What is it about Barrie Cassidy and Kevin Rudd? It’s an interesting question. Not because there is any interest in the personal history between the two, but because it adds nuance to the nature of political reporting in this country beyond the usual claims of left-right bias. Here is someone working for the ABC, from a Labor background as Hawke’s press secretary, who has written about the rise and fall of a Labor Prime Minister with all the distortions and omissions worthy of the most disingenuous right wing hack.

This is despite Cassidy making clear a critical point about Rudd’s dumping – it had nothing to do with lousy polling but all about an internal power struggle. As Cassidy says:

That Kevin Rudd was cut down by Labor factions because of poor opinion polling is the great myth of 2010.

The factions took the initiative that’s all. And when they did, using poor opinion polling as the excuse, there was very little arm twisting to be done.

Remember this, because Cassidy does not.

Cassidy’s problem is that although he acknowledges the core truth about Rudd’s dumping, he cannot acknowledge the more basic truth behind it, the bankruptcy of those factions that regained power. As a result he fails to understand Rudd’s rise, his enduring high polling, the decline and what happened after the dumping. As this pretty well encompasses the entire period under review, we clearly have a problem.

Let’s start with Rudd taking the leadership from Beazley. Cassidy trots out the usual narrative about Beazley’s dumping; holding up in external polls but troubling signs in the internal ones, getting Karl Rove’s names mixed up with Rove McManus the final straw … hum-te-dum-de-dum.

That the Karl Rove ‘incident’ had dramatic political consequences is one of those typical stories the political class occasionally feed to the media because only the media could possibly believe a minor slip-up at a press conference would be politically important. Readers will no doubt also have a twinge of recognition at the role of ‘internal’ polling that curiously, as we saw again in June 2010, never seems to give as good a story for the Labor as do the professional polls. Live by internal polls, die by them, as they say.

But basically, the electoral veneer to Beazley’s dumping was simply an external justification for an internal dynamic. After Crean and Latham, the Rudd/Gillard takeover of the leadership represented the third, and sharpest, break from the factions and Labor’s past traditions to fill the gap left by the exhaustion of the party’s traditional program. Indeed Beazley might have gone on to win in 2007, that election was always more about the Liberals’ problems than what went on in Labor.

But what Rudd did so effectively was to fuse that internal break with Labor’s power structures with an external agenda of being against the old politics. In doing so, Rudd gained an electoral vindication for over-riding the internal power bases of the party. During 2007 he did it through the stunts of expelling union bosses like Mighell, something that according to Cassidy, everybody now regrets having been done, but never said much about it at the time. However, the link between the internal and external strategies really came together at the 2007 campaign, when the Labor brand was subsumed under ‘Kevin07’.

Cassidy has a whole chapter titled ‘Kevin07’ but barely mentions anything about the campaign or the nature of it. The personalising of Labor’s campaign around Rudd is left at the level of an ego trip. He writes that Rudd used the campaign to announce that he would be over-riding the factions to choose his Ministry, although he had already demanded the right to choose the Shadow Bench when taking over. Exactly why the power brokers agreed to either is not discussed.

While Cassidy ignores the internal dynamic that enabled Rudd to over-ride the factions, he also has trouble understanding its external consequence; Rudd’s historically high polling. At least, though, he notes it:

Rudd’s popularity was extraordinary. From the moment he became leader, he assumed a personal approval rating in the 60s, which stayed high for longer than the ratings for any previous leader. It didn’t matter whether he was in opposition against John Howard or in government against Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull or, early on, Tony Abbott; he maintained that high figure. It virtually flat-lined in the 60s for three years.

His rating was ahead of that of his own party, although that figure was impressive throughout as well. On a two party preferred basis, under his leadership, the party went as high as 58 per cent to 42 per cent.

The enduring nature of Rudd’s popularity was a political phenomenon. During Hawke’s height and even during Howard’s relatively mediocre polling, reams were written to explain how they manage to tap into the Australian psyche, with the media trotting out the usual cheeseball clichés about how the Australian electorate is supposed to think.

Yet with Rudd, there has been virtually no attempt to explain it in the media, summed up by Cassidy’s own lame attempt:

Why was Rudd so popular? The idea of a smart, youngish candidate apparently in touch with modern concerns was a huge plus. He was undoubtedly confident and competent. Howard, by comparison, was fast losing confidence and his body language in the parliament started to reveal the pressure he was so obviously feeling; he became more strident, less-footed.

