Guest post by Sinclair Davidson – Kevin Rudd, 20/20 and Tony Blair

By skepticlawyer

Sinclair very kindly left this in the comments, and it’s so timely I thought it deserved a post of its own. I’m watching this process from Blairland utterly aghast, even though a week after Rudd was elected I could ‘detect the Blair’ and was warning accordingly. Blair’s nanny-statism is slowly collapsing in on him, but Pommygranate is right – he never lost an election, just left the mess to Gordon Brown. The latter lacks Blair’s verbal facility and is paying for it in spades. This is quite apart from the fact that David Cameron is a master of spin – and very bright to go with it. Another bloody Tony Blair.

Here’s Sinclair’s piece:

It has quickly become apparent that the new Australian government, elected last November, has no serious policy agenda. Kevin Rudd had campaigned on a ticket that emphasised an arrogant, out-of-touch government. He promised new fresh ideas that would take Australia forward. Less than six months into his tenure as prime minister, Mr Rudd appears to be out of ideas. He is long on symbolism and short on substance. He has ratified Kyoto, and apologised to the so-called stolen generation of indigenous Australians but seemed stumped on what to do next.

While bereft of ‘big ideas’ his government has quietly been dismantling some important economic reforms. The Rudd government is the first is a generation that is non-reformist. The Howard government’s WorkChoices legislation has been scrapped. While unions do not have as much power as they would have liked, it is clear they will have greater industrial influence than their declining membership warrants. A large number of enquiries were promised at the election, and on this front Mr Rudd has delivered. An interesting development has been the sidelining of the government’s own in-house economic think-tank the Productivity Commission. Rather the various inquiries have been stacked with party hacks and vested interests. In a retrograde step petrol prices are to be highly regulated, in effect fixed for 24-hour periods, in the interests of promoting consumer benefit.

The Rudd government inherited very good economic conditions; the budget is in surplus, there is no net commonwealth debt, unemployment is at historic lows and, despite two rate rises since coming to office, the cash rate is still lower than when the Labor Party were last in office. Any deterioration in these economic indicators could be slated home to an economically interventionalist, yet inexperienced, government. Consequently Treasurer Wayne Swan set out to rubbish the Howard government’s legacy of good economic management. Mr Swan seemed quite determined to talk the Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens out of a job. Mr Swan told everyone who would listen that the inflation genie was ‘out of the bottle’ and inflation had been building for some time. He also claimed that the Reserve Bank had been warning the previous government of an underinvestment in infrastructure that was driving higher levels of inflation.

Unfortunately for Mr Swan he was contradicted by both his own Finance Minister and the Reserve Bank governor. The government’s economic narrative is in shreds. It is not going to be easy to discredit the Howard government’s economic record. Mr Swan’s performance in the parliament has been poor and he is clearly out of his depth. But the Australian media have yet to make anything of this failure in economic narrative. The Rudd government delivers its first budget in May and with a poor opposition leader should be able to pass it off as a success.

Mr Rudd has proven himself to be a canny politician. This past weekend he summoned 1,000 people to Canberra to fashion a vision for Australia in 2020. While there was a 50:50 gender split, few of the participants could be described as being conservative or pro-free market. Many big-picture ideas have been suggested; although none are original, nor worthy of a weekend in Canberra. All 1,000 were meant to have their own idea, yet media reports have emphasised a few well-known chestnuts; an Australian Republic, a treaty with indigenous Australians, a bill of rights, abolition of the Australian states, more funding for the arts, a ban on smoking for everyone born after 2009, compulsory fitness tests, and tax reform leading to more progressive taxation. The legalisation of all drugs to relieve pressures on prisons and the criminal justice system seems to be exactly wrong.

In short lots of social engineering, but nothing to improve business conditions or to grow the economy. Conservative bloggers have been unmerciful in their contempt for the whole process and the outcome. Mr Rudd, however, understands the importance of bread and circuses and also understands the progressive mind. Reopening the Republic debate alone should consume the chattering classes for years. Mr Rudd has the political elite on side. Yet there are some warning signs on the horizon. The stock market has performed poorly and four brokerage firms have collapsed. A mild US recession is unlikely to have an impact on Australia, whereas a deep recession may well undermine the prosperity Australians have come to expect as their birthright. So far Mr Rudd has managed to distract attention from his meagre performance with big picture symbolic gestures. The question remains, how long he can keep it up? Of course, if he is able to avoid major policy errors and the economy continues to grow, he will get away with being the first anti-reformist prime minister in 25 years.

