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Death by Triangulation

Thursday, 1 August 2013
Author: John Spoehr, The Adelaide Review

The extraordinary turnaround in Labor's political fortunes since the change of leadership to Kevin Rudd has saved Labor from electoral annihilation. Now Rudd seems determined to win the unwinnable election. Tony Abbott has a real fight on his hands, perhaps the toughest this ex-boxer has ever faced. Under pressure he looks an unlikely winner, a conclusion that many in the Coalition have probably drawn. Malcolm Turnbull looks the better match for Kevin Rudd but the Coalition has left that move too late.

Kevin Rudd is everywhere, a master of presidential campaigning. No policy is sacred as he attempts to pull the political rug from underneath the feet of his opponents, making their ground his ground. Many longstanding supporters of Labor are likely to be stunned by the pragmatism, the willingness to brazenly reinvent the political position of your opponents and make it your own. Plenty will feel great despair about the PNG solution and move their vote to The Greens in protest. What Rudd is gambling on, is winning back those who through fear, ignorance, xenophobia and racism have punished Labor for past asylum seeker policies. Once again, asylum seekers are caught up in an unedifying race to the bottom. This is the ugly face of modern Australia politics.

The move to accelerate the transition to carbon trading is another example of the extraordinary pragmatism of the new Labor leadership. It effectively neutralises the Coalition's relentless campaign against the carbon tax by introducing a measure that the Coalition would have almost certainly done had they been in government. So it looks like we might have a carbon neutral election ahead.

The dumping of Kevin Rudd inflicted a mortal wound on the leadership of Julia Gillard, which the Rudd team forensically aggravated, undermining the stability of Gillard. In the wake of his ascension, Rudd has moved swiftly to make political spills much more difficult to achieve in the future, a change that will be welcomed by some but regarded with suspicion by others - making it more difficult to remove the leader runs the risk of rewarding megalomania. Despite this, Rudd's decisiveness in introducing a higher bar for leadership spills is likely to win the support of those who believed he was harshly treated as Labor leader in the past.

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Associate Professor John Spoehr (email)
Executive Director
Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre (WISeR)
The University of Adelaide
Business: (08) 8313 3350