An end of civility The strangest thing about this Labor leadership contest was the very public nature of the criticism levelled at, and by, the protagonists. While intense dislikes are not uncommon in politics, it is rare for them to surface.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating spent years sniping at each other in private while maintaining a facade of civility as did Gough Whitlam and Arthur Calwell back in the 1960s. On the conservative side of politics, John Howard and Andrew Peacock, during their decade-long rivalry, largely hid their slanging match. Even when Peter Costello could not contain his frustration at John Howard not agreeing to move on, he did not descend to bad mouthing the prime minister’s style or policies.

Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd over the past week forgot the niceties. Both have provided their opponents with all the ammunition the Liberal Party will need for the negative aspects of an election advertising campaign. And that’s before tossing in the ill-tempered comments made by some of the Gillard supporters.

It really has been an ugly act of self-destruction by a once great political party.

Waiting for what? Perhaps the party will turn to Kevin Rudd, the backbencher, if and when the evidence of an electoral massacre of the government becomes apparent. But more likely not. The hatred of him runs too deep in too many for that.

In the event of widespread panic before the next election, the search will be on for a third face not for Kevin.

His best chance of returning to the Lodge is via the long haul following a crushing defeat. He has proved once what an effective leader of the opposition he can be and there’s no reason he would not be so again.

Time to do a Chipp? Or maybe backbencher Rudd will decide if his colleagues continue to ignore him to say something like this:

“I have become disenchanted with party politics as they are practised in this country and with the pressure groups which have an undue influence on the major political parties. The parties seem to polarise on almost every issue, sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it, and I wonder if the ordinary voter is not becoming sick and tired of the vested interests which unduly influence political parties and yearns for the emergence of a third political force, representing middle-of-the-road policies which would owe allegiance to no outside pressure group. Perhaps it may be the right time to test that proposition.”

Don Chipp resigning from the Liberal Party, March 24, 1977

The man’s popularity with the public is much greater than Don Chipp’s ever was and he clearly has the energy that would be necessary to found a new political party.

Petrol the next big issue. The strong Aussie dollar has insulted us so far from most of the pain that rising oil prices have inflicted on much of the world but the scope for such currency aid has probably come to an end. But rising oil prices have not if the dispute between the West and Iran continues. Brent crude oil futures this morning were more than $US125 a barrel having been about $US95 a year ago.

Getting strict on under-age drinkers. A case for getting tough on under-age drinkers to curb future criminal behaviour has been made by three Californian academics.

Using data of 15-to-24-year-olds from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports from 1975 to 2006, authors Chris Barnum, Nick Richardson, and Robert J. Perfetti concluded that youths exposed to the strict enforcement of zero-tolerance under-age drinking laws were arrested less frequently for vandalism and assaults as young adults than teens who had experienced more lenient enforcement of such laws.

They cite the example of the state of Washington where minors who are caught possessing alcohol are charged with a misdemeanor and are forced to pay a fine of up to $5000 with the possibility of going to jail for a year.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW