Saturday, April 04, 2009
"On the television and in newspapers Aussies see Barack Obama and Gordon Brown and the Asian and European leaders all talking about the need for a coordinated response. They see rescue packages, stimulus packages, Government spending on infrastructure and so on. They see faint but growing messages of hope.
The only high-profile person they see that seems to be wailing and complaining is you - and they can’t work out why.
What you call “spend-a-thons” Aussies see as link between handouts and jobs. They’ve got no idea of what you are on about."
Alister Drysdale, former press secretary to two Liberal leaders.
The full thing's below:
You still have a few weeks before you reply to Wayne Swan’s second budget. You should already be giving it serious thought.
And during that process you should be thinking about why you are leading the opposition.
So far, your responses to the governments handling of the looming recession have left you out of the game. Australians have said they support Rudd’s stimulus efforts. They have also said they reject your stand.
Most Aussies believe you oppose the nation-building programs that affect every school. Most believe that you oppose the cash handouts – while still remembering Peter Costello’s baby bonus free-for-all. Most believe that Australia is actually part of the globe and that world leaders are doing what they can to restore faith in financial systems and markets.
On the television and in newspapers Aussies see Barack Obama and Gordon Brown and the Asian and European leaders all talking about the need for a coordinated response. They see rescue packages, stimulus packages, Government spending on infrastructure and so on. They see faint but growing messages of hope.
The only high profile person they see that seems to be wailing and complaining is you – and they can’t work out why (they don’t take notice of your irrelevant colleagues who line up daily on cable TV and radio to complain the moment Rudd or Swan get out of bed).
What you call “spend-a-thons” Aussies see as link between handouts and jobs. They’ve got no idea of what you are on about.
Now, I might be wrong and maybe you do support targeted government intervention. Maybe you do support relief to taxpayers. Maybe you are not opposed to the local government public works program.
But that’s not the overall take-out. You’ve simply turned into a pathetically standard politics 101 opposition leader who whines and carps and plays silly word games.
You came into politics as a rare beast – successful in business, charismatic, intelligent, representing a vibrant small “l” electorate in Sydney, a man not frightened to take on a case or a cause, a serious contributor to the climate change debate and a tough nut. Not a bad resume for an aspiring Prime Minister.
Yet, within just a few months you are in danger of throwing that reputation to the dogs and joining the queue of failed opposition leaders.
At the G20 this week Obama said he gave only one piece of political advice to Gordon Brown, facing an election – “Gordon, good policy is good politics”. He said results may not be immediate, but would prevail.
Not bad advice, Malcolm. Why don’t you forget that Peter Costello sits behind you – and just do what your instinct and brain tells you?
Why don’t you clearly spell out your support for nation-building programs that are sustainable? Why don’t you support a review of the tax system that involves more than simply giving bracket creep tax cuts? Why don’t you say that you will cooperate with Rudd on climate change – and that the issue is far bigger than petty party politics still practised in this country? Why don’t you occasionally come out and welcome government economic initiatives. After all, you would do exactly the same on advice of Treasury. Why don’t you take the lead on the republic issue? It's tailor-made for you! Why don’t you take up the great issue of water – travel Australia, meet the scientists, the farmers, the businesses that could build the infrastructure. Involve Dick Pratt and Jeff Kennett. There are dozens of other opportunities.
In other words, take a lead – and stand up for what you believe in. Don’t worry about your back bench. They only want one thing – leadership, and a win next year.
And already, as you know Malcolm, some colleagues are lining up to showcase their talents (and their total and unambiguous support for you) through the pages of the weekend newspaper magazines."
All the best,