There’s a lot of anger among ALP supporters at the moment. They are greatly annoyed that a Government, still in just its first term, is looking stale. Who to blame? Well Kevin Rudd, unfortunately it’s you.
First off I’m going to say some things which you have not said – the insulation scheme was a winner, it got over 1.1 million houses insulated, and the numbers of house fires per insulation dramatically fell under the scheme making it not only safer than ever before to have your home insulated, but has meant it will be safer than ever to have your home insulated in the future because the scheme introduced national safety standards that never existed before.
The Government should be absolutely proud of the scheme.
Here’s another thing – the Building the Education Revolution is something of which this Government should also be extremely proud. It, together with the stimulus payments, the insulation scheme (yes that) and the monetary policy of the Reserve Bank KEPT AUSTRALIA OUT OF A RECESSION. The BER absolutely without any shadow of doubt kept the building industry in this country on its feet. There is not one economist in the land who would be able to deny this without ignoring the masses of evidence. Such as Exhibit A:
Be proud dammit and shout these results from the skies!
And yet… and yet, Kev you’re doing everything in your power to blow it.
Like Charlie Brown you keep trying to kick the football, not realising that Lucy will always take the football away, and you instead should be saying, nope, I’m not going to play that game, I’m going to kick my own football, anyone who wants to play, come with me.
You dumped the ETS. Now I fully understand why you did – there is no way in hell it would have passed this Senate. But you put it off till 2013, and I understand why you did that as well – you were worried that if you said you’ll try again after the election Abbott and the media would run the scare campaign that you would be beholden to the Greens, and that you would wreck the economy. I understand that position, I do, but you’re already facing that criticism over the mining tax, so there’s not much loss. And yes I know the “climate” on climate change has shifted since last year, but it looks like you have shifted.
It could have been so different.
You didn’t need to change anything – you could have still put it off till 2013, all you had to do was come out firing – be proud of your decision to put it off – not leak it out and then sort of give reasons why.
Be proud, even when you are changing your position. When I used to work in a casino as a dealer, the best lesson I ever learned was to be bold. When I dealt Blackjack I called out the cards like I was certain that’s what they added up to. Every player on my table felt sure I knew what I was doing because I was bold and sounded sure. I projected such an aura of assuredness that a player could have 10 and a 5 and I could say it was 16 and the player would believe me. And if I made a mistake, they did not mind because, a) I didn’t make many mistakes, but crucially, b) they thought I was competent even when I made an error because I sounded competent.
You need to get that attitude – when you;re wrong, don’t be a wimp about it – be bold!
You should have explained boldly to the Australia public why you had changed, said you deeply regret not having been able to get the ETS passed, how you realise you needed to explain the ETS to the Australian public better. You needed to explain how there is just no point trying to negotiate a deal at this time – given that Tony Abbott doesn’t believe in climate change, and thus you will have to try again after the election, depending on the make up of the Senate and who is leader of the opposition. You needed to say you will try again after the election, but that we have to be realistic – given the time that business will need to adjust to any ETS, it is unlikely any ETS will be in place till 2013. You should have admitted you could go to a Double Dissolution on the issue, but explain that the ETS Bill is very much timing driven, and the time has passed in which would allow business a proper time to adjust even if it were passed after the election. You needed to admit as well that the electorate is now more wary of an ETS due to the lack of a result in Copenhagen and thus the desire for an ETS is no longer as strong, and that such a case is your fault as much as anyone’s, and that you will work hard to convince the public that an ETS is the only effective way to combat climate change.
You should have said to the public that you understand this is a great blow. That you understood many will be disappointed, that you know that many in your own Government are bitterly disappointed – and it was not a decision taken lightly. But you needed to say that you asked for patience. Looking down the camera you needed to admit that we have lost this battle, but the war is not lost. We needed you to look at the camera and ask for the people to stick with you and help you as you work to once again get bipartisan agreement on climate change.
Be proud. Admit defeat – but not in a pathetic way; rather in a proud and Churchill-like way – talk about it being a long fight, and go hard, and be sure that we will win the war.
But you can’t now.
