Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Rudd, Gillard and Beyond, by Troy Bramston

I'll be the first to admit that this was a strange choice of book for me. But recently I've become quite interested in the Labor Party; a sentence I never thought I would utter due to my previous lack of interest in politics. In recent years that interest has been sparked, so here I am now writing this review.

Bramston's book is a short novella focusing on the last few months of the Labor Party prior to its 2013 election loss. As well as analysing the reasons for the ALPs demise, it posits some bigger-picture issues, such as the fact that the Labor Party was once 'the engine room of national renewal, the generators of change, the pioneers of reform.' Thus Bramston asks, what happened to stifle this?

Bramston outlines some key reasons for Labor's fall from grace, with Rudd and Gillard being the main focus. Bramston's view is that the Rudd-Gillard government was weakened by internal squabbling, little collective approach to decision-making and a failure to communicate a compelling story. Therefore Bramston's view is that the ALP is faced with the current challenges: it is beset with leadership anxiety, an identity crisis, and is no longer representative of the community. These are key points that the current Labor party must focus and improve on if it's to win the trust of voters again.

Bramston's book also paints Rudd as an uncontrollable egotistic leader. While these qualities of Rudd's have become more widely known since the ALPs 2013 election loss, I was still baffled by how out-of-control his behaviours were. One example Bramston gives is of Rudd changing his mind on policies in the minutes before announcing them to press without any prior consultation from anyone. Bramston includes the account of one campaigner from this time who states that 'people literally looked at each other and said, "What the fuck...?"' in response to Rudd's actions. It's outrageous to think that such erratic behaviour was evident in a political campaign from our prime minister.

What I disliked about this book is how unfairly scathing Bramston is towards Gillard, particularly on the back of discussing Rudd's aforementioned farcical behaviour. Yes, Gillard wasn't perfect. But Bramston goes so far as to say that Gillard had little to do with the policies Labor implemented during her prime-ministership, which is quite ludicrous when one of her biggest talents was her ability to negotiate deals with other MPs to get 561 bills passed through the parliament - an impressive feat for a minority government.

Despite this weakness, a strength of the book is the inclusion of interviews with the late Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Their comments on the Labor Party both past and present provide engaging retrospective insights which for the most part compliment the arguments Bramston posits in his book. Keating summarises the recent troubles Labor has found itself in well when he states, 'Good intentions are simply never enough. Governments must have good intention with the facilitation.' It's the latter that the ALP has been lacking in recent times.

This book didn't convince me to run out and become a member of the ALP, and I'm fairly confident this was not Bramston's intention. Instead it is a blunt, unapologetic critique of the bizarre events that led up to and shaped the fate of the Labor Party in the 2013 election. While there's a lot of work for the ALP to reinstate itself as the progressive party it once was, Bramston outlines a number of suggestions to combat this, making it a great pocket-sized chronicle for anyone wanting to know more about the current ALP.

Read more: http://bloggerknown.blogspot.com/2013/02/changing-blog-page-by-page-number.html#ixzz2mUXnF3wj