Tag Archive: Liberal Party


Lots of Qs, even more As

Last night, a now much talked-about episode of Q&A was aired on ABC Television around Australia. The central theme of the media attention this episode has generated has centred around former PM and now foreign minister Kevin Rudd admitting that he made a mistake as PM by dropping the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and that there were divisions within the party as to how to deal with the CPRS prior to its dropping.

Now, the Right has predictably seized upon this as a demonstration of a divided and unruly cabinet, and Tony Abbott will (EDIT: he has already) point to Rudd’s confession as a sign that the Labor party is incapable of governing and needs to be voted out. Catchy lines and great spin that might win a few meat-head votes, but far from insightful or even correct.

Rudd last night announced a fact of no great surprise to anyone: that a political party is made up of people with differing views and opinions, and that those opinions were aired during the debate on the CPRS. I mean, is it really surprising that 83 Labor MPs don’t all share exactly the same view, and have exactly the same belief about how best to deal with what was undeniably a difficult issue?

Rudd for mine performed brilliantly on Q&A last night, he was forthright, refreshingly honest for a politician, and far from being filled with a desire for revenge on Julia Gillard, sought to simply clear the air about the goings on in his last few months as PM. His explanation of why the CPRS was shelved is the best explanation I’ve heard yet from anyone in the Labor party, and described the way he did last night, is fully understandable, and provides a real insight as to why it was shelved the way it was.

I haven’t exactly been the biggest Rudd fan over my time. I didn’t even vote for him in 2007, and grew rather disillusioned with his direction, especially towards the end before his now famous “knifing” (as the Liberals have coined it). However, I was genuinely disappointed with the Labor party for the way in which he was dumped NSW-premier style in order to get a more attractive woman to win the election for them. For me, Julia Gillard has been a huge let-down – no longer do we have the fiery left-wing red-head vigorously fighting for her beliefs in the parliament, but we have a media managed puppet of the right wing faction who is being told what to do and say every step of the way.

Seriously, when Gillard, an open atheist, came out preaching the values of the Bible being taught to children last month, the little respect I had for her individual identity and beliefs was officially destroyed. That is, if it wasn’t already lost by her pandering to the Right on many issues, like asylum seekers, euthanasia and gay marriage. Gillard is a dud – she looks as if she has been granted the leadership on the sole condition that she does and says everything the right-wing faction tells her to. Never mind the fact that she is actually a member of the Left faction, with (God forbid) left wing ideals and beliefs.

We at least knew what Rudd stood for – he looked like a man determined to deliver on his ideals and beliefs, he looked passionate. Look at him saying sorry to the stolen generation, look at him providing stimulus during the GFC. He believed in what he was doing, and was convinced it was the right course of action. That’s why I think he suffered so badly when the CPRS was dropped last year. Climate change was another of his passionate beliefs, and dropping the ETS was an example of him abandoning those beliefs, seemingly because it became too hard. It was a complete backflip on this man of conviction, and was treated accordingly by the public, leading to his (in my view premature) demise.

When have you seen Julia Gillard as PM show the same conviction and belief in her policy as Rudd did? Maybe once campaigning for the introduction of the flood levy, but other than that she has looked wooden, boring, unconvincing and fake. While Rudd was hardly the most exciting media performer, one criticism you’d have never levelled at him (prior to the ETS backflip at least) is that he was fake.

Back to the topic of Q&A last night, for as refreshing as Rudd was, his opposition counterpart Julie Bishop was the complete opposite. She was uninteresting, predictable, and spouted nothing but the tired one-liners that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have been pushing endlessly since before Rudd was removed as leader last year. Seriously, she and her party mates can’t even think of another way to say the terms “knifed a first-term Prime Minister”, “Rudd shouldn’t have trusted Julia Gillard”, “stop the boats”, “great big new tax” and “carbon tax lie”. As a result, Julie Bishop could have been replaced by Tony Abbott, or even a well-trained monkey and you wouldn’t have known the difference (for more reasons than one) – her lines were that old and repeated that it didn’t take her to say them. Hell, why not send a Barnaby Joyce or Wilson Tuckey in her place – they might stumble on something or at the very least amuse us with their crazy antics. It’s no surprise that Ms Bishop was booed by the crowd (43:40 in to this video) for using these rather poor and ineffective tactics to answer her questions.

