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Oct 19, 2012

Gillard's good week undermined by Kevin 'look at me' Rudd

Julia Gillard has had a good week in foreign policy. But Kevin Rudd continues to behave as though her political demise is just around the corner.

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So what’s the point of a UN Security Council seat? That will remain something of a mystery to voters even after the government managed to secure a seat.

Bob Carr (more accurately “a jubilant Bob Carr”) this morning promised “an Australian agenda”, possibly for those who might have assumed Australia’s election would merely mean a second vote for the United States, involving nuclear non-proliferation, women’s rights and arms control. He also mentioned Syria, perhaps assuming that the efforts of a loyal ally of the US would somehow tip the balance in a stand-off between Assad’s sponsors on the Security Council and the West.

Perhaps the real benefit to the government, unusually for anything related to foreign policy, is actually in domestic politics. The Coalition, which unless politically desperate (think John Howard hosting APEC in Fortress Sydney), regards multilateralism as a form of left-wing lunacy, has been left looking a tad churlish after opposing the bid (while “in principle” supporting it, whatever that actually meant).

“A win’s a win,” Tony Abbott admitted today, with the sort of commitment to logical consistency and factual coherence that is frequently absent from his public statements. Labor gets to add a UNSC seat to its list of achievements the Howard government couldn’t manage — triple-A credit rating from all three major agencies, Finance Minister of the Year, 12th largest economy. All things that don’t mean a great deal to voters, especially with Labor’s lack of communication skills.

But while voters may be left wondering what the benefit of a chair “at the big table™” is, it caps a good foreign policy week for the PM, after she further eased the most problematic issue between Australia and India off the agenda. Labor of course would insist there’s no contradiction between working to supply uranium to a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its “Australian agenda”.

Abbott, meanwhile, managed to spoil what should have been the minor coup of securing a meeting with Indonesian President Yudhoyono by repeating his failure to raise the towback issue, an omission of sufficient concern that The Australian began circling the wagons in defence of its man.

Both Gillard and Abbott are foreign policy neophytes, and neither have a great deal of interest in the area. Gillard has herself admitted this; Abbott demonstrated it in his Battlelines book, in which his views on the importance of the “Anglosphere” read like an undergraduate parody of Greg Sheridan. Gillard, however, has the virtue of incumbency, the legacy of Rudd and having hit it off with our imperial overlord Barack Obama.

The Prime Minister being out of the country, that was Kevin Rudd’s cue to again politely request that we pay him some attention. Whatever thinking is going on within the Rudd brains trust could do with some re-evaluation currently: Gillard has lifted in the polls, Labor’s vote has been dragged out of the catastrophic position it was mired in for much of this year, but Rudd is still acting as if Labor’s on 29% and a nervous caucus might be ready to turn to him any moment.

It’s said to be driven by the perception that Gillard need only make it to the end of the year to be assured of leading Labor to the election. This is a strange new political rule from the party that gave us Bob Hawke the day an election was called. Even John Howard contemplated bailing out just a couple of months short of an election to give his government a better chance of survival. There’ll be plenty of time next year for Labor to contemplate its options if Gillard’s recovery isn’t sustained. Nicola Roxon’s struggles over the Peter Slipper case again illustrate that Labor’s talent for manufacturing unforced errors remains ever-ready to burst out again.

The Liberals, too, have plenty of time as well to consider their options if that talent fails to manifest itself and the Prime Minister’s recovery continues.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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32 comments

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32 thoughts on “Gillard’s good week undermined by Kevin ‘look at me’ Rudd

  1. michael r james

    BK has it slightly but crucially wrong. While today the News Ltd usual suspects are attempting to spin the Gillard triple wins (viral video, India visit, UN SC seat) into sourness (classics are Sheridan crap, Kenny fluff and C.Kerr nonsense–and isn’t he a salutary lesson Bernard for Crikey journos!) the reality is that this has been a pretty astounding ten days for the PM.

    Watching K. Rudd on Lateline I didn’t for a millisecond (honest, despite a good performance by KR) think anything along the lines of his second or third coming etc. That is merely an absurd concoction of a tiny rump of disgruntled Ruddites, just like it was 8 months ago; can’t the Canberra press gallery distinguish between that futile, self-destructive tiny rabble and important events? Various journos, including BK if I remember but especially Lenore Taylor (who in her piece last week trying to justify her criticism of Gillard’s speech, is making a bad habit of this), after the failed challenge, gloated/claimed that the public were wrong in their complaints of the press obsession with trivia, and that the gallery were right about all the rumors of a “spill”. Err, no. A few disgruntled has-beens that didn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell does not make it into something worthy of endless stories and beatups that they inflicted on us as “news” for month after month. It was and is exactly the trivia, the dandruff of poor journalism that we complained about.

