Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd facing his Waterloo

Andrew Bolt

KEVIN Rudd is finished. Few voters now want to hear him, and fewer still believe him. They see through Rudd now and he can never recover. It's over.

Labor itself admitted this hard truth on Monday, after the Nielsen survey showed the Rudd Government heading for a landslide defeat, with just 47 per cent support to the Coalition's 53.

Rudd himself and half a dozen of his ministers all responded to this news with an identical and workshopped line - suggesting that however bad you thought Rudd, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott surely had to be worse.

Or as the Prime Minister put it: "If what we see in the polls today is reflected on election day, Mr Abbott would be the next Prime Minister of Australia ... I don't believe Australian families are prepared to risk their future with Tony Abbott."

This now is Labor's central election pitch, a last-ditch attempt to tear down Abbott with anything they can think of. He's Catholic. He's "phony Tony". He's the "mad monk". He wears lycra. He hates women. He'll take away your penalty rates.

That, I'm afraid, is all Labor has got left. It cannot sell Rudd, and must hope instead to destroy Abbott, which leaves the election to be decided essentially on how well Abbott can survive the battering.

Will he rise serenely above it, as then Labor leader Mark Latham managed to do - until finally blowing up only just before election day in 2004?

Will he calmly turn each attack back on to a panicky Government, as Rudd himself did with such success in 2007, deflecting criticism over his Scores nightclub escapes, or his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Brian Burke?

Abbott's character will be the issue, and the last remaining question for him to answer to become prime minister. The election is now for him to lose by over-reaching, stumbling, lashing out, thinking out aloud, or once more publicly indulging his private self-doubts, whether by confessing too much or asserting too little.

If he dared (and he should), his next move would be to make a show of transition to government, by, for instance, commissioning a report from a "triage committee" of management experts and former public service bosses to go through each of Rudd's programs to see which are too hopeless to save and which might yet be made to work.

But Rudd is finished, and if you think this too big a call, consider how he's lost all ability to sell himself or his policies. Just seven weeks ago he finally persuaded the states to sign up to what he sold as "the biggest health reform since Medicare" - a centrepiece of his case for re-election. He spent billions of your dollars bribing the premiers to sign up. He's since spent millions more on Government commercials to persuade you of his triumph.

Yet how many of you can recall what this "health reform" actually is?

What's more, like so many other Rudd schemes it's a dodgy recipe that's half-baked besides. Western Australia still hasn't agreed to the deal, which experts warn is little better than an underfinanced game of pass-the-buck, anyway.

Even the Government lost faith in the thing, and within days this "biggest health reform since Medicare" became yesterday's forgotten news, mere dust in Rudd's hands.

Indeed, everything Rudd touches seems to turn to muck. Expensive muck, too, with the Building the Education Revolution rorts, ceiling insulation disaster and boat people bungling alone wasting an estimated $8 billion.

Now Rudd is in a death struggle with miners over his "super profits" tax to raise the $9 billion a year he needs to wipe out the deficit he recklessly contracted to "save" us from a recession that didn't hit us as hard as he predicted and didn't stay as long as he predicted, either. And once again, he cannot sell his "reform", not even with the $38 million of your money he pinched for yet more advertising. The more he talks about his new tax, the less people believe in it.

Rudd's complete lack of authority now is astonishing. NEWSPOLL says it's never seen a prime minister lose so much credibility so fast, and merely mentioning his name on the last two episodes of the ABC's Q&A panel show had been enough to prompt howls of mocking laughter from an audience normally far to the Left.

Naturally, much of this is blamed on Rudd's Waterloo - his ditching of the emissions trading scheme he'd rashly sold as the urgent answer to global warming, "the great moral and economic issue of our times".

But doubts about Rudd now go not just to his character and honesty, but to his most basic competence in simply running a government. It cannot be mere coincidence that so many of Rudd's schemes have ended in failure or disappointment - FuelWatch, Grocery Watch, his Asia forum, emissions trading, free insulation, free solar hot water systems, green loans, more Aboriginal housing, the farcical Ideas Summit, a stop to whaling, a halving of homelessness, tackling boat people, and so much else.

It cannot be mere coincidence that Rudd has failed even in diplomacy, his one area of expertise, with relations with key allies such as Japan, India, Singapore, Israel and Indonesia all cooler. Unbelievably, this Mandarin-speaking Sinophile who once claimed he could be China's "intermediary" with the West even faces the fallout now of having called its already bemused leaders "f-----s" who were trying to "rat-f---" us.

In fact, so incompetent is Rudd's Government that it couldn't even be trusted to commission mugs to celebrate the visit of US President Barack Obama. Not only is the visit cancelled, but the official mugs commemorate a "Barrack". I repeat, this near-perfect record of bungling cannot be a coincidence.

