Judge him by what he does not what he says.
So far Kevin Rudd is proving to be every bit as politically astute as his hero, Tony Blair. He has signed Kyoto, apologised to the Stolen Generations, ripped up the hated WorkChoices legislation, declared war on plastic bags, made all the right noises about Tibet, won glowing praise for his foreign trip and has now gathered 1,000 of Australia’s finest for a chin-wag about the future. In the process, he has utterly destroyed the hapless Dr. Nelson.
But will Super Kev, like Tony, be a man of words not deeds? A man of grandiose vision but incapable of action? Or does he actually have an agenda beyond simply staying in power. I suspect he does, and the early signs are not good.
In addition to getting rid of WorkChoices, and being forced into an acutely embarrassing U-turn over their plan to reduce carer’s payments, Kevin Rudd’s government has now made or are mulling two small but significant policy changes;
i) Yesterday he announced that he was forcing petrol companies to fix their prices for the following day and that the ACCC would then distribute this information to motorists. The scheme will start on Dec 15 and will be reviewed after one year. Consumer Affairs Minister, Chris Bowen, thinks this is a ‘pro-market, pro-competitive reform’. This Orwellian doublespeak is straight out of the Tony Blair handbook. Note to Mr. Bowen – when the government forces a company to take action under threat of fines or imprisonment, that is not a pro-market action. It is called regulation. Some are convinced it will lead to higher prices. It may do. Or it may not. But that’s not really the point. The point is that it’s yet more government interference into private business. And that’s an ominous start.
ii) Two years ago, single parents were entitled to full welfare payments until their child turned 15. There was no need to seek work. The Howard government sensibly lowered this age requirement to when the child started school. However, there is a clause stating that single parents may turn down an offer of work if it only leaves them $50 a week better off. The Rudd government is thinking of raising this. Peter Saunders of the CIS has an excellent piece on this mad poverty-perpetuating idea in The Australian. Is Kevin Rudd not aware that Bill Clinton in 1996 was able to dramatically raise the living standards of American single parents by reducing their entitlemements?
Kevin Rudd always makes a big deal about the need for a more competitive economy but his first four actual policy changes (WorkChoices, Carer’s U-turn, petrol regulation and more welfare) will lower the productivity of the economy requiring higher interest rates. Is he aware of this but just doesn’t care? Or worse, is he unaware of the consequences of his decisions? It’s still too early to tell but the initial signs are that the Rudd government is not going to be as ‘pro-market’ as previous Labor administrations. The Budget next month is an excellent chance for the (so far) disappointing Swan, the very promising Tanner and the ‘who the hell knows’ Ruddster to show us what they are really made of.