The contrast, as Kevin Rudd would (will!) no doubt say, is stark.

Today in the Labor Caucus, Rudd spoke about the economic recovery and ordered Labor MPs to spend the fortnight between sittings talking with voters about health reform and what the community wanted. Rudd himself would be continuing his consultation tour of the nation’s hospitals, prior to having a community cabinet meeting in Port Macquarie.

The sense — deliberately cultivated, as is everything else in this spin-obsessed Government — is of a purposeful, in-control party pursuing its long-term reform agenda without distractions.

This morning’s Coalition joint party room meeting was dominated by an extended debate over the Renewable Energy Target bill. Its fate in the Senate remains unclear despite the bill being next item in the Senate’s order of business today. The Coalition also spent an extended period arguing over immigration detention.

The sense is of a Coalition at odds with itself, unable to get its act together even when its leaders have committed to passing legislation of which it professes to be supportive; indeed, even after shadow minister Greg Hunt has adroitly painted the Government into a corner on its own stunt of linking the RET and its CPRS, and forced a concession. As things stand, the Coalition could, bizarrely, yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and oppose the RET bill it supported last night.

It’s only a few years since these roles were reversed, with ALP members at each other’s throats and a Coalition totally and effortlessly dominated by John Howard. Politics always moves in cycles. But one thing seems certain and timeless: the Coalition does Opposition very, VERY badly.

Peter Fray

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