Rudd’s demise: questions for discussion

I won’t shed any tears for Kevin Rudd. He was an irritating smooth talker, incapable of commanding much personal affection. Julia Gillard seems a nicer person, conveys a deeper sense of commitment to social democratic values in contrast to Rudd’s technocratic rhetoric, and is at least equally bright, articulate, and solid on policy detail. She will probably be a good Prime Minister. But there are troubling things about the process by which the transition has occurred, and I’d appreciate help in grasping what this is all about.

1. Was Rudd’s sudden decline in popularity due to the postponement of the ETS? The Fairfax editorialists — Peter Hartcher, Phillip Coorey, Lenore Taylor — have asserted repeatedly, without providing much evidence, that this is the case. But if the public is impatient for legislation to cap carbon emissions, why would the Government’s backtracking cause any of them to switch allegiance to the Opposition? How could the electorate’s preference, on a two-party basis, be affected at all? Is it really plausible that voters care more about whether they know ‘what the Prime Minister stands for’ than about the substance of the policy?

2. Supposing there is some truth in the ETS theory, what exactly motivated the Government to announce such a decisive postponement? Rudd could and did argue persuasively that there was no hope of getting workable legislation past the Senate in the current term. There were also significant risks in taking the double dissolution route. However, neither Rudd nor Penny Wong ever explained why they couldn’t fight the 2010 election on the issue. (This question was not often put to them by the press either.) If they simply decided that voters had gone cold on the ETS, then this is in plain contradiction with the theory that voters lost faith because they abandoned the ETS.

3. Should Labor voters be outraged, or at least concerned, that the Caucus has replaced the Prime Minister they elected for reasons that have nothing to do with policy? If Rudd was breaking election promises or departing from ALP policy, while Julia Gillard was upholding them, the Party would have some mandate for the switch. But Gillard has been his deputy and has apparently shared in all the policies, including those that have disillusioned the public. So it seems that she has been installed on the basis of superior personal charisma and management style. Is this legitimate? Don’t the defenders of the coup have any responsibility to explain what Rudd did wrong that Gillard would do differently? Or is it their own business whom they want to lead them? Is it enough just to waffle on, as Paul Howes of the AWU did on Lateline last night, about how the Government’s ‘message wasn’t getting through?’

4. More specifically, if it’s the case that voters in Western Australia and Queensland are worried about the mining profits tax, and that this policy was indeed a failed gamble, how can a change of leadership possibly fix that problem? The miners are not going to publicly accept any compromise that involves a large burden on them. If Gillard offers a more favourable version of the tax they will continue to campaign against it vociferously, scaring some voters enough to switch allegiance to the Coalition. If she drops the tax completely, she will look ridiculous and presumably lose some the same type of people who are chiefly worried about ‘conviction’ and consistency, as in the case of the ETS.

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anon
anon
11 years ago

Was Rudd’s sudden decline in popularity was due to the postponement of the ETS?

In my opinion, Yes. And it has nothing to do with postponing the ETS; as you put it, the Rudd Government has “disillusioned the public”. Regarding ETS, the education revolution, the insulation batts, and now the mining tax.

If Rudd was breaking election promises or departing from ALP policy, while Julia Gillard was upholding them, the Party would have some mandate for the switch. But Gillard has been his deputy and has apparently shared in all the policies

I couldn’t agree with you more!

anon
anon
11 years ago

In my opinion, Yes. And it has nothing to do with postponing the ETS; a

Sorry, I meant to say, ‘No’ – not due to the postponement per se, but more due to going back on one’s word and not sticking to one’s promises.

Gummo Trotsky
11 years ago

Was Rudd’s sudden decline in popularity was due to the postponement of the ETS?

Maybe. It cost him votes on the “left” end of politics and didn’t win him any on the “right”.Most problematic (for Rudd) was his continuing refusal to recognise that the only way to get an ETS scheme up was to start making deals with (shudder) TEH GREENS.

Supposing there is some truth in the ETS theory, what exactly motivated the Government to announce such a decisive postponement?

ALP tribal politics. TEH GREENS insist on undermining the ALP by running candidates in safe Labor seats instead of putting in the hard yards in the marginal electorates.

Should Labor voters be outraged, or at least concerned, that the Caucus has replaced the Prime Minister they elected for reasons that have nothing to do with policy?

This Labor voter had Rudd pegged as a one term Prime Minister a while back. Optimistically, I figured that in a contest between the Mad Monk (Son of the Bride of Howard) and Rudd, Rudd would win and then be replaced in short order. So I’m not outraged. I am surprised that it happened before the election – making Rudd a 3/4 term Prime Minister, at most. I’m going to enjoy the coming Swillard* vs the Liberal Clerics (Abbott & Bishop) stoush.

More specifically, if it’s the case that voters in Western Australia and Queensland are worried about the mining profits tax, and that this policy was indeed a failed gamble, how can a change of leadership possibly fix that problem?

Now that Gillard is playing nice with the miners, and calling on them to play nice too, the whole dynamic of this issue has changed.

* More euphonious than Gwan. But Gwanard might work.

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

1 and 2): The reason for disillusionment is not because of the ETS dumping per se, but because of a) the unnecessary push by the govt to get the ets through before copenhagen (including referring to it as the greatest moral…), b) the collapse of copenhagen and c) the deferral of an ets till after the rest of the world decides on what they’re doing. Prior to Copenhagen the opposition argued that it would be prudent to see what the rest of the world does before legislating. The govt has now effectively adopted the opposition’s position. If the govt (and Rudd in particular) didn’t make the (hollow) case that Australia must act despite the rest of the world, the backflip on the ETS would not have been nearly as damaging, if damaging at all. The backflip on the ETS was a focal point of Rudd’s character flaw which was beginning to be perceived by people generally – that he lacks substance.

3), what he did wrong was expose himself as a phoney political animal. Someone who says executing a policy is a great moral challenge but then shelves it is not true to his convictions.

4)the only way the govt would be able to dump or severely compromise the super profits tax is if the leadership changes, symbolising a change in policy direction. Conviction is about the person, not the party. If gillard reverses previous policy direction she can attribute the previous directions to rudd, distancing herself from an accusation of a lack of conviction.

