How long is 8 months in politics? Less than a year ago in July I wrote Julia Gillard’s bridge too far, or Tony Abbott’s Stalingrad. The thrust of my original post, was that Gillard would over extend her government’s credibility especially in the long grass of a stumbling economy brought on by a credit boom entering its bust phase. A credit collapse is something no political party wants to have when in power, something Abbott might want to consider.
Gillard has entered her Kafka phase, where she is caught in a maddening political maze of her own doing. Abbott merely has to stand still to win the next election. I spoke too soon in thinking that Gillard would be dispatched by party elders. In fact she has held on longer than I thought and successfully passed her suicidal (for Labor) Carbon Tax. This speaks more about the general party than about Gillard. We tend to think of the Labor party and political parties in general as having their Prime Ministers set the agenda. This tends to obscure rather than clarify. Gillard doesn’t command the party, the party commands her. Consequently, this would mean a failure in the labor party to assert authority within itself. Similarly, how the Roman bureaucracy was torn apart between the warring families of the Juli and Bruti.
If the Labor party had wanted a new leader, Gillard would have been deposed long ago. If the party had wanted Rudd as the leader again, it would have done so already. The dynamic isn’t really about Gillard but about how the Labor party machine thinks. The Labor government for the last 3 years has been mired in trivial politics. In fact that is the hallmark of this government’s term, there has been nothing done. The only significant act was, rightly or wrongly, the carbon legislation. It’s entire agenda has been poll induced.
My suspicion is that Labor knows it must rule, but it hasn’t a clue as to what it wants. Apart from the Carbon Tax, its entire posture is risk averse. The significance of the carbon legislation is to placate their Green coalition partners and to covertly provide the corruptible trough for the Labor establishment to exploit. Don’t be surprised to see Carbon pricing consultancy firms spring up staffed with ex-Labor men. There will be a contrived need for bureaucrats and “contracted specialists” to “asses” the carbon output of certain firms and industries. It was never about the environment, but an attempt by a dying establishment to seek new funding. This is why Labor pursues the Carbon Tax agenda regardless of the electoral suicide that rising living costs will invoke.
I was right that the government would find itself besieged by voter discontent and a nimble, patient opposition. The fact that it must incompetently manufacture incidents of Anti-Abbott Aboriginal rioting, shows how limited the leadership’s policies and strategic options have become. The voters aren’t particularly fond of Abbott, but then they know little of him and couldn’t care less. Abbott is the opposition he doesn’t have control of the economy, the voters understand this and they are hurting economically. Hence their attention is permanently trained on the government and Gillard’s trivialities. That is what is hurting Gillard. It is now the end of the road for manipulation of public opinion as the sole Labor strategy. Manipulation of public opinion requires at least some credibility. In this sense Gillard has done immense damage to labor’s ability to reconnect with, and subsequently convince, the public. If I was advising Labor I would chose anyone but Gillard or Rudd. Do you think any of the powerful tensions in labor will be resolved if any one of these two are leader? A third candidate for Prime Minister must be made, regardless of inexperience. A clean break must be made, Stephen Smith, Bill Shorten what-ever. It is better to pursue a risky strategy while Labor’s options are limited, but Abbott’s options are only increasing. To use a trading concept; Abbott is Long-Volatility, Gillard is Short-Volatility. The more volatility/instability there is politically, socially and economically the more options and leverage Abbott can apply. You can see this dynamic perfectly in the Government Inspired Canberra riots; Gillard was hoisted on her own petard and Abbott said nothing and looked considered and uncontroversial.
Reinstating Rudd as a recycled Prime Minister again will do nothing, but unleash another round of Shakespearian tension and conspiracy. The housing market is in collapse now with banks calling in loans and beginning foreclosures and dramatic fire sales. If the present political situation continues my gut instinct is that the government will probably fall from an MP crossing the floor or resigning within the term.