The Ruddernaught Rumbles On

News today that Prime Minister John Howard is on the nose in New South Wales must surely be a big blow to the morale of the Committee to re-elect the PM, that has been trying desperately to claw its way back into the game at this point of the election cycle.

Machine Rudds steady advance to the finish line, sits in stark contrast to the skittish behaviour of the Howard front bench, who despite the habit of haughtiness and pomposity by which they deliver their pronouncements on Rudd appear unable to hide what looks very much like a total unravelling.

Ironically, its the Howard governments supposed strengths that are proving to be its Achilles heel. On national security the conservative preference to kick arse first and ask questions later has bought us the Iraq fiasco and its massive ramifications on security and oil prices. This wasnt just a miscalculation. This was lunacy through ideology, and Mr. Howards statements are just coming across as finesse which quite rightly is being interpreted on the street as arse covering.

On the economy Mr. Howard and Captain Costello keep telling the people theyve never had it so good, and whilst the numbers they produce continue to surprise and delight the columnists of The Australian, the vast swathes of suburbia seem not to be so impressed by, for example, the June quarter seasonally adjusted CPI results. They just know that fruit and veg has gone up, petrol is going crazy, child care and education is outrageous and as for getting a house well forget it. Mr. Costellos quoting of obscure economic statistics to demonstrate the economys rude good health seem like just so much bullshit, and the easy blame the States excuse is failing to cut it any more.

Theres a mood out there in the community a mood that has the definite feel of being locked in. The Rudd machine is disciplined, controlled and not given to overreach. Its not a small target strategy they seem to be adopting, they cant, because the country is asking for ideas at this time. The ideas they are presenting though seem to be tight. To have a moral weight, and a focus on the future that has completely evaporated from the desultory Howard offering.

The Indigenous Intervention, you would think delivers all the moral brand power that Mr. Howard needs at this time, but the reality is it has delivered nothing at all in terms of political benefit. Some say its because the punters have come to see it as just another Howard election winning ploy. Perhaps thats true, or perhaps the Howard battlers dont really give a stuff about the Abos, and wonder why hes wasting all that money trying to buy off the doctors wives. Whose to say? Whatever the reason it hasnt worked. Big moral initiatives like this are just not the natural ground of conservatives (unless it involves lots of punishment), and so the whole action just somehow doesnt sit right with the Im alright Jack shtick weve been getting for the last decade.

Some pundits may get the collywobbles from time to time and although you may be able to produce evidence that your humble correspondent has also suffered from this I completely deny it. Let it be known, that like the best of the News Corporation opinion makers. I completely reserve my rights to carry on commentating with credibility whilst blithely ignoring all idiotic and completely unjustifiable positions I have held in the past.

Having thus expunged the historical record, I am now in a position to say that I think Rudd is going to win, and Ive been saying it all along.

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16 Responses to The Ruddernaught Rumbles On

  1. Robert says:

    Rudd is going well, yet somehow he’s also hardly seen. How is that? Sure, he’s the Opposition leader and media weight goes to the incumbents.. still, how is that the brief grabs from Rudd – there has been no major ‘headland’ speeches as such – are registering? Am I mistaken on the weight here?

    Some while ago, shortly after obtaining the job, it was mentioned several things had to happen for Rudd to win; likewise, Howard.

    For Howard, it was mentioned the issue of “families” had to be addressed: through direct measures relating to household outgoings pain, maternity leave, I think dental care was raised, the ‘economy’ had to be broadened to be more inclusive of not only household fiscal matters but also lifestyle, and to get away from the big billion dollar announcements and bring it back home to the cost of ‘milk and bread and beer’, national security was looking sloppy and had to be tightened up, and his personal electoral alliance with Bush addressed, and present a compelling and exciting future for Australians to look forward to, among other things. He’s done none of that. He has, sloppily and without persuasiveness, addressed IR, Climate Change, and some of Rudd’s and Labor’s better points at the time; the latter being touted as “being dealt with” by the media to be “squared away”.

    For Rudd, he had to reframe the economy to make it appear, in his own way, broadened and more wholesome, and to do the ‘milk and bread and beer’ thing; he had to attack Howard’s security laxes, show his way forward for Australia, address IR and present his case, present his Climate Change plan, remain cool under attack, and push forward his education (revolution) agenda. Rudd has done some of those, to varying degrees: he’s reframed the economy and brought it back home and into the household, he’s gone Howard on security, he’s remained cool-headed. Shooting off the top of my head here, quickly, so gaps in this would be huge. But Rudd has not been persuasive on Climate Change, certainly not on IR and there is still no plan to address business concerns with it, he’s done dental, and the education revolution hasn’t been motivating.

