Peter Smith

Labor must be thrashed, not merely beaten

Will she or won’t she fall on her sword? Will he or won’t he challenge? The Age is the latest to think Gillard should go. Simon Crean thought Rudd should have contested. It is not hard to find  political and media Labor tragics who think that, whichever way it is done, a change is required. The curious rationale, by any patriotic measure, is that Kevin Rudd would save many Labor seats; be much more competitive; may even win.

Apparently it would be good and beneficial for the country if a totally inept government, incapable of getting anything right, which has presided over numbers of complete policy disasters, and which has been successively led by two divisive people with dysfunctional character traits, and who opposing halves of the parliamentary party have come respectively to regard as complete tossers, only slightly loses or, perhaps, even wins.

Where in all of this is the national interest? It is seldom talked about. There are numbers of independent-minded people out there who have formed conclusions based on the damning evidence, which surely has never been starker in the history of government in Australia. But they don’t appear to be on the mainstream political or media stage. There, the main story seems to be about how many Labor seats and parliamentary careers can be saved by ditching the current abysmal leader and reinstalling the previous abysmal leader.

Leave aside the likes of the ABC’s Insiders program, even The Australian says that “we all can agree that democracy will be best served over the coming term if whoever is in government is held to account by a viable and cohesive opposition.” No, this time, we can’t all agree.

The Labor Party must understand that they can’t foist upon us a collection of ex-union wannabes or left-wing lawyer wannabes without the talent to run a church bazaar. Who did they propose should be our prime minister before ‘discerningly’ settling on Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard? Why, none other than Mark Latham; who went from Labor leader to bogeyman in the relative blink of an eye. ‘As mad as Mark Latham’ has for some of them become a favoured term of abuse directed at Coalition members. What an indictment is that of their judgment and the sad state of their party.

Moreover, as bizarre as it might seem, Latham is looking better by the day when compared with Rudd and Gillard. And the whole six years of disaster after disaster has put the Whitlam era into fresh perspective.

This is not the time for a narrow defeat. This is the time for an enormously resounding defeat. Only a rump should be left as a visceral and intellectual reminder of how collectively the Labor Party has sold the country down the river.

Vast amounts of precious current and future taxpayer funds have been and are being thrown away on mad-cap schemes (like shonky pink batts, redundant school halls, useless green energy, extravagant fibre to every home) or are being promised without proper and rigorous investigation and consideration of their effectiveness and affordability (like the national disability scheme and the so-called Gonski educational reforms). A mining and onerous carbon tax have undermined Australia’s international competitiveness while the grossly over-estimated proceeds have been frittered away or promised. Our national borders have been opened to anyone with a shonky boat.

There is much more. Lest we forget: the job-killing, union-favouring, industrial relations changes; the mysterious case of the disappearing surplus; grocery watch and fuel watch; the digital education revolution; the green loans scheme; the summary halting of the live cattle trade to Indonesia; the shambles over awarding the tender for the overseas television service or appointing a new chairman of the Future Fund; and the unsavoury and embarrassing shenanigans surrounding the affairs of Thompson, Slipper, and that AWU ex-boyfriend.

What about the government’s achievements to balance the scales? The problem we are told by minister after minister, while commentators like Labor tragic Barrie Cassidy nod their heads sagely, is that the government has failed to get the message out. If only a better job had been done, presumably by the Labor Party’s spin merchants, to communicate the message, we would all realise what a wonderful government we’ve had. Let’s face it; the spin merchants must be doing a marvellous job in preventing raucous laughter whenever communication is claimed to be the problem.

The achievements worthy of note of the six years’ of this regime can be summed up in (wait for it) no words.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economic

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