Year end – how do the parties stand?

Kevin Rudd and his Government have had a good year.  The catalogue of achievements is vast, from the symbolic to the substantial, from the carefully considered moves to the emergency measures taken in response to the GFC.  There’s no need to elaborate; the public can see what the Government is doing and is marking it up in the polls, while opponents continue to mouth the ‘all talk, no action’ mantra, and when acknowledging action is unavoidable, demean it is ‘a blunder’, or inadequate in some grotesque way.

Rudd himself has performed superbly in a variety of situations.  He has excelled on the international scene, and has been prepared to travel whenever the country needed to have its voice heard. He has shown appropriate concern, sympathy and dignity in times of personal or national tragedy and at those poignant moments that will go down in our nation’s history.  He has shown he has the common touch by mixing with all sectors of society – children, elders, indigenous Australians, people in the street or at community cabinet meetings and the 2020 Summit, workers, farmers, miners and the top end of town.  He has performed well with international dignitaries, with live TV audiences, and at media doorstops.  Contrary to media opinion, he speaks clearly and convincingly in parliament, and has successfully countered the endless attacks from the Opposition.  He has seen off two leaders, John Howard and Brendan Nelson, and has the measure of the third, Malcolm Turnbull.

Idle commentators have focussed on the inconsequential.  Rudd uses folksy words like ‘brekkie’ or ‘Brissy’ (the people understand them); or he uses terms like ‘complementarity’ (incomprehensible to some journalists, but not to the boffins to whom he was talking); or he repeats the same terms over and over (some even count how many times he uses words like ‘decisive action’ seemingly unaware of the purpose of repetition); he’s boring in parliament (which means he’s not an entertainer like Costello or Keating); or he’s uninspiring on current affairs TV (which means he’s taking the subject seriously and not intending to be wedged by acerbic interviewers); or he travels too much (which is just what he should be doing in the rapidly changing planet we inhabit).  None of these critiques need to be taken seriously.  They are simply a reflection of the inadequacy and superficiality of many of our journalists. [more]

Rudd’s team has done well.  Julia Gillard is widely acknowledged as a star.  Lindsay Tanner gets consistently high ratings.  Even Wayne Swan, who has now no need for his ‘training wheels’, is grudgingly acknowledged as competent and hard working, and is well supported by Chris Bowen.  Penny Wong belies her rather bland exterior with an impressive display of knowledge and understanding of very complex matters.  Jenny Macklin combines a kind heart and a rare determination to improve the lot of indigenous people.  Anthony Albanese shows dogged determination and an earthy sense of humour in handling Government business and infrastructure development.  Stephen Smith must be one of the most level-headed ever to fill the foreign affairs portfolio.  Nicola Roxon has handled the health portfolio with sensitivity, and Tanya Pliberseck has made steady progress with housing.  Joel Fitzgibbon has done well in defence, as has Craig Emerson in small business, Robert McClelland as attorney general and Tony Burke in agriculture.  Simon Crean always does a workman-like job in trade, as does Martin Ferguson in resources.  Steven Conroy is struggling with the difficult job of broadband and has upset some internet users with his threat of blocking undesirable sites.  Peter Garrett has not impressed in his environment and arts portfolio, but does speak well in parliament.  Belinda Neal and James Bidgood have been negatives for the Government.  Greg Combet, Bill Shorten and Maxine McKew have been beavering in the background; we may see more of them next year.  Harry Jenkins, like his father, is acknowledged by both sides as a good speaker. 

In all, the Government’s plans are on track, except that the fast broadband initiative is lagging, the polls are even better than could be hoped for after a year in Government, the Rudd team has generally performed well and cohesively, the many careful and thorough reviews are beginning to come to fruition, and so far the emergency steps the Reserve Bank and the Government have taken to soften the effect of the GFC seem to be working.  Confidence is rising, November’s employment figures show little growth in unemployment, and further compensatory initiatives can be put in place quickly.  Getting the CPRS right will be a challenge, the Henry tax review will be a difficult balancing exercise, and rolling out broadband is bound to be beset with problems.

