Jula Gillard and tyranny of the present

Julia Gillard gave a charming press conference, therefore she’ll defeat Abbott! This seems to be the view. Hey, let’s all think in the present.

Julia talked alot about communicating better – a very Kevin thing to do. Proof will be in the pudding, but she has not so far shown much inclination to go out and argue the government’s case when the going is tough. Like Rudd she’s been a serial avoider of hard topics.

Her decision to not move into the Lodge until after the election is silly and counterproductive. So the prime minister is not really a full prime minister?

Says she’ll be tougher on asylum-seekers. How much tougher can she go without embracing the Howardesque rhetorical dimension, which she says she won’t do?

Next opinion polls will likely see a drop in the Green vote and increase in Labor’s and possibly an increase in Labor’s two party preferred. Gillard’s net approval will be better than predecessor’s (with lots of undecideds). Her preferred PM will better Rudd’s recent numbers.

These sorts of things nearly always happen after a leadership change and are then seen as vindication for the decision - ie “these numbers show that Labor was right to replace leaders.” A virtuous cycle.

It’s what happens on election day that matters, of course.

(I reckon Abbott’s approval rating will likely increase.)

And a tweeter reminds of this post two years ago.

Update: oh, and the RSPT advertisement offer to mining companies is good but.

30 Responses to “Jula Gillard and tyranny of the present”

  1. Graeme says:

    Gillard’s outer cortex probably thinks ‘avoiding the Lodge did Howard no harm’ (except Melbourne has no Kirribilli). Her inner cortex probably fears ‘why move now? There’s a chance I may only be in the Lodge a few months’.

    The honeymoon effect ((documented not just in politics but in sporting leaderships) shows not just in poll bounce but in team spirit. I’m curious what you think would explain Abbott’s approval rating increasing? Is it that he was locked in a Manichean struggle with Rudd, and for a time some of that negativity will subside?

    Indeed apparatchiks and the media live in the eternal present: their only present is politics, which has been a hall of mirrors for some years.

  2. I guess that the ALP machine operators reasoning is that the new leaders honeymoon period with the electorate will spill over into the campaign. Hence the need to go in early and hard.

    I don’t know. I am skeptical of the view of politics as a beauty contest. We just had 13 years of John Howard, who is nobody’s idea of a sex symbol. (Not to mention eight years of Fraser before him.) Surely thats enough evidence to put that view to rest.

    I am slightly irritated by this turn of events as it throws all my cogitations and calculations out the window. I really have no firm idea how Gillard-ALP will go on election day since this situation (dumping successful rooky PM at first re-election) is unprecedented.

    I still think that the ALP will win comfortably, for most of the reasons as indicated here. When it comes right down to it, leaders are not a critical variable in partisan alignment. They come a distant fourth after the Big Three: incumbency duration, economic situation, core policy formulation. But they are something that can be changed with relative ease, unlike the Big Three. So the busy-bodies, feint-hearted and mischief-makers get to work.

    My gut tells me that Gillard will do a bit worse than Rudd would have done. But there is no parallell universe to counter-factually test this theory.

    The ALP will have lost some kudos amongst the electorate owing to dumping an elected leader. And the leadership change does take some of the focus of Abbott, which was always going to help Rudd. Its also hard to see how Gillard can escape the blame for the ETS delay, which she signed off on.

    So my first guess is that ALP will win the election comfortably, perhaps nudging 52 – 48, or a little bit under. I daresay that they will do better in the marginals in QLD and WA, which was the reason the nervous back-bench dumped Rudd.

    I guess this means that the RSPT will be off the table. Another squib.

  3. Nostradamus says:

    Lemmings! Lemmings! Lemmings! What can I say?
    When will the Labor Party ever learn?

  4. Peter Brent says:

    Graeme, you reckon a boost in team spirit increases chances of victory???

    Re Abbott’s approval, I just suspect voters will be happy with politics in general with Julia in and so might spread the love to Tony a bit.

    Kind of agree with Jack, except for the “still favour Labor to win” part. Slightly favour Coalition, but it’s rather unpredictable.

    Nostradamus: if they were in opposition it would be a Lemming situation, but this is not so dire.

  5. Peter Brent @ #4 said:

    Kind of agree with Jack, except for the “still favour Labor to win” part. Slightly favour Coalition, but it’s rather unpredictable.

