Crap corner – Coalition ‘blind-sides’ Labor on stimulus package
Dennis Shanahan is the political editor of The Australian newspaper. In this weekend’s edition (7 February), in an article called ’Coalition’s surprise move on the $42 billion stimulus package turns the tables’, he writes:
Malcolm Turnbull has blind-sided the Government over the $42 billion stimulus package and left Kevin Rudd politically flat-footed and frustrated.
In a week in which both leaders have made the biggest gambles of their political careers and set the battlelines for the next election, the Liberal leader’s surprise Senate blockade has given the Opposition an early advantage.
This is the first time the Rudd Labor Government has appeared politically rattled, and it’s all because of Turnbull’s unpredictability.
There’s nothing unpredictable about Turnbull arguing for his class and pushing tax cuts for merchant bankers and others of that ilk.
But how can Shanahan make his seemingly counter-intuitive assessment that Turnbull has blind-sided Rudd? (Let’s assume as political editor of The Australian he is not mad.)
Strategists within both the Labor and Liberal camps yesterday detected a much more sympathetic reaction than expected to Turnbull’s decision to block the payments and $950 bonuses to millions of Australians.
Straw polls, talkback radio reaction and internet surveys suggested the initial reaction to the Coalition blockade during the global financial crisis was actually going Turnbull’s way.
Why is this? According to Shanahan
In its efforts to stay ahead of the curve on the global recession and address the emerging economic growth gap, the Government hasn’t had time to address the public perception gap.
Because of the lag between the impact of the financial crisis on jobs in the US and in Australia, senior members of the Government are more alarmed by the crisis than the public.
But wait, there is some sense in all of this.
One senior Government figure told The Weekend Australian yesterday the Government wasn’t keen on handouts because the public had become “more cynical about handouts after Howard’s baby bonuses”, and said there was more political gain in committing $10billion to building public hospitals.
Well, I’m with the senior Government figure there, as anyone who has read my scribblings on the stimuloss package will know. More beds, more and better paid nurses, more and better paid teachers.
Shanahan describes Turnbull’s actions as a political ambush. I’d suggest more like a political shot into his own foot.
That’s why, leaving aside Shanahan’s hyperbole about Rudd being caught off balance and unprepared , Rudd is painting Turnbull as uncaring. Shanahan quotes Rudd:
“I would say to Mr Turnbull it’s time for him to reconsider his position, because the national interest demands it and the jobs of people, hanging and swinging in the breeze in the construction industry, depends on him showing some leadership,” Rudd said.
Rudd and Turnbull are not alone. the same fight between the two wings of capitalism is happening in the UK and the US, with the Conservatives opposing the stimulus package and the slightly less conservative parties arguing for it.
These differences are like two specialists arguing over which type of band aid to put on the terminally ill cancer patient.
It seems to me the real issue will be, as unemployment mounts rapidly, who will electors blame? Rudd at least will be able to say we tried, but the conservatives didn’t want to do anything. And the forces of global capitalism are just too great for a little minnow like Australia to avoid. That might work, although there is a chance voters will say you should have done something that was successful to shield Australia from this catastrophe. If so, Rudd might become James Scullin version 2 (and Turnbull become by luck a political genius.)
But that’s for the future. For the moment I suspect that Rudd’s strategy of appearing to do something and Turnbull obstructing him will work. Certainly Labor hasn’t been blindsided; they are more likely jumping for joy over Turnbull’s opposition.