Friday, 6 January 2012

Personification of the Party.

Continuing my research for the PhD, I stumbled upon a serious of quotes that I had taken from the Australian media on the 25th of November 2007, the day after Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister.

“Rudd will be different. If he can tilt our culture's tone to one in which fear, greed, indifference, cynicism and prejudice are a little less prevalent in our national life, then many of us will feel a little prouder to be Australians than we have in the past 11  years.” David Williamson

“Labor 1.0 was the Whitlam government; after emerging from 23 years in the wilderness in 1972 many of its members behaved like pigs at a trough and it was rejected overwhelmingly by the public in 1975. Labor 2.0 was the Hawke-Keating government, vastly more sophisticated and accomplished, but eventually undone by arrogance and the culture wars, as Paul Keating, Gareth Evans, Nick Bolkus and Robert Tickner led the charge of "racism" every time anyone dared to question its misguided policies on immigration or Aboriginal affairs. It took 10 years for Labor to recover. Labor 3.0 is encapsulated by Rudd's refusal to contest the culture wars with Howard. The rhetorical tendencies of firebrands like Julia Gillard, Peter Garrett and the trade union ideologues have been conspicuously tempered or measured, or non-existent, since Rudd took charge.” Phillip Cooroy

“Howard said months ago that the opinion polls threatening him with annihilation might be the Australian public's idea of a joke. We've now seen the punchline.” Peter Hartcher

“John Howard's greatest legacy will be the size of his defeat.” Judith Brett

“For years, Costello has demanded that the Liberal leadership — and the prime ministership of this country — be handed to him on a platter. That was not to be. Now when the leadership is there for the taking, albeit with a heavy workload attached, he reneges.” Costello says he has withdrawn in the interests of renewal within the party. For goodness sake, he is only 50 years of age, he has overseen the best economic times Australia has lived through, and he has a bucket-load of experience. You can imagine the profound sense of anger and hurt by so many, particularly those Liberals who worked so hard in his electorate for his return to Parliament at this election, expecting they were working for the next leader of the party. Hundreds of Victorian Liberals were counting on him being the next Victorian-bred leader of the party. Well, one news conference today has destroyed that dream. This one announcement says more about the character of the man than his 11 years as Treasurer of this country.” Jeff Kennett

“The most important outcome of this election — more important than John Howard losing his seat and the powerful blow dealt to the morale of everyone involved on the non-Labor side of politics — is the electorate's repudiation of WorkChoices. It might be that WorkChoices could have got the assent of the people if they had been allowed to discuss and absorb it before it was passed into law. We'll never know, because Howard never gave the legislation or the Australian public that chance.” Shaun Carney
“Saturday night's victory was not just a victory for the Labor Party, it was also a victory for those Liberals such as Malcolm Fraser, Petro Georgiou and Judi Moylan, who stood against the pernicious erosion of decent standards in our public affairs. The Liberal Party of John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello is now a party of privilege and punishments. One that lacks that most basic of wellsprings: charity.” Paul Keating

“Costello would have been flawed as leader but the most likely alternatives will send many Liberals into a spin. Many would see the charismatic Malcolm Turnbull as risky; others remain suspicious of Brendan Nelson's Labor background; they regard Tony Abbott as a wild card.” Michelle Grattan

“You have to hand it to John Howard. The man who immortalised himself as "Lazarus with a triple bypass" has reached from just beyond the point of political extinction to achieve his ultimate personal aim; denying Peter Costello his chance to lead the Liberal Party.” Glenn Milne

“It is indeed that case I think that Queensland turned the corner for Labor, Queensland the state which is so often under-performed for Labor. On this occasion, the highest primary vote it has ever recorded, and the biggest swing in the country. Ten seats at least, maybe 12, I think it also shows on Kevin Rudd's part that in this parochial state, the benefit of having a Queenslander, a presentable Queenslander, as a potential Prime Minister, I think that also swayed a few votes. In the end, it's a bit like State of Origin up here at State of Origin time, Barrie, that is, it's a case of Queenslander, Queenslander, Queenslander!” Jim Middleton

“Rudd was able to depict himself as the leader of the future and the more he did that, of course, he cast John Howard as the leader of the past. Howard's problem was that he was always combating this idea he could never do it, despite his new initiatives, his programs, his spending initiatives, he could never combat the idea he was the leader of the past, Rudd projected himself very effectively.” Paul Kelly

More than 4 years later, looking back in retrospect I have to wonder how and why so many people got their predictions so, so wrong? The Rudd experience more or less proved that the public and the media either expect far too much, or nothing at all from our leaders, so when they fulfill their destiny and achieve mediocre results we are all left disappointed.

In retrospect though Rudd's failure was not to foster these expectations, but to try and meet them. Rather than the dawn of a new era, the Rudd ascension spelt the beginning of the end for the ALP, because unlike the idealists of the Whitlam era, Rudd supporters were a group full of oxymorons: the niave pragmitists. Rudd's inability to translate his core values (Even now we still don't know what they are) in combination with his inability to deliver any substancial policy goals represented the microcosym of the post 1996 ALP:
  • A party of ideas and rhetoric and a party lacking any real policy brain or substance. 
  • A party which is intelligent, but cannot translate this to the public in any meaningful way
  • A party steeped in tradition and history, yet has no real vision for the future
  • A party which professes to speak for the 'working class', but has no grasp of this concept
  • A party with a bureaucratic mind rather than a multifaceted one
It is therefore unsurprising that Rudd's presence continues to dominate the party, for he is its personification. By ousting Rudd and installing Gillard, the ALP not only lost its identity, it destroyed any chance it had left for survival.

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