Apr 302013

I’ve deliberately stayed out of political commentary for some time now. I see little point in commentating on political differences between the two major parties in Australia because essentially there are none. Well, that’s not quite correct, the Conservatives still exude that ‘big-end-of-town’, ‘born-to-rule’ ethos and Labor, for all it’s attempts to out-conservative the Conservatives is still Labor at it’s heart. It’s just that for me, that heart seems to have shrunk quite a lot over the past 5 years.

There’s the NDIS, a truly nation-building initiative and one which must be carried through to fruition come may, and doubtless will because the Conservatives have backed the concept. They simply haven’t fleshed out their policy on the issue. A bit like the majority of their so-called platform. There’s the Gonski education initiatives, again, a truly nation-building issue but one that has fallen prey to political manipulation by Conservative States. The NBN, which looks set to undergo some level of change if the Conservatives win government in September, is future planning on a grand scale and while well underway, is yet another political weapon which both sides seem intent on beating each other over the collective head with.

This government, and the one before it, does deserve some level of kudos for the job done since November 2007. Australia IS a better place today, at least in my view, and certainly a more secure place from an economic perspective. Argue about the actions of the Rudd government all you like, the bottom line being the actions of that phase of Labor governance saved Australia from the privations of the Global Financial Crisis. Yes, the GFC. It happened, and it’s still happening, just not visibly here at home. We should recognise that Keynesian theory worked when applied in 2008. Thing is, very few Australians either understand what happened in 2008, or what might have happened had the corrective actions taken, never occurred. As a society, if things keep going okay, then our ‘she’ll be right’ attitude kicks in and we keep trundling blithely along.

Things really ran off the rails in 2010, or rather late in 2009, with internal political machinations within the ALP seeking to hurry along the process of de-Rudding the party, as was always going to happen. The party hates Kevin because he’s not of the party. He’s not factionally aligned, does his own thing and as we now know, the party can’t handle that sort of operator. Thing is, the woman in the big chair today might be of the party, but she doesn’t have the chutzpah of a leader. She seems inept, poorly spoken when precision is required and doesn’t at all handle media pressures well. By that last comment, I mean her inability to over-ride the media cycle and get her message out. In my view, Kevin did. Anyway, all past history now.

What we see today is a moribund government grown old before its time. A circus of poor performers, a ringmaster without the booming voice and a collection of clowns which aren’t at all successful in keeping the crowd entertained. The Rudd government plan for a return to budgetary surplus was a six year program. That program would have come from Treasury. The Rudd version of the MRRT – Mining Resource Rent Tax – while somewhat flawed in it’s concept was far superior to the watered down compromise made by Gillard et al post Rudd. The pinnacle of the perfect storm being the inevitable decline in global commodity prices, rendering the weak-kneed mining tax useless as a revenue earner. The result being what we’re constantly hearing today, black hole in the budget. After touting an earlier return to budgetary surplus than originally planned in a bid to further distance itself from the Rudd era, Labor has successfully blown off it’s own feet, playing directly into the Conservative economic arena. Surplus! Surplus! Australia as a kingdom for a Surplus! In the meantime, the grand initiatives – Carbon Pricing, NBN, NDIS, MRRT, increases to the Superannuation Guarantee, Gonski – all look like either falling victim to governmental ineptitude or suffering massive change if the political governance changes come September.

Labor is now playing a losing game on a field owned entirely by Conservatism. It’s grand scheme initiatives are being over-run by this faux concern over a budgetary deficiency which was always going to become evident. Australia holds a world-leading economic standing, yet we’re hearing nothing but doom, gloom and looming disaster in a probable Conservative election win, simply because the big messages haven’t been sold well enough. No government can effectively govern without a narrative. Labor doesn’t have one. It did, but all that died in 2009-10. Since that time government has given every impression of simply treading water and today, it’s looking pretty tired. Now, we look like being faced with higher taxes, new levies & imposts to pay for what was promised and fill in budgetary holes which are really of little or no long-term concern. Way to go to win an election, ALP. Smack the voters with a new tax or two. The worst part of their approach being, we’ll never be properly told why.

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