Flapple
Flapple
11 years ago

On 1, I think the ETS was only the largest and most symbolic of all the krudd backflips. For me it all started right at the beginning with Fuelwatch and grocerywatch, two issues he campaigned hard on (fuel and grocery prices for working families) which he did nothing to address. It flowed through onto further policies, leading fake health reform and dropping the ETS.

In the end there was no point listening to what rudd said, you knew it would have nothing to do with what he thought, nor apparently have any influence on what he did.

On 2, who knows? Great Big Tax On Everything?

On 3, I think it is the opposite, Gillard was the only one who kept the election promises, on BER, IR, laptops in schools, the school website. She appears to be the only minister who has actually delivered.

On 4, given the mining tax (which is a great idea, not that that seems to influence anyone) came completely out of the blue unrelated to any policy platform, I cant see why voters would care about its demise.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Conspiracy theory no 1 is that the miners preferred a certain less worse outcome to a possible best outcome, and the unions ditto, so they combined to put Gillard in in exchange for a less worse RSPT (from their perspective).

Richard Green
11 years ago

Gummo – As much as I’d like to have seen it, simple arithmetic made clear how little point there was negotiating with the Greens. Labor + Greens in the Senate does not equal a majority of votes. Since the majority would then have to include Steve Fielding, who denies a problem exist, it is irrefutable mathematical fact that to pass an ETS in this senate would require the coalition, whom would not agree to any compromises from the Greens. No matter how deep, how sincere our desire for said compromises, you can’t change the frustrating arithmetic. The failure was not the lack of negotiation with a party that did not have the numbers to pass the ETS, but the assumption that a party would had promises an ETS at the last election and negotiated one in apparent good faith for months would renege.

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

I don’t have a problem with Gillard, but I do have a problem with how this palace coup was instigated and from where it emerged. I find it interesting the way Rudd is being held virtually solely responsible for all the “failures to communicate”. Did he have a gag on all his colleagues – it doesn’t sound plausible to me. Something completely dodgy and undemocratic is going on – par for the course I guess. I too would like a more thorough explanation of how the ETS was negotiated and dumped. The media behaviour in bringing down Rudd has also been an interesting flexing of muscle. I wonder whether this will do anything to stop the flow of voters to the Greens.

Rick Adlam
11 years ago

He was an irritating smooth talker, incapable of commanding much personal affection.

This is personal opinion. I never found Kevin’s smooth taliking irritating. I find Tony Abbott’s em’s and errs in every sentence that comes out of his mouth, precisely because irritating because he can’t talk smoothly. Maybe had one bang on the head too many whilst boxing.
The affection he could not command were the factions of the Labor Party. In my view pople would have voted for in again, given the choices available.

Julia Gillard will make a Good Prime Minister imo. The point is she wasn’t voted in by my fellow Australian’s, but by the faceless factions of the Labor Party. If you are alright with that, then there is something wrong with you imo.

Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard and Peter Garrat and Penny Wong are the big failures of the Labor Party reform policy and they are still there.
Stuttering Tony will have a field day on these facts without Kevin’s smooth talking to hide behind. So maybe you will have to put up with a Prime Minister is an irritating non smooth talker in the near future.

Monica
Monica
11 years ago

It is very clear now who runs Australia – it is the miners( notice the backflip by Julia Gillard), the media, the unions and Mark Arbib. He is is the kingmaker and Gillard has to kow tow to the unions and Mark Arbib.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
11 years ago

James,

legally speaking, voters vote for representatives to their constituency, not any leader. Hence if these representatives think the interests of the electorate are better served with a different leader, I see no inherent problem with sacking the pm of the day. Since the gambling markets showed a big swing to Labour this morning, it seems to me that the putsch has so far paid off.

In reality, voters do partially vote for leaders and the platforms on which they are elected, meaning the representatives need to give us an excuse. My guess is Gillard will not want to be drawn into such navel gazing.

The big policy question is whether Gillard will keep the RSPT more or less in its current form, perhaps trying to sell it differently, or whether she will find a way to axe it. Her past record suggests the former, but the major mining companies will undoubtedly argue it is time for the latter.

Ken Parish
Admin
11 years ago

In fact the problem IMO was that Rudd both oversold the ETS and failed to explain it at the same time. He sold global warming as the “great moral and economic challenge of our time” but failed to explain how his ETS was the answer to it, how the ETS actually worked, or why it needed to be enacted before the rest of the world agreed to such a scheme.

All these things can be answered. Setting up the framework for an ETS was a sensible idea even unilaterally, as long as export industries were exempted and most people compensated until an effective international scheme was brokered and implemented. Rudd’s scheme met those parameters but he failed to explain and sell it clearly.

That might have been OK as long as he had Turnbull and the Coalition on board, but once that fell over he had no fallback strategy. Rudd was a rabbit in the spotlight once Abbott took over and started portraying the ETS as a “great big new tax”. He didn’t seem able to point out that, to the extent it would have had tax-like effects, it was actually a very tiny tax at least in its first few years because 100% of its proceeds were to be returned as compensation for those affected. 90% of the community would have been fully compensated with only the very rich feeling any net effect, and the price effect was estimated at 1-2% at most. It would be a significantly smaller tax in its price effect than Abbott’s levy to fund his parental leave scheme, but Rudd seemed unable to get that message across.

Thus I don’t think it was so much Rudd’s abandonment of the scheme as the fact that he failed to explain it adequately in the first place. The only message most people got was that Rudd had a policy which they didn’t understand but that he reckoned was the great moral challenge of our time, but which he then proceeded to drop like a hot potato at the first whiff of opposition.

Finally, the polling suggests that Labor’s loss of popularity is better explained by the above than by a simplistic assertion that it was just his abandonment of the ETS. In fact Labor was riding high in the polls (43% primary vote or thereabouts) in November before the Copenhagen conference. That had fallen to 39% by February as a result of Abbott effectively selling his “great big new tax” bullshit line that Rudd failed to counter. Then Rudd’s abandonment of the ETS (to counter Abbott’s scare campaign) in early April provoked the slide to the current primary vote of 36%. Commonsense suggests that much of the pre-April slide was disengaged voters swallowing Abbott’s “great big new tax” line, while much of the post-April slide is more left-leaning voters switching their first preference to the Greens as a protest.

