The Possum Box

Thoughts of the Pollytics Community

Awaiting the awakening-The Media and Kevin Rudd

Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 23, 2008

By Ad astra

All of us see the world through the lenses of our own unique spectacles, finely honed over time by our background, beliefs and biases. How we view the world affects our judgements. Thus we should not be surprised that what journalists write reflects their unique biases. But could it be that it is not only the lenses through which they view the world that are giving them a biased reading, but also that their unfamiliarity with the new political order is distorting their view? In a piece dated 16 June: The rats’ problem with Rudd, The Piping Shrike says: “… it is pretty evident that the press does not understand what Rudd is about.” The article is well worth reading.

Most columnists have worked through the Howard era, some from the beginning. They witnessed a politician emerge from a political bloodbath to lead his party to four election victories. They saw him mature and gradually settle into a style of leadership and pattern of behaviour, which although not necessarily applauded, became the accepted paradigm. His actions became predictable, his style familiar, and his way of doing things accepted as the norm. Along comes Kevin Rudd. From his first day as leader he slipped into election mode. Conscious of the daily and weekly news cycles, already familiar with breakfast TV, and experienced in the workings of the public service, he set about fashioning messages for the media throughout its cycles. This was sustained throughout the official election campaign period and continues to this day. So much so that one journalist recently caustically commented that Kevin Rudd was still acting like the Leader of the Opposition, which sounds like code for ‘Kevin Rudd is still in election mode.’ John Howard, the norm by which journalists have been accustomed to judging events, would not be behaving like this. So Kevin Rudd must be ‘abnormal’. Could it be that Kevin Rudd’s media modus operandi is now the norm, and that this will continue to the next election? If so, columnists need to get used to it and adjust their perceptions and judgements to the new reality, instead of indulging in what The Piping Shrike terms ‘analysis-by-history’, or what Marshall McLuhan would have termed ‘driving while looking in the rear-view mirror’.

Many commentators have ridiculed what they see as Kevin Rudd’s focus on process, when after all, ‘it’s outcomes that count’. Educators and businessmen know that the outcomes they desire are the product of sound process. So they get the process right in order to achieve their outcomes. Political processes include enquiries, committee deliberations, reviews, assessments and such events as the 2020 Summit where opportunities to ‘think outside the square’ are provided, where new ideas provide the basis for debate. Could it be that for Rudd such processes ARE the message? Are journalists who criticize ‘process’ as familiar as they ought to be with the importance of sound process in rational decision making, and how it influences political outcomes, or are they still in Howard-era mode where there was less emphasis on process? The 10 billion water plan and the NT intervention were two initiatives characterized by minimal process – little consultation and short preparation time for what were major undertakings with far reaching effects. John Howard was lauded by some as ‘action man’. By way of contrast, examples of process-intensive initiatives of the Rudd Government are the Ken Henry review of the tax system and the Ross Garnaut report on climate change. These processes address complex issues that take time to digest. Columnists need to adjust to this level of complexity and the time frame needed for satisfactory completion of such projects instead of rashly applying to Rudd the pejorative slogan ‘all talk but no action’. Process IS action.

In the same breath they disparage Rudd’s ‘lack of long term planning’. If the following are not long-term planning, what are they? The Henry tax review, the Garnaut report, the review of Federal and State health services, the so-called digital education revolution, Infrastructure Australia that met this month, the NT one year progress report just out, the push to tackle obesity as well as excessive drinking, and a response by year-end to the outcomes of the 2020 Summit, and so on the long list goes. So many in the media either don’t see this as long term planning, or chose deliberately to ignore it so as not to undermine their ‘no long term plan’ mantra. They seem unable to comprehend that a government can have a short term agenda to match the daily and weekly media cycles AND simultaneously have a comprehensive set of long terms plans that unfold over time. The media has habitually looked to the May Budget as the prime indicator of the Government’s agenda, but after the first Rudd/Swan budget they seemed to be left wondering. They need seriously to also look elsewhere.

