Sep 2, 2013

Labor’s launch illustrates its dilemma of ‘vision’

Kevin Rudd's modest but realistic campaign launch reveals the problems of a party that has had its "big picture" nullified by its opponents.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

One of the underappreciated things about Paul Keating was that, even as the shadows lengthened on his prime ministership and the Coalition took up and held a solid lead over Labor ahead of the 1996 election, he never quit reforming. Even an economy struggling to shake off the damage of the early ’90s recession didn’t deter him; if anything, it spurred him on. It wasn’t enough to establish enterprise bargaining after the 1993 election, recognise native title and work to establish APEC free trade goals. There was superannuation to expand and the National Competition Policy to force through a recalcitrant Council of Australian Governments. And that was before you got to issues like the republic. Reform, reform, reform — for Keating each term in government was precious, a limited time period to drive an agenda that was a seamless whole that stretched from our level of national savings to Australian identity to our relationship with indigenous Australians to our economic and security future in Asia.

As a vision, of course, it fatigued voters, who turfed him out in 1996 in favour of a man who promised a national pause in which Australians could be relaxed and comfortable and never, ever have to worry about issues like a GST. Good policy, it turned out, wasn’t always good politics.

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37 thoughts on “Labor’s launch illustrates its dilemma of ‘vision’

  1. Gavin Moodie

    It is a pity that Labor doesn’t adopt good vocational education polices until a week before an election it seems likely to lose.

  2. Warren Joffe

    BK “As a vision, of course, it fatigued voters, who turfed him out in 1996 in favour of a man who promised a national pause in which Australians could be relaxed and comfortable and never, ever have to worry about issues like a GST. Good policy [you referred to “reform” and more “reform” BK], it turned out, wasn’t always good politics.”

    Will Part 2 of your “Australian Elections: the Longer View” substitute Howard for Keating as the subject of your remarks?

    He was a reformer, especially if you add his support for Hawke and Keating up to and including Keating’s last IR reforms. What a pity that Work Choices was so bungled….

  3. Warren Joffe

    A friend of a friend of a friend has added to the circulation of a letter to The Age which the author and friends are obviously pleased with – nice show of learning, maybe a bit much for Age letters editors?? Anyway, it could be up your street Bernard and you may wish to comment. It says that Brian Costar has missed the mark in attributing all the ALP’s lack of vision and regenerated philosophy to poll gazing and search for a vote winning messiah. It points to Michel’s “iron law of oligarchy” and applies the idea to the trade union leaders’ ownership of the ALP past and present. (WikiP tells me Michels wrote about 1911 and was a “fascist” and “socialist” amongst other things). And indeed, wouldn’t you as a well-heeled investor-partner in the contemporary ALP LLP make the appointment of the right managing director your first priority? What do you think BK?

  4. Observation

    I have come down to a very simple summary of how this election is developing. You see Kevin uses grown up words. Stringing sentences together to explain complex issues and focusing on a long term vision. How you need to remain flexible as the world economy is moving and shifting at a pace never seen before. Like a college lecturer boring the hell out of us in the class room where all this boring stuff makes us turn off.

    On the other hand Tony is very simplistic with his statements. More like talking to the preschoolers rather than college students. “Stop the boats”, “Make a better economy”, “Sorry about that, it was just a Dad moment”, There are not just goodies and baddies”. Oh the words of such wisdom has warmed the cockles of the Australian swinging voter.

    Maybe in this last week the Australian attention span will increase a bit so we stop and actually absorb some policy differences and, heaven forbid, become a little more critical on what is on offer.

  5. Dogs breakfast

    Re Mr Jofffe’s comments – Howard basically brought in the GST in 11 years of government. His worshippers like to make the claim, but the record isn’t reflective of it.

    They tinkered with superannuation laws, made a hash of those with serious demographic time bombs left for someone else to defuse, loaded up middle and upper class welfare, didn’t have the strength to actually implement their own policies on education funding, so that the wealthiest private schools still got over the odds.

    Then they went berserk with unsustainable IR laws, which were annulled as soon as they were voted out.

    Hardly makes for a profound record of reform. One genuine reform left standing, to Keatings many.

    But let’s not sully up a campaign with reality. This one has been terrible, and it’s easy to see why Rudd was so disliked, and dysfunctional, as the PM. He fair dinkum can’t keep on message. Lack of focus and an inability to explain their genuine successes are Rudd’s problems, nobody else.

  6. Salamander

    Labor’s problem is Murdoch – his employees and his potential employees. Which is just about every MSM journo in the country given the current ecomomics of newspapers. Period.

  7. Gavin Moodie

    If only Labor’s problems were all down to Murdoch or even the mainstream media.

    I think Howard’s gun buy back was good policy implemented well and at some cost to the Coalition’s electoral support. Indeed, the Coalition was probably better placed to implement this policy than any other.

    An Abbott government would prolly be better placed to get Indigenous Australians recognised in the Constitution and may be better on closing the gap than Labor.

  8. Salamander

    I meant Labor’s electoral problems – what else is there at the moment!

  9. Observation

    Murdoch has made it difficult but it cant be made accountable for everything. The Labor party has never been able to get any of its messages to cut into the public domain for the last three years. There is just no individual among them that can deliver a line with punch.

    Its all a blurred drone. There is no skill in message delivery. An orator who when they speak you hang on to every word because it is believable and does not sound like a well rehearsed statement.

    The Libs have well rehearsed statements but it is some how delivered with more conviction with each time they say it.

  10. Salamander

    I don’t believe that.
    “There is just no individual among them that can deliver a line with punch.” With due respect, that’s just rubbish.
    Firstly, you assume “punch” is an intrinsic quality, independent of how the media presents it. Not true – ask any PR flack.
    Secondly, you must assume the LNP is good at it, hence their superiority. That lot must be among the least articulate in political memory. Not counting Howard of course!

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