So Kevin Rudd, the nerdy, review-obsessed, control freak who is in perpetual motion, who likes to surround himself with people who have ideas, who consults widely and gets his facts right before reaching decisions, seems to have done quite well, despite many in the media scarifying him for his frenetic approach to government.  Whatever the media say, the people like what they see.  Few in the media seem to have understood his modus operandi, the people have never tried to; they have judged Rudd on results.

By contrast the Opposition ends the year in disarray.  The last week in parliament, the effects of which are still reverberating through the Coalition, the media and the public, will go down as one of its worst.  With deteriorating polling, it has lots to do in 2009 to improve its standing.  What is the explanation?

To begin, the Coalition seems never to have come to understand why it is in Opposition.  During 2007, as the election approached, Tony Abbott repeatedly expressed his amazement that the polls continued to be so bad, as “we’ve been such a good Government”.  He saw the electorate as ‘sleepwalking’, and longed for it to awaken, to come to its senses and vote for a continuation of the prosperity gifted by the Howard-Costello partnership.  Abbott still can’t understand what happened.  Now he’s saying “wait until unemployment soars and the economy slumps”, then see how popular the Rudd Government is, then see how well they’re doing in the polls.  So he’s mimicking what Labor did for years, expecting to gain office via the failure of the government.  It doesn’t work that way anymore, oppositions don’t gain office by governments falling over. 

The Howard Years showed how little the Coalition understands its defeat, even to this day.  They attribute it largely to Howard staying too long rather than his and the Coalition’s policies, and that if only Peter Costello had taken over in 2006, it would have been a different story.  They acknowledge that rejection by the people of WorkChoices was a major factor, but put that down to the union scare campaign, or not selling it well enough.  Only Joe Hockey acknowledged that it was the unfairness of the policy that was the problem.  They cannot bring themselves to believe that accumulated resentment over a number of Government actions – Iraq, ‘kids overboard’, dog-whistling politics used to justify detention and the ‘Pacific Solution’, and flagrant pork-barrelling, had taken its toll.  The Coalition still believes it is the only party equipped to manage the economy, that Labor has no feel for finance, budgeting and managing a ‘trillion dollar economy’, and simply lacks the needed competence.  Evidence to the contrary makes no impact on them at all.  Perhaps as much as anything else they underestimated Rudd; as Graeme Morris said on The Howard Years: "although Howard saw the train coming at him, he could do nothing about it – the train was Kevin Rudd." He took the centre ground from Howard - 'the Howard battlers', and to date the Coalition has not regained that centre ground.

Until the Coalition acknowledges that its mindset is flawed, until it achieves insight into the reasons for its failure, until it develops a new and attractive alternative policy agenda to regain the lost centre, it will languish.

After Costello’s rejection of leadership, Brendan Nelson was unexpectedly elected.  He was doomed from the outset because the media did not want him.  He was given deadline after deadline to prove himself, the May budget, the Gippsland by-election, and so on, and as the polls continued to flag, his leadership became terminal.  The media smelt blood and went in for the kill.  Finally the saviour, Malcolm Turnbull, was elected, albeit with a small margin.  At last the media were satisfied; it looked for a boost in the polls and Turnbull ‘taking it up to Rudd’.  Almost three months have elapsed since then, and little has changed.  After a tiny evanescent ‘bounce’, the polls have reverted to levels experienced during the Nelson era.  The only better Turnbull statistic, not unexpectedly, is higher approval than Nelson. 

Turnbull looks impressive, Prime Ministerial, and has a fine voice.  When he speaks in simple sentences, he sounds convincing.  When he indulges in circumlocution, as he often does, he confuses his audience.  He does that in parliament and on TV and radio.  So he’ll have difficulty informing and convincing the voters, which is what he needs to do to gain traction.  If the polls are any guide, they just don’t buy his universal condemnation of Rudd and his Government.  Only his rusted-on supporters accept his unsupported assertions.

But his most serious and pressing contemporary problem is his inability to keep his party in line.  With both Nationals and some Liberals defying his directions, he looks weak and his party out of control.  He does not behave as a politician, his political acumen is questionable, his authority frail; he is no John Howard.

