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September 22nd 2009 print

David Flint

Beginning a new day

Mr Rudd’s honeymoon has survived that of even President Obama – why? It is surely not a question of superior charisma.

While Barak Obama’s honeymoon is over, that of Kevin Rudd continues on. Why is this so?

It could not be that Mr Rudd is seen as more charismatic than Barak Obama – although Mr. Obama’s oratory is greatly assisted by the autocues which the media usually hide from viewers.  They create a false impression that the President is a better speaker than he is. In that respect it is more serious than hiding the fact that President Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down, which in no way affected his functioning as President.

Mr Rudd has some distinct advantages over the President. First the Howard government, hardly indolent, bequeathed him a very well managed economy with one of the world’s best financial systems.

Howards’ mistake, which John Stone warned against, was to store up too large a surplus. It would have been better to have continued the reform of the tax system, for example, getting rid of CGT and flattening the tax scales. Instead they gave the keys to an overflowing treasury to one of the most profligate administrations in our history, one which governs alternately by panic and spin.  The result has been a stimulus package much of which has been wasted, both in relation to the handouts and the so-called “shovel ready” projects.

As to the handouts, I said to my dentist a few months ago: “Well I suppose you have been inundated with new patients."  "No", he said, "why do you say that?"  I replied "Well, with the nationwide dental crisis that I read about, I was sure that large numbers of people would be rushing in with their handouts to see you."  "Not one," he said.

The solution to the dental crisis will of course be through socialising dentists to their loss, and the loss of freedom of choice for the majority.

As for the "shovel ready" projects, it is clear that much of this has been blatantly wasted on the government’s re-election campaign, in topping up the funding of mendicant state governments or effective grants to favoured contractors. That is quite apart from the silly projects, such as pulling down a building with four classrooms to build one with four classrooms. Or putting vast sums into a school with one student.

Despite this Australia is still doing better than most, thanks to the Howard government. As the Institute of Public Affairs has demonstrated, we would be doing even better if instead of the stimulus, everyone had received a tax cut averaging  $8,200. (Alternatively the government could have cut income tax to zero for everyone, except the richest three per cent of taxpayers.)  Common sense will tell everyone, but the elites, those taxpayers make better spending decisions than governments. What a pity the former government did not do this.  

Unlike President Obama, Kevin Rudd is also lucky in that much of our health system has already been socialised. This has ruined general practice, removed much of the practical training element from nursing, and submitted public hospitals to the full horror of a command economy for health.  

Younger Australians know nothing better, and the Coalition has given up trying to turn the ship around. NSW Premier Mr. Rees now even dares boast that the state has the best hospital system in the world.

In the meantime Mr. Obama and the Democrats are still trying to socialise medicine; Mr. Rudd doesn’t have to fight that one. He can just say he has a magic formula which will further take away choice. This used to be direct federal control of hospitals, but he knows this will probably make things even worse.

Then there is climate change. Although few Australians could tell you what the ETS is, most seem to be in favour. Encouraged to this view by a campaigning media, they think an ETS will improve the climate. But as Rod Cameron says, as soon as the ETS starts getting linked to damage to the hip pocket, that support will disappear instantly.

People will eventually realise that the ETS is nothing more than an Energy Tax Swindle. The ETS has absolutely nothing to do with fighting anthropogenic global warming, if indeed that does exist.  It has everything to do with enhancing the world wide status of Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong.

In her latest G20 compromise, Senator Wong is now actually proposing that in the Asian region only Australia, New Zealand and Japan be legally bound to reduce emissions. The New Zealanders and Japanese won’t fall for that, but the Rudd government will try to enact it here unilaterally. This is designed mainly to win plaudits in the salons of the East Coast of the United States, with a high UN appointment the ultimate reward.

The extraordinary thing is there are people in the Federal Liberal Party who will go along with that. A few actually share the Rudd-Wong world view; others are terrified of a double dissolution. As an opposition they have not opposed enough when fundamental principles were at stake, especially over labour law changes.  They were sidetracked by the ridiculous “Utegate” affair.

Now, as Rod Cameron says, they should take on the issue of the ETS  and carry it with conviction. They should not compromise but oppose. That is their duty. And if there were a double dissolution, they should aim to make it a referendum on the ETS which it is their bounden duty to expose.

President Obama of course does have the Afghan war where the American – and British – losses are substantial. Both sides in Australia have been supportive of the Americans, but given the size of the defence forces our commitment although excellent is small.

We can’t say the mainline media in Australia is more favourable to the government than in the United States. Although on the whole favouring change, the Australian media did not disgrace themselves the way the American mainline media did in the last election.  But since the election, the Australian media has, with some notable exceptions, seen its role as providing comfort for the government, especially in relation to the stimulus and global warming.

Remember that most Australians, especially the young, get their news from short and usually favourable items on TV news. They see the prime minister in a helmet and work clothes and think he is getting things done. Some will supplement this with selected articles from the internet, and a shared paper in the office.

In an age of boundless information, the general public is less well informed than previous generations. The redoubts of honest reporting and critical comment are few, and not widely accessed.

That said, no honeymoon lasts forever, but with a strong and principled opposition Australia’s would soon be over. When it does, bad language and panic will envelope the government.