Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roxon Is Out Of Line

Boy am I glad I am not a member of the Labor Party. I think I would be pretty fed up with the whole damn lot of them. The latest outburst from former Attorney General Nicola Roxon is yet another example of the rot that has been going on for the past six years… and far longer if you look at the record of Labor in New South Wales.

For a former senior minister to make use of a speech to denigrate a sitting member of her own party, regardless of who he might be, is plain obnoxious. This applies to Roxon, as well as to Craig Emerson before her, and all the other gravy train ticket holders who leapt off the bandwagon rather than face sitting on the opposition benches.

So these clowns think Kevin Rudd was rude. They think he was dysfunctional. They think he is an ego maniac. The fact is that whether these claims are accurate or not is immaterial. None of these characteristics have ever disqualified anyone from being Prime Minister before.

They might call Kevin Rudd a bastard, but that is tame compared to the labels applied to his predecessor. According to political journalist Mungo McCallum, John Howard was given a much worse nickname by some of his own colleagues. The C**t. And yet he is widely acclaimed as the most successful Liberal Party Leader since Menzies.

So, before we succumb to the temptation to fall for the narrative thrust forward by Mr Rudd’s critics, perhaps we should take a look at the people who are making the accusations. Ms Roxon in particular spent much of her time as Attorney General behaving as if she was much better qualified to manage my life than I am. In the nanny-state existence forced upon us by Labor, Nicola Roxon was the chief nanny.

Like her good friend Julia Gillard, Ms Roxon previously worked as an industrial relations lawyer for a prominent legal firm, in her case Maurice Blackburn. Like Ms Gillard, she also has very strong ties to the union movement. It’s not surprising that Roxon is a staunch Gillard supporter, and it’s not surprising that she is one of Rudd’s critics. But if she had any regard for the Party she previously served, she would refrain from such inflammatory commentary, as would all those other erstwhile colleagues who have volunteered their opinions.

Most notably, this includes Craig Emerson, who was once romantically linked to Julia Gillard and remains a close friend. Another is Senator Stephen Conroy, the former Communications Minister who should have retired, but didn’t. This is the character who wanted to give Australia the world’s best internet, and then censor it. The same man who thought he could regulate the editorial content of newspapers.

Conroy’s incompetence was repeatedly a source of embarrassment for the Labor Government, and yet he remains as Senate Leader of the Opposition. Why? Because he is one of the faceless men. He remains one of the elite power-brokers who decide among themselves what is best for the Party, despite their atrocious track record. These are the people who would have absolutely loathed any attempt to democratise the Labor Party and strip them of power.

Let’s just pause for a moment and consider the rise of the faceless men. While the NSW Right faction has long been a dominant force in Labor Party politics, the rot really began to set in when party secretary Mark Arbib and his successor Karl Bitar began picking and choosing who could be Premier of New South Wales. Arbib went on to become a Federal Senator, and Bitar took up the role as Federal Secretary. They brought with them to Canberra the internal practices now known as “the New South Wales disease.”

Together with other powerful right wing interests, and Bill Shorten’s AWU affiliations, the faceless men took control of Canberra, and the democratically elected Federal Labor government. Paul Howes, who is still the head of the AWU, wasn’t even a member of the Parliament, but as one of the faceless men he had a significant influence over Kevin Rudd’s fate.

Regardless of how rude Kevin Rudd may or may not have been, the fact is that he made no secret of his intentions to introduce reform to the Party. Rudd was not a member of any faction, and he made it his mission to reduce the influence of unions over the party. He openly stated that he wanted to end the power of the factions. Now, any fool can tell you that people who hold power, and face having it taken away from them, are not likely to politely hand it over.

The factional warlords, such as Stephen Conroy, Mark Arbib and David Feeney, along with the AWU’s Paul Howes and his colleague in the Parliament Bill Shorten, would have seen their grip on the reins slipping away from them. It was Kevin Rudd’s plan to restore more grass roots democracy to the party that was supposed to represent ordinary workers, but instead had evolved to become the plaything of overfed unionists.

Kevin Rudd may have many faults. No doubt one of them is that he knows most of his colleagues are intellectually inferior to him, and it would not be surprising if he couldn’t help treating them that way. But once they pulled the rug from under his feet, there was never any doubt that, in his mind at least, the evils of factionalism and union influence had prevailed.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan is not one of the faceless men, but he has been complicit with their machinations. His record as Treasurer is not a glorious one. Although it is true that the Labor Government successfully steered the nation through the Global Financial Crisis, they did so with the benefit of good luck in the form of a healthy surplus left to them by their predecessors, along with good advice from the Department of Treasury which told them to pump stimulus into the economy.

The stimulus from the cash handouts, along with the money spent on school halls and home insulation certainly filtered through the economy, and there’s no doubt that jobs and businesses stayed afloat that might otherwise have been lost. But the program was not without its controversies. Specifically, the management of the home insulation scheme and the BER has been the subject of well publicised criticism for wasteful and chaotic implementation. In short, it was right to spend the money, but how it was spent was very poorly managed. Chief architect of the stimulus plan was of course Wayne Swan.

Mr Swan should also accept responsibility for the ridiculous watered down version of the mining tax which failed to collect any substantial revenue. In an effort to appease the mining sector, it was Mr Swan who destroyed any chance of the mining tax ever fulfilling its intended purpose of sharing the wealth of the minerals boom.

It would seem self-evident, although surprisingly few people have noticed, that the loudest critics of Mr Rudd, the ones loaded up with the greatest vitriol, are in fact the least competent of his former colleagues. Mr Swan as Treasurer exhibited lack-lustre performance at best. Ms Roxon as Health Minister and later Attorney General attempted social engineering experiments that provided little if any benefit to the community, such as the alco-pops tax and plain packaging for cigarettes.

Conroy, as previously mentioned bumbled his way through the National Broadband Network, and wasted inordinate time and effort on fighting an impossible battle with the media simply because they had the temerity to criticise the government. Craig Emerson lost any semblance of credibility when he tried to sing a cover version of a Peter Garrett song.

And these people expect to be taken seriously when they say that Kevin Rudd was the problem?

Those who have left the parliament should bite their tongues. If they wanted to help the party, they should have stayed in office to continue the fight. Of course, they had every right to retire if that was their wish, but it is hypocritical in the extreme not to recognise Kevin Rudd’s right, some would say responsibility, to continue to represent the people who elected him. Those who are still in the Parliament, including Kevin Rudd, would be best advised to look to the future instead of wallowing in the past.

There is some irony to the fact that Bill Shorten, once the leader of the faceless men, is now the Leader of the Opposition, elected by the method introduced by Kevin Rudd’s reforms. However, it is important to note that, regardless of what his personal feelings might be, Mr Shorten has resisted the temptation to join the chorus of clowns calling for Mr Rudd to depart.

That might just indicate that he’s not an idiot.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that Conroy, Shorten, Feeney, Howes, and all the rest still have their hands on the controls. As I said at the beginning, I’m glad I’m not a member of the Labor Party.