Not satisfied with criticizing the Rudd focus on process, they also criticize what they see as a LACK of process. Greg Sheridan in his June 12 piece in The Australian titled The new Mad Hatter scathingly described Kevin Rudd’s recent foreign policy initiatives as “…utterly amorphous content on the run, half baked, with no detail and no credible prospect of success.” The tenor of the article was cringing, expressing as it did discomfort with a PM who is not afraid to state his views on the world stage, is willing to take the initiative as a middle power leader, is prepared to express his vision for international diplomacy, and has the courage of his convictions. Notwithstanding Sheridan’s predictions of failure, Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda said he was “deeply impressed” by Rudd’s remarks in his Kyoto speech about regional cooperation and security, and Indonesian President Yudhoyono expressed similar sentiments. Clearly Kevin Rudd has a different approach to foreign affairs than did John Howard. In initiatives where other nations are involved, he seemingly prefers to promote ideas rather than offer a detailed plan, and then seek a response, in this instance via an envoy, Richard Woolcott. If much detail had been woven around the proposal before it was promulgated, would columnists have then been writing condemnatory pieces accusing Rudd of pre-empting proper debate among the nation states affected?

Those who have sneeringly referred to Rudd’s foreign policy announcements as ‘thought bubbles’ need to realize that in international affairs Rudd’s focus is to initiate a process and await the outcomes. While it’s reasonable to critique Rudd’s approach, journalists should view it not against the Howard approach, but instead adjust to the reality of a new paradigm for foreign policy.

Rudd’s comment that the G8 nations should apply the blow torch to OPEC to produce more oil evoked ridicule from the media and the Opposition, but by so doing he successfully reinforced his internationalization of the oil crisis in the eyes of his domestic audience, and underscored the relative impotence of individual governments to do much about it. Most of the media seemed to miss this. Many journalists are critical of Rudd’s ‘failure’ to tell the public unequivocally that petrol prices will continue to rise, and accuse him in advance of cowardice and lack of resolve to bite the bullet on the cost to voters of emissions trading. They seem not to ask themselves why he would do that ahead of the receipt of the Garnaut report. To oblige journalists digging for a dramatic headline? One can imagine it: ‘Rudd admits petrol costs will skyrocket when his Government introduces emissions trading’. Any prudent politician would want to handle this potentially explosive issue thoughtfully, and prepare the public incrementally for the unpleasant news so that successful adaptation can occur. As an aside, George Megalogenus believes the public may be more aware of this than is acknowledged by many journalists; adaptation may be achieved more readily than imagined.

To sum up, this piece suggests that some, but not all of the media have failed to recognize the modus operandi of the Rudd Government, and even when they have, feel uncomfortable with it after almost 12 years of the Howard Government and are therefore unwilling to acknowledge or accept it. They live in a past age when everything was different and easier to understand. Moreover, they may resent Rudd calling the media tune when they have done that for so long. So we should not be surprised at the top-of-the-front-page story in The Weekend Australian on 21 June: Anger builds around Rudd as chaos reigns at the top, a story replicated in several other papers. Forget the content, which is insubstantial and in places confected, the real message is that a large and influential section of the Fourth Estate has targeted Kevin Rudd’s character, style and behaviour, painting it as deeply flawed. It is hard to see any motive for this other than to diminish him and thereby erode his popularity with the people. Expect more of this.

Finally, a 19 June article in The Possum Box by Changa’s Boots, Australian attack bloggers and the Overton Window , suggests a more sinister process may be at work, at least among journalists who take extreme positions. In the Overton Window, what might look like unintentional bias is a deliberate attempt to make less extreme positions seem ‘middle ground’ and therefore more acceptable – a cynical mind-game, undertaken for covert political purposes. If this is the tactic of Australia’s ‘extreme’ writers, we have in our midst a menacing, calculated process to influence public thinking, almost in the manner of mass indoctrination, George Orwell style. This would be much more damaging to democracy than uninformed or biased journalism, about which we protest so much.

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29 Responses to “Awaiting the awakening-The Media and Kevin Rudd”

  1. Bushfire Bill said

    Well-written and clearly stated. This is the kind of thoughtful blogging that is needed to counter the rah-rah jingoism of The Usual Suspects.

