Archive for October, 2007

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A cost indeed, but perhaps one worth paying

October 25, 2007

Over the past few days, I’ve had many discussions with friends and colleagues (and some thoughtful banter with Weez over at MGK) about how Kevin Rudd is just a whiter shade of Howard and that he is just copying most of the Coalition’s policies. Granted, Rudd isn’t your progressive saint and he’s a conservative by any self-respecting progressive’s standards. About half of the people I’ve spoken to think that Rudd is playing the game, doing what he has to do and beating Howard at his own game and will be able to shape his own agenda once he has beaten Howard. The other half are of the opinion that Rudd is indeed not pulling any punches and he is out there showing himself here and now (an opinion put forth by Ross Gittins in The Herald yesterday).

I’m probably more in the second camp than the first, but I’m not completely in either. However, I’ve thrown my support behind Rudd over the last few months (as you may have noticed).¬† Look, he’s most definitely not perfect and he isn’t your progressive pin-up boy. But, it’s got the to point now where Howard must go and Rudd is our only hope. WorkChoices is the immediate and most obvious reason why this is so. Whether or not Labor is going to scrap key elements of it will hopefully be a negotiating point between them and a Senate with the Greens (or the one in a million shot of the Democrats rising from the dead) controlling the balance of power after the election. However, for this to happen, the election needs to be fought and fought hard. This is it – this is the moment! This election is crunch time for the Australian people and the reality is there is Howard and then there is the better alternative. How much better this alternative is can be discussed after the downfall of Howard – and that downfall is most certainly not a foregone conclusion.

Whether you think Rudd is a tiny bit better than Howard or much better at this point in time is irrelevant. That he is better at all is the issue. He’s not Howard. We must first get him over the line. This should be the primary objective for progressives. More than anything else, and yes even at the cost of having Rudd as our PM, I want that war-mongering, lying, conniving, rights-robbing, power-hungry, snivelling rodent Howard out of my parliament house. That is the issue my friends – that is the issue.

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Rudd Slams Howard in Debate

October 21, 2007

I mean, c’mon! Let’s be honest about it, Rudd wiped the floor with Howard in the debate. He answered every question on the economy with authority and neutralised Howard’s assertions about his past by hitting right back at Howard with the fact that when Howard was treasurer, interest rates were at 22% and out of the 5 budgets that Howard presided over, 4 were in deficit. Rudd also looked much stronger on climate change and education (as he has all along). Yeesh, still 5 weeks to go. It’s going to be close.

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It’s On – Australia Votes 2007 on… WorkChoices

October 14, 2007

And it’s on. John Howard has finally called the election. I was right about the date – 24th of November. Best site to visit for coverage is of course the ABC Election site. So, as far as I’m concerned, voters need to remember two things throughout this campaign and on the day when they go into their polling places to vote:

1. Workchoices. Your job is in danger, your benefits are under threat, your usual safety net of a redundancy package is under threat and overtime and penalty rates can now be taken away from you. As a condition of actually being hired for a certain position, you can now be forced to sign an Australian Workplace Agreement that takes away your benefits, cuts your rate of pay, strips you of overtime and penalty rates and forces you onto shift hours you may not be able to do. If you have kids or grandkids under 30, they are now more vulnerable than ever in the workplace and the rights that their parents and grandparents worked so hard to achieve can now be striped away under an AWA. You can thank John Howard and his Liberal-National Coalition for this.

2. John Howard is a liar when it comes the the economy (not to mention most other things). Interest rates have risen 5 times since his promise at the last election to “keep interest rates low”. The Reserve Bank of Australia sets interest rates. Interest Rates depend on, among other things, inflation which in turn depends on, among other things, global commodity prices such as that of oil. John Howard and his government do not control these prices or how our economy reacts to them. Furthermore, John Howard’s claim that the economy is so strong because of his expert management is a lie. It is strong because of the boom in India and China causing high demand in our primary industries. Government debt may have been paid off, but private foreign debt is soaring, as is personal debt, with Australians having the worst rate of per capita private debt among developed nations. Would an economically responsible government encourage vulnerable people to borrow so much? No… Would a compassionate government who cares about the rights and lifestyles of it’s citizens take away job security, benefits and reduce wages with an aggressive WorkChoices agenda? No… You can again thank John Howard and his Liberal-National Coalition for this.

Of course, there are other issues, but WorkChoices needs to be focused on – not just by the Labor Party who are promising to abolish this despicable ideologically driven policy from the Howard Government- but by all of us as working people. The economy is and always will be an important issue because every other issue hinges on it. Indeed, it should always be at the top of the priority list when it comes to voting. What we need to keep in mind is the plans and future vision that each leader has for Australia. The Howard Government has cut back on education, vocational training and health over the last 11 years and has neglected these key industries that the economy relies on so much. Not to mention an under-investment in Climate Change solutions that has set us back 11 years and left a potential boom industry lagging behind the rest of the world. It’s an absolute shame that a German company is building a new multi-billion dollar wind farm in SA. Why isn’t an Australian company building it? Under-investment in Australian Climate Change solutions by a government who up until this year was denying that Climate Change even exists.

The Howard Government is stale, has neglected too many Australians for too long and has a lack of vision for the future of our country. Howard, Costello, Downer, Abbott and the rest of this mean bunch of men who have taken so much and planned little for the future need to be voted out of office and fresh, new blood voted in. The Australian people deserve a new, clear, positive vision for the future, not an out-dated, stale and mean bunch of ideologues who intend to rid them of their job security and take away any safety net that may have existed for them thereafter.