    The NT intervention as announced by Howard is now a poor shadow of the initial impact: the health check impact has been watered down to the complex, long haul reality and not the shining knight thing at first, and there is no sitting of Parliament during the break to clamp home the “truth” of Howard’s stated urgent need to fix this for the good of the Aboriginal people. The land issue is being raised, and Indigenous communities are beginning to marshall and fight back. Give it four months, and we’ll need to see clear results from this – the public will take into account the long term necessity to get them, provided those structures and commitments are in place – or Howard could well be remembered for a cruel political ploy. The ball is well and truly in his court to come good on this and the public will grow in scepticism, not for the need of it, but for the way Howard has stuck himself on a pedestal to do it by THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT first, without consultation, and making it up as he goes along. Brough is getting the wins, Howard is on the outer with it now, perhaps telling his true position on it. Electorally, he has some serious work to do and keep doing.

    The Liberals, imaginably, are waiting for the campaign intensity, and results from no doubt what they would regard as viciously effective television advertising. It is clear, however, that Howard is not leading, not commanding, and the Liberals as they present overall haven’t got through the “born to rule” barrier to get back in touch.

    FWIW, the cruncher, yet to come, is Costello as PM. This raises its head ever so tenderly very occasionally, but it’s the thing I reckon the public will get a big hold of closer in.

  2. Sir Henry says:

    I’m fascinated by the inversion of late. It seems that News Limited has turned on Johnny. Something has happened, Mr Jones. Essentially, it is that the Rupertgraph and The Rupertian have made the running yesterday with nasty anti-Johnny headlines and pix. Plus a follow-up today.

    My best explanation is that with a comprehensive analysis of the Newspoll just out, some of the elements of which may not have been made public, the ruperdom thinks that Howard & co is a sinking ship and it is time to abandon it rather than go down with it. It is better to be, er, on the winning side. And that for many reasons — some are no-brainers and one salient one which has to do with the fact that if you, as an “influential” media organisation, actively back the side that loses, and loses badly, it may be perceived that you have no influence with the punters. This would be bad for advertising and bad for your ability to scare politicians into giving you what you want in the future. That would devalue the brand.

  3. michael says:

    The indigenous intervention has been seen to be an election charade and is one Rudd has handled very well. To be fair, we were suspicious from the start but still Labor has learned from the Tampa experience. Rudd agreed in principle very early on, commiting to helping the PM protect the children, asked for details and has been watching the show unfold. When Howard goes to parliament to try to boost his stocks by forcing this through, I hope Rudd will dissect Howard’s plans, calling on him to dump the land grab, keep the permit system intact and set some long term infrastructure commitments. When Howard launches into a shrill attack on Labor using emotive languauge and “won’t someone think of the children” rhetoric, Rudd will expose him for the hypocrite he is. The whole time Howard has run the indigenous children stunt, he has been spoiling for a fight with Labor, Federal or State, so he can claim the high moral ground and villify Labor as children hating, black hating, anti-Australian union thugs. He has been confounded in his attempts to date so when he does go at them it will look foolish and artificial in the face of a quiet and composed opposition.

  4. Enemy Combatant says:

    Delaware to Downunder RupertDome OpEds

    Message reads: Realign allegiance…stop… Prepare Bennelong torpedo…stop…Imperative Captain goes down with ship…ends…

  5. We have noticed increasingly numerous mentions of the “election cycle” (e.g., above, “at this point in the election cycle”). Now, we think we more or less understand what it is about, but is there a more definitive meaning than “now”, or “a reasonably short time before an election”? What attributes make it actually “cyclical”; how can we identify them? What are the signs that indicate particular points in the cycle (apart from the increasing frequency of the term itself…)? There is clearly a psephological convention at work of which we are ignorant (in this as in many other things) and we would like to know (really).

  6. Laura says:

    Its not a small target strategy they seem to be adopting, they cant, because the country is asking for ideas at this time….a moral weight

    For real, Rex? For really real? I want Labor to win, but yesterday’s carrying on about the price of baked beans, as if it was some pressing moral issue, really got me down – is that honestly Labor’s idea of vision? Clive Hamilton is an idiot, but he may have a point that Australians have learned to feel sorry for ourselves despite our extraordinary affluence.

    To be honest I share your belief that Rudd is going to win. But it depresses me that he isn’t using the margin in the polls as a buffer zone for trying out some real leadership.

  7. Chris Lloyd says:

    “…The Iraq fiasco and its massive ramifications on security and oil prices.” I am unaware of any clear effect that Iraq has had on Oil price. Sure they fluctate a bit when a big bomb explodes, but the long term increase is all demand (China) driven.

