Rudd is today heading towards requiring all parents to have their children immunised or lose the family tax benefit part A, i.e. removing the conscientious objection provision. I don’t understand who he’s appealing to with this policy, so I must be missing something.
It seems to me that the people who don’t immunise are usually people who don’t believe the science and believe one of the variants of bad things about immunisations that you can find on the internet – ranging from it causing autism through to it giving you the very disease that it’s supposed to immunise against. Let me generalise and say that these people would be one of two groups:
- Green voters who dislike science and disbelieve it
- Strongly religious people who dislike science and disbelieve it
What Rudd needs so as to win is for people to shift their votes from Liberal to Labor, or (less so) to shift their votes from Green to Labor. This seems to me the kind of issue that isn’t going to draw people in to vote for you – the people who are getting their kids immunised today aren’t going to shift their votes because of this. But it could be the kind of issue that shifts votes away from you. Now he’s retaining the religious exemption (which in itself seems unusual, surely a bunch of people will just claim that exemption instead?), so he probably won’t drive away the religious vote. But I’m not sure he had that anyway. But he’s probably going to drive some voters to the Greens, and keep some Green voters from voting for him.
I can see only two possible motives for this change:
- He’s trying to demonstrate distance from the Greens, so he’s picked something that’s sure to draw howls from the Greens whilst still keeping enough loopholes that it actually impacts nobody;
- There’s perhaps something hiding under the comments about some specific communities having low immunisation rates – so there’s some sort of dog whistle in here that I’m not picking.
I’ll also have a free swipe at the Australian for lazy reporting. They report the immunisation rate as being 90%, that the rates are unevenly distributed, and that in one Medicare local there are 3600 children not immunised. But don’t tell us 3600 out of how many – so we don’t know whether this is 89% immunisation – i.e. close to the National rate – or 10% immunisation, which we might be concerned about.
At the moment my money is on option 1 – this is attempting to make the Greens say bad things about Labor, and therefore create media coverage that suggests the Greens and Labor aren’t working closely together.
A couple weeks ago I commented on Rudd’s all or nothing approach. In summary my hypothesis is that Rudd is in it for himself, not for the party. He wants to win the election, if he doesn’t then he’s dog tucker straight after. The party and the caucus, however, would really prefer he didn’t win. They don’t want him as PM, they just didn’t want to lose as badly as Julia was taking them towards. This misalignment of expectations looked like it could be very problematic.
However, I think we’re now heading towards a world where Rudd starts to realise he can’t win. The polls haven’t moved enough, and he probably feels like he was pressured into going to the election before he was ready. It’s not clear that he has much left in his kit bag for the remaining 4 weeks of the campaign. The question is what he does in this situation. He’s a tireless worker, we know that, so we wouldn’t expect him to slack off. Perhaps he’ll work super hard and start making mistakes? He is still calling the shots to some extent – the party made him leader, and so long as he announces things publicly they have a hard time contradicting him. The problem is that there’s no fun in announcing stuff that you know you won’t be around to implement and that therefore is pointless.
So what do you do? I think there’s a real chance of some interesting behaviour in the upcoming period, and a real chance of Rudd gambling and losing – doing something so out there/on the edge that it ends up costing votes. There’s also a chance that he starts working out how to create a legacy – to lock in things that he wants done and that the party can’t back away from when he’s gone. Time will tell.
I see in the various papers today that Rudd is down a bit, and Abbott looking more certain. My interpretation is that the change is within the margin of error, so I personally wouldn’t have been calling that a peak/end of the honeymoon. Unusual that it’s the Fairfax press making that call, they’re normally very pro-Labor. What that means I don’t know yet, but I’d say that perhaps they’re finding it hard to maintain the pro-Rudd stories. And ultimately everyone wants to be on the winning team, perhaps it’s more clear that the team to be on isn’t Labor? If that happens, then Rudd is in trouble.
Abbott’s announcement (I won’t call it a policy yet, as it seems more like a set of principles) on Aboriginal affairs could be a game changer. It’s clearly a positive policy, and he espouses a genuine right-wing vision:
- Aboriginal people and communities shouldn’t be treated differently. So some of the current policies like alcohol bans aren’t actually OK
- We shouldn’t have lower expectations of Aboriginal people, higher crime rates in Aboriginal communities are not OK
- We need to create employment and first world conditions for these folks
- He believes that most Australians are uncomfortable with the outcomes that Aboriginal people are getting, and that current policies aren’t working
- He’s enlisted Warren Mundine, someone long identified with Labor, including being the president of the ALP for a period, to run a super advisory board and report directly to Abbott on the matter
This is what we need to see from the Libs – clear plans, and policies that are right wing in nature whilst show casing that being right wing isn’t about money and economics, it’s about individual choice and responsibility, it’s about people getting the government out of their lives.
NOTE: This post edited has been edited.
Reading the papers this morning, from the Canberra Times we have:
- “First home in historic times.” An attractive young lady is very happy that she’s got a new home, and it’s much more affordable because of historically low interest rates. No mention of why the RBA felt it necessary to cut interest rates to historically low levels
- “Abbott vow to cut company tax: $2.5b a year sweetener to secure the business vote.” Do businesses vote?
