Gillard, The Mining Tax and the Coming Election

This week Tony Abbott was reputed to have declared that victory was within his grasp and Julia Gillard grasped it. Tony’s comment was derided as a bit impolite – it being generally conceded that to talk up ones chances beyond the avoidance of failure is in some way untoward. Nevertheless, Tony’s comment was given an endorsement in Gillard’s promotion. The drastic Labor leadership change is an attempt to stymie the steady descent of the government’s prospects at the next election.

The seat shuffling was done in the hope that that odd fascination with novelty on the part of the electorate, that phenomenon that saw people vote out Howard because ‘it was time for another guy to have a go,’ will be assuaged with the introduction of Gillard. But if this remains the only change to occur, it will only succeed on the twin assumptions that if Tony and Julia were in a TV soap, Tony would be seen as the bad guy and that Tony and the Liberal party have no coherent belief in what justice is.

A key indicator of whether or not this will be the terms of the election, that the red hair is the only change, will be seen in the attitude that Julia takes with the Resource Super Profits Tax. A failure to implement this policy will mark the Labor government as a government that has a distinct problem in making and keeping promises. It would mark the government as one that has a distinct problem pushing through policy on the basis of believing it to be the right thing and therefore make their ideas about what is right, if they have them, irrelevant.

What makes the RSPT so crucial is that the only offering the Labor party has for the electorate is it’s ‘success’ in staving off the worst of the global financial crisis by compromising the old ‘leave it to the marketplace to work out’ formula of the former government.

Other achievements, such as health reform, have been so half hearted or plagued by reverses or cock-ups as to render them electoral liabilities. Otherwise, they are the purely symbolic achievements, such as the apology to the stolen generation, which, even if we discount the fact that with the Northern Territory Intervention such an apology may need repeating, only obtain their force negatively. In most cases that force was achieved by reference to the stubbornness of Howard. Such symbolic moves are basically in the same league as this ginger trick. (The industrial relations changes straddle both these categories.)

The difficulty with the success with the GFC is that it would be have been so much better if first enormous amounts of people had been laid off and then the government rescued them. As it stands the experience of the GFC in Australia was so mild that being saved from this ‘calamity that could of happened’ holds about as much relevance as the success against the Y2K bug. Whilst a decision was made, committed to and brought to fruition the experiential gap in ‘being saved from the GFC’ means that it is shaky ground to base an election on.

As Gillard affirmed herself, she has inherited the governments record, both good and bad and holds ‘full responsibility’ for that record. That record, and the problem that felled Rudd, is that this is a government that has a distinct inability to make and keep promises. Without that ability the articulation to the public of a political position is irrelevant. If this is to be turned around than a degree of fortitude with respect to the tax is called for.

The first move by Gillard has been to call a ‘truce’ with the miners. At first glance this seems to be a stance that holds as it’s horizon capitulation to those mining interests. It does not bode well for giving Julia something other than red hair and breasts with which to fight an election.

The Gillard change may, however, be enough to give the Labor party the edge in an election. If Tony’s hustle and bustle is not translated into a coherent message about what his party believes is right then that red hair combined with the power of incumbency is likely to secure Labor a second term.

But, if Tony Abbott and the Liberals’ storm and stress can be seen as something more coherent then success with the RSPT is crucial, and especially if it can be translated into something defining the Labor party as a government having an idea about what justice is. Even if not translated success with the RSPT would give the Labor party the advantage of being potentially good – at least better than the others.

These conclusions are reached on the assumption that people are more interested in governments that hold opinions as to what justice is and have the willingness to implement that against interests of strong sections of the community rather than governments that are favoured for their leaders performance on the Today show. This assumption seems contrary to the thinking of the power brokers, such as Bill Shorten, that brought Gillard to the prime-ministership. Perhaps people such as Bill are hoping to win an election on the basis of the meanness of Howard – Gillard after all was responsible for making changes to WorkChoices.


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This author is just another fucking dickhead.

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