  8. joe2 says:

    Rex Ringschott you are on the money. Achilles Howard Heel, smells from here to when the shoe was invented.

    Rudd Team Tactics are perfect at… “this point in time and hopefully into the future”. (I’ve wanted to say that for ages. People get well paid for saying stuff like that and it might rub off.)

    Laura, the ‘slow snail media reps’ need to come to terms with even the possiblity of change, before it is worth presenting broad policy. Camp Howard would grab it as their own, or faithful media lapdogs laugh and snigger.

    The smelly sock factor is working for Labor and a lot of the media heavyweights are starting to look silly,themselves.

  9. Alan says:

    Perhaps Howard should polish up the white spats because he seems to be in Bruce’s shoes. Dismantling the arbitration and conciliation system didn’t work so well in the 1920s either.

  10. A compendious response on Saturday on account of having to do a real job on Friday.

    Robert: I agree there have been no headland speeches as such and although Rudds Climate Change initiatives seems perhaps conservative to you you need to remember that Labor has held this position for a couple of years, and indeed many years if you take the States climate change positions into account. Labor ,all up, has been light-years ahead on Climate Change for so long that the brand in burnt-in. Howards strategy has been to neutralise that lead and to some extent hes been successful.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that the election campaign hasnt even started yet. Labor will surely be keeping some of its powder dry – Once the campaign proper starts then I think we can expect to see some of those headland speeches you desire.

    Sir Henry: Not sure whether The Australian has abandoned their habit of government cheerleading just yet. But they are getting called on it big time and they are starting to feel embarrassed by the transparency of their boosterism. Go read some of this.

    Michael : I think the dissecting of Howards Indigenous plans is happening all over. The making it up as they go along style is being exposed.


    Roger: The electoral cycle is just a bit of jargon that I picked off that radio and used to make it appear as if I know what Im talking about. My guess is that it refers to the slow buildup of political intensity, like a wave, leading up to the election which gets higher and more energetic, then breaks on election night leaving turbulence in its wake. and then subsides to calmness as the slow build up starts again.

    Laura: Yes I do think for real – The price of baked beans is an important part of combating the government’s spin that the economy is treating everyone well. The economy happens to be treating some people extraordinarily well, but most only moderately well, and when the economy starts to tank, which it will, everyone will wonder what happened to all the dough. There needs to be messages that hit the right note with the tabloid readership in this election and the price of baked beans is one of those. As one Macquarie Bank economist said, the economy has been very good for John Howard yet somehow he puts out the message that it’s the other way around. that message must be neutralised if Labor is to gain power and deliver on its broader moral offerings.

    Chris : Certainly Asian demand has had a big effect on oil prices, but Middle East insecurity always pushes up the price of oil. Its impossible to unpick the but some have tried and they conclude that the Iraq mess has indeed raised oil prices, and the reasons when you think about it are obvious. Increased investment risk reduced supply.

    Joe2: Spot on.

    Alan : It would be poetic justice.

  11. Sir Henry says:

    Yes, Rex, I know about Shanahan, but I think he’s in a strange disconnect even at News Ltd. My point is well underscored by Alan Ramsay in this morning’s Herald. I have been participating in blogging about Shanahan on LP all this year and I think the terms for News’ flagship such as “The Government Gazette”, “Volkische Beobachter”, “The Rupertian”, “The Wendistan Times” etc etc originated from those discussions at LP and have now spilled out of the blogosphere into the MSM.

    I think Hartigan (New Ltd boss in Oz) will have to put his foot down at the next meeting of the Oz top brass (Chris Mitchell, Paul Whittaker, Nick Cater, Graham Erbacher, Christopher Dore, Michael Stutchbury, Deborah Jones) unless he wants Rupie to drill in on the way that particular brand is taking a belt or two in the credibility stakes.

    Yesterday’s Crikey brings us the tidings that the Parrot is now making chirpy noises to the Ruddster and David Penberthy (Rupertgraph editor) has taken out the Ruddster to lunch for a buddy to buddy pow-wow – maybe that explains the amazing healdine and pic on Thursday. There is even the suggestion that the supermarket prices agenda was set by Gloria herself. Tip of the Iceberg Costello’s attempts at debunking that one fell on deaf ears, even if they sounded rational enough.

    I have said this before – the punters have locked in a McGuiresque mindset: Johnny’s got to go. To bring up the supermarket notion, he’s past his use-by date. The shoppers are looking elsewhere, no matter what Shreck, Dolly, $sweetie and the Rodent say from now until the election. Bettors, put down your glasses.

