Leadership battle may be helping the ALP

Contrary to what you may think, the current leadership battle in the Australian Labor Party may in fact be helpful.

Roy Morgan have released the first poll since the saga began, and it shows the ALP significantly closing the gap with Tony Abbot’s Liberal Party, up 3%.

When you think about it though, it’s not too surprising. Both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd have given some of the best performances of their careers. They are getting 24/7 media coverage. Even regular events are now becoming like the best sort of political rallies. From the excellent ABC Live Blog

The ABC’s Guy Stayner reports from Melbourne that PM Julia Gillard received a rock star’s welcome from Australian Services Union members at a morning tea to celebrate Fair Work Australia’s recent equal pay ruling. He says Ms Gillard posed for photos with union delegates and teenagers supported by the Melbourne City Mission, which hosted the morning tea. She left the celebration to chants of “Julia Julia”. We’ll post a photo ASAP.

Labour needs to change

Jordan Carter has pointed me to a letter written by a UK Labour Party member, Melanie Haslam, to her local party.

I feel her expereinces would be echoed in many parts of the New Zealand Labour Party (for what it’s worth, from the Tories I’ve spoken to about this, it sounds like their party has many of the same problems).

This coming Monday there are going to be a big announcement about Labour’s Review. We need to keep experiences like Melanie’s front and centre when we make our submissions and conduct the review.

To the Chair of, and all delegates to, Greenwich and Woolwich GC,

Tonight I attended your GC for the first time. I have been a member of the Labour Party for six years and have been a member of six different CLPs. In that time, I have never experienced such an unwelcoming meeting as I did tonight.

I have been a member of Greenwich and Woolwich CLP for nine months. I receive your newsletters and campaign bulletins, and find them informative and refreshing. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend a meeting until tonight, as I study at college in the evenings.

Unfortunately, I do not think I will be returning and I am writing you this letter to outline the reasons why, in the hope that if new members attend your meetings in the future, they do not have the same experiences that I have.

At tonight’s meeting, I was one of only three young members in the room. Two of us had never been to a meeting before. Attendants at the meeting included elected representatives at all levels. Despite this, nobody welcomed us or introduced themselves.

Instead, I felt ostracised to the point of tears. I spent the first five minutes of the meeting trying to find a seat, because they had all been reserved. I ended up sitting in a corner.

I understand that tonight was your annual meeting to elect delegates to National Conference, and make nominations for national positions. Greenwich and Woolwich GC operates on a branch delegate system, which is something that I had hoped Refounding

Labour would change. Still, I expected that this would be the case. I did not need to be shouted at every time an election was held, that “if you’re not a delegate, you can’t vote!” or “only delegates can vote!”. This procedure was explained by the Chair at the beginning of the meeting, I did not need reminding. I saw that the only non-delegates in the room were the other two young people and I. At no point did I try and vote.

The Membership Secretary, in his report, noted that the CLP had seven new members that month. One of those could have quite easily been me. Throughout the meeting no procedures, acronyms or “inside jokes” were explained to me. If I hadn’t been a member for six years, the whole culture would feel alien to me. Unfortunately, it is all too common for young members across the country.

At the end of the meeting, you held a raffle. You asked a young member (who was not a delegate) to draw the raffle, as he was a “visitor”. I hope you understand that no member is a visitor in their own CLP. You then went on to give him a copy of John Prescott’s book, to educate him on “Old Labour”, which I found patronising at best. You then went on to invite the room to the pub. I assume this was for delegates only, as no explanation of which pub you were going to, or where it was, was made. I am not from the area. Nobody came up to me to ask me to go along.

I hope you will take my comments on tonight’s meeting on board. I did not write this letter to shame Greenwich and Woolwich CLP, but do I believe it is important that you understand how the actions of some can make new members feel. It was clear from the meeting that the CLP is an active campaigning force, but I’m afraid that in order to encourage members to get involved in your activities you must be welcoming to them when you first meet them.

I trust you will read my letter out at your next meeting. I have CCd in Iain McNichol (General Secretary) as I understand he will be attending your April meeting), Susan Nash (Chair of Young Labour) and Dean Carlin (National Youth Officer for the Labour Party).

Kind regards,

Melanie Haslam

Another dispatch from Canberra

All sorts of interesting material is coming out in the current ALP leadership crisis. It will be analysed for years to come. Here we have the transcript of an interview with Attorney General Nicola Roxon, from Sky News’ AM Agenda show this morning. Roxon served as the Health Minister in the Rudd Ministry, and she has a very interesting take on how Rudd ran the government…

KIERAN GILBERT: …that – that the Gillard Government and that the health reforms that you oversaw were not submitted through normal Cabinet processes.

NICOLA ROXON:   Well this is just a complete joke and it’s such a joke because we went through a very detailed health reform process with Kevin as Prime Minister and we were able to progress an enormous amount of things that he should be proud of and I am proud of as well.

