Gillard's ghost of chaos past

When John Howard plumbed new depths for the Coalition’s primary vote in June 1998 – the June 26 Newspoll gave him just 34 per cent – The Age ran with the headline ‘Is Labor ready to govern?’ and The Australian ran with ‘Push for Pauline boosts Labor’.

They were dark days for the Coalition. After promising a GST would "never, ever” be his party’s policy, Howard changed his mind and made the 1998 election virtually a referendum on the controversial tax.

Contrast that with the hoopla in the national media yesterday over the latest Newspoll figures for Labor, which showed the Gillard government on a miserable 32 per cent primary vote.

Reading the post-poll news, it was easy to form the impression that yesterday’s Caucus meeting had erupted into all-out brawling, with marginal MPs rushing out, clumps of their colleagues’ hair in hand, to background the nation’s top journalists on just how desperate and chaotic Labor has become.

News articles have been full of unnamed Labor sources, including ‘senior’ sources disgorging hyperbolic nonsense such as ‘Rome is burning’. Now which senior Labor figure might have said that? Possibly one who, until recently, was flying off to Rome and just about every other city in the world as foreign minister?

The Australian wrote on Sunday: "With caucus set to meet today for the first time this year, MPs said a series of opinion polls due to be published this week and next would deliver a verdict on Ms Gillard's decisions.”

Err, no. The real verdict is scheduled for September 14 – shrewder political minds, like those backing Howard in 1998, know that a lot can happen in the polls in a few months. (Howard’s primary vote rose to 39.5 per cent, and though out-polled by Labor was able to claim victory on One Nation preferences.)

Moreover, Labor’s awful Newspoll result almost certainly contains a couple of points of statistical noise. Essential Media, which took the gong for most accurate primary vote estimate at the 2010 election, last week had Labor on 35 per cent – it will be interesting to see its latest figure, released later today.

And besides, the ‘decisions’ on which voters cast their meaningless, interim ‘verdict’ were simply not as radical as so many are suggesting.

Gillard announced the election date early, though everyone in Canberra knew it pretty much had to be on one of two weekends.

And she announced the resignation of two long-serving ministers, Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans – quite unexceptional events. When, exactly, is an MP required to declare they no longer wish to seek re-election — on the eve of the election or two years before? Because according to just about everyone, it sure as hell ain’t 7.5 months before an election.

But when major news writers snapped into group-think mode to declare Labor in ‘chaos’, everyone followed – including, it seemed, members of Caucus who the PM had to warn against backgrounding the media.

This is absurd stuff, immediately reminiscent of the Rudd challenge coverage of February 2012. Then, the logic seemed to run: 1) My source is very high up in the Labor Party. 2) They say they’re going to win. 3) They’re telling me this information exclusively. 4) They’re going to win!

Even if that kind of fractured reasoning made sense, the context for that challenge was all wrong. Backbenchers, frontbenchers, coalition sources, public servants, taxi drivers, strippers and gardeners, all said Rudd’s unpopularity was such that he couldn’t win (just kidding – I didn’t really ask any gardeners).

It was wishful thinking from a hand-picked mini-cordon of top journalists.

This ‘Labor in chaos’ theme will persist for a while, but not likely for long. Then, perhaps, we’ll get the kinds of useful headlines we saw in 1998: ‘Is the Coalition ready to govern?’ or ‘Push for Katter boosts Labor’.

May it arrive soon.

