By MICHELLE GRATTAN
Julia Gillard’s hard hitting critique of Labor’s past problems and future challenges, posted on Guardian Australia at the weekend, has, among many messages, one central point.
(Editor’s Note: If you haven’t already you can read former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s article here.)
Labor, she argues, should be a party of purpose, rather than being driven by the polls.
Gillard is sending much advice to Labor. It should defend its legacy, and remind the public, and the new government, how much of Labor’s policy the conservatives have taken over.
It ought to promote a new internal culture, that eschews leaking and destabilisation. It needs to change Kevin Rudd’s recent party rules because they could entrench a bad leader. It should stand by its carbon pricing scheme even though “it will be uncomfortable in the short term to be seen to be denying the mandate of the people”.
Gillard provides a harsh critique of Rudd and seeks to justify much of her own past, neither of which is surprising.
She is right in some, but not all of what she argues.
As she says, “Kevin clearly felt constrained in running on those policies where Labor had won the national conversation because those policies were associated with me”.
It is true that Rudd could have made more of the disability scheme and even the Gonski school funding (although he and Bill Shorten worked hard to bed down that as much as they could).
She is also correct to condemn “the bizarre flirtation in the campaign with ‘economic nationalism’ and the cheap populism of appearing anti-foreign investment” as well as the “different corporate tax rate for the Northern Territory and the hugely expensive move of naval assets from Garden Island”.
But on the subject of bad policy, Gillard’s own assault on the 457 visa scheme smacked of xenophobia and populism. Fair enough to crack down on rorts, but it was not right to try to drum up feelings of them and us between “Aussie” workers and those brought in to supplement the labour force.
In lines that cut to the core of Gillard’s case, she writes: “Labor comes to opposition having sent the Australian community a very cynical and shallow message about its sense of purpose.
“The decision by Labor caucus to change leaders in June this year was not done on the basis of embracing a new policy agenda; it was not done because caucus now believed Kevin Rudd had the greater talent for governing. Caucus’s verdict of 2010 on that was not being revoked.