Stoop low

Monday, 1 March 2010 

If the normal rules of the game applied, Rudd’s confessional moment on Insiders would have been a foolish move. Certainly much of the press find it incomprehensible, while the Murdoch press, rather pathetically, found it a vindication of their anti-government campaign. But in normal political times, to admit that things have been stuffed up, would be seen as dangerously conceding political ground.

But what political ground? The editorial in The Australian summed up the media’s problem. In crowing over Rudd’s admission of his policy failings, nowhere does it really say what they are. To read the editorial, it seems to be only a problem of process and that he has taken on too much at once. There is no real problem with what the government is doing, just the way it is doing it.

The lack of substance to the current criticism of the government was summed up by the installation fiasco itself. There was little complaint about the actual program, rather the way it was implemented. Even the opposition, who had complained about the program being a waste of money, by the end were complaining about the consequences of the program ending and all the jobs lost that they didn’t think should have been created in the first place.

It’s no surprise that a self absorbed media might think that Rudd’s confessional mood is all about them. In reality it is the lack of substance behind current criticisms of the government, from even its harshest media critics, that gives Rudd room to concede ground on process without actually giving that much away. However, it is also that lack of political agenda from either the government, or its critics, that makes it vulnerable to the electorate at large and it is that which Rudd was addressing.

Rudd was reluctant to dump Garrett, not only to give ground to Abbott, but also internal critics not happy seeing traditional ALP power bases being over-ridden by a celeb such as Garrett. The result, however, was to make the government look stubborn for no major principle, made it look unresponsive and out of touch more broadly in the electorate – something that Abbott’s anti-political tactics were willing to exploit. Rudd’s taking of responsibility for the insulation fiasco, much like his Friday spot on Sunrise are meant to counter this sentiment of being out of touch, and prevent Abbott doing to him what he did to Howard in the last election.

There is a danger with the strategy, that came out in the first part of the Insiders interview, where Rudd can end up appearing like someone buffeted around by events. It is what is touched on when commentators claim that Rudd can end up like a ‘national Premier’ and a mere service provider who can never satisfy. Towards the end of the interview, however, Rudd started to brighten up as he took up the cause that he had let drift since Copenhagen, but which gives the government the moral purpose it desperately needs, the ETS. If the government succeeded in recovering its high ground on this, then it could turn attention on the biggest block to process, the opposition. Without it, Rudd will be as insecure as any of the other Premiers heading towards re-election this year.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 1 March 2010.

Filed under Tactics

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6 responses to “Stoop low”

  1. Edirol on 1st March 2010 8:46 pm

    Great post as always.

    I’ve read Rudds actions as an example of the anti-politic man in action: his actions defy normal political dogma/political suicide/conceeding ground etc. He’s the change up expert, a Houdini and David Blane all in one, who has reduced the Poodle to snivelling on using the same lines Labor did about Howard (cunning, clever, politician etc). Mr & Mrs Stringbag at the local bowlo will lap it up but know in their heart of hearts he is no Little Johnny…

    Gillards performance with Kerry ‘I’m Sorry’ O’Brien tonight even had the disinterested other half giggling rather than tuning out and reaching for the remote to watch fat people look silly losing weight, or foreign people make border staff look silly at the border gates, or whatever rubbish Packers old mob think counts for Premium Entertainment…She got the message like this – good on him for being realistic, and having the guts to say sorry, which most dont vere expect from a polly.

    (Gillards transformation to look more Prime Ministerial is noted – mascara, hair, face on, weight loss etc. That should work for the sons and daughters of Mr & Mrs Stringbag who read Zoo and Who weekly, not the Daily Tele)

    Hilarity aside – the problem Rudd has is fundamentally a sclerotic public service drowning in program money, suffering after a decade and a bit of politicisation, neglect and erosion of capability. A clean out of SES is looooong overdue and until such time Grech is but the mere tip of the iceberg. He cant get reformist outcomes with a machinary that is dragging its feet, winding down the clock till 54/11. They just want it to all go away.

