I suspect Malcolm Turnbull has become concerned the Liberal Party is a policy-free zone under Tony Abbott. Malcolm Turnbull is a man who’s been driven by making a difference to policy.

Julia Gillard 1 May 2010

I think Kevin Rudd’s shelving of the ETS … is the most extraordinary act of political gutlessness, of political cowardice, any of us could ever imagine.

Malcolm Turnbull 1 May 2010

Lord knows what he must think of his own party for doing the same. If Turnbull’s decision to leave politics was a realistic assessment of the state of play in the Australian political scene, then his decision to return shows he is as oblivious as ever.

Sure enough, just after having noted the government’s unrivalled winning streak of polls, a losing one pops up. It could be argued that it is just one poll, and those Newspolls are swinging about at the moment. A few weeks ago, one had Rudd heading for landslide, but it nevertheless fits with the softening of support behind the government that we have seen over the last year.

Yet what is striking about media discussion of the latest poll is that no-one is using it to talk about the success of the Abbott ‘experiment’. Even some of his most ardent supporters, like The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan, are acknowledging what the polls are clearly stating; a decline in government support is not translating to a rise in support for Abbott (or the Liberals for that matter, given that most of Labor’s lost vote in the latest poll is going elsewhere).

Yet despite acknowledging the limited appeal of a Coalition leader who makes a virtue out of his firm beliefs, Rudd’s problem seems to be, according to the media, come from the fact that he doesn’t believe in anything. The annoyance at Rudd’s back-flips over things like the action on global warming is particularly a theme from ABC commentators like Fran Kelly and Chris Uhlmann, the latter who was castigating Rudd as believing in nothing and being all spin, even before his decline in polls.

Surely this isn’t the same Chris Uhlmann who a year ago was chastising Rudd for believing in the threat of climate change like it was an act of faith? Maybe it was. So clearly as far as Chris is concerned, it’s important to believe in things he agrees with, or whatever. But never mind, the media seemed to be united that to succeed in Australian politics it is necessary to believe in something.

Why? Other than good governance, it’s not immediately clear why anyone should need a conviction politician for the sake of it. Rudd’s problem is not that he doesn’t believe in anything, but that neither he, nor his government, represents any section of society that would tell him what to believe.

Like Howard before him, having no real domestic agenda, Rudd has turned overseas. But whereas Howard had the neo-con con of the War on Terror (is it still on? Who won?) for a while, Rudd had a climate change consensus that drifted apart in Copenhagen. While this blogger thought Rudd would do more political damage to the Coalition on their response to Copenhagen, maintaining a stand is looking difficult for Rudd without a steer from overseas on an issue that only made sense in an international context. Yet even when Rudd is on a highly popular anti-political attack at home by taking on the Premiers, his lack of base in the party, and anywhere else, means it finishes in a fudge almost before it began.

Enter Malcolm. Just as his ego let him walk oblivious into the vacuum of a Liberal party leadership thinking the problem was Nelson and the absence of his own brilliance, rather than the nature of the Liberal leadership, now it seems it seems he is the only one who can fill the vacuum created by Rudd. But it is interesting to note the endorsement by Gillard. Obviously she is playing with the Abbott-Turnbull tension, but is there a side dig at her leader as well? She is politically smarter than Turnbull, but not in this blog’s view, Rudd. Will she make the same mistake as Turnbull after the election and try to fill a vacuum that can’t be filled?

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 5 May 2010.

Filed under State of the parties

Tags: , , , , ,


10 responses to “No revival, just decay – Federal edition”

  1. James on 5th May 2010 12:28 pm

    One thing is clear – we live in highly volatile political times! Polling over the next couple of months will be telling. The media has made such a fuss of polling these last few years that one is surprised that there is not more rigorous scrutiny of the details and methodology. And no one seems to make much of a fuss of the conflicts of interest that must exist as a result of the very close commercial links betwen Newspoll and News Limited.

