Nov 9, 2009

Can Rudd save his ETS, or will it destroy him?

Rudd is a control freak. His government is run along command and control lines (read Cameron Stewart's interesting piece in last Saturday's Australian magazine). His media strateg

Rudd is a control freak.

His government is run along command and control lines (read Cameron Stewart’s interesting piece in last Saturday’s Australian magazine).

His media strategy is a campaign strategy.

Win the day, stay in front.  Make your opponent the issue. Control the message. Make no mistakes.

This is the goldfish in a bowl approach. Every day is new day, every week is anew week.

It works for politics, it’s hopeless for government.

Government is about implementation, not just rhetoric and across-the-despatch box abuse.

The ETS (emissions trading scheme) is the focal point of Rudd’s first term as prime minister.

It’s the self-designated ‘big test’ for the Rudd Government.

It’s a sleeper, potentially much bigger than the current fuss over asylum seekers.

It is, according to government rhetoric, the biggest single economic reform ever.

Bigger than the GST.

Very few people know how it will work and if it will achieve anything.

It sounds like something straight out of the Enron playbook.

A new round of financial trickery much like the stuff that just brought the world economy close to the precipice.

Environmentalists think it is a cop out. Too many compromises with too many big polluters.

The right, Alan Jones and the rest, are screaming about ‘world government’ and ‘loss of sovereignty’.

Increasing numbers of voters are buying the Opposition line that it is just a tax and part of Rudd’s global ambitions.

Cynics are asking if Macquarie Bank (and all the other CBD law and advisory firm spivs)  think it’s a great idea why shouldn’t we be suspicious.

In the face of all this Rudd has left a vacuum.

A vacuum he tried to fill last week with 14 pointless media interviews and a bizarre rant at the Lowy Institute.

The rant has only served to convince his opponents that they are getting under his skin, and that he is according to Jones: ‘rattled’.

What is needed is a real education program, some hard facts that might help win the debate and reassure the voters.

The Rudd Government seems strangely unwilling to do the hard work of a retail communications campaign.

Two years down the track and its media and broader political strategies seem stuck in the realms of the 33 day campaign when only the the headline matters.

Time is slipping away, if Rudd et al don’t win the implementation debate this whole thing is going to blow.

And what happens if Rudd gets his ETS through the Senate and the Copenhagen conference fails to make any progress?

Doesn’t bear thinking about. But I hope Rudd’s minders have a plan B.

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4 thoughts on “Can Rudd save his ETS, or will it destroy him?

  1. AdamNeira

    Prime Minister Rudd is doing a good job. The vast majority of the population is only interested in material comfort and getting ahead. Materialism, pragmatism, hedonism and narcissism dominate. Australians are not particularly political or interested in matters of state. On a world scale they are actually quite spoilt. Witness the turnover on the recent Melbourne Cup. There are still many problems in the country but overall Australia is holding up very well, as it should with a population of 21 million and a vast resource base. If any country in the world has the potential to be the wealthiest around it is the Great Southern Land.

  2. Frank Campbell

    Trevor: I asked if we “deserve these creeps” to raise that very question. Answering it would take longer (!). The transformation, and corruption, of the social democratic state over the past 25 years was based on “corporatism”. So that’s the first place to look. This is not to invoke some fictitious golden age, but the spluttering vehicle of social reform and idealism was hijacked. Hijacked by a specific class with a specific language. Not a capitalist class but a class integrated with big capital, a managerial class which credentialled every conceiveable avenue of social mobility. They created a carapace of language, the only currency accepted in this universe, a language which both obfuscates and controls thought. A massive opaque edifice of words and concepts. Gate-keeping has become ever-tighter. The managerial elite is now seamless between the public domain and large scale capitalist firms. Politicians and academics freely move from one to other other. The corporatists award themselves “compensation” which would have been regarded as obscene 20 years ago. Independence in the universities is fading to black. The humanities and pure sciences have been reduced or eliminated. Sociology, which corporatists instinctively fear, has been castrated, or co-opted to serve the new class.
    The collapse of authoritarian socialism should have been the best thing ever to happen to the Left and social democracy. Instead, the old Trots, Stalinists and Labor put on suits and joined the rush. Whether they’re turncoats like Windschuttle or New Labor corporatists makes no difference. Who cares if some old Trot is a New Labor minister spouting spin in language that would make Don Watson retch or morphed instead into a balding right-wing Rottweiler?

    None of this was inevitable. It’s not just “our” greed, sophistry etc. Power was taken, not given. You can only freely “give” power if you understand what you’re signing up to. Most people are disenfranchised by the new monopoly class. One might say the devil is in the retail, that capitalist prosperity has seduced us. Shopping corrupts. Absolute shopping corrupts absolutely, as Lady Acton said in Harrods. But gross consumption is more a symptom than a cause. The Greens are a confused and soggy response to capitalist excess and the new monopoly class, but their existence shows resistance. What is to be done? A lot, but there’s no need to capitulate. Sure, big capital’s latest orgiastic shambles has put the public in debt for the next decade, but the new class may yet pay a high political price for that. I could go on, but I already have.

  3. Trevor Cook

    Frank, what intrigues me is the extent to which these (democratically-elected) leaders are just a reflection of who we are as a society and people: they reflect our own lack of principle, preference for style over substance, greed, ego etc. Is our unhappiness little more than the rage of caliban at seeing his own reflection?

  4. Frank Campbell

    Rudd wasn’t called Dr.Death for nothing when he was Goss’s hatchetman in Qld. The exodus of Rudd staff is also telling. Unpleasant personal characteristics are magnified in office. The results may be pathological even if the clinical diagnosis isn’t. Thatcher’s lower middle class punitiveness and authoritarianism expanded only in high office. She mugged her own party. In the end they were desperate to be rid of her. Blair was a vile combination: sucking up to the American empire while corrupting social democracy at home. A weak, rootless personality seeking subservience to power, first Washington, now Rome. Gordon Brown is an aspergerish social cripple who seeks power through technocratic manipulation. Howard the Rodent was an ideologue pretending to be an Aussie Battler. His word was worth nothing. Do we deserve these creeps? Whatever, the social democratic state is in a state.

    We’re stuck with Rudd. When things go wrong, as they must, we’ll see just how brittle and explosive he might be. Culturally backward, Rudd is not a subtle or sophisticated politician. Chuck him a piece of carpet and see if he chews it.

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