Crean slams PM in show of defiance
DateApril 13, 2013 469 reading now
Sydney Morning Herald political and international editor
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Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
Ousted minister Simon Crean has given a scathing assessment of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ability to lead the country, in a signal that Labor’s leadership crisis is far from over.
He described Ms Gillard as having a ”tin ear” for sound political strategy and engaging in ”class warfare” by playing off interest groups, echoing opposition criticisms of Ms Gillard’s position on removing payments to middle class recipients.
Defying the Prime Minister’s demand for unity in her government, Mr Crean said he would continue to campaign for Labor to return to the proud traditions established by former Labor leaders Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
Mr Crean also said federal Labor was deluding itself that it was in trouble in the polls solely because of destabilisation by Kevin Rudd. “I’ve been through destabilisation,” when he was Labor leader in 2001-03, “and we never went this low.”
During an extensive interview, Mr Crean reopened wounds that were supposedly healing after his failed attempt to install Mr Rudd as prime minister in March.
Mr Crean, until then a minister in every Labor cabinet of the past 23 years, argued Ms Gillard was not living up to the principles of consensus and inclusiveness established by Mr Hawke and Mr Keating.
“She’s gone the class warfare. The 457 visa debate was a good example of the message being taken out of context – because it looked like we’ll put Australians before foreigners. Unequivocally, immigration has been good for this country,” Mr Crean said.
“That’s not the ethos of the Hawke-Keating model. How have we built the country? By cohesion. We are seen outside as the great success story of multiculturalism. Why don’t we play to it? Play to strength! That’s my point.”
Asked why he thought Ms Gillard was pursuing divisions, Mr Crean said that his leader had a political “tin ear”, and that she was in pursuit of headlines.
“You see, you have the conversations – that’s why I think she’s got a real tin ear – he [Kevin Rudd] was just arrogant but she’s got a tin ear. She sits there – ‘Mmm’ – and listens but it doesn’t translate.
“Because somewhere along the way she gets the word that here’s the angle on how you get tomorrow’s headline.”
Mr Crean also said that Ms Gillard needed to do more work on her two biggest election campaign promises – a national disability insurance scheme, and the Gonski school reforms.
“How do you have a national disability insurance scheme that doesn’t have people paying an insurance premium?” he posed.
“Why not use the argument of one of the other great Labor legacies that’s worked for this country – universal health cover – to justify it?” he said, a reference to the Medicare levy paid by taxpayers.
And the Gonski reforms needed to be better defined, he said. “You can’t just say we’re committed to Gonski ’cause no one knows what Gonski is.”
Ms Gillard sacked Mr Crean from her cabinet and submitted herself to a party room ballot for the leadership in March. But Mr Rudd declined to contest. Mr Crean said that Mr Rudd was now “finished”.
Mr Crean gave examples where the Gillard government had fomented resentment, pitting the wealthy against the workers, and foreign workers against local workers.
Ms Gillard has said the scheme to bring workers into Australia on work permits – 457 visas – was being rorted. She pledged to put “Aussie workers first”.
Mr Crean also said that some tension over gender was “part of this argument about division – because it’s easier to relate with one side against the other rather than get out there and try and cohere around a message that seeks to persuade in the national interest”.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/crean-slams-pm-in-show-of-defiance-20130412-2hqym.html#ixzz2QIKi7GNQ