In January I posted an open forum: what have been the great political moves? Over the last couple of weeks some of the actions of certain politicians may come back to haunt them as their Achilles heel, e.g., Abbott scampering out of Parliament is sure to be replayed over and over during the next election campaign and he may be encouraged to take up more running. Hopefully for cover.
He has been the inspiration behind this new post, to run counter to the earlier open forum. What have been the great political stuff-ups?
I can think of two that come quickly to mind, which you may or may not agree with and are welcome to debate them or add some of your own.
Before the 1998 election, John Howard proposed a GST that would replace sales taxes, as well as applying to all goods and services. The Howard Government finished on a two-party-preferred vote of 49 per cent at the election to Labor’s 51 per cent, however, retained a parliamentary majority of seats in the lower house. Howard described win as a mandate for the GST. Lacking a majority in the Senate and with Labor opposed to the GST, Howard turned to the Australian Democrats and the Independents for support.
During the election campaign, Democrat’s leader Meg Lees stated that her party opposed the GST unless food would be exempt. After the election Howard refused to budge on this, thinking he may have won the support of the Independents, but eventually reached a compromise with Lees.
The reaction to Lees was savage, both within her own party which was soon rife with internal conflict, and the electorate. After receiving 8.4 per cent of the Senate vote in 1998 they experienced a massive drop in 2004 with only 2.1 per cent. The 2010 result was a disaster, with only 0.6 per cent.
Did Lees commit a monumental political stuff-up by supporting the GST? Yes, she did. It is seen as the major contributing factor for the demise of her party. We still have the GST but we don’t have the Democrats. She blew it.
Kevin Rudd swept to power in 2007 and was gone in 2010. He is credited with guiding Australia through the global financial crisis, during which he set new levels of popularity that should have seen him settle in for a long stay at The Lodge. His key platform in the 2007 election was his emissions trading scheme (ETS) but was rejected in the Senate. Like Howard before him who claimed the 1998 election victory was a mandate for the GST, Rudd had a strong argument that the 2007 result was a mandate for the ETS.
Faced with the opportunity for a double dissolution election to push through the ETS, he ignored this as an option. His popularity would have surely seen an increase in the number of seats in the lower house and we could speculate, an increase in the Senate. We’ll never know.
Did Rudd stuff-up? Given that he lost his prime ministership, the ETS never got through despite a mandate and that the Labor Party is facing annihilation in the polls, I’d say yes. All this happened in a couple of short years. He should have taken the chance. He might still be PM. And better still, we might have had a different Leader of the Opposition to put up with. One less painful than Tony Abbott. 🙂