Leaving aside that Cassidy explains Rudd’s popularity in contrast to Howard’s, after having just noted it was pretty well the same no matter who he was against, the idea that Rudd was breaking new ground because he was “smart” and “youngish” and “in touch” (note the “apparently”) would apply to pretty well all new opposition leaders, but says nothing about what was happening with Rudd.

The reason for Rudd’s popularity is simple, just as it is so difficult for the media and many of his colleagues to accept, he represented a break from the old political system of which they were part. So did Latham, for a while. Rudd just had the conditions, both externally and internally, to maintain it for longer. Once in power, Rudd used the apology, the 2020 summit and the climate change agenda to only reinforce his distance from the old party system and the sectional interests that supported it.

Rudd could pitch himself against the old system, but had no viable alternative to it. When a viable alternative failed to emerge on the international stage, both on the economic front in London in April 2009 and on environment in Copenhagen in December of the same year, Rudd was exposed. Gradually Rudd was forced to accommodate to, and reflect, the bankruptcy that he had pitched himself against.

It is this period, the loss of authority of Rudd in early 2010, that Cassidy has the most trouble with. It is fair enough perhaps that when writing the book, Cassidy did not know what some journalists and the US Embassy did, namely that moves were being made against Rudd a full year before the June coup. But the role of Gillard, Swan and Arbib in the key decisions that were supposed to be behind Rudd’s dumping were reasonably clear. Exactly who was arguing against an early ETS double dissolution in February depends a bit on who you read. But we certainly know that Gillard, Swan and Arbib argued for the dumping of the ETS a few months later.

Yet in Cassidy’s account of the decision to dump the ETS, the role of Gillard and Arbib is not even mentioned. Instead the entire blame for that, as well as postponing the ETS double dissolution, falls entirely on Rudd and no one else.

Such a deliberate decision by Cassidy to omit what was widely known is all the more extraordinary as we don’t even need to speculate on what really happened – because we know what those same people actually did when they took control in June. Gillard barely mentioned the ETS on taking office and during the election campaign turned it into the joke of a Citizen’s Assembly, something that made even Rudd’s decision to postpone it look almost decisive.

As we approach the dumping, the distortions in Cassidy’s come thick and fast. First there was the polling, as Cassidy starts to assert that contrary to it being a “one of the great myths of 2010”, polling was indeed a factor after all:

One poll after another raised the question with voters – who would you prefer as prime minister, Gillard or Rudd? The answer was fast becoming Gillard.

But of course, never actually did. There was not a single national poll that put Gillard as preferred over Rudd. Once again, we had those trusty internal polls, that showed what most professional national polls did not, and what nearly all commentators did not believe; that Rudd was heading for defeat against Abbott. Indeed Rudd was recovering in June, possibly because of finally taking a stand on the mining tax.

Cassidy thought the mining tax was “the big stink bomb” that brought all “the Labor Party’s frustrations with Kevin Rudd to a head”. Actually, quite a lot of Labor supported the tax and the electorate overall was reasonably supportive as well. Swan was especially a big proponent of the tax. Cassidy thinks Swan was performing at the top of his game at the time, so unsurprisingly is not presented as having anything to do with the tax. Again, it’s all Rudd’s fault.

Probably the most laughable attempt by the faction brokers to create polling panic and dump the blame on Rudd that, incredibly, Cassidy goes along with, was the 26% swing Labor copped in the Penrith by-election on the weekend before Rudd’s dumping. A NSW by-election following the resignation of a state MP caught lying to an anti-corruption body was used as an argument for the right faction brokers to retake control in Canberra, whereas given the role of Arbib and Bitar in the said government, it would surely be more an argument against.

But the point is not really whether the polls were really looking that bad, dodgy use of polling was used against Beazley to get Rudd in, and now to get him out. Nor is it even that Cassidy is not enough of a journalist to pick through the spin, or to remember his own point that he makes elsewhere in the book; that Rudd’s dumping was nothing to do with the polls.

The main point is why it is Cassidy ends up talking about a polling justification for Rudd’s dumping – to conceal the mess that happens next. Indeed, as Cassidy points out, where polling did have anything to do with it, it was the resilience of Rudd’s polling that is more likely to have been the problem for some. Cassidy quotes a senior party official who not only points this out, but gets to the real problem posed by the Rudd dumping:

… developments in the campaign had ‘absolutely confirmed in the minds of serious people in the party why Rudd had to go’, adding: ‘The other day, somebody said to me, “now I understand why Kevin had to go. We might have lost the election’. And I said, “No, we had to get rid of him because we might have won”. The most frustrating thing is that we can’t explain properly to the electorate why we acted as we did, because that simply wouldn’t help out election chances.

