Rudd’s campaign for a Labor third term is apparently stalling overall or slipping slightly, but reports of individual seat polling indicate significant swings against Labor. This suggests perhaps swings to Labor in safe seats, but clearly the Rudd revival is in trouble. On the current Weekly Election 2013 Thread, John D @ 13 suggested that Rudd should put some space between Abbott and himself by being more boldly progressive.
Mr Denmore’s response @ 22 was eloquent:
John D @13 comes closest to expressing my view of things. Rudd’s great virtue was he gave middle Australia the permission to be progressive without putting that label on it. Under Howard, voters were told subterraneously that it was OK to give into their worst instincts. Rudd reminded them that there was another side to the Australian character. And he dressed it up in that non-threatening technocratic suburban doctor persona (or dentist, as Hartcher describes it).
Now he’s returned to the top job a little dented and broken, like an old toy dragged out of the attic. He’s been belted into shape by the NSW Right, who characteristically still believe (against all the evidence to the contrary) that the path to power is built by minimising the differences between Labor and the ugly Right that now owns the Coalition. And, of course, the more Rudd tacks Right on asylum seekers or work-for-the-dole or any other issue, he just looks like a pale blond imitation of the red in tooth and claw quasi-fascism of Abbott. So people figure they may as well vote for the real thing.
The Labor Party is catastrophically dysfunctional at communications, despite having a good policy story to tell. I don’t know what it is, but they do not appear to have people in their midst who can craft a message that doesn’t sound like it has been workshopped in some Sussex St backroom with the help of a third rate advertising agency.
Admittedly, they are up against two foes in the Liberal Party itself and the Murdoch-led corporate media that wants WorkChoices II. But they need to focus on what they can control, which is their message. They need to maintain that message consistently. And they need to put real doubts in people’s minds about what Abbott represents – as a austerity fruitcake, as a climate change denialist, as an unreconstructed 1950s male, as an exteme social conservative who denies the reality of modern families and the complexity of modern life.
By all means demand better of the ALP, but an electorate that embraces an Abbott-led government deserves everything it gets.
To me Rudd seems quite unable to build a narrative of Labor’s achievements and communicate a vision for the future. Geoff Kitney in the AFR suggested that Rudd needed to distance himself from Rudd Mk1. He also seems unable to talk with enthusiasm or command of detail about the record of the Gillard term.
Nevertheless at this juncture, with less than three weeks to go, Rudd needs change something in his approach. John Davidson has put his mind to what Rudd might do now, as detailed below.
What do you think Rudd should do?
WHAT SHOULD RUDD DO NOW?
by John Davidson
In 2007 voters were attracted to Rudd because he offered a real change to the grey sludge of the Howard years. They were particularly attracted to his declaration that “climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our times” and his desire to improve our treatment of asylum seekers. After the election they were also impressed with his response to the GFC – stimulation of the economy by one off payments to the poor and major projects that could be started quickly such as the school building program.
By contrast, the Howard years were marked by cautious progress, a decline in the power and conditions of those towards the bottom of the pile and a chronic tendency to pay for tax reductions by letting public infrastructure run down. It was not surprising that the LNP response to the GFC was to argue for tax cuts to the rich and to attack stimulus spending.
It is not surprising that Rudd’s support in the polls began to fall when he dropped the ETS and came forward with nothing else to replace it.
Gillard has been one of our most productive prime ministers since Whitlam. However, she came over as being uncommitted because of her tendency to compromise. (Example: A carbon tax too low to have much effect.) She also allowed herself to be caught in the Howard tax trap: “All tax increases are political death.”
Given the above it is hardly surprising that Rudd has gone backwards in the polls. His two standout actions since coming to power have been to move both climate action and asylum policy closer to the Abbott position. In addition, both he and Abbott are irritating people by promising things that will not occur during the next term of government. (Think announcing NT tax cuts that will start in 2018.)
So what should Rudd do to re-establish himself as a leader of imagination who can make serious things happen in the next term of government? A few suggestions:
Increase taxes: Rudd needs to treat us like adults and say that the tax cuts that were made before the GFC are not sustainable if both the states and federal government are to do their job properly. We need to at least increase taxes to the point where taxes as a percentage of GDP are back to where they were at the end of the Howard era.
Asylum seekers: Say unequivocally that Labor will increase the refugee intake to at least 27,000 and that bringing the flow of refugees under control removes the need for harsh treatment of the refugees that are already here.
Climate action: Set out what has to be done in the next three years to meet the 2020 emission reduction target. This has got to include tangibles such as an increase in renewable power production. There is also a strong case for:
- Increasing the 2020 emissions reduction target.
- Either raising the MRET scheme target to the level required to meet the 2020 emission reduction target OR
- Providing investor certainty by using competitive tendering to set up contracts for the supply of clean electricity.
Jobs and stimulating the economy:
- Inject money into the economy by raising the newstart allowance.
- Another one off payment to low income earners.
- Projects aimed at using the people and resources that are no longer needed for mining expansion.
- Projects that are designed to use people with low skill levels.
- Looking for ways of increasing job security for people who haven’t got permanent work by sharing the available work in a fairer way.
I am sure that LP commentators can come up with more. What Rudd really needs are a few items that set him apart from Abbott and his old boss.
Beazley, and Gillard have both showed what happens to Labor leaders who try to get support by moving towards the positions held by Howard and Abbott. Given what Rudd has done so far it is hardly surprising that his support is plummeting.
Grovelling to people who are never going to vote for you is a waste of time. Parties need enthusiastic supporters to succeed.