CANBERRA OBSERVED: by national correspondentNews Weekly
Why Abbott will win the next election
, December 24, 2011
Julia Gillard has convinced herself that, having put the difficult “year of decision and delivery” behind her, she can now move on to a more constructive year in 2012, rebuilding trust and respect with Australian voters.
With Labor languishing in the polls, it would seem there is no alternative other than to forge ahead and hope there will be a turnaround.
Ms Gillard’s conviction is based in part on the comfort that her Government can now govern without the existential threat of a single MP crossing the floor and bringing it down in the process.
The probability that there will not be an election for up to two years provides at least time to set things right with voters.
But Ms Gillard’s certainty is also based on an expectation that voters will forget everything that has gone on over the past couple of years and be won over by the coming compensation payments flowing from the carbon tax.
It is a strategy that appears to take voters for mugs.
If the make-up of the Australian voter is entirely one of cynicism, forgetfulness and naivety, it will be successful.
If voters are sceptical about politicians’ promises, resentful about waste of their taxes and concerned about the economy and threats to their living standards, the strategy will founder.
The problem with Ms Gillard’s “forging ahead” remains the fundamental disconnect with voters.
The basic problem with the Gillard Government is not the mistakes (of which there have been far too many and at great cost to taxpayers); it is not the internal divisions (of which there is at least one corrosive and intractable rift i.e., that between Ms Gillard and Kevin Rudd); it is not even the amateurish and costly policy reversals (such as the Indonesian live-cattle ban and the perpetual right granted to the ABC in the botched Australia Network TV contract).
These could normally be managed as a new government and a new prime minister learned from their blunders and grew in maturity, confidence and competency.
The flaw with the Gillard Government is that it is in de facto coalition and in ideological sympatico with the Greens, a minor extremist party with an anti-Christian environmental agenda, which is both driving policy and taking votes from the Labor Party at the same time.
Take border control. An Australian Government which does not have effective border control policy puts at risk the right to govern and is almost certain to be thrown out of office. It almost happened at the last election, but the situation has deteriorated since.
In the time that Labor has been in power there have been more than 266 illegal boat arrivals carrying more than 14,000 asylum-seekers. This is more than the entire number who came during the 11 years of the Howard Government.
The influx is increasing by the month (900 people came in November).
Labor’s official policy is to use offshore processing and mandatory detention as deterrents. Its policy in practice is now an open-door policy and one which lets asylum-seekers into the community on bridging visas while their cases are heard.
This is Greens policy, and it is bad policy because it encourages more boat arrivals, which is dangerous; does away with any prioritising of refugees, which is unfair; and assists the organised criminals running the people-smuggling racket, which is morally reprehensible.
It is the same story with the carbon tax and the billions of dollars in giveaways to groups to create “renewable energy” systems — a part of the package which was insisted upon by the Greens and which will cause more cost-of-living pressures with negligible benefit to the environment.
And it is the same with same-sex marriage — now Labor Party policy since the national conference — a policy change, which was designed to shore up its vote in inner-city seats vulnerable to the Greens.
Ms Gillard says she remains personally opposed to same-sex marriage, but will she stop a Labor MP from putting up a private member’s bill in the House of Representatives next year? And how much effort will she put into building a coalition of mainstream Labor MPs to vote down such a bill?
Ms Gillard is banking on voters being won over by some increased family payments and tax breaks.
It is probably too late, but what needs to be done is a complete break from the Greens. Ms Gillard must articulate that she is governing for all Australians and has no truck with minor parties.
The Greens will squeal, but they will still vote with Labor in the Parliament on most bills, and most of their voters will still preference Labor ahead of the Coalition.
Negotiations will take place in the Senate, as were done by previous governments with various independents, the Australian Democrats and the Democratic Labor Party, on a legislation-by-legislation basis.
There should never have been an agreement with the Greens in the first place and it should be ripped up.
The real concern is that Ms Gillard will not do this and she will continue to think there is merit in a workable Parliament and persevere with the current arrangement because deep down she shares a similar value system.