Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Kevin Rudd continues to underwhelm

In the United States they had Jimmy Carter.

In Australia we were unlucky enough to have Gough Whitlam as our prime minister.

Both men were quite intelligent and there's no doubt that they meant well. However, their incompetence has seen them judged as the worst leaders in their respective country's history (though Carter might get pipped by James Buchanan from the mid-19th century).

It is no surprise that both are men of the left, that both were driven by an idealogical purity to create a better society and that both crashed and burned leaving society to bear the burden and their successors to clean up the mess.

I have written previously that Kevin Rudd is very likely to be considered Australia's most incompetent prime minister ever and is more Whitlam than Hawke or Keating. The more we get to see him the more certain I am that I will be proven correct.

Others are already starting to agree with me.
IT is very lucky for Kevin Rudd that a lot of those people who voted his party into power last year were too young to remember the economic shambles that existed in Australia under the Whitlam Labor government 30-odd years before.
There is a direct parallel with Barack Obama in the United States. People who did not live through the Carter days cannot conceive of how negative an influence a president can have on Average Joes and Jills.
And perhaps those who are old enough to remember believed that lightning couldn't strike twice in the same place.

Rudd would clearly like to be seen as following in the footsteps of the successful governments of former prime minister Bob Hawke and his treasurer Paul Keating, if for no other reason than under them Labor held on to power in Canberra for 13 years.

But as each day passes there is a growing similarity with the Whitlam government, which crashed after less than three turbulent years in office. That government's brief spell in power was characterised and bedevilled by arrogant incompetence.
'arrogant incompetence' exactly describes Kevin Rudd.
For five years before he was hoisted into the Labor leader's chair Rudd had carefully cultivated his image as a warm and understanding soul alongside Liberal minister, jovial Joe Hockey, on the Seven Network's Sunrise breakfast program.

When his party was swept into office last November he reassured the electorate with light-hearted patter that said, "Trust me, my name is Kevin and by the way I'm an economic conservative. In other words I am not going to do anything that is financially irresponsible."
This was part of his me-too campaign, which was aimed at riding on the coat-tails of the Howard government's record of sound economic management during its 11 years in power. But once in government he lost no time in attacking the conservatives as economic vandals who had recklessly driven up interest rates. The blame game which Rudd said would end with the election that consolidated Labor's grip on power all around Australia was really just getting under way in earnest.

One of the biggest challenges Rudd faces is controlling his own ego. But if you believe you are always right maybe it doesn't present itself as a task that needs addressing. Rudd's treatment of the public service as shirkers because they are not as work-obsessed as he is and his gratuitous advice to our influential neighbouring countries on how to better run their regional affairs gives substance to this conclusion.

And talking about substance this is something that seems to be noticeably lacking from many of his grand gestures and visions for the country's future. Forget the shower of ideas that rained down during Rudd's 2020 Summit earlier this year, and look at the FuelWatch debacle that was to be his solution to alleged inaction by the former conservative government on increasing petrol prices. Begrudgingly Rudd has now conceded that there is little the Australian Government can do against international pressure on fuel prices. And the fiasco around his promise to give computers to high school students across the country is quickly emerging as another case of all froth and no bubble.

It may well be that Rudd's determination to concentrate power in his office is blindsiding him from the growing pain that is being felt by the broad community. And this pain is not confined to the working families he has taken to his breast.

The sizeable swing against Labor in last weekend's Gippsland by-election -- unusually high for such a recently elected government -- may well reflect a growing resentment in the community at Rudd's failure to deliver on the expectations he has created.

While the Gippsland result will blunt any immediate pressure on Brendan Nelson's Opposition leadership it also will encourage the conservatives to lift themselves out of the despair that followed the November election defeat and start looking positively at the next federal poll due in 2010.

And this optimism is enhanced by recent opinion polling around the states showing that Labor is starting to fall out of favour with the electorate, particularly in NSW, where it has clearly had enough of the endless mismanagement of public services under the scandal-wracked ALP government.

In last year's election campaign Labor successfully attacked the Howard government for failing to listen to the concerns of the community. The conservatives will now turn this back on to Rudd by accusing him of adopting a "government knows best" philosophy that discourages freedom of choice and enterprise.

Launching a new book by Anne Henderson on conservative political pioneer Enid Lyons recently, shadow treasurer Malcolm Turnbull flagged a strategy focusing on freedom as an across-the-board benchmark for Liberal policy development.

"Our vision of government is to enable and to empower," Turnbull said. "Labor's is to direct and command." This sounds simplistic but Rudd's presidential style of leadership and his preoccupation with the micromanagement of government may well have the electorate wondering whether it made the right decision last year after all.
Australia needs strong leadership to address the shocking education outcomes inflicted on our children for the last 20 years, the challenge and opportunity of rising powers in the region such as India and China and the rising cost of energy that is already hurting hardest those who are least able to afford it.

Australia's go it alone attitude to addressing the non-issue of climate change is a prime example of how far out of touch with community attitudes Rudd is, let alone reality. It seems that he prefers to pander to European and United Nations institutions than do what is right for Australia.

In Kevin Rudd we do not have that strength of leadership. Unfortunately, he does not understand how limited his ability is and that will be to the detriment of all of us.

(Nothing Follows)


Myrddin Seren said...

Hi Jack,

If memory serves, the Whitlam experience was characterised by all the Old Comrades finding themselves in power at last and running around pursuing all sorts agendas pent up for years and busting loose. Many of said decisions were a train wreck.

The situation to date seems to be an absence of significant decisions and a very tight leash on the Cabinet and ministers by the PM. Don't quite know how he has got them all buffaloed into submission - but Comrade Julia seems to be strongly supportive of centralisation of all power in the Inner Circle - funny that ?

But of course the cry these days is that it ain't a valid theory without peer review. How about these observations ?:

"He ( Rudd ) has adopted the Peter Beattie model of never missing a photo opportunity or a chance to mould the daily media agenda. He has set himself the goal of wiping the Tories off the electoral map at the next poll".

Source: Mark Latham in the AFR.

Now whilst some may argue Latham is a sour-grapes peer, a peer of Rudd he is none the less. And I believe Latham wanted that top job just as badly as KR did, and that Latham as well had a vision to consign the Coalition to political oblivion for a generation or more. He just parachuted into the Labor leadership a bit too early in the timetable and bit off more than he could chew.

Hence I propose that Latham's analysis is solid peer review and that we can propose that becoming PM is KR's chief end in itself and he will seek to hang on to the job for grim death. As part of which he will focus his strategy on removing the Coalition as a political threat for any foreseeable future.

As a result he could well become as ratings driven and inward looking as Grodon Brown in the UK - a veritable whirlwind of activity with nothing actually happening.

So the greater risk may not be overtly destructive policies, but an absence of policy implementation of any material substance - good, bad or indifferent.

Jack Lacton said...


The Old Comrades, once they got some power, certainly buggered things good and proper.

The situation now is very similar to Gough's first six months in which he did almost all of the policy work.

One thing that most people are unaware of is that in the last couple of years of Whitlam the US government had to scale back what intelligence they were sharing with us, as the government was leaking like a sieve. It took many years to recover from that.

miriam sawyer said...

Jimmy Carter was intelligent? Jimmy Carter meant well?

Carter never met a dictator he didn't like. He is responsible for the prominence of Arafat and the ascendancy of Mugabe. JimmY Carter went to North Korea and cut a deal which was contrary to official government policy. He thinks he is a law unto himself.

He is eaten up with false humility and envy of his successors.