Mea culpa

You were right and I was wrong.

Not all of you. But people like Joe Cambria, Kirk Fletcher, Sinclair Davidson, Jim Fryar, Tim Andrews and Michael Sutcliffe were right all along. You warned me about the ALP. You said the days of Hawke/Keating/Walsh were over. I didn’t listen. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Before the last 2007 election I suggested that Rudd would be a dull but safe Prime Minister who wouldn’t do much, and so would be fairly harmless. And there were people like Tanner and Emerson in the background to keep the party sane. These weren’t particularly high expectations… but they have turned out to be a massive over-estimate of the quality of the Rudd government. He has been a huge disappointment.

In partial defence, I think one reason for Rudd being particularly bad was the global financial crisis (which few people saw coming) and his populist response. Our PM seems like an empty vessel who knows nothing about economics and doesn’t want to know. Perhaps Rudd cares about and understands foreign policy… but I don’t think he cares about or understands economics. And it shows. With little understanding or concern, the only guide to his behaviour was politics, and so we were left with a very dumb stimulus package that totally fails the economics test but passed the populist test. John Howard (or Peter Costello, or Brendan Nelson, or Malcolm Turnbull, or Tony Abbott) would have done a much better job.

But it’s worse than that. With or without the GFC, there is no excuse for the National Broadband Network, or for the proposed internet censorship, or increasing union power and labour market regulation. Denying a special deal for asylum seekers is just weird, and the whole episode was a triumph of politics over policy. As was the pointless 2020 summit. Cass has just drawn my attention to their continued refusal to recognise same-sex unions. Of course, the ETS is horrible policy, and will be the 4th biggest commonwealth tax after income, company and GST. Not to mention other climate regulations and subsidies. And the Rudd government continues to deny private property rights to aboriginals while wasting millions on a non-existent home building project. Then there is the super-nanny state project under the guise of preventative health. Even foreign policy has been a failure, with inconsistent treatment of foreign investment and mixed messages to China. As Sinclair Davidson put it so well… the only real successes from this government has been that they followed through on Howard’s small tax cut and they finally abandoned the idiotic grocery-choice and fuel-choice projects.

I was a vocal critic of the Howard government regarding foreign policy, civil liberties, high tax take, ID card, middle-class welfare, ETS, and lack of liberal reform. I think those criticisms still hold.

However, what I previously failed to stress was that the ALP also supported all of these positions. I didn’t think about it too much at the time, but the policy cowardice showed by the Labor Party while in opposition was an early indicator that they would be a populist and unprincipled government in power. I have absolutely no faith that Rudd is trying to introduce the best policy. The party seems to be run entirely on spin and illusion.

21 thoughts on “Mea culpa

  1. And while we’re doing mea cupla’s John, you were right all along in the earlier part of the decade warning everyone about the dangers of Iraq and how it would turn things a into big government boondoggle.

    It was a damn good lesson in ever straying too far away from the libertarian mantra of smaller government being the one principle you almost never avoid give up.

    I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

  2. Yeah, in hindsight I think my detestation for that gun-hating authoritarian know-it-all Howard blinded me to Rudd’s and Labor’s tendencies as well. I particularly recall JC’s warnings, but I didn’t want to believe him.

    Although I like his ETS policy better than Turnbull’s, I doubt if Abbott’s going to be an improvement either. He’ll give Rudd more competition, but he won’t take the Liberals in a more liberal direction.

    Bottom line: we’re screwed.

  3. No need to stop there Humphreys.

    Anyway we need a change once in awhile. So long as this Rudd is only there one term.

    “And while we’re doing mea cupla’s John, you were right all along in the earlier part of the decade warning everyone about the dangers of Iraq and how it would turn things a into big government boondoggle.”

    This is true. Once you stop killing regime leadership its time to come home.

  4. Rudd is lasting more than one term. The Liberal Party will unlikely be able to redeem itself.

    Maybe a short stint under Abbott with a quick switcheroo to Hockey before the election. But I doubt it. Hockey may be PM in 2013, though.

    And yes. I thought Labor would be okay “slightly better on civil liberties, slightly worse on economics”. Turns out they are much worse on both. It was Howards time, but I wish the transition to Costello could have been made and he were elected.

  5. So John; next time listen to me and vote LDP. 😀

    Its easy to think when you have a bad government that the opposition can’t be any worse if you put them in especially when you have memories of guys like Hawke/Keating who were prepared to take tough decisions. The main thing that disturbed me about Rudd was that he was a populist with all the delusions of relevance of a man who has complete faith in the idea that government is the answer.