So what will the Coalition do?  They will stick with Turnbull hoping the polls will improve.  If they don’t, and internal murmurings gather momentum, their options for change are limited.  Leaving aside Peter Costello, who sits in the shadows on the back bench, and who has probably irretrievably blotted his copy book, who could replace Turnbull?  Julie Bishop is not a plausible contender; she carries too much baggage, and has performed unimpressively.  Andrew Robb is sound but lacks any semblance of charisma, without which leadership would be almost impossible.  Tony Abbott covets leadership, but suffering as he does with chronic ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease and almost total lack of insight, would be a risky choice. Moreover, he’s a ‘Howard man’, and therefore would look like a return to the past. Peter Dutton and Greg Hunt might one day be mature enough, but not now.  Christopher Pyne shows promise if only he could curb his flights of fancy, and stick to facts, figures and logic. Tony Smith, a strong Costello supporter, came across well in The Howard Years, but may not have enough support, and would not contest if Costello was in the field.  Nick Minchin is senior, experienced, and has stature, but he’s in the Senate and is a ‘Howard man’.  Barnaby Joyce is not eligible as he’s a National and in the Senate, and in any case is too erratic.  The rest: the old and bold and the also rans, are forgettable.  This leaves just Joe Hockey.  We know he has the stench of the albatross WorkChoices still in his nostrils, but he is congenial, well liked, can speak rationally and reasonably as he did on The Howard Years, is young yet senior in the Shadow Cabinet, experienced in several portfolios, and is now Shadow Finance Minister and Manger of Opposition Business.  He might be regarded as a good foil for Kevin Rudd, with whom he interacted successfully on Channel Seven’s Sunrise.  All in all, it’s not a pretty picture.

It is unlikely that the Rudd Government will look the same or be regarded as highly this time next year, but its performance to date gives hope for more of the same.  It is just as unlikely that the Coalition will be in as parlous a state as it is now.  There is promise of Coalition policies being unveiled in 2009.  Andrew Robb assures us the Coalition will not be a ‘small target’.  I can only be hoped that it will take a more positive and collaborative approach and work with the Government to maintain and improve the lot of the Australian people.

It is to be hoped that Kevin Rudd and his team will now take a refreshing break; 2009 will be even more hectic.  Hopefully Malcolm Turnbull and his team will also take advantage of the break from hostilities to regroup, rethink, re-orient, and refresh.

For those who read this piece as heavily pro-Rudd, I am unapologetic.  It is written as one person’s tiny counter to all the trenchant criticism, unfounded disparagement and unseemly denigration heaped upon Rudd and his Government not just by Coalition supporters, but by a largely unsupportive and at times antagonistic media.

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fred

11/12/2008I like it. A view to 'balance' [to use an 'in' word] the non-stop MSM negativity. There are negatives concerning the Rudd ALP government, but strangely they have not been the subject of Opposition or media denigration. Such as: the lack of adequate measures to solve the problems of the Murray, the slowness of the pace on climate change, the concentration on private education rather than public, the minimal changes to workNOchoices, the doling out of cash in wheelbarrow loads to the failing auto industry....and a few more issues. In each case we have comparative silence or minor nit picking or just an incoherent jumbled noise that can't be deciphered. Now why is that [presuming you agree at least in part] do you reckon, why the concentration on fringe issues [phone call to George] and the relative silence on the biggies?

Bushfire Bill

11/12/2008Well said, AA. I would only add that seeking a [i]schwerpunkt[/i] on any one issue is a doomed endeavour for the Coalition. There is not going to be any easy way out of the Coalition's problems. The more the Rudd government succeeds, the more the public will forgive them for little mistakes along the way. As long as every three steps forward is followed by no more than one step backward, the public will continue to support Rudd. Looking for a knock-out punch, baed on spin and manipulation of appearances will only make the Mark Textors of this world happy. the voters want substance. And there is no way of generating substance except by working hard at it, not relying on the turn of the cards, or a lucky circumstance to achieve the effect. Continual interjections by way of faux "points of order" from (mostly) Hockey have been a symptom of this failed approach on the Coalition's behalf. No-one, except the most tragic of political tragics watches Question Time, and even fewer take any notice, it being the theatre it is. A gotcha here or there, a moment of discomfort in a Minister is absolutely no substitute for solid, slogging policy work. Hckey has been the prime promoter of the "spoiler" tactic in Parliament. His performance on THY was pathetic the other night. He told us of how useless Work Choices was. How unfair. How hopeless a cause. Yet he was the prime spruiker for it as a Minister. Hockey is a two-sided coin. He needs to make up his mind whether he is "heads" or "tails"... and then stick to it. The public is sick to death of political hysterics. The Coalition's brand of hysterics not only doesn't work, but even if it did could [i]only[/i] work by rendering confidence in the government, hence the economy, hence the nation (in these troubled times) to almost nothing, and for no practical effect: there is no election in the offing for two years. I'm not saying that the Rudd government [i]is[/i] "Australia", but at the moment, seeking to convince the public that Rudd's mob are [i]totally[/i] incompetent in [i]every[/i] field of governance, and that therefore our future as a country is lost, can only be counter-productive. If the Coalition wants to disagree with the government, they should disagree from the outset, not try the Rainmaker scam by backing both horses in a two horse race. Hockey would have to reverse the habits of the past two years - the first in government, the second in Opposition - and stay on message, to have any hope of succeeding as Opposition Leader and ultimate, maybe, perhaps... as a future Prime Minister.