In the Australian we have:
- “Slowdown cuts rates to record” – clearly following the Coalition line that the interest rates are so low due to economic problems
- “Abbott’s $5bn company tax relief soothes the parental leave sting”. Not portraying it as a grab for votes
One of the problems I have is that neither appear particularly thoughtful. On interest rates, I’d like to see an article that explains what drives interest rates. They’re driven by expectations of inflation, as that’s the RBA’s primary target. A subsidiary target is economic performance.
So, interest rates go up usually when the RBA is worried about inflation. They typically get worried about inflation when we have very low unemployment, or when we have a lot of expansionary fiscal policy (i.e. high government spending).
Interest rates tend to go down when the RBA isn’t worried about those two things, or when the economy is in the tank and the RBA is worried about deflation.
So, when we used to argue about interest rates, the argument from the right was that the high government spending of Labor would push up interest rates. Which was actually true. But now that the economy isn’t doing so well, the interest rates coming down is only because people are out of work. If you asked people whether they’d rather have a job and higher interest rates, or no job and lower interest rates, I think I know which they’d say.
Edit: I’ll shift my comments that were here before to point out that the newspapers have a tradition of interviewing people, then using that story for their own ends without necessarily thinking about the impact on the person concerned. I am also guilty of having done that, and I’ve edited my post to remove that content.
So, Rudd has suggested a debate a week, starting tomorrow, or 5 debates. Abbott has apparently suggested 3, including one at the National Press Club (aka scripted debate), one at the Rooty Hill RSL (aka face the voters), and one debate in Brisbane with no clear format that I can see.
Debates are obviously good. Personally I reckon 3 is about right, I can’t really stomach the thought of 5. But lets think about what the two have promised and what’s behind it.
When Gillard was in, the ALP didn’t want to debate. She was not known as a good debater. Rudd clearly thinks he’s a great debater, so he’s going for 5 debates. But he seems to be suggesting that these are all structured formats – one per TV channel. So that says to me that he thinks he’s got it over Abbott in the set piece debates.
Abbott wants pretty much what happened last campaign. I think that means he thought he did well last campaign, and why change something that worked. He particularly likes the “face the voters” format, as he can be quite personable in that format.
My pick is that Rudd didn’t really want a debate tomorrow night, you can’t throw one together that quickly. It’s just politics. He’s looking to make Abbott look like he’s afraid to debate, I don’t think that will really work (to put it another way, that’s preaching to the choir).
So, the election has been called. And Rudd solicited donations during his launch statement, which is a first. Interesting speech, focusing on how negativity won’t work, whilst lading in a decent chunk of negativity of his own.
Ultimately this comes down to policies. Rudd has pushed out a lot of policies in the last few weeks, ditching unpopular policies, shifting others closer to coalition policies. Abbott has also been accepting some policies from Labor to avoid politically unpopular comparisons.
Both the Libs and Labor are still short on policy. Rudd has promised a productivity agenda, but I think he’s mostly promised a talk fest. The Libs haven’t announced any significant policies as yet, and not clear whether they will. But I think this election, more than others, isn’t going to be won by just pointing at the other side and saying “don’t vote for him.” We’ll see whether that’s true.
So, what do I think Rudd is up to now.
My take is that the party are happy for Rudd to “save the furniture.” But Rudd doesn’t want that – his view is that he’s the natural leader of the Labor party. If he just “saves the furniture” then he’ll get sacked again straight after the election, and basically he’s been used by the party. Whereas I think the party would actually like that outcome – the thought of serving under Rudd as PM again really doesn’t go down well.
So, we have a conflict. For Rudd this is all or nothing – anything less than winning isn’t really enough for him. He’s prepared to gamble on a win even if that means that a loss might be bigger than they expected. So, for example, he’d like to campaign in Coalition marginal seats, which raises the risk of losing Labor marginal seats. The party would probably prefer to just shore up the Labor marginal seats and not worry about the rest.
I think this also flows into calling the election. Rudd would like to call it for a time that he thinks he can win it. If that means delaying it, then that’s fine. He thinks that his popularity will grow over time. The party, conversely, just want to save the furniture. They’re worried that the more the public see of Rudd the less they’ll like him, so they want to go early to maximise the harvesting of the bounce.
I think there’s a Newspoll due on Monday. All outcomes lead to pressure on Rudd to go now:
- A drop would be used to say “go now before you lose any more ground”
- A plateau would be used to say “it’s as high as it gets, go before it starts dropping”
- An increase would be used to say “go whilst you’re high”
This is all informed by a party belief that it can’t get any better for Rudd. Rudd himself, of course, thinks differently:
- A drop is a temporary aberration, better to wait and tidy up a bit more of Julia’s mess so we can get a gain
- A plateau means that lots of bad news and “clearing the decks” happened this week, and notwithstanding that we held ground. Imagine how good it will be next week with clear air
- An increase is a sign of a trend, keep waiting and it will get better
Rudd may go on Monday, but it feels to me like he’s going to hold on. I don’t think the G20 is a real factor, if the G20 is right before the election there’s no way he can afford to leave the country and go to it. I do think that he doesn’t want to recall parliament, he has too little trust in those under him to let them get back in the public eye any more than absolutely necessary. So he has to call it in the next couple of weeks sometime.