    Finally, Ramsay is overtraining. He is rattling on about the importance of PRIMARY vote NOW going to Labor. But, really, Alan, read your wife’s column! Ultimately, it is the two-party preferred that is important and there has been no change since the Ruddster launched himself as PM-in-waiting, the fluctuations being in the punters first saying they’d put the Greens as no.1 on their ballotpaper and now they are saying they’ll put ALP no.1. Ultimately, IN EITHER CASE (!!!!!!) these are the votes that the Coalition will not be receiving. Result? Jeanette Howard calls in the removalists to Kirribilli come November. Full stop.

  12. Robert says:

    With you there, Rex. Thoughts behind my point are that Climate Change itself is something taken to heart by the electorate, to varying degrees, certainly in the sense that “something has to be done”, but I don’t think the issue itself (yet) can cause a public to flock to one party on the basis of policy. I don’t think it’s that sort of issue: being complex, I’m assuming the public doesn’t fully understand its causes and therefore its solutions, except a clear reference to carbon emissions, but because our lifestyles are so riddled with a grab-bag of ideas as to what probably are the causes, we’re not willing to commit to change, and therefore not rushing a party on it. We are on the whole preferring, I suspect, others to do it for us. So I don’t see it as a Rudd or Labor fault that something of such consequence hasn’t been compellingly magnetic for them. However, I do believe the greater public don’t trust Howard on it, and have turned away from him to varying degrees.

    One thing which bears mention at this point is what appears to be bound discipline within the LNP. They’ve been getting a pizzling for months, enjoyed no significant wins, let alone media momentum, and yet the ship appears very tight. The backbenchers, particularly, would be under enormous pressure, having no say or control over direction over the party’s fate other than “help me ffs”. If there are fissures, the media isn’t telling – which they’d love to do, so it is remarkable that such discipline exists. Obviously they’re aware that disunity is death, yet under this pressure and experiencing frustration and fear , it is reasonable to expect more evidence of this being expressed.

  13. Delightful gossip there Sir Henry. Apologies for telling you how to suck eggs. – Clearly I need to spend more time in the ‘sphere.

    Robert, the LNP ship does appear tight, perhaps its because Howard himself has shown little external sign of panic – but surely they must be starting to get a little worried. Let’s keep our eyes peeled for telltale signs of caving.

  14. Alan Kennedy says:

    It is hard to go against the numbers at the moment.So a Rudd victory does look pretty much on the cards. The nightmare for the Liberal Party must be wondering what would happen if the poll numbers held all the way to the election. It is not pretty for them when you project that sort of swing across their seats.
    Canberra will be a lonely place for a Lib or a Nat if Rudd achieves the swing shown in the polls.
    Just why Howard discovered compassion for the Aborigines after years of trying to ignore them is a mystery. Compassion doesn’t come overnight and Howard only acts if he thinks there is a vote in it for him. I think it was a ploy to try to suck the oxygen out of the public debate and deny Rudd a platform. Howard would harpoon whales off Bondi if he thought it would get him a vote.
    The pushing ahead with the scrapping of the permit system does leave him open to the charge that it is just a trojan horse aimed at stripping away land rights. He has form in this area. He hated Mabo hated ATSIC and will do everything possible to destroy the principles of Mabo just liked he neutered ATSIC.
    But our mates in the media still let this bloke get away with a lot. You would have thought that the Murray River plan would have rung a few bells for them That was written on the back of an envelope and announced before any of the relevant departments had a chance to give an opinion. The same with the NT intervention. A grand plan announced without any consultation and no clear idea of what happens next. It is great for Mal Brough photo ops but what is the long-term plan? Once suspects that once the land has been nicked off the Aborigines this plan will die a quiet death one hour after the polls shut in November or whenever and the poor old Aborigines will be left to their own devices for another three years except this time minus their land.
    Although it seems the public is finally on to John Howard and his election year give aways and grand ideas and now see everything he does through a very cynical prism. And his age must be starting to cause problems. A column in the Sunday Age highlights a number of Lib backbenchers who are sweating about their seats and suddenly seeing Howard as a sort of GrandPa Simpson infesting the airwaves and alienating anyone who hears him speak.Funny thing is though is that you can be modern and forward looking at any age. Howard has always been an old fogey. He was an old fogey when he was 25 it is just that now people think it matters.
    Finally if the Labor Party wants to show the true Howard to the electorate they could get a film clip made of Terry Serio in Keating the Musical singing Mateship. It is one of the most devastatin portraits of Howard I have seen. In one song the recent speech by Paul Keating on Howard and nationalism V patriotism is encapsulated.
    On a personal note I can’t wait for election night to see this little manipulative grub get his comeuppance from the electorate.