Whether Gillard can retrieve much of that lost ground remains to be seen. She’s certainly a much clearer communicator than Rudd, and she’s not weighed down by Rudd’s hyperbolic “great moral challenge of our time” bullshit on the ETS.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Rudd’s communication, first around the ETS and then RSPT, must be one of the political disasters of recent Australian political history. I really don’t understand how this could have been so hard as he made it.

conrad
conrad
11 years ago

“Is it really plausible that voters care more about whether they know ‘what the Prime Minister stands for’ than about the substance of the policy? ”

Yes — in fact I think it’s the only thing voters can really do. The real problem is that often what people have is a choice between two or more different and massively complex policy decisions that they can never hope to understand. For example, when we talk about “ETS” I presume there are really 101 different types of ETS, some which work well and others that don’t (I don’t know, I’m not an economist nor an ETS expert). The same would be true of many other ares where you can summarize policies into nice categorical names, but where the detail of the policy is just as important (e.g., health, education, etc. ).

Austrum
Austrum
11 years ago

Everybody is so quick ti judge.Trying to come up with all these reasons, when clearly this had been planned for some time! If labour think this will save their demise then they clearly are clouded in what they see coming.

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Finally, the polling suggests that Labor’s loss of popularity is better explained by the above than by a simplistic assertion that it was just his abandonment of the ETS. In fact Labor was riding high in the polls (43% primary vote or thereabouts) in November before the Copenhagen conference. That had fallen to 39% by February as a result of Abbott effectively selling his “great big new tax” bullshit line that Rudd failed to counter.

This analysis kind of ignores the fact that the general public, who were quite willing to believe anything Al Gore or various groupthink scientists told them pre-Copenhagen, now overwhelmingly believe global warming to be a crock of shit thanks to the liars at the IPCC.

The majority of the opposition to the ETS had very little to do with what happened in Australia, and a lot more to do with a worldwide attitudinal shift towards uncritically accepting whatever the “experts” thought about the weather.

FDB
FDB
11 years ago

Yobbo – why do you hate science and make shit up?

Ken Parish
Admin
11 years ago

I’d rather like to stop Yobbo from derailing this thread into yet another sterile argument about global warming, so possibly I shouldn’t do this. However Mike Steketee wrote an excellent article a few months ago in the Oz that explains it more succinctly than I could and pretty much puts paid to his hypothesis about the cause of Rudd’s fall in popularity:

Although they are side issues, the doubts sown by critics, together with a few cooler winters, have led to a fall in public concern about global warming. A poll reported in the Guardian this week showed a drop from 44 per cent to 31 per cent in the past year in people in Britain who believe climate change is definitely a reality, although another 29 per cent agree that it could be. Almost 20 per cent say climate change is caused by human factors, while two-thirds say it is due to a mix of human and natural causes. The Australian’s Newspoll conducted a fortnight ago found a fall from 84 per cent to 73 per cent since 2008 in those who say climate change is occurring. Of these believers, 94 per cent say it is wholly or partly caused by human activity, two percentage points below the 2008 figure.

Of course, these figures demonstrate that we should not mistake those who make the most noise in the debate for the majority. They explain why Tony Abbott, while giving every impression to his conservative supporters that he is a sceptic, still subscribes to the government’s targets for emissions reductions, including the 5 per cent unconditional (we’re not waiting for the world) cut and feels compelled to offer his own, albeit partial, solutions. And although climate change may be a lower priority for voters, the polling suggests there is still mileage in Kevin Rudd campaigning on having superior credentials on the issue.

As it happens, public impressions about climate change are not that different from the views of those with professional knowledge on the issue. A poll of 3146 earth scientists at the start of last year found 82 per cent agreed that human activity was a significant contributing factor to changing mean global temperatures. Of the 77 climatologists actively engaged in research, 75 agreed. For any government to ignore these views would not just be courageous, it would be irresponsible. Tackling climate change remains, in the words of Ross Garnaut, a diabolical problem. An international emissions trading system may be the best solution in theory, but such an internationally binding agreement may be unobtainable and the scheme the Rudd government wants to legislate is so compromised as to render it ineffective. There are plenty of other options. Even if they are more expensive, as premiums for risk insurance they are well worth paying.

Michael
Michael
11 years ago

This analysis kind of ignores the fact that the general public, who were quite willing to believe anything Al Gore or various groupthink scientists told them pre-Copenhagen, now overwhelmingly believe global warming to be a crock of shit thanks to the liars at the IPCC.

Do you have polling to show this?

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

A poll reported in the Guardian this week showed a drop from 44 per cent to 31 per cent in the past year in people in Britain who believe climate change is definitely a reality, although another 29 per cent agree that it could be. Almost 20 per cent say climate change is caused by human factors, while two-thirds say it is due to a mix of human and natural causes.

Just quoting Ken’s post, since apparently on this site arguing this topic is still not allowed, due to the argument being settled years ago.

Funny how since it’s so settled, the people who believe in it can drop 13% over the course of a single year.

Imagine if 13% of the world stopped believing in Jesus over just 1 year, there would be massive scale social changes.

derrida derider
derrida derider
11 years ago

Well, the ALP committed suicide today. Tony Abbott has become the drover’s dog.

Rudd certainly had his faults, but unelectability was never one of them; Howard spent most of his years in government with worse polls. But putting in an unelected PM a few months before the election means Gillard is now unelectable.

anon
anon
11 years ago

Regarding climate change, I like to agree with good ol’ Johnny Howard’s stance on the matter:

“The truth is, I’m not that sceptical. I think the weight of scientific evidence suggests that there is significant and damaging growth in the levels of greenhouse gas emissions… [under a new Kyoto agreement] We would be part of a new Kyoto if the new Kyoto embraced all of the countries of the world, put us all on a proper footing and very particularly included all of the world’s great emitters [USA, China..]. Now, if that is to happen, then you can seriously talk about an emissions trading system. Until you get that, it is manifestly against the interests of this nation to sign up to the current Kyoto”

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1788660.htm

Edward Mariyani-Squire
Edward Mariyani-Squire
11 years ago

James,

1. Was Rudd’s sudden decline in popularity due to the postponement of the ETS? … Is it really plausible that voters care more about whether they know ‘what the Prime Minister stands for’ than about the substance of the policy?

We have to decide (a) how much marginal voters know and (b) what they care about given their level of knowledge.

