Slow Politics – It’s the New Zeitgeist

… Let me make this point, Virginia, when you have a change of government, by this stage shouldn’t you have had the announcement shock horror, Budget secretly in deficit, books cooked?

You know what’s amazed me? Just the quietness of this week. There’s been no revelations about the Budget…

Let me tell you when I was elected, the Monday afterwards, what had supposedly been a Budget surplus was $10 billion in deficit and the thing that amazes me about Labor is you know, all the equanimity around the place.

No hidden skeletons, no hidden shocks.
(Peter Costello on Lateline)

Well, that was last week. My first serious dip into current affairs this week was the first ten minutes of last night’s 7.30 Report and Kerry O’Brien’s interview with Wayne Swan:

WAYNE SWAN: Well Kerry, we have had six interest rate rises on the trot and they have flowed from the inflationary pressures in our economy that have been building for a long period of time.

Now, I could go on in this interview and bag the Opposition for the fact that they didn’t deal effectively with inflation. I’m not going to do that tonight, because what I’m really interested in doing is putting in place the necessary reforms that expand the productive base of this economy and put downward pressure on inflation and downward pressure on interest rates…

Swan’s refusal to bag the Opposition was a bit of a personal disappointment, but it’s an interesting contrast with Costello’s first major act as Treasurer – the revelation of the “Beazley Black Hole”. A big shocker of an announcement, clearly intended to discredit Kim Beazley in the eyes of the electorate and dismay Australian Riff-Raff Party and its supporters. Fast politics, played for maximum emotional impact.

Naive optimist that I am, I think the days of fast politics – of manufactured crises, dog-whistling and campaigns based on vacuous promises (“Interest rates will always be lower under the coalition”) and fear (“70% of the Rudd front bench are former trade-union officials”) are over for now. We won’t be seeing any triumphalist humiliation of a defeated Opposition for a while either.

As for the hidden skeletons – well it’s early days yet. There are plenty of areas outside the budget – areas of substantive policy – where they might be found. See, for example, this post by Peter Martin and this AM interview with Kevin Rudd. Rudd’s response is nothing like the “OMFG, we’re nowhere near meeting our agreed Kyoto target and it’s all the Opposition’s fault!” that we would have got from He Who Has Passed Into Political Oblivion.

Over the next few months, as Labor gets to grips with the administration of areas like national security and immigration, I expect more of these revelations. They may lack drama, but the cumulative effect on the Coalition’s credibility as an alternative government will be just as damaging as Costello’s dramatic announcement of the “Beazley Black Hole”.

Posted in government, politics
25 comments on “Slow Politics – It’s the New Zeitgeist
  1. Anna Winter says:

    Plus, sometimes they just need to not block others from releasing information…

  2. Liam Hogan says:

    Charter of Budget Honesty Act, Gummo. It was designed to stop those kinds of ‘shock horror’ finance revelations.
    As for triumphalist humiliation of a defeated Liberal Party, or at least dredging up of all the previous Government’s skeletons, keep your eye on Senators Faulkner and Ray.

  3. Anna Winter says:

    Senators Faulkner and Ray

    See, this is why we should have human cloning.

  4. gummotrotsky says:

    Provisionally, I’ll say that particular Howard gummint strategy came completely unravelled in the Haneef Affair, but that was just the end of a cumulative, “slow politics” process where they eroded public confidence in their own honesty on these issues.

    There’s a book in this neat new “slow politics” vs “fast politics” dichotomy. Wouldn’t take more than 3 months for some intellectual hack of the calibre of a couple of others I’ve read recently to crank one out, declaring an end to the outmoded dichotomy of “Left vs Right” etc, etc…

  5. gummotrotsky says:

    That last comment from me was in reply to Anna’s first comment.

  6. Liam Hogan says:

    Let us breed them, and create a new race of atomic super-Senators.

  7. gummotrotsky says:


    I expect you’re right about Faulkner and Ray – but what will be interesting is how it will be presented when they start breaking through those suspiciously new walls in the cellar. I doubt (hope?) that the findings aren’t presented with the sarcastic, sneering bluster Costello showed when announcing the “Black Hole”.