Having got rid of Rudd for internal reasons, the party now had to face the problem that led them to handing over power to him in the first place, their own redundancy. It was this that made it difficult to explain to the electorate why they retook power. When Rudd took power against the old power bases, he could turn it into a virtue for the electorate. When those power bases regained control, they had the opposite problem. As this became more obvious during the campaign, so the party had to turn back and furiously rewrite history, not only talk up the brutalities of working under Merciless Ming (as though anyone else cares) but the polling bloodbath that would have happened if they didn’t get rid of him. Cassidy duly follows along.

Cassidy is bewildered by the old guard’s failure to reassert authority under Gillard, which he sees more as a ‘Rudd backlash’ than a lack of enthusiasm for what replaced him. Cassidy expresses this when he compares it to Abbott’s knifing of Turnbull:

Some saw the delicious irony in the fact that Abbott had ‘knifed’ Turnbull, essentially because Turnbull could not agree with him that climate change was crap, and he fell by just one vote, yet the nature of his coming to power was never an issue, his legitimacy was never questioned. But Gillard, by ‘knifing’ Rudd, somehow seemed ruthless and driven by ambition, her leadership less legitimate than Abbott’s. The fact that the support for her had been so overwhelming that a vote was not even needed was somehow seen as irrelevant.

Yes, because the party that acquiesced to it, the same one that laid down and handed over power to Rudd in the first place, was also irrelevant.

Could Rudd have done better in the 2010 election? Cassidy asks around and unsurprisingly the answer is a unanimous no. Well you could say that claiming your government is so bad that you need to dump a leader is not the best way to prepare for an election. Or the fact that the plusses of changes in climate change and asylum seeker policy not being really enough to outweigh the negatives of undermining Rudd’s credit for the economy during the GFC is a fairly simple piece of electoral arithmetic.

Labor’s mediocre campaign, Gillard’s short-lived honeymoon, the unimpressive results when the power brokers’ strategy through the Citizens’ Assembly and the East Timor solution were eventually rolled out, all have to be downplayed in Cassidy’s account. Because the only thing that really undermined the otherwise sparkling 2010 campaign were the leaks from you-know-who.

Cassidy calls those leaks “the greatest act of political bastardry in a generation”, yet he has just written a book full of accounts from Labor Party players for whom polling and the survival of a Labor government was secondary to getting Rudd out. But Cassidy agrees with those “bastards”, it’s Rudd who’s the thief. Just how far they are willing to go to get the party back was summed up by Cassidy’s recall of a conversation with Barry Cohen, a Minister in the Hawke and Whitlam government, in a way that caught the breath of even this semi-jaded observer:

‘If Rudd had stayed leader I would have voted Liberal for the first time in my life’. Then he fixed me in the eye and added: ‘If Rudd was a better bloke, he would still be the leader. But he pissed everyone off.’

When I got to the taxi, I wrote down Cohen’s words, convinced that few people could nail such a complex issue in seventeen words.

Let’s just consider this for a moment. Over what issue? There was no real political difference between Rudd and those that followed him other than tactics. Presumably Rudd opposed the watering down of the ETS and the line on asylum seekers because they weren’t good politics rather than principle, which is why he eventually agreed to them. The Gillard crew merely reinforced the backdowns that Rudd had already made. Whatever differences between Rudd and Gillard, they are surely less compared to Labor and Liberal. Yet Cohen is saying he is more willing to see Abbott in, with all Labor’s bogeymen about the Libs; Workchoices, rolling back welfare and health, etc. etc. than Rudd remaining in power. Cassidy is right; it does neatly nail the bankrupt state Labor has now become.

Whether Rudd would have done better in August ultimately depends on the balance between him and the forces who opposed him even if it damaged Labor’s electoral prospects. But let’s leave such speculation to those who must justify what they now have revealed themselves to be. Instead let’s answer the more important question: could someone have done better who could provide a convincing alternative to those major parties that dragged their sorry carcasses around the political landscape last August? Of course. Everybody knows that.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 31 December 2010.