  2. James on 2nd March 2010 10:11 am

    Your posts make compelling arguments about the anti-politics moods in the electorate. I know it’s hard to generalise about the electorate but I think Fran Kelly summed up the electorate’s general attitude well on Insiders recently. She said it was a case of “what have you done for me lately”? Many of us have become an insular, selfish lot. I think Howard’s middle class welfare and bribes left quite a mark.

  3. Ricc on 2nd March 2010 11:56 am

    And the Libs, now adrift, say they will block an ALP proposal to create a nuclear waste dump.

    The media worry that Rudd is turning into Beattie, but I notice Abbott is turning into Springborg!

    What part of “we support nuclear” does Peter Dutton not understand about his party’s platform, its electoral supporter and funding base?

    Obviously those Aboriginal votes in Tennant Creek are required to get him over the line in Queensland…not

    I rate the ALP’s troubles as program difficulties, but the Libs are literally out at sea with no map and compass. Sure, the ALP might lose a skirmish or two, but they at least have the map and compass to get back to port.

  4. Thomas Paine on 5th March 2010 7:06 pm

    Probably tempting to underestimate Rudd’s apology strategy when I would have preferred him to stand firm and take up the obviously ridiculous assertions on the insulation issue.

    But I gather Rudd is looking at the whole wider picture and giving himself more of that human in touch with reality sense as you have said. The trick is to not sound weak or wishy washy in the process, but firmly determined.

    That a reasonably well performed government can be only 52/48 against one of the worst oppositions we have seen in a long time reflects the nature of the voting public, most of whom seem to pay almost zero attention to political happenings.

    Given a choice of red and blue, heads and tails .. you will get near even choice with the difference being in those that pay varying degrees of attention to political happenings. I gather it would have been the concerted and coordinated attack of the right wing media and ABC on the insulation issue and anti government rhetoric that has gotten the attention of some and swung them.

    But that may also be down to their saturated attack drowning out Rudd and Co counter messages.

    The right wing media and ABC attack and misinformation on the government is going to step up and remain at saturation levels for a while.

    The owners of right wing media are extremely desperate, if not frantic, to get a liberal government in to help their business models and balance sheet and of to also mangle the ABC. Pretty much what is expected in the UK.

    And there is no doubt the Liberal Party will sell its communications and media policy writing to the right wing Corporates in exchange for uncritical support and promotion.

    The Howard Govt pretty much gave environmental and energy policy writing over to industry. Not to mention friendly media policy.

    Rudd’s major problem from here on maybe in getting his message across clearly above the spoiling noise.

    There is the possibility that the USA and Europe could go arse-up in some way before the election, their economies are quite sick in the fundamentals; and China could continue to wind in or redirect its growth…that would put the economy front and centre as the only game in town.

    The economy coupled with a big Health and Hospitals policy would be a strong advantage to the Govt.

  5. The Piping Shrike on 5th March 2010 8:01 pm

    I think the media campiagn only has any effect if it is tapping into something real (it’s consistent anti-Rudd slant since his election has not really hurt him) and there was a real problem for Rudd after Copenhagen. Having said that I think the government has recovered its poise somewhat and is now starting to home in on Abbott’s weaknesses. But until Copenhagen is addressed, it still could be vulnerable to wobbles and media attacks.

  6. Riccardo on 7th March 2010 7:39 pm

    I think it can be said though that Abbott has rallied the party base. Clearly a lot of the problems they were having before was that some of them were destablising the party to get rid of Turnbull.

    That said, he only has symbols to rally them with.

    The whole getting lost in the desert was a major media stuffup

    I’m guessing it was supposed to be a “meet the REAL Aborigines [read: not the professional land council bureaucrats] and announce a Pearson-approved policy” but the timing had him out of range when the Government started firing back.

    Left Pyne and Dutton in charge of the ship. Bishop no-where to be seen, Hockey rusted on old message.

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