My latest piece at The Guardian, on how polls and public opinion have little to do with Rudd’s quest to establish political dominance:
Again, the refugee issue clarifies Rudd’s approach. Central to his strategy is the use of regional (international) statecraft to establish authority. By having Indonesia expose Abbott’s plan to “turn back the boats” as a dangerous fantasy and then convincing Papua New Guinea to resettle refugees, Rudd has called the Coalition’s bluff and shifted the terms of the debate. He brushes aside panic that his policy must show results overnight, instead counseling patient determination. And he has disoriented many on the left by answering their legal and humanitarian objections in brutal fashion.
Importantly, Rudd has neutralised troublesome internal forces – especially amongst his NSW right backers – who believe “tough on boats” is a vote-winner. This has given him space to refuse their demands for an early election, intended to “save the furniture” rather than win, which they have been trying to leverage by incessantly leaking dates. A later election will allow Rudd to be seen to govern, so that the contrast between him and Abbott – and between him and Gillard’s “Labor values” – is crystal clear.