Re (a), I suspect the marginal punter doesn’t really know much about the “substance of [ETS] policy”, nor about the numbers problem in the Senate. This renders them subject to the exigencies of ‘the sales-effort’. As Ken @ #8 says, Rudd (vis-à-vis Abbott) seems to failed comprehensively on this front.

Re (b), I suspect that punters do have a basic moral sense that politicians should strive to do what they promise to do, esp. if they initially seem to be really committed to it. That Rudd backed off the ETS, without ‘selling’ a good reason for it, offends that moral sense.

3. Should Labor voters be outraged, or at least concerned, that the Caucus has replaced the Prime Minister they elected for reasons that have nothing to do with policy?

Should they? Since this seems to be a decision of a relatively small number of backroom party hacks and factional leaders, with the ‘election’ of a new leader just a formality rather than anything that could be called substantively democratic, one could say Labor voters, and esp. ALP members, should be disgusted by that.

Then again, if we are talking about long-term Labor voters, they should know by now that given the ALP machinery, this is just ‘the way of the world’ and so should not be outraged.

4. If Gillard offers a more favourable version of the [mining] tax they will continue to campaign against it vociferously, scaring some voters enough to switch allegiance to the Coalition. If she drops the tax completely, she will look ridiculous…

This looks like a real bind. there would seem to be a basic choice:

(a) Run with the tax (slightly watered down in some way), presenting the mining companies as greedy bastards who pigheadedly refused to sensibly compromise after Gillard offered the hand of (relative) peace.
(b) Dump the tax, coming up with some compelling reason why it is not feasible or whatever.

Both cases require some pretty fancy verbal dancing. If the ALP ‘powers that be’ believe Gillard possesses a greater ability to communicate ideas simply and more compellingly than Rudd, then maybe the mining tax problem is a good part of the reason Gillard has been installed.

Ken Parish
Admin
11 years ago

Edward

I think you’re overstating the role of faction leaders in these events. Arbib and Feeney certainly did the numbers and worked the phones, and they seemingly had an important role in convincing Gillard to make her move, but that’s as far as it goes. It was Rudd’s Caucus colleagues who made the decision in every sense. Indeed they’d no doubt made it some time before but had no way to prosecute their decision until Gillard decided to run. David Marr’s article this morning is the best summary I’ve read:

When the polls turned after Copenhagen – and plunged once Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan persuaded Rudd to dump the emissions trading scheme – the prime minister found he had few friends where it mattered: in caucus. Factions are there for the hard times, supporting leaders when they mess up. They weren’t there for Rudd.

Another man might have changed his ways. Had the party any confidence that was possible, Rudd might have survived. But the verdict of his colleagues, and the polls, was that changing Kevin Rudd was not a possibility. The problems were deep and personal. The brutal conclusion was he had to go.

anon
anon
11 years ago

The brutal conclusion was he had to go.

That’s all well and good for political analysts and members of the party, but the average Jo Aussie doesn’t give two hoots about Polls and Caucuses; one only has to watch the former PM fight back his tears as he steps down, to feel that something is very wrong with this government.

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

Just quoting Ken’s post, since apparently on this site arguing this topic is still not allowed, due to the argument being settled years ago.

The argument is actually raging strongly on a large number of other blogs, and has been ground into extremely fine detail (at least to the whatever level that you can go where the data and methodology are actually available). It just happens that this particular blog tends to discuss different topics.

I’ll just declare my own position as someone who took AGW face value several years back, but I’ve become increasingly skeptical every year as their predictions fail to eventuate and as close scrutiny of the so called “climate science” reveals all sorts of decidedly unscientific activity. To actually cover this matter would require vastly more time and space, and anyway it is covered elsewhere for those who care to look.

However, neither Rudd nor Penny Wong ever explained why they couldn’t fight the 2010 on the issue. (This question was not often put to them by the press either.) If they simply decided that voters had gone cold on the ETS, then this is in plain contradiction with the theory that voters lost faith because they abandoned the ETS.

No contradiction: there are many voters with many opinions. ETS is a divisive issue, not something you can find middle ground on. Either you believe that we are headed for an environmental disaster or you don’t. CO2 keeps rising (check the measurements) and it has been a perfect straight line increase (seasonally adjusted) for the last few decades. The entire GFC was not even a little plip on the curve, not a wobble. Time will tell, either the ice caps will melt or they won’t, but CO2 increase is showing no signs of turning around soon.

If you are a climate non-believer, then might as well go with someone who has declared AGW to be “crap” and you might get cheaper electricity to warm you in winter. Why would a non-believer support a government who puts the tax on the table then off the table then probably put it back on again whenever a poll or two goes their way?

If you believe there is a big issue, then how can you compromise? If it really is the “greatest moral issue of our time” then go and vote Green. Compromising is like steering the Titanic into just a little iceberg, instead of the big one.

The only people left to support Labor are the ones who don’t care either way and have some other interest (e.g. workplace issues, unions, want a woman as PM, etc).

Ken Parish
Admin
11 years ago

“the average Jo Aussie doesn’t give two hoots about Polls and Caucuses; one only has to watch the former PM fight back his tears as he steps down, to feel that something is very wrong with this government.”

I heard quite an apt analogy while listening to the radio during yesterday’s dramatic events. Someone commented that if you were passengers in a plane and knew your pilot was about to fly you into the side of a mountain then you’d certainly grab the controls if you could and try to avert disaster. You might well die anyway depending on how close the mountain was at the time, but at least you’d be giving yourself the only chance you had. I think Marr’s article accurately summarises Caucus’s mindset. Moreover, given that at least some of them have got access to internal marginal seat polling and have a closeup understanding of Rudd’s personality and capabilities, I reckon they were in a position to know whether the pilot was capable of changing course.

PS On Tel’s comment, there have been lots of posts on climate change here at Troppo over the years, and no doubt there will be more in the future. Moreover, all viewpoints are permitted (and even encouraged). However this thread isn’t about climate change, and we DO encourage a loose version of relevant discussion.

Moreover (I hope James will forgive me), arguably Tel’s comment is relevant in the way it links the merits of climate change (as opposed to the way Rudd managed the issue) to the leadership decision and Labor’s poll results:

If you believe there is a big issue, then how can you compromise? If it really is the “greatest moral issue of our time” then go and vote Green. Compromising is like steering the Titanic into just a little iceberg, instead of the big one.

