Features Australia

Labor’s stunningly childish campaign

The ALP needs adult supervision

7 September 2013

Late in the election campaign, as Australians firmed in their resolve to throw Labor out, a study appeared that suggested the nationwide demand for change might be mistaken.

According to the study, completed by academics at our largest federal crèche, Canberra’s Australian National University, households were better off under Labor than they had ever been under the Coalition. As you’d expect, this information was gratefully seized upon by the government and its supporters. ‘Labor’s world-recognised management of the economy through the GFC has flowed through to households,’ crowed treasurer Chris Bowen.

As you’d also expect, voters completely disregarded the study. One thing we’ve learnt over the past six years is that the Australian economy, built upon decades of reform by successive Hawke, Keating and Howard governments, is now largely immune — at least on a macro level — from Canberra’s meddling.

Voters are aware that Labor has the same relationship to the nation’s economic health as a wastrel teenage heir does to the family fortune. The kid might spend all of his excessive allowance and crash the odd BMW here or there, in the manner of Kevin Rudd’s fringe benefits tax proposals harming car sales, but even the stupidest rich teen would struggle to bring down an entire successful business.

Which is just as well, because since 2007 we’ve been governed by children.

Almost all of Labor’s major policy decisions, and the party-wrecking feud between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, are easily understood in terms of either an infant’s impulsiveness or a teenager’s wicked mood swings.

Take the government’s allegedly ‘world-recognised management of the economy through the GFC’, for example. This was Labor’s attempt to protect us from financial ruin by throwing away all of our savings. Babies love chucking stuff around.

Border protection wasn’t a problem in 2007 when Labor came to power, because years of adult supervision had ended asylum seeker arrivals and all but emptied Australia’s detention centres. Labor’s response might have emerged directly from a teenager’s moralistic ruminations on how mean and cruel grown-ups can be. Let’s be nicer to the people on those boats. What possible damage could it cause?


The outcome: more than 1,000 deaths at sea and detention centres loaded like Saturday night’s champagne-chugging Coalition celebrators.

There is no more immature impulse than the desire to save the whole world. Planet-rescuing storylines drove adventure comic books for generations and now fuel the fantasies of Greens and other perma-children. Labor took those fantasies mainstream by imposing a carbon tax, which aimed to safeguard our existence by cutting Australia’s carbon output from around 1.4 per cent of the globe’s human-created output to very slightly less than 1.4 per cent.

On environmental matters, Labor freely admitted taking its cues from Australia’s pre-adult community. Addressing the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, Kevin Rudd read a letter he’d received from a six-year-old Canberra girl: ‘Hi, my name is Gracie. How old are you? I am writing to you because I want you all to be strong in Copenhagen. Please listen to us as it is our future.’

If Gracie were a make-up artist or an RAAF flight attendant or Wayne Swan or any other member of Labor’s cabinet, Rudd would probably have dashed her letter to the floor and yelled obscenities at it. Because she was a six-year-old, however, Rudd attempted to turn her concerns into policy. ‘I fear that at this conference,’ he told the UN’s weather worriers, ‘we are on the verge of letting little Gracie down.’

Fear not for poor little Gracie. She’s still at least eight years away from paying taxes, by which time a sensible adult government should have paid off Labor’s debt (again).

Eight years might also be the time needed to work out why Labor’s 2013 election campaign was so stunningly childish, what with Rudd’s abrupt everything-fixing policy declarations and his party’s patent fear of Tony Abbott, who seems by any reasonable estimations to be a sincere, rational person.

The campaign gave us Labor’s immature approach to government in intense, distilled form. Recall statesman Rudd posing as a global titan after hearing of Syria’s chemical weapons atrocity. Why, nothing would be allowed to stand between Rudd and a Syrian solution, not even his own re-election. And then he flew to Brisbane that same day to film a cooking show with the ABC’s Annabel Crabb.

Another highlight came at the government’s campaign launch, where Thérèse Rein confirmed impressions that the Prime Minister is an overreaching scatterbrain. Remarkably, this anecdote was approved by Labor’s campaign chiefs: ‘I want to introduce a husband who, when sent to Bunnings for a mozzie candle, comes back with Roman flares, Blu Tack, an extension cord, potting mix, a stepladder, secateurs – but no mozzie candle.’ Take it away, Sammy Davis Jr.:

Who goes to a Bunnings, to buy some mozzie cures?

