07/03/2012 - 10:53

Labor’s current leadership a deadweight

07/03/2012 - 10:53


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Labor’s leadership spill didn’t go far enough.

Labor’s leadership spill didn’t go far enough.

KEVIN Rudd’s failure to regain the prime ministership shouldn’t be seen as guaranteeing Julia Gillard the leadership into the next year’s election campaign.

Neither Mr Rudd nor Ms Gillard – joint architects of Labor’s wasteful ‘kitchen cabinet’ policies – is prime ministerial or even ministerial material.

Both continue to promote: further growth of Canberra’s bureaucratic empires, powers and controls; higher taxes on an already overtaxed population; and a tax on CO2, which will destroy jobs, and lift the cost of energy usage for all industrial and business activity.

What Australia needs is a drastic reduction in Canberra’s duplication of state government duties, lower taxes, and cheaper energy – otherwise our future remains bleak.

Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd refuse to see things thus.

Both would be completely at ease in the ranks of the debt-ridden Greek, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian governing elites.

They’re basically birds of a feather with those controlling these clapped-out nations, who steered their economies into over-taxed and over-regulated states.

Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard belong to the category of Canberra politician that former Labor leader, Arthur Calwell, so aptly described and warned of in his 1972 memoirs, Be Just and Fear Not, as “aggressive, assertive, philosophical, way-out people”.

And most of the caucus politicians who voted for them inhabit the same barren paddock.

Some, such as for instance ardent Rudd disciple and leftist, Senator Doug Cameron, are worse, which is saying something.

How therefore can one make a silk purse, that is, a competent government, from this sow’s ear, the present Gillard-led ALP?

Since last week’s leadership clash I’ve spoken to several of this column’s expert advisers.

All said that, first and foremost Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd should go – far, far, away.

All contended that Labor, at the national level, is presently made-up of three entities – the Gillard clique, the Rudd clique, and the neither-of-them clique, with the latter, unfortunately, the smallest.

Since neither the prime minister nor Mr Rudd is suited to head an Australian government, Ms Gillard should join her predecessor on the backbench and both should announce they’ll retire from parliament at the next election.

True, Mr Rudd has already gone to the backbench (he had no choice) but he’ll undoubtedly be cultivating across Labor’s ranks anyone who shows concern about Labor’s dismal polling the closer we get to election 2013.

Ms Gillard also indicated that, had she lost the leadership vote she’d go to the backbench, but said nothing about leaving politics.

The worst thing that could therefore happen in coming months is for Ms Gillard to be replaced by Mr Rudd, since that would be like replacing the Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith with the Costa Concordia’s Captain Francesco Schettino.

What Labor desperately needs is another captain, a new face at the helm, someone capable of sailing that now 112-year old party into calmer and safer waters – even if it means being in opposition – where its current crop of MPs can recuperate from their five torrid and mindless Rudd-Gillard years – so Labor hopefully reforms itself by adopting an entirely different outlook where central governance is limited.

This isn’t as defeatist as may appear.

Remember, Labor was totally humiliated in December 1975 following its three disastrous Whitlam years.

But a markedly enhanced and largely reformist-minded entity emerged, thanks primarily to the work of Queenslander Bill Hayden, who went on to become one of Australia’s finest governors-general.

This happened within seven years – the life of just over two parliaments.

A Labor Party with neither Ms Gillard nor Mr Rudd could do likewise, perhaps by not even going into opposition.

Keeping those two around only hinders and thus delays urgently needed reform.

The dreadful alternative is that Labor will continue treading down the disastrous path trodden by Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and French – a clapped-out social democratic path.

Labor needs to divorce itself from that way sooner rather than later.

Clearly coming months will be ones during which Labor will be severely tested with the ever present temptation of returning to Mr Rudd, since he, unlike (now former) NSW senator Mark Arbib, who has resigned from parliament, is unlikely to do that.

Mr Rudd still aspires to be prime minister.

All the talk and spin emanating from Ms Gillard’s office about Labor being on the path to unity is simply that – spin.

Nothing has changed since last week’s announcement that she had attracted 71 caucus room votes to Mr Rudd’s respectable 31. 

That 40-vote difference means he needs just 21 caucus members – a fifth of the parliamentary wing – to hint that they’ll change their vote.

That’s not many, especially if all or even most of the 21 view themselves as holding marginal seats.

Like the June 28 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Labor’s February 27 caucus vote was only a truce.

Just as Germany/Prussia, with Austria incorporated, returned to the battlefield in 1939, the faceless Rudd men will continue watching, working and waiting, ever ready for the day they’ll be able to either bring on another caucus vote or by simply convincing Ms Gillard to stand aside for their man.

It matters little whether this happens this May or June or August, or early next year.

Mr Rudd has shown he covets the prime ministership, sees it as belonging to him, no-one else.

The only way he can conclusively show this isn’t so is by publicly announcing he’ll be stepping down from parliament at the next election.

Ms Gillard’s situation is worse because she’s under pressure from quarters other than her failed policies and ever-unwelcomed polls.

There’s the ongoing Craig Thomson affair, which after three years of investigations is coming to a climax.

Moreover, questions are being asked about ex-senator Arbib’s resignation, and whether it came about because of his links to Mr Thomson’s problems.

The sooner Labor’s caucus indicates to the Gillard-Rudd duo that they should bury their leadership feud forever the sooner the ‘neither-of-them’ option can come into play.

Some surmise that Western Australian, Stephen Smith, has a record to fulfil this role. 

However, according to my contacts his major problem is that he’ll be struggling to retain his Perth seat. They say his position is dangerously similar to that of Kim Beazley, when he moved from Perth’s inner-city seat of Swan to the Kwinana industrial strip seat of Brand to secure his parliamentary future.

That said, this column has urged (Labor’s energy ‘reforms’ a slippery slope, August 3 2011) that a Simon Crean-Martin Ferguson team should take Labor’s reins, because, unlike the Gillard-Rudd duo they’re not tarred with Greens job-destroying policies that have so hampered Labor since its December 2007 victory.

“ ... [A] Crean-Ferguson team for election 2013 shouldn’t be discounted,” that column contended.

“Neither gentleman is irrevocably associated in the public mind with the coming Greens-inspired de-energising of Australia path.”

That option remains.

But the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Labor only has a dozen weeks (until July 1) before its CO2 tax begins to bite, thereby taking Australia further down the European road to nowhere.



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