The only people left to support Labor are the ones who don’t care either way and have some other interest (e.g. workplace issues, unions, want a woman as PM, etc).

However Tel’s logic doesn’t hold up. In fact the scientific consensus (which does exist – see the Steketee article I linked and extracted at #13 above) is that there is a 90% probability that a significant part of measured global warming is caused by human atmospheric emissions. However exactly what proportion isn’t known, because of a range of positive and negative climate “feedback” mechanisms which still aren’t well understood. They say the most likely increase is around 2 degrees C or more over the next century, which is certainly enough to cause major changes, many of which would be undesirable.

Thus the evidence and application of a moderate precautionary principle justifies prudent, measured policy responses rather than a Henny Penny panic reaction. Rudd’s ETS satisified that description, but he failed to explain it to the people and he didn’t have a fallback plan when Turnbull got rolled by Abbott. Gillard’s strategy of seeking to explain and build community consensus (but not until after the election) is also entirely consistent with the available scientific evidence. I am neither a person who sees global warming as the “greatest moral issue of our time” nor one who doesn’t care either way. I think I have a pretty good understanding of the science and I DO think the issue is a very important one, but I support measured action including building community consensus for implementation of a carbon pricing framework that can then be ratcheted up when the rest of the world reaches agreement. Thus I support Labor’s position rather than Abbott’s cynical and radically dishonest one.

gordon
gordon
11 years ago

For my money it was the mining tax. The mining industry ad. campaign was effective and caught the Govt. on the back foot. The polls were awful and suddenly Caucus was full of backbenchers who saw themselves losing their jobs within a few months. That situation was a gift to faction leaders who wanted to get rid of Rudd, and hey, presto, he’s gone. If the polls had been better and the mining industry campaign hadn’t been so good, the backbenchers would have felt more secure and factional plotting would have died for lack of support.

I agree with Ed. Mariyani-Squire on the difficult “verbal dancing” facing Julia. The miners can now force the Govt. to abandon the tax in fact, with Julia left to find a formula for burying it while saving what face she can. Maybe a Parliamentary Inquiry, or referral to the Productivity Commission, or to a Senate Committee, or whatever. I’m just waiting for Ken Henry to rediscover his family, too.

Labor is very short of big policy issues to campaign on. ETS is discredited and dead. Health is so complicated nobody understands it, but people see gaps getting bigger and waits for publicly-funded services getting longer. Labor mucked up child-care and now nobody trusts them with that. Education is now about suicide. I suppose Julia can just go back to the old “we’re still better than the Coalition” line, trying to sell a negative message while in Govt. That may work if enough people remember Work Choices, but I’m not sure they do.

Maybe Julia can do with women voters what Obama did with blacks in the US; we’ll be hearing a lot about “our first woman PM” over the next few months.

Sam Bauers
Sam Bauers
11 years ago

THE GREENS insist on undermining the ALP by running candidates in safe Labor seats instead of putting in the hard yards in the marginal electorates.

This is patently false. The Greens run in every single electorate. Marginal, safe or other, and they have every right to do so. This might come as a shock, but The Greens would prefer to have Green parliamentarians over Labor parliamentarians. That’s why they run.

Your logic is also faulty. Labor is not “undermined” by The Greens running in safe Labor seats. Melbourne is the obvious case, but it’s no longer safe, it’s now a marginal seat and The Greens are putting in the “hard yards” to win it. The goal posts are moving and perhaps, just perhaps, you should drop the “right to govern” attitude, or not, your choice.

anon
anon
11 years ago

I heard quite an apt analogy while listening to the radio during yesterday’s dramatic events. Someone commented that if you were passengers in a plane and knew your pilot was about to fly you into the side of a mountain then you’d certainly grab the controls if you could and try to avert disaster. You might well die anyway depending on how close the mountain was at the time, but at least you’d be giving yourself the only chance you had. I think Marr’s article accurately summarises Caucus’s mindset. Moreover, given that at least some of them have got access to internal marginal seat polling and have a closeup understanding of Rudd’s personality and capabilities, I reckon they were in a position to know whether the pilot was capable of changing course.

Its an interesting analogy, however, the passengers on a plane should only really be able to make that decision in so far as it affects their lives only – but the people who voted in the Labor government are not sitting on the plane;

As Edward put it:

“Should they? Since this seems to be a decision of a relatively small number of backroom party hacks and factional leaders, with the ‘election’ of a new leader just a formality rather than anything that could be called substantively democratic, one could say Labor voters, and esp. ALP members, should be disgusted by that.”

and then

Then again, if we are talking about long-term Labor voters, they should know by now that given the ALP machinery, this is just ‘the way of the world’ and so should not be outraged.

The thing is; I don’t believe the voters who elected Rudd were long-term ALP voters, evidenced by the fact that the previous PM, Howard, was sitting in his Kirribili home for over 10 years.

If I had voted Labor, I would feel pretty jipped right now. At least Rudd had a chance to get re-elected with his smooth talking and fancy promise-making, but after his emotional departure, and Gillard announcing an immediate election, I really can’t see how any one would give this government a chance.

we’ll be hearing a lot about “our first woman PM” over the next few months.

Let’s not forget, she’s our first ever Red Head PM. She’ll also be our shortest serving PM. So many firsts..

I have to agree with Patrick (#9), and much of what has been written so far – this government doesn’t know how to communicate its policies to the people of Australia.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
11 years ago

Gillard’s clearly up on the betting markets: centerbet puts Labour at 1:1.35 whilst the coalition is over 3. That’s pretty good odds for labour, with a most-likely election date on August 28th. I wonder what can possibly be accomplished about the mining tax in that period though. As Predicted #7, every person and his dog who owns a lot of mining shares has called for the RSPT to be abandoned in the last day.

Jim Belshaw
11 years ago

I have, I think, a little different perspective on this one. For what its worth,here and here

Richard
Richard
11 years ago

I think that on the ETS they were too clever by half and managed not to get a policy through the senate with the support of an opposition that was, for a long time, broadly supportive.

They tried to present it as painless by ta;king about the 5% overall reduction rather than the 20% to 25% per capita cuts it entailed. This let the Greens get away with saying that it did nothing and get away with this. It also helped the line about the cost and complexity of the scheme for such minor gains.