But many of those things, including the biggest proposals that Kevin wanted to act on, he wanted with four days notice on one occasion that I can recollect, to take over the entire health system.  Didn’t have any materials for Cabinet, didn’t have legal advice, thought – I think it was on the Wednesday or Thursday – that we could prepare something that he’d take to Cabinet on Monday to announce on Tuesday.

Full transcript follows…

Continue reading “Another dispatch from Canberra”

Forthcoming Auckland & Wellington Lectures – Feb 28th

Global Environmental Trends & New Zealand’s Future

Global environmental trends will affect New Zealand’s future. In his forthcoming lecture to the Fabian Society, Rick Boven of the New Zealand Institute will summarise the high-level trends, identify implications for New Zealand, explain obstacles to an effective response and propose strategic priorities to reduce risks and take advantage of opportunities. Responsibilities and how to act will be presented for businesses, individuals, Government and NGOs.

This free Auckland lecture is on 28 February at 6pm in the Owen Glenn Building, University of Auckland, and you can register here.


The Important Thing About Income Inequality is What You Do about it – Exploring the Path to Reducing Income Inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand

While the tents of the Occupy protesters may be moved on, the issues of income inequality will not be pushed to one side so easily. The backdrop of massive international social and economic disparities shape the context for the particular challenges we face in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has said that the important thing about income inequality is what we actually do about it. This lecture looks at our current situation and asks – what (if anything) is being done about inequality right now and what more we could do. Can we find a path to a social and political consensus on income inequality and what might that path look like?

Paul Barber of the NZCSS will address this question in a free Wellington lecture on February 28th at 5.30pm in Connolly Hall, Guildford Tce. You can register here.

It’s all about Kevin

A guest post from an anonymous ALP member.

I’m not sure it matters who ends up winning the eventual ballot/s, there isn’t going to be much of a prize for the winner.

Both the Rudd and Gillard governments have done some great things (putting aside our inability to sell half of them) but the next election won’t be fought on Labor’s record in bringing us through the global crisis in a better position than any other country. It won’t be fought on issues such as workplace relations, health care, education, broadband or climate change – all areas (and there’s many more) where our policy is superior. Instead it will be fought entirely on the revolving door leadership. This isn’t just the fault of Rudd, blame can be cast on both leaders, the cabinet, the strategy and media advisers and indeed the faceless men.

We look an absolute rabble and the election is now Abbott’s to lose, something which thankfully he is uniquely capable of doing.

In similar circumstances the QLD election is the LNP’s to lose with polling putting the conservatives well in front. Can they make it through the six week campaign period without screwing it up? The ALP’s strategy clearly was to have an extra long declared campaign to give Newman and the LNP enough time to fall in a heap. While hoping for the other guys to screw it up isn’t the best strategy ever, it’s understandable – this is a party that has spent most of recent history in opposition because they are so divided and dodgy.

The LNP is that short of talent they had to find a leader outside of Parliament, and clear divisions between the merged party remain. Voters who are sick of an aging government are only going to start scrutinising an alternate government late in the election cycle. It’s the “are they ready to govern?” question that will be crucial to the result. Clearly I believe they are not, but the ones that matter, the voters have a six week long timer to make up their mind on that question.

Because of Rudd’s actions, you can take at least two weeks off that timer, as state election stories will be buried by the latest in speculation over the challenge and the fallout from the result. That assumes a one sided result, a close contest and it’s going to remain the only political story for the foreseeable future. A landslide result might have a good result for Queensland ALP, but it appears Rudd’s best case response is a second winning challenge after a close loss in the first one. If it wasn’t his home state I could understand him not wanting to delay his ambition by six weeks to help a state election that is likely lost. But he’s blowing one of his own state party’s few remaining strategies.

Which I guess sums up how I see his motives, it’s all about Kevin. He’s willing to sell his QLD state colleagues out for his personal gain. He’s willing to destroy the credibility of the Government to take back power. In tearing down the Government to try and take back the leadership he either hasn’t considered (or does not care) what condition the party will be in if he loses. ‘If I can’t have it, nobody can’ is a disturbing approach for a progressive politician when on the other side of the chamber sits a hard right conservative who would love to wind back all the good policy both Labor Prime Ministers have put in place.

Death by a thousand cuts

Roy Morgan have just released their third poll post-election, and its more good news for Labour and more bad news for National. The trend is continuing.

Labour have gained half a percentage point at National’s expense. Interestingly the Greens have dropped down to 11% and New Zealand First have gained half a percentage point, now up to 6% – undoubtably off the back of Winston’s strong performances in the house.

The opposition now commands 51.5% versus the government’s 48.5%. The proportion of New Zealanders who think we’re heading in the right direction has dropped 4 points – not insignificant – and now sits at 57%.

It’s not a huge gain, but it’s certainly movement in the right direction. With the mess the government is finding itself in over dozens of issues, I’d expect this to be the trend for some time to come.

Today Kevin Rudd jumped the shark

This is a guest post from an anonymous ALP member.

I first became involved in the Australian Labor Party in 2007 and winning that election elicits some of my fondest memories of my political life. I’ve been heavily involved in the ALP ever since.