It’s Time…

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Pulp, Polls and Prognostications

October 8, 2007

Oh dear, this campaign is a messy one isn’t it? Even a political junkie such as myself is finding it hard not to cringe at some of the ducking, weaving and swinging that’s gone on over the last week. Australia seems to have become a small place indeed – one minute John Howard and Kevin Rudd are in Queensland, then they’re on the TV an hour later in Western Australia, Tasmania or Canberra. I kept my eyes and ears shut all of yesterday just to escape the madness. I then decided I’d watch ABC News at 7pm with the faint hope that Howard may have finally called the election. But, as ever, this man is driven by polls and with word out early yesterday that the latest AC Nielson Poll still had Labor in front¬† 56-44 on a two-party preferred basis, I exhaled and drearily thought “at least another week” as the top story was about the Wallabies losing. “Losing what?” I asked myself. The newsreader then told me “The World Cup”. “Oh”, I thought, and in my best West Wing Toby voice, I said out loud “I don’t care.”… I could almost hear the rest of the country sighing with me. Honesty. We’re over it – get on with it and call the election! Stop waiting for the polls to move!

With the pulp mill in Tasmania now given the go ahead, the Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull seems to be in real trouble in his seat of Wentworth. The government were really damned if they do and damned if they don’t on this one. With the Liberal candidate quitting on the weekend over the approval of the mill showing the touchy nature of the issue, the actual seat of Lyons will probably be retained by the sitting Labor member anyway. Indeed, the proposed mill itself is actually in the seat of Bass, which is where the real election contest in Tasmania will be fought.

As for the election date… Well, I’m still saying a 50/50 chance between the 17th and 24th of November. No date is looking good for Howard at the moment – particuarly with the chance of an interest rate rise in early November now looking increasingly likely.

Kevin Rudd is adept at this campaigning thing. I think Howard has accepted this finally and has decided that he will have to fight this election on actual policies. This is a nightmare come true for Howard. Why? Because he has never actually had any visionary policies for Australia in his 11 and half long years as PM, only ideology. It’s interesting that Howard has now decided that climate change exists when up until early this year he was stating that the link between human activity and climate change had not been established. Bang, six months later, Howard is talking about “aspirational targets” and the like, moving beyond his interim 3 month self-tagged “climate change realist” position. So, you can see (I’m stating the bleeding obvious here) that everything Howard does is driven by polling and not the future of this country. Climate Change is polling very strongly as an important issue at the moment, so we see a raft of on-the-run policy coming from the government in relation to it.

The wedge has also featured prominently this year from Howard, but it hasn’t worked as well as it has in the past. This is because Rudd has not only been keenly aware of it, but has anticpated it at every turn, until late last week. Whereas Rudd neutralised Howard’s attempted wedge on the federal intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, Rudd wasn’t expecting Kevin Andrews assertion last week that Sudanese refugees are having trouble assimilating into Australian society and that Australia is going to cut it’s quota for African refugees from 70% to 30% next year. Ah, the race card… When all else fails, racism might succeed. Andrews implied that Sudanese refugees aren’t fitting in well in Australia and made the extraoridinary claim that Australia accepting refugees was “simply on the basis of whether or not people can settle in Australia.” Um, not it’s not – and the United Nations may have something more to say about that Mr. Andrews. So, why did Andrews and government bring this point up? Because they’re losing battles on all other fronts against Kevin Rudd at the moment. Karen Middleton put it perfectly (as she so often does) in The Canberra Times on Saturday:

“The Government knows there’s an undercurrent of animosity towards Sudanese migrants in certain corners of Australia and it’s tapping the vein… And why would he want to do that at this particular time? Because some Coalition MPs have been feeding back to the Government that their constituents are uneasy about Sudanese migrants in their electorates and are complaining about gangs of youths causing trouble. It’s not clear whether the youths are actually involved in crime, or just look scary to white constituents because they’re tall and black. The MPs say it’s a legitimate area of grievance and the Government is obliged to respond. Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon says the statistics in her state show Sudanese are not involved in crime any more than any other group, but the perception in some quarters is quite different. And Andrews’ comments are reinforcing the sentiment. Starting a public debate about Sudanese migrants also puts pressure on Labor to take a position either with the Government, alienating its left flank, or against it, alienating those on the right. It’s a classic wedge… … … So, welcome to the Coalition’s defensive strategy – seat by seat, region by region, inflammatory issue by political powder-keg. What ever was it that Labor hard man Graham Richardson used to say? Whatever it takes.”

Whatever it takes, indeed. We didn’t hear much from Rudd on this one. He seems to have adopted the tactic of bait and switch on the few occasions that the government has caught him out with the wedge. He’ll keep plugging away with his policies I guess and Howard will keep plugging away with his. Once the election is called though, Howard knows it’s going to get even more tough, because I suspect (and I really hope) that Rudd will get back on THE issue – the one issue that started turning the polls against the government and the one and only issue that is going to roll the government – WORKCHOICES! If Rudd switches the focus onto this (and I suspect that’s what he’s going to do) then it will force Howard to play a defensive game on Rudd’s turf, and just like he has all year, Howard will find that turf slippery and laden with pitfalls.