Rudd stopped selling it and delighted in using it as a wedge to destroy the opposition. This vacuum then got filled by sceptics and opponents, gradually fracturing the support base, particularly in the coalition.

The ETS backflip (and I keep reading that Swan and Gillard urged it on Rudd – how ironic) created huge doubts about Rudd (and Labor) even among people who didn’t support it as it showed that pretty much any policy position is expendable.

Now we see that even Prime Ministers can be jettisoned if they become inconvenient.

jack jones
jack jones
11 years ago

Rudd started killing the ETS before Garnaut actually released his report, he then went on to beat the corpse for many months in the hope that the libs would be forced to pass something that clearly would do nothing to act on reducing Australia’s emissions for the next 10 years and make us pay the worst offending coporates billions for the privelege of business largely as usual. He refused at any point to negotiate properly with the Greens leading Ross Garnaut to state that at the end of last year they (the greens) had the only credible position on climate policy, moderate ($20 per tonne interim carbon tax) and practical which still left the way open for a legitimate CPRS while moving the economy in the right direction. Perfect package to take to the next election. After the business community (read largest carbon polluters) forced the libs to abandon even the absolute gift that the CPRS had become (why wouldn’t they, they thought they could have 100% victory instead of 99.99 percent, who could blame them). Rudd then presented the fly ridden and credibility bereft carcasse of a policy to the Greens (without negotiaton) and insisted they pass it, thank god they didn’t. We woudl have locked in the appearance of action but no real action for 10 or more years and have filled the pockets of our biggest polluters to do so. He then wanted to take it off the table for the election so he dropped it thinking this would rob the Greens of any opportunities to get real action in an election. Gillard for all intents and purposes was right behind this strategy. All the while the greens were inching up in the polls, when the ETS was scotched they soared. Then inexplicably having completely squibbed the fight with industry on Climate he decided to give them both barrels with the mining tax (supported by Gillard), the industry and their pet unions (eg AWU) then showed who runs the country by sacking him and appointing their favoured candidate. Now she faces a greens in the balance senate. So now she’s got a chance to do something on climate, will she? Depends what Paul Howes and Twiggy Forrest think probably, the rest of the population can apparently just wait politely. The next month or two will be fascinating.

Gummo Trotsky
11 years ago

Sam Bauers @ 29:

False it may be, but it is widely believed within the ALP.
To clarify my own position, here’s an amended version of the sentence that so outraged you:

<sardonic>TEH GREENS insist on undermining the ALP by running candidates in safe Labor seats instead of putting in the hard yards in the marginal electorates.</sardonic>

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

I have to agree with Patrick (#9), and much of what has been written so far – this government doesn’t know how to communicate its policies to the people of Australia.

In the cast of the mining tax, it’s not so much a lack of communication, it’s that there is really no justification or need for it in the first place. There is no way to single out certain industries without appearing to attack those industries, and the fallout was inevitable.

The fact that labor supporters (if not the party themselves) were so gleeful about the possibility of taxing the rich more has poisoned the entire party in the minds of the general public, who are broadly supporting of the mining industry.

billie
billie
11 years ago

As a Labor voter of the left and green persuasion I was disappointed that Labor appeared to have abandoned ETS and is in danger of caving into the miners at the urging of the COALition and had been unable to convince the public that there were less house fires under the Home Insulation Scheme than there had been previously.

Rudd deserves the hostile ABC because he didn’t clear out Howard’s ABC board appointments and continues to appoint Liberals to areas of sensitive policy.

Timing wise I thought that more people were seeing the protesting billionaire mining magnates for the Rolex Revolutionaries that they are. More people realise that the mining companies have got their own way at the expense of the rest of the community.

I am a Labor supporter who absolutely doesn’t want Abbott to become Prime Minister because he will follow the Tory lead in the UK and slash social services and increase support for those with incomes above $150,000. Thus if Gillard has a better chance of winning than Rudd then so be it.

Teachers’ unions hate Gillard for her refusal to talk to them before implementing MySchool and other issues.

I am intrigued that a Labor power broker representing Western Sydney named Mark Arbib wants us to get tough on asylum seekers. Arbib sounds like an arab name.

KMC
KMC
11 years ago

First of all, a balanced, reasonably polite, interesting to read thread – bravo to most of you..

My brief points and interjections to the above

RE the ETS – bottom line, it was a dog of a policy full of money shuffling, loopholes and grey areas. I don’t understand why people like yourself Ken, who are using the precautionary principle as a reason to support action do not follow and refer to someone like Bjorn Lomberg, who accepts man made climate change but advocates pragmatic decisions, research, mitigation and cost/benefit ahead of feel-good symbolism.

RE ETS as the lynchpin for Rudd’s demise – it was absolutely the straw that broke the cammels back, but was precursed and followed by many other shallow backflips and spins that promised much but delivered little

RE Greens – please read their full policy list on their website before voting for them – as well intentioned their environmental views are, their overall worldview is scary

RE Voter Outrage – My outrage as a voter would be towards the general caucus puppets who voted in union affiliated blocks rather than in the interests of their electorates – one reason I cannot accept the Labor model

RE Mining Tax – It seems to be developed as a bastardised version of a Henry suggestion – tweaked and tainted to get the Government out of debt more than being right for long term considerations. Successful response to the Henry report could have saved Labor – grabbing the report and developing a sound economic vision for Australia could save either Abbot or Gillard

Edward Mariyani-Squire
Edward Mariyani-Squire
11 years ago

Ken Parish @ #24:

Edward, I think you’re overstating the role of faction leaders in these events. …It was Rudd’s Caucus colleagues who made the decision in every sense. Indeed they’d … no way to prosecute their decision until Gillard decided to run.

Ken, I think you’re being a bit less cynical than you should be because:
[1] The Caucus is not exactly the Ecclesia. You seem to be assuming that there are the factional back-roomers (oligarchs) on the one hand and the Caucus (free representative agents) on the other. In my view, this misrepresents matters because almost every single member of the Caucus owes his or her political life to a faction and thus has fealty to a factional oligarch at any given moment in time. A Caucus vote is almost always merely the manifestation of the ex ante wrangling of the oligarchs of the party.

So, when you say “it was Rudd’s Caucus colleagues who made the decision in every sense” I can agree because that is just another way of saying ‘it was the factional leaders who made the decision in every sense’.