And, indeed, the common thread to it is Rudd's fear - his fear of delegating, his fear of taking advice from smarter people, his fear of conceding flaws, his fear of letting his ministers have free rein, his fear of acknowledging any agendas other than his own, his fear of hiring advisers of adult age, his fear of not seeming across every irrelevant detail, his fear of not seeming great.

It's Rudd's deep insecurity that has killed his leadership, and which explains his often childish need to assert himself, whether by putting his boots on your coffee table, explaining he's "your Prime Minister" or hogging the microphone at his endless "community Cabinet meetings", at which busy ministers serve as props to his vanity.

THIS insecurity explains, too, his outbursts of anger, which Fairfax writer David Marr, in a widely discussed essay this week, wrongly claimed was the "core emotion" driving him. No, insecurity is Rudd's core emotion. Anger is just what you get when such an insecure man is threatened, thwarted or belittled.

Still, Marr's essay will confirm for many that the exterior Rudd - meticulous, churchy, cool - is a sham, and there's little real about a pious Prime Minister who is privately foul-mouthed, rude, inconsiderate and disliked by many who work with him.

So it's over. There's nothing Rudd can promise that voters haven't heard before from him, and bigger, only to see fail. There is no new guise he can assume that won't be judged as fake as the last.

And constructing a genuine Rudd is - I'd guess - tragically impossible, at least this side of an election. A brave party would ditch Rudd now, while it still can. Remember the price the Liberals paid for failing to blast out the spent John Howard?

But while Rudd is still there, Labor is forced to turn to its last, bitter hope - not selling Rudd but destroying Abbott. The question voters will be asked is: won't Abbott be worse? Labor's problem is: is worse even possible?


Crooked statistics from the Victoria police

Is anyone surprised? Police are failing to record thousands of violent crimes, analysis of Triple Zero assault reports show

Acting Assistant Commissioner Andrew Crisp denied police deliberately under-report crime after the Herald Sun today revealed the number of assaults reported to 000 in 2009 was almost double the number recorded by police.

Mr Crisp said he was concerned the figures may have caused unnecessary community concern about the accuracy of police crime statistics. "To be clear, we emphatically reject any notion that we are deliberately underreporting crime statistics," he said today. "We take our responsibility to provide accurate statistics to the community very seriously." But Mr Crisp refused to comment on an internal police investigation into the gap between 000 and police data.

Ombudsman George Brouwer reported in March last year that the police's own investigation found "under recording of crime by police - particularly in relation to assaults".

Mr Crisp also refused to comment directly on a change to police procedures in July 2008 which required that all criminal incidents reported to police must be recorded as offences unless there is credible evidence to suggest a crime has not occurred.

Mr Crisp said there were many reasons calls to 000 did not get entered as official crime statistics, including multiple calls for one incident and no crime being detected when police arrived at a scene.

However, the 000 figures quoted by the Herald Sun are not calls to 000 but the number of separate incidents where 000 call takers dispatch police.

"(000) data is very subjective," Mr Crisp said. "It's based on a victim's view of what they have seen - they may be stressed or in a crisis situation. "What they report may not be validated when police arrive and investigate. "We may find that there is no offence or a different offence has been committed.

Mr Crisp said police used their professional judgement in determining if offences had occurred. "If our police determine that an assault or any other crime has been committed it will be added to LEAP and contributes to our overall crime statistics."

Figures released to the Herald Sun exclusively reveal police were dispatched to attend 45,900 assaults in Melbourne and Geelong last year, almost double the 25,300 recorded by police.

The discrepancy has ignited fresh debate over the level of violence, police officer numbers, and the accuracy of official crime figures. The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority received a million 000 police calls in Melbourne and Geelong last year.

Opposition spokesman Andrew McIntosh said the Government was deliberately hiding the true level of crime. "John Brumby's repeated claims that Victoria is the safest state are false, and have been falsely peddled by an increasingly desperate Premier," he said.

Police are meant to record all reported crimes, unless there is credible evidence that no offence has occurred.

The figures released to the Herald Sun are believed to be consistent with those in a report to State Parliament from Ombudsman George Brouwer, due this week. In March last year, he recommended greater use of 000 data to more accurately record crime.

Callers to 000:

REPORTED 11,115 brawls, 57,858 people causing trouble, 32,609 suspicious people loiterin, and 23,836 burglars, and sought intervention in 37,116 disputes between neighbours and 36,476 family fights.

CALLED for police help with more than 34,000 minor road accidents, 29,000 noise and 19,000 traffic problems.