  2. Michael on 5th May 2010 5:14 pm

    Maybe support for action on climate change starts to evaporate when concrete proposals appear. A lot of people want something done, without acknowledging that it is them and their own lifestyles and expectations that are largely the problem. There also appears to be little acknowledgement in the media that the CPRS was a compromised backroom deal designed for bi-partisan support. When Turnball lost the leadership that effectively rendered the CPRS useless. It isn’t a package that you could ever sell to the public in an election campaign, it would be a massive target and would attacked from both sides and the debate would be drowned in complexity. Those expecting a Rudd to go to a DD on it are either witless or disingenuous.

  3. Avalon Dave on 6th May 2010 9:34 am

    As a recently reformed 40 a day smoker, I have a feeling this latest poll has a fair bit to do with the cigarettes announcement.

    When I was hopelessly addicted, I would have been furious about this – but then what would I have done about it, except gripe if a pollster called me. Give my vote to a Mad Monk?

  4. Invig on 7th May 2010 10:40 am

    James, the trouble is that politics aren’t volatile enough. Change is desperately needed, but the people able to enact it are not able to gain any sort of power.

    Witness Greg Combet. The thin end of a very long wedge.

    I actually have an idea to increase political volatility – and i’d appreciate some feedback. Jeremy doesn’t agree with me thus far, but I believe his points are spurious. I’d love a second opinion from some serious political thinkers…

  5. Invig on 7th May 2010 10:46 am

    Rudd isn’t politically smart. He is within the glasshouse confines of a political party party or government bureaucracy.

    Where the incentives are completely skewed away from achieving anything productive and towards ‘alliances’.

    There he shines. As a result of having no sense of the greater good. And a ready smile for whoever has the misfortune of offering him an advantage.

    Julia cares. Sure, she’s a goddamned Marxist. But she cares. That tends to be a disadvantage in our current system*.

    *see above please Mr Shrike, I would appreciate your thoughts…

  6. Marilyn Shepherd on 7th May 2010 2:32 pm

    I reckon most of the pollies and media live in a bubble of ignorance.

    WE do happen to be part of the world.

  7. The Piping Shrike on 7th May 2010 5:31 pm

    I’m going to avoid the question Mr Invig, although I think my view on the major parties are clear. What we have at the moment is a phoney volatility of parties with no real social base, rather than the real volatility you describe. What I would say is that the left is stuck in a timeless rut of dead certainties and provides nowhere near the alternative it likes to think it does. But anyway, the main point of doing this blog is to work things out. At least one good thing of what is happening now is that the nature of politics, and the media, is becoming clear.

  8. Kevin Charles Herbert on 7th May 2010 6:03 pm

    Note Invig: Gillard is a neo-conservative careerist. She’d make a fine Liberal party MP, ‘cos she’s definitely not a Labor person.

    Australia’s greatest politican fraud….Julia Gillard

  9. The Piping Shrike on 7th May 2010 10:49 pm

    See that Barrie Cassidy is carrying on the ABC campaign against Rudd not standing for anything. As the comments note, neither do the Liberals, it’s just they have to look as though they do (something the media seems to appreciate).

  10. Invig on 10th May 2010 2:31 pm

    Kevin, I’d love to know what you use to judge someone? I myself base it on what policies they are brave enough to introduce, persuasive enough to implement and competent enough to manage. As for the ‘Labor/Liberal’ divide – deader than yesterday’s headline.

    Mr Shrike, well thanks for being honest enough to take the 5th. Jeremy wasn’t. Although I don’t think its an ‘ABC campaign’ against Rudd and for Abbott. I just think that no one really cares what Abbott says anymore, but that we have to care what Rudd says. And he has proven himself unworthy of the responsibility.

    All politicking aside, there are actual people out there to whom policy makes a big (systemic) difference.

    On the ABC, I tried and failed to get a question up on the Carbon Tax (my hand was sighted by Tony Jones 4 times) on Q and A one night. So I don’t accept this position that they’re anti-Rudd. If anything, they are trying to compensate for allowing his bullshit to go unquestioned for the past 3 years.

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