As for the assertion that the oligarchs had to wait “until Gillard decided to run”, this again assumes that Gillard is a utterly free agent who is somehow above and beyond the factional wrangling rather than being a player in it. (And can it be seriously believed that as ambitious a career politician as Gillard, rising to DPM, would be deliberating, for some extended period of time, over whether to run for PM? Methinks that sort of deliberating occurred (as with all ambitious pollies) years ago.)

Jessica
Jessica
11 years ago

The drop in popularity was sudden and swift following Mr Rudd’s ‘Big Australia’ announcement. The reasons why are obvious. Dick Smith’s criticisms of growthism and overpopulation resonated with many, many voters.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
11 years ago

Flapple,

I’d forgotten about fuelwatch and grocery watch. The Rudd Government was a strange mix of boldness (The size of the fiscal stimulus and the NBN are examples of boldness whether the latter was for good or ill time may tell) and then on things like fuelwatch and grocerywatch, which were good ideas at least in principle, the government didn’t persevere, when there was little to lose from persevering and something to gain. Julia did with Schoolwatch, AKA myschool.

Rudd was also strangely lacking in cynicism, by which I mean, that he tried to keep his promises, and seemed early on to put considerable store by that. Yet if you are going to break promises, the time to do so is early in your term – ask Howard or Hawke. Having resisted breaking promises early, he proceeded to ditch them as they came up – like the idea that he’d sort things out for all those insulators, childcare centres and as you say fuel and grocerywatch. Strange.

Then when he did break those promises, other people announced it and Rudd was often nowhere to be seen. Not really a good look. Of course if the media wasn’t covering the broken promises that could make sense from a tactical point of view, but the media did cover the stories, and the public got no compelling explanation for why the promises got broken.

Rafe
11 years ago

I think that the debacle leading to change in ALP leadership is not all that new. The same thing occurred in Germany and other nations wherein people chose a Social democracy. R.H. Tawney explained this way, “… [T]he man who employs, governs, to the extent of the number of men employed. he has jurisdiction over them. He occupies what is really a public office. he has power, not of pit and gallows… but of overtime and short time, full bellies and empty bellies, health and sickness…” And Australia with its rich/ capital intensive /high monopoly financed /mineral resources, owned by few will fight for every cent it can extract in surplus. Unfortunately the ALP has no stomach to fight these forces and is as weak as …!

John Dunlop
John Dunlop
11 years ago

A lot of people were quick to predict the demise of Labor for ditching Rudd in favour of Gillard. I think most of these people were speaking out of raw emotion and a bit of shock. According to the latest herald/Nielsen poll results, Labor would have won an extra 11 seats if the poll was held today. This size of this margin probably won’t last, but it’s an election winning turn around however you cut it.

I’m a bit bemused that people think that a bunch of egocentric politicians who are big on self belief can be led around like a prize bull by a couple of number crunchers in the party. The caucus acted out of self interest as much as the national interest. You can’t serve the national interest effectively from opposition. It’s a fair argument that politicians have good political instincts. It’s no cake walk to get through an election campaign or two without tripping up for starters. The writing was on the wall. Forget the nameless faceless power brokers argument. It’s simplistic at best and at it’s worst it fosters ignorance of the political process.

Peter Evans
Peter Evans
11 years ago

There’s a lot complete mis-understanding of why Rudd was dumped going on here. Put simply, Rudd took a lot of power out of the state Labor machines and appropriated it for himself and his office. He did this because he knows intimately how they work and he has total contempt for them (and his staffers had all read Don Watson’s book, suffering the illusion that everything happens in the leaders office). And Russ’s popularity was a great big stick to bang the State machine men over the head with. And they hated it, and loathed him with a passion. Sure his cabinet had misgivings, but they were pretty much frozen out of what started to happen about a year ago, with persistent white-anting and backgroundings going on to News, Fairfax, and ABC journalists. Politics and media are intimately connected and it’s dead simple, with coordination and subtlety, to stuff anyone if they are on your team. We started getting endless stories about broken promises, verbatim Liberal party talking points (but they often didn’t originate with the Libs) and so forth. Fairly routine, but with a positive feedback mechanism built in with polling adding spice to the narrative (note, this never happened to Howard because we was conspicuously absent on strong arming the state branches, who also lacked the patronage networks that ALP has that make them strong). the Big miners knew about the RSPT last Sept (maybe form Treasury, maybe not) so they were ready with their bats too. Rudd could have stopped it by calling an early poll and that was his great mistake, and he did that because a DD would have weakened his long term Senate position and because his contempt for the Labor machine men blinded him to how far they were prepared to go.

Gillard understands the machine culture and will be a much more supple exploiter of it, the best since Hawke. Anyone who thinks this will hurt the ALP electorally is nuts.

anon
anon
11 years ago

It seems to be developed as a bastardised version of a Henry suggestion – tweaked and tainted to get the Government out of debt more than being right for long term considerations.

What policy did the Rudd government come up with that wasn’t a bastardised version of some other policy?

In the cast of the mining tax, it’s not so much a lack of communication, it’s that there is really no justification or need for it in the first place. There is no way to single out certain industries without appearing to attack those industries, and the fallout was inevitable.

Agreed – the mining tax is completely unjustified. Why doesn’t the government just pick off all the super successful industries, and impose ridiculous and unfair taxes on them. Never mind the fact that they are really just taxing Australian shareholders, many of which are invested into these “blue chip” shares via their superannuation funds. Never mind the fact that imposing such taxes creates a disincentive to invest in Australia.

Here is an interesting article (and a short excerpt) if anyone cares to have a read:

In the latest stoush between the government and the mining industry, the word shareholder is yet to emerge from the mouths of the Prime Minister and ministers.

They regard the mining industry as composed of chief executives such as Rio Tinto’s Tom Albanese and BHP Billiton’s Marius Kloppers, and have directed all their attentions to them.

These men are not the mining industry but merely highly paid executives answering to shareholders. They are employees who have minimal skin in the game.

Whether or not the resource super-profits tax is passed, and in what form, chief executives of the major miners will continue to take home their huge pay packages.

The pain will be borne not by them but ultimately by their shareholders because it is they who will pay the increased tax and it is their wealth that will be diminished and continue to be diminished long after the chief executives have left for greener pastures.