Filed under Media analysis

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29 responses to “Book review: Barrie Cassidy’s The Party Thieves

  1. Alex White on 31st December 2010 9:09 am

    Great review. I read the first half of Cassidy’s book yesterday while waiting at the airport and completely agree with your assessment. Cassidy’s book is little more than a 300 page anti-Rudd shitsheet that barely rates a mention above a summary of the accepted media “wisdom” as it was “reported” at the time.

    Even thought it lacks any substance, Paul Howes book “Confessions of a Faceless Man” is at least an insider’s account and has more reality than Cassidy’s tired old regurgitation of the Canberra Press Gallery echo chamber.

  2. The Piping Shrike on 31st December 2010 9:30 am

    Yes, I agree. I’ll be coming to that one …

  3. Michael (the other one who occasionally comments here) on 31st December 2010 10:45 am

    Great work – as always. But nothing can obscure the fact that Rudd is temperamentally incapable of running anything and deserves to be remembered as our worst Prime Minister since McMahon.

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  5. john on 31st December 2010 12:47 pm

    Yeah, Michael, so incapable he managed to beat Howard, keep Australia out of a recession, introduce the NBN which broke the power of Telstra, release women and children from detention, abolish TPVs and spent more money on education than anyone since Whitlam. Useless.

  6. Richard on 31st December 2010 2:39 pm

    I appreciate your well written review, but I really enjoyed Cassidy’s book. Yes, he focusses very much on Rudd – but as the Prime Minister, so he should. My only problem with the review is your description of the 2010 campaign as “Otherwise sparkling”. That’s like calling our Ashes defeat a ‘gallant effort’.

  7. Lentern on 31st December 2010 4:18 pm

    One of the best pieces I’ve read all year. It reminds me somewhat of Peter Green’s use of Arrian’s work to gain a a general picture of the battle of the Granicus river before pointing out the far fetched or absurd aspects of the story and replacing them with the most logical sequence of events.

    Could I ask you to bravely hazard a guess as to the extent to which Rudd misstreated his parliamentary colleagues? I’ve got no doubt some were almost completely blocked out but I find it difficult to get my head around that Rudd would be disdainful of their best efforts, dismissive of their gravest concerns and micromanage their individual offices yet ministers like Tanner, Albanese and Plibersek would still prefer Rudd to Gillard.

  8. Michael (the other one who occasionally comments here) on 31st December 2010 5:03 pm

    If he’s all that, then why did he get knifed? And, in any case:
    1) A drover’s dog – let alone Beazley – would’ve beaten Howard in 2007.
    2) Keeing Australia out of recession – for now. Our turn will come surely enough when China finally slows down – or its own real estate bubble finally pops (let alone ours).
    3) Happy to give him credit for the NBN. Still amazes me though how reluctant Labor are to spruik it.
    4) Happy to give him credit on women and children out of detention and TPVs. But what about arbitratily suspending processing of applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka?
    5) Happy to see education spending go up – but is it *that* noteworthy? I mean, it’s just spending after all.

  9. Cuppa on 31st December 2010 9:15 pm

    I won’t be buying Cassidy’s book. Even when it hits the “Reduced” bin in a short time. I won’t even borrow it from the Library for free. And as for his Liberal love-in TV ‘program’ – forget it! I wish he would go join his chums at News Ltd and get the hell off my taxes.

  10. Thomas Paine on 31st December 2010 11:25 pm

    Excellent review – Rudd suffering for only appearing on Cassidy’s ABC program once. What a petulant child Cassidy is ha!

    Rudd would probably be one of Labor’s better Prime Ministers, certainly Australia’s best PM since Keating.

    Those who have a personal dislike of Rudd such as Michael are simply aping Cassidy and the Murdoch media meme that ran for a few years which revolved mostly around personal denigration.

    Rudd’s only real failure of import was in deferring the ETS, and that as we know at the strong instance of his kitchen cabinet. Other than that you would have to say that he was remarkably effective for a first term PM, having saved the economy in the process.

    However if timing had been a little bit better for Rudd and Turnbull survived there would have been an ETS and we would now have it and be discussing how to tweak it up a few notches.

    I am of the belief that the factions intended to replace Rudd from the very beginning if he was able to beat Howard. They had to hold their fire for a while and wait for Rudd’s polling to come down. But it was stubborn, so they started their internal leaking trying to besmirch Rudd on a personal level.

    I tend to agree that they were worried by Rudd in going from strength to strength and that a second term would make him even more powerful. I also reckon they assumed swaping in Gillard would be so novel and popular that they would win easily, so didn’t think twice about knifing Rudd, once they invented a reason for it.

