Economy, Gillard, and fear: How you say Rudd can win
The numbers have been crunched, the stakeholders consulted; various other horrendous corporate jargon terms have been deployed, and now The Punch is ready to announce the results of a SWOT analysis of the Rudd government’s electoral standing.
With the SWOT being such a common feature of modern workplaces we decided to capture the findings and plot them on a range of horizontal and vertical scales, before looping them back into a synthesised range of go-forward options that would allow Kevin Rudd to build a sustainable advantage and capture sufficient political market share to gain the upper hand come polling day.
Or rather, here’s what Punch readers think Kevin Rudd needs to do: Push Julia Gillard to the forefront, focus on health and the economy, settle the row over the mining tax and run a scare campaign about a “son of WorkChoices” industrial regime.
Oh, and there’s a left-field suggestion that Rudd should pray Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t make a comeback.
After disastrous polls for Kevin Rudd at the start of the week, Punch readers were asked put on their Labor strategist hats and list the government’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. There were brutal assessments of the weaknesses but equally frank commentary on Rudd’s significant strengths.
Online word-counting graphic tool Wordle does an excellent job of summarising the thrust of the responses. Despite the polls and Rudd’s unquestionable political malaise the exercise produced a stack of reminders that people see a range of themes Labor can build on to retain power.
Reading through the responses and you’ll see readers who noted these strengths were also scathing about other aspects of the government’s performance. Rudd himself featured prominently as a weakness.
(Before collating the results some of the spurious but entertaining contributions that made it into the thread were removed, like Grassy Knollington’s which listed as a strength “earwax eating”, and as a weakness, “giving Peter Garrett responsibility for anything”. There was also Tony H. “Strength: 50% of the population are above average intelligence. Weakness: 50% of the population are below average intelligence.”)
The resulting graphics only captures recurring themes and not the specifics, though some of the more interesting suggestions are outlined below.
The strengths are listed in the first graphic at the top of this piece and it shows despite the long list of problems the government is facing in other areas, including the mining tax, its economic record is seen as its key strength.
“The stimulus package and the fact that we were kept out of a recession,” said reader Chris of the government’s strengths. “Who knows if the stimulus package was even the reason, but it is one thing that hasn’t been a total disaster and Labor should remind the voters.”
Strength on the economy is followed closely by health, a more natural fit for Labor. The name that kept cropping up in this column was Rudd’s deputy Julia Gillard, who has been the subject of increasing speculation that her horizon for a leadership tilt is no longer in the distant future.
The list of weaknesses almost crashed Wordle as it tried to fit in all the mentions of Rudd, and he needs a space all of his own in the word chart. This is partly a factor of how people discussed Rudd’s problems but is nonetheless a reflection of how heavily the party’s problems are pinned on the Prime Minister.
The home insulation debacle looms as a major liability, as does a perception that Rudd reverses positions, largely associated with the ETS.
And then there’s the mining tax. Given Rudd has staked the country’s fiscal future on its introduction a successful outcome to the current negotiations with the industry is critical to avoid undermining the government’s standing on its economic stewardship.
Much of the input on the weaknesses column was interesting but the tone from Punch regular Bitten is fairly representative:
ETS arse about + Copenhagen’s big moment that just didn’t happen. Perception that BER = nose-in-trough. Lag in health reform (a previous election platform). Apology to the indigenous accompanied by f* all change in life expectancy, living conditions, income per capita etc … Insulation scheme debacle. Poor handling of Henry review and appalling policy handling of mining profits tax (will we consult, won’t we consult, what is the exact policy again - fellas, make up your minds!)
But there was also this, from Bronco2010, a good sample of some of the insights captured in the survey:
The biggest weaknesses in my view is the continued failings on very public and large scale policy initiatives. The government is not good at managing the implementation of these policies, nor damage control when they go wrong which leaves the leadership red faced and constantly on the back foot trying to gain a positive foothold to go forward on - very hard to do whilst also trying to defend major policy backflips. The prime minister also, the more people get to know him, seems more and more detached from reality and real Australians, perception and support for him has subsequently dropped - Julia Gillard now would seem a more down to earth and in touch leadership option.
When it comes to opportunities, the messages are mixed. The two main recurring themes were Tony Abbott and WorkChoices, with respondents suggesting the government run could scare campaigns about both.
There was this, from Andrew: “No credible opposition at the moment. Many people I talk to don’t want Abbott as the leader of this country (probably the ONE thing that will get Rudd back in), and this is from life long Liberal voters.”
Finally, to the threats. Abbott’s ascendancy was recognised, with many contributors saying the opposition could be a threat depending on its performance.
The Greens, too, were noted by many as a potential threat following their surge in support in this week’s polls.
As a sample quote on the threats, there was this from Punch regular papachango.
asylum seeker numbers massively increasing, climate not getting as hot as its supposed to, more BER and insulation scandals appearing, pushback on the mining tax, and Internet censorship. The Liberals getting their act together and actually being liberal - e.g. by opposing Internet censorship. The Greens attracting more of the inner city left wing vote. NBN when it turns out to be a complete dog.
Ousted Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull was repeatedly mentioned by some mischievous contributors as a threat to Rudd, on the grounds that the Liberals could be a much more viable alternative were he to make the unlikeliest of comebacks.
So there it is. Thanks for the mindshare. Now if everybody has their action points lined up against deliverables it’s time to get into the pre-planning phase and think about how to leverage the synergies.
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