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John Cleese knew the parrot was dead

By Bruce Haigh - posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010


People are angry with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He has jilted his traditional support base. Some are clinging to the hope that he will see the error of his ways and change. Most have given up on him; however, that does not mean that they will not vote Labor at the forthcoming election.

Respect and Rudd are not words that they would put together. Rudd’s lack of belief in anything except his personal ambition has registered. He has blown the well of public goodwill and support, it is draining away, he will not be able to cap it. He is a ventriloquist’s dummy walking. His words mean nothing to most people, they switch him off, do the washing up, get a cup of tea when they see him on TV or hear him on the radio.

Forget opinion polls with crafted questions. I am originally from Western Australian and recently spent a week there. From all walks of life I did not hear one good word said about Rudd. The tide has turned, the vain glorious emperor has no clothes. It is too late for Rudd, the country has already made its judgment about him.

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And Abbott? His ability and skill in taking the issues up to Rudd are appreciated. He is seen as performing the proper role of a leader of the opposition. He is seen as genuine. The label Phoney Tony is bouncing back on the government, it is harming already damaged goods in the form of Gillard and Tanner, who is currently being stalked by the Greens, and Garrett, who is past his political use by date.

But as bothersome as Abbott has been able to make himself, he is not seen as Prime Ministerial material reinforced by his asides to the right of his party, asides which too often grate with swinging voters, the people he most needs to woo. And his A team, particularly Joe Hockey, leaves something to be desired.

Eat your heart out Wilson Tuckey, Kevin Andrews, Bronwyn Bishop, et al, you and your choice as leader will be the architects of the Coalition defeat. This was the election that could have been won. All the Coalition had to do was move towards the centre and capture a little of Rudd’s base. Pig headed stupidity will cost the election.

Despite the dog whistling being engaged in by Julia Gillard, sections of the media and her supporters, she is not as popular or widely supported as she might like us to believe. She is tainted by having to defend the failed Rudd agenda; she is also perceived as not being a conviction politician, a flag waving pragmatist blowing in the breeze, a graduate of the “Whatever it Takes”, school of political science.

Of all those with leadership aspirations in the Labor Party, Greg Combet has so far played the best hand. He has the ability and the belief in issues to make a very good leader of the Party. The grounding of the army’s new helicopters might prove his first real test. The ethos inspired by Howard and embraced by Rudd is to govern with Spin and Secrecy(S&S).

When Rudd was riding high in the polls S&S was the guiding and basic tenet of government. Always attracted to secrecy the Department of Defence embraced S&S; it does not sit comfortably with either Faulkner or Combet.

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If Combet wishes to garner the support of the Australian people he will need to distance himself from S&S and from Rudd. As will the used, abused and talented Penny Wong.

At a cost to good governance, Rudd promoted and held in place some very ordinary talent in the form of Fitzgibbon, who subsequently fell on his sword, Evans in Immigration and McClelland as Attorney-General. Bereft of ideas and commonsense Rudd has kept at bay anyone he felt might hold a mirror to his mediocrity. Spare a thought for the talented Maxine McKew, Gary Grey and Bill Shorten; it is a reflection on Rudd’s lack of leadership to have kept such talent on the bench.

In my opinion Rudd will flop over the line, but in the process beach himself. Next year is likely to be Rudd’s annus horribilis. The world economy is likely to be brought under further strain by the crumbling of the European Currency, the bursting of the Chinese housing bubble, pushed by reduced exports. Reduced commodity exports from Australia as a result of falling international economic activity, coupled with a deteriorating strategic outlook in Afghanistan, will see Rudd beached, gasping and looking to flop into the New York fish bowl as Australian Ambassador to the UN.

Rudd is not going to hand Combet the baton; we have already seen that with his shabby handling of him over the insulation scandal. Combet, charged with attempting to save Rudd’s neck, was not given a seat in Cabinet. If Combet wants the top job he will have to fight for it.

Would an incumbent Combet, with his practical industry background, reduce the size of the resource based tax? A tax on resources is a good thing and overdue but why 40 per cent? Why not a 15 per cent tax with the prospect of a further rise of 5 per cent in five years time depending on the health of the sector? A 40 per cent initial tax smacks of panic. The same sort of panic which saw Rudd throw billions into the economy before waiting to see the likely effect of the GFC on Australia. The 40 per cent tax is election driven. Rudd is not fiscally cautious he is politically timid.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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