    But the abject failure of Labor under the factions to maintain Rudd like support must really irk them and make them hate Rudd even more. Rudd seems to happy as larry and enjoying himself, and I suspect some of it is that conspirators have been shown up to be poor operators and leadership.

    The lack of PM leadership ability of Gillard is revealed every time Rudd pops up and says something. He connects and seems still full of energy, Gillard seems to still lost.

    Rudd in all probability would have one the election, I think that is fairly obvious. Labor will lose the next election as I think they are going to get worse in 2011 as their current cohesions breaks down through dissatisfaction with Gillard and her boys. They will revert to cannibalism once more.

  11. Dare to tread on 1st January 2011 11:15 am

    Excellent article – like Cuppa I will not be buying Cassidy’s book even on remainder. His personal hatred of Rudd is positively weird. If it was anyone other than Rudd I would assume they had had a heated battle for the same woman.

    While it seemed negative and biased throughout 2009 and 2010, I became absolutely sure of an unhealthy vindictive, obsession, after the knifing of Rudd, when Cassidy just kept on kicking Rudd. It was obscene and damaged Cassidy (for me at least) beyond redemption. I no longer turn on Insiders and will never do so again until Cassidy is gone. Kicking someone when they are down is just not the Aussie way and frankly I was horrified it was even allowed on the ABC or indeed even in the commercial media.

    Even if Rudd has been the devil incarnate, which Cassidy seemed to believe, kicking a person who had just suddenly fallen from such great heights and was clearly in shock and grief was despicable. Cassidy denies being engaged in a “war against Rudd” (it was all Samantha Maiden not me) however his actions show that he was involved in a personal way in just such a vendetta.

    Perhaps the important question is why the ABC management allowed such an obvious personal crusade to continue for so long.

  12. ennui on 1st January 2011 4:25 pm

    An interesting if not particularly enlightening review. The essential problem with this ‘review’ is that any facts disagreed with are summarily dismissed as either spin or simple naivete.
    What we read here is a distortion of the facts and factors to suit a bitter narrative. Fortunately there are much better ie objective, assessments available than is found on these pages.
    (However I agree that Cassidy’s account of the ETS dumping is very poor)

  13. The Piping Shrike on 1st January 2011 5:08 pm

    Fine on some of the comments made here, but one thing I want to clear up that has been an issue since June 24th: I have no particular view on the merits of Rudd v Gillard. There has been some misintepretation of my criticism of the arguments made to justify Rudd’s dumping as a defence of Rudd himself. As I say in this review, essentially the difference between the two ended up being one of tactics rather than principle.

    But that is precisely the point. It is why I think the Gillard takeover has been such a problem, there is no real political reason for it – other than internal one, and they have no real agenda to put forward. Cassidy in fact puts his finger on it as I point out, but then has to forget it because he is left to explain what happened next.

  14. ennui on 1st January 2011 5:38 pm

    “I have no particular view on the merits of Rudd v Gillard.”
    Well, a grudging maybe!

    “It is why I think the Gillard takeover has been such a problem, there is no real political reason for it – other than internal one”
    With due respect, you must be living in a different universe to suggest that! Also it clearly gives lie to your “merit” statement above.

  15. The Piping Shrike on 1st January 2011 6:01 pm

    What policies were changed after Gillard got in, that Rudd would not have done? Rudd did not agree with the East Timor solution, but I don’t think he had any qualms about offshore processing, other than that I see no real difference of principle. He had already backed down on the Big Australia and I’m sure he would also have watered down the mining tax, if needs be.

    The lack of external rationale is the problem they face from the takeover, that’s not a value judgement though!

  16. ennui on 1st January 2011 7:05 pm

    “The lack of external rationale is the problem they face from the takeover”

    Gillard is stuck with Rudd’s agenda. The so-called quick fixes on the mining tax, the asylum seekers, and climate change were poor – in fact terrible. She clearly needs better advice! Rushing to an election only amplified the problems.
    Quite apart from his personal failings, Rudd’s aspirational goals clearly outweighed his management and communication skills.
    If I was to be critical of the current government it would be for two things –
    1 a lack of policy courage
    2 a lack of skill in communicating with the electorate
    Unfortunately this may simply be a symptom of a lack of deep belief in their own policies – with the consequence that little courage is displayed in fighting for them.
    I’m concerned about Gillard – she needs better people around her. Or has the Peter Principle kicked in!

