Greatest risk to Gillard a dialogue with the deaf
After the events in Queensland on Saturday it’s probably time to upgrade Wayne Goss’s memorable observation at the 1996 federal election that voters in the Sunshine State were waiting with baseball bats to clobber the life out of the Keating government.
If Saturday’s state result was in any way a dry run for what awaits Labor federally next year, voters in Queensland are waiting with baseball bats, rocket launchers and cans of capsicum spray in readiness to obliterate the ALP.
If the staggering and unprecedented 16 to 17 per cent swing at Saturday’s state election is in any way reflected at the next federal poll, Labor will be utterly destroyed, with a raft of senior government figures from Treasurer Wayne Swan down swept from office. The equal-worst federal result Labor has ever had in Queensland was in 1996, when just two of its MPs were re-elected. On Saturday’s numbers, not one Queensland MP would survive.
While the issues on Saturday were state issues, the parallels with the federal situation are significant. Much has been written about the commonality between Anna Bligh’s breach of faith with the voters on privatisation and Julia Gillard’s change of position on the carbon tax. Despite the obvious fact that Gillard’s shift was brought about by the vagaries of the 2010 election result - or non-result - the fact remains that many voters have not and will not forgive her for saying one thing and doing another, even if the alteration of her promise was brought about by the need to make deals with the Greens to form minority government.
Federal Labor figures are putting on a brave face, suggesting communication is the key to their recovery in Queensland, and flagging that Gillard will now be spending more time in the Sunshine State ahead of the next election.
Whether this will help or hinder the government is a moot point. As Graham Richardson has said, the danger for Gillard, as it was so dramatically with Anna Bligh, is that voters in Queensland simply are not listening and have already made up their minds. If that is the case then no amount of campaigning will dissuade them from their view that this government doesn’t deserve a hearing.
Another nightmare scenario for Gillard comes from the nascent signs that the Queensland debacle could somehow revive Kevin Rudd.
There has already been some commentary about the fact that Rudd is still strongly preferred by Queenslanders as federal leader by a whopping margin.
The recent caucus ballot was largely a plebiscite on Rudd’s personality, with the caucus delivering a humiliating rebuff to the man who upset so many MPs with his leadership style, and who was subsequently accused of orchestrating a series of damaging leaks from the 2010 campaign onwards.
There has been no change in the paltry level of support for Rudd within the caucus. But it is interesting to reflect on the fact that his original plan to win back the leadership was to wait until the inevitable Queensland election disaster, with the timing only changing after it emerged that Gillard intended to sack him for disloyalty.
Had Rudd waited and spent the past month preparing a challenge in the wake of Saturday’s Queensland result, the dynamics would have been very different, as Queensland gave every Labor MP in a marginal seat (which these days is almost all of them) a chilling sneak preview of what they might be facing next year. There is nothing like the prospect of inevitable defeat to make politicians change their tune. Rudd and his supporters did a good job in the past of keeping the leadership issue bubbling along for the past 18 months. Since Saturday there have been comments from key Rudd backers, including strategist Bruce Hawker and western Sydney MP Ed Husic, that the federal leadership issue has been resolved and will not be revisited.
You would have to question whether Rudd is 100 per cent of that view. He would certainly feel that Saturday’s devastation would have been curbed if Queenslanders at least had their preferred choice as federal Labor leader. It would not be surprising at all if the agitation resumes, albeit against a backdrop of continued hostility from a caucus which would sooner eat broken glass than return to Rudd.The worst thing for Gillard is that Queensland has returned the gaze to the one thing the prime minister does not want to talk about, namely the carbon tax. As far as she is concerned it is done and dusted, she had no choice but to change position, the legislation has passed, it will take effect on July 1, and despite what Tony Abbott might be saying, neither the world nor the economy will grind to a halt.
It’s a tough argument to make when, as Bligh discovered on privatisation, voters see the keeping of promises as a point of principle, and won’t listen to explanations about how circumstances changed.
Or, more alarmingly, they simply won’t listen at all.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…