Wednesday, 3 August 2011 

Left and right factions come together to get rid of a leader who belongs to neither, and replaces him with a candidate from the left. The precedents are not exactly encouraging, but that won’t stop Labor having a go again. Because Labor will probably be the last one to realise that the problem might not be said leader, and that Labor being in decline in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, Northern Territory as well, might not just be a coincidence.

It could be just that Labor is in trouble in SA because it has been in for a long time – except for the fact that Labor’s popularity has been falling around the country since 2008 irrespective of how long the government’s been in. It could be that what is happening in the states is just an opposite movement to what is going on federally – except for the fact that it has been happening federally too.

What we are seeing is that Labor’s temporary solution to the exhaustion of its programme, a technocrat non-ideological one, has also run its course. It’s no surprise that it was in the home of the old Centre Left that this technocrat solution was brought to a fine art with not only a Premier from neither faction but a Labor Cabinet that included Nationals and ex-Liberals, even when they weren’t needed for the numbers.

But while it counter-posed itself to the old left-right argy-bargy, it never resolved the problem of political authority and what basis anyone should relate to the government. This has most often come up around complaints of public services, transport etc, but in Adelaide, where at least the infrastructure doesn’t have the problems of Sydney’s crowded and creaky infrastructure, it centred on ‘issues’ even more inconsequential. What was it at the last election again? Rann not being upfront about an affair that nobody cared about in the first place, or something. Other than that, the other major crime the government did was to dare to build a new hospital, the bastards.

It should be remembered, however, just how much trouble the government is in. it is now polling at the levels it last saw at the time of the State Bank collapse, yet this time in the context of issues that are trivial even by Adelaide’s demanding standards. It’s the seeming lack of real content to Labor’s current unpopularity that probably makes them think it’s worth having a go, especially if they can find someone more popular (someone they never found when they did the same in Canberra last year).

The problem is that in doing so, it reveals what the real problem is, a party that has no basis for authority to govern – and especially to change a leader for no good reason. Last year Rudd only made a half-hearted attempt to test that before he was dumped, but then became rehabilitated after the event to find himself now eclipsing the leader of his own party to become the highest polling politician in the country (when was the last time a Prime Minister faced that?). This time a supposedly dumped Premier can cause plans to go astray even from thousands of miles from the action merely by raising the question, what happens if he decides to test it before he goes?

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 3 August 2011.

Filed under State and federal politics

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11 responses to “Exposed”

  1. Wood Duck on 3rd August 2011 9:55 pm

    You might well be right, but I think Rann is dead meat, despite all the talk about going at a time of his choosing and then moving to a mentoring role within a leadership team. He’s been on the nose ever since the non-affair with the dining room maid became an issue. As well as this, Wetherill has been more popular than Rann with the “voting” public virtually since the election.
    The SA ALP, for whatever faults it might have, has done what “mass movement” parties do and moved to replace its leader. Yes, I know that the federal ALP did a similar thing. Rudd was on the slide and the parliamentary party did not “appreciate” him. The ALP shouldn’t have to stick with a “presidential” leader if they are going lead them to defeat. The fact that Gillard has turned out to be a flop does confound the issue.

  2. The Piping Shrike on 4th August 2011 12:25 am

    I see the difference between Rann and Rudd is that Rudd’s was more about his internal relations, whereas Rann is more about a party trying to regain its popularity (although Rann was ruffling some internal feathers). At least SA Labor can point to polling to support replacing Rann with Weatherill, whereas before Rudd was dumped, supporters of Gillard could not point to a single national poll I was aware of that would show that Gillard would have made it better.

    However, the similarity is that the problem remains the party rather than the leader, and I don’t think Weatherill will make much difference. Rann is probably gone as you say, but if he wants to embarrass the party, I think he does have something to play with.

  3. Riccardo on 4th August 2011 11:15 am

    Keating was glowing about Dunstan the other night – the last person I expected would be. Oh, for the days….

    Also interesting idea that even though the ALP’s different stages [technocrat, corporatist, laborist/unionist] were experienced in different jurisdictions at different times, they are all being called to an end at the same time. Essentially 2008.