    I fully agree that Howard, particularly in his last couple of years, conditioned commentators to expect guerilla warfare policy: no hint of any movement followed by an attempt to steamroller all opposition or comment with an emotional avalanche of detail and “action”.

    Murry-Darling and, in particular, the NT Intervention come to mind.

    What struck me about the latter was how the Commentariat, within a couple of days, fell into line, espousing the urgency of the measure, the humanity of its intentions, the sheer brilliance of its conception… when beforehand you’d never heard “Boo!” from them on anything to do with aborigines or their welfare. They didn’t give a stuff about indigenous people, but you could be forgiven for thinking (if you were from Mars) that they’d all spent their lifetimes out on the missions trying to get someone to listen.

    Now they want more of the same, or at least claim to want it. Rudd has not solved the problems of interest rates, inflation, petrol prices or health. He’s had seven months, for Christ’s sake! The implication is that Howard would have done something. In truth, he would have issued a press release, cobbled a policy together from scribblings off the back of an envelope and then strutted the national stage daring naysayers to contradict him, calling anyone who baulked “un-Australian”, uncaring. His tame pets in the press would have followed. “Sign up now! Don’t read the fine print! Just sign!”

    This was all part of Howard’s Father Of The Nation schtik, the Great Helmsman myth: Johnny had all the problems in hand and all the solutions ready to trot out. He (in the minds of the columnists) knew exactly what to do in every situation. Father knows best. Just place your trust in John and he’ll see us through.

    Contrast this with the depiction of Rudd. His office in supposed “chaos” (paradoxically proved by the fact that he’s so calm in public… how can you argue with that?). Already he lurches “from crisis to crisis”. He has a trolley obstructing the doorway of his suite. He keeps Air Vice Marshall Huston waiting. He’s upset senior public servants. He’s pissed-off the Press Gallery. Did anyone check his pockets for stolen silverware? I mean, anyone’d think he’s the Prime Minister or something. Geez. He travels overseas. He takes doctors with him (or he doesn’t… depending on who you read… both are equally shocking). He acted too early on Belinda Neal. Or too late. Or just right, but Gillard’s taking over from him by term’s end anyway, so who cares?

    The whole basis to their meme is that Labor and Rudd are illegitimate, accidental occupiers of the seat of government. It’s as if the election was decided by the toss of a coin, not a vote of 13 million people. Ex-ministers wait in the wings, toying with whether they’ll work for Big Business or become Prime Minister… either option is equally achieveable. It’s up to personal choice (after all they’ve worked so hard, they deserve a breather before taking over). The voters are disillusioned, they’re “looking for permission” to boot Rudd out of the Lodge. A new Lib leader will do it. All we have to do is change the label: wipe his arse, give him his play-lunch, push whoever it is out onto centre stage and Rudd will be gone by 2010. Just ask Joe Hockey, who daily lectures Labor (including the Speaker) on how to comport themselves in Parliament, especially with their betters looking on. Just don’t break anything before we can take over again. Please… Don’t trash the joint, Kevin.

    Even if some of the more reasonable of the MSM scribes concede that Rudd never promised to bring down petrol or grocery prices, or lower interest rates, or solve the rest of the World’s problems, they’ve invented this concept that he promised to do so. If not that, then the Mob believes he promised to do so. Far be it from them to put the Mob right, to point out that no such promises were made. No, no, no… they’re only commentators, not participators. As Glenn Milne is fond of saying, “But I don’t want to be Prime Minister.” We’re talking “retail politics” here, not reality, or reason, after all.

    In the best of all possible worlds, oil would not be running out, bad loans wouldn’t have been made to sharecroppers in Louisiana, and China wouldn’t be polluting the rest of the world with their zeal for achieving middle class status for its citizens. Japan wouldn’t be slaughtering whales and kids could get by playing cricket and footy, without having to worry about those dang computers, and maths and English and stuff. Howard and Costello waited as long as they could for the decline to begin. They stretched out the last election, sailing – like Dennis Connor – into the spectator fleet on the last leg of the last race, hoping Rudd would tack too soon. But it didn’t happen.