  15. Sir Henry says:

    Yes, I agree, Alan, the Terry Serio Howard portrait cut to the nub: the quick-change costume from moleskins, blue shirt and Akubra, to green and gold trackie, to camo and armored vest and helmet. The Rodent will do any burlesque to stay in power. That is why, I guess, Serio had to go right over the top in his gross parody – because Howard is a caricature of himself and a caricature of a grasping politician.

    Which brings me to the centre of this thread: Rudd simply represents an alternative that the electorate can embrace. The point is the electorate has been seeking an alternative for some time. Beazley simply talked himself out of the prime-ministership and wasn’t credible; Latham was badly advised and in the end lost his nerve. Both of them could have won, the devil was in the details. Now, the Rudd mob are leaving nothing to chance. Each element has been attended to and defused and rolled back. This has turned the pre-election skirmish a bit anodyne, but that is precisely what the ALP war room wants, concentration on Howard.

    The last few years have not been kind to the PM. His age is showing: he looks more stooped, he sounds more crotchety, his memory is seen to be dodgy.

    The only government minister who is on the ball, Costello, has two major elements working against him: (a) the punters don’t like him because he seems to be talking down to you in interviews, his manner dripping with condescension and sarcasm, it is not a good look and hence the content of what he is saying is ignored; (b) his refrain of “you never had it so good” irritates people who are actually worse off, or who work longer and harder for the same or even less money (sans o/time).* Meanwhile, price of petrol and groceries have gone up. People are convinced they being shtupped but Costello is trying to tell them otherwise to what their experience is – that is very very annoying and makes for a sullen electorate. So, Costello may be smart, but he is being politically stupid. He is unable to throw the switch to vaudeville, obviously.

    * Costello is always reminding us how well the economy is going. He quotes employment figures and profits that companies are making and that the sharemarket is going gangbusters. But therein lies the story. The reason why profits are up is because people are working longer and harder with fewer colleagues to do the same job. This translates into better margins for the companies.

  16. Robert says:

    With the latest poll today, and crook media, considering all shots have been blanks, and with the distraction of APEC threatening to slice in two the time remaining for them to get traction let alone momentum, there’s a sense something pretty wild is up within the LNP. We’ll know soon enough.

    I wonder if there’s something else working away within the electorate, too. Could be a loose shot here, but considering things like “Tall Poppy Syndrome” and the need to “take the piss”, even to “sledge” – these things are uniquely Australian (at least in how they manifest), and they’re hardwired into a fair whack of the national psyche. I wonder if this aspect of our national character is working away silently to undermine the Howard and Costello clarion call that Australia is now awash with prosperity. No one would say so, because no one wants to be seen as a spoil sport or a killjoy, but we’ve had years now of Howard/Costello telling us how bloody good things are that it could be about this time (last year or so) that these forces have quietly kicked in.

    The nett result of this, if it’s happening, is a silent public ‘conversation’ effectively saying “It won’t last.” It’s this sceptical, leveling Aussie character trait which may have blocked Howard and the LNP’s attempts to gain traction. This scepticism would bite into other issues, too, obviously such as Climate Change (direct marriage there with “It won’t last”), and on IR, where it strikes a line of harmony with a portent of concern. If this thing has kicked in, it would mean that fear mongering and terrorism influences as put by Howard would be rejected, rather than accepted as previously so. And it would mean, definitely, a time for change.

    Rudd, during this time, has placed his economic agenda in the frame of “It won’t last”, and attempted to show a way forward, which would align silently and powerfully with this thing if it’s there. Many people would like Rudd without really knowing why, or being able to articulate the gut feeling they have about him.

    So wrapped up in their own situation, and because polls can’t really ask these questions, the LNP among other reasons would also wonder what the big attraction is for Rudd: it’s a deep, psychic thing for a lot of people.

    I may have a point above, I’m not sure.

    To really stretch it, a lot of this national trait has sporting ties: we are happy to celebrate excellence provided it is obvious excellence, that everyone gets it, and that it was hard earned or in some way properly earned. We don’t celebrate bad sportsmanship regardless of the scoreboard result (we’d rather lose nobly), and we cut down national wankers and people who try to claim excellence when it’s not absolutely clear. The economy being so piss-hot as Howard and Costello have mouthed on about for so long now is not this clear, and jars with this thing. So, my stretch is that Howard, not with a sportsman’s bootlace to his name, cannot read this mood, if it’s there. I’m not saying this is an entirely sportsperson-ship tie, only the ties are there, and Howard is not capable of getting it.

    If this thing is there, Howard, knowing how he goes about his attempts at winning, if he stays on is really in the shit.

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