Friday, February 24, 2012

Rudd versus Gillard: Everyone loses.

A copy of a letter I sent today to my local ALP senator.

Dear Senator,

Not sure if you care what one of your constituents thinks about your internal party matters, but here goes.

Julia Gillard is, IMO:
  • a competent legislator,
  • a good administrator, and
  • outstanding at achieving 'meeting of minds'
    • negotiating with many competing parties,
    • with conflicting aims and differing agendas, and
    • hence achieving legislative aims in a hung parliament.
Her record of accomplishment in the actual business of government is, again, very good, doubly so in that it's a hung parliament. Not 'revolutionary' like Whitlam and his many reforms, not 'breakthrough' like Keating floating the dollar (because we aren't in those times), but solid important stuff that matters now and matters for the future - balancing the budget, creating the next century's infrastructure and improving our intellectual competency and competitiveness.

So what's wrong that she doesn't have the 60-70% voter approval rating that she should have??

There is a serious disconnect between what Gillard does and her perceived performance in the electorate. It's worth at least 30-40% in her approval rating, IMO.

I have no idea why this is so. My best guess is that it is somehow related to the advisers around her in the PMO.
 [PMO = Prime Ministers Office, her personal unit staffed by her vs Dept. of Prime Minister and Cabinet, a normal Public Service Agency]

Howard had Arthur Sinodinos and together they made a formidable team, unbeatable for a decade. Proving the point that Great Leaders have Great Teams around them. But that's speculation on my part.

What Gillard is experiencing (approval vs performance gap) seems to me to be the political equivalent of business' "glass ceiling".

Women work incredibly hard, are exceptionally competent and do very good work but regularly get overlooked for promotion by their managers. I've personally worked with a number of mid-level Managers in the Public Service who've been trapped this way, but never were any of them men.

This can't be blamed solely on bias, nor solely on "Men do this to us".
Part of the effect, at least, has to be something in the way that Women approach work and promotion. A side-effect of this is that Women Entrepreneurs coming from this group are hugely successful in the plethora of small businesses they create.

There's such a weight of evidence about this 'overlooked for promotion' effect that I'm surprised it hasn't been studied extensively and that 'remediation' courses/training aren't available for it.

None of which might help Ms Gillard right now :-(

But this is my attempt at explaining why one of our most competent and apparently most broadly knowledgeable and informed political leaders isn't getting due recognition from her 'employers', the electorate.

Plays well to the public and sprouts lots of great sounding stuff.
Unfortunately, has proven to have very limited ability to 'execute'.

Or to sell difficult decisions.

After 3-4 attempts to get up Carbon pricing legislation, he quite rightly said, "enough time wasted on this now, we'll  defer it until after the next election when we should have better upper house numbers".

If he'd been up against Nelson or Turnbull (whom I'd call 'reasonable men'), that would've been the end of the matter...

But Abbot creamed Rudd, and easily so, quickly bringing him down.

Abbot has beaten two Labor leaders - Rudd lost office and Gillard didn't win the unloseable election.
But Abbot doesn't understand there's a difference between beating an opponent and winning over them.

A Rudd vs Abbot election will be another debacle for the ALP.
As would currently, a Gillard vs Abbot election.

I talk to my friends, most of whom like me have been voting since Whitlam or before and cover a spectrum of political persuasions, and we all would like to vote "None of the Above" if the next election is between Abbot and either Rudd or Gillard.

The consensus is: "Not ALP, not Liberal, Not Greens, but WHO?"

And many wish we could vote for Independents as gutsy as Windsor and Oakeshott, or a little less wild-eyed than Wilke. Katter is just plain crazy, but so one-eyed pro-QLD his electorate must love him.

If I was in your shoes, I wouldn't know which potential Leader could get the ALP over the line at the next election - at least not against Abbot.

Gillard doesn't sell herself well enough to the electorate and has been kicking far too many 'own goals' recently, and Rudd is like week old fish, flashy but well past its Use By.

Crean was leader for a time, but the "Anyone But Crean" sentiment is still strong.

There are many other fine people serving in Parliament who, in time, might make outstanding leaders - but anyone contesting and deposing  an incumbent ALP Prime Minister for the second time, no matter how good or well respected, will be hated by the electorate, just for the act.

If the ALP was in Opposition, this would all be moot. We, the electors, expect there to be jockeying amongst the contenders for 'a shot at the title' (to use a boxing analogy, appropriate for Abbot).

But the electorate, wrongly, presume "we vote for the Prime Minister", as I saw stated in a voxpop last night.
That's a direct outcome of Australian political parties succumbing to the 'Presidential style' of campaigning and government.
We aren't the USA...

While a single, strong 'all-powerful' leader is an easier sell to the electorate, this situation we find ourselves in is its inevitable conclusion.

Why are all these unpleasant stories and opinions about Rudd and his poor performance/personality only coming out only now? Why not when they were happening?

Because the Parliamentary wing of the ALP collectively and consciously created and maintained the fiction of "one good all-powerful leader", possibly telling itself that "Disunity is Death" (the flip-side of "Workers, United, can never be Defeated").

Being caught out in "the Big Lie" is also "political Death".  The electorate are just finding out about being sold "the Big Lie" and are NOT at all happy about it.

As Richo said, "Politicians Lie" (that's what they are forced to do by our Political and Media System).
We, the electorate know that, but don't expect/condone such monumental constructs, hence the massive rebound effect.

You'd think that the way to cut this Gordian Knot is for Gillard, not Rudd, to revert to Radical Honesty.

There'd be an immediate backlash for sure, but it would completely destabilise and confuse Abbot.
And given time, might win over a bunch of the disenchanted electorate.

It also needs Open, Honest, Transparent comment/opinion from inside the rest of the Cabinet and potentially the Caucus.

There's a time for a rigidly controlled, disciplined "single message", and perhaps a time for close-to-genuine Honesty.

For evidence, I offer Bob Hawke. A hard-drinking womanising larakin if ever there was one, that we still applaud because he can scoff down a beer faster than most.
He was forgiven these indiscretions by the public because he announced them, unlike the damaging backroom succession deal with Keating, or the unfulfilled Howard/Costello agreement, reported to the public by others.

If the Liberal party can get behind a good Leader, someone besides Abbot who thinks constant whining is a strategy, before the next election then the ALP, if it doesn't do something very different, could well be in the wilderness for another generation.

But I don't expect changes like that in Politics, just like I don't expect a fuchsia Airborne porcine division to swing by here. [A squadron of Pink Flying Pigs]

All the best in whatever happens.

steve jenkin

Steve Jenkin, Info Tech, Systems and Design Specialist.
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

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