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The current crisis, courtesy of The Guardian newspaper and its source Edward Snowden, has brought out of the woodwork all sorts of advice to the new federal government. One of the more bizarre ideas came from former foreign minister Bob Carr. He suggested Julie Bishop should fly to Jakarta and apologise to the Indonesians. I hope she doesn’t. That’s an absurd suggestion. It would undermine once and for all the age-old policy of neither confirm nor deny. And if The Guardian publishes another allegation, does she apologise again? Or if the allegation is serious, but false, how does she start explaining why she won’t apologise? You see the point. The Carr formula is a formula that could unravel our intelligence capabilities. As Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten should dissociate himself from this nonsense. Instead, he seemed yesterday to endorse it.
What is more, neither Bishop nor Tony Abbott was in government at the time of the alleged phone interception. The prime minister was then Kevin Rudd and the foreign and defence ministers were Stephen Smith and John Faulkner, respectively. So if there was any apologising to do, they should do it. For the reasons I’ve mentioned they shouldn’t apologise. They should do nothing.
The Snowden affair is arguably the most serious breach of security in history. It’s certainly a sad indictment of America’s capacity to hang on to its own secrets as well as those of its allies. All this comes so soon after the huge WikiLeaks embarrassment. But it says something about the ideological disposition of the left-wing Guardian that it has shamelessly dribbled out this material to maximise the pain and embarrassment to the Western alliance. That may suit The Guardian but the cost to the national interests of Western countries will be very high. As John Sawers, the head of MI6, told a parliamentary committee last week: “Our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al-Qa’ida is lapping it up.” Perhaps Snowden could now tell us about the intelligence capabilities of his hosts, the Russians.
The anguished cries form the usual suspects insisting that Tony Abbott should “apologise” are about as sensible as they are sincere. Clearly its not really about our relationship with Indonesia as much as its about seeking vindication for their claims that Tony Abbott is not up to the top job of being our PM. Once again the current government is being saddled with a mess created on Labor’s watch and the chutzpah of leftist minions chiding Tony Abbott for sticking to the long standing convention about neither confirming or denying anything about intelligence gathering is breathtaking in its opportunistic hypocrisy. Frankly if minions of the left are so keen on an apology to Indonesia then they should be seeking one from Kevin Rudd and or the relevant former ministers from the class of 2009 when the phone tapping is alleged to have occurred.
- Abbott’s defiant stand threatens ties (theage.com.au)
- Indon-Aust diplomatic tensions set to grow (news.theage.com.au)
- Indonesia Phone Taps: Bob Carr and Labor Should Say Sorry First (papundits.wordpress.com)
- Aust can’t be expected tp apologise-PM (news.theage.com.au)
- War of words: PM ignores pleas (smh.com.au)
- Abbott maintains silence on spy claims (skynews.com.au)
Find below a piece by Mishka Góra reproduced here under the terms of its creative commons licence it was originally published here
Most of you will already be aware that I am not a fan of Tony Abbott. If you raise the topic of Paid Parental Leave with me, for example, you may wish to brace yourself for a diatribe about the “calibre” of the women our Prime Minister privileges above other hard-working women who stay at home without any pay at all for years rather than months. I will probably also make liberal use of the words integrity and backbone in a less than flattering manner.
Nevertheless, I am disgusted by the plethora of groundless attacks on Tony Abbott that have increased in recent days instead of abating. In particular, a photo of Mr Abbott in his fire-fighting gear seems to have drawn a ridiculous amount of ire. I must say, as a photographer, that it’s a great portrait. No matter how his term as Prime Minister turns out, it’s a photo that he and his family should be proud of and treasure. It is no surprise that his official Facebook page has it as his profile picture.
Many, however, have used this photograph as any opportunity to attack Mr Abbott. It seems he can do no right.
If he didn’t fight fires he’d be accused of being out of touch with the ordinary Australians threatened by the bushfires. When he does, he’s accused of using it as a photo opportunity (even though he’s done this for over a decade).
When some photos turn out to be from previous fires he’s attended, thus proving it wasn’t just a photo op’, he draws criticism for allowing old photos to be circulated.
