This is just awful

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.


One thought on “This is just awful

  1. Gillard only needs to beat the opposition in front of her, and she will.

    Framing be damned. The reason why the Opposition wants to drag the country back to 2005 is because it’s the only way he can get agreement from all of his fractious troops about what to do; any blue-sky thinking on their part takes them down the long lonely road of 1983-96. It won’t make it to next August in one piece because it is all about the big, splashy announcement rather than the long hard grind. By the time of the next election you’ll see Abbott gasping and retching like a sprinter who overestimated hs chances in a marathon.

    The predicament that the government is in, and admittedly has been for some time, is not to compare it with the Howard government of 2007 – but before that in 1999-2000. Remember what a hopeless job the government did selling the GST, and the dirty deals they did with the Democrats. Howard chucked out the small stuff and kept going with the big reforms, and said openly that you might not like me but you have to respect me. It might have been ugly but it worked; the Coalition won in 2001 just as much as anyone has ever won an election. It was dirty and unedifying but it counted for just as much as any other election victory.

    Gillard is doing all that, with two deficiencies. She is mincing around the idea that she has to get all strident and self-aggrandising, just like every one of the 26 men who held the job she now holds. She is complaining about Abbott rather than doing what Keating did, and destroying him. I remember laughing at Labor when they replaced Hawke with Keating, and thought Keating was cracking hardy when he said he’d do Hewson slowly. I remember when the Coalition polled 20% ahead of Labor. I remember election night 1993, and not laughing at all.

    I’d like to believe that Gillard is slowly coming around to those two realisations; the fact that she can gives me hope when both parties are in the gutter. I know for a fact, as a former member of the Liberal Party, that Abbott is already operating at full throttle and does not have the capacity to lift that Gillard has. The fact that Abbott can absent himself from the big debates on this country’s future, but dive right in to a bit of prurience over rooting and rorting, shows you everything you need to know about that man.

    As far as the media is concerned, they are losing influence. For a generation, politicians have cringed before the media barons. Gllard is the first PM since McMahon who’s got the job without making the mdia feel like they hold the keys to the Lodge. They’ve staked everything on getting rid of her; Michelle Grattan has spent decades as an influential journalist and bristles at being made to feel like she doesn’t count. If Gillard gets re-elected nobody ever need read, watch or listen to anyone from the press gallery ever again. It’s messy and it’s ugly, and I share your pain in watching it; but wha I don’t share is a belief that this is something that can be avoided, and we have nothing to lose but a press gallery full of self-important wankers. Laurie Oakes said that Howard was hopeless in his first term too, and he was; Howard survived and Oakes did too.

    The sign that this govrnment has some fight in it lies in the vehemence of their enemies. When NSW and Queensland Labor were on the ropes nobody was that bitter or as vehement about them; people simply stopped listening and the opposition got on with preparing for government. Gillard’s opponents are going to crash through or crash, and the signs are that they lack the substance to crash through. It’s a white-knuckle ride all right, but where else would you be?

    It isn’t true that Abbott will or can become PM. Hockey and Morrison each have a future but their time is not yet at hand.

    Good points, Andrew. I certainly agree that Abbott is unlikely to become PM. Why keep him, when a change to Hockey would (on present indications) lead to a landslide of epic proportions? My scepticism only kicks in around the question of HOW Gillard gets back. It feels to me that the public are at the point now where they simply disregard anything she has to say. I don’t doubt that a return in the polls is manageable, given how fickle the electorate is and how disliked Abbott is, but with Gillard out front, it’s hard to see ALP’s narrative getting any resonance…Ed

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