October 28, 2004 | Graham


Congratulations to Wayne Swan on winning the Shadow Treasurer’s position. I’ve never admired his grasp of economics, but frequently been awe-struck by his political skills, including the use of the strategic non-sequitur. I am sure that “Jobs not GST” was one of Wayne’s inventions, which illustrates both my points.
No matter; the job of Shadow Treasurer is about politics, not economics, and Swan will be a ruthless and dangerous opponent for Peter Costello, particularly as the “miracle” economy is likely to cool dramatically some time before the next election.
Not only is Swan the master of the non-sequitur, but he has a knack for inventing alternative realities which the press then takes seriously. His claim that the government was delaying its mid-year budget review because “Peter Costello is trying to renege on his election promises and slither away from commitments that he gave during the campaign” appears to fall into that category. It might be imaginary, but if anything does go wrong with the economy, plenty of Australians will become susceptible to parallel universes, so it is a dangerous skill for Swan to have.
Another of Swan’s skills is the endless repetition of the same phrase. This is one that he shares with his predecessor, Simon Crean. It is a little ironic that the man dubbed a “rooster” by Latham because of his opposition to Crean, is so much like Crean.
Being like Crean is an advantage. While it was conventional wisdom that Simon was unelectable as Labor leader, I agree with the assessment of Brian Loughnane, Liberal Federal Director, that “For all his faults Simon Crean was a persistent and potent carrier of Labor’s message. Although it is not the conventional wisdom, I was worried by just how well Simon would have campaigned.” (Not that I agree with everything that Loughnane said in that interview, a lot of it was self-serving.)
I think Crean would have done better for a number of reasons. The first is that elections are rarely about leadership, and if they are, then the incumbent will often receive an advantage. If Crean had been leader the campaign would have had to have been about issues not personalities. It would also have focussed on a limited set of propositions. With no expectation that Labor would win, but with Labor carrying the right messages, it could have got much closer than it did, maybe even won.
Afterall, the conventional wisdom said that Bob Carr could not, and did not deserve to, beat Nick Greiner, nor Steve Bracks Jeff Kennett, nor Rob Borbidge Wayne Goss, nor Jim Soorley Sallyanne Atkinson; yet each of them did. Labor’s failure last election was more to run a messianic Whitlamesque campaign, than it was to lack economic credibility, in the process turning a lot of parliamentary roosters into feather dusters.
The Swan Rooster has shown that it has phoenix genes and has survived, and now prospered, after the conflagration. For it to succeed in this iteration, and for Labor to do well off its back, it has to remember that it’s politics, not the economy, that counts…and to keep being a little like Simon Crean.

Posted by Graham at 12:31 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. Reality dawns

    It has taken a while to sink in amongst the corporate media, but it finally has: Moir Did Australians vote

    Comment by Public Opinion — October 29, 2004 @ 7:34 pm

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