    We won. You lost. No Father Of The Nation is going to save us. We need planning. We need unravelling of the old methods of guerilla politics. We need process, and then maybe we might get the outcomes we’re after. We don’t want any more surprises, no more “Gotchas!”. It’s too late for ambushes to turn the tide. No spin is going to drill more oil wells, or save the whales. It’s going to be hard work from now on in. Naturally hard work is anathema to the lazy bastards in the press who think that earning a living means getting up a little earlier on a Sunday morning and writing the first thing that comes into their empty heads. It might be alright to have a giggle on Insiders, or a guffaw on Sky News. But, come on fellas, this is serious. Retail Politics ain’t enough any more when we’re facing wholesale damnation if we don’t get it right for once.

  2. Just Me said

    Humbled into silence by Ad Astra’s excellent post, and then Bushfire Bill’s eloquent response.

    I’ll just be sitting over here, watching entranced from the sidelines.

    Go team!

  3. gandhi said

    Good points about process as policy, but I’m not sure I agree with this conclusion re playing the media cycle:

    Could it be that Kevin Rudd’s media modus operandi is now the norm, and that this will continue to the next election? If so, columnists need to get used to it and adjust their perceptions and judgements to the new reality.

    Scott McLellan recently accused the Bush administration of being in “permanent campaign mode” and pointed out that this was not a good thing for open, honest government. He’s a mendacious fool, of course, but he’s right. Are we really supposed to just “get used to it”, or should we (readers and columnists alike) be pushing back against this dangerous trend? And if so, how?

    You suggest that “a government can have a short term agenda to match the daily and weekly media cycles AND simultaneously have a comprehensive set of long terms plans that unfold over time“. True in theory, but not all that easy in practice. For example, witness the difficulties you’ve got yourself into in defending Rudd’s comments about “applying the blow torch to OPEC”. This was a silly thing to say unless he was planning to make a major stand in Saudi Arabia last weekend, which he didn’t do.

    Yes, his comments “underscored the relative impotence of individual governments to do much about” the price of oil, but it’s bad enough making yourself look impotent without also making yourself look foolish. In trying to play the media cycle with such bravado, Rudd did both. Hopefully he learned a lesson.

    Howard was also in permanent campaign mode, of course, which is why we all saw his ugly mug on TV every night, spouting running commentary on everything from Bradman to Barack Obama to Big Brother. But he nearly always fed the media 5-second sound bites (easily packaged into lead stories by lazy journos) rather than full-blown policy announcements.

    Bushfire Bill’s comments about Howard’s “steamroller” tactics only apply to the days when the hubristic Howard Coalition dominated both houses of parliament. At that stage, he could roll out policy without any preamble and the media had little choice but to play catch up: they rushed the front page with whatever they had been fed in the Press Releases, and by the next day it was already becoming “old news”. It’s hard to write a coherent critique of a 250-page policy document you just got your hands on 5 minutes before deadline.

    Of course, the media were still particularly craven to Howard during this period. I’m not trying to defend them so much as highlight Howard’s tactical success in controlling the media cycle this way.

    It was much the same thing with the lies. A big lie, they say, is a good one. It grabs the headlines, grabs the public’s attention, and informs prejudices which are hard to change later. IF a retraction comes out a few days or weeks later, it can always be couched in vague terms to ensure it doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact. And people don’t like to admit that they were wrong, or that they got played. Witness the glorious return of our brave diggers from Iraq.

    Despite his record popularity, Rudd cannot do the 5-second Big Brother sound-bite thing every night. It’s not his style, and as you say the media won’t let him get away with it. Maybe that’s a good thing, actually.

    But with the Senate now changed, I think we can expect more of the policy steamroller tactics. As long as the policy is sound, and in the public interests, I don’t care. I just don’t want any more of the bloody lies.

