look more out of touch with the rest of the world. The only thing they are tapping into with climate change opposition is an anti-elite sentiment that seems to be now coming about once a decade from the north and usually hits the coalition through its weakest link, the Nationals. Joyce may think he is on a winner playing this up but anyone with a political memory of more than a few years will recognise this for the anti-establishment danger for the coalition it always is. You can almost see the bumper stickers now, ‘Barnaby for PM!’
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 23 September 2009.Filed under Tactics