I haven’t made much reference to the Labor Party’s leadership struggle. There is a reason for this and it boils down to this: who cares?
The paper’s are chock full of references to “declines”, “blows” and “sappings” of consumer confidence resulting from the infighting. the SMH is typical:
AUSTRALIA’S business leaders have hit out at the political infighting that has gripped Canberra, saying it has sapped consumer confidence and affected the economic management of the country.
The Myer chief, Bernie Brookes, criticised the nation’s leaders for ”poor economic management”.”All of our politicians have diverted their attention and energy in the past few weeks to a potential leadership challenge, rather than running the country,” Mr Brookes said.
”I don’t have a view on whether Gillard or Rudd would make a better prime minister. I do believe the decision of Rudd to resign … will bring the matter to a head very quickly.”
Mr Rudd acknowledged the affair was becoming a distraction. ”It is important that business confidence is maintained in Australia, the economy and jobs are core to what any responsible government is about,” he said in Washington last night.
If you read that paragraph very carefully you will notice that Bernie Brooks actually never says that consumers are losing confidence. That’s because it’s irrelevant. Have you walked away from a big screen TV because Kevin Rudd’s face was on your old TV the night before?
Nor is business affected. If they base investment decisions on something so ephemeral they really shouldn’t be in business.
Traditionally speaking, I am more in favour of the Labor Party’s methods for succession than I am Liberal. Labor tends to stab existing leaders swiftly in the back and drag out the corpse with promises of some plumb posting serving tea in the Vatican.
The Liberal Party on the other hand, and I think conservative parties in general, have a more “master and apprentice” approach. They venerate the elder leader until he feels ready to retire. Whether its in the wider interests or not, younger generations of conservative leaders await their turn. Costello was a classic case in point.
There are exceptions of course but I think that’s a fair description of how the Party’s cultures typically work when it comes to succession time.
I’m not sure how the electorate views the respective approaches. They probably take both in their stride: enjoying the regard of the Liberal approach but respecting the ruthlessness of the Labour. The ultimate judgement hanging upon timing.
And in that sense the current schmozzle can only harm the Labor Party. There is no apparent need to remove Gillard from the PM’s chair. Her numbers have been recovering steadily since the carbon tax debate subsided and the interest rate cycle turned. What’s more, she’s under challenge from yesterday’s man in Kevin Rudd, who really resembles a vengeful child not an unstoppable force of leadership that it is in the interests of all to elevate. This does not feel like a titanic struggle for leadership so much as a political party ripping itself apart because nobody has the force of character and vision to make the choice inevitable.
So, my judgement for what it’s worth, is that the only people being harmed by the Labor Party schmozzle are those in the Labor Party itself. The leadership contest reeks of a kind of internecine arrogance. A bizarre display of entitlement that is simply highlighting the Party’s lack of fitness for power, certain to deliver one outcome: death at the ballot box.
With the Opposition promising to scrap the carbon tax, MRRT and slash the Budget, that’s the real uncertainty for business.