17/06/2013 - 07:01

Labor left it too late

17/06/2013 - 07:01


Save articles for future reference.

Poor policy implementation and Kevin Rudd’s destabilising presence have cruelled Labor’s electoral chances.

Labor left it too late

Poor policy implementation and Kevin Rudd’s destabilising presence have cruelled Labor’s electoral chances. 

To say Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the federal parliamentary Labor Party are between a rock and hard place is an understatement of herculean proportions.

For more than two years this column has urged Labor not only to remove Ms Gillard, but that her perennial challenger and one-time ally Kevin Rudd be told to forever desist.

Instead, Labor should elevate Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson, who were both senior ministers until recently.

That, to use that old cliche, would be the circuit breaker Labor so desperately needed.

Not that it was suggested the Crean-Ferguson team would assure Labor of victory at the coming election, but rather that the party would have had a chance to perform relatively credibly in that contest.

Their emergence would have meant Labor could have extricated itself from its wanderings in the wilderness since 2007 by re-embracing its historical social democratic roots, and thus become capable of fighting another day.

Instead, caucus allowed Ms Gillard to continue taking Labor down the road to nowhere with her commitment to Greens programs based on taxing CO2 and subsidising outrageously costly energy schemes.

She also continued to back Treasurer Wayne Swan’s obsession with borrowing.

Like Mr Rudd before her, Ms Gillard proved incapable of securing the nation’s borders, which is why Australia now finds itself hosting more than 43,000 so-called asylum seekers, with several thousand now arriving each month.

Who or what is responsible for the failure to take the obvious remedial path of removing Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd?

In a word, caucus.

Every Labor front and backbencher is guilty.

The situation is, of course, far worse than when this column first suggested that a Crean-Ferguson team take over the leadership.

Since then, Ms Gillard has sacked Mr Crean from the ministry.

Mr Ferguson resigned from cabinet and has announced he will leave parliament, while several others, including a minister, party whips, and assistant ministers, voluntarily chose the backbench.

Meanwhile, Labor continues to be spooked by Mr Rudd, despite his failed leadership challenge and an aborted second tilt in March.

His party room backers continue to destabilise the party by urging that he again becomes leader.

The reason for all this is that until his dying day he’ll refuse to accept that being displaced by Ms Gillard, a move overwhelming backed by caucus, was the smart thing to do.

That, in a nutshell, has been Labor’s over-arching, intractable problem.

Why wasn’t it ever confronted head-on?

As long as Mr Rudd believed he was in with a chance of re-emerging as prime minister, Labor politicians have had a millstone around their collective necks.

Unfortunately none, not even Mr Crean, realised this.

There are times in the life of a company, or any other organisation, when a clean sweep at senior or executive level personnel is necessary.

That time arrived for federal Labor towards the end of the Gillard government’s first year, late 2011, when Mr Rudd was still globetrotting as foreign minister.

And the opportunity for the party to confront the issue arrived when he finally opted to challenge on February 27 2012.

Instead of contesting the leadership ballot that day, Ms Gillard should have announced to caucus that neither she nor Mr Rudd would stand.

Such an announcement could have been followed by her nomination of Messrs Crean and Ferguson for the party’s two leadership posts.

That was the moment for wisdom and magnanimity to emerge.

Instead, Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd confronted each other, with the former winning 71 votes to 31.

Ms Gillard should have realised that Mr Rudd would never concede he wasn’t prime ministerial material while she was leader.

But, if another held the top job – namely Mr Crean – she could have returned to being education minister with Mr Rudd remaining foreign minister, followed by a caucus decree ruling out any further challenges until after election 2013.

Ponder on what such a move would have meant.

Firstly, it would have put an end to Mr Rudd’s plotting and destabilising.

Secondly, policy blunders such as the mining tax could have been remedied if not entirely repaired.

And the Crean-Ferguson team could have begun afresh to repair the damage the Rudd-Gillard duo initiated by foolishly dismantling the Howard government’s approach to border protection.

Their amateurish dabbling has meant that, since December 2007, 43,000 boat people have entered Australia, something Labor will pay for dearly on September 14.


Subscription Options