Friday, September 11, 2009

Once Were (Political) Warriors

Prime minister Kevin Rudd has succeeded, once again, in getting the past and present stars of the Liberal Party to waffle on defending decisions made one, two and three decades ago. Just as he intended.

Dennis Shanahan in The Australian
John Howard and Peter Costello have struck back politically and personally at Kevin Rudd's characterisation of their government as indolent and uncaring neo-liberals, declaring the Prime Minister has reached "new heights of political mendacity".

Stirred from his sick bed, Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister has accused his successor of politicising and demeaning 30 years of continuing Australian government reforms, including those of the Hawke-Keating era, for partisan benefit.

On Monday, Mr Rudd, at the launch of The March of Patriots, by The Australian's Paul Kelly, said the Howard government had been "indolent" and the Coalition could not claim to be partners with Labor in Australia's economic reforms of the past 30 years.

"The Liberals' failure to advance a framework for increasing national productivity is not a minor blemish on their economic record," Mr Rudd said.

"It reflects a fundamental failure of long-term economic reform and casts legitimate doubt over the extent to which the Liberal Party can be regarded as partners with Labor in the great project of economic modernisation."

Even social reforms that "endured through long periods of Liberal rule" survived, according to the Prime Minister, only because of political expediency and not because of any genuine support or belief.
Rudd has effectively pulled off this kind of caper, of forcing Liberals to go on the defensive about their most important claims to economic success and major reform, from the very first week of his leadership of the Labor Party. Rudd's strategy of getting the Liberals all hackled up succeeded all the way through the 2007 election campaign. And it's still working now for Rudd.

As John Howard proves, as he desperately seeks to remind Rudd that he used to be someone important :

In one fashion or another we are all political warriors, but we have a superior obligation to the national interest. That obligation obtains in opposition as well as in government.

No side of Australian politics has a monopoly of either virtue or merit. Each according to its own value system has attempted to improve the lot of Australians.

In failing to acknowledge this last Monday, my successor diminished himself, and not the Liberal and National Parties.

This 24 hour wonder must have been worth a few good laughs for Rudd.