Kevin Rudd’s press conference and decision to resign as Australian Foreign Minister is the beginning of the end for his career with Labor. To use a great phase: he’s done a Mark Latham.

Kevin Rudd is a very popular guy with the wider community. He has a great ability to make spin sound like straight talk (sadly contrasted by Julia Gillard’s unenvious ability to make straight talk sound like spin), but the message that comes out of Canberra is that he’s hated internally. As Prime Minister he was the School Principal that the parents loved, but the teachers couldn’t stand. Nothing has changed.

Kevin talked in his press conference today about his concern for the nation. Australia is a country that has coped with some of the most serious economic times that the world has seen in more than fifty years better than any other nation on earth. Our unemployment rate is phenomenally low. We’re officially the richest people in the world. Our government has made amazing progress that should warm the hearts of lefties everywhere: we’ve put a price on carbon, increased the wages of our lowest paid workers. We’ve introduced paid maternity leave and we’re rolling back middle class welfare. We are taxing our billionaire mining magnates who have become rich off resources we all own. We’re investing more in education and health

Kevin can proudly take some of the credit for our achievements of the last four years. So can Julia. Labor’s problem has been that we haven’t been able to sell our achievements. So when Kevin attacked the direction of the nation and the direction of Australia, he said exactly what the disillusioned wanted to hear and exactly the opposite of what the party faithful have been trying to get across since we took office.

It’s now increasingly clear that from the moment Kevin chose not to contest the leadership in 2010 he has been working to destabilise this government; working against Labor and for his own interests.

Aided by the media desperate for blood, Kevin and his tiny band of follows have done chipped away at Gillard. Not because of any policy difference, but purely in the quest for power. Hopefully now it comes to a head.

The feeling I get from my friends and colleges in the party is that he’s done. In an extremely anecdotal fashion the message I got today was almost universal dislike for Rudd’s resignation. Rudd might still be popular with the public, but his ego is too big and his quest for power too great for him ever to be an option again.

He wasn’t rolled in 2010 by “faceless men”. He was rolled by his work colleges, by the elected Labor members of the Australian Federal Parliament. He was rolled because he couldn’t work with them and he still can’t. He proved that today with his calculated dummy spit.

There is no longer a place at the Labor table for Kevin Rudd.

Wayne Swan’s reaction to Kevin Rudd’s resignation…

I’ve just been sent this statement from Wayne Swan, the Australian Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister…

Prime Minister Gillard and I and the overwhelming majority of our colleagues have been applying our Labor values to the policy challenges in front of us and we’re succeeding despite tremendous political obstacles.

For the sake of the labour movement, the Government and the Australians which it represents, we have refrained from criticism to date.

However for too long, Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop.

The Party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues.  He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an Abbott Prime Ministership, and now he undermines the Government at every turn.

He was the Party’s biggest beneficiary then its biggest critic; but never a loyal or selfless example of its values and objectives.

For the interests of the labour movement and of working people, there is too much at stake in our economy and in the political debate for the interests of the labour movement and working people to be damaged by somebody who does not hold any Labor values.

Julia has the overwhelming support of our colleagues. She is tough, determined, forward-looking, and has a good Labor heart.  She has a consultative, respectful relationship with caucus while Kevin Rudd demeaned them.  She’s cleaned up a lot of the mess he left her and has established a good, Labor agenda.  She’s delivering major reforms, and getting things done that her predecessor could not.  Colleagues are sick of Kevin Rudd driving the vote down by sabotaging policy announcements and undermining our substantial economic successes.

The Labor Party is not about a person, it’s about a purpose.  That’s something Prime Minister Gillard has always known in her heart but something Kevin Rudd has never understood.

Swan certainly isn’t holding back his punches. This is a direct attack on Kevin Rudd.

From where I’m sitting across the Tasman, it seems like there are two possible things going on at the moment. One is that Rudd has withdrawn to the back benches to try and slip Julia up, and will attempt to stage a back bench rebellion. The more likely scenario is that he’s realised that not only does he not have the numbers (the number 30 is being thrown around, far short of what he needs), but he realises he never will. I’d imagine Gillard’s team also know this, and were preparing to dump Rudd at next week’s caucus meeting.

If this is indeed the case, Gillard has done the right thing, and I imagine her leadership will be a lot better off for it.

Kevin Rudd’s resignation – first thoughts

I do follow Australian politics reasonably closely, closely enough to know that it is a complicated beast that is not easily understood from the outside.

In light of the resignation of the foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, I’ve made contact with a few of my comrades in the ALP to get their view on things. Hopefully I’ll be getting a few different perspectives coming through in the next few hours and days. The first person I’ve spoken with, will be working on a more complete analysis, but feels this is an adequate first response:

In the mean time I believe this statement would fairly represent myself and my party colleagues:
“Dear Australian Media: Fuck you”
Having suffered three years of the New Zealand media undermining Phil Goff’s leadership, the ALP have my complete sympathy at this time.
We’ll be keeping you informed…