  8. Paul Burns says:

    I know I’m mean and nasty, but I can’t help thinking of Howard watching TV, standing up and pointing at it and screamimg at Jeannette: “That coulda been me.”
    I know he was never Marlon Brando, but after eleven years of anxiety neuroses, anger, hate, disgust, cynicism and all those ather negative emotions, I’d just likr to have seen the bastard lose it in defeat, just once.
    The look in Costello’s eyes in Higgins on election night was not enough.

  9. gummotrotsky says:

    Oh, and please stop putting images in my head. I’ve got too many in there already, fighting to get out.

    atomic super-Senators indeed!

  10. gummotrotsky says:

    Damn you Paul Burns!

    Take a look at yourself here in a worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for 50 cents from some rag-picker. And with a crazy crown on. Now what kind of a queen do you think you are? Do you know that I’ve been on to you from the start, and not once did you pull the wool over this boy’s eyes? You come in here and you sprinkle the place with powder and you spray perfume and you stick a paper lantern over the light bulb – and, lo and behold, the place has turned to Egypt and you are the Queen of the Nile, sitting on your throne, swilling down my liquor. And do you know what I say? Ha ha! Do you hear me? Ha ha ha!

  11. Is this back to the future with Mal Fraser’s promise to keep politics on the back pages.

  12. David Rubie says:

    Bill, lets hope so. One of the most annoying aspects of the Howard years was the constant election campaign. Every decision spun, every announcement an appeal for votes. I’ve had a gutful and hope that Rudd & Co. can manage to quietly get on with the business of governing and hopefully not screwing it up.

    It’d be a nice break, but Swan on the 7:30 report still hadn’t quite gotten out of election mode and into governing mode. I’m hoping it was just nerves.

  13. Paul Burns says:

    No. Its politics being conducted with decency and dignity. Its politicians on TV and radio answering questions truthfully, without trying to be devious. Its politics the way it used to be before Howard corrupted the whole damn system. Its going to take a bit of getting used to,an awful lot of confidence that its going to keep on going this way.
    But I like it. I really like it.
    You’ve lost me completely. Good poem though, (I think.)

  14. Paul,

    That was Brando as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.

    Like your line “Its politics being conducted with decency and dignity.” – can I steal that for the “Slow Politics” book? I’d naturally add a few remarks of my own about “slow politics” being politics conducted with honesty and accountability, but most of all, a recognition that on some issues there needs to be time devoted to adequate public reflection and opinion formation and so on and so forth for several pages.

    On other issues – in particular some outstanding cases of maladministration in DIAC (formerly DIMIA), where individuals are being adversely affected by their involuntary inclusion in the Howard Legacy, I think there’s a case for some quick action. I might have to start making a bit of noise on that topic later this week, much as I’ve enjoyed the relaxing interregnum.

  15. joe2 says:

    I am definitely in the ‘slow cook politics camp’.

    The Lord Our Keating would surely approve. Do the Howard Legacy on Teh Rotisserie over the whole summer holidays and beyond. Howard gave us that little twirler and we are all promised a laptop, to remember how to use it, if we can get it away from the kids, from the new bloke.

    Slowly, slowly so everybody will enjoy.
    Especially for those relatives who voted lieberal and have to come, to your place, for family reasons.

    And don’t forget the schadenfreude sauce.

  16. Gaz says:

    And don’t forget the schadenfreude sauce.

    Indeed. I have been pouring it on my brother in law all week.And loving it.

  17. Enemy Combatant says:

    The new government have conducted themselves with maturity this week. It is a most refreshing change after the past eleven and a half years. But it’s only a matter of time before some “key player” stuffs up bigtime and Team Tin-Tin needs a major distraction. Kev ‘n’ Co. should deal with the human and civil rights abuse issues asap, but save other “damaging revelations” till required. No point in wasting them now for little or no return.