    Anyway, I invariably enjoy your posts – even if there is an evident difficulty in “handling the truth” in the case of Rudd. (I notice “A Few Good Men” is on TV tonight(again).

    And all the best for 2011.

  17. Riccardo on 3rd January 2011 9:58 am

    Ennui falls into Cohen’s trap (and Cassidy’s) – as if the population really care that Rudd was rude to staff, MPs or even bureaucrats.

    Sorry, I just don’t.

    Out in the real world, people earn a living, paying tax so that the likes of Cohen can indulge their petty personality games.

    As TPS was suggesting, Cohen would rather have Abbott and workchoices than have a ALP PM who didn’t play the factional games and worship the key figures in the movement.

    Rudd’s key weakness was not being able to replace Australian politics with a coherent international alternative to it.

    I was watching Hawke and Keating the other night and could smell the same dynamic. Keating was starting to become uninterested in Australia, as Bob Carr has been for a while.

    The latter you could imagine would see more merit in influencing Australia’s future by ensuring the right Democrat got elected to the White House – other matters take care of themselves.

    Rudd is no saint. The ALP were prepared to live with his faults long enough to get reelected in 2007 and then were plotting to remove him as early as they could.

    Sussex St has been extended south, all the way to Canberra, and the Arbib/Kitar/Tripodi/Obeid etc show with the revolving faces in the Premiers chair trick has been adopted federally too.

    Even the trick of trying a woman, if all else fails.

  18. Riccardo on 3rd January 2011 10:14 am

    I know Rudd is no statesman…but how petty our criticism would seem if we were talking about someone of any significance globally.

    Like Churchill or De Gaulle or Deng Xiaoping or Richard Nixon or whatever.

    He was brought low by his preparedness to cover up his staff’s crimes. But would the Washington Post have run a story saying Nixon was “rude” and therefore must go?

    Would the Times in London have said Churchill was unfit for office because he worked his staff hard?

    And I can’t imagine the reverence and legend built on De Gaulle, an objectionable character if there was one, would have been brought down by Figaro saying he called the Chinese “rat f’ers” behind their backs. I’m sure CDG said much worse about all sorts of people.

    Berlusconi is not unpopular for his bedding young girls in the same land as the Pope resides. Quite the contrary I suspect.

    The way Rudd is criticised for what I would regard as quite trivial stuff is a sign this country is not in the big league, not punching above Kimbo’s considerable weight at all. The media follow the petty political class into their pathetic little games.

  19. Dr_Tad on 3rd January 2011 2:44 pm

    I think this is one of TPS’ best posts.

    Ennui’s response is not unusual, however, as many in the Leftish blogosphere hold the same contradictory analysis. For example, the popularity of the Grog’s Gamut blog (even before his “outing”) is explicable in terms of the desire by Labor supporters to find an incrementalist solution to what is a much deeper problem. It speaks to the drastically lowered horizons of really existing social democrats, and the inability to see beyond the narrow political space allowed inside the Canberra bubble. Cassidy’s grasp of reality seems even more stunted.

    While I have differences with some of what TPS pushes here, the analysis is crystal clear on the structural and secular decline in the basis for the ALP’s political project.

  20. James on 4th January 2011 11:14 am

    Politicial junkies will be debating the demise of Rudd and its consequences for ages. It could take up a year of a university politics major.

    I think Rudd’s knifing, Labor’s terrible election campaign, the hung parliament, and the inertia of the Gillard Government have done extraordinary damage to Labor and its brand in an incremental way that seeps.

    There is so much to conjecture, based on theories about what could have been and should have been.

    I think the Greens’ role in Labor’s mess has been understated. Surely if the Greens had backed the ETS legislation when the two Coaltion senators crossed the floor, then Labor may not have unravelled in the way that it did?

    In any event, Rudd’s demise and the events that followed have done damage to Labor that must not have been apparent to the Caucus at the time.

    One of my theories is that Rudd must have been such a nightmare to work with internally that News Limited was able to use the polls to spook Labor into dumping him.

    In hindsight, I agree that Labor should have kept Rudd and bided its time. I wonder if Labor should have dumped conventional wisdom and gone to the polls in February or April this year, just before or just after the NSW election? We will never know but right now it feels like a different course of actions by Labor would not have made things worse than how they seem right now.

