page loader

It is difficult to understand why the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, is experiencing such rough handling at the polls. He should be doing well.

By any yard stick the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has failed to distinguish himself as a leader, the difficulties posed by the recession/depression notwithstanding.

Despite the paucity of verifiable evidence the Prime Minister with the support of Treasury has been able to convince a majority of the people and the media that the fiscal stimulus packages or cash splashes have saved Australia from the worst of the economic downturn.

The claim is contestable but politically clever, at least in the short term. The fact that Access Economics, the Reserve and major banks believe the worst of the recession to be over is cause for caution given their poor track record in predicting the collapse.

Rudd and his advisers are not convinced that what we see are green shoots, they worry that it could be green slime, hence Rudd’s attempt to cover himself with a 6,000 word ‘essay’ defending his recent economic decisions and highlighting possible future difficulties which was run in the Fairfax press on the 25/26 July.

His message was at odds with the economic forecasters mentioned above.

First year economic students would be aware that Australia has slipped-streamed on the strength of the Chinese economy, underlining even before the Stern Hu incident, the extent of our dependence on Chinese growth and political stability.

In the absence of rigorous analysis advice from Rudd and Treasury should be to keep our fingers crossed. Having shed most of our manufacturing capacity we have few other strings to our bow. There are no policy proposals from either government or opposition to broaden the economic base and reduce our dependency on mineral sales, particularly to China.

Rudd’s policy on water, such as it is, has succumbed to the heat of vested interests and is evaporating. The government is using our money to buy licences for water which does not exist. Rudd does not seem to understand that the only way to manage the dwindling resource, which water represents, on behalf of all stakeholders is for an independent authority to be appointed under the auspices of the Federal Parliament.

Rudd has squirmed on climate change policy and has displayed the paternalism of a missionary toward the Aboriginal population.

The war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and there is little justification for Australia being involved. Rudd has not had the courage to take the Australian people into his confidence, instead allowing the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Houston, to hint that Australian troops would be withdrawn in four or five years time when training of the Afghan Army will be complete, a task the USSR attempted but which collapsed on the withdrawal of the Russian Army from Afghanistan.

Rudd’s response to the crisis in the delivery of health care has been to prevaricate and in so doing break an election promise. The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has hinted that health reform might be contingent on increased taxes.

Had Rudd not spent so much on spin-dominated cash splashes he would have the money to pay for better health outcomes which would have been a more mature and prudent way of spending tax payer money and stimulating the economy. But wise social spending has not been part of this government’s agenda.

The spending on schools was masterful, designed to be visible and feel-good spending for swinging voters with children. Much of the money is ill-directed. The program requires more consultation. Occupational Health and Safety requirements relating to building in school grounds will preclude many smaller builders in rural areas from tendering, leaving the way open for big city contractors and thus defeating the purpose of part of the exercise.

Greater expenditure on community and affordable housing would see social needs addressed as well as government funding maintaining jobs amongst smaller contractors and communities.

Other infrastructure spending might be useful if a more integrated approach to projects was taken and if the government was able to articulate what it hoped to achieve in terms of national development. But vision is not part of spin.

Rudd has made no headway with important issues of foreign policy. He is chasing the illusion of a seat on the Security Council, at a time when relations with India and China have never been so bad. Rudd allowed himself to be bullied by China over the Stern Hu affair.

One can only guess at the sweet talking that went on behind the scenes in the negotiations over the Rio-Tinto/Chinalco deal. Rudd’s chief business adviser is Rod Eddington who is also a director of Rio-Tinto. Whatever transpired it appears to have had the effect of muting Rudd’s response.
Published: ABC Unleashed

No one with any knowledge of the intricacies of diplomacy would advocate megaphone diplomacy, whatever that means, however there is no substitute for firmness. Rudd blinked, in fact he shut his eyes, and went into denial for the best part of a week after the detention of Hu.

Rudd has ignored India. He did little to assuage the Indian Government, people and media over Haneef, preferring to see the bungle as that of his predecessor and therefore nothing to do with him; relations between countries does not work like that. Now due to the ineptitude of officials and policy he inherited from the last government he has a major foreign policy crises on his hands over the mistreatment of Indian students in Australia.

If Rudd and members of his government think they can beat the Indian media they are mistaken. Rudd says he will visit India with Education Minister Julia Gillard later in the year. He should be there next week. If not he should stop spending money on pursuing the ego trip of a seat on the Security Council.

Rudd, in my opinion, improperly deployed the services of the AFP to help him out over his difficulties with an alleged forged email in relation to the farcical ute affair. Whatever the AFP is doing could have been done through the Senate hearings process.

When do we get the results of this highly political investigation? His employees, members of the public service, do not particularly like the treatment handed out to Godwin Grech, the public servant fingered in the affair.

If Rudd wants to maintain waning loyalty he should not only be seen to be acting properly he should also reign in the AFP. The feeling is that in the name of the war on terror the AFP has a watching brief on every key government department, including Treasury.

Poor Malcolm Turnbull, fighting the Troglodytes in his own party and a majority in the media which appear willing to believe Rudd spin over substance.