    A recent global study of world leaders found that none of them rated well on public trust except the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon. Even Gordon Brown was just ahead of Putin and Hu Jintao. It’s a sad state of affairs and Bushfire Bill’s conclusion is spot on:

    “Retail Politics ain’t enough any more when we’re facing wholesale damnation if we don’t get it right for once.”

    Hopefully the seriousness of our situation will wake people up to both political spinmeisters and media hacks. As Bush’s USA continually reminds us, it takes an educated and involved public to ensure a healthy, vibrant democracy.

  4. Brutus said

    Such trap.
    You are doing exactly the same thing which you criticise and complain of.

  5. gandhi said

    In the news: Rachel Siewart is not very impressed by Rudd’s “process as policy” approach to the Caring for Our Country program.

    “It was obvious that the announcement, once it was finally made, was a rushed response that hadn’t been thought through. The program is not strategic. It is unfocused and is in danger of undoing much of the progress we have made over the last three decades in conservation and natural resource management (NRM). Unfortunately it takes us right back to the bad old days, of disconnected one-off short-term ‘bitsy’ projects, and it is clear that the Government is still scrambling to work out what to do.”

  6. gandhi said

    I’m caught in a trap, Brutus.

    I can’t walk out.

    But I love you, man!

  7. dasher said

    Fair enough he needs more time you say…but it is interesting that even cheerleaders like Phillip Adams and the Canberra Times are getting a little unsettled. From my perspective you have presented KR is the best possible light imaginable – at prsent he IS rather too much into thought bubbles and bumper sticker policy (save the whales, no nukes, save the planet, ban the binge, asia together, ) – oh and what happened to the evidence based policy – tax on alco pops? luxury car tax? fuel pricing? grocery pricing? computers for every kid?………..a pattern has emerged…we shall see

  8. Ad astra said

    Bushfire Bill and Ghandi, thank you for contributing your thoughtful comments to the debate.

    I wonder Ghandi about the genesis of what appears to be a widespread perception that having a short-term focus on the media cycles precludes or at least curtails having long-terms policies and plans. Both seem to be essential in the contemporary political enterprise. Journalists demand the Government produce long term plans, and decry what they see as fixation with the media cycles, yet would they applaud politicians stepping back from these cycles to concentrate on the long term? How would they react to a media ‘blackout’ while politicians went into planning mode? The media, now so all-pervading, insistent, assertive and self-opinionated, would scream in protest. Some programmes have already complained about the difficulty they have experienced in obtaining interviews with key Government figures, including the PM; Barry Cassidy on Insiders is one example.

    During his long term as PM, John Howard steadily increased his media exposure. Did he do this in response to media requests or did he do it to gain political traction? I imagine it was both – it became a symbiotic relationship. From the very beginning Kevin Rudd followed suit. His ministers and the Opposition have now joined the crush to get on TV and into the press. It seems to now be integral to the political process, and unlikely to change. It has characterized the US administration and was prominent in Tony Blair’s Government. Even if it is sometimes a distraction, it seems to be now an essential part of political life. Of course, if short-term media exposure became a substitute for long term planning, or seriously delayed it, that would be fatal to any Government.

    My thesis then is that all politicians are caught up inexorably in the media cycle and that they will be pilloried if they don’t participate. So they have to cope with it and journalists have to understand it. They of all people should. While front-line politicians participate in the media on behalf of their parties, the parliamentary secretaries and the public service need to be beavering away producing sound long term policy. This is what I trust they are doing. If they don’t come up with the goods, that will be lethal. It seems that so far, in a short time period, much has been done and much more is in the pipeline. Time will tell whether the policy products will meet the needs of the nation, and secure the approval of the electorate. But time is not something many commentators seem willing to give. In our fast-moving world instant results seems to be the imperative.

    I’m not sufficiently familiar with the Government’s new environment funding package ‘Caring for Our Country’ to comment on Rachel Siewert’s article. She is putting a Greens perspective. Greens are understandably very focussed on this and other green issues, but not being in Government do not have to find a balance among competing priorities, including non-green matters. While I agree that process is not policy, I contend that process IS action. Good policy should be the outcome of sound process.

