Political judgment on the line in election
When Kevin Rudd last had a chance to run
for re-election, he missed the boat. Will he exercise better judgment this time
around, asks Barrie Cassidy.
In the week before Christmas 2009, those
closest to Kevin Rudd thought the Prime Minister had not only lost some of his
popularity, but his mojo as well, and only an early election would get it
Rudd had just returned from the Copenhagen
climate change summit empty handed and saddled with a domestic policy that would
hit Australians hard but contribute little to a global effort.
It was against that background that Rudd
walked into a critical strategy meeting in the Cabinet room at the Commonwealth
offices in Phillip Street, Sydney. Those present included Rudd's key staff, the
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the Treasurer Wayne Swan, and two hardheads
from the NSW Right, Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar.
All of them urged Rudd to take a short
Christmas break and then return to work and call an election in early
Bitar, then the ALP national secretary,
drew on research to warn of an escalating climate change problem through
There were passing references to how
Rudd's overseas travel had been a negative, and that the standoff involving
asylum seekers aboard the Oceanic Viking had revived a troublesome issue. But
other than that, nobody doubted the government would win an early election
against an untried and untested Tony Abbott.
Those at the meeting that day left
satisfied that Rudd had listened, and once he returned from a holiday in
Tasmania, he would call an election for the second week in February.
Acting on this, Bitar took just one week's
leave at Christmas. Some of his staff took just three days. In fact, Bitar was
instructed to book television space for advertisements.
To the astonishment of his colleagues, when Rudd did return to work in
January 2010, he used his first day back to launch a children’s
But to the astonishment of his colleagues,
when Rudd did return to work in January, he used his first day back to launch a
children's book, Jasper and Abby and the Great Australia Day Kerfuffle. There on
the nightly news was the Prime Minister with the co-author Rhys Muldoon at
Melbourne's children's hospital "encouraging the little ones to read".
Then Rudd set off around the country on a
series of Australia Day speeches, in part talking of a population of 36 million
by 2050 and embracing the concept of "a big Australia".
Suddenly, immigration and asylum seekers
converged as an issue.
And slowly, Bitar started cancelling the
advertising spots until they all disappeared.
Rudd missed the boat. And six months
later, he lost the leadership. He never did get the chance to go for
re-election, not until now that is.
The story is a sober reminder of his
occasional lack of judgment, his unwillingness to listen to advice, and his
propensity to tell very few people of what is on his mind.
So second guessing when the election will
be is fraught with danger; just check the News Ltd newspapers which between them
confidently predict August 31, September 21 "or October-November".
But one thing is certain: If Rudd does not
go and see the Governor General this weekend, there will be plenty of people
willing to say afterwards that he should have done so.
The essential work, post-Gillard, is done.
The leadership is refreshed, party reform underway, the intervention in NSW
announced, the carbon tax set to be abolished, and the asylum seekers issue in
better shape than it was.
Any time now wasted outside a formal
campaign can only erode the initial burst of support built on the departure of
Gillard and the emergence of an alternative to Tony Abbott.
The asylum seekers initiative was clever
politics; cleverer still if it had neutralised the issue and then killed it off.
But it didn't. Instead, the subject has dominated the media for a week and it
shows no sign of going away. While that is the case, the government, the body
that has ultimate responsibility, will lose skin.
The only way to change the subject is to
call an election and spread the conversation around.
It is often argued that a campaign simply
elevates the opposition leader to equal leadership status. But that doesn't
apply this time around. Because of the white hot nature of politics, Abbott has
enjoyed equal status for three years.
It would be better for Rudd to move on now
and engage Abbott directly on the big issues.
The task for the ALP is to improve,
however narrowly, its primary vote and make some further progress in key
marginal seats along the eastern seaboard. That is best done in a campaign. And
Rudd, as an accomplished campaigner, can back himself to achieve that.
If he goes this weekend, and wins on
August 31, he will be a Labor saviour, finally vindicated.
If he goes this weekend and loses, he can
argue with some justification that picking up after Gillard proved to be too
hard and too late.
But if he doesn't, if he leaves it very
much longer, then his own judgment will be a significant factor in any loss.
Barrie Cassidy is the presenter of ABC
programs Insiders and Offsiders. View his full profile here.
26 Jul 2013
Who are the face less men and woman in this
shitty Corporation of ABC who compile the total mass of news crap
Who are they?
Take a step out of the dark so we can see you,
Don't give any attention to what Cassidy (or you
may say Barrie)said about Rudd and Governor General. He just steal that
suggestion from my deleted comment yesterday in this same stupid forum for
government issued particle writers mostly written by full time employed low
profile Australians. Most of them in the hands of this two sadists the
penisboys Abbott Morrison.
Rudd may enroll the Royal Air Force now to show
off his size... nuclear weapon next and drones.
One can see how brain
damages the majority of the Australian population really are. Completely mind
controlled through bear and footy, a-hole culture.
Politics are the same
for them. Cock fighting game flanked by nagging hens.
Nice smell perfect
chemistry...wow it really stinks.
24/7 close it down!!! It is time. Get
some fresh air!!