The left is consumed by an irrational hatred of John Howard – they must be because the policies of the competing parties are so similar that there can be no other sensible explanation. Indeed, this is not unexpected – the left have always needed to have something or someone to hate. But it is surprising that the disaffection with John Howard seems so widespread. While The Age/Nielsen poll indicate that nearly half the electorate believe Kevin Rudd has a better vision for Australia than Howard, it is difficult to discern, from policies so far announced, what part of Rudd's vision voters find preferable.
Support for Labor might just be viewed as a soon-to-be-regretted cognitive error based on failure to appreciate the good times we now enjoy and the need, given that economic prosperity and growth are taken as a given, to find new issues to grizzle about and new demons.
John Roskam has a piece on the near perfect policy equivalence of the two major parties and Kevin Rudd’s ‘me-tooism’ (in more dignified language, the ‘small targets strategy’). Rudd is either agreeing with the Government or simply saying nothing. The interesting question is whether he would he behave differently in Government – in which case he is currently deceiving us all – or whether the bland equivalence he espouses is something that will persist?
Roskam’s basic argument is that, other than WorkChoices, Labor is close to identical to the Liberals on many important issues. For example:
At this election, Rudd has portrayed himself as being as similar to Howard as possible. Rudd would take being labeled "conservative" as a compliment.
The announcement that the intake of African refugees to Australia would be limited gave Rudd the chance to take a strong stand contrary to the Government in favour of a non-discriminatory immigration policy but no, instead he made ‘me too’ noises.
On the Tasmanian pulp mill ex-rock star and ex-Greenie Peter Garrett must be wondering why he joined the Labor Party if his only task is to agree with Malcolm Turnbull. 'Me-too'.
For years the ALP has complained about the Coalition's non-government schools funding policy. Now Labor announced that if elected it would maintain the current funding formula until 2012. He now has the seal of approval of the Pope’s Australian commander-in-chief. Indeed Cardinal Pell joined in with ‘me-tooism’ observations: ``In so many ways the policies of the Labor Party are scarcely distinguishable from those of the Liberal/National Coalition”. (my bold).
Yesterday, Rudd said that no government he led would ever intervene diplomatically to save the life of a terrorist facing capital punishment. He repudiated his own foreign affairs spokesman and followed exactly the established position of the Howard Government. Even the Labor Party’s official newspaper in Melbourne, The Age, describes Rudds views on the death penalty as ‘a me-too policy mess’.
On federal intervention in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory — the ALP's stance is indistinguishable from that of the Coalition. Labor has distinctively agreed to sign the UN declaration on indigenous rights promoting collective victimhood although, as Janet Albrechtson points out, the most distinctive feature of this move is its stupidity. It has had little news coverage anyway. Other stupid symbolic moves include the impossible proposal to bring the President of Iran before the International Court of Justice to face charges of inciting genocide. Distinctive? Yes, it is but again only empty symbolism.
The Murray-Darling water takeover from the states – well yes ‘me-too’ says young Kevvie.
Labor has pledged to follow the Coalition's budget strategy to ensure continued low unemployment and low inflation. It is, of course, difficult to see how this will be assisted by abolishing AWAs.
On social policy the ALP has followed the Government's lead on everything from the federal takeover of public hospitals to performance pay for teachers. 'Me-too', 'me-too'.
Even on WorkChoices and IR legislation on issue after issue, Rudd and Julia Gillard have been backtracking from original commitments. AWAs are going to be around for a long time. The anti-trade union penalties are going to stay. The 'freedom' of contractors is going to stay and any trade union that attempts to take action against dishonest or anti-worker contracts will be told to butt out. Gillard is reported as saying that 'unions should not be able to interfere in commercial arrangements involving contractors'. Onya Kevvie, I agree.
On foreign policy, Rudd has pledged to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq, but remains strongly committed to the US alliance and fighting the war on terror. Not surprising an odour of inconsistency here given Rudd’s total hypocrisy on the issue of Iraq – he backed the intervention in 2003 and now wants to 'cut-and-run'.
Even fixing federalism is more important than removing the Queen as head of state. A republic – no, that is certainly no priority.
For example consider the likely next Prime Minister on economic questions. He has already announced the formation of a ‘razor gang’ saying that ‘In the first six months of us becoming government … we’ll institute a razor gang to go through commonwealth outlays’. And guess what they will be looking to cut? They include the ‘growth in the public service and slashing duplication of health and education spending by federal and state governments’. Nothing is being said about slashing the enormous handouts to private enterprise by both the Howard and former Labor governments. Which side are you on Kevvie?
Labor’s policies are ‘small targets’ politics with a vengeance. Perhaps those on the left are so conditioned to Labor Party deception that they see this ‘me-tooism’ simply as a way of gaining power. It then becomes a legitimate strategy of deception to achieve power which, once achieved, can be abandoned with years of ‘real labour’ policies. But if Labor becomes the next government the selective, and rather moderate, criticism of Rudd’s policies now starting to filter out of left wing circles will become a crescendo. The single redeeming feature of a Labor Party win.
It will be interesting to see how Rudd deals with the maladjusted ideologues that dominate his union dominated party once the imperative of winning an election fades and the maddies on the left tire of his bland imitative style.