    Our party is the only one whose aspirants don’t remind me of the words:

    I knew if I had my chance,
    That I could make those people dance,
    And maybe they’d be happy for a while.

    I can’t really fault you as I seriously doubt that any of us imagined that we would have such a paucity of opposition as we have now which is the thing that really gives him carte blanche on whatever he wants to do. Well that, and the press still largely uncritically in his corner.

  6. As Sinclair Davidson put it so well… the only real successes from this government has been that they followed through on Howard’s small tax cut and they finally abandoned the idiotic grocery-choice and fuel-choice projects.

    And they ended the single desk for wheat sales.

    I was quitely backing Howard at the last election. I thought Rudd was a creepy idiot and I still do. However I must admit that I thought it wouldn’t matter a whole lot and that Howard was probably due for the boot. I recall telling Jon Hoyle at length that Labor isn’t as bad as it’s rhetoric. However in practice they still suck. They are not even social liberals.

    Abbott is a breath of fresh air. However like DavidL I’m not overly optimistic about him. I’m not convinced he knows much about economics beyond administering government carrot and stick. Whilst he wasn’t perfect I wish they had gone with Peter Costello, smart arse grin and all.

  7. I think Abbott would be (mostly) fine, as long as he’s got a strong treasurer to keep him in check – that seems to be a requirement. I always liked this quote from Keating:

    “Now listen mate,” [to John Browne, Minister of Sport, who was proposing a 110 per cent tax deduction for contributions to a Sports Foundation] “you’re not getting 110 per cent. You can forget it. This is a fucking Boulevard Hotel special, this is. The trouble is we are dealing with a sports junkie here [gesturing towards Bob Hawke]. I go out for a piss and they pull this one on me. Well that’s the last time I leave you two alone. From now on, I’m sticking to you two like shit to a blanket. ”

    Whether or not Hockey fits would be strict enough remains to be seen. I don’t think the next election is unwinnable for the Libs. Unlikely, but not impossible.

  8. “But it’s worse than that. With or without the GFC, there is no excuse for the National Broadband Network…..”

    As it turns out this is the right policy for the wrong reasons. We’ll be very lucky to get by more than a decade or two without all our satellites being fried. We want a lot of capability in the ground and in optical fibres. We’ve got to set up our electrical network to not be burnt out by an electromagnetic pulse. So there is a bit of dumb luck going for us here.

    What we need is ubiquitous surge-protection. As well as as much phone capability in the ground as we can get. If we have all that and our strategic threats get zapped that puts us in a good position for many years.

  9. Rudd revealed his true big-government colours when the GFC hit us. What would Howard or Costello have done, I wonder? Until then, Rudd was constrained by the good budgeting of the Libs, and didn’t want to be seen as a wrecker.

  10. And in the light of the above, please ponder this one suggested to me by a colleague with some connections into the upper echelons of the NSW ALP.

    If the Coalition is utterly routed at the next Federal election, as current polling and punditry suggests, Rudd will theoretically be faced with a huge backbench, an unassailable leverage and seemingly increasingly restive interest groups, such as the ACTU.

    At the moment Ruddie is staring down all comers and spinning away like a top without actually doing much of anything to scare the punters.

    Imagine the consequences though if the next election delivers him 20 or so more back benchers and wannabe ex-ACTU ministers ? Going to be pretty hard to stop breakouts of weird and wonderful policy and pork barreling then.

    One reason perhaps that the safety catch stills seems to be firmly on the Double Dissolution Trigger – the risk of ‘friendly fire’ is not small.

  11. Weren’t you one of the people that thought Howard stood a chance last election, though, Fleeced? 😛

    Honestly, I can’t remember if you were or not. But I know a few people around here didn’t believe the polls that had constantly been predicting very similar results to what actually happened in 2007.

    If an election was tomorrow Labor and the polls for the last year have been accurate (likely) they would win cleanly with an increased majority and as Kev says potentially with 20 more MPs.

    I don’t think Abbott has what it takes to take down Rudd. Hockey might. Abbott can be an effective opposition leader until 2013, though. I still miss Costello, though. He was alright.

  12. Saying that something is winnable doesn’t mean I think it likely 🙂

    I can’t recall what I posted on the subject at the time, but I was certainly surprised how quickly it was all over on election night.

    The Libs wouldn’t win an election tomorrow, but I think if they campaign effectively (a big ask right there) against ETS, as well as issues like boat people, and hammer Rudd for economic mismanagement, that they’ll have a chance. That’s a lot of qualifications – so I’m not exactly betting the house on a Lib win 🙂

    That said, I do believe the polls are exaggerated. Firstly, they’re already outdated by the time they come out – there’s been a clear shift in public sentiment against the warm-earthers, and one that I don’t think is yet finished.