Comes home with a ladder and a pair of secateurs.

The Candle Man! Oh, the Candle Man can.

Some prime ministers are said to grow in office. Rudd accomplished the exact opposite. In his mercifully brief second term, Rudd shrank to the dimensions of a grasping Queensland huckster, promising whatever it might take to seal the deal. He loomed larger as a backbencher, convincing Labor that he could reclaim power. But, in the end, all Kevin Rudd delivered was Kevin Rudd.

Note: this piece was written prior to Saturday’s election. In the event of a Labor win, I deserve a far greater punishment than mere national humiliation. To that end, following the Coalition’s defeat, I will drive to the house of Labor speechwriter Bob Ellis, who has consistently predicted a Labor victory, and take a carload of his laundry home with me to be washed, ironed, folded and even darned.

And sew it goes.

Tim Blair is a columnist at the Daily Telegraph in Sydney.

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  • natalie_solent

    You criticised Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

    Misogynist! Homophobe!

    Sorry, I’m not used to Australian politics. I am doing it right, aren’t I? That was my cue?

  • David Black

    “I will drive to the house…”
    Tim just can’t write anything without putting in a reference to cars.
    Apart from that, it was the best summary of the Rudd/Gillar exoerience I’ve read.

    • Jazza

      But apart from that , he was right on the money!Haha
      Seriously, if we hadn’t been able to laugh sometimes at this awful Labor/Green/Ind. mob, sometime over the last long six years of their ruinous ascendency, we might have gone mad!
      Praying for a Saturday rout

  • Doh


    • ColonelNeville

      Yes, it is. Steynian and O’Rourkeian it is. No, really.

  • Susan Hesketh

    Good God Tim, you don’t need to go that far! Washing Bob Ellis’s undies? Anyway, I have more faith than you in the Australian people, it will be an Abbott/Coalition victory? Marigold gloves not required, send them to Bob, he can hang out his own dirty laundry when he writes about Labor’s demise!

    • Sven

      Ellis should be informed – maybe be could be convinced to make a counter-wager. Then again, I’m not certain of what he could promise that would be of benefit to anyone.

      • natalie_solent

        Maybe Mr Ellis darns a neat sock. I do myself, though I am far away and not offering, frankly. Come to think of it, we must all hope and pray for a Coalition victory, because I am not at all convinced that Tim has what it takes in needlework skills.

        • Minicapt

          “… home with me to be washed, ironed, folded and even darned.”
          Note that Tim avoids specifying who will perform these deeds.


    • natalie_solent

      “and take a carload of his laundry home with me to be washed, ironed, folded and even darned.”

      So if Rudd does win, both Tim and Bob Ellis will say, “darn it.”

      • ColonelNeville

        Hee hee. No, really.

  • Slurm

    “And then he flew to Brisbane that same day to film a cooking show with the ABC’s Annabel Crabb” – but so did Abbott so your point…?

    • BigT

      Is obvious

    • Glen B

      No he didn’t. Tony Abbott’s was pre-recorded; and apart from that, Tony Abbott didn’t make a big deal about stopping the campaign to fly to Canberra to get briefed over the Syrian crisis (why he couldn’t do that over the phone is a mystery). It wouldn’t have been such a clanger of a mistake had he not tried to make out how serious the Syrian matter was to his campaign and forget to mention btw i have a cooking show to do as soon as I’m briefed. May labor reflect in opposition for a long, long time, until they do manage to find grown ups to run the show

  • Annette R

    The one really worrisome statement in this artice is: “…Tony Abbott, who seems by any reasonable estimations to be a sincere, rational person.” Ya think??

    Funny, I have never seen him that way. Let’s see, he once told us clearly on national television (ABC’s 7:30) that we should not take anything he says as gospel truth, so he’s admitting that he lies to us regularly. On top of that, he has had multiple gaffes in public, when his minders were silly enough to let him out. Thus the reason we have not seen him very much over the last 6 weeks. If we had, I’m sure you would not have come to that conclusion.

