Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kevin Rudd's 'Me-tooism'

Over at Troppo the normally rational James Farrell is at pains to point out why frothing at the mouth with hatred that is directed generally at the Liberals – but specifically at John Howard – makes sense. Yes, hatred is rational! It is a hypocritical post since, while James decries Coalition mudslinging, he ignores the lack of morality in Kevin Rudd’s ‘me-tooism’. Rudd is dramatically ahead in the polls and is carrying out an unofficial election campaign based on one guiding principle - ‘don’t stuff up’.

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:



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.

At this election, Rudd has portrayed himself as being as similar to Howard as possible. Rudd would take being labeled "conservative" as a compliment.

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.

11 comments:

Slim said...

Robert Manne put it best last week on Lateline when he said that the Right so thoroughly dominate the political polemic at the moment that it is pointless for Rudd to make a stand on any number of hot-button issues - he would be crucified - and that it will be three or four years before we really know what Rudd will do and how he will do it.

This is perfectly illustrated today by the MSM going off like a frog in a sock over Rudd's reprimand of McClelland's speech against capital punishment, with hysterical claims that Labor is in disarray and that Rudd is an insincere hypocrite when it is Howard's moral ambivalence that is the more important question. He is accused of being morally compromised because he has the same policy as Howard and therefore he is morally weak. WTF??

This from a government and cheer squad that wouldn't know a moral stance if it stood on them. Think SEIV X, the AFP sacrifice of the Bali 9, a $300 million donation to a 'terrorist' regime, an illegal war in Iraq while simultaneously working to disallow Iraqi refugees, the neutering of Native Title - the list goes on, but these will do for a start. These are all issues with significant moral and ethical resonance for many people. Howard's dealings in these areas I personally find morally repugnant. So no, I don't hate Howard, and even if I did, I wouldn't regard it as being irrational. I despise him and his many offensive policies and values.

Howard apologists such as Paul Kelly, John Roskam and your good self are taking great pains to demonstrate how remarkably similar Rudd and Howard are (the 'me-tooism') - presumably, therefore we should all vote for Howard again. Nice try. But what is noticeably missing from the debate about how Rudd might be different from Howard can be quite simply stated - Rudd couldn't possibly be such a small-minded, backward-looking, mean-spirited, jingoistic, divisive, fear-mongering bastard as Howard is. Anything has got be better than that. Howard has lost the favour of the Australian people. Signs are there that they want a more principled and effective leadership in a whole range of policy areas such as education, health, community infrastructure, foreign affairs, climate change, IR, etc.

After more than 11 years team Howard are out of ideas and looking and sounding tired. His supporters are in denial if they think he can come back from this.

Personally I'd rather a leader whose values are informed by the Jesuit intellectual traditions of social justice than disciples of dead Austrian economists and the Jesus Wants Me to Be Rich and Not Gay crowd.

The first stage is denial. Anger follows. It must be hard to swallow after a decade of political superiority, but it's going to happen and life will not be the same again, for better or worse. Hopefully it will be for the better because it can only get worse under the current mob.

Mark U said...

Harry

Hatred is not unique to the left. What about the hatred of Whitlam and Keating?

As far as I can see, the reason voters are running 56-44 in favour of Labor is that the government no longer has any reserves of trust left because the electorate feels cumulatively duped over issues such as IR policy, Tampa, Iraq, AWB and interest rates etc. This is very similar to the loss of trust that emerged with Keating when he deferred promised tax cuts and hiked excise taxes in the 1993 Budget.

I seem to recall that Howard adopted a small target strategy in the 1996 election for precisiely that reason - he correctly perceived that the public no longer trusted Keating (and many hated him) and promised that people would be "relaxed and comfortable". Can you remember what the main differences were?

Rudd is simply trying to distinguish himself on key issues such as IR and the environment and avoid being wedged on non-key issues. Despite what you say there are key differences on some key issues.

Rudd could very well turn out to be a disaster, but it seems the voters are prepared to give him a go as they have grown tired of Howard.

Anonymous said...

It is completely moral for Rudd to say me-too, so we don't have to suffer that coconut headed little creep, his all tip no iceburg treasurer and the racist religious nutcase freak Andrews, among others.

conrad said...

HC,

you are losing a bit of logic of late. You are constantly complaining about Labor on this that and the next thing (Iraq, for example), and then complaining about me-tooism. There are differences, such as Iraq, environmental policy, workplace policy etc. (note that the Liberal party is getting into me-tooism of Labor on environmental policy).

Personally, I think the real complaint should be directed at both parties -- simply offering the same thing (big government Stalin loving conservatives) is not exactly great for democracy. Its no wonder that people are apathetic about it all these days.

whyisitso said...

"I don't hate Howard" "I despise him".

How typical of the left. Weasel words. You hate his guts Slim. But like the rest of the left lying deception is your modus operandi.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

just like 96!!

Yes people like our Arry always 'forget' the hatred directed towards Kesting. It was as venomous after he lost ( witness why Iron Mark called Staley such a name) as it was when he was in power.

It is the same in the US. Everyone hates Bush but no-one ever hated Clinton

hc said...

Slim, I guess the feeling is that Rudd is being dishonest by constantly saying 'me too'. I doubt that is his position but it seems he will say whatever it takes.

Generally I agree with the point a number of the commentors have made about Keating. He was 'hated' because of his arrogance and the positive things he did pushed to one side.

But I still think the Labor lot hate harder. The fanaticism of the left worries me partly because it is so strong and partly because it is so irrational.

Rudd looks like being the next PM. Watch the left seek to attack and devour him once the triumphalism dies down.

Slim said...

Gotta watch that hair trigger whyisitso. You misquoted what you thought I said, not what I actually said. "I don't hate Howard" "I despise him".

I'll repeat it for your benefit - I don't hate Howard - I despise his values. These are not 'weasel' words. There is a difference. A bit like Jesus when he advised hate the sin not the sinner.

You haven't addressed any of the substantive issues I raised - just a lazy dismissive 'left lying deception'.

I would have thought that lying deception has been a hallmark of the Howard years, with plausible deniability raised to an artform.

Even now - 'I am against the death penalty, but only for some people.' In other words, I support the death penalty. Moral equivalence and intellectual dishonesty of the first order.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

with respect Harry I have found both howard and Costello were worse haters than Keating.

Remember Access economics. They did costings for the liberals for Hewson. They also did it for ALP when bomber was leader.

guess when they decided to discontinue this?

Mark U said...

Harry, you said:

"But I still think the Labor lot hate harder. The fanaticism of the left worries me partly because it is so strong and partly because it is so irrational."

Go and have another look on Tim Blair's blog.

queserasera said...

Perhaps you need to look back at your blog Slim... in support of whyisitso, you DID say "I despise him" - quote unquote, you "despise him, and his many offensive policies and values". If you look "hate" up in the thesaurus I'm sure you'll find the word "despise"... they are one in the same, weasel words indeed. Touché.