Divided they fell

The elephant in the room for Labor ... was the hollow man himself, Kevin Rudd

THEY say disunity is death in politics and that’s the brutal truth underpinning the 2013 federal election result - and this recent political era.

The poll produced an anticipated Coalition victory and removed a Labor government that promised a lot when they first came to office six years ago - but was overwhelmingly constrained by internal fragmentation, disunity and distraction.

Important policy issues like the economy, asylum seekers, heath and education were typically central to the election campaign but nobody was really listening that closely to all of the details.

The elephant in the room for Labor - which filtered everybody’s judgement of events, like wearing sunglasses at midnight - was the hollow man himself, Kevin Rudd.

Standing before the nation with a smile, he said ‘trust me and vote for me, not them, because I’ve got a plan and I’m your man’.

He smiled bravely while saying he was a happy Vegemite, from Queensland here to help, or he’s got to zip now, but nothing could hide the harsh reality of deep voter distaste.

Everyone, including most senior experienced politicians in the Labor camp, really did want him to zip and never return - and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

One thing is now assured – the notes of history will be written far kinder towards Julia Gillard’s prime ministership of Australia, than Kevin Rudd’s time at the helm.

His gloating election night speech was anything but the graceful exit you’d expect from someone who had just overseen his team’s crushing defeat. He should have been humbled by the electorate’s democratic choice and needed to acknowledge the reasons behind the ALP's loss - and give something up of himself.

The ungracious speech delivered a telling, final footnote in a sad tale of a man’s stubborn failure to express true leadership and prompted that old saying to mind – denial is not just a river in Africa.

Judging by the exuberance of his departure speech, it seemed this election was all about Kevin being 'the man' and retaining a few seats for some of his Labor mates in Queensland.

And the rest of the nation, and rural Australians - well they’re not such important issues now are they?

It seems Kevin’s real blind spot was his inability to accept responsibility for the crushing Labor defeat through his central role, over the past three and a half years, in constantly and consistently undermining his former leader.

Ms Gillard’s job was hard enough – our first female Prime Minister battling the ongoing uncertainty and complicated negotiations underpinning the very essence of this complicated hung parliament, with a swag of independents in the Lower House and Greens in the Senate.

But she also had to counter the constant enemy from within her own ranks, Kevin.

After losing the Labor leadership, he manoeuvred in the dark and stalked his one time deputy leader with the vicious wanton revenge of a Shakespearean character, caught somewhere between Macbeth, Hamlet and Iago.

Labor must now go away and lick its wounds and elect someone fresh and new to take the party forward and as many critics have already expressed, draw a clear and unambiguous line in the sand to say goodbye to the Rudd-Gillard era.

One thing they may like to consider during this exile is the way that the Coalition has expressed leadership and unity over the past four years or so.

Instead of searching for the messiah, or taking a short-term sugar hit to return to Malcolm Turnbull (as many had hoped when Tony Abbott’s future looked uncertain), they resisted temptation and rallied behind their leader.

Instead of blaming all of the party’s woes on one person and making him a scapegoat for everybody’s inability to be leaders themselves, the party took responsibility for crafting and moulding a stronger leader.

The result: instead of suffering the clouded thoughts of enemies lurking within, or rats in the ranks waiting in the dark with long knives, Mr Abbott - at least for this chapter in political history – guided his team forward confidently, knowing they too had committed to the same journey.

In turn, that gained the Australian public’s trust and confidence.

Now, Mr Abbott and his Coalition members have a chance to put their money where their collective mouths are and deliver stability to a public - especially rural Australians - fatigued by political debauchery and self-interest.

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READER COMMENTS

Logic
14/09/2013 4:39:20 AM

Big call saying one was worse than the other. They were both terrible.
Nat
14/09/2013 9:26:25 AM

I would have thought the most relevant Shakespearean character to the ALP was Yorric - the skull speaking to the dead !
Dalby
14/09/2013 6:16:17 PM

Sure the Labor Govt were a model of disunity and mismanagement. The killer for them was that they did absolutely nothing but destroy all the policies that were working in Australia like border security and added some real momentum killers like a carbon tax, excessive debt, an over specified NBN, and a botched mining tax. On top of that they messed up the introduction of the NDIS and mismanaged the pink bats and Schools halls fiasco. They did nothing for infrastructure except to add a few klms to the Pacific highway upgrade, but that was skewed to keep Oakeshott onside. That is why they lost.
qlander
15/09/2013 7:03:35 PM

The true problem lies with the party that picks these leaders. All the way back to Latham and even to some extent Keating they have been deeply flawed characters.
trueqldlander
16/09/2013 6:23:26 PM

ALP will be back you cant keep a true believer down for long, Macfarlane's on the nose in groom with a swing against LNP he can't use the bypass in any campaign again got caught out 300 mil to 130 mill some serious damage control on polling day they have to build it now.
NoTillBill
16/09/2013 6:43:24 PM

Fair comments Colin! They sure did enormous damage to the live cattle trade - a long legacy they leave.
stockman
17/09/2013 6:42:00 PM

Listening to his speech on election night does Rudd realise he lost the election,or hadn't it sunk in? Just wondering.
bazza
18/09/2013 9:04:29 AM

Labor lost this election because of internal focus and division not because they were poor policy developers. They also received unprecidented adverse coverage from a media determined to be right. Tony Abbott has been given an opportunity to earn the respect of the electors and will hopefully do so. Continuing unity of purpose will be critical to this as will people's feelings that they are better off under the coalition. Division over various policy issues like the paid parental leave scheme, carbon real action and the budget crisis inertia will result in loss of opportunity and defeat.
Jacky
18/09/2013 9:29:36 AM

Maranoa has the most rural sector workers in the country and had a swing of 9% against the sitting LNP memeber - in an election with a 4% swing against ALP. If they run him again next time they will lose it.
sweeney
19/09/2013 7:00:56 AM

Its over. Move on and pray for good government. L less air time and photo shoots and more sound management to provide a platform for business to create jobs, particularly small business. Great to see it is recognised with a cabinet position. About time.
Canberra CommentFairfax Agricultural Media Canberra correspondent Colin Bettles tackles the big national rural and agricultural issues which will impact regional and rural Australians.

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