EDITORIAL WEDNESDAY 28.07.10.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Never underestimate the ability of the Australian Labor Party to shoot itself in the foot. The series of apparent leaks from within the Party beginning with the allegation that Julia Gillard reneged on a deal to allow Kevin Rudd more time to improve his performance in the polls, and culminating in the accusation that Ms. Gillard opposed the last year’s pension increase and the introduction of paid parental leave, has given rise to speculation that there may be some within the Party actively attempting to sabotage the campaign. Naturally, the name Kevin Rudd immediately comes to mind, but he denies having anything to do with the leaks. Be that as it may, unless Laurie Oakes is making it all up, it appears that someone in the Labor Party is deliberately undermining Julia.
With more than three weeks of the election campaign still to come, there is ample time for even more damaging material to emerge, so the Prime Minister could be in for a torrid time. At the same time, Opposition leader Tony Abbott is most definitely in it to win it, and will seize upon any ammunition which might become available. Although Julia Gillard has been in office for three years, she is in the unique position of effectively having to prove herself all over again. People had readily accepted her as Deputy PM, but now that she has taken the top job, especially in the controversial circumstances that she did, people are assessing her all over again.
While most people are happy to put religious, gender , and relationship issues aside, there remains a substantial number of voters who still harbour some disquiet about an atheist woman with a live-in boyfriend moving into the Lodge. Others still have concerns over what they see as the unfair treatment of Kevin Rudd, not just because it is seen as a personal betrayal, but because it is also seen as a lack of respect for the office of the Prime Minister and the voters who feel that they were the ones who put Mr. Rudd in that office, and should have the right to decide whether or not to remove him from it. Some people are wondering whether the puppetmasters were motivated by the pursuit of good government or just good polling figures.
We will never know what would have happened of course, but I believe that Kevin Rudd could have and would have won the election, and that the move to dump him was the premature and desperate act of rattled numbers men who got cold feet in the face of a few negative poll results. Rather than fix the policies, they tried to fix the poll results, by changing the face of the leadership. It is a tactic which has been used repeatedly in New South Wales, and which has crated a succession of ex-Premiers without actually improving either the government or their popularity. It’s easy to arrive at the view that the powerbrokers have abused their power, and that Labor should be punished for it.
With the Prime Minister subject to those vulnerabilities, the ongoing attack on her leadership via this series of Cabinet leaks could well cost votes and perhaps even the election result. But while the Government might deserve to be punished, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Opposition deserves to be rewarded. Thus far, if we are to believe the opinion polls, the coalition remains the less attractive choice, giving Julia Gillard enough breathing space to respond to this attack from within, which might actually turn out to be an opportunity for her to demonstrate just how effective she can be as a leader.