If changing the f* leader would change f* government policy to support the f* 99% instead of the f* 1% then we’d be f* interested in this f* soap opera!
This tongue-in-cheek Facebook status I posted last Tuesday ended up sparking a lot of political discussion.
It expressed what a lot of ordinary people were thinking as Round 2 of Kevin Rudd v Julia Gillard came to a head this week.
But is there a significant political difference, apart which of the two might have a better chance against Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition in the next election?
OK, some people will say this is the only political difference that counts, both in the vote in the federal ALP leadership spill on Monday and to those who fear a right-wing blitzkrieg should Abbott become PM. But if there are political differences beyond who has the best chance against Abbott, it appears that most journalists not interested in finding out.
Not one of the questions posed by the journos at the press conferences of Rudd (in Washington) and Gillard (in Adelaide) on February 23. Check for yourself (see here and here). There’s not one effing question about their political platforms! The journos have embraced the soap opera lines (some of which they themselves scripted) and they are deliriously spinning in the spins.
Yet at these two press conferences, Rudd and Gillard each claimed a political record and staked out a set out a political platform.
Before Rudd got to his record he cued the main themes in his campaign:
1. His claim to be the “best prospect” to “save the country from the ravages of an Abbott Government”.
2. Tapping still strong public revulsion by the alleged “faceless men”, the ALP faction chiefs.
3. Tapping strong public aversion to “politics of division” associated with Abbott and the internal party feud in the ALP.
He then claimed credit for Australia’s escape from the GFC:
“Remember it’s through that period of Government, when I had the privilege of being Prime Minister, that Australia got through the global financial crisis without going into recession and without generating mass unemployment. A single achievement among all the major developed economies. And not only that, but we emerged with among the lowest debt and lowest deficit rates of all the developed countries in the world.”
All the work of Kevin07? Not true. Every developed government bailed out banks and tried to stimulate the economy when the GFC struck – and many are now facing debt crises as a reward. But Australia, “escaped” this mainly because it was a major supplier of raw materials to China and other industrialising countries in Asia.
Rudd then summed up the rest of his record as :
- A “massive new investment in education”;
- A “massive new investment” in the public health and hospital system”;
- “The launching of a National Broadband Network”;
- Dealing with the “challenges of climate change” (well he talked a lot about it);
- The “apology to the first Australians” -though Aboriginal people are saying: You said sorry , and then?
Finally, Rudd set out his program of action should he win the leadership spill on Monday:
“Business generates jobs. It’s fundamental that there is confidence in the business community to invest and to continue to create jobs. That is critical. And a policy area where I want to see new work for Australia, by the continuing Government of Australia, is in the area of small business and what we do to encourage directly small business to invest in their businesses’ future and turn them into the big businesses of the future. And that means changes to the way in which we deal with them on tax.”
We are clear about this. Labor will help the corporations make big profits and the rest of us will have to hope for the fabled trickle down. Labor’s corporate profits-first policy is reaffirmed.
“Second, a big policy challenge for the future is manufacturing.
“I have said before, five years ago when I first contested the leadership of the Australian Labor Party, that I never wanted to be Prime Minister of a country which didn’t make things any more – that remains my enduring passion. I do not share the view that manufacturing is somehow old fashioned and belongs to the old economy. It’s never been my view. We have to be smarter about manufacturing, but can I say loud and clear, I believe fundamentally in the importance of a strong Australian industry for the future and as a result a strong industry policy for the future as well.”
He expects large claps from the car company bosses and the union bureaucrats who tail behind them.
Then he added a few more vague promises:
1. Continuation of health reform because Gillard had “squibbed on some of the hard decisions”. But no detail.
2. Reinstatement of his policy, axed by Gillard, to “halve the HECS fees of maths an sciemce students going to universities” and halve them agains if they purue a career in these areas.
3. An emphasis on teaching Asian languages.
4. Reform of the ALP to make it a party that is “not governed by the faceless men”.
Rudd went into rhetorical overdrive about the “faceless men” of the ALP — “the future government of Australia is not about the power of factions, it’s about people’s power” — but he was vague on detail about what he would do. And “people’s power”? By rights, an egotistical autocrat like Rudd who has shown no respect for his own party policy, its ranks let alone the 99%, should have choked on those words!
Gillard laid out her case for retaining PMship at her Adelaide press conference about an hour after Rudd’s press conference.
First, she too sought to tap public aversion to the infighting, promising that if she lost the vote on Monday she would go to the backbench and “renounce any further claims to the leadership”. She pointedly asked Rudd to make the same commitment, underlining his undermining of her leadership.
Then Gillard claimed credit for:
1. The “carbon tax” and gradual introuction of a carbon emissions trading scheme.
2. The Mineral Resource Rent Tax (of course, she didn’t mention the estimated $100 billion in potential taxes forgone through her deal with the big miners!)
3. The health reform agreement withn states.
4. The deal with Telstra to get the national broadband network going (which, she didn not explain, will also create a massive new communications monopoly to be privatised in the future).
5. Education reforms (which teachers and education experts say will set back education in schools).
6. Tax cuts for low-income workers.
7. Plans to deliver a budget surplus in 2012-2013.
Gillard’s promises for future action included:
1. “Work flowing from” (she was careful not to say implementation) of the Gonski review into school funding , which urged a major increase in school funding directed according to need (instead of the 82% increase in funding to rich private schools for profit that Gillard and Rudd Labor helped deliver).
2. Giving school principals more power (including to sack teachers).
3. A vague priomise to preserve a “diversified economy” (I guess this refers to more subsidies and tax breaks to manufacturing and other non-mining corporations).
4. Unspecified promises to help people with disabilities and the “older Australians”.
Finally, rather timidly came to Rudd’s big argument about being a better protection against an Abbott government.
“Now I note that Kevin Rudd in his media statements yesterday and today has very consistently referred to the need to defeat Tony Abbott at the next election.
“I want to be clear about this too. I believe that we can win the next election and defeat Tony Abbott. I believe I can lead Labor to that victory, provided that the Labor Party unites and we get on with the job.”
So all up what is the political difference between Rudd and Gillard’s “platforms” for Monday’s leadership spill?
Not much, beyond a bit of emphasis on this or that program. Both are firmly committed to a corporate profits-first agenda and both seek to assure the non-mining corporations that they will help spread more of the profit from the mining boom to them. The 99% willl just have to hope that some benefit trickles down to us.
There is no real vision to tackle the climate change crisis from either of them. There is not a whisper of difference between them on Aborginal affairs, refugee policy, same-sex marriage rights or on the ongoing imperial wars.
I guess my tongue-in-cheek Facebook status holds.