23 Comments

  1. John Greenfield
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    JC

    I don’t know about that, but one thing I can tell you is that of my female friends who have MBAs from top schools, they are the one’s most keen to live a relatively traditional lifestyle being stay at home (at least part-time) mums and married.

  2. JC.
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    so it they’re stay at home mums, what would they know about HR depts, JG.

    As I said HR departments are trying to keep the firm out of trouble and address appropriate behaviour at a work place. Nothing really wrong with that.

  3. John Greenfield
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    You’re arguing in circles now. ‘All they are trying to do is keep out of trouble.’ Trouble threatened by legislation drawn up by…???

  4. John Greenfield
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    JC

    You know the world is full of people who have worked in corporations for some time and not in other times. 😉

  5. Jason Soon
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    and sexual harrassment at the workplace is alright?

    Look dude, tough luck if your mythical ‘proles’ get fired because they can’t match up to proper bourgeois behaviour. That’s the market and natural selection at work.

    Viva Darwin, Spencer and Nietzsche!

  6. JC.
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    JG

    I’m not arguing in circles. I am simply explaining to you that your accusation that HR depts are suddenly luvvie central as you refer to them is unfounded.

    They are doing good things in lots of ways, like protecting women from inappropriate behaviour. And even if these laws were removed tomorrow, nearly all internal regulations would probably remian the same at big firms.

  7. John Greenfield
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh gawd. If you really think Nietzsche was one of you, you are in trouble! 🙁

    I’ll see your Herbert Spencer and raise you an Edmund Spenser. 😉

  8. Jason Soon
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m aware that Nietzsche isn’t completely with me but he would find your re-sentiment driven mythologising faux-egalitarianism in support of some mythical oppressed nauseating.

  9. John Greenfield
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    You twit. Where have I ever shown any sympathy for egalitarianism of ANY sort? The very thought makes me want to hurl my cookies.

  10. rog
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    To flick the states and have super councils is a great concept but in reality wont get off the ground, it would take a complete re write of the Constitution.

  11. Jason Soon
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    it was nice engaging in that little JG baiting.

    You come on everywhere and dispense tired little strawmen about luvvies, Just thought it was time to turn the tables and do the same to your ‘non luvvies’ whoeever the fuck they are (Mar’n Ferguson? Doug Cameron?)

  12. John Greenfield
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Jason

    If you are going to bait and switch with strawmen at least do so in English!

  13. rog
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    JC, the US has 50 states and 303M, thats ~6M per state.

    With 6 states and 2 territories for 20.4M Australia is way under par, any more states and we would be even more over governed.

  14. Posted April 21, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    A point re luvvies.

    I’m really busy at the minute so I didn’t have time to check the papers ’til this PM. It seems pretty clear, especially considering Andrew’s experience, that the Jabberfest was essentially designed as an ‘elite’ endorsement of Keating’s cultural agenda.

    Kevvie hasn’t learned either from Keating’s mistakes nor his accomplishments.

    He shouldn’t be doing this now. He should wait. People in this country have been undergoing reform for 2 and 1/2 decades now and they’re tired of it. He should just consolidate, work on the health system and live up to his promise re fiscal conservatism.

    However he hasn’t done this. He’s essentially simply re-reared the ‘luvvie’ vision of Oz especially the republic. As much as I find David Flint to be an SS officer in a pale blue silk suit he had a point viz the lack of monarchist representation. I’m a republican but the monarchists have a point – we have a de facto republic, the monarchy functions as a legal convenience that safeguards us against Fubaria, a shift would pretty much be symbolic and 55% of people voted against it less than ten years back. It ain’t the time.

    But even if it was the monarchists deserve to be represented surely. Kevvie just doing what Howard did – marginalizing those he differs with.

    As for all the palava re traffic lights on fatty foods and (yet another) increase on tax for alcohol and cigarrettes fucking forget it. I wonder where the toted notion of a voucher system re health went. If people fuck up their health on purpose let ’em pay more. Skeptic’s right it’s nanny statism.