    There will be disagreement about how much action has occurred in the 7 months of the Rudd Government, from those who contend that there has been virtually no action, no substance, only symbolism, gesture, style, stunts, gimmicks, thought bubbles and bumper sticker slogans, to those who are impressed with the many initiatives of the new Government and its new style of doing things, so different from the Howard era. Time will show which of these contrary views is the most accurate. Time IS needed; is the electorate willing to give it, even if the Opposition and many in the media are not? The polls suggest it is.

  9. janice said

    Like Just Me, I too feel humbled into silence. Thank you Ad Astra for your posts which contain so much food for thought and the basis for intelligent debate. Thank you also to Bushfire Bill and Ghandi for your responses.

    The articles submitted by Ad Astra in particular in this new blog (courtesy Possum) is the sort of material mainstream journalists ought to be presenting to their readers/listeners/viewers instead of the inane populist and biased analysis that has become the norm. The media have the power to assist in the process from which good policies come and to peddle the rubbish they are currently doing is irresponsible and a detriment to this nation.

  10. Question is: can anyone here name a single tough decision that Rudd has made in office? The Hawke, Keating and Howard governments were known for important economic reforms, and for being brave enough to make the tough decisions when needed. Rudd on the other hand has been all about gestures, symbolism and processes. The apology, Kyoto, the Australian commission to abolish nuclear arms, the alcopops tax hike, denying the baby bonus to 2% of the population and Fuelwatch (which was opposed by 4 govt dept’s) are all decisions which are light on substance.

    I repeat: can anyone here name a single tough and substantial decision that Rudd has made in office?

    (didnt turn off thre italics, apologies)

  11. Possum Comitatus said

    I’ll bite on this one.

    If we look at the last three governments, the only thing of any import that each of them did in their first 8 months was forced on to them by major exogenous events. Treasury told Hawke how fucked the economy was and unless something was done right now we’d be staring down the barrel of Argentinian syndrome – the results of which completely dominated that government for most of the decade. Howard implemented his gun laws as a result of Port Arthur.

    Rudd on the other hand has yet to have any major event occur which would have forced him to respond.

    What we do know Rudd is doing is gearing up for a major reform, carbon emissions trading, where you’d have to go back to the floating off the dollar to find a reform with a bigger impact on the economy.

    I dont know about you Leon, but I’d prefer that he didnt rush head long into it without vast quantities of analysis being done first – like the Garnaut review as the first step, a broad range of responses to that from industry, economists and others as the second, culminating in a final program that can be implemented.

    Which get’s us right back to the original point – process and outcomes aren’t separated, sometimes they’re one and the same.

    With something like emissions trading as an example, the process at the beginning will define the outcomes. I’d prefer they get that bit right.

    Demanding that Rudd do something, anything now sounds like action for the sake of it.

    (I fixed up your rogue italics too :mrgreen: )

  12. gandhi said

    I was pleased to see Rudd put Howard out of his misery, of course, and though I do not hold out great hopes that Rudd will the Best PM Evuh, I do try to be patient, keep an open mind, and restrain my criticism of his government while cogs ares till being set in motion etc. This may be a questionable form of self-censorship, but it is based on the once popular Aussie concept of giving everybody a “fair go”.

    I am even more restrained when looking at what Peter Garrett says (or more frequently, does not say). In fact, Garrett’s astonishing conversion from screaming public critic to wrinkled and wry insider serves as quite the contextual metaphor, doesn’t it?

    Howard did a very good job of politicising, silencing, destroying and discrediting a wide range of public institutions and policies. It’s going to take some time to clean up the mess, and of course there are new problems to confront every day too. I’m still hoping that Team Rudd might pull a few levers ahead of the next election (remember, folks: winning the next election is all that really matters in modern democracies, interim polls be damned). By now the ministers should have had time to go through all the dusty boxes in the backrooms, digging up the dirty facts about things like AWB and those WMDs, and one day we might see it all slapped down on the table as front page news.