Still, the papers have gone crazy about Rudd’s comments, and this will inevitably be seen by many as Rudd undermining Gillard’s leadership, possibly in an attempt to regain it for himself. I believe neither of these to be true. Rudd appeared to have a strong desire to be honest and open, possibly for the first time, about his method of thinking and his approach to the issue that cost him the leadership. He does not want to undermine Gillard’s leadership, as it would only result in Tony Abbott becoming PM, which is a scenario even he, a victim of Gillard’s “betrayal” himself, could not support. And while he may still believe that he had potential to lead the nation in a greater capacity and for much longer, the realist within will know that it would be more than highly unlikely for that to ever happen again, that a Gillard-led government is the best possible scenario at the moment, and that being foreign minister cruising around visiting diplomats overseas for a living is a pretty cruisy job that should not be thrown away for a bit of an ego trip.

The Victorian Liberal Party launched their 2010 state election campaign last night in Melbourne, and although for the most part it was a policy-free zone (as the Libs have been criticised for being since Jeff Kennett left), Liberal leader Ted Baillieu did have some very significant announcements to make in regard to the area of transport, most specifically public transport in Melbourne and Victoria. For the purposes of convenience, I’ve listed some of the commitments the Liberals have made so far in this campaign:

  • Feasibility study into the Rowville railway line
  • Commitment to planning for a railway line to East Doncaster
  • New railway stations at Southland (a favourite campaign of the PTUA) and Grovedale, in this blogger’s old stomping ground of southern Geelong
  • Commitment to planning for a heavy rail line to Melbourne Airport via Broadmeadows
  • 40 new electric trains for Melbourne’s suburban system
  • $379 million to remove dangerous metropolitan level crossings (ooh, I like this one)
  • Creation of a Public Transport Development Authority to plan, co-ordinate and maintain transport services and infrastructure (which even the eternally pessimistic transport planner Paul Mees is described as being “optimistic” about)
  • Adding security officers to police every metropolitan railway station and major regional railway stations from 6PM to last train every night
  • An extra $100 million to rail maintenance
  • An aspiration to return direct rail links between the regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo (wow, talk about a promise from left-field)

That’s a very significant list of promises, no matter which way you look at it from. It certainly makes you think that the Liberals have isolated public transport as a key issue in this state election, and are intent on campaigning strongly on it. I’ve thought for some time that Terry Mulder, the opposition transport spokesman, is a man with at least half a brain in that head of his, which is more than I’ve thought of Labor’s transport ministers in Peter Batchelor, Lynne Kosky and Martin Pakula.

However, this in no way means I’m about to become a blind Liberal Party fanboi. While these policies and promises look great on paper, there are some concerns I have about aspects of all of them. Firstly, the Liberals deciding to adopt a Greens-like government control-type policy in regards to a dedicated Public Transport authority strikes me as odd, given the Liberals pro-market, anti-intervention fundamental base. I think the policy is good, don’t get me wrong, but I expect the Liberals to be the last people to agree with the idea, let alone take it to an election as their policy.

The second, and most pressing of my concerns, is the sheer scope and number of improvements proposed. For a party whose leader has described Labor’s debt as enormous and in need of control and reduction, how does he propose to fund these significant and expensive additions to the transport system while keeping debt under control? I know the Liberals trade on their economic management record, but when Jeff Kennett took power of a state in massive debt in 1992, his solution to manage it was about as far removed from expanding the public transport system as possible. I don’t need to point out how difficult it would be for Ted Baillieu to be Jeff Kennett-like in terms of debt reduction, yet the complete opposite in terms of infrastructure improvements.

The reality is, if the Labor experience of 1999 is to be replayed (which is most likely), then most of these promises will not eventuate if Mr Baillieu becomes premier. In 1999, the Labor Party under Steve Bracks promised the following initiatives for transport in Victoria should the win the election (which they did)

  • Return rail to Mildura, Ararat, Leongatha and Bairnsdale – only two of the four lines are again operational, with the other two not looking like being reopened at all
  • Construct a rail link to Melbourne airport – never built
  • Extend the tram line to Knox SC – extended only as far as Vermont South
  • Feasibility study into the Rowville railway line – never completed, and Labor policy now opposes the construction of the line

So that’s just a few promises, and even most of them were broken. You could read into this that it was the Labor Party, not the Liberal Party, who broke these promises, but I’m not about to get involved in a Labor vs Liberal brawl about who’s more honest. They’re all politicians in my view, and all likely to renege on promises, or change their tune on policy once in office.

Having said that, if even some of these projects do occur, the state will be better for it. A good public transport system is pivotal to a vibrant and liveable city, and can really play a role in addressing road traffic congestion. Investments of this type made now stand to benefit the city for many years to come. Regardless of who wins the state election, it would be good to see these policies adopted and these improvements made to the transport system.