    Thing is Kevvie should go back to ’96 and ask himself: why did Keating get the boot? Hint: it wasn’t because of his ‘hard’ policies.

    And also would someone tell him what the word ‘treaty’ actually means. FFS!

  15. Posted April 22, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Much as I think JG flings ‘luvvie’ around like certain varieties of ape have been known to fling their own poo about, I do think this is exactly the ‘luvviedom’ that got Keating the boot (and which encouraged swinging voters, like me, to vote for Howard in 1996). To that extent, I agree with Adrien. I think it’s safe to say that both Adrien and I have had a fair bit of experience in various ‘cultural industries’, and it was pretty rank.

    As Andrew Norton pointed out, these people love power, and are utterly convinced they (a) know the answer and (b) should be able to impose it on other people. This is nanny statism writ large, and reeks of Blairism.

    However, contra Adrien, I’m hoping that Rudd’s decision to do the Chosen Kilo stunt now is appropriately Machiavellian, in that he’s fed the luvvie ‘chooks’ and – having got them on side – can now safely ignore them for the rest of his term. Rudd used to be my local MP, and I saw him/chatted to him enough to know that he is a very smart man in the best Labor Right tradition.

  16. JC.
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Rudd used to be my local MP, and I saw him/chatted to him enough to know that he is a very smart man in the best Labor Right tradition.

    Hope you’re right, SL. I would be surprised if he did a back flip and went with these idiots.. He doesn’t strike me as a guy that would take silly risks.

    I found the thing quite offensive to be honest.

    Think about this. There was a person who suggested the idea that we should all apply for our citizenship felt safe enough in that crowd to say such a thing. Now If I was in such a group and someone said that (yes I know it would be wrong) I would probably have lost my temper and done something I would have regretted.

    There was no one there who walked out as a result of such a comment, which is itself pretty instructive in terms of who we’re broadly dealing with.

    So even if Rudd is a good guy, he really has a mountain of idiots to climb and I fear one day he just gives in.

  17. JC.
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    I know rog, but it would rid us of one layer of government and would offer more geographic focus.

  18. John Greenfield
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    SL

    NO! You do not “agree with Adrien” you agree with ME! Come on, just come out of the closet, you will feel so liberated! 🙂 Seriously though, I have always maintained that Rudd himself is in no way a Luvvie. In fact, he cannot stand them. I suspect your inkling about his Machiavellianism may indeed turn out to be a pas de deux with Mao. 😉

  19. John Greenfield
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I mean FFS. Check out this racist Luvvie filth!

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/2008/04/19/spare-a-thought-for-jackie-huggins/#comment-459009

  20. dover_beach
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    SL, the problem with ‘feeding the chooks’ or anything else for that matter is that you have to keep on feeding it or it will begin to get nasty again. And it will.

    JG, I don’t know why you bother with LP. Don’t you get enough of that from the ABC?

  21. John Greenfield
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    dover

    I don’t know why either. Perhaps I have a mental illness? 🙂

  22. John Greenfield
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Absoutely priceless. I have just been deleted by Lovvie Supremo JQ for using the word “Luvvie.”

    John Greenfield Says:
    April 22nd, 2008 at 9:24 am
    John, I’m deleting this and anything further from you that contains references to “Luvvies”. If you can’t make your point without this tiresome stuff, please comment elsewhere – JQ

    Though go through and check out how riddled with NON-tiresome stuff JQ’s world is. 😉

    John Greenfield Says:
    April 22nd, 2008 at 9:24 am
    John, I’m deleting this and anything further from you that contains references to “Luvvies”. If you can’t make your point without this tiresome stuff, please comment elsewhere – JQ

    As I said to him Fair enough JQ. But I think you have thus made my point far more effectively than even I could. 😉

  23. Posted April 23, 2008 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Rudd’s decision to do the Chosen Kilo stunt now is appropriately Machiavellian, in that he’s fed the luvvie ‘chooks’ and – having got them on side – can now safely ignore them for the rest of his term.

    Yep good point Skeptic.I guess we’ll see about that.

    Rudd used to be my local MP, and I saw him/chatted to him enough to know that he is a very smart man in the best Labor Right tradition.

    A little shaky on the ethics as a AWU colleague of mine used to say, and happily, about the ALP Right. 🙂

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