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Since returning from the summer break there appears to be a new level of resignation for Labor's future across most media outlets.Is there something we are not hearing? (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5.)
Grattan's resignation from Fairfax and the tone of the ABC commentary on Monday evening leaves me wondering.
It all reminds me of the last days of the Whitlam government - except Gough did have conviction (even it you didn't agree with it) whereas Julia stands for nothing except Julia (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
Predictably Rob, you are baying at the moon of wishful thinking (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5). It is sad seeing a grown man cry and really we understand your grief. It must be heartrending to watch one's revered leader self-immolate, but far better all round to permit the Grand Lady of Legend to do torch herself unaided with whatever dignity she has left. What I am saying is that those rushing around with delusional optimistic hyperbole, are fanning her final flame rather than dousing it. We know you mean to give her a respectful exit, but that's not what you're doing.
I have never in my life looked forward to an election more than now so I can vote against Labour and hopefully we can get rid of this farce of a regime that rules us. Its just a pity it's so far off...(Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5.)
Chalk up my vote for gillard as the worst prime minister in the nations history
If the PM's style isn't chaotic, then I don't understand the meaning of the word (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
Poor, muddled and inconsistent policy. A severe aversion to truth and transparency. Seemingly terminal problems with ministerial performance, budgeting and communication.
The Liberals may not be inspiring, but surely (please God) they couldn't be worse!
Jack, obviously left leaning? I am looking through the smoke of failed policies, ad hoc decisions that have no meaning or substance except to run this country further into the mire (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
Abbott may not be perfect but the current incumbents have absolutely no idea except how to spend and spin.
Time to give someone else a go dont you think.
What have we done to deserve eight months of Gillard versus Abott. Neither of them are worthy of the position that either one holds. I have never heard a decent speech from either side of politics for many years now. They both lack leadership qualities, are poor speakers and seem to have a poor understanding of the subjects on which they are speaking about (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
Tony Abott might be fit but fit for what? Certainly not the job of "Prime Minister" along with his sidekick Joe.
Meanwhile the less said about that "Awful Woman" the better and that horrible little man called Swan. We Australians deserve so much better as candidates to vote for so where are they?
I came to this country in 1961 and guess what... Labour was in confusion and kept punching themselves in the nose.. Nothing has changed (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
Rob, there are none so blind that will not see. Rudd had vision but little ability to carry things through to a satisfactory outcome (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5). Gillard has resorted to promises that are broken or unfulfilled and on top of this has shown an ineptitude for clear and sensible strategic planning and management. Her main strength is to survive in a near hung parliament. Can she do a Houdini act again?
Goodness Jack Jessen don't blame others for the lack of confidence in Labor. Look at the biographies of Leaders Latham, Rudd or Gillard which are in stark contrast to that of Abbott's. Additionally, think of how different government would have been under either Beazley or Crean (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
An egotist who believes that politics and/or unions are the bee's knees has had no experience when it comes to private enterprise or, for that matter, how to manage our trillion dollar economy, should not be in charge of our government. After all it wasn't Abbott who said "there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead". We know who said that and it was the m.s.n. who reported it and have replayed it over and over again. And, why not? Honey words and spin are not what this country needs right now. We need to stop living on borrowed money and we need an election and we need both to happen post haste not in 7-8 months imo. If my words irk you then so be it as I am very much in favour with what Rusty, Silvano and Graham have said. Hopefully we can agree to disagree on that.
This article is like a breath of fresh air. For once I really don't feel motivated to send a long post pointing out that a writer seems to have drifted into a parallel universe (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 9).
Chaos? nope - atmosphere of despair? nope.
Feeling of desperation? Leadership plots? Anonymous worried Caucus members? - nope, nope and nope!
The sun rises, the sun sets. The country muddles along in a better and more relaxed state than the rest of the world. As Kevin says, everyone should take a cold shower.
Maybe it is time to remind our would be Leader that he will never actually run the country. He can rant and rave in all the media at his disposal either directly or through his minions - but Murdoch will never run this country - nor, and he really needs to grasp this, will he ever control the people who do, not here, not the US, not anywhere.
Nice sensible article. Common sense rules - OK? Let's get back to working together rebuilding Australian Business and increasing the prosperity of all our people. This country is capable of producing the highest quality products. Try some Tasmanian Malt Whisky - unbelievable. It makes even most Scotch taste like rubbish. Wish it was cheaper - it would take the market by storm.
Jack Jessun. I'm with you mate! (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5.)
I can't agree with Phil on Tasmanian Malt Whisky, Irish Malt is all over it like a bad rash. But you are right on one issue, why do Australian products cost so much? And don't say executive salaries because Australian executive packages are based on a percentage, of what the world market is paying for like positions. Ask Rob. So it's possiable that executive salaries in Scotland are more than those in Tasmanina.
But on the other side why are we having to rebuild Australian business, who broke them? (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5.)
Well I guess the last 5 years have seen business close, downsize or move off-shore, again why!
There is no question, this government is in turmoil. The carbon tax, and yes it is, and was always a tax, receipts are not as high as expected because of private solar and the public being more frugal in power usage. The MRRT is running in the red. The overheads have to be paid for, yet the government has raised nothing in the last 6 months. Both center pieces for Labors spending sprees. The NBN, whether off-budget or not, still has to be paid for pending receipts from users. Labor even admits the take-up of the network could be better. Labor has the unfunded schools program and NDIS still sitting on the table. I'am not saying the schools program and NDIS are bad policies, but it would help if you had money to pay for it.
During Gillards term we saw this massive increase in MP salaries. Gillard salary is more than the President of the US. We now have two senior MP's resigning, and no Rob it makes no difference when they resign, with multi million dollar tax exempt super pensions. Now Gillard wants to tax workers who scrimp to get their super benefits over $1 million, most likely to pay for Roxon and Evans.