Resources tax a sneaky impost on super funds

Edward Mariyani-Squire
Edward Mariyani-Squire
11 years ago

anon said:

Agreed – the mining tax is completely unjustified.

It’s not a tax. It’s better thought of as a price for gaining access to a scarce resource.

Does a mining company have to pay to gain access to, say, coal, which it does not own? Yes. The government owns access to minerals under the ground. As such, the government, like any owner, gets to decide that price.

The only question is how much the government will charge. The proposal is that instead of charging a price based on physical quantity mined (as it currently is), it charge a ‘price’ based on a percentage of returns from the final sales in the market.

Another (theoretically more efficient) approach would be for mining companies to engage in a bidding process for access to mineral deposits. I doubt mining companies would be happy with that either, given that they have been paying such low access prices for so long. Their preferred option, of course, would be to pay nothing at all for access to resources that they don’t own. I’m sure they would also prefer to pay nothing more access to labour as well.

As to the ‘fairness’ of prices charged, that is ambiguous in the extreme. I think most people would agree however, that paying nothing for something that one didn’t own be probably not be ‘fair’.

anon
anon
11 years ago

It’s not a tax. It’s better thought of as a price for gaining access to a scarce resource.

But don’t mining companies already pay state government levies (royalties) for that very reason? And there is no plan to axe the levy in place of a RSPT (as far as I understand – unless they’ve already chopped and changed it like every other bit of tax legislation they propose – and if they do cut the state levies, wouldnt that hurt the state government’s funding? don’t they rely heavily on these levies to provide services in those states where the major industry is mining?). I think of the RSPT as this: You own an investment property and pay land tax to the state government, and then you pay income tax on your profit from rental property to the ATO, and then you pay an additional tax on top, just for the hell of it. If this were the case, would you be inclined to reconsider your investment in properties? Maybe you would start investing in shares instead for the tax concessions? But certainly not mining shares.

Another (theoretically more efficient) approach would be for mining companies to engage in a bidding process for access to mineral deposits.

That might be a good idea in theory, except that it would be a huge gamble, seeing as a huge proportion of the money invested by mining companies goes into exploration, and they might never end up extracting anything from that site – which I suppose would be a reason why mining execs would never go for it. Maybe the government can set up its own mining organisation to do the exploration for the mining company? The only question is, where would they get the money to do that… Hmmmm banks are pretty profitable, maybe they could impose a BSPT on them?

I think most people would agree however, that paying nothing for something that one didn’t own be probably not be ‘fair’.

(1) As I said, they do pay. Quite substantially actually.

According to Citi, the mineral resources industry already pays 38 percent tax. The proposed ‘Super Tax’ will raise that to 58 percent – by far the highest tax rate on mineral resources in the world.

According to Citi, the total tax burden on the Australian mineral resources industry will be 45 percent higher than the US, the next highest-taxing country.

Over the last 10 years the Australian mineral resources industry has paid a total of $80 billion in state royalties and company taxes.

keep mining strong

(2) A lot of Australians pay nothing for something all the time – Roads, health, education, infrastructure. Our country is just crawling with free riders!! (and more are coming every week by Boat i might add). Of course, taxes pay for these public resources, but a lot of Australians don’t pay any tax at all, and yet, they still have access to the same goods as those who do pay tax. Is that fair?

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

Another (theoretically more efficient) approach would be for mining companies to engage in a bidding process for access to mineral deposits.

That might be a good idea in theory, except that it would be a huge gamble, seeing as a huge proportion of the money invested by mining companies goes into exploration, and they might never end up extracting anything from that site – which I suppose would be a reason why mining execs would never go for it.

Not at all: the auction finds the highest price that anyone is willing to pay for a volumetric rate of minerals extracted out of a particular piece of land. Once that price is determined, it works exactly the same as the existing royalty system (for a fixed time period, say 10 years). After the time has expired it goes open to new bidders and I think it is fair to give the incumbent miner a small advantage such that new bidders must beat the incumbent by 10% or there abouts. If a given plot of land turns out to have very little worth extracting then the miners pack up and go home, and no royalty gets paid.

Anyhow, it’s much less of a gamble to take an existing (known working) system and tweak a price, than start on a whole new system.

The only tangible problem with the existing royalty system that anyone can point to, is that mineral prices rose faster than government royalty rates, and there is no particular reason to presume this was not just some fluke fluctuation. After all, if mineral prices fall tomorrow will anyone be rushing around with sympathy handouts to give the miners a fair go? I doubt it!

This business about volumetric tax being theoretically inefficient is decidedly unproven, and the constant assumption that the Federal Government is better at management than the states is based on the similarly unproven idea that we would be better off without state governments.

derrida derider
derrida derider
11 years ago

You’ve got the wrong narrative on Rudd. The coup was not a political one – it was personal.

This is a man with literally NO friends. All of those I know personally who worked for him can’t stand him – he was the epitome of the arrogant bully as a boss, of the kind that ruins so many workplaces. Most of his ministry had long been dreaming of the day he goes (he treated them like shit too). When the polls turned down – though in truth they never got particularly bad – they all took their opportunity.

Contrast this with Beazley – he commanded genuine personal loyalty and respect that sustained him far past his political use-by date. Rudd was discarded far short of his use-by date. His executors (and we) may pay a heavy price for indulging their personal, if understandable, dislike of the man. I reckon Abbott is at good odds to be the next PM.

Yobbo
Yobbo
11 years ago

Not at all: the auction finds the highest price that anyone is willing to pay for a volumetric rate of minerals extracted out of a particular piece of land. Once that price is determined, it works exactly the same as the existing royalty system (for a fixed time period, say 10 years). After the time has expired it goes open to new bidders and I think it is fair to give the incumbent miner a small advantage such that new bidders must beat the incumbent by 10% or there abouts. If a given plot of land turns out to have very little worth extracting then the miners pack up and go home, and no royalty gets paid.

Except that as has been explained by people with a fucking clue time and time again, this system would destroy the exploration market.

What exactly would be the point of speculative exploration if you then had to go and buy those mineral royalties in an auction with competitors, who had spend $0 finding them?

It makes no sense. The system works fine as it is. The mining tax is nothing but a cash grab from Labor to pay for their budget deficit, end of story.