Today The Australian ran a bullshit story that there was a risk assessment done in your Department that concluded that “unsafe or incorrectly installed ceiling batts could lead to "fire/damage, injury or death". Well, hell really??? My goodness. Next they’ll tell me the Department of Transport has a risk assessment that says driving without a seat belt while drunk could lead to car accidents and death.
The important thing is that risk mitigation measures were put in place that minimised the risk as best it could. Here’s a memo to the media: IT WAS NEVER GOING TO GET TO ZERO RISK. So what do we have to read? Crap like this:
The program has also been linked to 120 house fires and widespread allegations of rorting.
Is 120 fires a lot? Well no it isn’t, not when you consider that prior to the scheme about 80 to 85 fires a year occurred due to incorrectly installed insulation (usually placed near dodgy wiring). These 80-85 fires were from about 67,500 installations, whereas 120 fires have come from around 1,100,000 installations. That is the number of fires increased by around 50%, but the number of installations increased by around 1,530%. For the rate of fires per installation to remain consistent there would have needed to be about 1,300 fires in the last year.
But does any of this matter? No. Why – because you and your government didn't think to use these figures until Possum over at Crikey worked them out. You should have been touting them as loud as you could from the first record of any fire, not have to wait for a blogger to come up with them!
As for deaths – well here’s something you won’t read in The Australian's article:
The Queensland Government has laid charges after the death of an insulation installer and the injury of another south of Brisbane last year.
Matthew Fuller, 25, was electrocuted as he installed reflective foil at a Meadowbrook home in October and a 18-year-old female co-worker suffered severe burns. Queensland's Department of Justice and Attorney-General has charged Beenleigh company QHI Installations, its director, and its manager under the Electrical Safety Act.
The Department alleges the business failed to conduct its business or undertaking in a way that was electrically safe.
But it doesn’t matter now because you went on the 7:30 Report and blamed yourself and pretty much agreed the insulation scheme had been bungled. Instead you should have stood up for the program – be proud.
But no, now ALP supporters are supposed to be ashamed of a program that was successful in helping keep Australia out of a recession, insulated 1.1 million houses, and massively – let me say that again – MASSIVELY – reduced the risk of fires. Did you ever say that when you went on Neil Mitchell? No – instead you pointed out that there was a hotline people could ring. You should have said:
“Neil, I have to pull you up right there when you mention Betty who is losing sleep with worry. You should reassure her that homes that have been insulated under this scheme are much, much safer than ever before. Before there were no national standards in place – none! Now there is – brought in purely because of a decision by Peter Garrett – who I must say has done an amazing job under incredibly tight deadlines due to the global financial crisis.
And yes Neil I know you say there have been a lot of fires, but did you know (and I think your listeners would be interested to know) there were 80-85 fires a year due to insulation before this scheme was introduced – did you know that? 80-85 fires a year. And that was from around only 65,000 installations a year. Now under this scheme we have installed 1.1 million! One point one million! Not 65,000, one point one million. So yes I hear you saying the numbers of fires has gone up 50%, but the numbers of installations increased by 1500%. 1500 percent, Neil.
Now, look Neil, just before you butt in, I do understand some people are worried. Of course I do. And if people are unsure whether the people who installed their insulation were properly competent, or were conforming to the safety standard that were introduced by the Government, they can ring this number 1800 xxx xxx – but I should reassure your listeners Neil – and I think everyone in the media has a duty to do this as well, because I think it is very easy to scare people needlessly, and we should all resist from doing that, because it causes more harm than good…but Neil, I want to reassure your listeners, and this is a point that really needs to be highlighted: if you got your home insulated under the home insulation scheme, the risk of fire has been massively reduced. Massively – the likelihood I am told is about 1 in ten thousand, now look, I know that may sound high, but before this scheme the likelihood was about 1 in 850. One in eight hundred and fifty. So again, I say you should not, you should not be alarmed, your home is massively more safe if you had the insulation installed under our scheme, because of the safety standard we brought in – but if you do just want to reassure yourself – and that is perfectly reasonable Neil, I think you’d agree – the number to call is…”
But no, instead we had the blather about numbers to call, but none of the defence of the project. And thus Garrett was demoted for no good reason, and now when crap is put in the papers about the scheme you have no defence, because the time for defence was back in January-February, not now. And then you cancelled the follow up program because the risk could not be put down to zero, and so a scheme that worked pretty damn well is gone, all because you were unable to be proud of it, and explain it to the public – explain it, not sell it in a spin kind of way. Explain it – like we are adults.