    Secondly, there is a type of Bradley effect at play here. The climate change movement has become so religious in its intensity, with opponents decried as deniers, that support is likely lower than polls would indicate… so whilst ALP would still win an election tomorrow, I highly doubt they’d pick up 20 seats.

    Thirdly, the shift in attitudes mentioned earlier has occurred without a political party championing the cause. Some leadership on this could certainly turn things around before the next election.

  13. If we are lucky, Humphreys might be the swing factor! Last time he thought the ALP would be alright, and they won! Now he wants them out, so they’re going to be toast! Let’s all cheer humphreys, the lib-loving bear!

  14. Regarding the next election, it is worth noting that after the redistribution, five Liberal seats are now nominally Labor. So even if the vote was identical to 2007, the ALP would pick up five seats.

    Another 11 coalition seats have a margin of 1.5% or less, and so are very vulnerable to a swing to Labor. On current polls, they would lose an extra 13 seats (on top of the five lost through redistribution).

    To win government, the Liberals need a uniform swing of about 2.5%.

  15. Meanwhile, they’ve finally settled on the spin over the campaign against the ETS.

    It seems amongst the many groups and blogs urging people to protest against the ETS, so too was “Catch the Fire Ministries” (the same mob who made those idiotic comments about the “Black Saturday” bushfires).

    Naturally, this is evidence that the whole thing was orchestrated by hardline conservative Christians – and is further evidence that Tony is the mad monk.

    It was expected they were going to brand Abbott in this way, much as they have done in the past, but putting the whole ETS thing under the same banner is a new low.

    Speaking of the “mad monk” image, this was from a recent interview with Laurie Oakes – I thought Abbott did quite well:

    LAURIE OAKES: I don’t want to turn this into a religious inquisition so to speak, but I’d like to ask you one question: do you believe in evolution?

    TONY ABBOTT: Yes. But I don’t want to turn it into a religious inquisition either, Laurie.

    LAURIE OAKES: No, that’s my only question, my only religious question.

    TONY ABBOTT: Yeah, but Laurie look, you’re asking me religious questions – you’ve never asked Kevin Rudd that question, have you?

    LAURIE OAKES: No, but it’s an idea.

    TONY ABBOTT: But why not?

    LAURIE OAKES: Well I will.

    TONY ABBOTT: Because Kevin Rudd’s religious views are not so different from mine. You wouldn’t ask Kristina Keneally that question.

    LAURIE OAKES: But those people haven’t been nicknamed by their critics things like Captain Catholic, so it is something people wonder about you. I think it’s important to clarify.

    TONY ABBOTT: But the point I’m making, Laurie, is my religious views, they’re personal, they’re not there in the political market place, and they’re very similar…

    LAURIE OAKES: Except to the extent you’ve put them there.

    TONY ABBOTT: Well I don’t do doorstops in front of church, Laurie. I mean if there’s one person who has put religion front and centre in the public square, to use his phrase, it’s Kevin Rudd, so please, next time Kevin’s here, grill him on evolution and all these other subjects.

  16. Yeah, looking at the facts rather than the spin I don’t think Abbott is any worse than Rudd. The difference is Abbott was prominent even back during the RU46 conscience vote so his responses were of note. Rudd was lesser known then so the fact that he views abortion as a “national tragedy” was less noticed.

    Funny thing is despite my strong pro-choice views I don’t think there’s much he’s said that I’d disagree too much with. Like I’m pro-choice, not pro-abortion. I think the fact that a lot of women has abortions is something of a tragedy- especially if those women do so without properly considering how it’ll effect them emotionally. It isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly and I’d advise most women NOT to terminate. But it is still their choice.

    And he’s right to point out Rudd’s strong religious views. The internet filter. The gay marriage debate. Even some of his quotes don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

  17. I really despair of what I’m going to do at the next election. I agree that Rudd has been terrible, but the thought of allowing Abbott anywhere near the levers of government is distressing.

    In the end I would probably hold my nose and vote Liberal, but there hasn’t been an election in my lifetime where I was more horrified by the choices, at least as they stand at the moment.

    That Keating quote Fleeced posted makes me miss Keating.

  18. Tony Abbott pretty much owned Oakes there. Your religion is only relevant if you’re in the liberal party. Labor catholics get a free pass.

  19. I agree that Rudd has been terrible, but the thought of allowing Abbott anywhere near the levers of government is distressing.

    Everything is relative… Compared to the stench of Rudd, Abbott is a breath of fresh air.

    That Keating quote Fleeced posted makes me miss Keating.

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