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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Getting a good government back on track

Julia Gillard's rhetoric has been that a good government had lost its way, and that she stepped up last week to get it back on track. It seems to me that she has a great opportunity to change bad policies - to show just where she thought the Rudd regime had gone off track. With a huge amount of good will out here in the electorate, she can do a great deal to reverse selected policy directions that were taken under Rudd. This is her honeymoon with the voters, and it shouldn't be wasted.

That doesn't mean she can just go crazy and introduce a whole lot of massive policy changes only a couple of months out from an election (surely it can't be much more than that). But it's going to be awfully disappointing if the main change that we see prior to the election turns out to be making concessions to the mining industry on tax policy. I'm not here to say that shouldn't be done. Pragmatically, Labor has no choice but to negotiate over this issue and get the best deal it can within a reasonable timeframe so it can clear the issue off the books before an election is announced. That's the political reality and Gillard knows it well. Fine. But if she wants to hang on to all those voters who've come back to Labor from minority parties, she's going to have to demonstrate that big business is not the only, or main, beneficiary of the sudden change of leader.

Over the past few days, there hasn't been much hint of that. From my viewpoint, she's still likeable and seems capable, and she still offers hope for the future if she can get past the looming election. But she's playing safe just a bit too much in my book. Yes, Prime Minister you don't want to be the female version of Mark Latham - that's understood out here in electorate land. But a teensy bit more of the vision thing would be nice right now.


Tony Smith said...

Russell, the failures were first and foremost administrative where the Commonwealth got involved in massive service delivery in areas it had no experience with.

Julia's real challenge is to get the cabinet and ministry to act as they should with diligence re their own portfolios and collective decision making without a bunch of 20-something political operatives in the PM's office free to override them. That hasn't really happened since Hawke.

And there don't seem to be many low hanging fruit left in the readily changeable policy department. If it hadn't just been tweaked the suspension of the racial discrimination act might have been one, while mental health and carbon reduction have been pushed to next term, although it would be good to see something a lot firmer in both those areas.

The cabinet responsibility thing is going to make it hard to dump the filter without dumping Conroy and we don't really want the NBN and the split up of Telstra to go out with the bathwater, though I'm still committed to vote below the line and put Conroy last so the filter message is underlined.

With a current senate inquiry addressing the tax status of religions, any policy announcements in that area would be premature.

Boat arrival options are almost entirely subservient to decisions in Indonesia, with at most an option to clean up the prejudicial arrangements relating to Afghans and Sri Lankan Tamils and to regularise on-transfers from Christmas Island, but even making such baby humanitarian steps would have to be balanced by at least aggressive rhetoric about deterring that method of arrival.

Given her very welcome expression of her lack of religion, maybe one from left field would be allowing the voluntary euthanasia debate to be reopened, maybe as part of a wider discussion of palliative care, especially given US moves to allow cannabis dispensaries.

And I always thought the point of being gay was to avoid the threat of marriage, but I guess time has passed me by on that one.

Russell Blackford said...

I do appreciate that she needs to walk a fine line.

On the gay marriage thing, I have a nuanced, though supportive, view. I can understand where she may be coming from, but a little more openness to rethinking that issue and talking to the gay community about it would have been nice.

Amanda said...

The political reality is of course she doesn't need to hang on to voters leaning towards the minority party (assuming you mean the Greens and not the Citizens Electoral Council) because those voters ultimately have to preference Labor over LNP (or vice versa which is unlikely) at some point. She needs to hang on to the swinging voters in marginal seats, hence backtracking on asylum seekers, immigration, etc and it was polling in those seats that set the panic amongst the caucus.

Disclosure: I'm an ALP member with highly ambivalent feelings about the change, although I like Julia. It depends on the election result (a close win vs comfortable win)to a degree but I doubt any of the policies which are really unpopular with the left are in for major change.

It's nice to have a non-theist in there but since she was installed in large part by the Shoppies (ugly right wing Catholic rump of the party) even that pleasure is muted somewhat. I'd rather a religious Rudd not beholden to them than an atheist Gillard who is, but we'll see. I will be looking to see over the next year, assuming the ALP wins the election, that she is building solid support in all areas of caucus so that their power is diminished.

Robert N Stephenson said...

Go Julia - do what you must, but ignore the minority pushers a little more, those squeaky voices deserve to be ignored - or until they say something sensical at least.

Bob Hawke was an Atheist and the religion of some in the party didn't influence him at all

Robert N Stephenson said...

coming soon to my own blog --- support gay marriage...

hope Gillard gets to read it

Robert N Stephenson said...

Though this is my commentary, it might be beneficial for others to see. If not, Russell wil delete - but I am sure there is some agreeance on this issue

Gay Marriage

David said...

If she (and by the actual process of our democratic system, the Labor candidate in my seat) wants my vote they'll need to do a few things:

Dump the internet filter and put the cash in to education programs and increased AFP resources on targeting individuals and groups engaged in paedophile-related activity. I see this as something achievable during her honeymoon and will only alienate the ACL and the Mrs Lovejoys of Australia - of which I don't think they contribute a substantial vote, just a loud media presence.

Global Warming action, Gillard needs to actually come to the election with a global warming policy that will work (this by the predicted balance of power in the senate will require negotiation with the greens and thus a policy which isn't particularly soft on the cost to polluters). If Labor have to negotiate with the Liberals on this policy I foresee no potential for progress.

My personal gripes which I feel neither party has a good standing on:
Substantial Mental Health policy which is not just clinically focused but encompasses appropriate and effective preventative policies. The newly announced Liberal policy has a long way to go, and the only reason it is significant to the Liberals is because it is their first real policy they have announced.

Human Rights Act, Rudd's Labor made all the right noises and then stepped quietly away from the issue in the middle of dumping several other, higher profile, policies.

Road Safety, sadly the states all have fairly unnuanced policies with simplistic measures including overly bureaucratic processes to force learning and new drivers to just take longer to be awarded a full license. Bring in some substantial driver training, improve the integrity and design of our roads, enforce flow/safety related laws. A national approach to this would also be preferred but then again I see little need for state governments today.

realist said...

I dont think Julia Gillard is any good the Labor government and the Liberals are more or less the same.

Australians are being treated like fools some are but not the majority.

I am sick of the distractions on health, education, and the focus on racist agendas to score votes like the refugees and other such absurdities by both parties.

The greens are not really an alternative as their policies are mostly weak.

A real party is required one who is interested in leading Australia to a decent future.