And now we get to the resource rent tax on mining, which for some unknown reason has been rebadged the “Resource Super Profits Tax”. Why did you call it that? It’s like the bloody Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. For crying out loud, call it an Emission Trading Scheme – everyone was calling it an ETS, everyone kept calling it an ETS except you and your Government.
Laura Tingle, easily the best journalist in this country following politics, wrote a brilliant opinion piece in Friday’s Financial Review (it is a great pity the AFR is behind a paywall because her articles deserve to be emailed to everyone everyday – Fairfax should really make her articles free – the political influence of the AFR would increase overnight). She wrote:
Who is out there arguing the case from the first principles of a resources rent tax on behalf of the government? No one.
No one is out there explaining what a resource rent tax is and why it is the most efficient way to tax economic rents (or even what an economic rent is).
Nobody is out there saying a resource rent is like the proceeds from asset sales in a privatisation campaign.
Nobody is saying you wouldn't have sold the Commonwealth Bank at firesale prices and neither should you sell resources this way.
No one is explaining that if you impose a properly structured resource rent tax, you can cut the company income tax across the board, not just because you have the money to do this but because you don’t need to keep the company tax rate up high because it is currently acting as a proxy resource rent tax.
Nobody is out there explaining the Henry reviews rationale for the design of the Resource Super Profits Tax, as opposed to the existing Petroleum Resources Rent tax, and why it should be seen as a superior tax structure for the resources sector.
In other words, Kevin – sell your policy like you are arguing a case to a group of intelligent people. Stop treating the electorate like fools. Don’t be condescending and use big taxation phrases that we don't understand, but don’t be even more condescending by not even trying.
So often this year I’ve been dreaming of how Keating would have argued this case; and the fact is, he would have done it about 1500% better. The reason is not just you, but also Swan. The problem is not that Swan is a bad treasurer – he has been a good one in terms of policy, and I have to say miles better than Costello when it comes to policy – miles! But he is terrible in terms of selling his message – hell the stimulus plan which worked is now seen with some disdain in the electorate as leading Australia into debt – as though that is worse than a recession! Bloody Costello would have put us into recession and 10% unemployment!
The problem is that prior to the election you were spooked by Costello into saying Swan would be your Treasurer – because you were worried about a scare campaign about Julia as treasurer.
We all should have seen the signs then.
You should have been proud of everyone on your front bench, and defended Julia as a future Treasurer – nay leader of this country. Because guess what, she’s been your best asset. Had she or Lindsay Tanner been Treasurer exactly the same policies would have been put in place, but they would have been sold infinitely better. I say this not to denigrate Swan, as a I say he has been a good policy treasurer. But he and you are too much the same – you speak the same language. There needs to be a contrast. Hawke and Keating were opposites; so too Howard and Costello. Swan and Rudd are not.
I am not like some on the left who have turned on you. I was disappointed by the asylum seeker change of policy – but I understand that it is just a cold hard fact that there are more people in this country who like tough policies on asylum seekers than supposed “soft” ones. You tried – you brought in an excellent policy, but the events in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan moved against you and even Turnbull – that supposed moderate – took the gutter route.
I still think your Government has been good (in fact bloody good), but what is the story you are going to sell to the electorate at the election? And more importantly will they believe you?
Your last chance is the Mining Resource Rent Tax and the Budget. Stay the course – be proud of both, treat us like adults, let Julia and Lindsay do the big selling. Hell get Emmo to write more articles, because the guy is a bloody expert on the thing, and is also pretty funny, so get him talking about it on Insiders etc.
