November 27, 2003 | Graham

Two previews: Kevin Rudd for Leader and I scoop Howard’s first campaign ad

Kevin Rudd is my local member and as a local member I reckon he’s great, no matter how I vote. He’s also very effective as a foreign affairs spokesman. But if Labor wants to get ahead, making him leader would be the least optimal choice. (I struggled with the phrase “least optimal”, but I couldn’t use “worst”. When you’re talking depth of talent the ALP can sink pretty low, and Kevin’s much closer to “best” than “worst”). In fact, if the ALP wants to get ahead they should be sacking him as foreign affairs spokesman.
The reason for both these opinions is the same. If the ALP wants to win the next election it has to stop fighting the war. Every time Labor spokesmen talk about terrorism, security, Iraq, Afghanistan, or indeed anywhere north of (and including) Melville Island they lose votes. These are Howard’s issues and it is Howard’s agenda. Not that the majority of Australians wants to vote on these issues, but when they think about them they think of Howard as being reliable and Labor as being a divided rabble that couldn’t even deliver sandwiches in the Parliamentary canteen, let alone policies.
Rudd’s problem is that his strength, and it is a considerable personal one, is Howard’s agenda, which makes it a political weakness. Each time he diligently elevates a foreign affairs issue to front page or prime time he loses votes for Labor. Rudd of course is measuring performance in terms of column inches and air time – that’s the proxy politicians use between elections – but these are not good indicators of how well you are really doing.
If Labor wants to win the next election I think it should leave Simon Crean where he is and put Rudd into Health or Education. If it runs on these issues it can win the next election.
There is no doubt that Howard will be campaigning on national security. If you want a preview of his key campaign ad, click here. What we are seeing in Australian politics today is a 50 year cycle. Menzies won election after election on the basis of the divisions that the Cold War caused in Labor. Howard looks set to do the same. The left cares more about its views than it does about the views of the people it wants to represent. As long as Howard and Rudd can keep debate focused on foreign affairs, the left will lose Labor the election. Crean and Labor need to make Howard fight on issues where the views of the left and most Australians coincide, and that’s health and education.
John Howard would probably share my views on this. He knows that the biggest risk to him in the next election is that people will expect him to win and so might just vote ALP out of sympathy. If Labor could get its act together just a little more, not so many people would laugh at Howard whenever he tells his troops (slang word, but on message when it comes to security) Labor could win the next election. And that would be a plus for Howard. Anyone for snooker?

Posted by Graham at 4:13 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I agree with you that Kevin Rudd is probably doing to good a job in the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and that he would be more effective if he were moved to either Health or Education, this may come with a reshuffling of the front bench when the new ALP Leader is elected, which he won’t be.
    Personally I’d rather anyone but Mr. Beazley, and I think that it is too early for Latham to make his move to the leadership (he is still unproven in the treasury position), so if I were to pick a leader for the next election I may go with Carmen Lawrences’ choice in the last challenge and think that Lindsay Tanner would be a good choice for the next election.
    My reason for this, is I think he is quite solid and won’t cause Labor any harm in the next election of which they have no real chance of winning anyway, plus he is a man of some ideology and has contributed to the policy thinking of the Labor movement; just like Mr. Latham, except Mr. Tanner is a little more mature and therefore a better prospect for leader at the moment, Lathams’ time will come.
    But unfortunately, my wishes will not eventuate because Tanner doesn’t have the numbers or apparently the Leadership aspirations at the moment…..

    Comment by matt — November 28, 2003 @ 10:39 am

  2. Matt,
    I think one of the major problems for the ALP is that they are fixated on leadership polling figures, and they therefore make the beauty contest between Howard and Crean the issue. That means that after whoever takes over from Crean goes through their honeymoon period and then loses momentum they’ll be thinking about replacing them with someone superficially more attractive, and so the cycle will start again.

    Comment by Graham Young — November 28, 2003 @ 11:24 am

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