The answer is Malcolm Turnbull
Warning: You may want to switch off now. In fact, I would advise it. This little essay concerns current Australian politics, and like current Australian politics it is depressing and pointless and lacks direction, vision or clarity. It aims low and expects to miss anyway. It tries to be a small target and eschews vision statements. It embraces ignorance and tries to avoid dealing with, or even acknowledging the existence of, objective evidence.
Why is Labor so far behind in this election? Their report card is mixed, but they have had their successes along with their home insulation schemes and leadership raffles. Why can the Coalition seemingly do nothing that impairs their lead? Despite their ‘direct action’ climate (what for want of a better word I’ll call) policy, despite their not funding schools to the degree the ALP has promised, despite ‘baddies versus baddies’ and the like, they go forwards, ever forwards.
It is, as they say, because no one is listening any more, which is just how Abbott wants it.
Why has Labor lost us? The answer is Malcolm Turnbull. Compare the behaviour of Turnbull and of Rudd on losing the leadership of their respective parties — and Turnbull by just one vote. One showed discipline, maturity and a degree of dignity, and is likely to soon be a front-bencher in a party in power. The other was vindictive, destabilising and ultimately hugely destructive, and will soon lead his party to defeat, unless something quite remarkable happens. Is the difference in the individuals’ or the parties’ cultures? The answer, as unsatisfactory as it may be, is ‘a bit of both’.
My view is from about as far outside the system as it is possible to get, and the Australian media has an unexcelled capacity to focus on the least relevant issues, so I wonder if I really know anything. But. It looks rather like Rudd came from outside the ALP hierarchy, swept regally into power, and then the party power structure waited for the thinnest excuse to reassert itself, and did so. That left Gillard, who I think did a pretty good job of the ‘job’ of PM, but a very poor job of communicating with the public, as lacking legitimacy, and that haunted her to her political death. So there is a lack of Labor discipline right there — placing internal grudges ahead of party success. And once they had taken the plunge, it could only ever work if they backed the new leadership fully, which was not the case, and from what I can gather Rudd was not exactly helpful in this regard. Neither the factions and power-brokers nor Rudd could put the well-being of the party ahead of their own desires. Lack of discipline. And now that Rudd is back, he can’t point to the good things the Gillard government did, so his campaign is hamstrung the way hers was in 2010.
Malcolm Turnbull has certainly at times seemed less than enthusiastic about some of the Coalition’s policies, and perhaps has not been the most effusive supporter of Abbott, but he has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s like the professional figure that he is. He has dutifully argued for the Coalition’s hobbled broadband policy, and he has shown glimpses of a dry sense of humour through it all, most recently with today’s snippet regarding the ‘advice’ Turnbull as Liberal party leader gave Tony Abbott a few years ago.
Ideally, we would have a decent exchange of ideas and arguments in our politics, and the best plan for the future of the country, balancing short, medium and long-term needs, would be hammered out. Hah!
Failing that, it would be nice if the parties were able to keep their own houses in order, so that policies could be debated on an equal footing. Labor put themselves behind the 8 ball through their lack of discipline — at least twice. We’re always looking at them instead of what they’ve got to say. And I don’t want to look at Kevin Rudd; not what I call picturesque.
Labor is likely going to lose, which may or may not be a bad thing depending on your opinions. What is bad is that they are going to lose without holding the opposition to account, without forcing Abbott and co. to really justify their policies and argue things out such that the taxpayer gets the best outcome, and without forcing the Coalition to actually beat them. And that is because they have not been able to pressure the Coalition and that is because they’ve hamstrung themselves through lack of discipline.
Whoever wins, we won’t get a government as good as it should be because the race has not been as tough as it should be. There will be a winner, but to some extent no matter who it is we are all going to lose.