EDITORIAL WEDNESDAY 16.06.10.
Is it just me or is the Federal Government sending out mixed signals? It seems that every time that Craig Emerson or Wayne Swan says that a process of consultation and negotiation with the mining industry is underway, Kevin Rudd pops up somewhere declaring that he will not budge. When someone like Trade Minister Simon Crean says that perhaps it might have been better if there had been greater consultation before the announcement of the tax, Kevin Rudd comes forward demanding that the mining companies cough up their fair share. Every time someone like Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says that when it comes to the tax “one size doesn’t necessarily fit all”, Kevin Rudd rushes out to maintain that he his holding firm. It’s almost like a bad parody of “good cop, bad cop”, and it would be as funny as a Leslie Neilson movie if it wasn’t so serious.
I could be wrong, but this hint of a disconnect between Kevin Rudd and his own party would seem to be consistent with the much more obvious disconnect between the Prime Minister and the public. The plummeting opinion polls indicate clearly that people have taken a sudden dislike to Kevin Rudd, and the only real question is “why?” Many believe that this death-dive in the polls indicates that people no longer feel that they know what Mr. Rudd actually stands for. Having backed away from the “greatest moral challenge of our time” because it appeared to be no longer politically expedient, the Prime Minister has increasingly been seen as a politician who has the unique ability to start with what most people recognize as a good idea and turn it into a disaster. For examples, just consider the school halls, the roof insulation, and the latest blockbuster, a tax reform which is supposed to make people better off, but instead everybody is fearful will destroy the economy.
At the same time there has been increasing speculation that Kevin Rudd’s leadership might be in doubt, with reports of rumours of rumblings within the party regularly making the front pages, and equally regularly being denied by the heir apparent, Julia Gillard. The problem with repeated denials is that at some point people stop believing them and start asking if where there is smoke there might also be fire. Kevin Rudd’s leadership is getting closer to that point, but the catch for the Labor Party is that they might also be at the point where changing the leader wouldn’t make any difference anyway. John Howard crossed that point of no return about a year before he lost office. Prior to that, a leadership change might possibly have saved the coalition, and forever altered Peter Costello’s Curriculum Vitae. Similarly, I suspect that changing leaders now would not necessarily improve the government’s fortunes.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. But if it does, I’m not convinced that Julia Gillard would be the only contender. Watch this space.