    Meanwhile Cassidy must be very close mates with Labor MPs and staff who were so burned by Rudd that Cassidy has become a lightning road for toxicity. It’s hardly surprising – Cassidy would have forged those relationships when he was a media adviser in the Hawke Government.

  21. James on 7th January 2011 8:29 am

    Shrike can we have a piece on Harvey wanting a GST on overseas goods sold on the Internet? Interesting how some sections of big business feel his timing is stuffed because it undermines the anti-mining tax campaign.

  22. Riccardo on 9th January 2011 9:43 am

    The other term they should drop is ALP ‘strategist’. At best they have ‘tacticians’

    They might get themselves elected, but who sees the ALP from a 10-20 or more year perspective, viable as a party of government.

    When they get reverential they talk about ‘the labour movement’ as if that means something. It might have meant something 120 years ago, under that Barcaldine tree, but what does it mean now?

    A fair share for labour vs capital? Is that important now that starting micro-enterprises is easier than ever, or that participation in asset markets is also very easy.

    The establishment are always able to move on (Gerry Harvey excepted!) and have its interests represented.

    Who will speak for the micro-entrepreneurs? The superannuants and small parcel holders who only get to hear that the ‘instos’ voted the other way at company AGMs?

    A party actually based in the population, rather than the ‘Labour movement’ might be more responsive. Will that be the Greens?

  23. Riccardo on 9th January 2011 9:49 am

    I should add – that’s why the establishment makes a lot of noise about wikileaks or online shopping – they have for some time profitted and maintained power from knowledge, rather than from control of assets per se.

    Harvey Norman has profited from a business model where sucker franchisees are told to lease his real estate, then buy container loads of cheap Chinese junk from suppliers he introduces, to then be sold at high markup.

    Now the information is out there about who these cheap Chinese junk suppliers are (either direct or through low margin intermediaries) they are spewing. Fewer franchisee suckers to pay his rent.

    Ditto wikileaks. Power has been held by politicians getting their drip feed of gossip from paid gossip columnists in embassies. Now we all get to see a slice of that. Wonder at the expense of the paid gossip writers, and at whether the pollies should have something better to do than gossip.

  24. willo on 18th January 2011 3:22 pm

    Barries idea of someone with incisive insight is Paul Kelly
    unfortunately not the muso…

  25. Grant on 25th January 2011 10:46 am

    Dear PS

    Great analysis, it make you wonder about the limitations of balance on the ABC that Rudd was continually hammered on Cassidy’s Insiders by both ‘left’ and ‘right’ without a balancing pro Rudd voice.

    Secondly no-one has considered that Swan’s mining tax as backed by Rudd would (partly) have been a defacto carbon tax – given the amount of coal we pull out of the ground – and would have given a great revenue stream for Green initiatives.

  26. Riccardo on 25th January 2011 2:31 pm

    I don’t think you CAN balance anti-Rudd commentary.

    The man himself will try his “fair suck of the source bottle/[insert outdated ockerism]” but the reality is Rudd v World (or at least Rudd v Political Establishment, given that Rudd was scoring so high in the polls).

    Anyway man made several mistakes – he didn’t call the early election/double dissolution that would have cleared the Liberal wreckage from his path, instead gave them time to rebuild. A clear win on that would have undermined his internal enemies as well.

    He could have scapegoated Garrett a bit more too – man was a walking PR disaster which was funny for someone who’d done well out of entertainment industry.

  27. James on 25th January 2011 2:44 pm

    Labor’s few supporters in the media are divided. I think the Coalition has stacked the media superbly, which isn’t surprising, considering their big business base is more likely to own media.
    I think the way Gillard got the Prime Ministership, Labor’s shakey federal campaign and the result that unfolded, have all done huge damage to the Labor brand. I don’t think Labor’s blue collar supporters, or its voters who swing Coalition like the minority alliance.
    The Coalition and their supporters (or workers) in the media have also played the spin allegation really well against Labor. In reality, it is the Conservatives who are the masters of spin. They accuse Labor of being mostly spin because Labor has a large number of media advisers but it is the mostly Coalition friendly journalists and editors who control how the government’s messages are ultimately presented to the public. Meanwhile the average punter has this smug attitude of “I can see spin for the bullshit it is” when often they really cannot.

  28. Ricca on 29th January 2011 12:40 pm

    No comments, TPS, on Our Lady of the Flooded?

  29. The Piping Shrike on 29th January 2011 8:19 pm

    Post coming on Monday!

Comments are closed.