    I am reassured.

    The most interesting question is what would happen to AUS polity in the event of an Abbott-L/NP victory. We would be dumping all the rational, median-voter based pseph built up since the ghost of Keating was layed.

    It would certainly dust-bin the psephological theory of partisan realignment: that the ALP is the Natural Party of Government given its solid demographic base amongst aging Baby Boomers, NESBs and single mothers. Not being able to win a first term re-election bid would be an epic fail for the much-vaunted ALP machine operators.

    It would also dust-bin the ideological theory of policy assimilation: that major parties will converge on the policies that best suit the swinging outer-suburban, mortgage-belt, working family median-voter. Abbott’s revival or Work Choices and climate change denialism is hard-Right wing which signals a restart of polarised ideological History.

    Since I more or less subscribe to both those theories an Abbott victory would totally destroy whatever shreds of credibility I may posess as a psephological pundit.

    Go Julia.

  6. Graeme says:

    Peter, no. Though the inverse holds true: if you all think you are going down the drain that can be self-reinforcing.

    Tanner now retiring. From Gang of Four to Gang of Two…

  7. Graeme says:

    I’m starting a book on which puerile nickname the hacks will give the new PM (a la ‘KRudd’ and ‘Phoney Tony’).


  8. lw says:

    The way the media has been today, this appears to be an unexpected masterstroke for the backroom ALP boys.

    Jack, realistically why would any government of any sort try to do anything remotely like workchoices ever again? It turned 2007 into a bloody bath. Its nothing more than scare mongering similar to Howard and interest rates, boat people etc.

    It seems 12 years the coalition had less policy failures than the current government has racked up in 2.5, so it possibly a little rich to suggest it would be the end of the world if a conservative government were elected. Compare this to recent Labor government performances in NSW, QLD and federally and the public might just start to observe a trend

  9. Sean says:

    *No more Greens in the Senate!
    The events of the past 24hrs have put and end to any chance of the Greens gaining a quota (except Tassie) in any of the states in the Senate elections. *Preference deals with minor parties is the only way the Greens can hope to in gain numbers in the Senate.

  10. Lentern says:

    What is the narrative if Gillard crashes in the upcoming election (which i’m quite expecting in light of Tanners departure)? I can imagine two, one which basically praises her as a brilliant individual who tried to make the unworkable work and came so close to doing so etc etc, the other is that Rudd(which I might argue isn’t really much of a narrative so much as a truth) was cruising throughout his premiership and after his one and only rough patch was regaining the lead against the troublesome Tony Abbott when he was knifed and the new leadership team stuffed it all up?

  11. lw @ #7 sad:

    Jack, realistically why would any government of any sort try to do anything remotely like workchoices ever again? It turned 2007 into a bloody bath. Its nothing more than scare mongering similar to Howard and interest rates, boat people etc.

    In principle, my sentiments exactly. But Abbott has done little to allay fears in this respect. And some to stoke fears.

    lw said:

    It seems 12 years the coalition had less policy failures than the current government has racked up in 2.5, so it possibly a little rich to suggest it would be the end of the world if a conservative government were elected. Compare this to recent Labor government performances in NSW, QLD and federally and the public might just start to observe a trend.

    Again, I sympathise. Compared to the black farce that is NSW ALP I dont think the fed L/NP has anything to be ashamed of.

    The L/NP were basically a moderate Centre-Right government, occasionally given to pulling the chains of literate Lefties. Mostly all good clean fun.

    The had a pretty good record of governance, leaving AUS richer, stronger and prouder after 11 years in office. Culminating in a solid fiscal and financial system which easily survived the GFC.

    But they did have a few serious Right-wing blemishes, notable Industrial Relations troglodytes and Climate Change delayers. 2007 was supposed to say Goodbye to All That. But evidently the message has not been sheeted home.

    I do not say that an Abbott-?L/NP victory would be “the end of the world”. Merely that the AUS polity would become ideologically polarised in a way not seen for nearly a generation.

    Not to worry, the Abbott-L/NP will learn their lesson in 2010 when I am fairly confident that they will be comfortably, if not soundly, defeated. Turnbull will probably wend his way back after a decent interval.

  12. A possibly momentous ideological implication flows from this leadership swap: Rudd was replaced by Gillard because he was too Left-wing. Particularly in his attempt to sell the RSPT to a largely uncomprehending or indifferent electorate.