    Meanwhile, the Greens’ efforts to get any kind of media coverage at all presents a whole other perspective on wagging the media dog: if Bob Brown calls Howard a War Criminal, that’s not news, but if he called Rudd a Control Freak it probably would be.

  13. gandhi said

    Further to “…and one day we might see it all slapped down on the table as front page news.” —>>> Don’t hold your breath though, especially on anything that might embarrass our most excellent good friends in Washington.

  14. Ad astra said

    Thank you Just Me and Janice for your generous and encouraging comments.

    Gandhi, I expect many commentators would concur with your views on the ‘blow torch’ episode. I came across a comment in an article on The Piping Shrike website this morning that addresses the petrol debate “Liberals get ready to lurch”, which I reproduce below. It has a take on this episode that matches my own, but is better expressed.

    “…Rudd has accelerated the political arguments why there is little the government can do. He has gone out of his way to emphasise the international dimension of the oil issue; talking about Asian initiatives and applying a blow torch to OPEC. It didn’t matter that no blow torch ever materialised in Martin Ferguson’s hands while in Jeddah, it was enough that all the attention was focussed on an international summit where others were trying to do the same.”

    Read the full article here.

  15. Evan said

    Ad astra has an interesting take on the Rudd style. The “process-driven” approach for which he receives so much stick in the Meeja is, in my view, an advantage.

    It’s the only approach that’s likley to result in answers being found to some of our more pressing problems. Like climate change.

    Makes a nice change from what we’ve had for the last 11 years, IMHO.

    I reckon Bushfire Bill got it about right in relation to the Howard approach to aboriginies and the Murray-Darling plan, too. Real back-of-the-napkin stuff.

    That sort of thing just won’t cut-it any more.

  16. Jacques de Molay said

    I enjoyed reading all this and quite liked Bushfire Bill’s response.

    Also thanks Possum.

  17. David said

    Ad Astra, you wrote that Howard was lauded as “Action Man”. The company I work for has an IT manager also known as “Action Man”, and it’s not in a good way. As an IT professional (removes tongue from cheek), I’m all for good processes, as it’s the only way to ensure a good outcome.

  18. Sir Ian Upton said

    Yes Leon, I can nominate a few tough decisions that PM Rudd has made. First, his trip to that sweltering archipelago to our north. Stepping off the plane, PM Rudd looked declasse in that double-knit leisure suit. Advisors are there to advise Mr Prime Minister. A tough decision that backfired. Next is his willingness to sit next to Julia Gillard during those boring and laborious cabinet meetings. His aids say he still can’t understand a word she says.

    There’s just two and I didn’t even have to tax myself.

  19. I dont know about you Leon, but I’d prefer that he didnt rush head long into it without vast quantities of analysis being done first

    I agree that sometimes process is necessary first, but not to this crazy extent, where hundreds of commissions, reviews and inquiries have been launched. I believe the balance between process and actions is somewhat out of whack.

    Aren’t governments already supposed to stand for things before they get into office? Hawke, Keating and Howard all had an economic agenda. Whilst circumstances certainly forced Hawke’s hand on the economy, and Howard’s hand on gun control, both politicians did things that were unpopular. Neither had to lower tariffs, but both did. Hawke, Keating and Howard didn’t have to introduce tax reform, but they did. The GST was extremely unpopular, and cost the Coalition victory in 1993. But they still did it in 1998.

    Howard wasn’t forced to introduce two seperate major rounds of industrial relations reforms, but he did. Many other decisions, such as the privatistaion of Telstra, were unpopular, but Howard didn’t need a long protracted process to tell him it was the right thing to for.

    At the end of the day, governments should come to office with an agenda. Your argument seems to implicitly concede that the Rudd government hasn’t really got one yet.

    Sir Ian Upton , I appreciate your entertaining contribution :)

  20. Just Me said

    I agree that sometimes process is necessary first, but not to this crazy extent, where hundreds of commissions, reviews and inquiries have been launched.

    Hundreds?

  21. Rudi said

    Leon,

    To parrot the approach of someone annoying whose name I forget: name 100 commissions, reviews and inquiries that have been launched – just 100.