Because here’s the thing Kev, it’s down to you. The media have departed the playing field. They don’t like you Kev. They never really did, they just liked the fact you created a competition with Howard. And so they are letting Abbott in one week get away with saying that:
“We can't be confident that the numbers would stay at the few thousand a year who have arrived since the Rudd government junked most of its predecessor's tough but effective border protection policies,'' he said.
''If global conditions worsened, millions might be at least tempted to swap their current existence for the opportunities of a new life in Australia if they thought the perils of the boat trip would win them permanent residency.''
Yes from a few thousand to millions. Any other person would have to spend years working hard to be able to come up with a statement more stupid than that. And yet the media let it go through to the keeper. He then said:
QUESTION: Does the situation in Greece suggest that perhaps the stimulus package should be kept in place until we see what exactly [inaudible]?
TONY ABBOTT: The situation in Greece shows that you cannot get away with wasting public money. What we have seen in countries like Greece is out of control public spending that’s got them into a diabolical mess and what we have seen from the Rudd Government is the greatest spendathon in Australia’s history. The longer it lasts the more fragile Australia’s position becomes.
Yep, comparing Australia to Greece. Comparing our debt which is around 15% of GDP to Greece's which is at 115%, and forgetting that our projected debt has actually DECREASED in the last 12 months, not increased.
He is a complete fool, and yet the media are letting him get away with it – you can’t.
And then the biggest consequence of your ETS change, Abbott yesterday said this:
TONY Abbott has urged primary school students to be sceptical about man-made climate change, saying it was warmer during the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus than it is now.
The Opposition Leader, wrapping up a two-day visit to South Australia yesterday, told Year 5 and 6 students that climate change had always happened and, historically, humans had not been responsible.
Mr Abbott asked the students if they knew about the Ice Age and if it "was caused by human beings".
"OK, so the climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now," Mr Abbott said.
"And then during what they called the Dark Ages it was colder. Then there was the medieval warm period. Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history.
"It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays."
This is quite possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever heard him say. It is so monumentally dangerous, and yet he is getting away with it, because you have been seen to dump “the greatest moral issue of out time”. He wouldn’t have said this even a month ago. But now you’ve shelved the ETS he can.
You better get your act together Kev, because it’s getting bloody serious. The media don’t care that Abbott is an idiot (heck some of them might not even realise it), they just want a contest. You will have to do it yourself.
And here’s a first step. Walk into Bob Brown’s office and say:
Bob, we have a dangerous fool opposing us. We both know if he wins it’s curtains for anything environmentally. I know I should have sought you out more over the ETS, but the fact is I couldn’t see any Lib Senator crossing the floor – and you have to acknowledge had Turnbull kept his numbers it would have passed. But forget that, I need you as much as you need me – that is if you want anything done on climate change in the next 10 years. So tell me, what have you got? Give me something that you can stand next to me and announce. But before you get too excited, here’s the thing, we need business on board. What can you cope with that will also have Heather Ridout saying it is economically beneficial and responsible? Don’t worry about the numbers in the Senate, we’ll introduce it now, we’ll run with it now and at worst pledge to put it in after the election. So tell me, what have you got for me?
I don’t know Kev, maybe it’s too late. Maybe you’ve burned too many bridges. I hope not (and I’ve been wrong in the past). The Budget next week and Question Time might help you get back on the front foot. But here’s the thing, when I say front foot I don’t mean coming up with new lines to throw at the opposition. Forget them. Forget the media. Remember the people. Get them on board with intelligence and honesty. Tell them you are prepared to lose an election over the resource rent tax – and explain why – explain why it is vital for Australia's economy. Defend your Government with the facts – don’t admit defeat, unless you’re admitting defeat in attack. If you have to admit something, admit that you had been too cautious. You should still win the election – you have a good story to tell on the economy, and Tony Abbott is a massive risk that will only become more obvious as his lack of policy nous is revealed (heck even the media won’t be able to ignore it in time).
But you have to learn from the last 6 months, and the lesson is not to be more cautious. It is to be more bold. Forget about trying to win the election to become the Prime Minister, you are the Prime Minister! Lead dammit!