I wouldn't count on a 1998 turnaround for Labor, their problems are too deep seated and won't go away. Taxing workers super is the last gasp for much needed revenue and smacks of desperation.
Alan, I prefer to think that I have 360 degree of visibility and through that, generally central with good balance ;) (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5.)
I'm not sure that I'd like to change simply because we're tired hearing of the perceived or real bumbling of government nor that the shrillness of the media and The Negatives has risen in the expectation and desire for figurative blood letting.
We are on the whole doing ok.
Valda, I'm pleased to continue disagreeing with your viewpoint and others, particularly when you bring in tired old misinterpretations given to you by the MSM and the ugly pugilist and his corner.
For me it is simply the tone, negativity and lack of critical thinking married to equally poor discourse in the community.
These aspects leave me to think there is very little for me to hope for if I were to vote and I don't wish to merely hope nor have faith that the other side will bring something to the table as they have yet to do rhetoric that makes me retch into my half full cup :)
Well Rob, the contributions en masse below your article (other than Jack and Phil) tell me that just about everyone, clearly reading the media pool that you have written about, has been sucked into the same whirlpool of smoke and mirrors. The power of the media hey - Lindsay Tanner is so right; it's a 'Sideshow'! (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5.)
Phil, methinks you may be enjoying the Tasmanian malt whisky just a bit too much (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
If you cannot see that the current Labor Government is in a state of Chaos, lurching from one self inflicted disaster to another, you're not just rusted on, you're in denial. Julia can no longer tell when she is lying and when she is telling the truth. The 'ridiculous suggestion' that she would parachute the most hated NSW Premier in a generation into the Senate as foreign Minister was true the next day (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
The bizarre statement that declaring the election would let the Government focus on governing, not on the election campaign verges on lunacy. Interfering in State Senator selection with a "Captain's Pick" - what was that about?
The Thompson arrest, the Obied ICAC scandal, the continuing Victorian police investigation into the AWU power of Attorney: What is this but Chaos?
And to those who love to denigrate Tony Abbott, repeating the ALP propaganda that he is negative, brainless and misogynist: those are all lies. How do I know they are lies? Well for one thing Julia said them, and her record for verity is very poor. If she says it, it probably isn't true. He is a caring, likeable Australia of immense intellect: he was a Rhodes Scholar after all. They are chosen for intellect, athleticism and most importantly, character. I have met the man, but it is obvious his denigrators have not. On TV his personality doesn't project well, but in person he is a warm and witty guy, with statesmanlike qualities. Our next PM will be a good one.
The facts are very convincing. This government has surprised all its critics and achieved a great deal (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5).
Prejudice prevents most right wing supporters from acknowledging any of this, but all the critics have been wrong about all of their predictions since October 2010.
With such a poor record of being right it is about time they explained why they been so wrong so consistently.
Congratulations to all those commentators that failed to acknowledge that Australia under Labor has escaped the ravages of the most devastating GFC since the Bog Depression (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 4). Most probably these commentators do not understand the difference between good policies and bad ones, maybe they can't distinguish between cyclical deficits and structural deficit, but most probably these commentators would never see what they refuse to see, and that is that Australia is way ahead of the rest of the World and that we were lucky that the GFC occurred when Labor was in power instead of the other side that, afraid of investing in Australia's future, would have plunged us to 8-9% unemployed and a recession. I know who deserves my vote, and is not the superfit and supernegative Abbott.
Abraham Lincoln nick named (Honest Abe) among many of his famous quotes said "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power" Prior to winning the election Kevin Rudd basically stopped short from telling the nation he could walk on water. Since becoming the PM everything is a challenge that is a sign of weakness. Irresponsible, mismanaged, and incompetent, indecisive, a political bureaucrat, full of spin with no substance. Wasting tax payers money, he should go back to China (Gillard's ghost of chaos past., February 5).
In ref to J Gillard she should be ashamed of herself - Slipper / Williamson / AWU / Gillard / Thomson and the list goes on. We all have an opinion and that is fine however we cannot continue to sweep the bad smell under the carpet, it will eventually find its way to the surface. It just shows what a fake Gillard is pretending to were optical glasses all of a sudden, a women with no substance. Wait for it “we are us” what does that mean???
This federal labour government is full of rhetoric spin and hatred, just go back and have a look at how they ridiculed, ostracised polarised and publicly abused Kevin Rudd. Australians are a fair go attitude however labour has set a new bench mark in class and sex wars.
Gillard's justification for assassinating Rudd was that "the government had lost its way", yet she fails to see that her current government makes Rudd's look positively organized and orderly. Is she once again deluding herself, or is she just using more deceitful spin? (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5)
The Prime Minister has nothing to worry about given the bulk of Australian women will be giving her their vote come September 2013. (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5)
Jack Jessen, you’'re clearly in self denial and I will be amongst many that hopefully get Abbott and the Coalition into a majority position to undo the economic damage the Gillard government has reeked (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5). I read MSM tomes and I can see beyond the theatrics to understand we need responsible economic managers which the Coalition indeed are.
Brilliant. THANKYOU! (Gillard's ghost of chaos past, February 5)
Rob, a very well reasoned article(Gillard's Ghost of chaos past). I fully concur with Phil,Jack,Marcus, Maurice and Dante. In my view some of the so called Media Commentators have failed to do their job in anything like a fair and balanced way. Maybe that as something to do with their ignorance of how democracy actually works in that all are entitled to be heard and represented not just the Coalition. Minority Governments are the norm in many many Nations and have also been a factor in many State Governments here. So why have the Commentators here not accepted that and reported on how well the Minority Government has actually worked. It has for example got more legislation through than the last term of the Howard Government, no Ministers have been caught up in any scandal, AWB Scandal under Howard. Why because their narrow view of the World cannot accept anything other than majority Coalition rule never mind the 60% who do not agree with the Coalition's view of the World.