COMPLAINED of 17,000 thefts, 19,000 case of wilful damage, and 9600 shoplifters.

A government spokesman said the police collection of crime data was under review but was a more reliable measure of crime than 000 figures. He said the Government did not interfere in the collection of crime statistics.

It had delivered almost 1900 extra police since coming to power, and would provide 1966 more over five years if re-elected. "Ted Baillieu and the Opposition shamefully prefer to talk down the work of Victoria Police rather than supporting them on driving crime down," he said.

Police spokeswoman Rebecca Fraser said the force recognised the Ombudsman's recommendation in relation to 000 data and was "reviewing its procedures". She said the ESTA dispatch system did not cover the entire state and was not a crime recording system; more accurate and reliable systems formed statistics.

UPDATE 1.15pm: POLICE have refused to discuss their own investigation of gaps between crimes reported to 000 and official police crime statistics.


Paramedics say pleas for intensive care specialists ignored

QUESTIONS have been raised over the deaths of up to eight people in South Gippsland by paramedics who say pleas for intensive care specialists have been ignored.

Outlining a horrifying dossier of patient deaths and near misses to their union, South Gippsland paramedics have highlighted 12 cases since January where they say patients did not receive appropriate care.

The list - seen by the Herald Sun - was prepared after the State Government announced last week that it was going to base a new dedicated MICA service in Morwell, which already has one.

The move has angered the South Gippsland paramedics, who had prepared a business case pleading for the specialised intensive care service to instead be located in Wonthaggi to cover the South Gippsland region, which has no dedicated MICA.

One angry senior paramedic has delivered a worrying dossier of 12 tragic cases in the region this year, warning the lack of MICA in South Gippsland is costing lives. "I believe that had there been a dedicated MICA resource based in South Gippsland, that most of the problems associated with these cases could have been averted," the paramedic said. The cases include:

ON Saturday the only duty MICA officer was on a non-urgent job when a 58-year-old man had a cardiac arrest in Cowes and needed MICA care. None was provided, and the man died.

A HORRIFYING January 4 head-on crash in which one man died and five were injured. Despite tens of thousands of holiday makers in the area no MICA paramedic was rostered on in South Gippsland.

A MOTORCYCLIST was critically injured in a crash at the Phillip Island MotoGP Circuit in March in which an ambulance crew requested MICA support, but it could not be provided. MICA paramedic assistance eventually arrived via helicopter an hour after the request but the man died.

Ambulance Employees Association general secretary Steve McGhie said there was a clear need for a dedicated MICA service in South Gippsland, but the Government ignored a business case prepared by local paramedics, and a letter and a Budget submission from the union. "Some of these people, particularly where people have died or have been seriously compromised, would have had far better outcomes if there had been dedicated MICA resources available," he said.

Ambulance Victoria Gippsland regional manager Mark Cooke said Morwell needed the extra MICA unit, and one being placed in Wonthaggi would be explored.


School building push to go ahead even on those earmarked for 'mothballing'

Quite insane

QUEENSLAND will press ahead with controversial building works on schools that could close despite the Federal Government saying yesterday they had been put on hold.

Confusion plagued the handling of the projects last night, raising further questions about the delivery of the controversial Building the Education Revolution program.

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday 15 Queensland schools, all which have been allocated funding under BER, are now under review for mothballing.

Money allocated to the 15 schools has either been spent or is currently being spent on building projects, a spokesman for Education Minister Geoff Wilson said last night.

He said the projects would not be stopped because funds has been allocated last year, long before schools were placed on mothball review this month.

Schools that are mothballed shut their doors for a year before a decision is made whether to close them permanently.

But Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters yesterday BER was "not there to be invested in schools that are going to close".

"When a school community may face closure there's a process to work through and that process should be a consultative process . . . BER projects need to be put on hold whilst that happens. "The schools referred to in that article, the Building the Education Revolution projects, are on hold as the State Government works with local communities to determine the future of those schools."

The State Government was unaware of her comments until last night, with the Minister's spokesman saying the mothball review was about keeping schools open, rather than shutting them.

Last night a spokeswoman for Ms Gillard said some of the schools projects were completed so they were "on hold", while those still under way were under review.

Caught in the middle are parents and P&C committees desperate to keep their schools open.

At Moresby State School, just south of Innisfail in north Queensland, it is the second time in three years they have been under review, despite growing enrolments and a passionate school community. The 16-student school spent their $50,000 National School Pride money on repainting and refurbishing. Meanwhile, work is under way on a multipurpose court.

Melissa Setter, who has one child at the school and two others soon to be enrolled, said it seemed "crazy" the department would consider closing the "lovely little school" which had great facilities and staff.


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