It’s symptomatic of the sort of people – more than 170,000 of them – who’ve liked the defamatory Facebook page Tony Abbott – Worst PM in Australian History.
Not bad for someone who’s only been in office for less than two months.
And there are others, of course, such as Abbott ‘the Maggot’, the content of which is too obscene for me to repeat.
My point is that, whatever his faults, of which I am sure there are many as he’s an imperfect human being like the rest of us, very few people are giving Tony Abbott a fair go.
Even those who consider his volunteer fire fighting “laudable” have criticised him for not getting his priorities right, suggesting he should be in his office on the end of the telephone at a time of a major fire emergency. I beg to differ.
At a time of unparalleled wireless communications, there is no need for our Prime Minister to be sitting in an office on the end of a landline. A good leader knows how to delegate responsibility to those with the expertise and resources to deal with the situation. I’m glad we don’t have a micro-managing control freak in charge of our nation.
Tony Abbott, in the past few days, has demonstrated we have an Aussie battler and hero as Prime Minister. I may not be an expert on bushfires, but I do know what it’s like to hear the pagers of two work colleagues go off simultaneously and see them scamper off with hardly a backward glance… then hear my own go off sixty seconds later summoning me to the ambulance for a trip into the fire-ravaged bush.
I remember all-too-clearly the overwhelming fatigue after hours standing on burnt-out ground in unimaginable heat surrounded by smoke and ashes. Merely donning fire-fighting gear in such conditions is an accomplishment – the actual work that follows is a feat most of us will thankfully never truly comprehend.
And that’s what makes volunteer fire fighters like Tony Abbott heroes. They risk their lives in the worst of conditions to protect us.
They don’t get paid, and they drop everything they’re doing because it’s an emergency. When Tony Abbott answered his callout with his local brigade, he set an example to all of us to buckle down and get on with the job. It’s about time we did the same and gave him a fair go.
- Abbott says climate change not fire factor (sbs.com.au)
- AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER TONY ABBOTT puts himself in the line of fire. “For 4 long hours over the … (pjmedia.com)
- Tony Abbott’s Fire Chief: Criticising The PM Is ‘Wearing Pretty Thin’ (businessinsider.com)
- Tony Abbott, stop fighting bushfires and start the job you were elected to do | Paula Matthewson (oddonion.com)
- She’s talking out of her hat: Abbott (smh.com.au)
It usually takes years for members of a bad government to “fess up” to the failings and dysfunction within their administration and under the cover of the smokescreen of Labor’s new and wacky way of selecting their leader a few admissions have slipped under the radar things like Stephen Conroy admitting that their NBN roll out was an utter farce, with no ability to meet anywhere near the targets that were so loudly trumpeted. Its an admission that has largely gone unnoticed. However I very much doubt that the bucketing delivered by Nicola Roxon in the John Button lecture will be as invisible and as that is the topic for to day I will now provide some highlights for discussion:
1) Labor must always focus on the fact that good policy improves people’s lives and that is why the party exists.
If this is always at the front of our minds and the top priority in decision-making, we will be less easily diverted by polls, personalities and punch-ups.
This must be a constant focus. In government, a Labor party needs to choose a few big areas and focus on them, taking people with them.
A government needs to take time to explain the problem, work on a range of solutions, build coalitions to campaign for them, understand the opposing arguments so as to improve its own and measure their validity. It must allow enough time and sufficiently foreshadow the change so local MPs, branch members and citizens can be part of the campaign for change. And take time to get all the technical detail right.
2) Governments as a whole, and the prime minister in particular, need to keep their focus high level – spending time and energy on the things that really matter.
If you can’t describe what you are doing in general terms, and its purpose, then either the policy isn’t right, or you’ve descended into detail most people don’t need and probably don’t want to know.
The art as a minister should be to be across the detail and be sufficiently trusted by colleagues to manage and explain the policy detail when needed, but to allow the PM to focus only on the big picture. The Cabinet should be used to sign off only on purpose, direction and broad structure, but not excessive detail.