Rx

12/12/2008Informed and considered commentary. Thanks, AA. Speaking of Kevin, have you seen this article? http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/softer-side-of-rudd-begins-to-emerge/2008/02/29/1204226991245.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1 And on Malcolm, this: http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/trail-of-blood-leads-to-turnbull/2008/09/28/1222540244990.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

Ad astra reply

12/12/2008Fred, I acknowledge that some aspects of the Rudd agenda have not proceeded to plan. I can’t ascertain where the Murray-Darling plan is at. There are so many contradictory claims about the status of the river system. There’s been less talk lately; maybe the rains have ameliorated the situation. Regarding climate change, the plans seem to be on time – the White Paper and targets will be out next Monday. But there’s a lot of cat and mouse manoeuvring going on which I don’t understand. Why did we not announce our targets at Posnan? The Government’s support for the auto industry seems to be related to preserving jobs in an environment where unemployment is increasing. It’s contentious – there seem to be very strong views for and against. But to address your question, why are the trivial events highlighted while important items are scarcely addressed, I can only hazard an opinion. I feel that many journalists are not up to the task of seriously addressing difficult issues; the lesser columnists find it easier to beat up an inconsequential matter. Another reason may be the attitude of editors who may think that the trivial, especially the ‘juicy’ items, may have more appeal to the reading public, and will sell more newspapers. Judging from the ‘most read’ list in online newspapers, the latter appears to be the case. The age-old question is whether papers create a thirst among the readers for a certain type of material, or whether papers are simply providing what people want. Another explanation might be that the trivial is often more potent in inflicting political damage, and we know some papers do deliberately seek to inflict damage. BB, I agree that the continual negativity of the Coalition against the popular Rudd Government, and the regular about turns they make, are not gaining traction with the voters; in fact I feel it’s one reason why they’re going backwards. I heartily agree with your point that taking such a negative approach and continually demeaning the Government as incompetent and blundering is contrary to the best interests of our nation, and is politically irresponsible. They prefer to gain political advantage over advancing the nation’s interests. What we need is confidence, including confidence in our Government and what it is doing in the GFC. I take your points about Joe Hockey. He has followed instructions from Howard, Nelson and Turnbull, but I feel he doesn’t really have his heart in it. His silly points of order come from his being Manager of Opposition Business. They really are spurious, irritating and counterproductive. The Hockey option was mentioned by Michael Brissenden on ABC 774 radio this morning, so the rumour is out and about. Let’s watch it with curiosity. Rx, thank you for the links – very interesting pieces. I was struck by the similarity of Turnbull’s tax options mentioned in [quote]The Costello Memoirs[/quote] to his contemporary strategy of throwing up multiple options so that in the end at least one is likely to be right, and he can say ‘I told you so’. That’s why Bushfire Bill has labelled Turnbull ‘Rainmaker’.

Ad astra reply

12/12/2008Read Tony Abbott’s piece in this morning’s [quote]Australian, Posturing is poor policy[/quote]. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24787270-5013479,00.html The first five paragraphs reinforce what I asserted in this piece, namely: “Now he (Abbott) is saying ‘wait until unemployment soars and the economy slumps’, then see how popular the Rudd Government is, then see how well they’re doing in the polls.” He’s learned nothing about how the Howard Government lost, and how it might regain office. I suspect he never will.

