Thursday, June 24, 2010

Julia and Kevin ... well just Kevin really

The speed of activity in Canberra last night makes it really hard to judge what's going on.

According to some reports matters were brought to a head because, after weeks of denial by the Deputy PM of a challenge, the PMs Chief of Staff had been testing his support.

Judging by the PM's press conference a core issue is that the party Right wants a major change on asylum seeker policy. What we do know is that Right factional organisers took the idea of a challenge and the numbers to Julia, not the other way around.

The most bizarre element in the whole process has been Paul Howes of the AWU deciding to go public on the decision of his union to swing its support. He made a cogent case on Lateline that the Union was concerned about the IR policy they would confront under an Abbott Prime Ministership. That is fine and a good reason, but does he really want the public message to be that a union deposed the PM?

Ultimately the news story here is not that Rudd looks like he will be gone, but that it has taken so long to get here. Rudd was never really liked by anyone much in his party - he was just always better than the other pretenders during their previous leadership troubles - certainly Swan and Smith never cut it.

In Government he proved to be everything his parliamentary colleagues feared and the experience of Kevin in the Goss Government led us to expect. He simply did not know how to manage the business of governing. To a degree he couldn't walk and chew gum at the ame time - problems were dealt with serially. The resource rent tax meant climate change policy was pulled. He simply couldn't make cabinet work.

It was no real surprise to see John Faulkner accompanying Julia to Rudd's office - as Cabinet Secretary (before becoming Defence Minister) he was exasperrated at the inability of Rudd to make the Cabinet process work. In many sectors the Government continues to leave critical senior appointments unfilled - there has been no Deputy chair of the ACMA for a year.

If Kevin goes today it will be because he doesn't get it that the real job of the PM is not as leader of the country, but as leader of the government and that government is by necessity a collective activity.

Note: I almost wrote an item yesterday that was going to defend Kevin and point out that most first term PMs suffer the same kind ofdifficulty he has faced. The difference is that most other first term PMs adjust as they develop in the job - by al reports Kevin just got worse.

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