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Machismo Politics

Friday, 30 August 2013
Author: John Spoehr, The Adelaide Review

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The prospect of electoral annihilation haunted Labor for months, frightening it into an uncomfortable change of leadership. Rudd's resurrection acted as a circuit breaker, turning certain defeat into the tantalising prospect of a close contest. As his political honeymoon came to an end, Tony Abbott's prospects rose and then fell a little. Both men have an uneasy relationship with the electorate.

Abbott and Rudd appear to have something in common - simmering aggression, threatening to reveal itself one day and on display the next. This was on display in the second leaders' debate in the form of a dramatic face off between Rudd and Abbott. As annoying as Kevin Rudd's monologues can be at times, Tony Abbott may have lost more supporters than he gained by his, "Does this guy ever shut up?" remark.

An implosive Tony Abbott can be his own worst political enemy. While the possibility of meltdown might be low, the intuitive amongst us sense the possibility. The same might be said of Kevin Rudd but his major flaw is chronic verbosity. As fascinating as psychoanalysing our politicians is, too much attention is paid to their personalities and not enough to their policies.

While the Coalition's Paid Parental Leave scheme would have attracted new supporters to the conservative cause, it annoyed a substantial part of its political base, particularly those that have to pay the proposed levy - Australia's largest companies. The cost of the scheme has attracted both internal and external criticism with the Coalition wrestling with the contradiction of introducing one of the most expensive policy measures announced during the election campaign.

Labor began the election declaring it would offer something new to the electorate. This sounded a bit like desperation politics. To distance his administration from that of Julia Gillard's Kevin Rudd announced the end of the carbon tax and early adoption of a floating price on carbon. Some new policies were announced but by and large Labor went into the election on a wave of support for its education and disability care reform packages. Along the way there have been some bizarre populist policy announcements ranging from Kevin Rudd's Northern Territory company tax break to Tony Abbott's boat buy back scheme. Neither is likely to endure post the election.

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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