Bushfire Bill

12/12/2008Most opionion journalists have skipped from "opinion" to "opinionation". In short, they're lazy. It's so easy to drag yourself out of bed and write a blog post, which is basically what the opinionistas write. t's stream of consciousness, pure and simple, colored by their particular prejudices and (equally importantly) the group-think of the group they belong to. They all want to be quoted in future times as having predicted such-and-such a result: be it bad economic times, or poor political times for either Opposition or Government. They hope their other predictions are forgotten or ignored. Real Rainmaker stuff. A couple of years back I began a longish debate with a very senior political journalist about poll numbers (simple by writing him an email). In the beginning he was in compelete denial about Labor's continuing good performance in poll figures (this is 2006, way pre-election). He told me to bugger off and stop annoying him. he said I was an "ignoramus" and what did I know about politics when he had been a professional observer for several decades? I merely replied that I looked at the figures and his interpretations of them in phraes like "Labor's continuing disappoint at poll results" (when they hadn't lost a poll to Howard for six months), were pure fantasy. Then he tried to tell me the polls didn't mean anything anyway. Then he said there was a honeymoon (this is early 2007) and that Rudd would soon cave in to the Howard juggernaut. I am proud to say I was right and this guy - who seems to have a good heart and a strong mind - was wrong. I told him I couldn't figure out why he got it so wrong, so often, when he was clearly intelligent and could write about other matters (other than polls and Labor vs. Lib politics) so forcefully and compellingly. I never got my answer. I also had a running debate with Jason Koutsoukis, who at the beginning of 2007 was the "Liberal Insiders'" go-to guy whenever they had a shit-sheet to run on Rudd. Jason dutifully wrote up every mad scheme the Lib insiders put to him: how they were going to eviscerate Rudd on a slab; how they were going to "do him slowly". How Rudd was a fraud etc. etc. But under my (and I'd like to think the general Greek Melbourne community's) relentless questioning of Koutsoukis' columns and his rationales, Jason gradually realised he was on a hiding to nothing backing Howard. He started to break differnet kinds of stories. He was the one who broke the story about the "senior government minister" summoning him into his "plush suite of offices" to "reveal" the file on Julia Gillard: how she had been a socialist at university! Golly gosh! Jason rightly made mockery of this feeble attempt at the smear, and in the process fuelled the final debate of the Howard government: on the Libs' "Dirt Unit". On the absolutely final day of Parliament, the very last piece of debate was an adjournment debate where the final "grievance" was about Jason Koutsoukis writing some story or other. The Speaker said "Order! The time being 10pm, this house is adjourned" right in the middle of a speech whingeing about Koutsoukis. The House never returned. The election was called next day and the rest is history. All it took to tuen Jason towards the light was some relentless (and admittedly annoying) email campaign by me and a few local Victorian Greeks. And the young guy made history with his last big story.We [i]can[/i] do it, by engaging these paid hacks in maningful debate and trying to change their minds.

Ad astra reply

12/12/2008BB your story is very encouraging. We bloggers may have some influence after all. It's a pretty hard-nosed journalist that is totally immune to the opinion of intelligent others. So let's press on in 2009, so long as someone is listenung. BTW, did you see the interview of Malcolm Turnbull by Kerry O'Brien on the 7.30 Report tonight? Truffles was more pathetic than usual. He gave no cogent answers to any of Kerry's questions. Perhaps another nicknmae is now applicable - 'hollowman'

janice

13/12/2008Ad astra, even the most rusted on coalition supporters must surely have cringed when watching Truffles on last night's 7.30 report. I don't remember ever seeing any politician put up a poorer show. Frankly, I think Kerry O'Brien felt embarrassed for Truffles. BB I have resorted to emailing particular journos but only one ever responded and gave an explanation of his thinking - that happened to be Alan Ramsay. When they are challenged, there is only silence from the likes of Shanahan et al (just as they don't respond to the comments in their own blogs).