In our first term of Government we struggled with this. There were some contentious issues and policy problems that ran for months, in some cases years, without there seeming to be a way to bring contentious issues to a head. There was no avenue for ministers to bring genuinely difficult issues, where there were legitimately tricky calls to be made, to Cabinet for a real discussion. Health and climate change were the two longest running “non-discussions” for the first term of Government, with some other contentious policies getting only cursory cabinet approval at the last minute. There was a reticence by the Prime Minister for big strategic calls to be made by Cabinet, or sufficiently in advance to prepare properly.
3) Good leaders are good delegators.
If they don’t delegate, they and their governments ultimately drown in less important matters.
Having seen it up close, I have a huge amount of sympathy for just how much work a PM has to do. The sheer weight of government and the crushing level of personal demands are far more intense and all encompassing than most people can imagine. Kevin and Julia fully devoted themselves day and night to this task. For all their issues, no one could fault either of them for heroic work ethics and sheer determination to do everything humanly possible in the job.
But the prime minister is still only one person.
We can’t let the system slide, if it hasn’t already, to expect this person to have superhuman powers. Our increasingly presidential-style campaigning doesn’t help this. I hope any new Labor leader will not continue this pretence – it will ultimately be a great benefit to the Party and protection for them.
4) Labor needs to welcome debate, not fear it.
A progressive party needs to be able to argue over issues and not see it through the prism of internal politics.
Both internally and externally Labor, in the time I’ve been involved, has become more afraid of real debate. For a progressive party that prides itself on constantly renewing its social purpose, this is not good news.
Of course, a shallow and manipulative media can make debate or dissent difficult, sometimes nigh on impossible, but we need to push past that and learn to welcome a contest of ideas.
5) Be polite and be persuasive. Or I could call this “Keep yourself nice”.
(I know I’ll be accused of being “nanny Nicola” here, but it is an age-old rule that needs to be re-imposed.) If you don’t do this, you lose ground for no political purpose. You waste time apologizing and you lose arguments for no good reason.
And this is not a tip just for the sake of nice manners. It fundamentally affects political outcomes too.
When Kevin was flashed across the TVs icily ignoring Kristina Keneally in health reform negotiations, it cost us an awful lot to recover from and actually gave NSW the upper hand for the first time. Disparagingly calling her “Bambi” behind closed doors was pretty silly when she was whip-smart and went on to run rings around us at the final COAG negotiating table. As a result, Kevin conceded more to NSW in hospital beds at the expense of money set aside for mental health. As was predictable, mental health became a thorn in our side later on, and in the 2010 campaign was the major health issue that weakened our otherwise great story.
The Garden Island announcement during the 2013 campaign underscored that this lesson had not been learned and we lost a day or two of the campaign needlessly.
6)Always ask what you can do for the party (and the nation) not what it can do for you (with apologies to JFK).
If you don’t ask this question first, you’ve lost your focus and purpose and the public will mark you down fast.
There were plenty examples of people putting their individual interests ahead of the team’s, particularly in ministerial ballots and appointments. Reports of able MPs declining particular portfolios, perhaps because it didn’t suit their long term personal plans, is a sign of this going off the rails. The only correct answer if a PM calls and offers you a particular ministry is surely “Yes, Prime Minister”.
Of course it is natural to have ambitions, and to be disappointed if they are thwarted, but the focus must always be on the team.
7)Good governments run best with good diaries – so boring, but universally true.
This is not just about housekeeping, as it seems, but you actually can get better policy, get more done and protect against foreseeable problems if you plan a diary and run to plan. You can only get to an end game if you have planned where you want to go.
The machinery of Government is enormous. And it can be put to enormous good. But it is a slow moving beast – no matter how bold or impatient a government may be. If plans and projects are set, parameters identified and clear instructions given, with regular and consistent oversight, the work produced can be excellent. Thousands of people can work more effectively around you if direction is set early, timetables stuck to, and materials are read.
But if political direction chops and changes, if the questions being asked constantly move, if deadlines come and go without meaning, it is very inefficient, and ultimately dispiriting. It’s politically confused too.
Kevin had a terrible habit of attending meetings not having read detailed papers that he had commissioned at the last meeting – often very complex ones, at very short notice. For example, I remember a meeting only days before Christmas 2009 when a total rewrite of a health policy was demanded. Despite many, many hours of work into the night, I do not believe that paper was ever – even to do this day – read by the prime minister, let alone read over a Christmas holiday he had already ruined for others.