    Anyway, George Mega, bless him, has written another one of the best analyses of the Gillard misogyny speech and its lasting significance. (Google “online sensation” and his name). A few excerpts:

    [On present trends, the figure (YouTube views) will cross three million before the parliament rises for the summer break. … (compared to Rudd’s) apology to the Stolen Generations …. has had fewer than 200,000 clicks on YouTube in 4 1/2 years. This is the first example of the digital age where a genuine expression of passion from a politician was rewarded with numbers that a free press or even popular culture can’t compete with.
    .
    I looked again on YouTube this week … What I think I missed the first time is how the reaction of the Opposition Leader adds to the tension and, in turn, validates what Gillard is saying. Every man would recognise the flicker of panic in Abbott’s eyes, when he switches from blokey guffaw to “hang on, she might have a point”. This is the son being told off by the mother, the partner being given the ultimatum.
    .
    There was another look that crossed his face – exhaustion. He seemed to shrink as she approached her finale. Then, with a gesture that could never be scripted, she mocked him as he glanced at his watch. Abbott threw his hands up, the child protesting to the mother that he wasn’t guilty of that too. The theatre was the story; an irony given the self-serving critique that the press gallery has faced on social media. Wasn’t the problem of the 2010 campaign the reverse; that the press gallery ignored the context and focused on the trivia?
    .
    But there is a more serious question for Abbott. The odour of sexism will linger because he has been playing the gender card against Gillard. He drew it from the bottom of the deck, on behalf of the minority of men who may never get used to the idea of a female PM. What he never counted on was Gillard calling his bluff. Now that she has, the idea that Abbott can unify the nation if he wins the next election seems just that little bit harder to imagine.]

  2. michael r james

    (Most of post is in moderation. third attempt with a shorter bit:)

    Anyway, George Mega, bless him, has written another one of the best ana l yses of the Gillard misogyny speech and its lasting significance. (Google “onl ine sensation” and his name). A few excerpts:

    [On present trends, the figure (YouTube views) will cross three mill ion before the parliament rises for the summer break. … (compared to Rudd’s) apology to the Stolen Generations …. has had fewer than 200,000 cl icks on YouTube in 4 1/2 years. This is the first example of the digital age where a genuine expression of passion from a pol itician was rewarded with numbers that a free press or even popular culture can’t compete with.
    .
    I looked again on YouTube this week … What I think I missed the first time is how the reaction of the Opposition Leader adds to the tension and, in turn, val idates what Gillard is saying. Every man would recognise the fl icker of panic in Abbott’s eyes, when he switches from blokey guffaw to “hang on, she might have a point”. This is the son being told off by the mother, the partner being given the ultimatum.
    .
    There was another look that crossed his face – exhaustion. He seemed to shrink as she approached her finale. Then, with a gesture that could never be scripted, she mocked him as he glanced at his watch. Abbott threw his hands up, the child protesting to the mother that he wasn’t guilty of that too. The theatre was the story; an irony given the self-serving critique that the press gallery has faced on social media. Wasn’t the problem of the 2010 campaign the reverse; that the press gallery ignored the context and focused on the trivia?
    .
    But there is a more serious question for Abbott. The odour of s__ism will l inger because he has been playing the gender card against Gillard. He drew it from the bottom of the deck, on behalf of the minority of men who may never get used to the idea of a female PM. What he never counted on was Gillard call ing his bluff. Now that she has, the idea that Abbott can unify the nation if he wins the next election seems just that little bit harder to imagine.]

  3. michael r james

    Still in moderation. Fourth attempt at re-posting the first part:

    Posted Saturday, 20 October 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    BK has it slightly but crucially wrong. While today the News Ltd usual suspects are attempting to spin the Gillard triple wins (viral video, India visit, UN SC seat) into sourness (classics are Sheridan crap, Kenny fluff and C.Kerr nonsense — and isn’t he a salutary lesson Bernard for Crikey journos!) the reality is that this has been a pretty astounding ten days for the PM.

    Watching K. Rudd on Lateline I didn’t for a millisecond (honest, despite a good performance by KR) think anything along the lines of his second or third coming etc. That is merely an absurd concoction of a tiny rump of disgruntled Ruddites, just like it was 8 months ago; can’t the Canberra press gallery distinguish between that futile, self-destructive tiny rabble and important events? Various journos, including BK if I remember but especially Lenore Taylor (who in her piece last week trying to justify her criticism of Gillard’s speech, is making a bad habit of this), after the failed challenge, gloated/claimed that the public were wrong in their complaints of the press obsession with trivia, and that the gallery were right about all the rumors of a “spill”. Err, no. A few disgruntled has-beens that didn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell does not make it into something worthy of endless stories and beatups that they inflicted on us as “news” for month after month. It was and is exactly the trivia, the dandruff of poor journalism that we complained about.

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