Bushfire Bill

13/12/2008I got many less reponses from the senior journo than I did from Jason. The senior guy told me to eff off a couple of times and stop bothering him. But after a while we got a kinda dialogue going. I tried a couple of times with him lately, but now he ignores me (even though I've often agreed with him, not just blasted him). Jason was altogether crusier. He seemed to enjoy the debates we had. I think he was proud to the the Lib Insiders' conduit to the ouside world, revealing to us the strategies they were going to employ to rid the world of Rudd. I kept up a sarky commentary about how well their ploys (as revealed by him) worked: Rudd kept soaring in popularity every time they tried a new tack. My aim was to point out that he'd picked the wrong side to side with. I think his article about the farce of the "Julia Dossier" was the turning point. He wrote it up hilariously: the "summons" by telephone, the long walk to the "plush suite of ministerial offices" (revealing the dirt peddlar was a minister) and the trivial nature of the "dossier" (mere press clippings). I think that's when the penny dropped for Jason Koutsoukis. These Libs thought they had a fan boy, but the fan boy could think and see for himself: they were pathetic. And he wrote up the whole encounter as such. And as such it made it as the centre-piece of the parliamentary censure motion on the Liberal Dirt Unit. Whether he wanted to continue as their valve to the outer world or not, I think his goose was cooked as "tame Liberal journalist" at that precise time. After that, the blinkers were off and his article reflected reality instead of pseudo reality of the Lib Septic Tank unit. Jason was one of the first to shout, "The Emperor has no clothes!" The other guy still writes longish pieces. They're more realistic nowadays, but you can tell he still hankers for the good old days. His distrust of Labor still creeps in around the barricades. For posterity's sake, these were the last recorded Parliamentary words of the Howard government. I got the time wrong (I thought it was 10pm, not 5pm) but the rest is as I remembered it: "[b]Mr SECKER (Barker[/b]) (4.59 pm)— It is somewhat ironic that I am following the member for Lowe because nine years ago we walked together for our first day at parliament. So it is very interesting and ironic and I suppose we both hope these are not our last speeches. Can I point out that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition today suggested that someone might be thinking that Jason Koutsoukis, the journalist, made something up. Can I say to the parliament he made something up in reference to me some 18 months ago concerning whom I supposedly support. [b]The SPEAKER[/b] — Order! It being 5.00 pm, the debate is interrupted. House adjourned at 5.00 pm" It never resumed, and you could tell Koutsoukis wasn't "their man" anymore, couldn't you? Jason, I'm proud of you.

Sir Ian Crisp

13/12/2008Isn’t it customary for our politicians to leave office before they write their memoirs? This write-up presented in the form of a delirious panegyric enjoins us to praise Mr Rudd for doing what he’s paid to do. Should I race out next Monday morning and congratulate the garbage collector for doing what he’s paid to do? Mr Rudd even gets a mention-in-dispatches for his use of the patois of Queenslanders; an assortment of clipped words – like neologisms – that somehow convey the fact that Mr Rudd not only walks on water but he also incarnates all that is pure and simple. Brissy = Brisbane (that was a tough one) and brekkie = mmm, this one’s tough. Could it be breakfast? Talking of wedge politics ( at the start of the 21st century, the ALP was accusing the governing Liberal Party of 'wedge politics', which was 'splitting the community' and 'causing disharmony) would handing out money to one section of the community while ignoring other sections come under the heading of wedge politics? Wouldn’t tax return time each and every year fall under the same heading? I think if we bother to check, notwithstanding the GFC, Mr Rudd’s achievements thus far will mirror the ALP platform that was enunciated in the lead-up to the November, 2007 election. Isn’t that a bit like the 7:58am train from Parramatta to the City turning up at Parramatta at 7:58am, as per the timetable? The mob that was booted out in 2007 was rightly portrayed as scheming shakedown artists who were rightly shown the door. Let’s all hope we have something better in this mob of novices. Sir Ian Crisp