8) Choose good people – as leaders, as MPs and as staff.
In every walk of life, successful organisations need a pool of talented people, and politics is no different.
This seems pretty basic. And on this front, I have to say I am very optimistic about our future. We get this right more often than we get it wrong. Having a strong choice of two capable politicians in the recent leadership ballot is just one measure of this. And I reckon Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek are as close to “the dream team” as you can get.
9)Accept you are not always right, and cannot always fix everything. It’s easier with this as your starting point.
If the public is promised a messiah, they’re inevitably going to be disappointed.
Political messages do need to be clear. They don’t have cut-through if they are not. In the beginning, Kevin was brilliant at this. It’s why he was so successful at the 2007 election. He talked straight and people understood and liked him.
The curse, of course, is that the problems you are trying to solve and the policies needed to do so are often complex. So we came unstuck when the solutions were necessarily more subtle or convoluted than the cut-through message initially delivered.
“The buck stops with me”, “the biggest moral challenge of our time” are examples that made sense and garnered interest and support, but they come with big risks, as the realities of government can make this cut-through language a dead weight or burden. It’s always more convincing to say you’ll “fix” something, when “improve” is a more accurate statement.
In 2007, Kevin was great at cut-through, then struggled at follow through.
10) And lastly,never forget polling is only a snapshot, not a predictor.
Otherwise we resign ourselves to a static life – and a progressive party will never win without new ideas, and new ideas take time to be absorbed.
Over-analysed, published opinion polls are having a corrosive effect on Australian politics. Their meaning and value have been given enormous weight, way, way above their real value. This is perhaps exacerbated by the advent of online media as these polls, paid for by old print media, are often among the few exclusives they have – so they are inflated by the same media who commission them.
But apart from that, we have allowed the polls, and the way journalists interpret them, to have too much influence. Polls can tell us what the current state of play is, but not what might happen.
What a poll can never tell us is what the results may be after a six month concerted effort to turn an argument around. They are unable to show what might change with persistence.
So, perhaps there is one remaining question you may have about my perspective on this time in government. And it is a biggie.
After all these tips for good and bad behavior for the future, do I believe we behaved properly in removing Kevin as PM in 2010?
While I think the Labor caucus made the right decision, we handled it very poorly.
I think we had all the right reasons to act, but I think we were clumsy and short sighted in the way we did it. We didn’t explain the dysfunctional decision-making and lack of strategy I’ve focused on a lot tonight. We didn’t talk about his rudeness, or contempt for staff and disrespect for public servants (a measure of this was public servants saving up briefs to send to the PM’s office as soon as Kevin went overseas because they got quicker and more thoughtful responses from Julia as acting PM).
Removing Kevin was an act of political bastardry, for sure. But this act of political bastardy was made possible only because Kevin had been such a bastard himself to so many people.
So I hope my take on events might be worth something to the next generation. I hope they will have learned from this period, and will not repeat its mistakes.
The new Labor team will need to lift itself above the personality politics, stop seeing things as “Kevin legacies” or “Julia legacies”, and just see them proudly as “Labor legacies”. This will better honour our forbears like John Button.
I really hope that readers have taken the time to read the whole speech , but even if you have not done so I hope that my highlights give you the gist of Roxon’s argument here,namely that the labor Government was very much a dysfunctional one that was in the thrall of Kevin Rudd, in its first term because of his inability to properly delegate and trust his ministers and his utter inability properly run the government and its instruments and after he had been removed for those sins he was then allowed to foment dissent and disloyalty that undermined his successor, who herself had many flaws. Its a far from pretty picture if you ask this humble scribe. and rather like the curates egg the last Labor government was “good in parts” according to Roxon . The judgement of the people was however that those good parts were considerably smaller than the unpalatable aspects of Labor’s six years in office. On balance when we look at Labor’s CV I find it very hard to see any reason to believe that they were ever “fit to Govern” on the whole they provided a perfect example of the promise far exceeding the delivery and had their lack of fitness to govern been less concealed by Rudd’s admittedly slick campaign in 2007 they would have never won office.