  22. janice said

    Aren’t governments already supposed to stand for things before they get into office? Hawke, Keating and Howard all had an economic agenda. Whilst circumstances certainly forced Hawke’s hand on the economy, and Howard’s hand on gun control, both politicians did things that were unpopular. Neither had to lower tariffs, but both did. Hawke, Keating and Howard didn’t have to introduce tax reform, but they did. The GST was extremely unpopular, and cost the Coalition victory in 1993. But they still did it in 1998.

    Howard wasn’t forced to introduce two seperate major rounds of industrial relations reforms, but he did. Many other decisions, such as the privatistaion of Telstra, were unpopular, but Howard didn’t need a long protracted process to tell him it was the right thing to for.

    ……

    I seem to remember Howard came to office in 1996 with an obscure agenda and promising things like not tampering with medicare and a ‘never ever’ GST. Yes they still did both of those. And, there was never any hint of Howard’s plans with regard to the industrial relation reforms and you are right he wasn’t ‘forced’ to introduce the second except he saw the opportunity to ram them through when the people erroneously gave him senate control.

    The privatisation of Telstra was the biggest stuff-up of all time. Had the Howard Govt indulged in a little process it may have come to realise that selling off our communications infrastructure and not just the retail bit, was sheer stupidity.

    A lot of process may well have saved this Nation getting involved in Iraq and the abominable ‘Pacific Solution’ in dealing with refugees.

  23. gandhi said

    Has anyone mentioned the fact that Labor was out of power for 11 years, during which time Howard successfully politicized the public service, etc. ?

    It could be that lengthy process is a good way to work through such obstacles and ensure that everybody is on side at the kick off of new policies. I imagine Rudd will be more autocratic in his second term.

  24. janice, I don’t dispute that some reforms were less than ideal. My point was that at least the Howard govt stood for sth, had an agenda, even if not all agreed to it.

    I imagine Rudd will be more autocratic in his second term.

    More autocratic on the public service? Will they have to work 72 hour shifts and be stood up at meetings three times a week?

  25. janice said

    janice, I don’t dispute that some reforms were less than ideal. My point was that at least the Howard govt stood for sth, had an agenda, even if not all agreed to it.

    ……

    Obviously the electorate wasn’t enamoured with what Howard stood for, nor his agenda. It appears you, Leon and other anti-labor souls, cannot see the wood for the trees. In his first year in office you expect Rudd and his team to rush through a raft of reforms without process and wave the wand of change whether it benefits the nation or not. Isn’t it a bit irksome to you and your ilk that instead Rudd is taking the responsible course and thereby leaving you with the trite criticisms of ‘no substance’ etc?

  26. gandhi said

    Is John Howard reading the possum box?

    “You sometimes get the impression that my successor is more interested in the process of government than the opportunity of leadership that government provides,” Mr Howard said.

  27. Ad astra said

    Gandhi, maybe he is. He must now have time on his hands.

    Or is he too suffering from groupthink?

  28. Enemy Combatant said

    Woderful post Ad Astra and thoughtful comments from B.Bill, Gandhi,Poss et al. If One may echo Just Me at 2:

    “I’ll just be sitting over here, watching entranced from the sidelines.”

    Nah, can’t be too saintly, gotta slip in with the Raoul Merton, some things are beyond a bona fide sledger’s control:)

    Sure, aspects of Kevvie give me the tom tits, but let’s see how he and Penny shape up on the vitally important climate change “issue” now that Bobby Brown and his Team of Renown are Senate Players. Kevvie would have to pull some mighty foul strokes to have a bloke of my ilk, pining for a schmuck like El Rodente. I mean let’s get real here. Even if the tories can’t and prefer to be led by a little league lightweight buffoon like Brenders. Fair dinkum, the bloke’s a dead-set joke.

    CBet:
    AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 1.19
    ANY OTHER PARTY 4.50

    Always good to have market support when one shoots one’s mouth off though.

  29. australian cricket news…

    […]Awaiting the awakening-The Media and Kevin Rudd « The Possum Box[…]…

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