  18. Paul Burns says:

    Gummo, Kowalski, of course. The Queen of Egypt rings a bell now. Years since I’ve read or seen the play, either on stage or screen. And to think Tenessee Williams was, probably still is, one of my favourite dramatists.
    By all means borrow the decency/dignity line. Unless I have to use it in a book review I’m unlokely to use it. My thoughts here were influenced by David Williamson’s letter to The Age a month or so ago.

  19. Paul Burns says:

    By the way, Gummo, liked the carnival dress allusions to our former Marie Antoinette, now beheaded.

  20. rf says:

    “Its politicians on TV and radio answering questions truthfully, without trying to be devious. Its politics the way it used to be before Howard corrupted the whole damn system”
    Indeed. And lets hope that team Rudd doesn’t take to commenting on every tabloid issue that the media throws. Or pretends that it always speaks for all Australians. And please no Wallabies tracksuits. Ever.

  21. bjohns says:

    Somehow I feel that the present government won’t release the skeletons all at once but use them to boost the new policies as they come around. Give the electorate a bitter reminder of what brought about the policy/reform when enacting it instead of now. A fear campaign based upon truth.

  22. glen says:

    re fast vs slow politics. Perhaps part of the argument could be a defence of government? But whoever writes the book will have to start with how things have changed since Daniel Boorstin first wrote about the confluence of power between the media and politicians in the production of ‘media non-events’:

    Boorstin, D. J. (1963). The Image: Or, What Happened to the American Dream. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin.

  23. philiptravers says:

    But, you havent heard!?Rudd has found another highest priority, this time inflation..or inflationary expectations!You all better join the Priory.Father Gummo, please whilst reciting all the required Our Fathers make sure the wine isnt going to be ruined by any other person besides our Brethren.In Latin !?Could it be that Swann had an attack of honesty,because after all you really cannot” deliver” until you are able to deliver.You… not being anyone found in the records of the Electoral Commission.

  24. kimberella says:

    I’ve always heard that haste makes waste
    So I believe in takin’ my time
    The highest mountain can’t be raced
    It’s something you must slowly climb
    I want a slow and easy man
    He needn’t ever take the lead
    Cause I work on that long-time plan
    And I ain’t a-lookin’ for no speed

    I’m a one hour mama
    So no one minute papa
    Ain’t the kind of man for me
    Set your alarm clock papa
    One hour, that’s proper
    Then love me like I like to be

    I don’t want no lame excuses
    ‘Bout my lovin’ bein’ so good
    That you couldn’t wait no longer
    Now I hope I’m understood

    I’m a one hour mama
    So no one minute papa
    Ain’t the kind of man for me

    I can’t stand no greenhorn lover
    Like a rookie goin’ to war
    With a load of big artillery
    But don’t know what it’s for

    He’s got to bring me a reference
    With a great long pedigree
    And must prove he’s got endurance
    Or he don’t mean that to me

    I don’t like no crowin’ rooster
    What just kicks a lick or two
    Action is the only booster
    Of just what my man can do

    I don’t want no imitation
    My requirements ain’t no joke
    Cause I’ve got pure indignation
    For a guy what’s lost his stroke

    I’m a one hour mama
    So no one minute papa
    Ain’t the kind of man for me
    Set your alarm clock papa
    One hour, that’s proper
    Then love me like I like to be

    I may want love for one hour
    Then decide to make it two
    Takes an hour before I get started
    Maybe three ‘fore I’m through

    I’m a one hour mama
    So no one minute papa
    Ain’t the kind of man for me

    Brilliant old jazz song…

  25. Paul Burns says:

    rf. re 20.
    It is heartening to note that when Rudd went to Bernie Banton’s funeral and the funeral of the young soldier killed in Afghanistan, he was discreet and did not seize the opportunity to hog the TV cameras the way Howard would have done. And I thought bringing a bunch of flowers to the soldier’s funeral was a real mark of respect as well as a nice touch.
    This PM (oh, how nice it is to write that) this PM knows the meanings of both respect and subtlety.

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