Niki Savva reckons the Liberals are ready to run against either Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd:
The Liberals are ready to zero in with a potentially devastating assault on whoever leads Labor into the election, whether it’s Mr Arsenic or Ms Old Lace, focusing on the three Ps. They are the personality defects, the political faultlines and the policy failures.
The personality defects are well known, thanks to the private and public character assessments of their respective supporters and detractors.
Rudd is an evil control freak who betrayed his own side during the 2010 election, was a bad-tempered prime minister who treated underlings, ministers and senior public servants with contempt, and couldn’t deliver anyway.
Gillard is stubborn, refuses to heed advice or accept responsibility for mistakes, uses her gender as a crutch, then when she has to make a call it’s invariably the wrong one. Other than that, she’s a nice person.
I suppose that’s all true and the policy failures have been spectacular.
Gillard nominated four – not three as everyone keeps saying – on the day she assumed the leadership that caused the government to lose its way and required Rudd’s removal.
They were: asylum-seekers, global warming, the mining tax and the deficit.
It is safe to say that things haven’t gone to plan.
What worries me though is that the Liberals plan to campaign hard on these issues but leave a large part of the policy infrastructure in place. That is the public service in general and Treasury in particular. David Uren explains:
One reason a Coalition government might keep Parkinson in place is that the Treasurer needs the institution of Treasury to work for him, something that would not be achieved by starting out with a decapitation.
The other is that Parkinson has great strengths. He is seen as a good administrator and is an outstanding economist. The sophistication of his understanding of the challenges Australia confronts is on regular display in Senate estimates hearings.
I understand the argument but I don’t believe it. Here is the challenge:
Hockey will be looking for a cultural change at Treasury. While the decision on Parkinson’s future would be Abbott’s, not Hockey’s, they would both be asking whether Parkinson was the person to deliver it.
If you’re having the ask that question of an incumbent then they are not the person for the job.
The problem with Treasury goes back to, at least, 2007 when the Howard government failed to assert its authority by firing Ken Henry. To make that same mistake twice will be an adverse indicator of the depth of talent the Liberals will be bringing to office.