If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear after his remarks at the ALP National Conference and his Government’s ruthless strangulation of the Coalition on climate change: Kevin Rudd is planning for Labor to be in government for a very long time.

All Governments plan that, of course, and most achieve it, but Rudd is clearly leaving nothing to chance.

The Opposition, in contrast, seems flat out working out what it is doing tomorrow. While they respond to the short-term agenda of the Government, they are distracted from long-term planning. The Liberals — if not the Nationals, who are beyond help – have to get a lot smarter, because at the moment Kevin Rudd is doing the thinking for both of them.

They need to accept they will lose the next election, whether sooner or later, double dissolution or not. No Government in 70 years has failed to win a second term, and the only chance the Opposition had — of the Government’s economic stimulus measures failing to prevent a huge rise in unemployment — has vanished. It might be a hard message to accept, but it’s critical to enable the Opposition to plan for the long-term — using Opposition, as Tony Abbott suggests, to rearm itself ideologically, to renew its talent, to sort out structural issues, to produce a quality leadership.

That’s what the ALP did. It was a basket case for much of the early part of this decade, but it found its feet again and now looks invincible.

Malcolm Turnbull, with very little help from his colleagues, is trying to do some necessary house-keeping on climate change. Whether or not he is concerned about the threat of a double dissolution election, he is surely convinced of the need to get climate change off the agenda, because it is loser for the Coalition. He needs to get the political debate back to the handful of issues where the conservatives are not a distant second to the Government. Inch by inch he is dragging his party to this realisation, but it’ll take a while yet.

His colleagues need to smarten up and understand that they are in for the long haul. Like Labor, they won’t get back into government until they’ve done the necessary work.

Peter Fray

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