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Whatever it takes

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 8 July 2010

One of the many brutal lessons that Kevin Rudd should take from his short tenure as Prime Minister is that the style of political management adopted by Labor Premiers is not suited to national government.

In broad terms, State Labor's style of government is defined by an obsessive focus on the management of the daily media cycle to the point of manipulation, with shameless spin and personal vilification of opponents being the standard tools of trade.

Or as Labor luminary Graham Richardson put it so succinctly, Labor will do "whatever it takes" to retain power.


Some of the more skilled exponents of the Labor style have been Labor premiers Peter Beattie, Bob Carr, Steve Bracks, Mike Rann and Brian Burke.

Some Labor Premiers enjoyed relatively long tenure from the embrace of this formula.

However in a now familiar pattern, the factional bosses decide when a Premier's time is up. A change to a "new" leader is engineered and presented as a "new" face of what is magically a "new" government.

Running a state government is enormously challenging and difficult; however, by definition, it does not involve the range and complexity of issues confronting a federal government on a daily basis.

The pool of media in State press galleries is generally far smaller than the Canberra press gallery.

It should be far more difficult for a prime minister to seek to gloss over issues and problems through a total reliance on media spin.


Kevin Rudd was a skilled media performer who used the full range of State Labor techniques to build his popularity as Leader of the Opposition.

However, it eventually caught up with him as he tried in vain to talk his way out of the fundamental failings of his government.

At this early stage of the Gillard Government, it appears that the new prime minister has adopted the Labor standard, reminiscent of the early weeks of Kristina Keneally's installation as the first female Premier of New South Wales.

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First published in the National Times on July 7, 2010.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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