I must say that, though I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about the failed negotiations between Julia Gillard and Andrew Wilkie on pokies reform, it’s hardly something I do with any joy. There is just so much wrong with this whole shemozzle.
For a start, Andrew Wilkie’s intransigence on one policy response is disquieting. To great degree, he also has to share responsibility for the fact that policy initiatives to stem problem gambling, supported by a great majority of people, are unlikely to amount to much. Wilkie’s moralistic tone has also sheeted home, though, the degree to which Julia Gillard really has damaged herself even further on fundamental issues of trust.
We’re seeing a continuing pattern, one which actually goes back to the Rudd government and to Labor in opposition, of ‘clever’ short term political tactics which sooner or later backfire spectacularly. The notion of strategy, and of a sustained argument for a case based on values apparently eludes the post-Keating Labor Party. Perhaps the rot started with Kim Beazley, and particularly with his vaccilation over Tampa, which I’d suggest still haunts the ALP over ten years later.
But Julia Gillard has iced this particular cake by viewing seemingly everything through a short term political lens. The PM’s attempts to articulate Labor values have been embarrassing and risible and she shows no ability to make any argument about either her vision for the nation, or why anything the government does should be supported.
Surely it should have been obvious to her that tearing up a written agreement would only reinforce her reputation for being, at best, careless about promises. As Bernard Keane suggests today, it would surely have been better to wait for Andrew Wilkie’s failure in securing majority support in Parliament to become evident, and to have stuck to her commitment to introduce and support a bill in the form she agreed.
That this all represents both another cave in to another cashed up and noisy lobby group, and that it is yet another re-opening of the leadership wound is even worse. Kevin Rudd has reportedly been nudging and winking MPs, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales, that he would throw Wilkie overboard and neuter the attack by Clubs Australia. So Julia Gillard has got in first. Just as with last year’s Cabinet reshuffle, actions taken to shore up her leadership only succeed in undermining it.
I’m close to despair about the Gillard government and Julia Gillard. I only wish the ALP would work out that stopping an Abbott Prime-Ministership is the most valuable service they could render to the country, and act accordingly. But I am not holding my breath.
Elsewhere: John Quiggin.