The last few weeks have reminded that in recent years something rather unpleasant has entered politics.
Now having reached the ultimate ritual of the Budget, and economic management, through which the last thirty years political unravelling has been understood, the depth of the government’s problems are finally becoming apparent to all.
The government has tried to use libertarian arguments to nullify and roll back a piece of anti-racist legislation but has nowhere to take it back to.
There is a tendency to see the Abbott government as an aberration much as there was to see the Rudd-Gillard period as an aberration. It is not. This is it.
2013 could be summed up as the year when neither Labor under Rudd, nor the Coalition under Abbott proved capable of filling the gap left by the exhaustion of Labor’s historical project under Gillard.
If the left’s last hope is disruption from the Liberal right, so Abbott is helped by the phoney polarities of the left. The pas de deux continues.
Into a vacuum could step somebody that has never made a point of standing for anything (or behind anyone) in particular. From that angle, Labor might have just found its best candidate.
The problem Abbott faces is that there are real barriers to implementing his program but behind him is a party of which some sections are determined to make sure he does.
The end of that tension in Labor is because Rudd’s failure has meant there is now no one in Labor who can turn an attack on the party’s existing power structures into an electoral asset.
The debate showed how much Rudd, rather than maintain the aura of incumbency he so well established when he returned, has needed to take up the negativity himself. Shouldn’t the ads be doing that?