Just Me

13/12/2008I cannot see a genuine leader in the senior Liberal ranks at the moment. There is not the slightest chance of Abbott, Minchin, or Dutton ever becoming PM, they are far too hardline and have WAAAAAY too much baggage, and I have no doubt Labor have a juicy file on them a foot thick just waiting for the right moment to see the light of day. Hockey really does not have what it takes, he is not politically smart enough or hard enough to be an effective long term leader, and also has serious baggage. Bishop J, not a hope. Costello, oh puhleese. Nelson, gone. Turnbull, seriously struggling, plus poor political timing, and surprising lack of basic political nous. (Well, surprising to me, probably not to his hard long time critic Bushfire Bill.) Robb might settle them down, but he is not serious competition for Rudd. Greg Hunt may be a good longer term prospect, but that is at least two elections, and some serious political repositioning away. Of course, it is not just with their leadership that the Coalition has problems, their rank and file parliamentarians are a sorry lot at the moment in disarray, and with more-or-less open warfare between the Libs and (what is left of) the Nats. Not calling the outcome of the next election yet, but at the moment you would have to say that the Coalition will do well to only lose another 5-6 seats. All things considered, if I was a Coalition member, I would be pretty pissed at Howard for not managing th eleadership transition properly and letting things get this bad, and I would be (reluctantly) planning on a long stay on the opposition benches and a lot of painful rebuilding of the party. (Perhaps they could ask Labor for advice on such matters? He he.)

Ad astra reply

13/12/2008You’re right janice, it was Turnbull’s worst TV performance, few politicians have done as poorly. For anyone who missed it, the transcript is at http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2008/s2445422.htm as well as the video. He looked unsure of himself – uncharacteristic for him, was often flummoxed for an answer, seemingly having not asked himself what questions were likely, indulged in characteristic circumlocution, and was clearly relieved when Kerry O’Brien mercifully called the interview to a close. His responses to questions about party unity were platitudinous, and out of tune with Tony Abbott’s views expressed in the second half of his article in [quote]The Australian[/quote] yesterday: [quote]Posturing is poor policy[/quote] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24787270-5013479,00.html (The responses to Abbott’s piece too are worth reading). So Turnbull has to cope not only with Barnaby Joyce and his Nationals Senate colleagues, but Abbott, and today in [quote]The Australian[/quote] Wilson Tuckey saying his piece in an article by Matthew Franklin [quote]Liberal Wilson Tuckey joins National Barnaby Joyce's revolt[/quote] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24792666-5013871,00.html. Turnbull is far from solving the unity problem, and platitudes such a ‘we must communicate better’ won’t help. There are deep-seated ideological differences that require resolution. BB, your experience with Jason Koutsoukis suggests that at least some journalists are willing to listen and change tack if the rationale for doing so is compelling. Heartening! Just Me, when you put it as you have, the prospects for the Coalition leadership look seriously problematic. There seems to be no appealing alternative saviour on the horizon. I like Joe Hockey as a possibility, but there aren’t many who think likewise. Sir Ian, you’re right, what I wrote is a panegyric. ‘Delirious’ is your word; I wouldn’t characterize my mental state as ‘wild excitement’ or ‘ecstasy’, but I am mightily impressed with Kevin Rudd’s first year. I know it’s what he’s paid to do, but believing that credit should be given when credit is due, I set out to counter the torrent of criticism, demeaning comment and at times downright misrepresentation of his actions and motives that have flowed from the Opposition and some of the media. I am fed up with the ‘all talk, no action’ and ‘all spin, no substance’ mantras, and the doorstop utterances of Coalition members: ‘Rudd has done nothing since his election’ or ‘Rudd has never made a tough decision’ or ‘Rudd doesn’t know what he’s doing’, manifestly absurd propositions. While the Opposition feels it has a license to misrepresent or simply lie, the media has no such right. After the long Howard years of core and non-core promises, I hope you will pardon me for being pleased and impressed that most of Rudd’s pre-election promises have been kept, and many more promises to take ‘decisive action’ to counter the effects of the GFC too have been honoured. My intent was to use one small voice to counter the brickbats. Years ago there was a newspaper column ‘Roses and Brickbats’, where readers could give a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘thumbs down’ on contemporary events; my piece was ‘Roses for Rudd’. I hope I can write a similar piece in a year’s time.

Ad astra reply

13/12/2008Those of you interested in Malcolm Turnbull's possible successor might be interested to read Laurie Oakes piece in the [quote]Daily Telegraph Costello no match for Turnbull[/quote] http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24790627-5001030,00.html He also canvasses the Joe Hockey option.

Sir Ian Crisp

13/12/2008Relax AA. Those who enter politics are over 21 (usually) and by and large are capable of handling the tough stuff.
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?