In my 31 years – of which I’ve probably spent at least 15 paying a respectable amount of attention to politics – the Australian body politic has never been this depressing. The Gillard government is dead. I know many august writers, who know far, far more than I have pointed out that other governments have been in similar holes and pulled out, but it’s hard to imagine how on earth the ALP can pull out of this nosedive.
Setting aside the fact that from a policy perspective, this government has performed at least reasonably, it has still been somewhat unambitious compared to previous office holders, and constrained since 2010 by minority government, it is simply atrocious.
Being good at the politics, while arguably trivial, is an important cog in the machine of making governance happen. A popular government, trusted by the public, has a mandate, and the capital to spend on important, unpopular legislation (is important reform EVER popular?). And the Rudd/Gillard ALP will surely go down in history as the most panicky, tin-eared, craven government since federation. Even during the Liberal turmoil of the early 70s, and Gough’s challenges pre-dismissal never saw this level of hatred for a government in such a short time.
The government’s doomed, it stinks of failure and panic. To quote a pithy tweet from Sabine Wolff:
This government is like someone who’s stuffed an exam and is about to run out of time, getting increasingly frantic as they try to fix everything.
Gillard is more on the nose with the electorate than even Howard was prior to his ouster in ’07. Where he was despised by those who had hated him for years, those who moved away from him saw him as past his used-by, and had seen through his overused methods of bribery. Gillard is hated with a fierceness that is altogether new for someone with no major policy failures.
The problem is, on the other side, there is an opposition that has seen no need to develop any policies, and certainly nothing resembling a philosophical policy framework through which it can offer a vision for Australia. The best indication of the Liberals’ strategy in 2012 has been Tony Abbott’s Lateline appearances.
Or should I say appearance.
Abbott has, rightly, seen no need to put himself out there. He knows he’s unpopular, so why make himself the story? The only time he’s availed himself to Mr Jones’ needling has been to go to town on the government over Slipper. He knows just how bad this makes the government look, and he’s happy to help it along.
What have they got? A crazily expensive paid parental leave scheme that basically hands extra money to wealthy women, a pointless, crazily expensive, winner-picking ‘direct action’ policy to prevent a changing climate they don’t really think is happening, and then, what? Oh, of course, ‘tax cuts and savings and surplus’.
The sense of malaise is pervasive. No matter who the ALP choose to front them, they’re marching to defeat. Their enemies hate them. Their friends hate them. The ‘true believers’ are probably about to chuck themselves off the West Gate Bridge. It’s almost enough to suggest that Abbott’s right, and that Australia deserves an election now, until one remembers that it’s Abbott saying that.