The Coalition have for some time been espousing the very reasonable adage that in government one should under promise and over deliver which is a very good starting point in any democracy and until Labor and its minions likewise realise that is the way to political nirvana they will not be in any way fit to govern again. You see in the real world good government is about 90% good governance and sound administration and 10% good ideas, by my reckoning Labor scored well below 50% over all….
- Roxon calls on “bastard” Rudd to quit (abc.net.au)
- Here’s The Dirtiest Of The Laundry That Nicola Roxon Aired In Her Speech On The Rudd-Gillard Years (businessinsider.com)
- Roxon slams ‘rude and dysfunctional’ Rudd (theage.com.au)
- Reign of Rudd: Rude and dysfunctional (smh.com.au)
- Ouch! Nicola Roxon calls Kevin Rudd a bastard (australiantimes.co.uk)
- Rudd deserved to be dumped: Roxon (heraldsun.com.au)
- Nicola Roxon calls on ‘bastard’ Kevin Rudd to quit Parliament in Joh (beaudreux.com)
poem ditty by GD
Kevvie in his kevlar suit
laughing ‘cos it’s all a hoot
Simon Crean gets the boot,
another day in Labor
Stephen Conroy’s face is red
his underpants are on his head
the censorship is all shot dead,
another Labor failure
the deficit is on the loose
Swan is looking like a goose
spending all with no excuse,
another a drunken sailor
the rusted-ons believe in Rudd
to save them from this bath in mud
but really he’s another dud,
not a Labor saviour
the voters wait with bated breath
to hear about a Labor death
but Joolia is such a pest,
it’s six months more hard Labor!
By Ray Dixon – reproduced from my home blog Alpine Opinion
The first inkling that Simon Crean’s new-found support for Kevin Rudd may not have been exactly a sincere change-of-heart, came soon after his surprise announcement – that he was seeking a leadership spill – when Crean suddenly (and angrily) gave an answer to a question in which he clearly chastised Rudd over his previously stated position of not mounting another challenge:
”He can’t continue to play the game that says he is reluctant or he has to be drafted. I know the party will not draft him.”
That did not sound like a friendly ‘defector’ and, furthermore, if Crean knew “the party will not draft (Rudd)” that suggests he also knew Rudd did not have anywhere near the numbers required to take the leadership – so why was Crean ‘going out on a limb’ giving everyone the impression he was in favour of Rudd being reinstated?
Looking back at Crean’s full announcement it then became clear (to me at least) that it was full of typical, evasive and ambiguous Crean ‘doublespeak’ where everything he was saying could be taken two ways. For example:
“I have talked to the prime minister yesterday and today….I am asking her to call a spill for all the leadership positions in the party. If the PM does not agree to it, which I suspect she won’t, I am calling on members of caucus to form a petition. This is not personal. This is about the party, its future and the future of the country. I believe we can win the next election.”
That’s clearly a neutral position and he’s not calling for Rudd to be PM there.
“We need to settle this and move forward. As for the position of positions being declared open – Kevin Rudd has no choice but to stand for the leadership. He can no longer say he will only be drafted. That’s why I’m putting myself forward as part of the leadership group.”
There he goes again, telling Rudd off by insisting that he challenges. And “putting himself forward” as Rudd’s possible deputy could simply be Crean trying to make his defection seem genuine – in the end it amounted to nothing.
“I’m doing this in the interests of the Labor Party and, in turn, the nation.”
And “this” could mean setting Rudd up to mount a challenge he can’t win.
“I look forward to caucus making a mature decision….I will be supporting Kevin Rudd. He has got no option but to run. I want no more games.”
Supporting him to do what? To challenge and lose? Crean’s trying too hard to force the issue here and his reference to “no more games” is actually another slur on Rudd.
“I’m urging Mr Rudd to put his name forward….I do not believe simply changing from Ms Gillard to Mr Rudd will solve anything. The internals must stop. We must be an inclusive party.”
That’s almost a dead giveaway that Crean is still in Gillard’s ‘corner’.
Mr Crean is asked if Mr Rudd has the numbers: “I wouldn’t be doing this if I did not believe there was the mood and the need for change within the party.”
