Misguided policy has been at the core of Labor’s poll problems.
THERE’S plenty of talk in political circles as to whether Julia Gillard will be toppled or resign as Labor leader in the near term, mid term, or distant future.
Don’t try guessing who’s likely to replace her in one of those timeframes, however, as time will undoubtedly tell.
Ms Gillard is the third prime minister to strike what’s probably best dubbed as ‘Canberra’s slippery slope’.
Cast your mind back to late 2006, when John Howard found himself faced with a similar challenge.
Firstly, rumours surfaced that his deputy, Peter Costello, wanted the top job sooner, not later.
Then one-time Howard defence minister, Ian McLachlan, leaked he’d been carrying a note in his wallet for years documenting a Howard promise to relinquish the top job to Mr Costello after one coalition term.
Next came more leaks and before we had time to blink a group of Howard ministers was secretly meeting in a swish Sydney harbourside hotel discussing whether Mr Howard should go.
Shortly after it was disclosed he’d be handing over to Mr Costello after the December 2007 election.
Throughout 2007 Mr Howard’s ratings sank and on election day not only was the coalition dispatched, but Mr Howard was turfed out from his seat of Bennelong.
Then we got what’s arguably Australia’s glibbest PM, Kevin Rudd, who managed to build-up celebrity status that even outshone that of Bob Hawke.
He did this, in part, by appearing once a week over a year on Channel 7’s breakfast program, ‘Sunrise’.
We know what happened to him. He struck Canberra’s slippery slope within 24 months.
So dreadful was the Rudd performance that Labor’s factional barons didn’t even bother getting him into a Sydney hotel.
It was in his parliamentary office, at 10.30pm on June 23 2010, that Mr Rudd learned he was a goner and, next day, caucus elevated his deputy, Ms Gillard, who’s refused to disclose what was said at that meeting.
All she’d ever said is: “A good government had lost its way”; a strange explanation considering she was number two within the gang of four leading that government, so she’d helped formulate all of its disastrous and costly decisions – pink batts, costly school halls, the mining tax, an emissions trading scheme, Grocery Watch, immigration policy, and more.
Less than two months later she failed to win the election outright, but managed to cobble together a coalition with two NSW Nationals renegades, a Green, and a Greens-leaning independent into what’s called a ‘new paradigm”’.
Now, observe what Newspoll shows for the year commencing just before the August 2010 election.
In the week before that contest Labor polled 38 to the coalition’s 41 per cent.
After Labor formed a minority government, coalition backing until December hovered between 41 and 43 per cent while Labor’s would slump to 33 per cent by Christmas.
Over the next eight months, the coalition trended upwards to 50 per cent while Labor declined further, to 27 per cent.
Simply put, Gillard-led Labor, over the past year, has moved from attracting primary backing from slightly more than one-in-three voters to just over one in four – a big slippage.
It took John Howard a decade to strike the slippery slope.
Kevin Rudd did it in two years, primarily because he was fixated on promoting causes dear to the likes of actress Cate Blanchett, wealthy inner-city professional types, and UN diplomats, not ones affecting the lives of workers.
But Ms Gillard easily beats both, doing it in much less than a year – from 38 per cent primary backing in August 2010 to just over 25 per cent in August 2011.
That’s the slippery slope operating with a vengeance.
A non-Labor leader who’d also hit the slippery slope rather promptly was Alexander Downer.
He’d succeeded John Hewson in May 1994 and moved to solid levels of support, even reaching 53 per cent.
However, by the end of 1994 he’d slipped to 34 per cent, and before the end of January 1995 had resigned, making way for John Howard.
Mr Downer’s encounter with the slippery slope came more than twice as quickly as in Mr Rudd’s, and Ms Gillard reached it sooner than both.
Let’s list the two most evident suspects for her prompt slide.
Firstly comes her intimate association with bungled Greens-style Ruddism. Secondly was her decision to stand by bungled Ruddism.
She should instead have immediately scrapped the mining tax because this sector, especially coal and iron ore, is more than anything keeping Australia’s economy floating higher than ever, something large numbers of working Australians fully appreciate.
Interestingly, that’s briefly what she did when making that wise pre-election promise: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”.
Congratulations, Ms Gillard.
Moreover, the giving of that highly publicised undertaking probably accounts for her being able to manoeuvre Labor into the position where she could cobble together a minority government.
What, however, was her next move?
Unbelievably, she promptly dishonoured this absolutely pivotal promise.
So the one big and one smart thing she did during the election campaign – dissociating herself from bungled Ruddism – was promptly reneged on.
And, of course, she also stuck with the bungled Rudd policy on boat arrivals.
Instead of searching around for exotic quick fixes, like the Timor or Malaysian solutions, she should have eaten humble pie by grasping the option that John Howard, after his years of bungling, had adopted, since it worked.
Why didn’t she do so?
The answer, as previously highlighted in this column, is she’s a fan of Welsh leftist, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, and finds herself unable to see anything of worth if it’s done or initiated by conservatives.
The Welsh migrant girl who’d grown up in Adelaide and promptly moved to Melbourne on reaching university to become an active student union politician (all, of course, funded by compulsory student union dues) to be near that city’s ACTU-Labor power complex, just cannot think differently.
That’s why she was able to eventually rise to become convenor of the Melbourne-based Socialist Forum, an entity of about 200 ex-Communists and hardline leftist ALP types.
She’d certainly made sure she was the right leftie in the right place at the right time, even while in Melbourne.
All she, like other lefties who have forgotten working-class interests, knows is to keep taxing and boosting the spending of those extracted tax dollars on ever more bureaucratically driven programs, no matter how crack-pot.
In other words, she’s exactly like her formal coalition partners the Greens, whose economic policies, which she’s leading Labor into adopting, will vandalise Australia’s economy.
They, meaning the Greens and Gillard-led Labor, have set out to shut down Australia’s coal mining, cement making, and oil refining industries, mothballing the coal fired base-load electricity generating sector, boosting taxes on middle income earners, and escalating the cost of electricity and crucially important liquid fuels.
Clearly, rapidly growing numbers of voters, including especially Aussie battlers and their spouses, don’t want Gillard-Greens type vandalising of Australia to prevail.
It is essential Labor’s next leader realises this.
If this doesn’t occur, Labor’s backing will slump yet further.