    Its hard to say from which direction was the more decisive political opposition to RSPT:

    – bottom-up: uneasiness in marginal seats in resource-rich states


    - top-dop down: hostility from AUS richest and most powerful industrial sector

    Probably a bit of both.

    Either way this is a big set-back for the Left.

    The commmon factor in Rudd’s headline policies – ETS, BER or RSPT – is that they are nerdy and did not strike a genuine chord in the electorate. These all came out of the PM’s office, apparently staffed by arrogant policy wanks err wonks.

    Compare that to the “your rights at work” campaign. Coming from your more down to earth union thugs at the ACTU.

    Rudd’s attempts to bloke-ify his political sells – “give it a red-hot go” – only made the cringe-factor more excruciating.

    So expect a less rareified and more matter-of-fact, self-deprecating line from Gillard. Which is already in her so should not be too hard to project.

  13. asanque says:

    Given Gillard is from the left-wing, I would hardly classify it as a big set-back for the Left.

    I would also hardly classify Rudd’s recent policy decisions as left-wing.

    He was competing hard with Abbott for the ACL and right wing nutbag vote.

  14. lw says:


    You’ve touched on an interesting point here. I wonder how well those faded “your rights at work” stickers will go down in the coming election considering they were very much associated with the Kevin 07 campaign? Me thinks they might be soon disappearing from the back of utes and toolboxes at work very shortly. Consequently we’re probably not going to be graced by whinging Wendy in her McMansion on TV either.

    Interesting times

    P.S anyone care to have a poke at what the next poll might say? Would have to be 50-50…. logic is that any bounce Julia will get would be countered by those peeved with having the PM decided by the faceless blokes in the backroom. It does seem a little odd that unions represent 20% of workers in the country yet they get to pick the PM for 100% of the population.

  15. I agree with your general point, but not the bit about the Lodge. I think it looks humble; an acknowledgement that she has not got a mandate in her own right and so should not be living it up too much. I think in combination with pulling the ads this could go over well.

    But you’re quite right that one speech is hardly a basis for deciding whether she will win the election.

  16. netvegetable says:

    If there is an increase in Abbott’s approval, so be it. At least the media focus is no longer exclusively, and irretractibly, on everything and anything the Prime Minister does wrong.

  17. I very much agree with your take over the last few days, Peter, especially the Oz artcile. Just one point, your talking in that article of Gillard’s popularity as comparable to Latham’s I don’t recognise. Obviously her popularity might change now she is PM, but the polls until the overthrow were all suggesting that even after Rudd’s decline, he was still marginally more popular than Gillard. Am I missing something?

  18. One more general point, again on Minichin’s Martyrdom Operation. The last time AUS polity had a comparable period of tumult was the 2001 Tampa/911 episode. Even then, politicians, policies and parties did not change all that much.

    Lets review the past few months since Minchin’s plot was hatched:

    - 1. The L/NP embrace climate change denial.
    2. Abbott replaces Turnbull.
    3. Rudd shelves ETS for two years.
    4. Rudd’s popularity slumps.
    5. GREENs popularity skyrockets by 50%.
    6. Rudd’s lurches Left by taking on mining big guns.
    7. ALP panic leads to Gillard replacing Rudd.

    These are each fairly significant changes in themselves. Taken together they represent a major shift in partisan alignment, with a massive polarisation of the electorate.

    As far as I can see none of this would have happened unless Minchin had not decided to perform his Machiavellian Martyrdom.

    The Right-wing of the L/NP have really been driving all this. They are taking a big risk trying to get back in the game. I don’t think it will pay off. But hey, I never saw Rudd’s sucker-punch coming, so what do I know?

  19. John Anderson says:

    Sky News has a program called Nation. Last night, a panel of Richo, Peter van O. Christine Wallace & Cheryl Kernot discussed Gillard’s ascendency & what now. PVO stated that Labor will win and increase its majority at the election. Not Peter Brent’s idea [and mine] of an increase but one based on the notionaln 88 seats. Very interesting.

  20. Peter Brent says:

    Piping Shrike, I just mean she’s a popular politician. Latham was not the voters’ choice to take over from Crean (Beazley was) but they liked him when he did.

  21. [...] Abbott preferred PM up on Rudd’s. Something like this is par for the course; here’s me predicting anticipating it on [...]

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