    Had to laugh at Turnbull saying he could lead more people from ALP to Libs, when opinion polls suggest that skill is not required at the moment – Gillard doing a good job of this on her own.

  4. Riccardo on 4th August 2011 11:22 am

    I still think a lot of political failure is the shadow boxing – US neocons looking for a new Soviet threat to stare down, finding a few men with long beards living in caves and thinking the same solutions would work on them.

    Chifley applying 1890s solutions to 1950s problems, and then Howard applying 1950s solutions to those 1890s solutions in the 2000s. Lang applying for his ticket to Paraguay, 30 years too late.

    Whitlam belatedly rolling out his party’s stored away policies in time for a massive change to the economy which rendered many of them impossible. Roll forward 30 years, Rudd doing the same.

    Abbott is nought better than Santamaria pretending to be Howard. Howard pretending to be Howard. Gillard pretending to be Keating and failing dismally.

    This is the politics of symbolism.

  5. wood Duck on 4th August 2011 3:47 pm

    Sounds like Turnbull has been looking in the mirror and listening to his wife again. I somehow don’t think that Labor voters are quite comfortable with the “born-to-rule” types. They’re interested because the Turnbulls looks like the “rich and famous”, but that is proably as far as it goes.

    Also, owning an iPad and saying that you are concerned about global warming is probably not convicing enough.

  6. Uncrazy on 5th August 2011 1:10 am

    It’s not Labor itself but incumbency and the mood for a change that is the main problem for Labor.

    I really has nothing to do with Abbott or the Libs who are just walking both sides of the street on key issues. It made me ill to hear Abbott’s sanctimoniously criticising the so-called Malaysia solution on asylum seekers when he is on the record as advocating towing their boats out to sea, kids and all.

  7. Lentern on 5th August 2011 9:24 am

    This pieceis underpinned by your thesis that the Labor party has been suffering from a lack of any real role of purpose since around about the end of Keating government, due in part to the reforms of Hawke and Keating making the union movement itself somewhat obsolete.

    At a federal level the electoral results support this but to say that the SA Labor government is in decline because of this is a bit funny. This will be a 12 year old government when it goes to the poll, historically governments of that age are heading for a shellacking. It’s true that most of Rann’s victories were slender but not so for the QLD, NSW, Victorian and Tasmania who all remained over a decade in power.

    If declining popularity is indicative of the union movement’s lack of purpose then what sort of success is needed to be indicative of the opposite?

  8. Riccardo on 5th August 2011 6:21 pm

    There’s no such thing as being in too long. The PAP in Singapore have been in for 50 years. People will vote for an opposition that’s better, or at least no worse, than the governing party.

    As for the last post…well if the unions regained their memberships and used that to animate the ALP, then TPS’s thesis would be wrong. But I don’t see that happening.

    What did the union movement do about white collarisation of the workforce? Fight it for as long as they could.

    What about contributory super? Fight that as well.

    What about women in the workforce? I remember the bastardry in the 70s when the male dominated unions went out for pay increases to overcome the equal pay cases.

    What about non-white people? TPS is right – the unions have little to be proud of in that regard, especially in the second half of the C20th when the fantasy of a little Albion in the South Pacific was fading fast.

    If there was ever the possibility of depopulating North Western Europe and repopulating it somewhere else, North America got first dibs at that idea.

  9. Riccardo on 17th August 2011 9:52 am

    The media have tried to make Abbott walking both sides of the street on coal seam gas an issue – but looks to me that he has all the chips in place for plausible deniability – let the National Party run as far as the leash allows, get Erica Betts to mouth of, let Alan Jones say things that are not Liberal Party policy that his listeners might believe actually were. Then send the elements of the party with business connections in the other direction, having private meetings with miners and others to reassure them the policy is actually unchanged.

    This is how an opposition can flank both sides of an argument. And it won’t matter within 2 years anyway as the longer term paying CSG projects will be signed sealed and delivered, and speculative exploration died off a bit as it is a bit of cowboy stage at the moment.

  10. Riccardo on 26th August 2011 12:41 pm

    I think Mungo is onto your hollowing out thesis, TPS

  11. The Piping Shrike on 28th August 2011 10:12 pm

    Yes, but it’s a crisis nonetheless – for the very fact of its hollowness.

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