    • DeadmanTurner

      On the one hand, you seem to be promoting the righteous notion that truthfulness, particularly in public, is a moral good; on the other hand, you misrepresent—willfully, it seems—a reasonable comment by Tony Abbott (that, since one can make oral slips in the stressful environment of media interviews, a politician’s written statements constitute the best representation of his well-considered views) as an admission that he “lies to us regularly”. Hmmm.
      Your assertions that Mr. Abbott “has had multiple gaffes in public” and that “we have not seen him very much over the last 6 weeks” is quite silly, suggesting that you pay too much attention to the Government’s fawning poodles in the predominantly Abbott-hating media, and predicated on the falsehood that he was not campaigning vigorously, and publicly, and successfully, all over the country; you also interpret as gaffes, I warrant, his effective question “Does this guy ever shut up?” and his comments intimating that some female colleagues were easy on the eyes, yet those alleged gaffes probably won far more votes for the Coalition than they lost.

  • Connor

    “Tony Abbott, who seems by any reasonable estimations to be a sincere, rational person.”
    Huehuehuehue, good one

    • David Lindsay

      I pity Tony Abbott his probable victory, because his apparently winning recipe has turned toxic this week.

      He had thought that he had united three of Australia’s once-warring
      tribes: the Anglophile Tories, the Catholic traditionalists, and the
      pro-American capitalists.

      One word, Tony.


  • purephoenix

    This is the most retarded piece of drivel i have ever read.

    You lost me at how Stabbot “seems by any reasonable estimations to be a sincere, rational person.”

    You are clearly either delusional or outright retarded.

  • M. Wenzl

    The hatred for Rudd on the Australian right is laughable. Just to add to the fire: Tom Switzer wrote, “The Economist, Guardian, New York Times and The Age are wrong about Kevin Rudd” — you can throw in the FT as well. I quote:

    “At a time when the resources boom is ending, Australians are set to junk the leader best placed to guide the country through what will doubtless be a trying period, economically and strategically, in favour of a man with a weaker grasp of the complexities ahead”.

    • paul_taylor

      Replace “Rudd”with “Abbott” and “right” with “left” and you’d have it right. Amazing projection. The reality is that Rudd is hated by most of his colleagues. Six members of Cabinet resigned when he returned rather than work with him. Despite delivering office he was removed as soon as his approval ratings fell back to more modest levels. He is most certainly not popular in the Partyroom and was only recussitated as Gillard was clearly hated by the public and was leading Labor to a catastrophic defeat. In the 6 months leading up to his original dumping, Rudd ditched virtually all of his policies and achievements. Since returning, he has made policy on the run, like saying he will close Sydney’s naval base and move it to Brisbane (with a shallow bay which will need constant dredging) at enormous cost, even though the government considered it a few months ago a declared it was not worth the cost!

      As for “grasp of the complexities”: Abbott read economics at Oxford. Rudd has no qualifications in the subject, and prior to the GFC showed no interest in economics. He talked about manufacturing prior to the 2007 election, but in the event did nothing other than throw a little cash at some car plants. Moreover Australia’s good showing owed a great deal to China’s stimulus, building those ghost cities, which increased demand for coal and iron ore. There is no indication Rudd can get the Chinese to repeat this!

  • Gennifer Yewtube

    Goodbye Julia.

    Goodbye Kevin.

  • Fencesitter

    “There is no more immature impulse than the desire to save the whole world.”

    Most of the piece applies to UK politics too, but this line especially.

  • george

    Who voted for Labor in the first place, and why?

    Great article!

  • tim

    Tim, get a rise from Rupert for writing this piece of garbage?

  • ColonelNeville

    “There is no more immature impulse than the desire to save the whole world. Planet-rescuing storylines drove adventure comic books for generations and now fuel the fantasies of Greens and other perma-children.”

    I see a t-shirt. A truly succinct and brilliant paragraph. Ah, let’s see the ecofascist socialist crony rent seeker variants are buried in the perma-frost of history! Brrrrrrr! So chilly. No, really. Colonel Neville.

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