There’s the ambiguous “this” word again. And yes, there was certainly a “mood” to change to Rudd among some party members but perhaps Crean means he’s out to kill that off.
And later yesterday (after the non-vote), Simon Crean’s appearance and demeanour on ABC TV – grinning like a Cheshire cat – was hardly that of a man who had failed in his mission.
For someone who had just been sacked from the Ministry position he held under Gillard after his so-called defection, Crean seemed mighty chuffed with the overall outcome and Gillard’s so-called victory … and his assault on Rudd continued:
Sacked arts minister Simon Crean says he cannot understand why Mr Rudd did not take on Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a special caucus meeting earlier on Thursday.
“I can’t understand why all of this agitation would be on, including the need to bring it to a head, then for the contender not to stump up,” he told ABC television.
… “He had an obligation to run. He didn’t discharge that obligation so he has only got one obligation now and that is to back off,” Mr Crean said.
… “I think he has demonstrated that he isn’t a threat to the leadership because he didn’t stand when he had the chance,” he said.
“(Rudd running) in itself would have been an important cleansing for the party,” he said.
Mr Crean is calling on the rest of his party to take the result as a circuit breaker to end speculation and get on with “inspiring the nation again”.
He had no regrets about acting in “the interests of getting the party back on a solid footing.”
Call me a conspiracy theorist or wise-in-hindsight, but I think those comments clearly demonstrate that, for Crean, yesterday’s outcome was mission accomplished.
Crean knows exactly why Rudd didn’t run – because he didn’t have the numbers – but feigns surprise and faux anger at Rudd for letting him down.
He’s stuck the knife in … and turned it. Again.
And Crean could barely contain his delight last night, even using the same “Rudd has/had” to challenge rhetoric he used in the morning. He didn’t miss a beat but it all sounded hollow and insincere to me.
You see, it needs to be remebered that Simon Crean was also the instigator of the first Rudd challenge just over 12 months ago when, while Rudd was overseas, he launched an extraordinary public attack following the release of the infamous ‘F-bomb’ blooper tape (that seems most likely to have been released by Gillard’s office) on the grounds that Rudd was ‘destabilising the party’.
This lead to Rudd having no choice but to resign from the position of Foreign Minister, following which Julia Gillard then announced a leadership spill to force Rudd’s hand and challenge (while he was still overseas). Crean knew then that Rudd didn’t have the numbers to topple Gillard just like he would have known the numbers yesterday – so why did he go ahead?
As for Crean being sacked as a Minister by Gillard (for his so-called disloyalty), it’s not inconceivable that that was a ‘bullet’ he was willing to take to get rid of Rudd. After all, Crean’s been around for a long time and might only have 6 months of his career left.
But as to what happens now, well, when the dust is setlled maybe it’ll become clearer that yesterday’s events will actually make Gillard’s position worse, not better.
Wait for the next opinion poll but after this debacle I reckon Labor’s support will fall even further – perhaps as low as 25% primary vote – and stay there.
And that spells real (and fatal) disaster for Gillard – maybe Rudd’s not dead yet?
I have repeatedly suggested that when it comes to repealing the carbon tax that the ALP will not be at all obstructive in the upper house because they will have to concede that Tony Abbott will have a mandate to do this. Now I find in today’s Oz the same suggestion from Tony Abbott himself:
My friends from the left have been fooling themselves if they think that the incoming government will not be true to their word, after all being untruthful to the electorate is what will be buying Labor’s very long lease on their wilderness accommodation…
For those who want to see Gillard’s involvement in dodgy deals as entirely innocent, well may I suggest that you don’t watch this interview?
For those of us who are enjoying the PM squirming about her involvement in union skulduggery please watch and enjoy.
- Fresh questions raised over Gillard’s past (news.theage.com.au)
- Lawyer claims discrepancy in PM’s slush fund explanation (abc.net.au)
- Slippery Pete finally slips off the shovel and the brown stuff sticks to Gillard, of course. (iainhall.wordpress.com)
- Julia Gillard Faces New Claims Over Union Past (zen-haven.com)
- Bread and circuses have a long and less than honorable history at entertaining the masses. (iainhall.wordpress.com)